Harper in action.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Solids

There are so many things we take for granted as adults that I see Harper struggling
with. For instance, I can easily roll from my back to my front and vice versa. I can sit up by myself and even look around without losing my balance and falling flat on my face. I can stand without assistance, I can walk, and when I'm tired I can put myself to bed and go to sleep without crying. But watching Harper, perhaps what impresses me most about me is that I can feed myself.

We have recently started Harper on solids. First, it was rice cereal, then we introduced peas, sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. Now we're giving her oatmeal, bananas, and apples. But you shouldn't imagine these delicacies as actually solid in any way. Harper still doesn't even have any teeth (another way in which I'm supremely superior to her). Everything is this kind of mushy, almost-liquid. It's basically the consistency of mashed potatoes. The bottom line: it's baby food. But she seems to love it (or most of it anyway).

The problem is she wants to try to feed herself. I know that in her still developing brain (mine is rather nicely developed, thank you very much) she thinks that she can do it. However, put to the test, she fails miserably. To start, she doesn't have enough motor control of her extremities to scoop anything and lift it to her mouth. Hell, it wasn't all that long ago that she was knocking herself in the forehead with her rattle. Big deal, right? She was aiming for her mouth. There's something hilariously pathetic about watching a baby concentrate so hard to do something so simple. She would watch the rattle as it neared her mouth bringing it steadily closer. And then for some reason at the last second, BONK! Forehead.

In addition, she doesn't have the sense to maintain a grip on anything long enough to feed herself. From the moment she picks something up it's a countdown until she drops it. And there are times when it seems like her hands are actually fighting each other over which gets to hold whatever item she's trying to manipulate. The left will snap at a teether and pry it free from the right. The right will greedily grab it back and attempt to grasp it tightly while the left redoubles its efforts culminating in a furious battle of...drop. 30 seconds! Way to go, Harper. A new record! Oh, and FYI - I can hold an object as long as necessary.

There have been times when I've tested her to see if she might actually be able to feed herself yet. Not with the solids, because there's no way I'm cleaning up that mess. She'd get about one pea in her mouth and the rest would be in every other conceivable place within a six foot radius. No, what I'll do is set her bottle on the tray of her high chair, sit back, and observe. You see, on some level Harper is my own private anthropology experiment. I love to just watch her quietly as she tries to do simple things (usually failing miserably) that I can do with little or no effort at all.

So with the bottle set, I watch. The other night she grabbed it and actually got the nipple into her mouth. The problem was she had the bottle pointed straight up. Then she dropped it. After I placed it back on her tray she was able to gather it up again, but this time she had the bottom of the bottle and tried to put it in her mouth. I thought to myself, "That bottle might was well be on Jupiter, for all the milk you're going to get out of it." Then I took it from her and promptly finished it off. Hey, I'm not about to let good boob milk go to waste.

The biggest pain when it comes to the transition to solids is simply the mess involved. Every night, when Harper is done eating she needs a full bath. Every night! That's probably only happened to me like four or five times in my whole adult life. But after dinner Harper's face looks like some crazy piece of abstract art. Or like a palsied clown putting on makeup with his off hand. Or Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Except instead of Scottish War Paint Blue, it's Gerber's Gooey Carrots Orange.

During mealtime, I usually hold Harper's arms down while McCall feeds her. Yes, I have to physically hold her arms down or she'll try to grab the spoon, the cup, the plate or whatever. McCall told me she wished we had a baby seat with electric chair-style restraints to hold her arms down and her head back. That got me thinking. Maybe they have a mini electric chair. I mean, how else do you execute midgets? We could get one and just remove all the stuff that makes you die. The more I think about it, the better that idea sounds. I think I'll go check Craig's List for "miniature electric chairs." They got to have it, I mean, they have everything else.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

There're Grandparents and Then There're Great-Grandparents

Not long after Harper was born we undertook a very challenging trip to Cleveland. Due to a couple of different factors we chose to take a train. No wait, we took an Amtrak. I want to make the distinction because Amtrak is in a class by itself. But please don’t mistake that statement for a compliment.

Riding the Amtrak from Los Angeles to Cleveland is no joke. It’s about 56 hours including a four-hour layover in Chicago. Harper was three weeks old, McCall was still in serious pain from her C-section, and I spent my first Father’s Day staring out the window as New Mexico turned into Colorado which itself turned into Kansas. You may wonder what would spur such insanity in brand new parents. What was so important that we would attempt such an ambitious trip after less than a month of child rearing experience? The question isn’t “What?” but “Who?”


