Phoebe's Mantra


Sari’s away at Yaddo for two weeks — one more week to go — and this is a representative sample of Phoebe’s conversation:

"I’m a friendly little birdie! And you’re the friendly daddy birdie! Peep peep!" And "I’m a friendly little kitty. And you’re the friendly daddy kitty. Meow!" And "I’m a friendly little doggy. And you’re the friendly daddy doggy. Ruffie!" And "I’m a friendly little bee. And you’re the friendly daddy bee. (Daddy, what sound does a bee make?)" Repeat ad infinitum.

Sari said basically the same conversations occurred between her and Phoebe while I was gone in Burma, with "mommy" replacing "daddy."

"Father Figures" in SYNCOPATED

Plug, Work

Just out this week is cartoonist/editor Brendan Burford’s Syncopated: An Anthology of Nonfiction Picto-Essays, published by Villard. A slightly revised version of my two-page piece, "Father Figures," (originally posted on ACT-I-VATE) is part of the book.

I’m really proud to be part of this collection, which features 16 nonfiction stories (memoir, history, journalism, and biography) ranging from from the history of vintage postcards to the glory days of old Coney Island, from the secret world of graffiti artists to the chess champs of Greenwich Village, from the Tulsa race riots of 1921 to the interrogation of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay.

Other contributors include Burford himself (a very accomplished cartoonist), Alex Holden, Greg Cook, Jim Campbell, Paul Karasik, and our old buddy ! Nick’s piece is a fascinating window into a part of his life I knew nothing about, when he was a farm boy (no joke!).

Look for Syncopated at your local retailer, or buy it on Amazon.

Phoebe Leaps & Bounds


The last five weeks have been an incredible growth period for Phoebe. I can date her progress because we’ve been “homeless” since February 11, living over at Sari’s parents’ house in Brooklyn Heights while our apartment is being repainted and baby-proofed. (The job was supposed to take two weeks. Don’t ask.) During that period, our little infant has shot right through babyhood practically into toddlerhood.

For example, when we left our place, she could barely roll herself onto her back. If we propped her up, she could sit upright, but not for long before the weight of her head toppled her over. She did little “push-ups” on the rug, but nothing close to crawling. She could barely grasp objects in her hands, and her limbs often flapped around, seemingly without rhyme or reason. She had just started eating solid foods, but more as a way to get used to eating from a spoon than for actual nutrition. The best sound she could make was a Bronx cheer. And her constant drooling required her to wear a bib most of the day.

Five short weeks later, she can not only crawl wherever she wants, but she can lift herself up to a standing position! She even sometimes forgets she can’t walk yet, and lets go of her support. Thank goodness someone’s always there to catch her before she tumbles all the way down. She eats three meals a day, and whereas we once were introducing new foods only every three days, to make sure she didn’t develop rashes or allergies, now we pretty much give her a taste of whatever we’re having. She has two nice little bottom teeth, which we even brush at night (when we remember). And just two days ago, she started making actual word-like sounds: “bah bah bah,” or maybe “blah blah blah” — she doesn’t think much of adult conversation. She’s generally much more alert, more in control of her arms and legs, and is fully in control of her opposable thumbs. Most of all, she’s glorying in her newfound independence. She’s impatient with being a baby already, and wants to be a little girl. Her cuteness quotient is also at an all-time high. (I’m purely objective, of course.)

Clichéd as it is to say, i’m dumbfounded to realize that she’s only seven-and-a-half months old, that this time a year ago, me and a pregnant Sari were relaxing on a beach in Puerto Rico. A year ago, our lives were basically the same: I was working on A.D., Sari was at HRW, etc., etc. But in that time, we became parents, and our little 8-1/2-pound newborn is now a person, a personality, a permanent member of our little family.


A recent shot of the girl after she lost a bet. She swore that if she lost, she’d either eat her shoe or her hat. (As you can see, she chose her shoe.)



Inspired by the birth of our baby girl, my travel companion, sometime-collaborator, and life-long love, Sari (who’s also a published fiction writer and a former Stegner and Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center fellow) has joined the blogging ranks.

Titled “Muttering,” her online journal uses the occasion of first-time motherhood as its jumping-off point. Get it? “Mothering”? “Muttering”? Pretty clever, I dare say. Anyway, Sari’s been periodically jotting down her insights, impressions, questions, prose poems, and elegant mini-essays since the little one was born back in July, so there’s a nice backlog of material for those interested. (And comments are welcome — Sari loves a good dialogue).

