Monday, December 25, 2006

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Letter


I begin this holiday season by noting that most biblical scholars believe Christ’s birth actually occurred in the spring. Citing a reference in the Gospel according to Luke to shepherds watching their flock at night, these scholars argue this would only have occurred during the lambing season, as otherwise sheep would be corralled. That we celebrate Jesus’ birth at the end of December is largely due to a Roman interpretation of winter solstice as the earth dying, a fate only avoided via the “Return of the Sun” -- a bacchanalian festival. A pragmatic bishop decided that his flock could avoid religious persecution if they just celebrated the birth of the savior around the same time, and this is how December 25th became Christmas. I mention this because had early Romans lived in the Southern Hemisphere or understood the earth’s orbit, I would have had several more months to prepare for this holiday season. As such, consider the fact that you’re receiving this letter before February as some sort of Christmas miracle.

While I tend to feel overwhelmed by the holidays every year, this year I feel it more acutely, primarily because after Allen and I had a baby in August and this is Owen’s first Christmas. Halls were to be decked. Cookies decorated with sparkly things. Homemade cards with handwritten notes. Gifts thoughtfully picked out months in advance. There was going to be bunting and holly and all things merry and jolly with each evening ending with our singing carols by the fire. And while Owen would have no memory of any of this, it was going to be dutifully recorded in his baby book so that he could read about his amazing first Christmas once he was able to read.

Now having known I was pregnant since before last Christmas, one could argue that we had more than enough time to accomplish such a wish list (plus the light display I wanted that Allen nixed). But I had morning sickness for most of January. We spent February through April searching for a house, May purchasing and moving into said house and June through July preparing it for Owen’s arrival (plus Allen’s had to go to South Africa for work). In August we had Owen and September and October were spent trying to convince Owen that he wanted to sleep for more than three hours in a row (he’s still not fully convinced).

In theory, a perfect Christmas can be accomplished with just November and December. But early in November Allen’s grandfather passed away and so we went to Iowa for a week. We had already planned to spend Thanksgiving at my parents and so there was another week in Texas. Then Allen had to go to Japan for a week in December. All the while, I’ve been trying to work from home.

So we scaled back a bit. There is a tree and stockings but no bunting (Allen felt it was more appropriate for the Fourth of July or opening day of the baseball season anyway). We nixed the cookies as our nod to America’s growing obesity problem. Our fireplace isn’t currently in working order, but I do sing various carols to Owen when I’m changing him and he seems to enjoy it just fine. We’re still working on the gifts. And while Allen did make our Christmas cards, the personal notes got replaced by just this letter.

Anyway, we hope you all have had a wonderful year and that the holidays find you healthy and happy. Thanks for all your well wishes, gifts and advice with regards to our new little one, and to hear more about our adventures (or get a jumpstart on our excuses for why next year’s Christmas didn’t turn out as planned), please check out our blog at:

And in the immortal words of the Daily Show’s Samatha Bee,

But really let's face it all other days bow down to the 25th: Christmas. It's the only religious holiday that's also a Federal holiday. That way Christians can go to their services and everyone else can stay home and reflect on the true meaning of Separation of Church and State.

Happy Holidays,

Allen, Elaine & Owen

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


After a long week in Japan, our little family was reunited last Saturday, and now that I'm finally recovered from the jet lag, it's time for the blog post (plus since Owen's 4 month birthday is today, we thought it was time to put up a new picture).

I have to say, these international trips were a lot easier before Owen showed up. It was always tough to be apart from Elaine for a week, but she never increased her weight by 5% while I was gone, and somehow it never bothered me that I didn't see her roll over or improve her ability to grab things.

Technology helped close the distance while I was in Japan (Elaine emailed many pictures using my camera phone, and I was introduced to the beauty of Skype, which let us talk to each other from halfway around the world for free), but it really was no substitute for a hug. When Owen started day care, Elaine could of used one from me, and every day I could of used one from Owen.

As happy as I was to see Owen upon my return, the best part was how happy he was to see me. He smiled and laughed, and let me know that he missed his daddy.

Man's Best Friend?

I don't like dogs. I primarily attribute my disdain for canines to having been bitten a few too many times in my formative years, which has made me skittish around them ever since. To be honest, though, I've just never understood the allure of cleaning up the poop and drool of something that won't return the favor when I'm old and grey. Suffice to say, we currently live in a pet-free zone and while I will probably eventually submit to Allen's desire to get a cat, I'm pretty resolute about the whole puppy thing.

