Sunday, December 27, 2009
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
- Collected the whole pieces of food into a bag
- Swept behind and under every seat
- Stripped both child seats of their cloth covers and pre-washed and washed them
- Removed all the travel shrapnel from the wagon portion of the car and organized what remained into boxes.
- Collected all the travel toys into their bins
- Windexed every surface and put out a vanilla scented tree
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Late Autumn nights are like the secure discomfort
Of the subway or the long dark of the tunnel
Or (so I imagine) the mossy grave, holding
Down the body like a trapped spark in the
Hood of a lantern; a light felt but not emitted.
And so when sleep is broken by a sudden
Cry of a child, your child, and the life in that
Cry impacts night’s dark restraining hand
It fractures spiraling out in tiny perforations that
Buckle and twinkle like a guttering star.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
- Red wine with dinner on Friday night
- Stout beer with dinner on Saturday night
- One splurge night a week for sweets
- A slice of Sicilian pizza for lunch on my client days in New York
- Chinese take out when the whole house of cards starts to sway
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
My little guy is sick today. He’s got a cough and a light fever and a runny nose.
He’s a little out of it too, but I don’t think he’s figured that part out. He just goes on making noise and throwing toys like there was nothing wrong. It’s just that every few minutes he draws his forearm roughly across his little nose and face reactively and looks up with some confusion afterwards like he’d been struck by a wayward soccer ball.
“What the ... what’s up with my nose?” he seems to be thinking, his little weary eyes looking up at me appealingly, “Can you do something about this Dad?”
I’ve picked him up out of the crib once already tonight to give him some children’s Tylenol and a sippy cup with water. He sat on my knee too for 20 minutes or so watching Harry Potter on DVD while the medicine took effect. He’s back in his crib now, sleeping lightly.
I worry as much as anybody when either one of my kids is sick. They’re both so young. There both so precious to me. My head fills with awful irrational fears that they’ve caught something serious; even though my rational self (and his continued appetite) tells me otherwise.
“What if it is something serious?” I think and try to put those thoughts aside.
“You’ll know if it’s serious,” a voice tells me, “You won’t be guessing.”
I think this must be a common feeling among new parents, the worry over every little illness. The little twinge I feel every time I hear one of those loud coughs disrupt the night and pull me out of the light sleep that’s settled on me.
For him, I imagine, this is probably not a big deal. I’m sure it’s annoying, but he looks more confused than uncomfortable or really sick.
“This?” I hear him say to my imaged worry in our imagined conversation, “This?! This ain’t nothin’! I’m fine.”
But I think it is easier being the one worried about sometimes than the one who worries.
When I have these moments of angst, I can remember being a boy and waiting up with my mother for my father to return home from work. Some of the nights were dark and wintery and some of the waits were long (there were no cell phones back then). My mom, I could tell, was nervous and it rubbed off on me. I wanted the wait to be over. I didn't like the new fears that something might be wrong.
“If only I was with Dad in the car,” I remember thinking at the time, “Then I wouldn’t have to worry. I’d know.”
The thought seemed to comfort me a little at the time, though I still had no idea when he’d be home. I wish I could capture some of that comfort tonight. I wish I could feel like I was with my little guy in that car too.
But maybe that’s what happens when you have kids of your own - you can’t go back to that place with them. Maybe it’s only them who can see ahead to where you are. Maybe that’s one of the gifts that life gives to the very young; that inscrutable comfort that the imagination provides. I know I can’t find it tonight.
I hope he feels better tomorrow. I know I’ll sleep better when he’s breathing easy again. But I’ll just have to wait by the window and look out at the snow and wonder when he’ll come in out from under the weather.
Sleep well little man. I'll be up listening for you.
Friday, November 27, 2009
- That my son's condition is known and that he is better and we are better at helping him.
- That my daughter is healthy and full of delight and a good big sister.
- For my wonderful wife; my heart, my love, my reason.
- To be still employed in such financial turmoil and to be doing work that I am proud of.
- For President Obama and to be a citizen of this country who elected him.
- For Dawn Zimmer, our new mayor of Hoboken - you also give me hope.
- For my great neighborhood and the caring people who make it our home.
- For everyone whose encouraged me to write, and to Lisa Belkin who let me guest blog on Motherlode and Louise Kinross who let me guest write on Bloom.
- For every act of kindness I received and gave.
- For good therapists and doctors and nurses and counselors and advocates.
- To be healthy.
