Thursday, July 31, 2014

Everything Will Be Different?

One of the things that I have heard again and again is that everything will be different now that I have a daughter. The long version is something like "You won't be able to do what you like to do, you won't be able to sleep, you won't get to eat well, you will not get good time with your wife. Oh, and it's worth it or something for some reason."

The great advantage of having a first child at an older age such as mine is that I have done more. When one has a child at 22, they still have all manner of things they wish to do in life. Perhaps education is still in progress. They are trying to develop a career. They want to hang out with friends and go out.
People claim to read the Koalid Blog for the articles, but I
know that in reality, they do it for the pictures of babes.

At 34, I've been there and done that. My degree is well and completed. I've owned a business. I've done many things to be proud of and plenty of things not to be proud of. When the Koalid was announced, I realized that I had already done most of the things I really wanted to do. Having a child was the next great adventure. It wasn't a distraction from what I wanted to do. It was what I wanted to do.

In December, I parted ways with the Volkswagen dealership I was working for, and after a brief stint in January with another company, I realized that any job I might be qualified for would be the kind of job with long, night and weekend hours. If the Koalid was truly to be my priority, then I could not be working nights and weekends. I considered my resources and decided to make a go at building my own business that I could work from home so I could take care of the baby and work at the same time.

I've been working from home since February, so, in some ways, the transition was not dramatic except for the fact that rather than being at home alone most of the time, I am now home with my daughter and recovering wife. Indeed, for the past few days, I have gotten a lot less done than before the Koalid was here, but, since the business exists to accommodate the Koalid, one cannot really be upset about that.

Those yellow trucks in the background are tree trimmers with
chainsaws. LOUD chainsaws. In the foreground, is the
Koalid blissfully sleeping next to the chainsaws.

I have enjoyed life more since we have come home from the Hospital than the previous few months. This is not because of some vague fatherly euphoria. (As I mentioned in my last post, I don't really have that sense of fatherly awe.) It is because these last few days have just been nice. The baby has given me a focus for my activity and attention. Far from having less time with Amy, she has been much more attentive, and the time we have spent together these last few days has been wonderful. We are really bonding as a family in a way that was very difficult while she was still pregnant, grumpy, exhausted, working and uncomfortable all the time.

We have had time to sit on the couch, she and I and the baby often sleep on one of us. We have talked. We have worked side by side, teaming up and watching out for each other. Both Amy and I are making sure that the other is sleeping and eating enough, as much as possible. I'm keeping an eye on her to make sure that she doesn't overexert herself as she recovers from her C-section, and she wants to make sure that I am adjusting well to my new daddy role.

As for social life? I haven't gone out much in quite a while. Much of that changed when I moved to Connecticut. I am, however, a very social person. Thanks to the Koalid, everyone wants to hear about her, see pictures of her, talk about her. As someone who loves to talk to people, I'm more than happy to field that attention.

Are things dramatically different than they were two weeks ago? Yes and no, but all the differences are better.

Besides, I was ready for this. I practiced with cats.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

So It Begins

New dad and new Koalid
The Koalid was born last Thursday, and now it is time to find out if all that stuff I've been chattering about for the past 9 months has any bearing to reality.

It has taken almost a week to get this post up because...well...I have this new baby keeping me very busy.

Pride and Joy
First, let me talk a moment about the expectations I was led to by others. If you read the writings of fathers, they will say that having a baby changed their life and their outlook on the world. They will tell you that as soon as they looked upon the faces of their beautiful, perfect children, nothing would ever be the same. They saw that baby as the most beautiful thing in the world and felt a swell of pride.

Yeah. Didn't get that.

Let me be clear before I go on that I love my daughter and will do anything to raise her as a happy, healthy person. She is my greatest priority.