Gram and Gramp with a "yawning" Harper




We took the trip so that Harper could meet her great-grandparents, Gram and Gramp Sanders. Or rather so they could meet her. It wasn’t really an option for them to come to LA and since I was on paternity leave, we figured we’d strike while the iron was hot. My parents visited us shortly before we planned the trip and encouraged us to go even if the thought was a little nuts, even if we didn’t really have the money. My mom told us of how they had gone into debt to take my two older brothers and me to the East coast when we were young to meet my dad’s parents. She emphasized how important that trip was for them, how they never regretted it even as they had to overcome the financial burden afterwards. That trip still retains very important memories for me. Primarily because it was the only time I met my grandfather.

It was with the same attitude of purposeful sacrifice that we watched the country slowly lumber by. The money wasn’t important; in 30 years we won’t even know what it cost. The discomfort and pain wasn’t important; in 40 years we won’t even remember what hurt. The meeting was important, the togetherness. In 50 years we’ll still remember when Harper met her great-grandparents. And when they were introduced to the fourth generation of their lineage. What an amazing privilege! I pray that we will be so blessed.

Gram and Gramp are amazing people. They are brilliant and funny, considerate and generous. I love being around them. They are truly inspiring not only in their longevity, but in how they still so obviously love and care for each other after almost 70 years of marriage. I pray that we will be so blessed.

During our rehearsal dinner, I remember looking over at the Sanders family table and seeing them all gathered together. As a man, I imagined what it must be like for Gramp to sit there and look across at generation after generation. A living heritage that he and his beautiful wife begat. I pray that we will be so blessed.

I feel just like my parents did about their trip. I have no regrets. It was so important, not just to us, but to Gram and Gramp as well. They wanted so badly to meet Harper and we made it happen. Even if Harper never has the opportunity to see them again, even if she never remembers the trip, we’ll have the pictures to show her. She can see how her great-grandparents held her, cradled her, and gently rocked her. She can see the love in their eyes and understand for herself why the trip was so important.

Gramp and Harper

Today is Gramp’s 90th birthday. And I dedicate this entry to him on such a significant day. Gramp, thank you for being such an amazing father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. Thank you for giving me such a spectacular wife in your granddaughter. Thank you for seeing us off on our honeymoon, for chatting by the grill, and for dinner at “your” table at the yacht club. But perhaps most importantly, thank you for providing the line that joins together with my own to help complete the mosaic of our now unified family. You are truly a great, grand father.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Sewing Machines Whirring

I’m losing control of my home. I guess that’s not accurate because it implies that at some point in time I actually had control of my home. And that’s just silly. But I am beginning to feel a bit overrun. And really the feeling has little to do with Harper and the ridiculous influx of baby junk that has invaded our apartment like a vagabond tribe of brightly colored, noise making squatters. It’s because of McCall’s new “business partners”.

See, last week McCall got the idea to start a bib making business. I don’t want to reveal too much because I know the top bib makers in the country are reading this blog and they would steal the idea. Lousy, thieving jerks. But basically it involves three women, a sewing machine and a bunch of fabric, which on it’s own sounds like it could be a bad sitcom. Or it could be a smash hit on the WB…oh wait.

Anyway, so now when I get home from work each day there’s usually two more females in the house than I’m used to. I’m sure any single guys reading this are thinking, "Sweet!” Meanwhile all the married men are thinking, “Yikes!” Because married men know that more women in your home is never a good thing. You have to be careful how you look at and talk to them. The “I was just reading her t-shirt” excuse can only be used so many times. Plus, the trademark Lawrence Charm can easily be mistaken for flirting and has the unfortunate side effect of making the ladies swoon. I can’t tell you how many times I walk away from a gaggle of women only to hear the familiar refrain of “He’s so dreamy!” Of course, I do tend to start conversations about Brad Pitt before walking away from gaggles of women, but I don’t think there’s any connection.

But there are really two major downsides to the additional estrogen. One, is I’m totally outnumbered when it comes to the TV. You might imagine my wife and her friends all gathered in a spare bedroom working away while I rule the television roost. But the reality is that they’ve set up shop in our dining room, which is connected to the living room. And neither of McCall’s friends are lesbians so they have zero interest in sports. And even if they were, they’d probably only want to watch the LPGA and WNBA. So here it is, Monday night, and instead of football, I get stuck with reruns of 7th Heaven. I sure hope Della Reese can save the day…oh wait.

