Mostly stuff about my own family, but if you’re interested, feel free.

He’s 4 and a half and he’s like an optical illusion that changes with the angle of view. He’s still just such a little boy and yet he’s way way way past toddler. He’s thin with little baby fat in his face. He’s still small and so innocent and crazy scared of little things but he’s determined to be tough and the urge to fight is strong in him.
The other night, playing with cars and tinker toys we built (following his instructions all the way) the… car wash of pain! It had features to spray the cars with cold water, beat them, smush them and chase after them to bring them back when they ran off.

He really has an intense and strong personality and he is far from a pushover. He’s like a cat you love. You say “You’re such a good cat” but you are under no illusion that the cat is “good” (ie: thoughtful, kind or ethical) merely that he’s his own perfect thing and he’s cuddly. What a good Isaac! He tells me he’s bigger and tougher and stronger than me. We rough-house and I toss him around and flip him and spin him, we wrestle and I let him win by dancing on my belly. The poet Robert Haas once wrote of “the poppa body” the Dad who gets climbed on, tread upon, smushed, piled on, etc. It’s delightful to be and I will miss it when It’s not my role anymore.
For some reason, either my influence or just inborn, he has a powerful drive to be funny. About half the time this works and about half the time it’s anywhere from neutral to awful. The best funny stuff he does is out of a clear blue sky.

I brought him in from the car one day and went back to unload some more things. When I came back in he was holding my telephone up to his ear and talking, saying something like:
“This is Isaac, Is everything ready? OK, thanks, goodbye”.
I said, “What are you doing?”
Isaac: “Making a phone call”
Me: “Who are you calling?”
Isaac: “The officials.”

He’s also got a lovely way of seeing connections and a gift for metaphor. We were putting up glowing stars in his bedroom. He put two stars side by side and he said “This is you and me.” he put one a little off to the side and said “this is Mommy” and put two up above and said, “this is Grandma and Grandpa” he put a few more stars up here and there with names for the people and pets they represented and stood back to look at it and said. “I’m making a star map of my people.”
He also made up a good rhyme about the holidays, it came out so perfectly that I can’t believe it’s really an accidental rhyme.
Isaac Compares the Holidays:

“Halloween is better than Christmas
scary is better than sweet
and it’s also better than Thanksgiving
because on Thanksgiving all you do is eat”

As long as he’s been able to really follow stories I’ve been making them up for him and lately our storytelling is team-based which involves a certain amount of sacrifice of quality control on my part but some of his story ideas are great. Sometimes we cooperate on bedtime stories, both of us wandering forward through unknown territory nudging the other in the direction we want to go. The problem is that when you are a parent you tell the story like an airplane trip. That is, it gets itself organized, lifts off, has some excitement, and comes in for a landing. When Isaac sees a shared story coming in for a landing he grabs the controls and sends it off on another trajectory. “Suddenly they saw a light under another door!” Until at last the Dad packs his parachute and bails out somewhere over Omaha.



Boy is busy trying to catch up on the physical side.

Lately he’s been getting a wind in his sails and wanting to move more like a normal kid. I know that sounds terrible, like I don’t think he’s a normal kid but the fact is, he’s got his issues and they all go back to being a preemie. He is what the docs call “Low tone” or hypotonic which means his muscles are a little weak and it affects his coordination and motor skills. His balance isn’t very good, and he’s always been a strangely careful kid – feeling his way up and down stairs – carefully navigating bumps in the sidewalk I can hardly notice. His run has been an awkward fast walk and he doesn’t like challenges to the status quo – he has never been a kid who liked riding on shoulders or getting tossed in the air, at least not much or for long. He has always (of course) been this way but I didn’t think HE had much noticed it, he seemed so confident about who he was and what he wanted to do. He seemed like the poster child for sensitive-little-verbal-kids-who-just-aren’t-that-into-it. But lately I have this feeling like he’s thinking about and even worrying about it a little. We’ll be doing something together and he’ll say “I’m really strong” or “I’m going really fast!” We feed him images about being a big strong fast boy and believe me we are fairly stealthy about it – just trying drop in a lot of positive stuff about having fun using his body. But it’s dawning on him that he isn’t as easy in his body as kids who are even younger. He’s starting to notice and it bothers him.

