Letters to Holly

Wednesday, November 3

Daddy Time

The evening was deliberate.

As soon as I got home, Your Sister pointed out some bottles of milk and offered the deputy to be fed when I was ready. The offer was not snippy or forced. She set the tone immediately, and all seemed well. She wanted me to have the most opportunity to be a dad. I appreciated it. I don't think either of us expected him to drink so much that night though.

I gave him one bottle's worth and moved him to the play mat with dangling animals. He's learning to intentionally reach and grab. His aim is wonky, but he's getting there. No matter how good he gets with that, I don't see his arm strength catching up to that of his legs. I don't think my arm strength can catch up to his legs.

Around 7, he started to get noisy, and I began the bedtime routine. He still won't let me read to him, but he'll happily chug milk while I hum along with Pandora. And that's exactly what we did. He drank himself into sleep within 20 minutes, and I knew he'd wake up before long. Half an hour later, he did, and more milk and music ensued. I probably walked two miles within that room as I held him after feedings. Each time he would nod off, I'd attempt to set him in the crib, and he'd fully wake up and want to interact. I scooped him up, hummed some more, and we repeated this about three times. He was dry, he was full of milk, he was not too hot or cold. He just wouldn't sleep. After the fourth time and an hour later, I threw in the towel (gently, quietly) and let him have the recommended 15 minutes of cry time to see if he'd settle. He didn't.

I changed him and gave him more milk, and by now he'd swilled 15 ounces. That's a record. I set him down again, and Your Sister offered to come into the game as a closer. I stepped aside (gently, quietly), and she had no better luck. She suggested he was scared to be alone and wanted to be held. She tried that and got another earful when she set him down. We gave him another 15 minutes, and he finally conked out as we started our late supper.

A few hours later, I changed his not-surprisingly packed diaper and changed him into a sleep bag. I held him for one song off Pandora, and he was out cold. I set him down with no problem, satisfied I had worked my shift like a proper father should. I do suspect he was unaccustomed to this and didn't understand that he was supposed to sleep.

Almost all the ironwork is up on the deck, and we have an estimate for the new carpeting. Progress is progressing. We watched the primetime election coverage for some hours after supper but called it a night before we heard anything about the Western states. I woke up this morning to restrained Republican commentary, and the onus is on the successful Tea Party candidates to live up to the rhetoric. They have to drastically eliminate spending without compromising with the larger caucuses.

Picture of the Day
Dig the shoes.

Tuesday, November 2

I'm Spewing Here. You Can Ignore It.

I have felt for a while now that my role as a dad has become marginalized. I hadn't put the deputy to bed for four nights in a row, despite my protests that I need to pull my weight. I'm concerned that Your Sister doesn't get a breather nor will he trust me. I feel a mix of guilt and shameful relief that I do relatively little to care for him. I'm also insufficient on a basic level; I can't yank up my shirt and offer him some solace at a moment's notice. Before I can warm a bottle, Your Sister jumps in to feed and quiet him. It's sensible; he's calmed quickly. But it removes me from the baby-soothing toolbox. And it happens often.

A few days ago, I suggested that I watch him while she voted this morning. I could tell as soon as I mentioned it that she wasn't keen on the idea, and I heard no objections. Last night, she instead offered to feed him, vote as soon as the ballots opened, and return before I woke up. I swallowed my objections and said OK.

ASIDE: "OK" is quickly becoming my secret codeword for "it's easier to go along with this, but I'm quickly losing relevance, and it's getting pretty fucking old."

Your Sister asked me to check on him last night as he was sleeping and change his diaper if need be. He was already squeaking in his sleep, which means he's waking up. He was wrapped in clothing, requiring me to shuck a sleep bag and a pair of pants. That made him immediately cold, and he shrieked. I checked his diaper, and it was dry. So I had done this for nothing. I tried to quickly get him bundled back up, but he is a terror to put pants on. He constantly kicks, and you have to put them on three or four times each leg. I hate putting pants on him, and I think it's unnecessary in general. Now he was screaming.