I'm not a baby person. I don't generally think pictures of babies are cute. I get more of a rise out of holding a cat than someone else's baby. However, I was thinking perhaps that the fact that she is mine would make be respond differently. When she came out, I looked at her and observed that she was a funny looking, red, squirmy thing. I knew that she was my funny looking, red, squirmy thing, and that I would do anything for her, but there was no great swell of pride, no angels sang, no lights shone down from heaven.

Many men speak of a feeling of pride and virility. "I made this beautiful thing!" they proclaim. Maybe I'm less sentimental or just more rational, but I feel no great sense of accomplishment at having made a baby. Maybe it's that I spend the previous 18 years very diligently not making a baby that made it unexciting. I simply stopped doing the things I'd been doing to not make a baby, and made a baby.

Meet Amy, my amazing and beautiful wife who is really the
one who should feel proud of this amazing child.
I am proud of Amy for doing everything for 9 months to make a healthy, beautiful, perfect, 9/10 on the APGAR baby. She did all the hard work. She took care of herself to take care of the Koalid, and she is the one who can really be credited for the Koalid's perfection.

Reading the Baby
As we approached having a baby, I was doing research and also plumbing the depths of my personal experience and instincts. All these things told me that, while the baby fundamentally has very few indicators, I should be able to determine what that limited data stream is telling me. My theory was that I should rarely have a situation of an upset baby and the frustration of not knowing what the baby wants as long as I am open minded and engaged with the Koalid.

When the baby came out, and after all the weights and measures, she was swaddled and handed to me. Once she calmed down from the shock of birth, she began to give rooting signs, the signs that a baby wishes to feed. I was very proud that I was able to recognize them, and I immediately knew: this baby wants to nurse! I'm a genius!

Baby's first hockey stick.
I was also powerless to do anything about it because she was delivered C-section, and it took about 90 minutes for the nurses to deal with some routine complications and get Amy to the point where she was able to nurse the baby.

Over the following week, I have continued to feel fairly confident that I could read the Koalid's cues.

Feeding the Baby
I expected that I might have many challenges. I was concerned about being able to change diapers (not a problem, as it turns out, see below). I was worried that we would never be able to sleep.

One thing I was not worried about was feeding the baby. That seemed pretty simple. Put nipple (breast or bottle) into mouth, wait, burp. Then, we discovered certain things: mom's milk does not come in as soon as baby does. (That's why babies are born pudgy, do hold them over until mom can feed them.) Also, when baby first breast feeds, it hurts quite considerably. So, I'm sure that once Amy gets used to feeding, it will be as simple as put breast in mouth, but in the meantime it has been a logistical challenge of breast feeding, breast pumping, and supplementary formula.

I am a diaper ninja. I had only ever put two diapers on prior to the Koalid being born: one on a friend's baby (hi, Abby) and one on a doll at the Baby Care Class. However, when it came time to diaper the Koalid, all became clear. I joked that I was ready for a baby because I practiced with cats, being about the same size. I thought it was a total joke, but, as it turns out, dealing with a wriggling cat is very similar to dealing with a wriggling baby. You have to be able to anticipate their movements based on awareness of their anatomy and the pre-movements of their body.

I can now anticipate her kicks and have the new diaper on her in seconds. She does not like the process, but she loves the cuddle she gets afterwards, and that is one of the best experiences so far. I pick her up, still crying, and place her against my shoulder. The crying tapers off, and she snuggles in... moments before rooting around trying to figure out why I don't have a breast for her to feed on.

Getting the Koalid started early in the family business.
Being Ready
Everyone said "You're never ready for a baby. It changes everything!" Maybe it's because when I started this process, I decided that I had already done what I set out to do, and now my next great adventure was this child. I adjusted my career plan to work with a child. Last week, I declared that I was ready. Now that she is here, still feel ready. Sure, there are some details to work out: financial details, logistics of who sleeps when and where, things like that. But as for as the Koalid goes, still feeling ready.

As I mentioned before, I didn't get the whole googly eyed reaction. However, as the first week has passed, I have found growing love for this adorable thing. I still think she's a little funny looking now and then, but so are all babies. She does, however, make the most adorable faces...especially when she's pooping.

