Sunday, December 26, 2010

The First of Many

My parents, THE WIFE, and I stood together in the living room on Christmas Eve. The kids were asleep. We had toys to assemble. And it was already eleven o'clock. My parents were calm. They've been there before. My dad's reaction was unsurprising and amusing. "Ah. (pausing) You got a dry red? Merlot?" I ran to the basement and snagged a bottle of Chuck Shaw. We got to work - on the wine and the toys.

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From ages 18 to 33, I appreciated the time spent with my family during Christmas of course. But the supposed magic or aura of the actual holiday gradually decreased with time. The religious aspect never did it for me. The songs stopped appealing to me. The movies ceased moving me. I'm indifferent about cookies. And though I loved giving presents, I rarely enjoyed receiving them. I don't think I was necessarily a Scrooge by any means, but the holiday hype was more bothersome and irritating than enjoyable.

Then, Greta was born. Last year, she was too young to have any palpable reaction to the festivities. But this year was a whole different story. All of those fun things about Christmas that I forgot re-emerged and reintroduced themselves.

We kicked off the season by riding on a Polar Express train ride excursion with both of the kids, her cousins, and the little ones of THE WIFE'S Carver neighborhood friends. The kids were all dressed in their pajamas. After caroling, dancing, and looking at lights, we got off the train and strolled around. A little reception hall had hot chocolate, face painting, and a place to make ornaments. Greta was eating it up.

The highlight of that night was when Greta walked right up to her new BFF Frosty the Snowman. She waved at him fearlessly while beaming with adoration. It shocked me because our experience with Santa the year before didn't go as smoothly. Granted, Frosty was probably a stoned teenager on break from college underneath the costume, but I was grateful nonetheless.

A week later, we put up the tree. G loved hanging the ornaments, which she dangled almost entirely on one branch at the very end. Classic.

Of course, the tree stand I used was too small, which caused the tree to fall over twice the next day breaking several ornaments, making Greta cry, and resulting in my curse-filled, frantic drive to Lowe's, but Greta and THE WIFE were relieved as the tree rose again this time with something like 20 more strands of lights. (Still standing, by the way.)

While her fear of real-life Santas continued like the Real Wives of Beverly Hills fear normal sized lips or faces that move, Greta became a huge fan of cartoon caricatures or small version models of St. Nick. Rudolf is cool but probably only because of his resemblance to Bambi. We even waved at baby Jesus together when passing by the town center's Nativity scene.

After a few weeks, the seasonal songs began to take reawaken my Christmas cheer's soul. Listening to Gigi sing Jingle Bells or Frosty the Snowman comprised the best five seconds of my days leading up to the big event. Greta only knew the first four words of each song but it's all I needed to hear.

Then, the other little things also began to impress: the outdoor light displays of any quality (the inflatable jobs are her fave), Christmas cookies (she baked some with Mimi), wrapping paper, and even just playing in the snow. I hadn't paid any attention to these things since Teenwolf was dunking on the Dragons or Gizmo got fed after midnight.

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On Christmas morning, Greta's new trampoline, toy kitchen, and chalkboard/drawing easel sat freshly assembled. (The Grandparents and parents gratefully sipped their coffee or tea.) All three gifts seemed to be big hits, though the trampoline probably had a slight edge. As Gigi bounced gleefully, I understood why my parents were so quick to accept our invitation to sleep over. I think I felt that old-school Christmas magic again.

My only gift to Greta - a set of hers and hers ice skates (a pair to Greta and a pair to THE WIFE) - got pushed aside immediately after opening so she could go back to the trampoline. Poetic justice! That was fine by me, though. I was just happy the kitchen's appliances all beeped properly. Now if someone wouldn't mind telling Greta that the decorations and tree have to disappear for a little, that would be great. Thanks.

Have a happy and healthy 2011 everyone!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Wakeup Call

Perhaps lulled into a false sense of security by three-plus months of encouraging doctors' visits, I didn't think much about Gus' visit for x-rays this past Tuesday. G-man has been consistently impressing his cardiologist, endocrinologist, primary care physician, physical therapist, and basically anyone related to him by blood, marriage, and friendship. Granted, he's had a loud kind of breathing sound since he was born, but Gus has been growing at a fine pace and his personality has been more animated than ever.

The quiet hero of our family is definitely Michelle. Both of us have amazingly compassionate employers and supervisors, but my job keeps me on a random road schedule that is difficult to predict - so our matriarch somehow handles every single medical appointment for the kids, while balancing a full-time job. Fortunately, we both went to Gus' recent consult at the Children's Hospital DS Clinic, so I was well aware of the reasons behind the referral to have him swallow barium with his formula. They wanted to be sure he was not aspirating when he ate. In other words, was formula getting into his lungs when he swallowed?

I knew the outcome of the swallowing study the second I heard Michelle's voice when she called. "Okay, temporary setback," I thought. So we just have to thicken his formula. No big deal. Wrong. He would return as an in-patient on Wednesday. Here we go again.

It's funny how easy it was for me to forget about all of the potential complications that could arise due to Gus having DS. After so many weeks of development that paralleled pretty much all of our "typical" experiences with Greta's first four months, I became naively confident that no other medical issues would arise with our little superstar. But there I was, packing a bag and panicking that I might forget some critical piece of clothing or toy before we left for who knows how long.

Of course, I wasn't upset in any way towards the G-man at any time whatsoever. But the unexpected news about another potential obstacle to our quest for Gus to have a clean bill of health alarmed me. What was all this business about feeding tubes? Our little guy was fine. These doctors gotta be overreacting, right? I was at stage one already: denial.

And, frankly, the interruption to our family's daily routine frustrated me. Why Gus? Why us? Hasn't he and we been through enough already? Who would watch Gigi while we were gone? Both Shell and I couldn't have had busier weeks with our jobs. Plus, we were re-entering the hospital world where the promptness of scheduled visits by doctors were as reliable as arrival times by an MBTA bus or subway. Fucking A, man. Now I was at stage two: the self-pity percolated.

Then, we got to the hospital. I looked around us. Worried and caring parents abounded with children of all ages enduring a myriad of disorders and illnesses that spanned a vast range of severity. Reality check. Forget about the small stuff that was seemingly important. Focus on Gus. Listen to the doctors. Ask probing questions. Be sure to understand what they're saying. Make educated decisions. Be a good father and a strong partner to my wife.

After our admission, we immediately became reminded of why Children's Hospital is so great: the nursing staff. Shannon and Ann were yet more all stars in the Hall of Fame cast that has cared for the G-man during both of his stays at Children's. And, to their credit, the doctors seemed to be appearing much more frequently than I unfairly stereotyped. Everybody - literally - was again phenomenal. Very empathetic. Extremely patient. Totally assuring.

