IMR: 1998: July: 24 -- Friday, 12:03 a.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
I think I'm getting the hang of this daddy thing.

The moment we got home after dropping Jen off at work, Katie dropped off for a 70-minute nap. It gave me time to tidy up a bit, whip up a little HTML, and balance the checkbook.

When she woke up, I got some choice giggles by singing an exaggerated rendition of that piece from "Carmen" and gave her some serious sitting practice.

I also added fifteen minutes or so to the video we're making for Jen's parents. Katie kicking the stuffing out of her smiley-face rattle, Katie chewing on a foam block, Katie starting to get fussy and sucking noisily on a teething ring.

As a background to the video, I played "Disney's Rock-a-Bye Baby," a compilation of lullabyes Jen picked up the other day. It's got some truly soul-melting stuff, including a piece by Billy Corgan and James Iha (fortunately sung by Toni Childs, since this album's supposed to promote sleep, after all).

I struggled to feed her milk from a bottle, but she clamped her mouth shut and whipped her head from side to side (milestone alert: vehement rejection of something offered). Having ultimately squirted most of it all over her face and the bed, I tried giving her applesauce with a spoon... and sighed in amazement as she happily gulped down half the bottle.

After watching the 5 p.m. broadcast of "Law & Order" (apparently A&E is showing four episodes a day now) -- Katie watching the apartment sway back and forth over my shoulder the whole time -- we headed down to Ala Moana.

Strolling the mall is becoming a regular ritual for us, a good way to pass a few of hours that might otherwise be spent studying the ceiling fan. We've hit Ala Moana at least every other afternoon, rolling along from one end to the other, taking spontaneous detours through random stores. It's good exercise too -- I probably walk four miles or more each trip.

Katie seems most content to people-watch at the Makai Market food court. I need only grab an end table near the "Thirst Aid Station" and point the stroller at the entrance. She'll kick and smile and play with her crinkly toys while I take a breather, choke down a manapua and read the latest issue of "Rolling Stone."

Even though Ala Moana is purportedly one of the biggest malls in the country (and one of the biggest anywhere of the open-air variety), however, it's already starting to get old. I don't know how many laps I've made through the cramped Museum Company store in the last week, and there's a salesman at Sharper Image that knows Katie by name already.

[ Ala Moana Before ]The only thing that keeps it interesting is the seemingly explosive progress on Ala Moana's multimillion-dollar expansion. In October of last year (when this shot was snapped), evidence of the project was limited to some models in the food court and the occasional news story. Today, the whole place is cluttered with scaffolds, cranes, I-beams and barricades.

In the last month alone, I've watched the superstructure of what will eventually be the "Grand Staircase" slowly descend toward Centerstage. Escalators are going in to cart folks from the Mall Level to the third-floor entrance to the monstrous Nieman Marcus store, slated to open in three months. Huge swaths of parking lot on the mauka side are blocked off, making room for who knows what.

[ Ala Moana After ]The expansion is, to say the least, very ambitious. Here I thought Ala Moana had about all the stores it could handle, and not only are they adding two more anchor stores, but they're adding a whole new floor along the length of the main concourse.

The construction is clearly hindering business for some merchants. With all the construction overhead, the famous open-air mall feels like a subway tunnel (at left, the same spot nine months later). Now, no matter how fancy the facade, the entrance to most of the existing stores look foreboding.

Many of the ultra glitzy stores -- you know, the ones where the salespeople are wearing outfits that cost more than your car -- are smack dab in the middle of the worst of it, customers required to duck down narrow corridors and squeeze around corners to get in... if they even see the store in the first place.

(Not that I have any sympathy for those snooty gold-plated outfits... they're why people say "Ala Moana" translates to "Too expensive for local people.")

Hopefully, by the time I've walked every inch of Ala Moana three times over, everything will be finished and I'll have another umpteen-thousand square feet of brand new retail space to explore.

Today's trip to the mall did have a purpose, at least. I went down to Sears to pick up the portraits we had taken of Katie a few weeks back. Now we've got to sit down and carefully divide them among the different sets of very, very eager grandparents.

This is the first time in a while I've stayed up late. Jen actually pushed me out of bed, insisting I indulge... if only just this once.

For as long as I can remember, I'd often wait until after Jen goes to bed to work on the computer and, to some extent, unwind in quiet solitude.

Of course I'm a Grade A geek, and sometimes can't go more than an hour without checking my e-mail (and UHUNIX is down for some reason now, arrrgh!).

But seriously, I think I have a greater need for 'time to myself' than Jen does. I mean, I sometimes get so desperate for silence, I take temporary refuge in the bathroom. Now as a family man, I can't just take off and read books in the park, so pretty much the only chance to 'get away' is after everyone else is asleep.

But since we got back together (and got married and became parents) -- and definitely in the last two months or so -- I've really been trying to be in better sync with Jen, fighting that night-owl loner instinct and discovering that I can be an attentive, doting and basically good guy sometimes.

And this past week? I've been so good. As the evening winds down and Jen stretches out on the bed, I make it a point to join her. We both play and cuddle with Katie, whispering and joking as Katie starts falling asleep.

When Jen turns out the light, I don't jump up and log on. I set the alarm and snuggle up behind her. It's nice, actually, to drift off to dreamland together, and those two, three extra hours of shuteye feel great.

(I used to do fine on five or fewer hours of sleep a night. Fatherhood put an end to that real quick.)

Part of it is that Jen's been unusually mushy lately, calling me at work just to say she loves me (to the great amusement of my coworkers), hugging a little harder, kissing a little longer...

And I have to say, it's damn catchy. There have been moments this past week -- slow dancing around the living room, cuddling on the couch watching Ally McBeal -- that have made me feel like it's 1994 again and I'm totally lovestruck and amazed to be holding this wonderful woman in my arms. I'd catch a faint smile on her face, cast just so in the amber glow of our small brass desk lamp, and get dizzy, just like I did during those late night chats in Hale Kanilehua when I had the biggest crush on her and she'd stretch and yawn and hug her big fluffy body pillow.

With everything that's happened in the last year and a half, and with a little one demanding nearly every ounce our love and energy, at times romantic thoughts seem like a luxury we don't even deserve. We've been so blessed in so many ways, had the bond between Jen and I faded some (and she always feared that it did), I would have just accepted it as the sole casualty of a war we've otherwise miraculously won.

But, perhaps as most parents discover after the hardest first months of childrearing, we haven't really lost it. Jen can still reduce me to a quivering, stuttering, love-sick fool if she tries.

I don't know if this recent rush of gooeyness on Jen's part is an engineered campaign or just the fortuitous alignment of the stars and other cosmic spirits, but I'm glad for it either way.

What the hell am I doing out here? A warm bed and a soft neck await in the next room.


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 24 July 1998 · Last Modified: 27 July 1998