Check it out here. (And don’t ask me why she didn’t host the blog on LJ!)



The other day Sari had an appointment in Manhattan, so I took care of Phoebe for the afternoon. Couple hours into it and Phoebe wakes up starving from her nap. Just as I sit down with her and a bottle of pre-pumped breast milk, the phone rings. It’s Sari.

“Is Phoebe hungry? Are you feeding her now?”

“Yeah,” I said, surprised at her timing. “How’d you know?”

“My boobs were tingling.”


Geysers of Pumpkin Sauce


That’s what was coming out of Phoebe’s butt this afternoon in the middle of changing her. It got on everything: her onesie, the cloth covering the diaper pad, the diaper pad itself. And nothing would make it stop. Not multiple wipes, not a new diaper, nor the one after that. In the confusion, Sari slapped a diaper on her, and somehow not only put it on backward but inside-out! Sleep deprivation leads to creative “solutions.”

In the end, when we put the third diaper on her (properly), the orange stream had slowed down to a trickle. I’m sure that one day epic poems will tell of this poop, but for now this post will have to do.

Other than that, everything’s going great!

39 and 364


So today is the last day of thirties. I’m trying to spend a little time thinking about that milestone.

When I was a kid, it seemed that turning 30 meant you were an adult; when my parents were young, turning 20 meant you were an adult. Now it seems increasingly like 40 is the (arbitrary) marking point. But whatever I thought being an “adult” would be, I don’t feel like I’ve achieved it yet!

I can’t say I’m happy to be turning 40, but I’m more at peace with it than I would have been without Phoebe. After all, I suppose being a parent is a sign of being “grown up.” And she is a pretty amazing early birthday present!

In other respects, I guess I can look back on my thirties with some measure of pride. I married my lifelong love. I published a book and a number of comics. I established a viable freelance career doing what I love. I’m working on a graphic novel project that I’m passionate about. I bought an apartment. I have many wonderful friends. I’m living in one of the world’s greatest cities. And now I’m a new dad!

The one thing that boggles my mind is the fact that when my mom was the age I am now, I was already 16 years old! (When Phoebe’s 16, I’ll be 56!) There’s no way I could have imagined being a parent at 24, like she and my dad were. But that was her generation, and this is ours.

So on to the 40s. Time to come up with some new goals.

Locked Out


Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketMy first close call as a dad last night. I had swaddled Phoebe and was preparing to put her to bed in her little basinet, which is currently in our bedroom. It was wicked humid and the air conditioner was on in our room, so the door was closed.

Phoebe in one hand, I tried to open the door with the other. No luck. The knob seemed to be slipping; in any case, it wasn’t opening the door. I put Phoebe down on her changing table and went back to the door. No matter what I tried, however, I couldn’t get the knob to turn the latch. Sari took Phoebe while I spent a good twenty minutes attacking the door. Tightening the knob didn’t work. Loosening the knob didn’t work. Replacing the knob didn’t work. Using a skeleton key on the bolt didn’t work. I even knocked the spindle through to the other side and stuck a whole new knob & spindle through, and that didn’t work either. I was totally flummoxed. I even considered calling a locksmith and had a look their website to see if they would be of any help.

Finally, I admitted defeat and we all bedded down for the night in Phoebe’s room. Sari took the single bed, Phoebe slept in her car seat, and I put some couch pillows on the floor. We both just kept saying how lucky it was that Phoebe hadn’t been in the room, on the other side, when this happened. I would have had to learn how to break a door down very quickly!

So we spent the night in splendid discomfort (especially me!), while the AC chugged along in our empty bedroom. I had no clothes to sleep in so Sari lent me something. I looked quite sexy in her big black maternity shirt emblazoned with the words “Got Baby?”

This morning the super came in, removed the face plate of the lock assembly, pried back the molding, and jimmied open the door.

Pushing Phoebe Into the World


The nonchalent way Dr. Russell said “It’s time to start pushing” really caught me off guard. Even though we’d been given that extra time, and even though Sari had finally fully dilated, I was still very much anticipating that a C-section was imminent. After all, as far as I knew, the baby was still “malpositioned,” and Sari still seemed in a passive state of her labor. But I figured Dr. Russell wanted to give it the ol’ college try. She even made us open the room’s shades, letting in the late afternoon light to create more of an “active environment.”