I love this little Koalid, and I intend to do everything I can do to do right by her.

Sunday, July 27, 2014


Now and then, I see a flurry of posts on Facebook about "We're going to the hospital to deliver." "The baby was born." "Yay baby!" Of course, because this is Facebook, the posts come in out of order and over a few days after the event. So, I decided that I'd take a different approach to Facebooking the process: posting as though I were at a convention BabyCon!

Here is the assembled archive of posts for #BabyCon

The comments on this one were very meta, so I felt I should include them in the archive

No, she's not giving the shocker. That is the ring finger down. This is something else.

What is that awesome game that the Koalid is displaying? That's ConCardia. You should check it out. It's awesome!

And there were some rave reviews from out there in Facebook land for BabyCon...

We now return to our regularly scheduled serious and introspective posts... or more cute baby pictures, depending on how the Koalid decides it should go.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Impending Birth: Thinking Back to When I Didn't Know What I Didn't Know

Amy is going to be induced on Thursday because they are concerned about her blood pressure. The baby appears healthy, and we have been given no reason to worry. However, it does mean that the Koalid is coming imminently. Prior to induction, they give a treatment once a day for three days, and, in many women, this treatment itlself jumpstarts labor. The first treatment is tonight, so sometime between tomorrow and Friday it is highly likely I will be a father.

There is a great scene in the 1996 movie Independence Day when David Levinson, played by Jeff Goldblum, is on his way to the alien spacecraft to implant the virus and save the world. The plan is set, everything is committed, and it's the moment of waiting to see if it will all come together. Goldblum starts saying, in his uniquely Goldblum way, "Oh, boy. Oh, boy. What was I thinking?"

This scene has resonated for me a number of times in my life, and especially now. Over the past 9 months, I have researched, read, experienced, and prepared for the arrival of the Koalid. I have thought about how I will raise her, teach her, prepare and protect her. Now she is almost here. I try to recall what I have read, and sometimes my mind comes back to me with "we read something?" I know it's just the jitters that come right before the big moment, but there it is.

When I was 22, I graduated college and opened a game store. I got a little advice here and there, but I really didn't know my ass from my elbow. I didn't know what I didn't know. Most importantly, I didn't know what I couldn't do. In fact, I believed that my lack of knowledge of what wasn't possible was one of my greatest assets, and perhaps I was right. I set out to create a center of community, a resource for geeks. I thought I was setting out to build a successful business, but that's really just what I told myself to justify what I was really trying to do. Ultimately, through the successor organization to that original store, that goal has been realized, going strong, 12 years after its original inception.

However, I have also faced painful, harsh lessons in what I cannot do. I could not make a living running Phoenix Games. In 2010, I arrogantly stepped into the role of breadwinner for two without any background to support the believe I could do this, and I failed. In 2007, I discovered the limits of my powers of visualization as in one year, I closed Phoenix Games, was removed from leadership of the RHPS cast I founded, was ousted from staff of Pi-Con which I created, and ended a 5 year relationship.

I have heard it said that life runs in 7 year cycles, each stage of life approximately 7 years long. Although those stages are different for everyone, the breakdown for me into such increments has been quite robust. 20-26 was a time of unbridled optimism, telling people not to make me look down because as long as I didn't know the cliff wasn't there, I would never fall.

27-33 was the period of rebuilding and learning after I looked down. I did not know where I was going or what I would do for a long time. I tried a few things and learned many things. Much of it was epistemological in itself: learning that many things I thought I knew were mere conceits on my part, as well as learning that during my travels I had managed to, almost without realizing it, amass experience and connections and relationships that could build my life going forward.

