Daddy's Coming Honey!

Boycotting Simpliticy—a blog post by Carl Jenkins

My friend and fellow blogger has posted a blog update on a topic that hasn’t gotten much attention this week.

“Boycotting Simplicity.”

You can catch his post and his other blog entries by following this link below.  Have a good weekend.


As you have noticed, I have taken a vacation from my blog in the past month.  Or have I just quit?
I’m a dad now.  I can’t quit things.

But, as I promised I would, I am ending this blog now that Noah is born.  But I shall begin a new one soon.  Beginning tomorrow, look forward to a brand new blog from Caleb Coy Guard.

But before we begin, I want to hear from you.  What do you think my blog will be about?  Vote now, or offer another guess:
Folk Music
Financial Soundness
Foreign Policy
Feet Swift to Mischief
FAIL (the epic kind)
Free Advice

I used to avoid blogs because I found them narcissistic and amateur.  I’ve since come to terms with the fact that we are all narcissistic amateurs.  We tall talk on things we don’t know about, and we all think the world owes us an ear.  I’m a white boy making white noise, and I’m here to say.  Let’s see how this turns out…

Behold…The Little Goober!

It was just going to be a normal, routine visit to the OB. Well, not so much routine. She wanted to see what was up with the whole being-one-week-late thing. We get there and find out Carrie’s been having contractions and didn’t know it. Apparently these are mild ones, called like Brian Higgs contractions, or something.

We drive to the birthing center and answer questions. “Do you drink? Do you smoke? Do you use cocaine?” “No. No. Not since the 80s.”

“Any significant changes in your life?” “Yeah. She got knocked up.”

I took a nap listening to the heart rate monitor, and imagined being in the womb myself. And that’s really what all sleep is: Reliving the womb.

I sent out the signal to the relatives. Code orange. See, code yellow is when the belly drops. Code orange is the warning. Code red is severe contractions. Labor is code crimson. Because there’s a tide.

I tell Carrie I love her freckles. We wonder if Noah will have them.

Staying in a birthing center is like staying in a hotel where they keep checking your cervix and there’s no carpet.

You know how they say that when you’re in the hospital and there’s nothing to do but watch TV everything you see on TV reminds you of your condition? You get burned, everything is on fire; You get shot, everyone is shooting guns; You swallow a thimble, everyone is pooping thimbles.

Well, it’s true. We flipped through the stations and everything reminded us of birth. We see a woman in labor on some reality show, then another, one of them being that fourth or seventh or fifteenth wife on Sister Wives. Turk is performing a C-section on Scrubs while nurses are bouncing around his baby and JD visits his ex only for her to lie to him about not being pregnant. I look for something on Netflix and see a TED talk about dinosaurs hatching from eggs. Back to the TV. As soon as Carrie’s mom walks in the door they start the movie Grandma’s Boy. Even the American Gypsy wedding bride is pregnant on her wedding day. Are you serious? Is there a conspiracy?

But maybe we only perceive these patterns because they’re on our minds. I’m sure if we’d payed attention we’d have seen there were also people getting burned, shot, or choking on thimbles.

I played Angry Birds, Sudoku, Mah Jong—when I beat Mah Jon the fortune cookie at the end said, “Never wear your best pants when you fight for freedom.” Like apples of gold in pictures of silver, I tell ya. Carrie wasn’t wearing any pants, so there.

We had some trouble with his heart rate, and after some deliberation the doctor told us that we would need to do a C-section. That wasn’t happy news, not after all we had done to prepare ourselves. But misfortune happens, and in the end, we would have a healthy child who would love us. It’s not cool, feeling powerless, like you didn’t do anything wrong, and no decision you make seems to be better than the other. But it’s freeing to know that you did all you could, and you’re still able to make decisions that will bring positive outcomes. Medical science has yet to tell us why Noah’s heart-rate dropped, or provide us with the option we wanted despite that, but it has allowed us to bring him to the world safe and sound.

We agreed to the procedure. While they prepped her for surgery I got a fix from her oxygen mask for good measure. I was able to sit with Carrie during the whole thing. They work fast. Barely had I sat down and held her hand when I hear a baby cry. It’s ours. That first cry—whoah! The first thing you hear is a sound of distress, and yet you’re so overwhelmed that it’s a sign he’s alive and can breathe that your endorphins prevent you from fear. I look at the little sucker, and he, well, looks like a baby, and looks gross and adorable all at once. And by the way, when they first come out, they don’t look beautiful. They look more like Newt Gingrich after an orange rind bobbing contest.

Since Carrie couldn’t hold him close to her skin directly after the birth, I did. And no, I did not breast-feed.

Babies are boring and gross. They’re boring because whenever we announce they’re born all we have to say about them is how much they weigh. Their faces are all the same, they’re covered in goo, then they poop goo, they hardly open their eyes or make a face that’s not screaming or sleeping. They just sit there. But that’s all you need. To anyone else it’s cute but it loses your interest after a few moments, but if you’re the mother or father, you could hold that thing for years. And you usually do, or try to.

So he’s 8 lbs 11 oz. He’s got some hair on his head; they say it’s like Cha-Chi’s hair. He’s a big boy with big feet. He was all sleep for the first two days, now starting to cry more. He’s a greedy eater but not the most efficient yet. But he’s got all his fingers and toes, and I’m pretty sure mostly his momma’s face.

All wrapped up, he looks like a little glow worm. Adorbs.

We get home, we’re pooped, and we just want to sleep. So we do. Father and son.

For the next week Carrie’s mother is here to help us out. She’s an experienced mother and an experienced nurse, so she’s a blessing. We mostly hold him and sing to him.

I’m sitting in the rocking chair just dozing him off to sleep. We had just given him a bath and now he is content. I say to him, “now you’re all clean.” Then he lets out a long ferocious fart.