I threw the pants into the hall, zipped up his sleep bag and moved him back to the crib to warm and calm him. Your Sister came in -- prompted by surprise flying pants -- and offered to feed him, which I interpreted as being benched. That didn't help. I scooped him back up, hoping my body heat would make him sleep quicker, but he was now screaming with a hoarse-voiced fury. She sat in the rocker to prepare to feed him, and I dropped him in her lap, calling myself an idiot and giving up. I was furious. I stormed out of the room and clamped down before I yelled or punched a wall.

I have a temper. It takes a lot to get it going, and that's by design. I've worked hard to make it a thick boil. I tamp it down as it starts up, and I do things like say "OK" to keep the waters still. But when it goes, it goes, and it takes all I have to remind myself that being a stupid angry person just makes a larger mess to clean up later. I wish it didn't feel so good to hit that rage button. I wish I had tackling dummies at my command. I wish I didn't get worked up over something as fundamental as a crying baby. The hospital's PURPLE video was right in all ways. I remind myself that his screams aren't a sign I've failed him. It's a problem to solve, not a judgment.

I wish most that I didn't begrudge Your Sister the things my angry brain suspects her of. I usually don't think she's claiming the baby as her own, either because I'm incompetent or she's controlling. But my angry brain is as paranoid as it is eager to fuel itself with stupidity. And it's equally fearful that I'll once again come home to a trashed house and an escaped wife (with the added abstract abandonment by my son.)

I tried to explain my feelings last night, but I bit my tongue in some places. It was late. Late-night arguments are never good. She said I do pull my weight, that I'm a good father. I dunno. I feel like a third wheel.

I set my alarm early his morning, hoping Your Sister could go vote. Your Sister was feeding the sidekick and suggesting another option, possibly the fourth so far. She would go vote when I came home from work. I've heard that kind of suggestion before. It leads to her backing away from what she wants and dropping it altogether. I again offered to watch and feed him so she could go before I left for work. She wouldn't have it. I took that personally, that my reasonable idea was less attractive to her than giving up on what she wanted. We both would be left unsatisfied. OK, I said.

Not long after, she suggested we go at the same time, taking him with us and going in opposite directions when we were through. This struck me as needless work; why take him along to distract us both? Why waste time getting him ready to leave and pack his things in the car? What was wrong with my original idea? And here comes angry brain.

"You don't trust me with him."
"I do."
"Then why make this more difficult by taking him with you?"
"You'll be late for work."
"I wouldn't be if we had pursued my idea a half-hour ago."
"Alright, I'll go."
"He'll be alive when you get back."

Off she went. I changed him and collected myself. He spit up on my shirt, and I changed myself, now laughing at the silliness. That's the only good thing about my temper: When the fever breaks, I have an almost euphoric high as my head clears. I was in a very good mood when she returned.

ASIDE: Yes, I've considered that some chemicals in my brain are unsettled. I have images of my default brain looking aghast at my angry brain and wanting to slap it into coherence. So my default brain wants to treat my angry brain the way my angry brain wants to treat the world. Great. I've also considered that maybe decades of watching pro wrestling and a steady diet of bullying as a kid has turned me into Bruce Banner, secretly wanting to be inconvenienced so I could righteously go bananas. That would mean I perceive the world as an intentional barrage at myself. Wunderbar. The problem is me. I know this.

When Your Sister returned, I gave her some room to ease us into a conversation. She seemed alright. I was contrite. I don't want us to be on bad terms (angry brain doesn't want to give her a reason to leave), and she doesn't need two babies in the house. This baby experiment isn't about me and my imagined offenses. I can't help her if I'm untrustworthy. If I'm easily inflamed. If I'm stupid.

I'm supposed to put him to bed tonight. I'll feel better on the other side of it.

I'm probably gonna stay home Saturday instead of going to the roller derby. I shouldn't traipse off while she's trapped in a nursing cave.

ASIDE: Like her, I'll abstain from something I really want to ensure I've learned my lesson. We were made for each other, and if I can stay out of my way, I won't chase her off to find a man who isn't demented or lazy. The cliche question about where have all the nice guys gone? There are no nice guys, just more stupid guys with varying means of eating their anger. There should be PURPLE videos on menfolk. Our screaming isn't a judgment, just a problem to be solved.

