Category Archives: Monday Motivations

Short, little people

Quick post tonight. Not much juice left in the tank after a long night trying to get Ellie to sleep.

She’s going through this thing. Probably doesn’t help that she’s missing Uncle Jon who just left after a four-day visit. But it’s not like misbehaving or anything. She’s just got a certain number of things to do every day, words to say, people to talk about, ideas to put out there. And if she doesn’t get to them before 9:30 pm, well, she’s just not going to be able to go to sleep until she’s told every stuffed animal what’s on her little mind.

“It’s a window, brown bear.”

“It’s juice, Baa-Baa.”

“It’s a pacie, Pooping Bear.”

Oh, you don’t know Pooping Bear yet. Pooping Bear, euphemistically called PB in mixed company, is a little fuzzy dude available on who wears a diaper and sings a little ditty about pooping. Sheri didn’t think it would be a meaningful purchase, but the Pooping Bear proved her so wrong. He croons his soothing tune and Ellie’s a happy monkey. Head on over to if you’re looking for that hard-to-find Christmas gift for the short, little person in your life.

So, anyway, all of this is leading up to a somewhat random point that is the revolutionary anecdote I want to share tonight. I really want to believe it with all my heart and live it as a guiding force in my life. You will never be rich enough to afford the Levenger 60-fountain pen box set. You’ll never be talented enough to need to write 4 books a year. You’ll never be important enough to require a contract worth more than 4 mid-list authors make in a year. Those are not only unnecessary for your happiness, they’re the opposite of revolution. They’re distractions, padding, props, monuments to your own growing insignificance. I sincerely believe that to the extent you seek those things, you’re negotiating your own irrelevance and ultimate extinction.

There’s only one heart with one room for one master and if you think it’s not true, you’re not quite hearing yet. Honestly, when you can listen to a short, little person tell Pooping Bear to go night-night, you just know there’s no need for anything else. That’s the feeling I’m searching for in books and in life.

That’s the real stuff.

“Uh-oh paseys.”

Some people without kids think their friends who had kids became boring and started acting goofy. I’m sure some of my friends think this. I can hardly deny it when my voice rises an octave the moment I step in the door from work and Ellie runs up squealing, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy-home!”

“Hi, Ellie! How was your day?”


“You went to the park?”

“Yeah! Fun!”

I seriously can’t remember what my life was like before this little person was here. I mean, I remember being me, alone, and then getting married and not being so alone anymore and it was fun for those few years. And then we found out it was “positive” and we just stared at the nurse in shock.

“Positive that it is, or positive that it isn’t?” I asked, gingerly.

“Positive. How’s the nausea?”

“You mean right now?”

But now she’s almost 2 and she’s weasled her way into our lives with all these cute, diabolical things she does to whack your heart with cuteness. You don’t like sharing this stuff as a parent because you know how you sound–especially to those uninitiated friends. But every night after she’s gotten her pacifiers (she needs two for some reason) and said her prayers, it’s the same thing.

Plonk. . . plonk.

“Uh-oh paseys.”

I go in and hand her back the plugs and she reinserts one and smears the other across her face. Her legs go out from under her and she shlumps to the pillow.

“Night night, Ellie. Kisses.”

I blow her a kiss and she catches it in her open hand.

“Daddy pway.”

“We already prayed. It’s time to sleep. Night night.”

And I leave the door open a crack and come back to writing some more. And all the time, I’m feeling something beyond the words that go on the page, something I can’t express like a longing to be reconnected, as though I’m back in that room with her trying to go to sleep, but I can’t as long as I’m here in this body. Like Updike talks about, I’m wandering through volumes of the unexpressed, but I can’t even express the most basic thing I’m feeling, this attachment to my daughter, like possession.

I always said I wouldn’t call her “my” daughter to keep the distinction clear that she was God’s and we were just raising her for Him. Nice sentiment. But little did I know that I’d be the one who’d end up owned, waiting for the second “pasey” to fall for my excuse to return to my heart.

Cheese, w’are you?

