Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Crying for the camera

Like most new parents, we like taking pictures of our little guy. When he first arrived in this world, he saw the camera so often he probably thought it was another parent. We'd capture every smile, every unusual look, and even a few cries. Despite all our picture-taking, we don't have an absurd amount of photographs cluttering our apartment. Sure, we have enough framed pictures of Kyle to make visitors feel that he is eerily staring at all times, but beyond those we hardly have any other pictures developed. These days, thanks to advanced technology and incredible laziness, people like myself don't bother with putting together photo albums, or even going to the store, online or the home printer to have photos developed. We just put them on the computer, where we can view them every evening while wearing the sleepwear we didn't bother to change out of for three days.

However, Jennifer and I have decided that, once a year, we will do photography the old-fashioned way by having an "official" portrait taken of the little guy. It involves dressing him up like an older person and bringing him to an actual photo studio, with bigger cameras and bright lights shielded by umbrellas in case there's ever an indoor rain storm. For last year's picture and this year's picture, we chose to take Kyle to a place known for its photography and table saws: Sears.

We chose Sears last year since it had a good reputation and would not force us to take out a loan to pay for the shots. We didn't want to go overboard with a pricey studio just yet, since there was an excellent chance that Kyle's spit-up would become part of the portrait. Sears actually worked out quite well. Even though we had to wait more than an hour for our session to begin, we were thrilled with the picture. I felt it fully captured Kyle's childhood joy of being thrown on top of an incredibly flat pile of leaves. Kyle seemed to love getting his picture taken, and he laughed and smiled throughout the whole session. The photographer just jumped around and keep shooting every joyful look. We had an abundance of pictures to choose from.

This year was a little bit different. The wait for the photo session was very short, but the session itself didn't quite go as well as the one a year ago. Kyle at first was hesitant to even go into the room, but we were able to walk him in there and have him sit down. For a few precious minutes, Kyle waited cross-legged in front of the camera and smiled. Jennifer and I sat on either side of him, anxiously hoping that the photographer would take his first picture, knowing that at any time our ticking time bomb of a child could explode. Yet, the photographer just stood there, focusing his camera. Then he asked us if Kyle could turn one of his legs so that his knee was sticking up. This is true. The photographer was asking our 16-month-old child, who "calms down" each night by clearing out the bottom two shelves of our bookcase, to sit still and pose for him. We were flabbergasted and said we didn't think he'd do that. For some reason, the photographer didn't believe us, and to get his pose, he reached out and did what photographers usually do with much older subjects: he tapped him.

KABOOM!! Kyle cried. His face turned red. He would not play nice anymore. The photographer tried desperately to calm him down, as did Jennifer and I. We were using all our tricks, from giving him a book to making monkey noises, but Kyle kept crying and crying, at increasing decibels. We did achieve several small victories, but it seemed that every time we managed to convince Kyle to sit still for a few seconds, someone would pop in and interrupt the photographer from taking a picture. It simply was not working for us.

"He was so much better at it last year," I said.
"Yep," replied the photographer. "A lot of parents say that."

Shortly after the photo session, we sat at a computer and looked at the shots. The photographer did a good job with what he had, and Kyle was not outwardly crying in any image. However, in more than a few pictures, we could see the strains of both sorrow and anger in his face. Last year, we took the two best out of many smiling photographs. This year, we chose the only two pictures we could use. With the others, we would have felt as if Kyle was crying at us every time we walked into the living room and saw his picture. That would have been a downer at parties.

We placed the order and will pick up the printed photographs this coming weekend. Chances are we will not do this sort of thing again for another year. Thank goodness. Hopefully by then, Kyle will be ready to pose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Walking the walk

The calendar said October but it felt like December outside. The wind whipped through our thin jackets as the sporadic raindrops felt like spit from heaven. Sunday was not exactly the best day to be going out, but Jennifer and I had already made plans with our friends in the Bronx, Mickey and Bonni, and we were not ready to abandon them. Originally we were going to check out an outdoor harvest festival in their neighborhood, but those plans fell through as we realized that hypothermia would ruin the fun of pumpkin viewing. Our backup plan was to spend the afternoon inside our friends' apartment. We figured we would have fun, but we were not too sure about Kyle. One day earlier, as Jennifer and I had to take care of some life insurance business (welcome to parenthood), Kyle expressed his frustration with being kept inside by crying until his face turned purple. He still had all his toys around him at that point. We were dreading what he would do without his stuff.