- To have the use of my wits and faculties, and the will to use them well.
- For all the teachers I encountered.
- For my grandmothers who look over me and my uncle Harry and Aunt Agnes who were like grandparents to me.
- For the family that raised me and the one that I joined.
- For Richard and Shelia and everyone whose needed help in the hospital this year.
- For all the writers who inspired me and taught me and educated me.
- For all the moms and dads who visit my blog and encourage me.
- For my brother's PhD. and my sister's efforts to found a school.
- For another year to be kind and hardworking and helpful and full of hope.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
- Fruit, meat, pasta.
- 20 minutes of unsupervised play.
- Bath and splashing
- 20 minutes of unsupervised play.
- Reading Little Bo Peep Can't Get to Sleep
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
“What are you eating Daddy?” my daughter asked.
It was well after dinner and I was snacking on a piece of Halloween candy. We had about two bags of mini chocolates left over from the holiday and I’ve been slowly sneaking bars off the top of the refrigerator - one or two a day. I’d been trying to keep it out of view of the kids - they have their own store of candy from their trick or treating - so they don’t get candied out.
“Daddy,” my daughter asked again, “What are you eating?”
She'd been chattering about her day and sharing her school artwork with me when she noticed that I was chewing and not responding too her.
“Mmmm,” I mumbled evasively, “Mnnothin weetie.”
She wasn’t fooled.
“Can I have some chocolate too,” she asked, “I’d like some chocolate Daddy please.”
Caught. Nabbed. I was looking into the eyes of a preschool Columbo.
“Um,” I said, quickly finishing the little square of chocolate, and trying to ignore her observations, “Can I see your school project again?”
“Okay Daddy,” she said smiling, “Can I have some chocolate?”
One of the hardest things I’m finding as a parent is to instill good eating habits in my kids while keeping my poor habits under control. I'm such a wimp when it comes to candy. I have a major sweet tooth and once I get on a chocolate kick, it’s very hard to stop.
“It’s past desert time,” I said, feeling both guilty and unfair, “Maybe tomorrow.”
She just looked at me for a few seconds as if she were a trying to puzzle out a nonsense rhyme and then went back to her toys. Gratefully she didn’t complain or demand a rationale for my incongruous behavior. She's a really good kid - too good actually.
Part of me thinks, I should just be up front with her. My parents never had any bones about a double standard.
“I’m the Daddy ... that’s why,” was one of my father’s favorites. As an adult too I see how hard the man had to work and realize there was a reason he'd earned that bowl of ice cream. But somehow I can’t say this.
I’m just torn. I guess I just don’t want the kid to realize how easily I give into this simple temptation. I’d like to feel like I’m still able to have a little candy stash with no consequences (other than the ones on my waistline). I want to sneak a candy bar in peace.
This wish, I know, is a denial. The kids will see what I do; there's no avoiding it. The days of Reeces and Snickers are gone - never to return.
Soon, I'm going to have to be a better Daddy. I'm going to have to live by my own rules (even the small ones). I’m gonna have to come clean, or give up the candy, or just share. Alas.
It’s a sad day.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
People say that having kids changes your life. Personally, I think it changed my brain.
I think I first began to notice this change somewhere between my daughters 6 month and 1 year doctor’s appointments. For the first six months, we were as green as parents can be. We worried about everything and would just use what I now call the scientific method to understand why my daughter was crying.
“That child is hungry,” a very kind older neighbor had said to me one night as I was walking her up and down the block to try and calm her.
“Oh,” I said knowingly, ”The doctor said not to feed her any more than once every three hours.“
She looked at me with kindly pity, but she didn’t mince her words. She put both hands on her hips and chided me like a grade school teacher would instruct a wayward boy.
”Give that child a bottle,“ she said, ”The doctor doesn’t come home with you.“
I stopped arguing. I got the bottle. She was right. My little girl must have been starving.
Since then, I’ve trusted my instincts more, and they’ve grown sharper with use. I can usually tell now when to:
- Go to the park.
- Suggest a book.
- Go on an adventure.
- Sing out nonsense words.
- Get ice cream.
- Order a time out.
- Pretend to cry and faint.
Along with many other home remedies I never imagined would be necessary or would work. I feel like Luke Skywalker sometimes after having trained with Yoda.
But I did not feel like a true Jedi until this last year helping to manage my son’s cerebral palsy.