So…Still waiting…

So…um…Noah’s not here yet. We’ve been sitting around the house…just nesting and stuff…not much going on…

…Went for a walk, saw a water-bird, got in the creek, skipped rocks…

…I beat Uncharted 3 in four days…

…Did you see the Avengers? That was cool…

…Also saw Hunger Games. Wanna talk about it now?…

…The First Lady spoke at Tech; that was neat…

…What’s this whole “gay marriage” stink about anyway?…

…Mother’s Day was nice. Got to see my mommy…

…Um…., so, lovely weather we’re having…

Read one of the books my brother gave me, because he interpreted “I don’t want any parenting books” to mean “Please buy me like five parenting books.”

One of them is quite literally a list of questions a man’s son asked him and answers he retrieved from experts over the years, because, you see, “Father Knows Less”. Included in the book jacket was a list of questions Luke predicts little Noah will ask by the time he’s five years old.

Why does Grandpa make turkey noises?
Why does Cha-Chi laugh like that?
Why does Mi-Mi talk to dogs?
Why does Potsi speak a different language?
Why does Grandpa Ed not say much?
Why does Grandma Sheryl look so skinny?
Why am I taller than Aunt Laura?
Why is Unle Ookey so tall and hairy?
Why is Aunt Ashton’s belly so big? (in reference to her one day being pregnant, I was told to clarify)
Where does my poop go after I flush?
Is it true the government sucks?
What does fornicate mean?
What’s a serial killer?
Can I go out and play?
Why don’t we have a maid?
Do we have to go to church?
Can I have a cell phone?
Can I have a later curfew?
Can I have some money?
Do you like who I’m dating?

I will never have all the answers, and I won’t pretend to. Sometimes the best answer a father can give is “I don’t know.” Better for your son to know early you have limitations than to build for him a bronze idol of yourself that will later be smelted by the fires of his own coming-of-age trials. But that won’t stop me from fooling him every once in a while with tall tales, as my dad did for me.

Until then, the only question on our minds is the one on everyone else’s: When’s that baby coming?

Please stop asking. Clearly if we knew we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

So we celebrated Mother’s Day. And yes, Carrie is a mother, as she’s already doing some of the work. She’s not yet fully active; she’s on standby. So treat her with respect. Rise up early in the morning and call yer momma blessed. Because Noah will be doing that every two hours come time he arrives, and she’ll have all the chances she wants to show how blessed she is. That’s why Father’s Day isn’t too far in the future, because I have to wake up to and be a blessing. I know it’ll be worth it. He’s my blessing too.

A Wild Beastie Goober

With the death of MCA, I thought to myself that if I believed in Buddhist reincarnation, little Noah could grow up to be a Beastie Boy. And now, with the death of George Lindsey, I’m thinking more along the lines that Noah’s going to grow up to be a Goober. And now that Maurice Sendack is dead, I’m thinking Noah is gonna grow up to run away and go where the wild things are. Either way, he’ll be like his dad: A wild beastie goober.

Carrie’s nesting now. She as all her pre-birth chores done. She puts around the house declaring “I am whale.” Whales are one kind of beautiful; women who look fantastic while carrying a baby at full term is another. Women, your one flaw is this: you listen to the wrong men, reading their magazines and bringing their eyes to the mirror. Shame on you. Shame on us more so. You ate first, but it took a whole devil to make you do it.

She’s bored, folks. Mostly because she finished her quilt. It looks like this.

A pattern of tones for our child. The soft white of bedsheets and calmness. The green borders are the ends of the wide earth to which he will travel and see one day and, of course, it has a silver lining, a blue horizon. The brown is the four corners of the world, study as we mean for him to be. The intersecting blue is the raining shower of blessings. The stars just mean that we hope he will shine and they’re also like pinwheels, meaning he will be clean energy conscious and stuff. No, Luke, they do not represent Jewish stars of David to honor our Jewish heritage, though if they were we would be proud of them, as we should not tolerate antisemitimitismismsim. Carrie really haggled for a good deal on these quilting products, though. I’m getting verklempt just thinking about how good a job she did.

She’s craftay. And she’s just my type.

I’m writing this on our due day. I didn’t think it would happen today. I keep thinking of what he will look like. Then I think of what kind of parents we’ll be. It’s easier to say what we won’t be.

The kind that let their children roam free, long as they come back for supper. Maybe, if this was Kansas. This isn’t Kansas.

The kind that excrete a protective bubble around their child. You know, come to every socializing event telling their kid not to touch anything or have any of the snacks the other kids are having, or even play with the other kids. They over-sensitively filter everything their kids are allowed to touch, hear, or see. “Bobby! That race car has a dragon on it! Don’t you know that’s the devil’s symbol?”

The kind that over-stimulate their kids with boy scouts, accordion lessons, swim team, pewpackers, forensics, turtle racing, and the science fair. Easy, easy. One thing at a time.

The kind that push their kid to be an adult at the age of seven. They’re giving a class presentation to the other fourth graders that Mom and Dad stayed up all night making for them, and they can’t remember the name of the spider they’re pointing to and their parents ridicule them for it in front of everybody.

The kind that dress them every Sunday like it’s a funeral or a wedding, and whisper in their ear what a bad example those other families are that don’t, because that’s how you gauge somebody’s spirituality, by whether they worship God dressed like Wall Street bankers who left their good clothes at the cleaners.

The kind that let their kids watch whatever they want on TV, and for as long as they want.

The kind that drop hundreds of dollars on birthday parties. Birthday parties.

The kind that remind their child every chance they can that success means going to college.

The kind that remind their child every chance they can that success means getting married. Before the age of thirty. Or ever.

The kind that fight in front of their kids.

The kind that let them date seriously when they’re eleven.