Turns out that wouldn't be a problem. Our son loves to entertain, and with five adults inside this apartment (including our friend Maya) and one Jack Russell Terrier, he certainly had an audience. Yet he had to come up with something exciting, since the dog was also fighting for attention, doing cute things like waving her paws in the air and peeing on the floor. So, Kyle decided that Sunday would be a good day to start walking on his own.

Kyle probably would have announced his intention to walk had he been able to string together a complete sentence, but these days most of the sounds he makes are those of barnyard animals. Instead, the walk happened without warning: at one moment, he was at the coffee table, and at the next, he was next to me, several feet away. I was looking in the opposite direction, so I did not notice that he was not walking on his knees or with the help of his mother. Jennifer, who was sitting on the couch, had seen the whole thing take place and was stunned. Kyle had taken his first steps weeks ago, and was getting used to walking with us holding his hand, but he had never traveled any great distance on his feet without our help. Suddenly he was able to prepare for a marathon, and that's just about what he did.

Within minutes of those first steps, Kyle was moving fast, as if he had been walking for years. He kept going around in circles, through the living room, through the kitchen, through the dining room, and back to the living room. He would then zig-zag through the living room like a pinball, going after each of us and the dog, and then back through the kitchen again. He probably covered a few miles with all the laps he did, and he rarely tripped. All the adults around him were going crazy. It's as if we had never seen anyone walk before. Kyle kept smiling, relishing all the attention and signing autographs.

Of course, we now realize that, for Kyle to ever achieve any major development, he needs somebody there other than his dear ol' Mom and Dad. My mother was in the room when he took his first steps. He was at my parents' place when he started walking with the help of somebody else. And his first stroll happened at our friends' place. He never does any of these things whenever it's just the two of us. Maybe we need to recruit people to help Kyle try new foods, learn to read, or reach other milestones... including the potty training. Do I have any volunteers?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The shoe that dropped

Ever since Kyle ended his morning naps in favor of screaming and crying every time I put him in the crib, we've been going on neighborhood walks to pass some of the time away. Kyle, of course, does little of the walking, as he prefers to observe the city from his chariot, better known as a lightweight stroller. I do the legwork, pushing him up and down the streets, usually for more than an hour.

Since Kyle does not do any walking while he's in the stroller, he really has no need for shoes. He himself must have come to that conclusion during one of our walks several days ago. That would explain why one of his shoes was suddenly gone halfway through our stroll. The rest of our walk turned into a futile scavenger hunt, with me scanning every inch of the sidewalk and edge of the road, and Kyle fighting off boredom as he sees the same streets he traveled down just moments before.

Kyle did not seem to miss his shoe much. There was no crying or whining about it, and he did not help at all with my search, as much as I begged him to. He probably figured there would be another pair waiting for him at home. Kyle was wrong to make such assumptions. He should realize by now that he is his parents' first child, and there are a lot of things they don't yet take into consideration, like how it would make a lot of sense to buy your child more than one pair of shoes, especially now that he is learning how to walk. The following morning, these parents made an emergency stop at the local Payless.

Of course, we should have realized that this kind of thing would happen with shoes. Shoes like to run and hide, even when you're not in them. At least, that's what my shoes like to do. How many times have I lost my slippers? A gazillion. How many times have hunted everywhere for a missing sneaker? More times than I could count. How many times did I accidentally pack only one dress shoe for a trip to Montreal? Okay, that last thing happened only once, but it is a memorable shoe experience, since I didn't realize my mistake, thought I had dropped it in transit, and went ahead and asked the concierge, in broken French, if she happened to see a size 14 shoe lying around somewhere. She seemed awfully confused and had me repeat my question several times before she laughed, said "no" and then insulted me in French.