My son has a weak left side, which is the result of a pre-birth stroke to the right side of his brain. It’s impeded his ability to move normally and it made him especially dependent on us for far longer than my daughter was. His speech has also been delayed (we’re not sure if this is the result of the stroke or not) and he’s only recently begun to use words and signs to communicate with us.
And for the first year, he wouldn’t sleep more than two hours at a shot.
I think his sleeplessness was party due to his inability to adjust his little body in bed. I speculate too that his brain was still in the process of re-wiring itself; learning (not re-learning) how to function without the control centers that were affected by the stroke. I say I think because, even the neurologist couldn’t say what was going on with my son.
”Whaaaa!“ ; ”Eh, Eh, Eh!“ ; ”Ahh! Ahh! Ahh! Ahhhhhhhhhh!“
We had to learn what these (and a thousand various sounds) meant was going on inside his mind and body. It felt like we had to develop special mind powers.
My wife and I must have lost a year of sleep between us. After a while we began to look at each other in the morning like two depleted soldiers in one of the army’s advanced training schools.
The two of us became, after a while, like war hardened commandos:
- Sleeping with one eye open.
- Able to come to focus from a deep sleep instantly.
- Able to go for weeks on an hour or less of sleep.
- Laser like focus on a single problem - think changing a diaper in the dark with a child flailing arms and legs.
These changes did not come without their cost.
We were cranky and difficult to be around; we were exhausted and foggy; we had less focus for other tasks.
I became a real bear to be around at work too. Each time a new problem arrived at my office; or someone cut me off in traffic; or a thoughtless person would offer unhelpful suggestions about child rearing; I had to fight off the instinct to just lay into them or simply level them.
”Hi - ya!“ was the sound Miss Piggy used to make when she’d get angry enough to fight. I began to hear that sound in my brain at these moments.
I think I was trying to focus my negative energy away from the kids while I was undergoing this radical transformation. I know I left a trail of stunned coworkers behind me at work on the days when I couldn’t control my temper. I’m normally very political. During this time I took any opportunity my adversaries offered to respond with a verbal counterpunch.
”Hi - ya! Take that you well rested fools!“
”They’re lucky,“ I used to tell myself, ”I’m not carrying a real light saber.“
Things are easier now. The physical therapy has helped tremendously. The boy can move. The boy can speak a little. We’re starting to get a more logical picture of what’s going on with our son. It makes it easier to help him.
He normally sleeps for longer stretches now too - often now we get a night of unbroken rest.
But the change has occurred and those powers we acquired over the last year seem to have become permanent. GingerB who commented on my blog the other night, calls these extra sensory feelings a spideysense. I think she’s got the right description. Just like Peter Parker, we suddenly undergo a kind of marvel-like transformation that leaves us this way. There’s no going back either.
I find that my wife and I get more done these days with less talk and discussion. There’s more unstated coordination that occurs with the children and with the house. I also find that I’m more adept with my interactions with people in general. Something has changed in me. It makes me feel strong.
”Use your powers for good,“ my wife has an aunt who says this playfully to us younger folk, ”Use your powers for good.“
I mean to; and I will.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
When the kids wake up at night, I find that if I can attend to them quickly they will sometimes go right back to sleep.
With my daughter, it’s just a glass of water and sitting with her for a few minutes while she drops off back to sleep. She’s older and responds to my voice, so I have usually a little more time - maybe two minutes - to fill a glass and stop in.
With my son, I have about a quarter of the time.
“Eh ... eh ... eh,” his little sputtering sounds of discomfort are like a stubborn engine that won’t turn over in the cold. When I hear these sounds - I can usually come out of a deep rem sleep for these - I know I’ve got to move fast. Any delay and I’ll have lost my opportunity.
I’ve got to get downstairs, find a clean bottle or sippy cup, fill it with milk (sorry Dr. Stern - our dentist) and get back up two flights of stairs. In this exercise the design of the house is against me. The stairs are narrow and steep and my feet are large and not too nimble. I’m like a Grizzly trying to scale a tree.
I expect I sound a lot like a big bear when I shamble up and down the stairs like this; something big and clumsy and prone to fits of growls. The neighbors must think I’m a little crazed.
But the cost of delay can be so high. If I linger in bed - hoping uselessly that the boy will just go back to sleep - I’m lost. If he’s upset, it could be an hour before the boy will sleep again. One night he got himself so thoroughly roused, he refused to do anything but play with his toys for nearly four hours. I was nodding and my chin was slipping off my hand by the time he began to yawn and rub his eyes that night.