As for the cold facts of Gus' situation, Shell and I have different understandings of what is causing the aspiration. Without dispute, he has laryngomalacia - basically, a narrowing in the passage between his mouth and stomach. Doctors have also said he has a floppy airway. (I think they mean the same thing. Shell thinks they are two different issues.) Irregardless, somewhere in Gus' airway, it apparently allows formula into the lungs when it should only be air. This creates a higher risk of pneumonia and long-term lung damage, among others. Consequently, he has a nasogastric (NG) tube for the indefinite future.

The NG tube is a small tube that goes through Gus' nose into his stomach that gets hooked up to a pump for every feeding he has (about 5 or 6 a day.) Fortunately, we can feed him one ounce of formula immediately before activating the pump so he won't forget his eating reflexes. The good news about the NG: it's relatively easy to put in and pull out. Plus, other than the annoyance of its placement through the nose, the tube isn't anchoring into anything internal or external.

The bad news about the NG: it's relatively easy to pull out. Vegas already posted an over-under line for Greta's first successful removal of the NG at one week. I'll take the under.

Not surprisingly, Gus' mom is already a champ at installing the NG. After installing one for practice, Shell got called into duty in the middle of Night 2 when Gus yanked it out in his sleep. But what else would you expect from a mom who, although she trusts dad's abilities entirely, insists on sleeping over to be present "in case anything happens"?

There is a possibility that the NG tube could be replaced by a gastrostomy tube (G tube), which goes directly into his stomach through his belly, but for the time being he seems to be handling the NG okay. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

We got the green light to go home on Friday and rejoin Miss Greta where she was being thoroughly spoiled by her Mimi, who came to the rescue on extremely short notice. As was the case in July, everything worked out, just not in the way we originally expected.

Triumphantly, Gus, Shell, and I exited through the lobby into the chilly frenzy of pedestrians and traffic of Longwood Ave. As we passed by Santa Claus and an elf standing idly on the sidewalk, I nodded with a smile whereupon Saint Nick extended his hand and said, "Here you go, dad. Happy Holidays." Expecting to see a coupon for 10% off at Dunkin's or the like, I was shocked to find what appeared to be a $50 bill in my hand. By the time I inspected the gift for authenticity (it's bona fide) and turned back to thank the philanthropists, they were gone.

While astounded to be the recipient of such an unexpectedly generous gift, we were much more grateful to be going home with our still perfect baby. Happy Holidays, everybody!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Night in the Life

The doorbell rang. Standing in the kitchen with Augey strapped to my chest in the baby bjorn, I was smackdab in the middle of a dinner jam session with both kids. (Pretty sure it was The Clash playing in the background.) Using Gus' left arm as a guitar neck and his right leg as the bridge, I was channeling my inner Pete Townsend by windmilling a G-man air guitar. Meanwhile, Greta was demonstrating her version of "devil horns" (or the Longhorns sign for you Texans) as she sat confined in her highchair, which looked more like a double finger mom dance at a wedding after a few white zins.

"Uh oh," I thought. "Hope it's not DSS."

Fortunately, it was just the former owners of our house who were picking up some mail during a Thanksgiving trip back home. "C'mon in," I offered waiving them inside with Gus' feet dangling around in front of me. Clad in suit pants and white undershirt stained with spit-up and Greta's dinner shrapnel, I explained that THE WIFE was out galavanting with her GFs at a nice adult dinner free from constant threats of timeouts, Tinkerbell sightings, and Gigi's claims of "accidents" after she's spitefully hucked a broccoli branch to the ground. They politely declined the tour and insisted that I return to dinner.

Next up, bathtime for Greta as Gus reclined in the rainforest vibrating seat, tripping out as frogs and parrots moved simultaneously. Then on to PJs and diaper changes for both peanuts. We return to the kitchen for a nightcap: sippy cup of milk for Greta, 6 oz of Similac for Gus, and a tumbler of Jameson for Daddy - strike that, a Polar lemon seltzer for Daddy.

The three of us subsequently retired to the living room where we queued up "Ellyfants" per Gigi's request a/k/a National Geographic's "Great Migrations" series. (Yes, she's daddy's little girl alright.) Little miss sipped her organic whole as G-man whacked back his formula. We "do" books when mommy's home and we're in man-to-man coverage, but that night I was scrambling with a 1:2 zone-D, Gus was hungry, and I wasn't gonna risk messing up his mojo. I was on the verge of getting these two down by 8:30 and then a quiet house was all mine until THE WIFE returned, so I wasn't taking any chances.

While distracted by a food coma and full belly, I temporarily deserted Augustus in his swing and threw the original G. over my shoulder. Off to bed for you, young lady. Quickly, I zipped up the sleep sack (yes, we still use one - our house is frigid), plopped her in the crib (yes, we still use a bumper - the shame!), and handed over the three (gasp) binkies (the horror!) that Greta promptly plopped - one each - into her mouth and hands.

Incidentally, our daughter does this thing with the pacifiers in her hand where she rubs them on her eyes as she settles into sleep. It's kinda funny and I have no clue of the significance. But it's worth mention because THE WIFE tells me the blog's infrequency of late is failing to record our family's history, so there.

Then, the main event. (With a nod towards Leslie Nielsen.) Summoning Enrico Palazzo, I began my nightly serenade to Greta. My concert usually entails a random combination of nursery rhymes, rock classics, improvisational ballads, and the occasional Irish ditty, which all depend on the energy/enthusiasm level of course. That night, it could've been "Itsy, Bitsy Spider" (Greta loves the tickle part) into "When I'm 64" into "Whistling Gypsy" into "Cheerios" (my creation). To signal that I'm done, I saluted my little love as usual with blowing kisses, I love you's, sleep-tight-don't-let-the-bed-bugs-bite, etc., all while inching towards the door - but that night, like most every night, she sweetly requested an encore. "One more?" I heard somewhat mumbled beneath the binky.

I paused and listened for any squawks from the Gus-man. All quiet. "Okay honey," I replied. "Twinkle, twinkle..." Just another night in our little paradise.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

No, Really

For better or more likely worse, I've realized that my enthusiasm for our kids in their newborn states - was well, not as enduring as I think it should have been. I know. Go ahead and gasp. The shame. The horror. It's my dirty little secret of fatherhood. (Eeeek, re-reading that last paragraph makes me worry I'm not articulating well. Let's try that again.)

After the initial excitement of the kids' arrivals, the routine of feeding, burping, diaper changing, clothes changing, sleep, etc. grinded on me sporadically. The Groundhog Day moments wore me down at irregular times. And I'm only home for a portion of the day to parent.