Shoes often turn up in bizarre places, too. I remember driving around Atlanta years ago (back when Jennifer and I lived there and were child-free), and I would often see an adult-sized shoe lying along the side of the road. I used to think that was odd, since there would be just one shoe, never two. Back then I logically concluded that Atlanta had a lot of one-legged people who simply threw their extra shoes out their car windows. Now I wonder if Atlanta just had a lot of babies with really big feet.

Our child's shoe did turn up, by the way. We found it the next day, on a cement post along the edge of the sidewalk. Somebody must have put it there shortly after Kyle dropped it, and I missed seeing it on the way back because I didn't bother to look up. We were lucky this time. I know the next time Kyle loses something, it will likely be lost and gone forever. I hope by then we'll have a good backup... but, as it is with new parents, I doubt we will.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The rain in Maine & the criminally insane

It was very dark, and very quiet. The road to our motel twisted ahead of us, past the thick trees and small houses, leading farther away from any semblance of city life. The sun had set just a short time earlier, as we crossed the border from New Hampshire into Maine, but with the lack of fellow travelers, it felt like we were deep into the night. Kyle was not with us that Friday evening. We had left him at my parents’ place on our way to Springvale, where one of my friends was about to get married.

The motel's sign glowed ominously from the side of the road. As we pulled into the lot, we noticed that very few people had done the same, as most of the parking spaces in front of each building’s strip of rooms were empty. The place was eerily quiet. A lone man sat in the motel’s dimly-lit office, next to a monitor that glowed with the images captured by several outside security cameras. The Holiday Inn this was not.

"You will be staying in room 138," the man said as he gave us a key with a black plastic tag. "It’s in the building farthest to the back, by all the trees and cut telephone lines. Our free continental breakfast starts at 7 a.m."

We chose this motel because a group of my friends were staying there. We met up with them after dropping off our things, and they, too, said they felt our motel resembled one of those places where serial killers hide out. Little did I know that our remarks would foreshadow the events that would happen to us later that evening.

A noise from the bathroom startled me awake shortly after four in the morning. I wasn't entirely sure what I heard, since my mind was still in that fog between dreamworld and reality. I listened more closely to make sure I was not hearing just the rain outside. A shuffling sound confirmed my fears: somebody... or something... was in the bathroom, and must have entered through the window in there.

I slowly rose from my bed and crept towards the bathroom, trying hard to not attract the attention of our intruder. I also did not want to wake up Jennifer until I knew for certain we were in trouble.

Once I turned the corner, I had a clear shot. The bathroom door was closed, and the light was on. I froze.

Then I heard the flush. Whoever it was in that bathroom had the nerve to break in and then use our toilet. I didn't know what to think. Maybe it was someone who had been living out in the woods for a while and wanted to freshen up before beginning the slaughter.

Suddenly the door started to open...

WHOOMP! I jumped on the door and slammed it shut, trapping the intruder inside. I didn't know where to go from there. Perhaps I could have used the ironing board or a chair to jam the door shut, leaving the killer with nowhere to go as Jennifer and I made a run for...

... then it dawned on me: I hadn't checked to see if Jennifer was still in bed.

"Honey?" I asked, "Are you okay?"

Jennifer opened the bathroom door. Fortunately she did not have a broken nose. She also wasn't upset with my overreaction, though I'm sure she wouldn't have been to happy if I did more than just slam the door in her face. Needless to say, we didn't have any intruders that evening.

The rain continued throughout the next day, but nobody cared since the wedding was inside. We had a blast, and, that evening, with all the wedding guests filling up the parking lot, the motel lost its horror house charm.

The next morning we came across a crazy, disheveled old man who puffed cigarettes and then sprinted across the parking lot (this is true). When he approached our group of friends and said that he had spent the last four months in the woods (also true), we figured it was probably a good time to leave Maine. Who knows what I would have ended up doing if we stayed another night after that. You can be sure Jennifer's glad to be home.