Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Second Impressions of Fatherhood

Jonah is six weeks old today. It’s hard to believe how quickly it's gone, and how much he has grown and changed in that time.

1) He is already learning to use his hands, which is fascinating to watch. He tries to reach for things, but does not quite have the arm control to keep his arm stationary yet. He has also started to learn how to grab onto things with his fingers (though I wonder if some of this is instinctive). For example, he is always grabbing onto my shirt collar or Rachel's necklace, or will clasp my finger in his.

2) He LOVES it when I sing to him. I know babies love music, but he doesn’t seem that interested in CDs yet. We’ve been performing nightly concerts for him, which is fun. He hears a lot of Beatles, Eagles, and other classic rock songs, since those are the ones I know all the words to. He loves American Pie. The best part is, he’s still too young to know how bad a singer I am, so I’m enjoying it while I can.

3) We have taken him into the city a few times, and he handled it pretty well. He likes to look around and listen, but it’s usually too much for him and he falls asleep. We’ve also had him with us at restaurants several times and as long as we time it with his naps (usually after a feeding), then we can relax and enjoy ourselves. He’s only had one meltdown while out with us (though I’m sure there are more to come).

4) He seems, for the most part, like a happy little boy. He has started smiling, though it’s sometimes hard to distinguish the happy smiles from the “pushing out a fart” smiles, but they’re still great, nonetheless.

5) He does have his freak outs every once in a while, which are trying to say the least. He is amazingly strong for such a little guy, and when he wails, his whole body stiffens up like a board and he just lets out these animal sounds that are devastating to listen to. There was a great New Yorker article a couple weeks ago about colicky babies and it said that babies cries are “the most shattering, devastating sound” human beings can hear. They even said that the US military uses recordings of screaming babies to torture prisoners in Guantanomo Bay. I can relate. But these are the moments when our patience is really on trial. So far, we are handling it well, and we’re both thankful that Jonah is not colicky.

6) It’s incredible how many people have asked us how we’re sleeping, as if that is the only question anyone cares about. The fact is that, it’s true, we do wake up with him more, especially Rachel, and we are tired, but the experience of having him in our lives is so much more than the lack of sleep. I suppose it’s the social equivalent of asking “how are you” but it gets a little monotonous. My stock answer: “I’m sleeping like a baby. Literally.”

7) He has also grown quite a bit since he was born (which is obviously what you want to happen, but still a little sad in a way). He’s at least two inches longer and a couple pounds heavier than when he was born. His face, which was pretty skinny and defined at birth, now has the typically chubby baby cheeks and about six chins. He’s also suffering from pretty severe baby acne. Nothing to worry about healthwise, but kind of unsightly.

8) I don’t know if this is normal or not, but I still don’t think its really hit me yet that I’m a father. In some ways my life isn’t that different now that I’m back to work. I mean, there are times when I forget all about Jonah and then it’ll occur to me that, oh yeah, I have a son. It’s just surreal. I thought it would have sunk in more by now, but I guess it takes time.

9) Overall, though, I love being a father. More than I thought I would. I’m slowly becoming more confident, and look forward to being with him. I still have time for writing, which was perhaps my biggest concern leading up to his birth, and while I do have to make sacrifices at times, its worth it. People tell me that infancy is the easy part, relatively speaking, and I believe them (we don’t have to entertain him too much, or chase him around and keep him from destroying everything in sight). I know it goes by quickly and you can never get this time back, so I am trying to appreciate it as much as I can and just relax and enjoy myself.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Love & Rockets #25

My new Shelf Life is finally up at Sequart. It feels real good to have reached the halfway point in the series, though it's incredible it has taken me a year a half to get this far. I know that when I go back through all of these columns, there will be a lot of redundancies I can cut out, but right now I am staying forward focused. I'm already at work on #26, which looks like it will be one of my longest and most thorough columns yet as I try to wrap up and put into context all of my thoughts on Gilbert's "Human Diastrophism." Stay tuned...

Monday, September 17, 2007


What would you do if you had caught Barry Bonds' 756th home run ball? Personally, I voted for the asterik.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The First Day of Spring in Central Park

This poem was written last year, on one of those perfect city weekends. It's not my best, but I like it because it reminds me of that day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Reflections on the SIXTH Anniversary

I wrote this poem about 9/11 exactly one year ago. I was in Chicago on a work trip, and ended up stranded briefly in a fast food joint across the street from my hotel, waiting out a storm.

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Archer

Here is yet another poem. This one is strange. It's sort of the insane ramblings of a deranged art student, set on the steps of the New York Public Library, and looking back at it, it's more of a character portrait than a poem. I have no idea what inspired this one.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Lucinda Part 2

Here's another poem at Literary Escorts, and this one features another beautiful illustration by Leontine Greenberg. The title is another nod to Tom Waits, whose song, "Lucinda," on Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers and Ballads, inspired me.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

First Impressions of Fatherhood

(image from John Blaire Moore's Invaders From Home #1)

One of my wife's co-workers asked me, about a week before Jonah was born, if I was going to become "one of those daddy bloggers." I was taken aback by this, not because I was surprised that "daddy bloggers" exist, though I don't read any of them, but rather that it was presented as such a cliched and commonplace thing. I have mostly tried to keep this blog to comics-related material, but in the future, I'm going to try to mix in more of my own personal life as I make this massive transition. So, in a tired, rambling sort of list, here are my first impressions of fatherhood after a mere three weeks:

1) Jonah is a pretty damn cute little boy (of course I'm biased, but see for yourself...)