He’ll say things like “I love riding my tricycle!” or “I like to go fast on my tricycle” but the fact is, I bought him this stupid little cheap tricycle a long time ago and he was really excited about it and hopped on it and went around the block pedaling (but with me pushing – killing myself bent over pushing this thing and remembering all the way that I didn’t buy the one with the big pushing stick attached to the back) and that was about it. He’s been out on it once or twice since then with really minor results and now almost always turns down any chance to get on it. When he does he just paddles along with his feet on the ground. So today with a whole day together, I was tossing about for something to do – and it’s always too easy to let the kid just hang around the house playing which is what he says he wants to do because to tell you the truth, I kind of feel like hanging around the house playing too. But damn it it’s a beautiful day and how many are left in this season? And for now it’s my job to get him out and moving. So I get this idea – “Let’s go back to Patty’s house and grab your tricycle and we’ll go to the park” and he was for it so we took off.

The park I had in mind is Magnussen, a former Naval base by Lake Washington with a couple of miles of flat walkways and tall poplar trees and abandoned sealed up military buildings and weeds up to your stomach. One of my favorites – I love scrubby old places with ruins, especially if they are down by the water. Now we get to the park and get his tricycle out and put his great silly helmet on and he sits on the trike & bursts into tears and says with this oddly confessional tone as if he was owning up to a crime: “I don’t know how to ride my tricycle! I don’t know how to go fast on my tricycle!”

He wasn’t angry, he was sad. He was acting like he’d let everybody down.

“You can learn, sweetie” I said “nobody knows how to ride till they learn.”

“But I can’t learn!” He wailed with huge tears falling “I can’t learn.”

For a moment I sort of blanched because I was shocked that this playful little guy I know so well had such complicated and dark feelings about anything: “I can’t learn?”

“You can learn” I brilliantly suggested.

“I can’t” he sobbed.

So instantly and intuitively I decided that the best thing I could do would be to lie to my son.

So I picked him up and cuddled him and I said, “Can I tell you a secret? When I was your age I felt exactly the way you do – I didn’t think I could learn to ride my tricycle and I felt terrible but my Mommy and Daddy worked with me and taught me and I learned to ride – it was a lot of work and I had to try really hard but I was so happy when I learned!” Maybe it wasn’t a lie, I have no idea.

Grimly and still crying he accompanied me to a very gentle little hill nearby and I put him on the tricycle and put his feet on the pedals and told him to push and he went downhill suddenly laughing happily – “I DO know how to ride my tricycle!”

Until he got to the bottom where gravity forced him to a stop again and the tears started all over. And this is the kind of moment where you just want to say “The hell with it” and let the kid off the hook – You see two roads – One where you are dragging a miserable kid through some big lesson because it’s “good for him” and another where you shrug off the implications of giving up and just tell him he doesn’t have to do it. And they both sort of suck.

But you DO have to do something.

So I talked him into going back 4 more times – each time at the bottom he was mad and frustrated – each time he was rolling downhill he was pedaling and happy – The last time he hopped off the tricycle happily called out “I’m all done!” and started to run off down the walkway. I shouldered the diaper bag, camera and discarded helmet and and tricycle and set off after him. Watching his little figure prancing along under the blue sky thinking about how he was meeting up with a new kind of problem – a conflict with himself.

The rest of the afternoon was very nice. I caught up with him and we reached a scrubby little apple orchard at the moment that an apple thunked to the ground. He was delighted and we practiced throwing fallen apples and chasing them – then to my surprise he got back on the tricycle again and practiced some more – he was so beat when we were done that he conked out in the car and stayed asleep even as I carried him inside and laid him on the bed.


Hereditary ghosts haunt families: Ghosts of helplessness and limitations, of loneliness and lack. Being blind to this haunted mansion is what gives it unchallenged power over us.

We can become the ghosts of our own lives if we stay trapped here long enough.
So I have a kid running around my ankles looking up to me asking me to tell him this is a nice world – “Tell me the spiders aren’t scary …that they are nice sometimes. Why do cats chase mice – why do dogs chase cats? There was a ghost in that video, what is a ghost? Why don’t the big kids want to play with me?”

My Dad is slowly dying. It’s a degenerative disease and there isn’t anything to be done except to take good care of him and make him comfortable. They say he has 6 months to a year. I know these estimates can be wrong and I also know he is eighty years old and not feeling well.