The kind that take them to McDonald’s for lunch every time because it’s easy and, hey, kid’s love McDonald’s.

The kind that buy into every new wave of child rearing just to make their kid special. “Oh, we’re trying that new Dr. Shcuglenfaagen technique. She’s not allowed to eat any raisins and we don’t say anything nurturing until after six pm.”

The kind that get frustrated and blow a gasket if their kid goes through a “meat is murder” phase.

The kind that slap their kid’s wrist the minute he “does that limp wrist thing,” because that’s how you handle gender identity confusion.

The kind that don’t let their kids touch anything in the woods. Or the kind that adopt a little girl from Africa, only to take her to Pandapas pond and when she finds a bug they say, “put that thing down, honey, this isn’t Africa!”

In terms of positive affirmations, I just want us to be Godly parents. I’m just glad I got her to help me out with that. She’s got this. Ya think?

Don’t Read Until Mother’s Day

Last week I praised my dad as I reflected on how his fatherhood will inevitably influence me. Lest you think my mother was not involved in my upbringing merely because I did not mention her, I will balance the equation today.

My dad rebuked me for what I did last week, arguing instead that my mother did all the work, reminding me of the words of Michael Chabon:

“I don’t know what a woman needs to do to impel a perfect stranger to inform her in the grocery store that she is a really good mom.  Perhaps perform an emergency tracheotomy with a Bic pen on her eldest child while simultaneously nursing her infant and buying two weeks’ worth of healthy but appealing breaktime snacks for the entire cast of Lion King, Jr. In a grocery store, no mother is good or bad; she is just a mother, shopping for her family. If she wipes her kid’s nose or tear-stained cheeks, if she holds her kid tight, entertains her kid’s nonsensical claims, buys her kid the organic non-GMO whole-grain version of Honey Nut Cheerios, it adds no useful data to our assessment of her. Such an act is statistically insignificant. Good mothering is not measurable in a discrete instant, in an hour spent rubbing a baby’s gassy belly, in the braiding of a tangled mass of morning hair. Good mothering is a long-term pattern, a lifelong trend of behaviors most of which go unobserved at the time by anyone, least of all the mother herself. We do not judge mothers by snapshots but by years of images painstakingly accumulated from the orbiting satellite of memory. Once a year, maybe, and on certain fatal birthdays, and at our weddings or her funeral, we might collate all the available data, analyze it, and offer our irrefutable judgment: good mother.”

Really, when was the last time you saw a mother in the store and called her “good” because she was juggling her children? Or, let’s take her out of that “stereotypical” image (I have some feminist friends) and ask, when was the last time you praised a mother because she worked a job to help her husband out like the woman of the book of Proverbs works?

And so because I may be incapacitated on May 13 because I’m rocking and sushing a baby, I write this in advance, and Mom, if you’re reading this, you have to stop here and wait until then.

It was you, Mom, who pushed me out. I wasn’t there, but I deduced that from what I know about medicine. And I have this gut feeling.

My mother also did most of the maintenance on this child, changing diapers, bathing me. It usually ends up being the mother doing the dirty work of early childhood.

In early years I came down with “the croop” a few times. I’d wake up with a froggish cough, breathing like a wet sponge was stuffed in my lungs. My mother, at maybe three in the morning, would run the shower on hot, lay down a towel in the corner and have me sit on it while the called the doctor, breathing in the steam in the fetal position. Like a baby. It was like a secret between me and mom that I got to visit my own personal spa. Then she took me to the doctor. All this before the sun rose, thus she lost her sleep these nights.

When Luke and I were little, but after I was old enough to climb trees, we were at a neighborhood picnic at Beverly Heights park. I climbed up in a tree, jumped down, laid down flat on the ground, and told my brother to fetch my mom. She came running over with speed, focus, and concern that ruined my horribly impractical joke. I jumped up and scared her, but immediately saw what I had done to her nerves. Mom, sorry about that. I don’t think I doubted before that day how much you cared about your boys, but if there had been it was removed at that point and never questioned again.

You’d think my dad was always the one who’s wrath I feared, but such was not always the case. One snowy day when I was about seven we went and grabbed our sleds and ran out to the car. On the way I yelled, “we’re gonna ride like Hell!” I had heard this uttered specifically in one of my favorite movies, Tremors (by the way, I failed to mention last week that my dad adopted the “Colley” method of family media sensorship: going through every wirty dord and recording over it so that foul language was replaced with static-ridden commercial segments, and sometimes he missed a word or two, including the phrase “ride like Hell”). My mother spanked me all her own, banned me from video games, and though she didn’t have the heart to keep me from sledding (the snow only fell so often), she let me have it in words even harsher than my own but not so foul. If I behaved the rest of the day, my father’s discipline needed not be applied. But if I remained a bad boy, even if I told my mom not to tell my dad, she would tell me that she wouldn’t mentioned my behavior unless he asked. When he arrived home she would show her frustration until it prompted him to ask. Sneaky mom. But she knew what was best for me.

My mother would quiz us on our “Bible Bowl” questions, and offer us candy for getting right answers. She stopped doing that when I went to college. It might’ve helped my grades. But she still, to this day, makes Easter baskets for me and Luke. Peeps.

Last time I mentioned my dad driving me to Freed after my surgery. I have to brag on mom even going the extra mile for my brother. When he went lame from a sporting accident, she drove down with him and became his caretaker for about a week, maybe two. She took time off from work to help him get in and out of bed. Like I said, supermom.