Sure, he has his crying fits, but normally settles himself quickly once we figure out what he wants. He is a voracious thumb and hand sucker, a habit he exhibited less than a minute after his birth, which is great because it helps him calm himself down. Might become a concern if he continues to do it as a teenager, though.

2) The fabled love that is supposed to form from "bonding" (that loaded term you see so often in those new father books) is happening, much to my surprise, but its a slower process than I had imagined. Because I am generally a neurotic freak, I was negative and skeptical that I could truly feel a deep inner love, but he is so sweet and innocent, and so totally helpless, that I just want to hold him and stare back into his gray-brown eyes. I know how cheesy that sounds, but it's honestly how I feel. That's love, right?

3) The exhaustion that all new parents complain about is far worse than I had feared. I feel like a Zombie, and often zone out in mid-sentence. Still, it's hard for me to complain, since it is definitely worse for Rachel, who is up virtually every two hours feeding. I can at least get an extra hour or so every feeding, until I get up to help change him and soothe him back to sleep. I have also reluctantly gotten into the habit of taking naps, but they don't seem to help very much.

4) I had always imagined that dealing with poop would be the worst part of caring for a newborn, but it's actually not that bad. The hardest part of changing diapers is the crying and thrashing. It's not enough to wipe the poop off his butt, we also have to make sure to check his back, arms, legs and feet since he kicks and screams so much. I've gotten better about holding his legs with one hand while wiping with the other, but its one of those learned skills they don't teach you in birthing classes.

5) Speaking of poop, in just three weeks I've been puked on, peed on, farted on and shat on multiple times. It's amazing how quickly you learn to make your peace with bodily fluids.

6) Most of the time we're able to calm Jonah down pretty quickly, but occassionally he cries for 45 minutes or so, which is a major test of our patience. I know it could be worse, but still it's hard to listen to. He also does this thing where he stiffens up his back so you can't really cradle him, while kicking his legs and thrashing his arms. Our best defense so far has been the hot sling, which he loves and usually goes right to sleep in. The only problem is that to get him to sleep in it, someone has to walk around the apartment for 15 minutes, which is not our favorite thing to do at 3:00 in the morning.

7) It feels like I have watched more TV in the last three weeks than in the entire year combined. In addition to the two series we are working through on Netflix (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Freaks and Geeks), I have also watched six consecutive Mets games, some Yankees games, several episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Hot Fuzz, The 40 Year Old Virgin, Hard Knocks (an excellent HBO show about the Kansas City Chiefs training camp) and tons of other random filler stuff, like Mythbusters, Cash Cab, Jeopardy, Star Trek, etc.

8) I have also read tons of comics. Probably the best thing I read was Matt Kindt's Super Spy, which is something I hope to review one of these days. I've also cranked through George Perez's entire Wonder Woman run (classic!) and continue to work through Sandman Mystery Theater. I am also hoping to return to Love & Rockets very soon, and have already begun working on #25.

9) We also survived two family visits so far, and are about to endure two more before we return to some semblance of normalcy. Nothing is more stressful than the out-of-town relatives, who have no idea how to navigate New York City, descending upon us for a week while we're trying to care for Jonah. They don't mean to stress us out, but it just does.

10) Jonah is a very curious baby, which is probably normal, but still fascinating. He listens intently to music and looks all around at the world, gazing at things as mundane as my t-shirt for lengthy stretches. He also makes great eye contact and has already imitated faces at only four days old.

11) Holding a newborn and finding a cradling position that is comfortable for both of us has been occassionally difficult. His floppy head and jerky, unpredictable movements create challenges. In general, it seems like the closer I hold him to my chest, the better, and two arms are usually better than one, though I am getting better at the one arm "football hold."

12) There is nothing better than when he naps on my chest.

13) I was unprepared for the sheer volume of gifts we would receive. I mean, I knew we would get some, but after three weeks, we are still averaging three packages a day. Our postman must hate us! People we don't even know, like my sister's co-workers, or long forgotten friends, have sent gifts. Even my ex-girlfriend sent a gift. It's great, it really is, but has been challenging to figure out where to store it all in our two bedroom apartment.

14) Speaking of gifts, the amount of useless baby products that exist is incredible. How many different types of towels to wipe up spit-up do you need? We have at least ten different variations on this theme. We have already received a small zoo's worth of stuffed animals, and more onesies than Jonah could wear if he went through wardrobe changes like Elton John.

15) In general, I have surprised myself by how well I've handled it all so far. I have been calm and supportive of Rachel, have managed to help out around the house quite a bit - making meals, grocery shopping, cleaning, doing laundry, etc. - while still getting plenty of time to play with Jonah. I have felt far less stress and more joy than I had anticipated.

16) I still worry that after a few weeks, the high of being a new father is going to wear off and the stress will begin. So far it all seems kind of surreal in a way. I am planning to return to work in two weeks, and it could be at that point when my nerves really begin to fray. It helps that Rachel will be off for 8 more weeks, and that, at least so far, Jonah seems to be a pretty calm baby. I'm optimistic, but I don't want to be naive.

17) More than anything, I am just grateful that Jonah is healthy. Everyday I look at him and remind myself that he is the miracle of creation, and that, no matter how hard we try, there are so many things in this world we have little or no control over. A healthy baby is perhaps the greatest gift in the world!