This is Ellie. Ellie is my 21-month-old daughter. I’ve mentioned her a couple times in previous posts. Her favorite things are Kipper the dog, cheese, and “beeg paaks” (big parks). She’s also quite fond of bunnies.

Tonight we went to Chick-Fil-A in the mall and tried to disguise the chicken under the bun to get her to eat it. She wasn’t having it. “Cheese?” she asked. “No, we’re having chicken sandwich.” “NO.” We did end up geting a little bit of chicken down her with the bun. But just as she was taking the last bite, she gave a big, mournful sigh and said, “chee-ese, w’awe you?”

Now that’s just gotta go in a book, don’t you think?

“Aw, how old is he?”

“Oh, bless his heart. How old is he?”

It never ceases to amaze me how many people can’t tell the difference between a boy toddler and a girl toddler unless they’re wearing blue or pink. I never noticed until I had a child, of course, but what’s so difficult? If the kid’s wearing a blue t-shirt or a jean jacket, well it must be a boy.

I suppose since Ellie’s hair grows straight and falls down her forehead, those going off the hair could be thrown off. But really, when there’s a barette and ruffles on her sleeves, that shouldn’t pose such a problem. The thing that really gets me is when she says hi to random people in line or on the street (one of the more unnerving traits she’s picked up recently) and they start to say one pronoun, only to catch themselves midway, and switch. “Oh, hi there! Hu–shu–aren’t you smart?”

And I just smile and say, “Yeah. It’s the dog food.”

Mr. Mommy-Daddy

So far, I haven’t said anything about myself or what sort of life I lead, not wanting to focus undue attention on the trivialities of my oh-so-exciting existence (I guess I mentioned I was an associate editor yesterday) (and there’s enough of that stuff on my bio page).

But today I want to share some things about writing as a parent. My daughter, Ellie, is 19 months, and has a somewhat limited speech repertoire, but this stuff just always makes me smile. There was this special word we couldn’t figure out–“Nackeys”–that was her favorite for a while. We had no clue what she was saying. My wife, Sheri, finally figured out it was necklace; I never would have. I figured it held some mysterious corelation with the “obadonoes” video and at least a familial resemblance to “tapee-suff.”

Being a parent of this age child, most of your work is guesswork. You do the routine feeding and clean-up, but there’s so much that goes on in a given day you have no idea how to respond to, it’s like trying to give someone from another country a tour of a city you can’t adequately explain, and the whole time you can’t understand what he wants, thinks, feels, or needs. Until you learn his language, you’re out of luck trying to please him. I find myself saying “What. What is it!” multiple times throughout the day, and I’m not asking it as a question, I’m demanding an answer. “Just tell me what you want. For the love of St. Obedono!”

This weekend, Sheri’s off with the girls in Santa Fe, leaving me to play Mr. “Mommy-Daddy” and figure it out. It was time. She hasn’t had more than a 6-hour stretch away from her since she was born. So she’s due. But that didn’t keep me from threatening to let the old couple downstairs babysit–the ones from Florida who favor using the fireplace in the middle of summer and coming up with new definitions for the term “partially clothed.” Hey, she doesn’t need to get the idea she can stay away too long when she’s obviously the better mommy of the two of us. Just to prove it, while Ellie calls her Mommy, I am Mommy-Daddy, unmistakably the second-tier parent in that lexicon. She knows I’m the stand-in who doesn’t know the score and lets her eat cookies for dinner and go to bed with arm-loads of toys. If you saw me right now, surrounded by toys, blocks, books, puzzles, juice bottles, a talking telephone, and wearing a rainbow-colored, plastic necklace that I apparently have to wear while I’m typing, you’d know I wasn’t kidding.

Seeing her language develop is incredible and something I have trouble not taking advantage of. Before I had kids, I told myself I’d resist the urge to call elephants “buggie-magos” and underwear “giggle-britches” and stuff like that. But now that I have the chance, it’s too much fun not to.

It’s bathtime now, so I’ll have to cut it short tonight. No words of wisdom tonight. Well, okay, maybe just this: keep your kupah on the baw and your eaw to the gwoun because it’s a hup, thkip, and a jimp to ganmuh’s house the oduh side of the wivuh.

Just remember that.