Last year, for my birthday, my mom presented me with a bound book, a multi-genre portfolio, of writings I had done since I was little. Most of them school assignments, several of them items I had written in my spare time, she collected these over the years. No wonder I could not find some of them (the 20,000 word spy novel I wrote in 7th grade I deleted in high school after I saw how horrible it was). What it also brought to me was the memories of all those times she had read what I had written, helped me with my grammar and spelling, told me I was good at what I did. She nurtured my creativity through the years, whether it was throwing together my elaborately-themed birthday parties (Peter Pan, Nickelodeon, movie theater night), helping me put together my talent show routines, encouraging me to participate in writing contests (in which I didn’t understand the intended audience), take voice and piano lessons (neither of which I excelled at), take after-school drama classes (which I excelled at enough to continue), or have me do impersonations for friends and family.

Also, while I get a share of goofiness from my dad, I earned my mother’s smirk. And while I’m good at keeping a poker face in the midst of a practical joke, I can’t do it if my mom smiles at me. Nobody can sneak anything by her for long. She’s the subtler humorist.

My mother is a coffee fiend, and she loves to stay up late. It took me a while to figure out why. I think my brother and I drove her to it. In our later years, Luke and I would perpetually stay up late on non-school nights. Still do. Because a mother’s worry is never done, no matter how old her boys are, she would habitually wake up and approach the top of the basement steps, asking us what we were still doing up. We drove her to it. Now she still stays up so she can take over the night watch, even when her boys aren’t there. See, mom, if it wasn’t for us, you would have never grown to love coffee quite this much. You’re welcome.

Must I also go into detail about every meal she prepared, every tear she wiped, every butt she wiped, every outfit she picked out, every outfit she washed, every ride she gave us to school and lessons, every mess she cleaned? The internet with all its hyperchips of storage space has not room for them. Much of this mother’s work is unsung and behind the scenes, and while it goes as a default world of continual tasks that comes with the territory, it is yet still heroic in its indication of dedication. Though these be duties, they are not mere duties. In this modern age, many women could shirk them, or do them in spite of their home life or their husband or their very children. Merely because it is the way things ought out to be that we bring up children with all the work included does not mean we should take these sacrifices of our parents for granted. Though we do, do we not?

I just want you to picture what it would have been like to raise me and Luke. And I want you to picture what that woman should look like now. Then picture my mom. I think she turned out alright. She looks great, she’s still got her wit, and she still runs a house with a wild dog in it. So I think about how my son will turn out and I think “what’s there to worry?”

They say that men go after women who will have the same mommy skills as their own mothers. We’ll see. There are qualities I see in my own mother I see in her; There are qualities I see in her mother I see in her; There are qualities I see in her herself especially that are hers. But as much as I could go on about—have gone on about the parenting I have observed and am observing, and how I imagine my own fatherhood will be, it’s the motherhood of my wife I am so interested in, because, let’s hand it to them, fellas, these women are superior creatures.

So here’s to moms everywhere. Because if pushing that baby out isn’t enough, they usually end up doing most of the parenting anyway, and we often write it off as merely a woman doing a thing women do. Why wait ’til Mother’s Day? I’m celebrating the mothers today.

I’m too lazy go get old pictures of my mom mothering and scan them, so I grabbed them from Facebook. This is just to show you that the woman who raised me and Luke still looks great, whereas you’d think after all those years she’d look like some withered old crone from all the trouble. Go momma go!

My mother before she fled Iran and married my dad.

My mother, biking and staying fit.

My mother, doing masonry to feed the family.

My mother, dressed in her patriotic best.

My Dad Drew Me a Map

Spent some time with my parents this weekend. If you don’t know my dad, he looks like Captain Kangaroo. Also, I came across a poem the other day that gave me pause, made me think of that generational bridge.

No Map
by Stephen Dobyns

How close the clouds press this October first
and the rain-a gray scarf across the sky,
In separate hospitals my father and a dear friend
lie waiting for their respective operations,
hours on a table as surgeons crack their chests.
They were so brave when I talked to them last
as they spoke of the good times we would share
in the future. To neither did I say how much
I loved them, nor express the extent of my fear.
Their bodies are delicate glass boxes
at which the world begins to fling its stones.
Is this the day their long cry will be released?
How can I live in this place without them?
But today is also my son’s birthday.
He is eight and beginning his difficult march.
To him the sky is welcoming, the road straight.
Far from my house he will open his presents-
a book, a Swiss Army knife, some music. Where
is his manual of instructions? Where is his map
showing the dark places and how to escape them?

My dad drew me a map. One day he’ll be undergoing some risky operation, my son will be turning five, and I’ll be scared to death. But my dad drew me a map. All my life being raised by this man was a journey in which he drew routes to all the good and evil places, showed me where the treasures were, where the weather was fair and where people are pleasant, where the pitfalls appear and the people are mean. His map is not entirely accurate: Is anyone’s? I have to finish drawing it myself. You know, carry the torch.

He protected me from the start. Contrary to popular belief, I was never dropped on my head as a baby. Rather, once my dad slipped on some ice in freezing weather with me in his grasp. He took the greater fall while protecting me, and I bounced safely on his chest after he hit the ground.

This is the same dad who, when listening to the sermons of Glenn Colley, would let his three-year-old sit in his lap and hide myself in his sport-coat.

My dad invented a game he called Shooey! Here’s the rules: Dad lays down and pretends to sleep. The kids take underwear and socks (the dirtier, the better) and pile them on top of him. Then he starts to sniff and sniff. Then he wakes up and yells “Shooey!”, stomping toward the running, screaming children who covered him with dirty undies. You wish you grew up playing Shooey!

Once I had a paddle ball (Yes, even children born in the eighties had paddle balls. It’s not just an old-timer thing). I was playing with it way too hard and the ball snapped off the rubber band and broke a vase. My dad spanked me with the paddle. This was when I first learned that the punishment should fit the crime. Spare the rod, spoil the child. Today I am a well-disciplined man.