When I was little, my Dad actually scared me yet I remember adoring him. My love for Dad was always touched by fear. He was huge and powerful and angry a lot but I know there was a period where I was his little guy and he loved me too. I remember him lying in bed and me (as a tiny toddler) pounding on his back, just wailing away like a crazy thing and him laughing like it was charming. I often got a feeling like he loved whatever was indomitable and fierce in me, even when tasked with punishing me. Sometimes my Dad, my brother and I played soccer in Central Park in New York and I would fling myself after the ball like a madman because he laughed with such pleasure at my go for broke intensity.

Then I lost him to fear. He drifted off into a consuming fear of financial failure and for the rest of my childhood, he was the worried drinking man who never had any fun with us. To my detriment, I think I learned that the adult world was a terrible place from my Dad. As a kid, I remember once looking up at the building he was working in and shuddering thinking about what he was living out because he seemed so unhappy. What in the world was he communicating that created this shockingly negative belief in me?

I remember at times trying to stay out of his way because he was a minefield. I remember concocting ten thousand ways to make him laugh because he so badly needed to. I remember his wit flashing like a sword and me trying to stay close but just out of reach. My Mom was such a reasonable and peaceful presence but Dad was a force of nature that you could only warily try to predict. I told him later how intimidating he seemed when I was a kid and he said: “You’ve got to be kidding, I was a pussycat!”

As an adult I came to see his inner pussycat – he really has a very tender and gentle heart but it was masked by stress all those years – things hit him really hard and he gets shaken to his core by worry and it makes him growl and bark. He went through life as if he was always under attack. I love my Dad very much but always with a wistfulness that I couldn’t have had more of him.

I know in his heart he didn’t believe he deserved love and the truest, sweetest love in the world is treated as an enemy invasion by hearts like that. At best, they find love frightening and overwhelming. They feel that their worst failing, the one they’d rather die than own up to, the one they think reveals them as hideous, the one that hurts the most, is about to be uncovered by the person who looks the most like the one they’ve been dreaming of. Your dream come true and your worst nightmare overlap and the nightmare wins. At this moment, shame catalyzes into pride and pride bars the door against risk and intimacy.

My venue for spending time with him as a young teenager was watching tv together in the evening. In his cups, he would tell me little loving things that just sound hilariously awkward and weird: Often he’d repeat that I was a Planned Child, in other words, that they’d made me on purpose. The idea that I was sitting around worrying that I might have been an accident is SO STRANGE…it was an almost unimaginable worry to me, and a freakish thing to raise repeatedly. Unless you understand that the person saying it is trying desperately hard to say something deeply emotional in a way that contains nothing emotional, to scour it of risk. From my current vantage point, I know exactly what he was saying as he sat beside his gentle, goofy son: I love you very much, please never forget that. But he would speak those words to me for the first time, somewhat later, last year when I was 44 years old.

Further into the evening and his cups he would explain that when my brother and I were all grown up he would do himself in – as in “his work would be done and he could go”. I would then (every couple of nights, mind you) gently try to explain to him why he shouldn’t do that. I realized with a start one day in my twenties that his message equaled “If you grow up I’ll die.”  and that he had placed me on suicide watch for him at age 13. Alcoholics say incredibly stupid things, this idiocy was our relationship run through the alcoholic distortion filter of self-pity, drama, and hopelessness.

I don’t much blame him now. He was caught in a bad dream and he didn’t know how to climb out – he lived with us like a terrified cat scrambling for safety, he lived in fear. Fear doesn’t so much kill love as weaken and dilute it to the point where it isn’t very tasty or nutritious. Much to his credit, a couple of years later (after a truly dark, dark night of the soul) my father did exorcise his miserable old family ghosts. He turned his life entirely around. He had a rather stunning spiritual awakening and transformed into a better, happier person. I’m so grateful this happened, it was like a miracle, and it gave me a father worth having, which is far better late than never.

My version: Throughout most of my life, I struggled to make grown-up decisions. Meeting with no success at the traditional trials of adulthood, I tried to play an eccentric game nobody else was playing so that the rules and the outcome were up to me: Basically an extension of my childhood of fantasy play so deep that I lived part-time, in another dimension.  I tried to dive between the cracks in the world and not get sucked into terminal adulthood and it turns out there is a terrible price to pay for it. It was an attempt to slip past mortality and limitation when the deepest import of life in this strange world is informed by mortality and limitation. I embraced the illusion of freedom that comes with making no ultimate choice. It was like going to the best restaurant in the world and ordering nothing because any choice would limit my options.