But I have to say that the single biggest adjustment is the bathroom situation. Long ago, my father instilled in me the joy of toilet reading. The bathroom is one of the only places I can go to get a bit of privacy and I like to read my sports magazines on the john. Rick Reilly’s editorials in Sports Illustrated are the perfect bathroom readers. Just the right length and always a good read.

And although we have two bathrooms, I never use the guest bathroom. Meanwhile, our bathroom is connected to the office and when I got home today, I found McCall on her laptop, one of her friends on my laptop and a pressing urge to read suddenly becoming an embarrassing situation in the making. I mean, what I am I supposed to do? Drop off the kids at the pool while McCall and her friend sit ten feet away? The doors in our apartment aren’t exactly made of steel. So I did what any grown man should do in a similar situation. I waited until a more opportune time.

I know you may be thinking this is not a pleasant topic. Well, I don’t care! This is my everyday life. This is what it’s like to be Harper’s dad: sewing machines whirring, TV watching usurping, and bathroom going delaying. And at the end of the week what’s my reward? I got to watch the Cowboys lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Oh well, at least my fantasy team won…oh wait.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

#1 Mommy!

Everybody asks me the same question: Are you getting any sleep? The answer is yes. I'm getting plenty of sleep. The reason is because McCall is the best mother and wife in the world. She definitely takes the brunt of the blow when it comes to losing sleep. And it's not because I'm unwilling or incapable of helping. She's just faster at responding and doesn't wake me up for assistance very much. But she's not a great mom simply because I sleep undisturbed most nights.

McCall is a bookworm. But in a very funny way. She actually does not enjoy reading very much. She certainly isn't looking for any book of the month clubs to join or anything. But when a topic is very important to her (e.g. pregnancy or baby's first year), she'll buy as many books as she can find and read them all (or at least parts of them all). She'll go online and read any article she comes across. She'll sign up for newsletters and email announcements. She is the most informed mother I know. When we were in our Bradley Method classes (if you don't know what Bradley is, just pretend I wrote Lamaze) she knew as much as our instructor did, and sometimes I think she knew more. When we went to the hospital she had more current information than the attending resident. She impressed the Lactation Nurse with ingenuity in trying to help Harper figure the correct way to latch onto her breast.

Right now McCall is battling a pretty severe bout of post partum depression. In addition, she has some sort of ligament damage in her wrist which forces her to wear a splint. It also means she's in great pain anytime she picks up Harper, something she only has to do about a million times a day. She had to take off her wedding rings because her fingers are still too swollen. And on top of it all, she may be getting a flare up of very rare immunity disorder she has called Behcet's Syndrome, which basically causes her body to attack its own mucus membranes. Not very pleasant. Yet through it all, she seems to have endless energy to invest in our baby girl.

McCall is extremely smart too and figured out how to procure a ton of very valuable coupons for diapers, wipes, formulas, you name it. I normally wouldn't describe her as the most frugal person I know. The first time I ever visited her apartment she offered me a slice of her $45 pizza. That's right, she bought a single large pizza for $45. I believe the toppings were gold, oil, and the cure for cancer. But as we are really starting to feel the financial pinch that accompanies a newborn, she has been very active in seeking out bargains.

However, her unending love and devotion also carry some subtle side affects. I can see in her the beginnings of Overprotective Mom. This is the mom who makes their kid wear floatees in the bathtub or a helmet on a trampoline. Me? I'm at the other end of the spectrum. I told McCall that child proofing our home meant putting a mattress at the bottom of the stairs. The other day I accidentally bonked Harper's head against an open door while carrying her back to her room for a diaper change. These things happen. We definitely try to minimize any pain that Harper may experience, but sooner or later everybody hurts. That's why R.E.M. wrote that song.

McCall came rushing back asking if I'd hurt one of her soft spots. Then Harper spit up a bit. Something she does about as often as McCall picks her up. (Though, I don't want to imply a correlation. It's simply a matter of ratio, you understand.) McCall asked if we should take her to the hospital, "Nausea is one of the classic symptoms of a concussion!" I told you she knows EVERYthing. As if I didn't feel bad enough already, now my wife thinks I concussed our daughter and crushed her little fontinels.