However, many of the people that Owen loves and who love him are dog people. As a result, Owen has spent a fair amount of time in close proximity to various breeds of varying ages in his short life. I've actually thought this was a good thing since I'd like our son to be comfortable among animals and not inherit his mother's nervousness around them. So while I may not have actively encouraged his interaction with dogs, I've been pretty amenable to it.

But my willingness to facilitate Owen's play-dates with man's best friend suffered a serious set back this week when we discovered that one of these beasts has infected our son with a fungus.

We noticed Owen had a sore on his temple a couple of weeks ago, but assumed it was either some form of baby acne that he'd scratched, or possibly a slight case of rug burn resulting from his recent forays into rolling over. Despite my diligent application of various ointments though, it kept getting bigger and so yesterday I finally had the doctor check it out. Her diagnosis: ringworm.

Since he picked it up before he started daycare and he hasn't spent any time in dirt, we're pretty sure he got it from one of the many dogs that have sniffed, licked or just been around him the past month or so. I'm not sure what all the repercussions of this latest incident will be, but please understand if I'm a little more nervous when Owen is around dogs now, and no matter how hard he may beg, Owen is never getting a puppy for Christmas.


For two and a half weeks, we dutifully applied anti-fungal cream to Owen’s temple, only to find that not only had this ringworm not abated, but he’d developed a bad rash on his torso. Allen took him back to the doctor’s office where lo and behold we find out that the reason Owen’s ringworm wasn’t clearing up was because he never had ringworm: instead he has eczema with a strange presentation. So to all of our dog-loving readers who I accused of infecting our baby boy, mea culpa.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The end of innocence

When Owen was six weeks old, Allen’s mom asked me if I could imagine going back to work then. I shook my head with a knowing look, but secretly all I could think was, “Yes! Let someone else deal with his crying and screaming inconsolably for hours on end…” But then week seven came and Owen started crying less and smiling more, and then he started giggling and staring at me with awe and delight when I sing Frankie Valley songs or pull him into a sitting position using his arms, and I thought, I could really do this forever.

Alas, when Allen and I bought our house it was with the understanding that I would eventually go back to work (you really need two federal salaries to put a roof over your head in the DC market). While we would have preferred to wait a little longer, the acting Assistant Secretary has been inquiring as to when my maternity leave is up, so today Owen went to daycare for the very first time. For four and a half hours.

My hope was that he would sleep through most of it only to be interrupted by occasional feedings with me, but apparently meeting new people and the abundance of sleep he’s gotten the past few nights conspired to keep him awake for the bulk of his stay. Initially he seemed to take it just fine while I was a bit of an emotional wreck, but he wouldn’t nap which made him fussy and then he didn’t have his mom there to comfort him which made him cry. He seemed to rally when I fed him at noon, but that didn’t last much past my departure and when I went to check on him at two o’clock, he’d only just calmed down. By two thirty he was ready to head home so we packed up the stroller and took off.

Were not going back tomorrow – with Allen leaving the country on Sunday and my leaving him with strangers on Monday, Owen really needs a day at home to recover. We’re going to try again on Wednesday for another four or five hours and then we’ll see about Friday. And next week…

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sayonara, Daddy

Allen left this morning for Japan, leaving Owen and I to fend for ourselves for the next six and a half days. Owen and I have been alone together quite a bit, and between working late, Nationals games and the occasional beer with a friend, it’s also happened that from time to time Owen has gone almost an entire day without seeing Allen, which would suggest that Allen being on another continent for this week shouldn’t be that big of a deal. Then again, he’s never been gone an entire day and Allen was always in the same time zone if not cab zone and could be easily reached should I become overwhelmed and require immediate aid. That’s going to be a little difficult this week.

Owen thus far, has taken his father’s departure in stride, sleeping over seven hours last night and taking an almost four hour nap this morning. He’s either seeking solace in his slumber or is trying to switch to Tsuskuba time as an act of solidarity. The rest has been beneficial as Owen also managed to roll-over three times onto his belly this afternoon (he rolled onto his back the day before his three month birthday, but the more challenging belly-roll eluded him until today). I just wish it wasn’t while I was changing him.

Despite all the rest, Owen’s been a bit grumpy today and I suspect it’s because his father isn’t here to throw him in the air, sing alternative rock songs to him or watch some sporting event while Mommy gets some work done. I’m missing Daddy as well, and not just because I had cereal for dinner and had to clip Owen’s fingernails by myself (I even managed to not draw blood this time). At least Allen left us a voice message telling us both how much he loves and misses us. I suspect it will probably by worn out by the time he returns…