When I was about seven he and I made a pact to read the Bible all the way through in a year. We had it all scheduled out. He reminded me to do it every night. Come April or so he realized that I hadn’t kept up with my daily readings, and confessed that he hadn’t either. We devoted half a day to catching up to the book of II Chronicles. I think I made it to Numbers. I’m not sure how far he made it, but I could tell he realized this task was beyond the both of us. Or maybe he realized how difficult it was for my attention span, and just pretended he couldn’t do it either. Reading the entire Bible through in a year wasn’t a necessary goal to set, not with all he wanted me to learn. I didn’t finish, and he didn’t finish, and that was okay. Since then, we’ve both managed to do it, and that’s okay too.

It was my dad who took hold of my hands and showed me the placement of fingers on the keys, who then released them and allowed me to hunt and peck on my own to type my name, to play Reader Rabbit, to use PrintMaster Pro to create a banner that read, “Hapy Berthday Mom!!!” Through some fluke of wiring in our house, the light switches both at the top and bottom of the staircase which controlled the lighting fixture over the stairs were also connected to the outlet fixture directly beneath the staircase, the same outlet which powered our entire computer station. Countless times our computer would shut off when I was playing Treasure Mountain or Coaster or Indy 500 and the machine would cut off, all because my dad was flicking off the light switch upstairs. There was not a man more a master of his domain. In a single stroll every light carelessly left on was put out like a candle in under the breath of doom, and at the end he would remove his shoes and place his wallet on the dresser, the house in order. There were times when I swore he performed these executions on purpose, in hopes that I would come terms with the lifeless screen, roll the keyboard back into the desk, get up from the chair and walk up the stairs to discover the splendor of sunlight. Later he realized how dangerous electronics were for me, and adjusted punishments accordingly. It all factored in to his economy of money, power, and time. He is a conservationist at heart. He is a master couponeer, too. And he doesn’t need anything. I learned from him the ability to ask for very little from others and feel good about it. This also explains my obsession with turning off things that aren’t being used. Except my laptop. That always stays on.

If you’ve ever gone out to eat with my dad, you know he uses the same line every time: “This is the best meal we’ve had tonight.” As a kid I would often roll my eyes at his antics with waiters, but what I will always respect is how he treats every waiter. He makes small talk with them, and always leaves a nice tip. If there’s a restaurant you go to often, do you know the names of your waiters? Do you ask them how their day is? A lot of people, even among the “Sunday Lunch” crowd, are rude to their waiters and leave sorry tippage. Through observation I saw how important this seemingly minor thing is, and I try to be better at it. Of course, as good as he is, Grandpa Cha Chi is even better. Sorry, Dad, but I think you’d agree.

I experimented with bullying once. I had been bullied a little bit myself. I had the wild idea to pick on another kid. So in fourth grade I began calling Paul Eller “Pauly Pocket” on the bus. Then one night at a soccer game I hurled a soccer ball directly at his head. Later that night my dad made me call him up and apologize. By high school me and Paul were buds; my freshman year we talked on the bus all the way home most days. I did all the talking; he was still shy. I never picked on anybody ever again, except that one time I grabbed John Soderbergh by his book bag and swung him around in a circle. He was being a loud mouth. Or that time I made fun of that kid’s speech impediment. He deserved it, too. He called my friend Conley a “fschagget.” I asked him what exactly a “fschagget” was. He didn’t like that.

My first car was an Accord. It was a stick shift. Every kid should learn how to drive stick while eating fast food. If you can do that, you can do anything. I took for granted that my dad bought the car. But it wasn’t my car, just the one he let me drive, and he reminded me of that. He bought it used, and at the time I didn’t appreciate that. Today, I am committed to never buying a brand new car. He taught me that there’s always a car out there some old man had for five years and only drove once a week. The fancier it is, the more likely it will be stolen. Take it to a mechanic you know personally. And go easy on the clutch.

My dad has taught high school Bible class for the longest time. A lot of my instruction came through these settings as well as at home. It was interesting to hear it from him as a teacher. Once when Grat Tucker acted up in class, he told him to “take five” and sit outside the class in time out. I only wished all my punishment through the years was “taking five.” And although I was not there to see it, he is famed for once asking my fourteen-year-old brother, in front of everyone else in class, “Luke, what’s a prostitute? Tell everyone what a prostitute is.”

Over the years, my dad had his fair share of angry tirades about something I’d done. But what stood out more often was his show of hurt feelings whenever I’d disappointed him. Merely dishing punishment for your children may not always get the point across. My dad wanted me to see how disobeying him hurt him as a father. “Well, this really hurts your Dad.” He would let me know how he felt, but without manipulating me about it. It wasn’t just because something was wrong, but because that something hurt people, caused pain, severed relationships. He helped me see God not as a being that hurls lightning bolts at the disobedient, but aches for them when they stray.

Junior year of college my gall bladder tried to assassinate me. The doctor cut it out. It was Thanksgiving week, so I missed the first couple days of school after that. My dad took a vacation/sick day to drive me up to FHU. That was special, even thought I didn’t tell him at the time. Long drives like that, as well as long walks, were always times where only a father and son bond over nothing more than traveling, walking the road.

My dad cried at Carrie’s graduation from FHU, but not at mine. There’s an explanation: When she graduated, he was on prednozone. At my wedding I was on prednozone. I didn’t cry. Life is so full of mysetery. While my dad didn’t cry at my graduation (the faculty were crying with joy), I caught a few tears at my wedding. One thing that struck me is that he presented me with a pocket knife. Cha Chi did too, but he makes a habit of it. It was the only knife I remember my dad giving me. The special thing about it was that he told me he had gotten it when I was born and planned to give it to me on some big important day. Sure, it was just a knife, but the fact that he was looking ahead to a day like that, having no idea what his son’s life would be like, struck me. It’s that whole legacy thing. See, now I have to get a knife for Noah. And he’ll get like twenty or so from Cha Chi, the owner and proprietor of “O So Sharp Knives and Antiques”.