I confess with some shame that there were times where I manufactured excuses to leave the room, abandon Gigi and/or Gus with their mom, in order to escape temporarily to recharge and regain my sanity. Perhaps it's the sleep deprivation, the disappearance of a social life, the paranoid pressure to rush home from work as soon as possible to avoid the "where are you" phone call, the bouts of monotony, or a combination of all. Maybe it's just the forced transition of becoming less selfish. Who knows?

With Greta, everything was gravy once she began sleeping 6 and then 8 hours a night. With Gus, I thought, he just needs to turn that sleep corner and everything will stabilize.

Now don't get me wrong. The experiences of becoming acquainted with my two children in their newborn states provided many moments of utter happiness. Greta was our first, so of course the newness of parenthood was invigorating in its own right. And with Gus, after all that he endured, I shouldn't complain about anything for even a millisecond. But I'm an American. I want it all the easiest and fastest way possible. And I'm the guy who complained of a shoulder cramp while holding THE WIFE's leg during Greta's delivery.

Why am I writing all of this? Because G-man has turned that corner from newborn to baby. Forget about not needing oxygen or calorie-enriched formula, he's sleeping (knock on wood - please no jinx) eight hours a night. My boy holds his head up by himself. His little legs kick crazily when his sister dances carefreely around him. And my absolute favorite development - he smiles and laughs if you chat gently or make ridiculous faces at him. August, simply said, continues to impress all of his loved ones after a matter of just minutes together.

Take last week for instance. One night, I somehow forgot to put a diaper on Greta before putting her to bed. She woke up soaked at 2 a.m. Mama cleaned up our girl and the bed. Of course, Greta wouldn't go back down, so I took over guilt ridden trying at 3 o'clock attempting unsuccessfully to induce her sleep until 5:30 a.m. came and I showered for work.

Three nights later, the fire alarms' low battery beeps began at 3 a.m. without stopping until 11 a.m. Standing in my underwear on a coffee table, after apparently installing dead replacement batteries, I made a 4 a.m. drive to Mobil for 9-volts cursing the entire time. Long story short, I disconnected the culprit from the electric supply only to discover hours later that it still somehow had enough power to continue beeping. If only I had thrown that alarm out the window, then Greta, THE WIFE, and I may have been able to go back to sleep.

On both of these awful nights, though, G-man snoozed away peacefully until he woke up at his normal time, smiling as soon as his gentle cries were answered. His happy face was contagious. How could I not grin back at him?

Now I realize it was never my kids who needed to turn any corner. It was me and I'm definitely there. And as for Gus - really, he's still doing great.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Trick or Treat

Greta will be fluttering around our neighborhood as a butterfly this Sunday, while Gus scavenges around (mommy's/daddy's arms) as the cutest skunk ever. Photos will ensue on FB aplenty, I'm sure, so stay tuned.

Halloween is a curious holiday, don't you think? It's a strange breed who enjoy it. Personally, I love it. You won't see me in a Twilight werewolf or vampire costume at work tomorrow, but I will nod with approval/amusement at those riding the subway in one. The witty, creative costumes are the best ones in my opinion though I will not complain one bit at the French maids, (adult) Catholic schoolgirls, naughty nurse/nun/librarian/bus driver and any woman dressing like someone from the Jersey Shore this weekend but that goes without saying. And yes, Greta will be a butterfly or the like until she's 30.

As a parent, the dress up part is easy to sell and experience enthusiastically with the little kiddos. The candy isn't so important right now as G-man is still pounding formula and little miss' treats are just an occasional cookie here and there.

The scary component of Hallow's eve is a little more difficult to introduce, however. Greta still gets freaked out occasionally if a bunch of us just clap and yell at the same time in close proximity to her. This brings us to a minor dilemma. When do we watch our first scary movies together? I don't want the kids to be so freaked out that they have nightmares or need to sleep in our beds, but it'll be fun to scare them at least just a little - when they're old enough.

I'm not a huge fan of horror movies, per se. But I do enjoy scary movies in a flossing/John Cougar Mellencamp/hurt so good way. In no particular order, here are a few my personal faves:

1.) Poltergeist - Saw this for the first time on HBO when my family took a road trip to visit one of my mom's college roommates. Little did the adults know as they chatted and laughed over a couple drinks in the next room that I sat terrified under a blanket, transfixed on the television hoping never to wear braces in my future adolescence.

2.) The Wizard of Oz - Yes, this is a horror movie as far as I'm concerned for a 7 year-old. I'm not sure how it holds up today against CGI or even documentary/Blair Witch/Paranormal Activity-like scary movies, but the wicked witch, the music that accompanied her bicycle riding, and the evil, flying monkeys rendered me sleepless on multiple occasions.

3.) Ghostbusters - Granted, I haven't seen this flick in years but the transformations of Rick Moranis and Sigourney Weaver into the gargoyle-like possessed keymaster and gatekeeper creeped me out. (Yes, I was and continue to be a slight pansy but "So what, who cares?" as Fred Armisen says a la Joy Behar from The View.)

4.) Silence of the Lambs - What I would give to be able to talk like Hannibal Lecter at work. Plaintiff attorneys might just dismiss their clients' cases voluntarily without any settlement offer if I could deliver lines like: "Quid pro quo. Yes or no, Clarice? Poor little Catherine is waiting." Too bad sequels water the original down.

5.) The Shining - The big wheel. The twins saying, "Come play with us, Danny." Tony living in Danny's tummy. The river of blood. Jack. Awesome.

6.) Friday the 13th - Great for token boob shots during a hook up scene followed immediately by one or both of the horny lovers massacred. The lesson, as always, don't ever try to get after it in a horror movie.

7.) Se7en - Other than Gwyneth's head in a box, I always remember the glutton's death for some reason. Spacey was great in this. It's tough to turn the channel whenever TNT mixes Se7en into the rotation with Road House and Red Dawn.

8.) 28 Days Later - Zombie movies could fill their own category as far as I'm concerned but my sister's cinematic obsession is contagious. Of all the Z films, this one got me hooked. It also triggers an impulse to scan the streets every so often for quick exit points in the event of sudden, civil unrest. Remember, crow bars and machetes don't need reloading.

Nos. 9 and 10? I'm leaving that up to you.

So those are my treats this week. If you prefer a trick instead, come on by 20 Gawaine this Sunday and don't be surprised to see a little Thriller dance coming at ya.

Happy Hallow's Eve, ghosts and goblins!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Brainfart

I've got nothing this week because my brain is shot and THE WIFE abandoned me with the kiddos to go out with her girlfriends tonight. Greta and Gus alternated like tag team wrestlers on me with hysterical crying spells as I tried to feed, bathe, change, and get them to bed. Once I was able to sedate them successfully, I got my revenge by gleefully selecting delete every time the DVR asked if it should turn the station from the NLCS Championship to Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, or whatever other horrible show was scheduled to begin.