If there is a spiritual equivalent for shameful waste in this world I think it is the thing held in reserve, the gift not used, the ingredient we selfishly do not add, the words not said, the warmth not shown: As a person, this is the spiritual virgin who will not be touched by life…and therefore wastes that life. We are spiritual fires and we are here to burn up with loving each other and exploring the depths of the mysterious world till there’s nothing left of us.

I always talked a good game but I had no idea how much love scared me. I was absurdly confident in many ways and wildly naive. Like my Father, I was too scared to get out of my head and approach another with my heart vulnerably exposed. Like my father, I didn’t believe that I deserved love.

It took me forever to realize this. I always knew what an ordinary, flawed person I was inside and how likely to disappoint. Anyone who was losing sleep over me looked like someone who needed cool compresses and sympathy. I felt when they were in love with me that it was a sort of dream and dreams were far too unstable to invest in. I don’t know what I thought the alternative was: A cool-headed love affair? A rational decision to love another person? I could never have done that.  I was scared of the prison of the particular. What if this particular relationship isn’t really it? How do you know? How can you ever really know? I should keep my options open…Then when my detachment truly DID disappoint my person, my heart would break at what felt like an incalculable, unbearable loss and I would often explode into a co-dependent pursuit of the same person who I couldn’t be bothered to appreciate properly just days or even hours before. It was a futile merry-go-round of wasted chances. This pattern is useless and self-canceling but when you’re living it, it just seems like the only thing you can do. “How else am I supposed to do this?” There are ways but they are invisible from that perspective. It’s the perspective that must be abandoned.

I never even understood love until Isaac came into my life.

It’s not that loving a child is like romantic love but it is a state of being in love helplessly and truly… and until I felt it, I didn’t understand that loving isn’t at all about things making sense.

It’s about meeting a power greater than your infernal, internal, eternal wobbling and uncertainty. It’s about giving up the distance of uncertainty and surrendering to being a human animal living out the mortal and imperfect life we have received with all the intensity we can bring to it. It isn’t about making sure things are safe or real by scrutinizing and questioning them to uncover the real truth: it’s about accepting Love as truth. It’s about not withholding. There are plenty of times in life when what is offered ISN’T right for us, and love isn’t about accepting those wrong things. It’s about when the right thing is there, recognizing it by its scent (not its appearance or name) and tearing down all the barriers to it inside yourself. Accepting Love turns you into a bear. Not violent, or vicious, just certain the way a bear is certain and determined the way a bear is determined.

When reciprocity is suppressed, gamed or denied in the critical developmental moments of openness between people love’s circuit can’t complete. Joyful partners who thought the magic moment had come at last are stranded earthbound as one or both of them opt out of synthesizing at a higher level in favor of good old power, control or safety. This is choosing a lower good over a higher one. Every love makes these choices, to rise up or fall back whether in friendship, family or romance. Every true love is made of truth, courage, and constancy but every true love remains aloft through faith and joy.

If I could have learned this earlier I would have been a happier person than I mostly have been. I’m incredibly grateful simply to know it NOW and to have this opportunity to experience loving someone this much. From the first minutes with Isaac in the neonatal ward, two months earlier than he was supposed to arrive, I have lived in a new and far better world. This tiny person knocked down the walls of limitation and uncertainty about love that I couldn’t touch simply because he was mine unquestionably and I was his and it absolutely exploded any impulse whatsoever I might ordinarily have sought to maintain a little distance and hold any part of myself aloof. True joy is to occupy your life and choices completely and without reservation. That happened to me the day we met. In one second I clicked into a deeper relationship to life than I had ever known.

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi

As a teenager, Isaac will wake up from the dream of perfect Dad and realize what an ordinary person I am, he will realize with horror what a flawed ninny I can be and recoil from knowing that he’s made of the same stupid stuff. But it won’t matter so much because he’ll discover another view of me later on – I’ll just have to live with the exile for a time when it comes. Growing up means forced disenchantment from the beautiful magical exceptionalism of childhood thoughts. But that flat disenchantment is merely another kind of spell and another kind of blindness, mechanically serving the required stages of separating from the bubble of parental love. Someday he will look back and know as a grown-up person that he was loved as much as a child can be loved: That he brought me so much delight and satisfaction, that we exulted in exploring the world together…that simply allowing love to BE is automatic as gravity if you just let it happen. Until he has kids of his own he won’t have a clear idea of how much it meant to me, how wonderfully life-changing it was. He allowed me to own my life as I never had just by being a part of it.