Goofiness. My father does not take himself too seriously. Oh where, oh where could I have gotten that? Even though at least twenty percent of the time I was embarrassed by his fashion of entertaining others in front of me, he brought a bag of humor wherever he went, and let it out when the opportunity arose. This includes, but is not limited to, doing voices (though his French, Spanish, and Chinese impersonations sound exactly the same), pretending to be incredibly dumb (he convinced a girl at the movies once that he was mad that she gave away the Titanic sinking at the end), pretending to be incredibly incensed (see the Titanic incident), making faces (you should see his “Gus” face), or telling stories (and he has passed on the “exaggeration” gene to my brother, who made wide use of it at Freed after I left—thanks).

My dad is not afraid to look like a goober, because he doesn’t have to put up a front around others to be respectable and esteemed. He lets his principles and actions take care of that. One time when I twas in middle school I was about ready to kill him the time he wore a camouflage hunting mask to a football game because of the cold, but he was warm while all the other idiots froze.

My dad was diagnosed with diabetes when I was a kid. It seemed kind of shocking at the time (“my dad has a disease?”), but how he handled it was something I looked up to. He began to exercise more, and eat healthier. In earlier years he did not do so. A big part of the change, I know, was his sons. He wanted to be a role model for us, and to live long for us. Even today he’s not as heavy set as he was twenty years ago. I’m sure he’ll tell you he’s slipped up in his eating habits, or that he still doesn’t exercise enough, but seeing him handle that affected me. I’m not the model for healthy living I should be, but where I stand is due much in part to my own father’s self discipline. The second biggest influence is my own gall bladder attack. Well, I told you about what happened there.

“I’m proud you, son.” That and “I/We love you” are two of the most-often used phrases affirmation from my father, and they are indispensable. My dad has always let me know how proud he is of me, even when I try at something and fail. And even when I disappointed him, or we had a sharp disagreement, he has let me know he loves me. Even if he had to watch me at a piano recital or do something else that wasn’t his forte, he was proud of me.

So now I wonder what I will pass on, both intentionally and unintentionally.

For those of us who were raised by good father, there is so much raw material. No matter what, we may be “haunted” by the ways in which we may potentially turn out to be like them. Some of it’s in the genes, some of it’s behavioral, some of it’s fate and irony pulling at you.

Well, I’m off to the knife store. Gotta pass the legacy. You know, carry that torch.

Here we see the presentation of the knife.

The antics of Danny Guard have been around for years. Oh, and the rest of the family too. (link available only to facebook friends, sorry.)

Birth, naturally

“It was good to be young,
to be close to the earth;
and to stand by your wife

at the moment of birth.”

-“The Green Leaves of Summer”

We were in the natural foods store shopping for some primrose oil and raspberry leaf tea, which is supposed to help induce labor when the time comes. I thought about the stereotype reinforced by the industrialized processed foods industry that “organic”,”local”,”natural”, and “sustainable” are all code words for smelly hippies who give you tasteless, unclean food from strange countries injected with green slime that makes you puke while they hug trees and worship “mother earth”. I also thought how “Green” tokenism does give these wholesome principles a bad name, when anything at the supermarket can be labeled “organic” and people will buy it thinking they’re “doing the right thing”. I also thought about how Carrie and I are in no way excellent spokespersons for good eating, though compared to the average American we’ve done very well. Eventually, our goal is to wean ourselves off of the broken grocery fascism imposed by Wal-Mart, but until then the cheap prices—made possible by making quality-less “Great Value” products, treating employees with even less value, and sucking the value out of communities by putting local stores out of business—are all too easy for us, because we are weak and lazy. But I will say we’ve been consistent about pursuing this whole birth thing without giving in to the system. Soon we’ll find out how successful we can be.

My wife should be writing this one. But in lieu of that, I’m writing what she would otherwise do if she was confident in her writing. I’ve dropped hints here and there that we’re doing a natural child birth. People be like, “what’s that?” And I’ll explain.

If you’re not familiar with the typical modern birth scene, it looks something like this:

The Modern Birth

However, unlike Monty Python’s brave caricature, most Hollywood birth scenes promote the typical modern birth as a piece of cake thanks to the “marvels of modern medicine”. In contrast, natural births are made up to look something like this:
Water Birth Exaggerated

And sometimes they get real dirty, depicting a natural birth as something like this:

Hippo Birth

If you take hospital “obedience” classes, you can just roll in and have a designer birth, complete with all the chems and slicing you’ll ever need. Your baby will be ready in just a few short hours.

So a lot of couples toss around the line, “oh, we’re gonna try for a natural birth,” and then suddenly get hit with the reality of what birth is like and the nurses roll their eyes as they prepare for the epidural they know she’ll be asking for any minute.

A natural birth is way more than just saying, “no meds please.” In fact, if you walk in and say that, any woman could tell you more than I could this is a recipe for disaster. Natural birth involves a number of steps, most of which are accomplished well before labor even begins.

Let’s go over some ground rules about natural child birth, according to the Bradley school, of which Carrie and I are now distinguished graduates:

1.The husband is the coach. I’m the coach, so I get to talk about this stuff because I’m involved in the process. If there is no husband, a sister or mother or best friend can be a coach. I’m standing in the corner of the ring with water and a sponge the whole time.

2. Have you ever had a dog give birth? They sneak away and the next thing you know they have a litter. They didn’t whelp at all. These dogs go to a comfortable place and take their time with the birth. If a dog can do it, a human can do it. So what you have to do is make the delivery room seem more like home. Dim the lights. Bring some of those electric candle-emulators. Have some Yoga music. Bring your own pillows. I don’t recommend toting furniture from your house. Let’s not get carried away.