Like a bad dream, I keep thinking about Saved By The Bell as a blog topic. With nothing else coming to mind, I guess we'll go with it. Re-runs of this show are on at 7 a.m. on TBS every weekday. I know this because the girl who works at the front desk of the gym who ignores me every morning as I enter or exit is deeply engrossed in whatever zany antics that Zack, Slater, Screech, and company are up to. Due to the fact that she's catching up on episodes missed from 20 years ago, half of the TVs in the gym are also showing it. So of course, I watch too when I'm struggling through an elliptical workout. But with no audio. And with the perspective of an archaeologist. Be warned, I have no point. Just a few observations.

First, Dustin Diamond has to be the most fake stage name in the history of terrible television. Second, I don't care how much action Dustin got from hangers-on or women currently in their 30s looking to blow away their girlfriends when opening a conversation with "Guess who I hooked up with last weekend?" - I would never, ever, ever, ever trade places with that dude.

As for Mario Lopez, is he the new and improved version of Dick Clark? That guy hasn't aged a single bit since he's been on the show. With the exception of no longer wearing pastel tanktops and Cavaricci jeans, he looks exactly the same. Well, maybe he's done away with the Latin soul glow too.

Every time I see Elizabeth Berkley, it makes more and more sense to me why she did the "Showgirls" movie. (I think the supposed male sex symbol for that movie was Kyle MacLachlan - a/k/a Bree Hodge's husband on Desperates - how funny is that?!)

Zack at least got to be on NYPD Blue. Or was that Ricky Schroeder? I can't remember.

Mr. Belding unfortunately for him was like Mr. Walsh on 90210 - never to be heard from again. And that's all I've got to say about that.

Thumbs up this week to... the dudes who work in a dilapidated parking garage across the street from where I work. These dudes squeeze way more cars than I'm sure any applicable building code allows into three levels of a garage that is ready to collapse any second. For $20 a day, it's a bargain. And I'm pretty sure they drive customers' wheels around like the Ferrari in Ferris Bueller... the creepy beard sported by San Francisco's closer. It's frightening to me in the same way when I notice a dude wearing manliner. Mission accomplished, bro, I'd be intimidated if I was digging into the box to face you.

Thumbs down this week to... Men's Wearhouse. I had to retrieve some suit pants that sustained an unfortunate tear during a worm at my buddy's wedding. I feel so molested by the eyes and words of salesmen in there, it's almost as though I'm a Mexican sports reporter with a bedonkadonk and serious cleavage in a NY Jets locker room... Tim Lincecum's hair salad. As a man who enjoyed his own mangy locks during the early glory days of groovy oovy (UVM), I appreciate a carefully sculpted coiffure. But Tim's mane needs to decide: either go with the "business in front and party in back" flowing mullet or wrap that crap up in a hair net under his baseball lid. I'm not an anti-long hair. I just need to see a direction... While we're here, as if Tom Brady's neon white teeth weren't bad enough, the blond highlights of his Fabio-esque locks should make every true Pats' fan feel downright embarrassed. As soon as a dude begins to pay more than $14 for a hair cut, he's officially high maintenance. With his Brazilian supermodel wife, gazillions of dollars, and 3 Superbowl rings, I'm sure he's hurt by my opinion.

Thumbs comme ci comme ca this week to... kitty heels. While I appreciate that they give a minimum amount of lift compared to (ho-hum) flats, they still don't do it for me. I read a couple months ago in Vogue I think (I swear there wasn't anything else interesting in the magazine rack at Gold's) that kitty's were the next "in" thing. Yawn. I'm a fan of the standard high heels, thank you very much. (Yes, I was the same guy ripping on Brady's highlights a few sentences ago.)...

Monday, October 11, 2010

You Do Milk?

Two kids in two years. Back on October 25, 2008, I launched waitingforbabyt/daddio de novo with "So you've got swimmers..." (anyone remember back that far?) at the encouragement of THE WIFE, as we braced for the arrival of Greta the following February. I was kind of just feeling my way around in the dark - both on the writing front and on the expecting parent front. Two years and Gus' addition to the family later, we Ts are still kicking like ninjas. And somehow amongst the chaos of our routine, the blogs have continued - albeit infrequently but technically they keep coming.

Meanwhile, you all reading these words have also stuck around. I wanted to take a second to thank you for that. Sharing with you in this way has been fulfilling for THE WIFE and I on many levels. I'm particularly grateful to those who have taken the time to comment either here, on FB, or during conversation. The encouragement and positive feedback means a lot. I am especially indebted to THE WIFE as my editor, guinea pig, muse, therapist, and consigliere on all matters blog-related and otherwise. Heart you big time Bug.

Who knows how long this blog will go? I certainly have no idea. But I know undoubtedly that I still enjoy writing it. So, I hope you still enjoy reading it. When it starts to get stale or boring, do me a favor and throw a rotten tomato at me. Until then, keep reading and enjoy.

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My pops, Griswald, has many peculiar sayings - several of which my brother captured in a small book a few years back. One quote that stands out to me is Clark's strange inquiry to visitors at our house asking if "you do milk?" As a teenager, I cringed with moderate embarassment when he said this to my friends because it was just weird to me on many levels. Was he asking if someone was lactose intolerant? Was he asking if someone liked milk so much, they "do" it as if making love to it? And, by the way, who offers glasses of milk as a beverage to guests older than five years old anyway? Well, Griswald does, that's who!

Another staple comment of my dad involving beverages is actually a question - "You drink your juice?" He is adamant that we eat a "propah" breakfast and juice is apparently an important component to Grizz.

When it came to cooking the meal, my dad was very territorial about the kitchen. Once you enter the kitchen, he starts rattling off everything on his menu for the morning. If you open a cabinet while Grizz is at the helm, he'll hover next to you to peek over your shoulder and ask impatiently what you're looking for. Once his apron is on, I don't even try to interfere. Plus, he makes a damn good omelet.

Breakfasts in Greta's and Gus' home are a newly developing ritual. I'm slowly building a monopoly Gordon Gecko-like on breakfast as my meal to cook. G-man is easy: two ounces formula, two ounces water. The original instant breakfast. Done.

Gigi's tougher. Her juice (insert Clark's nodding approval) is half prune juice, half water - you know, to get the plumbing working. Her typical plate is a few handfuls of cheerios, some fruit, and a fried egg. Surprisingly, she's lukewarm on french toast and waffles. I've tried plain, maple syrup, butter, and fruit. (PB is the last resort but it's just so messy.) Greta will sit there channeling her inner Tom Colicchio, chewing inquisitively as I hope for a positive review. It's hit or miss.