When a profound deepening of your life occurs it will never come from sufficiently thinking it through. A huge boulder deep in your soul shifts and disappears and you feel the difference. This takes work, not time; time is the background music. Time is the subtext of our building story. Time is the illusion of change through worry.

When my Mom was alive, her love for me was like the sun shining on my life & I was so acclimated to it that I didn’t realize until she was gone the extra bit of warmth that had always been there. It clicked off like a light when she died and a cold wind I had never felt before began to blow. What Isaac gave me was the chance as a grown-up to experience that same loving sunshine again by giving it to another.


To live in this world
You must be able
do three things:

To love what is mortal;
to hold it against your bones knowing
your life depends on it;

And, when the time comes to
let it go,
to let go.

Mary Oliver
from American Primitive

The big negativity shows up at times now, mostly when he’s tired or hungry and manifests as a kind of furious contrariness. A desperate need for mutual exclusives.
“Up Up Up “ till he’s up…then ”Down! Down! Down!”

He’s still his sweet self a lot of the time. But at times he seems like the biggest victim of his own mood (I guess that’s true for all of us really). Toddler moods look like a nightmare where you lack the skills to comfort yourself and cool down from any little thing. He looks like he is infused with more power then he knows how to handle and just rattles with the stress of it. He’s in a growth spurt and gobbling up knowledge like mad and it demands a lot of him. At times he is provoking but we do our best to keep cool and steady. There are advantages to being somewhat geezerly.

The physical caution I talked about before is still there but he’s having more fun scampering around. We go out in the back yard and I blow bubbles and goes after them and pops them. He runs and dances and talks about it. “Running!” “Dancing!”

He sings “shake your booty’. Only that line thankfully. No, I can’t imagine where he learned that.

He is SO verbal! He surprises us with something he says almost everyday.
We were in the backyard yesterday and he pointed to a patch of moss and said:
At daycare he started calling people by each others names then laughed and said: “Joke!”
Another day he turned a book upside down and pretended to read it, then he put it down and said “Isaac funny!”

I’ve had what I guess must be a sinus infection for the last two months – this is like being on day six of a cold for eight weeks. One of his phrases is “Daddy coughing”. Great. My Doctor said “The only people who get it worse than day care parents are teachers”.


Sorry it’s been so long.

Well, two years ago most of us were running around a hospital in Seattle and trying to get some traction under the idea that M was seriously sick and a baby was immanent. Of course we didn’t know anything about how well most of the next steps would go so it was like awaiting a crash and not knowing how bad a blow to expect. Would the baby be alright? Would M be OK? Would her Dad hunt me remorselessly over the surface of the earth while wearing a long black trench coat? It certainly wasn’t obvious at that moment.

Two years later we have all dodged the bullet – all three of us alive and well. Although for some reason everytime I see Isaac’s maternal Grandpa he finds a moment alone to say in a Clint Eastwood whisper: “You feel lucky punk?”

Little Isaac stories from recent days:

  • The other night we looked at a book about babies with a baby on the cover. He pointed at the picture. He said: “Dat guy’s a baby!”
  • We were shopping in the grocery store and an older lady working behind a counter smiled at him very sweetly. He smiled back and called out “Hey pal!”
  • We saw the larval form of a ladybug and I explained to him it was a baby lady bug. He smiled broadly and said “Baby bug!”
  • Doodle bugs (also known as potato bugs and roly poly bugs and pill bugs) instantly became “Noodle bugs”.

I made a huge stupid mistake today. I gave him a snack of grapes and cheese and crackers and when he left a bunch of grapes on the table I started tossing them high into the air and catching them in my mouth. He became hysterical with laughter which only encouraged me. I kept going and in a minute he was throwing grapes up in the air and then at my mouth. I calmed him down and he said “Daddy is silly!”.
Too Right.