3. No delivery drug has been proven safe. Most of them administered to either ease the pain or spur the birth process, but nearly all of them complicate the actual process and potentially harm both mother and baby. Every hospital drug can go through the placenta to the baby. Americans overmedicate themselves by default. Don’t be an American: American children are medicated brats. And since your child is likely to try marijuana at least once in life, it’s best if they weren’t introduced to harder drugs at birth, so they won’t seek them as a replacement after the harmless “gateway drug” just doesn’t cut it for them.

4. If the mama holds the baby close to her chest immediately after birth and begins to breastfeed him soon after, he tends to turn out better than if he’s placed in a plastic bed-thing for a while after a nurse frantically tries to rub the goo off of him (which, if it was dangerous, would have hurt him before he came out with it all over him). There’s also a decrease in attachment issues later in life, and Carrie can tell you all about those. There is no medical reason that under normal birthing circumstances a baby has to be immediately removed from its mother and studied for an hour. That can happen later.

5. C-sectioned mothers have 3x the risk of death. Back in 2006, the US was 13th place in the world in mothers dying from childbirth. You’d think we’d be 1st with all our allegedly amazing technology and healthcare. But no, doctors in a hurry to get to their golf game need to cut that baby out before the mother overstays her welcome, and many of our “modern marvels” are just as dangerous, if not moreso, than those “sketchy old wives’ homeopathic cures”.

6. You have to eat well and exercise up to the birth. It’s like training for a marathon. Like, Carrie is going to be walking laps during her labor.

7. But during contractions, you lie still and meditate and relax. You breathe in deeply and slowly, not like a panting dog on crack. The womb is moving automatically. This helps the process and also prevents a lot of pain. With this and the joyful endorphins, many mothers doing natural birth have reported only feeling severe burning at the moment the baby’s head peaked.

8. Whatever you do, don’t give birth on your back.

9. Like Dr. Bradley told me, “the act of emptying the uterus is mechanically identical to emptying the rectum.” It turns out my brother’s college roommate Abram Pryor was more correct than we thought he was in his theory of childbirth. We don’t give him enough credit. So, you wouldn’t pant on the toilet pushing out a big one. You breathe deeply and take your time. Read a magazine or two. Yes, this is more like pooping a watermelon, but the tactics are similar.

10. If you deny the right of the father to be in the birthing room, your institution should immediately be deprived of any public funding you are receiving.

11. If you’re an OB and you’re always in a hurry, it’s time to quit and do something you might actually be good at for once in your life.

12. If you are not interested in the natural method, I do not judge you. I don’t expect you to judge me either.

After planning the birth of our child, I really believe that a birth should be treated as a conscious gift from God that mothers (and fathers) are invited to participate in with effort, not an idle gift from some man-made “stork”. With all respect to doctors, they serve a role that is vital, yet minimal, considering pregnancy itself is not an illness, but a part of life that can arrive with its share of dangers. Only when complications occur is a doctor absolutely needed. If our baby breaches then we would have no choice, and we would regretfully welcome our doctor’s insistence no doing whatever was necessary. If complications arise, what must be done must be done.

No, we’re not yet very good candidates for endorsing natural birth, as we have yet to experience it. But learning about was enough to convince us. Carrie wants to remember the birth by having pictures of it and lucid memories to go with them, not forget about it because she was doped. If you were a mother of a child and you were doped, we’re not judging you. The fact that you raised your child more than covers for the understandable blunders we make in a world where the modern medicine complex has fractured and hijacked traditional maternity rites. If all goes well, our child may be the post-child for the natural way.

Plus I hear crushed, sun-dried placenta capsules are really good for your health.

The Obligatory Post-Easter Devotional Blog on New Spring and New Life

I dyed Easter eggs. I’m still a kid. You probably already knew that. Easter is a time when we celebrate Jesus coming out of the tomb. Or his followers somehow drugged two guards to sleep, rolled away an enormous stone, stole the body of Jesus the carpenter, and‑forget it. I can’t keep typing that without laughing.

Easter is a special time for all children. Our child will hatch soon. Life hatches, even after its put out. Before worship Sunday I see a boy named Isaiah coloring a picture of the angel speaking to the women outside the empty tomb. He explains, “The Green goblin threw a pumpkin at the angel and now he’s all covered in black stuff, and the angel’s gonna die.” See what happens when we mix pagan mythology with the Gospel? Angels die from gourd-shaped toxic grenades.

I would like to spend this note telling you the tales of James Wolfe, the world’s most renowned parenting mentor. I in no way am being guilted into writing this. James Wolfe did not approach me and tell me he was disappointed that I did not praise his constant demonstrations of parenting skill and granted opportunities for me to observe them. I am a volunteer, surprise sponsor of the Battle Hymn of the Wolfe-Father (If you don’t get the reference to “the Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother”, forget it).

Other parents have their own ways of dealing with their childrne’s shenanigans, whether it be…

…little Derek digging for nasal gems in Bible class and telling us he’s going to stick what he found in his belly button (a trick he didn’t learn from me)…

…little Isaiah disappearing for a while, only for another adult to approach his father with, “your son is naked under the table in the foyer” (he was changing into his Iron Man costume)…

…little Myra-Grace following Carrie around and begging her to touch her belly where the baby is and not wanting to let go (and you can tell her parents never grow tired of her talking about it)…

…little Vivian setting the building on fire and giving us that harmless “Gilly” grin (I don’t make these things up, ever)…

…little Tripp crawling like a Commando across the floor (eventually his laugh gives him away)…

…little what’s-his-face grinning over the dessert table before the common meal and then sprinkling it with three sneezes in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost (the child hath committed blast-phlegmy)…

…or little Sam changing his sister’s name to “Lollipop” and, after being told she did not behave, telling her, “it’s okay, maybe you can behave tomorrow”.