Lately, I've resorted to a key weapon in the parental arsenal: manipulation. One morning after the sunlight hit my fork just right creating a reflection on the ceiling, Tinkerbell suddenly began gracing us with appearances on her way home from all-nighters with Peter Pan. After we all exchange initial pleasantries - G and I saying hello/how are you while Tinkerbell shakes around in respone - I send Tinkerbell away and suggest to Greta innocently that perhaps Tinkerbell will return if she eats her pancake. Today, I carved some cats and fish out of an apple so we meowed and bubble mouthed. Whatever it takes!

C'mon by the casa next time you're in Easton. I'll ask if you "do omelets" and fire one up for you as we wait to see if Tinkerbell shows up.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

XOXO

Last week, I read an editorial on CNN.com commenting on some type of a "Dear Abby" letter from a mother who was concerned or jealous that her husband kissed their (5 year-old?) daughter on the lips. To be honest, I'm not sure what her real beef was but the general idea inspired me. But then, I caught a cold and forgot about it.

Then a couple nights ago, we watched an episode of Modern Family that loosely related to the patriarch not showing affection to his adult son, which in turn made the son reluctant to show PDA with his partner. Sweet, I remembered what I meant to write about last week!

There's an SNL skit from the past few seasons that came to mind. A family is uncomfortably affectionate with each other to the point that mom, dad, son, daughter, and anyone else in the act are blatantly making out with each other by the end. It makes me laugh and squirm at the same time.

In real life, some people are kissers. Some people aren't. I'm a kisser. I'm a big fan of hugs, too. But if I had to choose between the two, I'd have to go with smooching. And not one of those weaksauce air pecks inches away from a cheek. Those are lame. At minimum, I'm talking a peck with lip contact somewhere on the recipient's face. Best case scenario, we've got a lip kiss however brief.

Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, let's be clear that I'm not talking about attempting a wet tonsil hockey maul session on one of my buddy's wives after a dinner date at their house. No. If I lip kiss a friend or relative, I'm simply trying to say "hey, you're closer to me than someone with whom I'd just shake hands - let me lay one on you." If that person smacks back, even better. Granted I'm supercreepy in general, but I promise there are no ulterior motives with my affinity to osculate.

My smooch philosophy applies equally to family and friends but especially to my two little beauties. Greta recently turned the corner on the hugs and kisses department. Although she usually runs away from me yelling "no, no, no" after announcing I need a kiss, she does indulge me once in a while. Granted, on those occasions, her kisses have been innocently open mouthed - but she's starting to bring her lips closer together.

As for G-man, sometimes he makes an expression with his mouth that reminds me of a seahorse's pucker. And I just want to kiss him whenever I see that face. It killed me last week because of my cold and not being able to kiss him. Every time I had the urge to show him a little love, I had to restrain myself from getting close because there was no way I was risking getting him sick. I'm better though now so the smooches are back on.

Getting back to the Dear Abby lady, I'm not sure I believe that the letter was from an actual reader or something manufactured for the sake of provoking a potential reader. Assuming it was sincere, here's my reply...

Dear Weird About Your Husband Kissing Your Kid:

Are you serious? Hugs and Kisses, Daddio De Novo

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Making the Cut

I cringed with empathetic pain while reading the sports page recently. Executives and coaches adjusted their final rosters to determine who made the team and who got cut. Inevitably, NFL teams crushed the dreams of many aspiring football players when telling them somehow that they were being "let go." Most of those being cut fall into two groups: 1) the unproven rookie who didn't impress enough; or 2) the expensive veteran with deteriorating skills.

Despite my hulking physique, you may be astonished to learn that I was never an aspiring professional football player. As a kid with an August birthday, I barely squeaked into my grade based on age. In other words, when other guys were shaving and experimenting with facial hair, I still sounded like Peter Brady during his "sha-na-na-na-na" solo. Similarly, I was always undersized compared to the rest of my class. My mom thought soccer was a better fit, which was true in retrospect. Next thing you know, she and my dad are reffing, coaching, or hanging nets on goal posts along with other parents while 22 kids move like an amoeba encircled around the ball.

I played many sports through junior high, but soccer emerged as my best sport in high school. My coach was an unorthodox, passionate, crazy, master motivator called "Crash." We never won the big one, but we had some great wins and amazing moments together. (My first foray into writing was actually a manuscript I hashed together in college about that experience. It sits hidden in a drawer in my desk at work because I'm embarassed at its naivity whenever I get the nerve to take a look again.) Anyway, my point is that soccer's importance to me as a seventeen year-old ranked somewhere just below eating and breathing.

In the summer before college began, I trained and practiced my ass off. I was going to walk on the varsity team of a Division One school with players from foreign countries and American kids who played on traveling teams. With the exception of a disastrous high school freshman basketball tryout (I became the manager, which deserves a blog entry all on its own), I was not accustomed to athletic failure.

Once I arrived at the University of Vermont, I discovered a disturbingly serious problem: I wasn't that good compared to everyone else. In the fall, I played on the B-team with other dreamers still hanging on to the possibility of a call up. The audition continued through practices and scrimmages in the winter and spring.

Before my freshman year ended, everyone met individually with the head coach. I wasn't invited to the summer preseason. I was welcome to try out again but only with other walk-ons. I read between the lines. He didn't think I was good enough. I was crushed even though my financial livelihood was unaffected, which is the case for most of the guys whose names I read under the "Release" heading of the above-mentioned sports page this weekend.

Making the cut is a rite of passage in virtually all sports at every level. For the rejected, the cut system is a brilliant test of character, cajones, intestinal fortitude, etc. They have two options: accept their fate and move on elsewhere, or get better and keep trying. It's a brutally honest and cold but necessary process. It's a lesson that overlaps with any pursuit for that matter: job applications, dating, auditioning for the Jersey Shore, you name it.

As for me, I did what many other hasbeen athletes do - I traded in my jersey for a whistle. I had the pleasure of coaching the Hunt Middle School boys' soccer team of Burlington, Vermont for three years and fell in love with the sport again. I just wasn't ready to let go of my connection to the sport. That opportunity was the perfect transition. Nowadays, I'd probably pull my hammy getting off the couch just to turn the channel to a soccer game.

****

Assuming that Greta and Gus are interested in sports (or other activities with "cuts"), I'm not so secretly hoping to don a whistle again. Make no mistake, though, it will be all about them. I have no interest in being that annoying coach who plays their kid every minute of every game, or pressures them to succeed a la Emilio Estevez's detention for administering wedgies.

Whatever interest my babies pursue, I pray that they make the teams they try out for a whole lot more than the alternative. But in the event they don't "make it" on a team some day, I will be there with a sympathetic ear. Hopefully, my war stories won't sound too boring for them then...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Going From Zone to Man

I’m pleasantly surprised that the transition of our parental defensive scheme from two-on-one to two-on-two hasn’t been as scary as I originally anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, the level of difficulty definitely increased significantly. Fortunately, though, THE WIFE and I aren’t coming apart at the seams all the time … just occasionally.