“Whaaaaaa!” is the sound that, when heard, is like the stock market falling below a round number - I can feel the floor just slipping away and full panic setting in. If he’s reached this stage, there’s no knowing when he’ll calm down. It won’t just be a long stretch of midnight play; it will be a trip back down newborn lane - a walk that Lou Reed would sing about.
There are fewer of these nights these days, gladly. I think the work that his physical therapists have done with him have helped him to adjust his little body while he sleeps enough that he can make himself comfortable most of the time. But i still suspect that there are moments when the little guy’s weak left side is bothering him in some way - I can only guess.
I was lucky tonight. I was still awake when it happened. Though sleepy, i was able to hit the stairs with most of my wits present. One of these nights, I know, I’m just going to sail down those stairs like the 41 year old Peter the middle aged Pan Man I am and land on my rump - oh boy. I’ll wake up in a fog and lose my feet or miss the handrail or get tripped up by the cat. It will be picturesque I’m sure.
But tonight the little guy got his bottle in record time and went right back down. I feel a little like the famous Dutch boy at the dike - the whole house sleeps because of my quick thinking. I’m getting a little loopy I guess.
I wonder sometimes if speed will always play a role in handling my kids. I wonder what it will be like when I slow down a bit more, and lose what remaining balance and poise I possess; I’ll be on the ropes.
“Kids keep you young,” my Dad would often say when I was growing up.
“They do,” I think sometimes when I hustle like that, “They keep me quick.”
Hope I can keep my feet for the next twenty years.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
My son had trouble going to sleep tonight. His teeth (we guess) are hurting again and he just wakes up suddenly in great discomfort. It’s normal, I know, but it’s not easy to see him like that.
But tonight, he took some comfort from my picking him up out of his crib and holding him for a while. He stopped crying and pointed up at the ceiling fan - he loves the ceiling fan - and then looked back at me.
“Fan,” he said with a knowing look, “Fan.”
I put the lights down and sang some Carly Simon and James Taylor songs that I know well in my out of tune voice. He obliged me and put his little head on my shoulder and didn’t complain about his Dad’s singing.
We went on like this for a while. It’s hard to know just from the sound of his breathing if he’s really asleep. But after a time, I took my chances and swung him down into a cradle. He cracked open an eye and looked up at me, but didn’t resume crying thankfully. I went on singing some Dan Fogelberg that I also know and he didn’t complain.
Eventually, he let me put him back in the crib. He turned over from his back to his tummy (I’ve given up on insisting on back sleeping) and let out a sigh and curled up and went to sleep.
I stood and watched the gentle rise and fall of his breathing for a while. He makes me think, when he’s like this, of a bear cub at rest; playful and sweet and always on the lookout for honey.
On a night like tonight, chances are he’ll be up again in a while, and one of us will be trying to comfort him again. Sometimes he can be calmed. Sometimes not.
But when he’s able to let me help him like this, there’s no sweeter feeling in the world.
Monday, November 9, 2009
Starting somewhere from the time that folks get back from their summers in early September and the time that their kids vacation in December are some of the most demanding work days of the year. The people that I work with seem to have acquired the urgency of a species of bird that migrates down to the south lands every year - and nothing stops that ride.
“Are we on track ... your project will go red ... we’ll have to utilize the weekends ... call them at home, this is urgent ...,” I can’t say how many times on a daily basis these words fly through the air at work like so many dodge balls aimed at random players just trying to avoid humiliation and elimination.
And the games don’t stop at sundown. The pager and the cell phone can go off at most any hour on most any day. In fifteen minutes or so, I’m supposed to be on a call with our counterparts who work on a side of the globe where the sun is shining just now. I feel sometimes like technology and the stock market cycles have stolen the quiet that used to come with the shortened days of fall and replaced it with the work equivalent of 24 hour news.
All of which makes it that much more difficult to dedicate time to spend with the kids on a daily basis. I try to leave home only after I’ve spent time with my kids in the morning and leave the office early enough to be home for bath and story time.
“Is today a swimming day,” my daughter has begun to ask each morning. Saturdays we go to swim lessons at the YMCA for her and she knows these are days when I don’t work.
“No Sweetheart,” I’ll say with a sigh, “Today’s a school day and a work day.”
“Will the day after today be a swimming day,” she asks again hopefully. I try to let her down gently on the days when this is not true.