Or at church on Sunday, we put Harper in the nursery for the first time. McCall hoped to enjoy the service without having to deal with a fussy baby or a diaper change. When you drop off your kid, they give you a number. Then if your kid falls down and starts bleeding uncontrollably or something, they flash the number on the large projection screen above the stage. We were assigned number 237. About halfway through the service, 227 appeared on the screen. McCall turned to me frantically, "What number do we have?" I showed her our laminated card with 237 on it. "What if it's a typo? Should I go get Harper?" She was halfway out of her seat before I was able to stop her and reassure her that they meant 227 not 237. That's why it said 227 not 237.

But even her mother hen instincts are merely the manifestations of her unconditional love. And that's why there's two of us; to balance each other. Last week Harper was standing on my lap looking into my eyes and I thought about how amazing and beautiful she was. I knew that God had given her to us. That of all possible combinations of chromosomes, He had decided Harper was the right one. And not just that she's the right one for us. But we're the right ones for her. Nobody else could raise her. And while I sometimes even make me nervous, I really believe that McCall is the perfect Mommy for Harper.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Working Girl


Harper's first run-in with the paparazzi. Thankfully, her playmate, Jackson, was able to hold her back.


I believe it is every parent's right to live vicariously through their children. To encourage them toward their own unfulfilled dreams and desires. If it weren't for such hard driving parents as Earl Woods, Emmanuel Agassi, and Christopher Culkin we would've never known such amazing talents as Tiger, Andre or Macaulay. Thus, it is my turn to reflect on my life, consider what might have been and force it on little Harper Jo.
Ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper I dreamed of one thing: to be a movie star. I think I can pinpoint the time to somewhere around the first grade that I decided it was my calling. Two films in particular heavily influenced my passion for being in front of the camera. The Steven Spielberg classic, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the only slightly less noteworthy Neverending Story.
My dad took my brothers and I to see Raiders of the Lost Ark when it came out in 1981. I was four years old and as the story goes, although it may be more family legend than true, my mother was out of town and was none too pleased that my father had taken us to such a violent movie (let's not forget the climax of the film when the Heavenly Host descend on the evil Nazis and unleash the fury of the Lord in ways that include spontaneous combustion and melting). But for years I imagined myself outracing massive boulders, shooting bad guys, and flying around the world, my travels represented by red lines marked on faded maps.
Only three years later I entered the world of Fantasia and watched Atreyu and Falcor battle the Morque (that scary wolf creature that runs 100 mph unless it's about to catch Atreyu). I nearly wept when Artax sank in the Swamp of Sadness and there was something exciting about the twin Sphinxes and their stone bossoms. But there was also something very disturbing about the Nothing. It raised questions in my mind that eventually linked with thoughts about eternity since both were concepts I couldn't comprehend. To this day I don't like to consider these thoughts very much.
But now it's Harper's turn. After being told by everybody who's ever seen her how beautiful she is, we've decided to try and make some money off her. Actually, we just want to see if maybe she can contribute to her education. Eighteen years from now when she's paying for her own college tuition she won't remember having done the work. How sweet is that? I wish I had thousands of dollars in an account from work that I can't remember doing!
Now it's entirely possible that Harper won't book any jobs. And while I'm fine with that, McCall told her we'd sell her on eBay if she didn't start working within six months. I reassured her that we'd set the reserve price at, like, $20,000 or something. However, I really do think that she can get some print work or maybe a commercial (generally speaking, TV or film gigs are reserved for twins and triplets). But that leads me to a different conundrum. Do I really want her to be in that environment?
I've been on enough sets and in enough studios to know what goes on. It may be a shoot for Pampers, or a commercial for Johnson & Johnson, but it's still a business in the real world. And the advertising and entertainment industries are ones where the sexual harrassment laws only pack a punch as punchlines. I'm reminded of a scene in Fletch Lives where Fletch travels to Louisiana to take ownership of a decrepit antebellum estate he's inherited from a distant relative. Upon his arrival he finds an African-American servant living on the premises and asks if he's heard of the Emancipation Proclamation. Scratching his head, the servant replies, "It didn't get too much publicity around these parts."
So if she's actually able to fulfill my childhood dreams, do I let her? I suppose I'm putting the cart before the horse. Indeed, I may be putting a pile of lumber before a foal. But I still think we should consider some of these questions. When do we say enough? The first time I hear a dirty joke in her presence? The first time she tells me a dirty joke? The first time she tells me a dirty joke while asking for a cigarette? We have to know what our boundaries are for our daughter now. And ultimately that decision has to be made regardless of financial consequences and parental fantasies. Perhaps Kyle Lawrence will never be added to the list of overbearing fathers of celebrities. I guess I'll just have to settle for "World's Greatest Dad". I've always envied their grand prize coffee mug.