With one kid, mom and dad are both guaranteed some down time to recharge during every nap (which is fairly often with a newborn) or in Greta’s case now about two- to three-hours in the afternoon. Those moments are ideal for house tidying, telephone calls without preoccupation or distraction, possibly a jog, or even a mini-house project.

Then at night with one, mom and dad get (at least if you’ve got a good sleeper like Gigi has been) consecutive hours first for some adult time and then sleep. Greta nowadays goes uninterrupted for about 11 hours, which has generally been the case since she was a few months old. Usually, THE WIFE and I would eat dinner, chat, and watch TV or use the computer during that time.

Nowadays, the only windows we have when both of the kids are down concurrently is maybe an hour in the afternoon and two stretches of three hours at night. It’s barely enough time to do anything.

When I get home from work and walk in the door, still numb from the commute home, all I want to do is decompress from the day. (Translation: not talk.) Usually, I'm assigned duty on Greta whose running rampant through the house. Then, THE WIFE fires questions at me without fail like an overcaffeinated machine gunner: “Who’d you talk to today?” No one. “Where did you go?” To work. “Did you find out what time that party starts that doesn’t take place until two months from now?” I sigh. She moves on to the next question and so on. But who can blame her? She’s been home all day singing along with DJ Lance Rock, eating Greta’s rejects from the high chair, returning from a doctor’s office possibly, and lucky if she actually showered.

But, like most parents, we manage. This is what we signed up for. We re-group in that moment when Greta is down for the night, Gus is snoozing on one of our chests, the house is quiet again, and we smile at each other. Maybe it’s only twenty minutes or so of calm for just the two of us defensive coordinators, but it’s a coaches’ meeting worth having. And then we press the reset button and start all over again.


As for the two little Ts…

Gus is snoozing next to me as I type. He makes more noise sleeping than any person I’ve ever encountered. And we love it. He snorts and grunts like a truck driver eating a whopper from the drive thru. Strangely, it soothes me and THE WIFE when we hear his chainsaw firing from the bassinette at night. When he’s actually quiet during sleep, it freaks us out.

As for his health, G-man is doing really, really well. He’s off the oxygen, eating a ton, and gaining weight. Giving him a bottle is so nice because he just looks at you with these beautifully innocent blue eyes. I don’t know if he can actually see me yet but I hope so.

Gus also does this thing where he puckers his lips and widens his eyes when we pause during a bottle. Suddenly, he’ll paw my t-shirt collar. I’m convinced he’s telling me to hurry up and get back to his bottle. He just melts me with that irresistible mug.

We watched “Hard Knocks” together last night and I tried to give him a little background of what it means to be a Jet fan. I think he’s keeping his options open.

Meanwhile, Miss Gigi is my other heart melter. I am stunned at how quickly her intelligence and personality are developing. I know I’m biased but she is the cutest little girl I’ve ever known. She mimics everything we say with a “sh” lisp instead of a “th” sound on esses. For example, August is “Augeesh.” “Ice” is “eyesh.” “Sue Sue” is “shoe shoe.”

When G runs through the house, she’s often on her tip toes holding her arms out to balance as her curly hair salad bounces around. I may be hiding out in a different room, trying feverishly to fix something (almost always unsuccessfully) on the DL. But within moments, I inevitably hear the patter of her bare feet coming and then she’s calling for me. She is my little shadow. And I love that.

Recently, my name has transitioned from Gaga to Dah-dee. She enjoys eating raw mushrooms, red onion, pickles, and olives. And the nicest most recent change is the occasional hug from G that comes unsolicited, complete with a gentle pat on my back from her little hand. It’s priceless. She’s learning how to manipulate me already!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Quick Update

A more thorough post will be forthcoming soon. Gus is totally off oxygen, which is of course great news. More about him and Gigi to come.

Just wanted to share a link to an on-line magazine based in the Boston area that will be featuring my posts over the next three weeks about Gus' birth. It's a pretty cool magazine so take a look here: http://www.goodmenproject.org/. The posts will be under the "Dads" section. "August in July" went on-line this morning - the headline refers to the G-man as "Augustus." He's getting new nick names already!

Take a look at the other articles, too - the magazine has some really talented writers. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Two for One

Part A - One Week Later, The Dust Settles

After meetings with who knows how many doctors, countless numbers of tubes, wires, and probes pinching, poking, and annoying Gus, we finally got the green light to take our baby home around 9 p.m. last Tuesday night. I may have jogged slightly while lugging the G-man towards our car. Hospitals are terrible places to visit and wonderful places to leave. We were finally getting the eff out of dodge.

Fast forward to today: we’re basically in typical “parent of a newborn” mode - feed baby, burp baby, change baby’s diaper, swaddle baby tight for snoozing, hold/squish/hug/kiss/love baby whenever, then repeat. Oh and one more thing: sleep deprivation. One minute, I feel fine. The next minute, I’m nodding off thinking “Did I just finish a Thanksgiving turkey dinner and an entire bottle of Mark West pinot noir (one of the wife’s faves), or am I just really sleepy?” Then I realize it’s 11 a.m. And it’s still summertime. And I’m watching my fifth episode of Yo Gabba Gabba in a row with Greta.

Seriously though, the only real difference compared to our initial few days home with Greta when she was a newborn is that we have to hook oxygen up to Gus’ nose when he sleeps. His face crinkles and his tiny fingers swipe at my hand when I slip the cannulla into his nose (I imagine it tickles his nostrils a bit) but we’re following the doctor’s orders. Otherwise, everything is status quo. At last count the G-man was packing on some pounds – well, a few ounces at least. And he’s looking great.

Meanwhile, the wife and I have been watching Greta closely to determine if there’s any change in her behavior that may be attributed to Gus’ sudden arrival in her territory. As an older sibling myself, I understand that she merely expressed curiosity and affection for her little brother when she attempted to gouge out one of his eyes and hucked a ball in his face. That doesn’t concern me. The only unusual change in conduct I noticed is that G is suddenly very interested in showing you her “boo-boos.” She points at the supposed injury, furrows her brow in a grave face towards you, and says boo-boo repeatedly until you nod in sympathy and/or kiss the subject area. Honestly, I think she’s fishing for band-aids because Gus has circular ones on each of his cheeks to attach the oxygen tubes. All things considered, we Ts are doing great.

Thanks one more time to all of the family and friends who have reached out in their own way from messages to cards to car rides to watching Gigi to working at our house to gifts and more. We appreciate it very much and thank you all again!