“Okay Daddy, maybe we’ll go for my birthday,” my daughter responds. She has some concept of time, but anything further away than tomorrow becomes far enough away to be her next birthday.
“Okay Daddy, we’ll go when I’m five.”
Sometimes it feels like it might take that long.
Thanksgiving, though is only a few weeks off, and that usually offers a brief respite before the final rush into December. By the middle of that last month of the year, the all consuming fear seems to have finally drained out of the workplace like poison from a snakebite. And it doesn’t matter at that point what the result of all our efforts has been - good or bad. It’s as if we’ve all returned to college and will take nearly any grade short of a rock bottom F as a sign of completion.
“What are you doing for the holidays,” is what I’m longing to hear more than anything. That and to see the normal humanity that I think most people want to display start to appear without apprehension in their faces.
“Your kids off from school soon ... will you be traveling .... going home at all,” the hallway conversations and phone calls become so much more pleasant. I start to feel like a person again, and not just a drone in a work camp.
The weather will be colder. There will also be that mania that seems to drive everyone to distraction with the shopping. But the demands that drive the pace at work will have subsided and retreated like an army wintering away from the battles.
I’ll look forward to those changes and the extra time that comes when things slow down at work. I’ll take the last two vacation days that I always save for emergencies or for the end of the year.
“Swimming day today,” is what I'm wishing I can say to my kid on a weekday, “It’s a swimming day today little Sweetheart.”
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
My daughter has had for some unspecified period of time two twin stuffed bears called Billy and Billy. I don’t recall from whom we received these bears or how they became known as the Billy Bears, but one or the other of them has been dragged with my daughter on every adventure she’s had in recent memory. More specifically, they’ve been dragged through her adventures, picking up all kinds of muck and dirt on the way.
Now, I’m not particularly offended by dirty stuffed animals. Prior to the Billys tenure with us, I would simply throw the offending animal or doll into the wash after the child had gone to bed and put it back before she woke.
With the arrival of the Billys, however, there have been several obstacles to this approach.
- “Noooooo Daddy! Not my Billy!” - My daughter will not allow the Biillys to be bathed in her sight. Assuming, that like her, they dread the water, she protects them with the fierceness of a mother bear.
- “Noooooo! Don’t take Billy!” - My daughter has developed the uncanny ability to wake instantly if one of the Billys is removed from her bed.
- “Don’t take Billy's Spiderman Band Aid!” - During her infatuation with Disney band aid stage, she festooned the Billys with Band aids. FESTOONED - They are simply covered head to foot and look as if they ought be rescued by New Jersey Bear Services.
Tonight though, she let down her guard and left one of the Billy’s on the first floor of the house.
I was not at first aware of Billy's presence. I went about my evening business: cleaning the kitchen, sorting the mail, plucking the toys out of the dishwasher (its fixed - Hooray!). And then I caught sight of him - more accurately, I caught sight of something.
“What the... Aaahhh!,” he was bunched up in the corner of the kitchen. With his little bear face against the wall, his matted fur and brown color made him look like something fierce and feral and rodent like that didn't belong in my kitchen. We’ve had mice, but this guy was big.
“Are you all right?” my wife shouted down urgently from the bedroom, “Are you hurt?”
“Fine,” I tried to say calmly, wondering if I was fine and what I was going to do if the thing moved or bared it's teeth.
"Oh, for the love of," When I realized my mistake, I picked up the little creature and set him on the countertop.
He was looking like a pretty sorry little soul, bandaged and dirty as he was.
“Billy,” I said in my most polite tone, “In perfect truth, you are the filthiest little vagrant I’ve ever seen. It’s a sign of how much I love my little girl that I allow you at all.”
I’ve spent the last hour trying to put him through Billy Bear rehab.
• I’ve hand washed him several times.
• I’ve steamed the band aids off his little fur.
• I’ve bathed him in boiling water from the tea pot.
• I’ve scrubbed him with a brush that I use to scrub the deck.
I’m nearly satisfied with him. Billy looks better.
He won’t look much like a twin though when I put him next to his brother in the morning. They’re going to look more like Good Billy and his Evil and very Dirty Twin Brother. And I’m not sure after she sees the damage I’ve done to the loving adornments that Good Billy no longer has, that my daughter will ever let the other out of her sight.
But it’s good to know that I’ve done my good deed today. I helped a bear get clean.
“Billy, Billy, Billy ... oh Billy!”