He seems more present and involved with every day. He hears lines in songs on the stereo and repeats them. He sings a little. He saw a candle on a table and sang (tunefully) “Happy birthday to youoo”.

There are a thousand lessons of the last two or three years and I can’t claim to have processed or understood even half of them, there are many ways in which I am aware of my ongoing failure to come through with all that I ought to be and all that I ought to do. That aside though I am aware that I spent most of my life before Isaac only flirting with change afraid of what any real change would mean. Real change only happens when something is sufficiently important or undeniable that it pulls you on and on down a different road than caution or convenience would advise. It’s a burden which is gift to carry. Not to be a sugar coated Pollyanna – it’s not always fun and parts of my life feel like they are wilting on the vine but I can’t imagine my life without him.

I talked to my Dad today and he was a bit confused and spoke calmly about death and release – he is almost 80 and he and my step mom have had an awful lot of health problems. It freaks me out but I guess it’s a little relief to hear his lack of fear. Oddly, one thing that is completely clear to me since Isaac’s birth is my own mortality. Sometimes I feel it sitting on my shoulder, not in any big hurry but utterly real. There is a classic story of a man asking a monk what is happiness? The monk relied:

Grandfather dies
Father dies
Son dies

And what is clear is that any variation from this is the kind of story that haunts a family. We are lucky to have dodged so many falling anvils and slippery stairs and in the time we are allotted we should love loudly and bravely and drink deep of all good things.

Blessings on you all – thanks for listening,


A couple of years ago my Mom died and something in my life broke. Some of you know all too well what it’s like. Like driving with a flat tire or maybe with a strange metallic whine coming from the engine and a creeping sense that the outcome of the trip is in more doubt than you guessed. I think of her every day and the way I miss her rises and falls, now gentle, now fierce. It is a force of loss.

Isaac has come into my life as a corresponding force of connection. I am bound to this world as I have never been before. The force of a kind of river is at my back pushing me on through my stupidity and despair. My weakness is still very much in the game but it is not an “out”. I know a kind of love I never knew. My life is too simple & boring, even lonely. But somehow it has a knitting together force that is new in my experience. Becoming a parent locks you in a world of little necessities and circumscribes your choices and freedom all the while deepening the quality of your relationship to life itself.


 Cows are not scary but they say “Boo” What does the cow say? Boo.

We played hide and seek yesterday and when he popped out from under the blanket he would say “Bo” I finally figured out this must be “Boo” learned at daycare as kids did halloween things. I like to picture him hearing this and thinking “Well that’s just silly. They must be saying Bo.”

He got another of those goddamn hard plastic toys that look like a cartoon animal and go off like a car alarm playing the same damn six little kid songs if you bump them.

 This one was disturbing to him. It’s supposed to be a caterpillar with a long undulating green body but it also has little wobbly wheels and antennae on it’s head and all down it’s body in the form of bright balls on flexible springs. He looked at it and was fascinated and then obviously disturbed. The unmistakable look on his face was: “What the hell IS that?” For a couple of hours there was a degree of toy tension not seen since the “Big Red Ball of Death” episode.
He pointed at it every couple of minutes and said “Dat?”
“It’s supposed to be a caterpillar ”
“A caterpillar – a kind of bug”
I found a picture of a green caterpillar and showed him and pointed at the toy.
“It’s a caterpillar, a kind of bug.”
a few minutes later he looked at it and in a relaxed way said “Bug.” like you might say “Well alright then.”

He’s walking “hands free”. His cautious temperament finally felt ready to let go and he just started strolling across the living room. Now he often walks in odd patterns that are unmistakably about fine tuning the controls. He walks in little circles and stoops to picks things up and keeps on cruising. It’s a careful little waddle with his hands in the air but he’s making a break for it.

He is obsessively gathering data about the universe. His most common phrase is “Dat” meaning “what is that?” And we go through every book naming names and qualifying definitions. “That’s a baby bear” “That’s called a dinosaur, it’s like a lizard but very big” “That’s a truck it’s like a car but bigger”. For a long time we lived in a one word world meaning what we heard was kitty (Ki), doggie, birdie, etc. The most exciting thing verbally is that he is starting to hook up little things that go together. We have a tourist guide to Florida with herons on the cover and he looked at it and called out “birdie” which is obviously nothing new but I walked us over to it and picked it up to look at it and he said “bird book”. We count things on the pages of his books (one two three four) and when we ask him to count he goes like this: “One hoo dum hmmm buh” or “One One One One”.