Part B - Try Some O’ Me

By no means do I intend for this blog to become some type of soap box solely for Downs syndrome (“DS”) awareness, but a few of the same questions have popped up from loved ones about DS so I wanted to answer them at least based on the information we’ve been digesting. Again, I reiterate that a medical professional will probably cringe at my hearsay explanation but I think I’ve got a handle on it. So here goes:

1.) What is DS, how does it happen, and why?

DS is a chromosomal disorder. Of the 23 pairs of chromosomes that each of us has, people with DS have an extra one usually at the 21st chromosomal pair. Thus, DS is more commonly known amongst the medical pros as “trisomy-21.” (All of the doctors and nurses in the hospital used this term, which kind of confused us at first but by the 100th time we figured it out.)

Generally, the chromosomal abnormality occurs at the time of conception. Either the egg or the sperm carries the extra chromosome so from the time of fertilization until the fetus develops, the extra chromosome becomes replicated in every cell formed during the subsequent instances of cell division – or meiosis for you high school bio nerds.

I haven’t found any research that affirmatively proves exactly why this happens. However, the evidence states it has nothing to do with anything that mom or dad did during the pregnancy. In other words, neither Shell nor I did anything wrong when we smoked crack and took bong hits during that first trimester.

The likelihood of a baby with DS during any live birth is pretty uncommon: about 1 in 800. However, as you consider the age of the mother, the risk becomes much more significant. For example, 35 year olds have something like a 1 in 380 chance of having a child with DS. 45 year olds have a 1 in 20 chance of having a child with DS.

2.) How will DS affect Gus?

Every kid with DS has a different combination of symptoms and/or complications that distinguish his/her health from that of a typical child. Generally, kids with DS have a higher risk of genetic heart defects (though surprisingly, not the kind that Gus has), gastrointestinal complications, thyroid instability, hearing problems, vision problems, musculoskeletal problems, mental deficiencies, speech difficulties, shorter life expectancy, obesity, and the list goes on.

So far, we know of Gus’ coarctation and hypothyroidism. He has low muscle tone to the extent that his head and neck are even more floppy than a typical infant. We won’t know about his vision until he’s older.

But most importantly, G-man is a warrior. He survived pregnancy. He survived the delivery. He survived the hospital. He has made it home. He also passed his newborn hearing test (which was so weirdly important to me because I love music so much and I need to teach him all about the bands I love), though I was reminded that this can change at any point in Gus’ development. We are choosing to dwell on the positive instead.

3.) How “high” or “low” functioning will Gus be?

This is a valid question and one that Shell and I had immediately, though I must admit I hate the sound of it because it almost suggests we’re doubting Gus before he even has a chance to show us what he’s got. In any event, we have no idea. There is no way to tell at this time. A wide spectrum exists for the potential cognitive and motor function of any kid with DS. The lesson we keep hearing from doctors and parents alike: early intervention. Basically, we need to team up with speech therapists, occupational therapists, and many other professionals as soon as possible to get our future Special Olympian bocce competitor and/or disc golfer (bocce is a Special Olympics event but I’m working on the disc golf) in training for growing up.

4.) Do we face any higher risk of having another child with DS if we have any more kids?

I understand that there are three varieties of DS. The most common type (about 95%) is as I described above when the chromosomal abnormality occurs at conception. The other two are called mosaicism (not applicable to Gus apparently) and translocation. Translocation occurs when one or both of the parents carry a particular gene that results in a higher rate of conceiving children with DS.

According to the genetics testing that occurred when we were at Children’s Hospital, neither Shell nor I are gene carriers. Therefore, the risk of having another baby with DS is only about 1% higher than another couple with expecting mothers of the same age. The wife and I are nowhere near any decision on that front yet but we know that's a question that's been kind of floating out there.

So that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We have a lot to read and learn. If you want to ask and/or educate Shell and I about anything, fire away. Maybe it’ll be a question we haven’t even thought of that we can pitch to G-man’s doctors…

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Wow

In an age when parents stage the escape of a hot air balloon occupied by their boy in the hopes of securing a reality show, I was slightly paranoid of whispers that we may have overstated the Gus-man’s health status – but in my real world anyone who knows me realizes that I much rather prefer to blog about fart innuendo as opposed to one of my children confronting a potentially life threatening medical situation.

The past week has been an emotional roller coaster ride with a track in the shape of a Jackson Pollock painting. On Wednesday night, Shell and I went home with the understanding from Gus’ cardiologists that surgery on his aorta was happening on either Thursday or Friday barring the less than one percent chance that he improved. Considering that children born with Down Syndrome (see sidebar) occur in about 1 out of every 800 live births in the U.S., we should have been cognizant not to rule out small percentages. We also neglected to realize that every relative, friend, acquaintance, and friend of friend who heard about our situation were sending their prayers, positive thoughts, and good vibes towards the hospital room that held our little fighter at Boston Children’s Hospital.

By Thursday, the newest echocardiogram forced the Ivy League educated team of doctors to pause. Gus’ pulmonary pressure was suddenly improving. They decided to wait 24 hours before green lighting surgery. Still, they reminded us, be prepared that they may have to take immediate action if necessary. By that time, our support network had been dialing in favors to saints and others were asking deceased loved ones to pull some strings. The tide was turning.

On Friday night, our cardiologist came back to us smiling and scratching his head. Gus’ latest echo indicated that not only that surgery was no longer an option but they were going to taper his oxygen immediately and discharge the G-man out of intensive care.

On Saturday morning, I got to hold my son for the first time in I don’t know how many days while Greta wreaked havoc on a breast pump and anything else she could get her hands on in Gus’ room. Last I knew, Gus had been off of oxygen for several hours, he was eating, peeing, and pooping - just like many of the babies born on July 23, 2010. We’re hoping to get August Thomas home some time early next week.

I cannot adequately express the gratitude that Shell and I have for every single message or gesture of hope, encouragement, kindness, love, and support that we received these last few tumultuous days. My faith in humanity is restored a hundred times over. While some may have preferred not to publicize these quite personal events, this small blogging project became a therapeutic outlet for me. I had a lot bottled up inside and I needed to get it out. Thank you for reading along and being there with us. At this point, I’m looking forward to making light of the little things in my family’s lives again.

I’m spent. I haven’t felt this range of emotions in a single week in my entire life. I hope never to experience anything like it again. The only emotion I hope to experience now is the sheer joy when I’m pulling into my driveway and lugging my baby boy’s car seat into our home. When that happens, I’ll be happy to tell you all about it followed shortly by the ensuing chaos of raising two beautiful children 17 months apart.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Rolling With The Punches

First let me say thank you to all of our family and friends for their comforting words, offers of support, kind gestures, good vibes, and prayers. We are blown away by the vast array of people who have taken the time to reach out: total strangers; old friends from grammar school to law school; friends from former jobs; and honestly many folks with whom we haven’t spoken or seen in several years. Wow. Many of you have made Shell and I smile, laugh, and/or cry with happiness. Thank you, every single one of you.