Monday, November 1

The Race Actually Does Go To Swift.

It's been six years since I had anything resembling a physical. I was given a quick check when I applied for my current job, and the doctor's visit was geared around a drug test. I think he checked my temperature. I considered getting a check-up when I started running but didn't follow up on it and didn't encounter anything unnerving as I moved from treadmill to sidewalks (except my shocking weakness which I'll bemoan later).

Your Sis and I signed up with the same GP in town. This doctor was the one who checked on the deputy right after he was born, and we liked her a lot. We were glad to be accepted to her new client list in August, and we both had our appointments Friday. I went last. There were family history forms to fill out and dates of surgeries to remember, and I was at least close with those. The nurse was surprised with my weight ("I wouldn't have guessed you were 176." I took that as a compliment.), and she took a blood pressure reading that was as low as the previous ones at blood donations. I mentioned this to the doctor and passed along the comments by the nurses there and My Mom. The doctor held up my donor card with a year's worth of pressure readings and said emphatically "these are healthy numbers."

In fact, she said that my lack of doctor visits suggested that all is well, but we scheduled blood work and a proper physical for December. She wants to look at my blood sugars as I had (notice the past tense) uncles who who very big. I have never had my cholesterol checked, and I would not be surprised if it is sky high. The doctor gave me her new-patient sales pitch that she will be attentive but not hovering, cautious but not badgering, and I told her I wasn't looking for trouble, but I'm getting older, and I want to find anything amiss early if something gets all amissy. And with that I went home.

My Mom came by Friday and stayed until Saturday. She declared the deputy the cutest and happiest baby she had ever seen to no one's surprise. I made a muted stir fry for her, and she was not assuaged by the doctor's comments on my blood pressure.

After Mom left, we grabbed a quick lunch and began our party preparation. I stretched tarps along the deck railings to prevent tumbles where the railing artwork should be. We bought a new firepit, and I assembled that. I had a short window before the race.

And let me say how disappointing my run was. I had a decent lunch and snacked an hour before I left for the run. I thought I was ready. I didn't run at all this week, and I knew that would hinder me a bit, but I had no idea how difficult the race would be. The sun and wind were strong, and I felt dryness in my mouth while standing at the start line. I hoped it wouldn't be a problem. It very much was. I had to walk twice to my great shame, but I did manage to run up the heartbreaking hill and finish strong. My lungs and legs felt OK, but I had no energy. I was tapped. It was as frustrating an experience as I've had in a race, and I'm determined to not let that happen again. I'll keep up my run efforts between the races and do more floor exercises. I finished with a time under 30 minutes but still seven minutes behind the other men in my age group, and I can cut that in half by next year. I'm sure of it.

I returned home before the party started. Your Sister made two kinds of carrot soup and cider. It was a good turn-out, easily 15 people and kids were there. I was asked to draw a Supergirl on a pumpkin and did, and the commissioner was so happy with it that she suggested we work a booth at next year's street festival and sell pre-designed pumpkins for people to carve. Your Sis and I traded turns with the sidekick and didn't cut our pumpkins that night. I squeezed those in on Sunday afternoon before the trick-or-treaters arrived.

Before we did our Sunday rounds, my old friends the Warrendorf parents, arrived with gifts for the sidekick. They hadn't seen the house, and I gave them a tour while Your Sister nursed. We did get a decent number of costumed kids that night -- decent for us anyway -- and Your Sister told me to put the leftover candy in my workshop to keep it out of sight lest she devour it. And there it sits.

Our state trooper family next door moved out suddenly Sunday. It's our understanding that a new family is to move in today, and this morning, the first family was still cleaning out the house. It's a terrible time to move, and I hope they didn't go far enough away that the kids change schools.

Picture of the Day
Among next year's comic movies is Captin America, and the first photos from the film came out last week. I like what I see here.

The triangular shield was the design original to the character in the mid-40;s. he got the circular shield when we was revived in the '60s. The film looks like it's mostly set in WWII which should be fun.