He points at zero and says “None.” I can’t figure out what this means, he’s either parroting us talking about numbers or he is recapitulating the discovery of zero itself, one of the critical scientific revolutions leading to all the science and technology of our modern world. I think probably that’s what it is.

The other night at dinner he was talking in gibberish paragraphs that were like listening to a slightly familiar foreign language being spoken.

“Ribula norgo blahbiddy bodly pa dinku mor atoffa Birdie. Norbhd a bindu ohsa bladdiby Mommy and Daddy.”

To us this is pretty spectacular.

Things we call Isaac:

  • Cutie Pattootie
  • Sweetie Petitey
  • Tiny Whiny
  • Tiny McWhiny
  • Zoomy Kabboomy
  • Zoomy
  • Zoom
  • I
  • I-Boy
  • Little
  • & of course Boo Boo Head.



Toddlers are passionate and frequently negative. The books say this is the beginning of them carving out their individual identity. It makes sense to me that you have to be able to say No or your Yes is always going to be weak. So part of me that is fine with him uttering his offended little denials of this food or that book but it isn’t altogether easy to say goodbye to the relaxed kid who took what he was offered and enjoyed every book.

He is a sweet and really good kid but he feels more frustration and sadness and it’s strange knowing how much more lies inevitably, ahead. As a parent I sometimes have the heartbreaking feeling of having gotten him into such a terrible mess and yet I know that the being game is the only game in town. If you don’t exist you don’t cry but you don’t laugh or love either.

When he wants a book read to him (450 times in an average day) he makes a noise like the music during the shower scene in “Psycho”. How does one respond to this?

Isaac: “RE – RE – RE -RE!” (Spider cracks form in all glass objects.)
Daddy or Mommy: “Of course sweetie” or “For Gods sake, cut that out” or simply “AiYEEEEEE!”He is still wild for birdies. He goes to bed calling out to them and wakes up asking after them. When he recognizes one in a drawing or photo he has to shout it out with the satisfaction of seeing something very important. Buses and trucks also hit this sweet spot as well as dogs and cats but without the edge of sheer intensity that birdies bring.
I took him to Green Lake yesterday and we walked into a wild wind. Whitecaps were leaping and leaves flying but strangely it wasn’t very cold. I wanted to walk him to where the birds are but didn’t find them at the usual spots we walked on and on around the lake and finally found a collection of ducks. They looked us over and watched expectantly. I threw them some cheerios and they came closer. Now lately when showing Isaac pictures of ducks we say:” Quack quack quack” as duckily as we can. His rendering of this is “Gaga”: He calls them gaga birdies. Now meanwhile, seagulls and grebes and geese and crows had all gathered with that sixth sense for handouts. Isaac became incredibly excited, laughing and after telling every single one that it was in fact, a birdie, he began to yell at them in what I guess he figures is their language.Ga Ga GAGAGAGAGAGA! GAGAGGA! GAGGAGA! Ga Ga GAGAGAGAGAGA! GAGAGGA! GAGGAGA! GAGAGAGAGAGA! GAGAGGA! GAGGAGA!

For at my best guess, around a minute and a half. He looked like a tiny little Mussolini yelling at a crowd of fascist ducks. He got so worked up that I started to realize I had gotten us into something tricky to get out of. Here he was communing with his “people” at last and it was getting on to time to leave. As I pulled the stroller back from the lake and started to roll away he bust into tears and deep throated sobs. Good going Hugh. He is a baby though, and within a few hundred feet started to notice other birds and dogs such and grew quiet. But he’s now old enough that he’s getting his feet caught in the glue of wanting and needing and not wanting to let go. You’re welcome kid.

Conversation in the car on the way home:
Isaac: Hewo.

Hugh: Hewo.
Isaac: Hewo.
Hugh: Hewo.
Isaac: Hewo.
Hugh: (oops) Hello.
Isaac: Hewo.
Hugh: Hello.
Isaac: Hello.
Hugh: Hello.
Isaac: Hello.
Isaac: Hewo.

Things I can’t believe I said this week:

  1. “Please, no. I hate Timmy Tiptoes”
  2. “No, it’s a boat not a dog. It looks like a dog, and it has a dog face but it’s a boat.”