Sam is James Wolfe’s kid and, of course, this post is really about him, and I’m doing this because he never once asked me to brag about his parenting advice in my blog. So it’ll be a complete surprise. Poor guy never gives himself enough credit.

Here are some nuggets of truth, Easter Eggs, if you will, that will last for generations, word-for-word:

*”You don’t spank your kid as a punishment. You spank your kid to get their attention. If you spank your kid as a punishment you’re either gonna wanna spank ‘em more when they’re in more trouble or they’ll just grow to tough it out and not learn anything. You spank your kid to wake them up so that when you tell them they did wrong and give them a real punishment, like a time out, it’ll stick with ‘em”

*”When I was in high school, my Dad got me a car, and I scratched it up one day and pulled into the driveway and he saw it and I didn’t say anything. That look on my dad’s face ‑my dad could have gotten mad at me and scolded me, but I felt so guilty looking at my dad’s face and how I thought he was going to cry because of how careless I was about the car and my respect for him. Seeing my dad in that state affected me more than it would if he had just yelled at me. That teaches you a lot about your relationship with God.”

*”Sam had picked up Bo’s food bowl and was banging it on the floor because he liked the noise it made. I quickly snapped, “Sam, NO!” and he immediately froze and started crying. I didn’t do anything but firmly say no. But he started crying and what he did was get up and run towards me. He didn’t run away from me or cower or say ‘please don’t spank me’. He ran towards me because in that moment he was afraid his daddy might stop loving him because he was so angry. Nothing could ever make me stop loving him, but in his mind that terrified him the most. That teaches you a lot about your relationship with God.”

*”If Lydia starts crying because she fell on her bum while she was talking just let her cry it out.”

*”No, Sam, you can’t marry your sister.”

*”If my son grows up and says that his Dad was a faithful Christian all his life because he always went to church and didn’t do bad things, I would consider that failing as a parent.”

So, you’re welcome, James. I was gonna do this entry on my own dad’s fathering methods—how he let me hide my face in his jacket during sermons when I was three, how he whipped the fire out of me with my own paddle when the rubber ball snapped off and broke a vase, how he planned with me to read the Bible through in a year when I was little and the two of us nearly made it but he said it was okay that we didn’t, how he made me call up a kid and apologize to him after throwing a soccer ball at his head, how he taught me how to drive, how he drove me 8 hours to college in the middle of the week after I had my recuperated from gall bladder surgery. But no, you wanted your own space. Now I have to scoot my dad over til another week. My kid could be born by then.

Fresh Start

Was watching Mad Men the other day. If you don’t know Mad Men, it’s about the ad men on who work on Madison Avenue (get it?) in the 60s in New York. Creating ads for cigarettes, demeaning women, ignoring negroes, fearing commies, drinking scotch, adulterating and living by the Ayn Rand philosophy. It’s a satire of the absurdity of 50s familyhood faced with the emerging and equally absurd 60s counterculture.

Anyway, so I’m watching Mad Men, and Betty, the Cococola image of a housewife to mysterious ad man Don Draper, is having her baby. He hands her to the nurse in the hallway and the nurse wheels her off, while she looks back at Don and watches him disappear, leaving her by herself. And that’s when I realize: When all this is said and done I will get to say that I am more of a man than Don Draper. For one, I don’t cheat on my wife. Secondly, I don’t create lies for a living. Thirdly, he’s a fictional character, so he’s not a real man or woman. But most importantly, I plan on not only sitting in the room with her, but coaching that baby out of her. Write that down: Caleb Guard is more manly than Don Draper.

Of course, it was a different time back then. In the 60s people were really bought by express birthing, and men were encouraged to stay clear of a world they were told they had no business seeing. I can see why some men abide by that today. I just don’t get it.

So while Don sits in the men’s waiting room, drinking scotch with another father-to-be, the other guy tells Don about his sudden epiphany that this kid he’s having is going to be a fresh start.

A fresh start. I like that idea. Bump New Year’s Eve. You want a real chance at a new beginning? Have a kid. Wanna quit smoking? Wanna start eating right? Wanna start that Van Halen tribute band and tour the country like you always wanted? Have a kid.

I think about what it will be like to look at that new face for the first time, and how it will be like looking at a new me. I mean, he will share half my DNA. I will have another being to care for, someone who will look up to me, need me, learn from me, be punished by me, feel the desire to make me happy and not disappointed, maybe even hate me sometimes.

Like my own spiritual rebirth, it will be a time for renewal. I’ll get inspired to write that book I’ve been planning on writing (caz I’ll have time to do that). We’ll exercise and eat better, so we can live a long and healthy life and be able to see our grandchildren. We’ll quit watching shows like Madmen and get one of those TV guardians. We’ll go camping and stuff. We’ll study the Word more. We’ll stop making mistakes. We’ll be everywhere on time. We’ll transform into unblemished examples. We’ll just be a perfect, ideal family. And everyone can look to us for a reflection of how they should be. The American dream. And a TV in every home. In technicolor. Something the whole family can enjoy.

Truth is, I have what I need, and I don’t need anyone to tell me what else I need. I received more than I deserved on at least two other occasions: my baptism and my wedding. It’s about to happen again.

Later Don Draper’s in his office, and his secretary Peggy confesses to him that she envies his life.

“You have everything. And so much of it.”
Says Don, “I suppose that’s probably true.”

I lack in many things. But I see a shape looming that brings both trouble and joy. Everyone tells me the joy will win the battle, and I have no reason not to believe it. Let the blessings flow like milk and honey. And let me have a rag to wipe that milk and honey off my shirt after my kid just puked it up. Let me look my boy in the eyes and tell him that he has everything. And so much of it. Let him tell that to me in return. Let us all fall asleep at night in our quiet house and tell ourselves we have everything, and so much of it.

I suppose…I suppose…