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life is precious
I work in hospice.

This statement has never been written in either of my blog columns. I checked. I actually just conducted a Google search to confirm it. The omission is likely due to the fact that I write about birth, and cribs, and babies punching Santa. Hospice seems out of place here.

However, end-of-life care often evokes conversations relevant to my experience as a young father. My professional work is about family, and loyalty, and legacy. These themes transcend context, and occasionally reach far enough to punch this young father right in the mouth. I find myself smacked with the frightening yet liberating reality that I start dying now. The process starts today. The ways in which I work, and love, and serve will influence the legacy I eventually leave behind, as well as the manner in which I leave it. I am reminded each day that the life I live is meaningful, that it has consequences, and that it affects others. It affects my wife, and it affects my son.

On the rare occasion that I am asked to define my role as a hospice worker, I share that my efforts revolve around meaning. I base my care on that which the patient and family have found most meaningful over the course of their lives. Alongside these brave individuals and their families, I engage the mystery of death and affirm life. I validate faith and the commitment of the individual, and support him or her as life closes.  Everything we do revolves around that person’s journey. Reconciliation and legacy abound. Heartache is ever-present. A few good laughs are often shared.

I am writing all this to remind myself and others why I began writing about parenthood in the first place. At the end, all we have are stories; Beautiful, sacred stories that bind us and sustain us. Faith, family, and hope are all founded in story, and in death these stories collide.

Today, my stories are joyous, and they are mine forever. Oliver is crawling, smiling, and occasionally raising his eyebrows at ladies in the supermarket. He is awesome. His stories add meaning to my life, and I feel as though I am aware of this now more than ever. Most of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on our relationship now with enriched perspective, rather than later. If not for my job, that perspective would not exist.

So here I am, because of that “terribly depressing job,” anticipating our adventures together with newfound excitement. I look forward to watching Star Wars with Oliver for the first time. I look forward to sharing my faith with him. I even look forward to getting him his own dog, and then watching as he figures out that tails are not leashes.

All this excitement … brought about by that terribly depressing job.
 
 
Over the course of my happy and not-so-long life, I have developed a list of food items that I find irresistible, consisting of foods that I have consumed while living and travelling within the U.S.   I recently shared this list with Oliver, and he surprisingly responded with "Oh snap, dad. Me too. I have a rich and complex pallet." I have asked him to share some of his favorite foods here, alongside my own. Here they are, in no particular order.

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What Dad Likes To Eat
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What Oliver Likes To Eat

1. Arturo's Puffy Taco in La Habra, CA
Carne asada, grease, salsa, some more grease. This tastes like Los Angeles, and Los Angeles is delicious.
1. My Fist
There is a reason why my legs are not in the picture.   I already ate them.

2. Barbecue Chicken Boli from Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick, New Jersey
This stromboli is inarguably one of the greatest things ever created by humankind, right behind the Egyptian pyramids and the Snuggie. 
2. This Trash Can
It is shiny, it occasionally is lathered in crusty spilled food , and I can see the reflection of my face while I lick it. What's not to like?

3. Pastrami Sandwich from Hoagie Haven in Princeton, New Jersey.
These sandwiches are intelligent, slightly elitist, and very delicious. Thanks, Princeton.
3. The space between the couch 
and the carpet
Dad likes burritos with anything in them. I like this small crevice in the same way.

4. Phở from OB Noodle House 
in Ocean Beach, San Diego
I know, I know. This can be purchased anywhere, and your Vietnamese friend's mother can do a better job than this place. You are wrong. I am right. Slurp it.
4. This Computer Cord
I never get to taste it for very long. Shocking.  Dad and mom pull it out of my hands right before I can get it in my mouth. The mystery makes it more delicious.

5. Mary's Donuts in Santee, CA
This place makes fried burritos with fruit filling. Who cares? They make donuts.
5. This fake gorilla, found next to real gorillas at the San Diego Zoo
Too early to give an honest critique. I want to eat a real gorilla and then compare the two.

6. Fettuccine Alfredo from Cucina Italiana in San Diego
The alfredo sauce is thicker than mud. Yes, that is a good thing.
6. The earth
I was tempted to write "dirt" or "grass" or "flowers," but why limit my options?