This past January, I had the good fortune to work briefly for a man name Howard Greenspan. He built a small online Pokemon store in 1998 into a business doing more than $50 million in revenues last year. At one point, I called him a genius, and he rejected it. He refuses to think of himself as a genius or in any way gifted. He believes that to think of oneself in such terms is to cease to strive and struggle. If you think you are good, you don't work as hard. If you think you are passable, you work harder, and, in so doing, will surpass the one who thinks he is "great" every time.

In 2002, I thought of myself as a genius, and I believed that I would win. As such, I did not fight as hard as I could. I was not focused on what I needed to focus on. In 2007, I thought I was a genius, and I was baffled as to why things fell apart. In 2008, I began to learn that being a genius is good for getting Mensa membership and solving Sudoku puzzles. In 2014, I finally put it together that genius is a tool, like charisma or physical strength or artistic ability, which can be employed by a motivated and properly directed individual to achieve success. However, like a power tool lying on a bench, if genius is not put to use with effort and strategy, it is good for little.

Today, I hope I understand how little I know. I understand that this Koalid will count on me, and that I do not have the luxury of indulging in conceit. Very soon, I will be called upon to us everything I have learned and done to raise her to give her the best life I possibly can. This means using everything at my disposal to build my business so as to support and educate her as well as using everything I have to care for her, teach her, love her, and raise her right.

She's coming, and I'm ready.

Monday, July 7, 2014

To Those Who Would Try to Hook Up With My Daughter

This morning, I saw a link to an article on the pick up artist web site Return Of Kings. The article was about picking up women at an anime convention. It was, as most things on that site are, disgusting and offensive. It was also just plain bad advice, more effective for being banned from an event than for achieving an objective.

It got me thinking, as such things do, of the Koalid. Sometime around 2032 or so, she'll be coming into the world of relationships. Some of these might be more serious and others might be more... ephemeral. Most men, of course, thinking of their little girl with those beasts who call themselves men grit their teeth in rage. Many explain this reaction by saying "I used to be a young man, and I know what they do and what they want."

However, the world of 2030 will not be like the world of 1930. Our society is open, permissive. People explore their sexuality, find what they like, and engage in it. I have no doubt that she will explore in the same way I did, the same way her mother did, the same way most of my readers did. All I want is that this exploration be safe and that those with whom she engages in it are respectful.

So, to the men who might like to hook up with my daughter (in the future, she's a bit young now, that's creepy)...

So, you are interested in my daughter for prurient reasons. That is entirely understandable. I know that she is beautiful, because she is the offspring of myself and her mother. I know she carries herself well, is funny, intelligent, and dresses well (that's her mother's doing). But, being a young man, perhaps there is only one thing you are interested in out of the panoply of wonderful traits that comprise her. Well, then I ask you, are you honest with her or are you manipulating her emotions? Are you respectful? Do you see her as a person with needs, wants, and desires or do you see her as a thing to satisfy your wants? Do you respect her boundaries?

If you are honest, if you are respectful, if you are gentile and gentlemanly, and she chooses to engage in activities with you, then you have nothing to fear from me. I am her to teach her, to love her, to support her, and to guide her, but not to interfere or judge. I do not want her to have to hide what she does from me, because if she does, how can I be there to advise and guide her? She makes her choices, and you are a very lucky man if she chooses you, even for a casual engagement.

However, if you are a pick up artist, if you see women as objects to satisfy your lust, if you manipulate her, trick her, or otherwise disrespect her, then, son, you and I are in conflict. You will come to understand what the stereotypical angry father. I do not make her hide things from me, so I will find out about you. I would not lay a hand on you. That is not my way. However, you would come to know that actions have consequences in ways that only a creative mind can devise.

Let us take one brief step to consider the unthinkable. If you force yourself on her, then you need only consider two questions: how fast can you run and how deep a hole can you find to hide in?

But, enough of this tough talk. You're not going have to worry about running and hiding in holes because you will treat her right. Whether you are angling for a lifetime together or a night together, you will be honest, respectful, and gentlemanly, won't you? Good, glad to hear it.

Be safe. Have fun. If you hurt her, I'll kill you.