7. California Burrito from Santana's 
in San Diego
This place eventually switched names and became more popular. Like P-Diddy.
7. Wheels from my stroller
These wheels bring me more earth.
(see above)

8. Bottle Room Burgers from 
The Bottle Room in Whittier, CA.
These burgers come with grilled onions and blue cheese. And happiness. They come with happiness.
8. Eye Glasses
I don't know what Laser Eye Surgery is, but I bet it doesn't taste nearly as good as these things. 

9. Pizza from Pizzamania 
in Whittier, CA
This list makes me hungry. Somebody order pizza.
9. Tags from under the rug
Jay-Z made a song entirely about tags. He totally gets me. 
 
 
I finally have a camcorder. I think.  Is that still what we call a video camera? I feel like the guy who saved all his money to buy a boombox the day after CD players came out. I fully understand that most phones have filming capability, and very few people own video cameras. I do not care. I wanted to film this kid for hours, so I bought a camera.

Unfortunately, my son has decided to stare blankly into the lens at all times. When the camera light goes on, his lights go off. Nobody is home. For whatever reason, the kid just stares. Because of the utter lack of activity, I decided to liven up the video with a little dialogue.  
 
 

I should have been more clear when I prayed
"God, please let my son be the next Babe Ruth."

 
 
Babies cry and scream with varying intensity. Some cries are soft and drawn out. Others are sharp, bouncy and chirp-like. I can describe baby noises for days, but unfortunately, I have difficulty conveying the intensity of the baby’s feelings. I know how to tell my wife that the baby is pissed, but I have trouble explaining just how intense he is.

Because of this, I have decided to measure the intensity of fits by creating a hierarchy of intense Hollywood action stars, and associating baby noises with specific actors.   Here they are, in order, from least intense to most intense.

The Sylvester Stallone

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Every time your baby cries like this, you try your best to respect how serious she is. Unfortunately, it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what she’s trying to say, and you cannot help but laugh in her puffy little face.


The Steven Seagal

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Your baby makes faces that make him appear racially ambiguous, and all you can discern is that this baby is serious. Is he Asian? I don’t know, but he is very serious.



The Jackie Chan

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This cry involves a great deal of theatrics, and can be quite entertaining to watch. After a few minutes, you want your baby to start doing something new.



The Mark Wahlberg

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In response to this cry, people think, “Wow, that baby has such a pretty face. Why do I get the impression he wants to murder me? Ah, who cares. What a pretty face!”



The Jason Statham

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Dad: Is it me, or does that baby have an accent?

Mom: You’re right. What country is that from?

Dad:  Not sure. Somewhere really intense.



The Bruce Willis

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You know this scream. You are tired of this scream. But you respect this scream.



The Liam Neeson

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This scream becomes more intense as time passes. It starts off slow, steady, and distinguished. Then, in an instant, you are thinking “holy sh#* did he just punch a wolf in the face?!”  Yes, he probably did. He is that intense.


The Nicolas Cage

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While you were reading this post, Nicolas Cage made three movies. He dies in four of them. Boom.  When your baby starts Nicolas Caging all over your face, just stick the baby monitor on the dresser and keep your distance.


 
 
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When I was a child, my father set out to build a backyard fort. To this day, the structure is his greatest architectural achievement. Though his three rambunctious boys are now three semi-mature adults, that clubhouse still stands amidst orange trees and a vegetable garden.  It remains glorious. When I initially embarked on this parenting adventure, I figured that I would have to wait several years before creating something of significance. I was wrong. Sort of.

With the help of my sister-in-law and a multilingual instruction manual, I built a crib that has not yet fallen apart. Some of my friendly readers might point out that I technically assembled a crib from parts manufactured somewhere in the United States. They are correct. Still, I assembled that thing masterfully, and I deserve some credit for not assembling it upside down or accidentally nailing it to a door.

This was the latest of several steps we had taken in creating a fun living space for our little guy. Now that Oliver has been here for three months, I can confirm that he thrives in his new habitat. His nursery is baby friendly, personal, and nerdy. He has some fun clothes, a few bath toys, and a wall covered with pictures of historic sports figures. We framed the covers of several sports-themed children’s books, and displayed them throughout the room. Prominent sports icons can be found above shelves, next to windows, and hiding beneath smoke alarms. I initially thought of juxtaposing my face on a few of the athletes, just to boost my self-esteem and subtly convince my child that I’m athletic.  I eventually gave up my dream, and allowed for the icons to retain their place of prominence. His walls tells stories of Pele, Wilma Rudolph, and small Canadian children that play ice hockey.

In all seriousness, this process was much more complicated than expected. I knew that choosing baby room décor was an important part of the nesting process, because someone said it in Juno. However, I never expected this process to become important to me. It never seemed very significant. In fact, when we first started talking about the room, I optimistically figured that my wife would lead the charge. She happens to be more organized, more intelligent, more artistic, and far more proactive than I am. As facets of the room were discussed, however, I found that I had opinions. Strong ones. I suddenly overthought every aspect of the room, and began to question the messages being sent by whatever and whoever was being displayed on the walls. I questioned the iconic figures, the sports represented, and even the color themes. Questions abounded. Am I accidentally conveying some bias about gender or ethnicity by choosing some pictures over others?  Am I forcing my child to like sports? Why are there no pictures of my bearded face in this room?

I spoke with a dear friend who happens to share most of my views on life, and I informed him of my concerns. I was both surprised and comforted to hear him suggest that my worries were absurd. The walls do not matter. My kid receives so much love at every moment of every day, and no faulty room display will detract from that message. My child will learn to love and value all others because he will see that behavior modeled by his parents.  I can fret about somehow creating the racist third grader who makes awkward comments at recess, but it simply will not happen.

I probably will not build a glorious, surprisingly sturdy backyard fort for my children. This kid will be lucky if I construct a go-cart without losing fingers. Still, I have plenty of confidence that I can create a decent human being. I'll let you all know how he turns out.

 
 
There is a strange creature in my house. He occasionally ventures out of the nursery, screams in my face, and drops dirty diapers in my trash can. But dang, he sure is charming.
 
 
Caring for our children, from infancy to incarceration.
 
 
Hey There, Little Dude.

You are still swimming laps in the womb. This makes sense to most people, since your mother has only been pregnant for 34 weeks. According to the kind folks at the hospital, you still got about six weeks of cooking left. I have higher standards, baby.

Because you read this blog regularly, you know that I was born 10 weeks early. After 30 solid weeks of pregnancy, I knew that my body could withstand the rigors of everyday life. Yes, I may have needed multiple blood transfusions, a fancy incubator, and a machine that alerted the neighborhood when my lungs stopped working. Still, I am a survivor. As of now, you are living in my shadow. Enjoy being fully developed. It's overrated.
 
 
Dear Little Baby,

Your mother and I have close friends that are expecting a baby three days after your due date. You will know them, and you will like their babies.

One day, while the two moms were discussing ultrasounds, baby showers, and assorted pregnancy experiences, my friend Jimmy privately shared a thought provoking idea. We were discussing the possible perks of having children born on the same day, and Jimmy joked about having joint delivery rooms.

Light bulbs went on. Windows shattered. The world changed. Of course, I had pictured a nightmare. I imagined a couple of self-obsessed dudes high-fiving each other and eating snacks as their wives did all the work.  That was when I realized that I know some guys who would love to transform the birth of their baby into a raucous “Guys Night” of epic proportions.

So listen up, all you strangers out there that like to read my baby's letters. This blog post is not just for the baby.  Marketers should pay close attention. This could get big. Next time you all pick up an edition of the book Stuff White People Like and peruse the fads of young bored Caucasian hipsters, don’t be surprised if you find Joint Delivery Rooms on page 76. The spread could feature pictures of bearded men pounding fists, clinking beverages, and playing Settlers of Catan as their wives pump out babies. Of course, each party would allow for creativity and individual expression. Guys might assemble a game system and play Rock Band, or go with classic Karaoke. Mothers would be asked to sing their verses between contractions, and everyone would feel included. An uplifting clown would be provided for the children, since those kids will get awfully depressed when they discover that the baby is coming to devour all of their attention and candy.

Baby, I know what you are thinking, and I agree. I fully admit that this would be ludicrous, impractical, terribly uncomfortable and selfish, but it was nonetheless fun to imagine a couple of naïve bros planning a terrible baby delivery double-header. If anyone ever decides to indulge the lively machinations of this expectant father and revolutionize childbirth, they should feel free to take all the credit.

As for reality, I have no idea what your birth day will hold for us, apart from wonderful memories and exhaustion. I am certain, however, that I could never plan the events of that day. I look forward to being surprised and blown away by the mystery. No preparation or sideshow could detract from the miracle, and I am inclined to ride the wave and watch as your mother does something incredible.  And of course, you will perform admirably as well.

See you soon, baby. Get ready for a party.