Speaking of the wife, she’s reminded me to call our son August – not just Gus – every once in a while, too. Done. Moving on.

Since Monday afternoon, we’ve been in a whirlwind. Up to 4 pm that day, we were under the impression that Gus’ heart was basically okay. But his second echocardiogram showed a change from his original one over the weekend. Around 7 pm, an ambulance took Gus in a tiny box on a stretcher from the neonatal ICU at Beth Israel to the neonatal ICU at Children’s Hospital across the street. On Tuesday, he moved up one floor to the cardiac ICU. He is stable and resting comfortably there as of Wednesday night.

At the risk of butchering the proper medical terms and a technically accurate summary of his status, here’s my understanding. A duct in G-man’s heart was supposed to close when he took his first breath but it stayed open. A portion of his aorta (probably defective already) began narrowing as the duct stayed open. Meanwhile, pressure increased in his lungs, which caused Gus to breathe more often and rapidly, which further worsened the pressure. The doctors are now medicating Gus and intentionally keeping the duct open to prevent increased pressure in his lungs. He’s on an IV for food/hydration. He’s got tubes, wires, lights, and buttons connecting different body parts to machines making all sorts of noises. He will almost certainly go to surgery to correct the narrowing in his aorta and relieve the lung pressure either tomorrow or Friday. Unbelievably, no one with whom we’ve spoken knows when exactly his operation will take place – but that is literally my only complaint with the hospital. (Well except the traffic situation leaving the parking lot – can someone please sort that out?)

To back up, Shell checked out of BI on Tuesday morning. We spent all day at Children’s NICU bonding with Gus and meeting with various medical peeps. The news kept getting worse. Hi, I’m an endocrinologist. Gus has hypothyroidism. We need to give him a pill every day now for the rest of his life. Much more seriously, the cardiologist was concerned that Gus’ lung pressure was worsening. They wanted consent to transfer him to the cardiac unit and put him on a ventilator. The punches just didn’t stop that day.

We went home that evening, which was difficult to say the least. (Shell has made about 90% of Gus’ caretakers cry. It’s her test to make sure they care, I think.) But we needed to get home to change clothes, shower, sleep in our beds, but most of all, to see our little Greta. She needed us and we needed her. She brightened our moods immediately. I think G’s bath went a little long that night. And we had an impromptu dance party before bed. It was therapeutic for all.

So today, we spent the day at Children’s cardiac ICU. The staff there (and everywhere else for that matter) have been absolutely wonderful. Most importantly, Gus looked great. He just seemed better. Your and our prayers are being answered, I swear.

Though we could not feed him, August’s mom got to hold him. I kissed him whenever I could. It was finally a good day.

Before I sign off, I’d like to share something special that happened today. We asked to meet with a chaplain when we arrived. Before Gus was born, the wife and I agreed that we would do something for both of our kids at the same time, which would be analogous to a baptism or christening – but done by us at our home in our own way in the company of family and friends. We hadn’t hashed out the details yet but the seeds were germinating. However, in light of the unpredictability of Gus’ impending heart surgery, we wanted to improvise a little somethingsomething to recognize both the little man’s arrival and the immediate challenge he faced.

Not long after we arrived, a woman stopped by and introduced herself as one of the staff chaplains. We explained our spiritual beliefs as well as we could in the ten minutes we were together. We explained Gus’ situation and the work-in-progress we had originally planned to do at home. She left to go to her office and returned within 30 minutes. She came back with a proposed outline. We added a few tweaks.
And just like that, we experienced a beautifully simple meditation of sorts together. We forgot about everything except how much we love our son in those moments. It was perfect.

We’ll continue to keep you updated the best we can. Thanks again to all pulling for Gus out there. Keep up the good work.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Curveball

By eleven or so, we were in our hospital room waiting to be reunited with Gus. He was in the nursery undergoing what I assumed to be regular tests. After a little while, I went to check on our little guy. The pediatrician told me that Gus’ body temperature wasn’t quite stable enough yet for him to come down but it shouldn’t be too much longer. I updated Shell and we continued calling and texting our good news to loved ones.

Around one, I was in the middle of writing the last blog when the pediatrician came into our room. I knew immediately that something was wrong by the look in her face. She closed the door. Then she hit us with a sledgehammer. Gus had several characteristics of a baby with Down’s syndrome. They would not know for sure until completion of a certain blood test but they were pretty sure.

I wanted to vomit but I comforted my wife instead. She was angry, hurt, and scared because the doctor was telling us that our beautiful son whom she carried in her belly for nine months and held in her arms for the first time only hours ago was not the baby we thought we were having. Shell engaged the pediatrician challenging her to defend her position. I sat by numbly holding Shell’s hand. Moments passed by in a blur as they spoke. Finally, Shell and I were left alone with our son to think and talk.

When I saw Gus shortly after he was born, I noticed that he had a lot of skin going all the way around his neck – almost like a huge double chin turtleneck. I presumed there was simply a lot of fetal fluid or something. He was only minutes old and still transitioning from the womb to the world. I didn’t say anything so as not to alarm Shell unnecessarily. The doctors didn’t say anything so I had no reason to worry.

When I saw Gus in the nursery for the first time, his neck was still unusual to me. Even though the temperature thing seemed reasonable, I thought they were spending a lot of time with Gus. Then I remembered that I was sleeping before they brought Greta to us for the first time so I tried not to overreact. No need to panic.
When the pediatrician came in to see us, I said inside my head “Don’t say Down’s - don’t say Down’s” over and over until she actually said it. Holy shit, I knew it.

Only two minutes after the pediatrician left us alone, Shell and I were sitting together still dumbfounded when all of a sudden we realize that Gus is turning blue. I ran for a nurse, they grabbed him and started running down the hall, I looked at Shell to see what she wanted me to do. “Go with them!” she yelled bawling. I ran behind the nurses to the nursery. I feared that our son was about to die in front of my eyes. This isn’t possibly happening right now. I want to wake up and start this day over again. Please save my son.

Finally, they gesture to me that he is okay and breathing. I return to Shell and we hold each other.

-------------------------------------------------------------------

On July 23, 2010, everything changed for my family and nothing changed for my family. Greta is now a big sister. Our siblings have their first nephew. My parents have their first grandson. Nana has her fifth grandchild. My grandfather has his third great-grandchild! We all loved August Thomas before he even got to the party.

I don’t believe in religion. But I do believe in goodness, karma, and an energy that is greater than all of humankind. Perhaps that is what God means to you. Whatever we call this unknown force, it gave my wife and I a gift in the form of our son.

Gus is our flesh and blood. He is our gorgeous baby boy. He is a Teravainen! He happens to have Down’s syndrome. I refuse to let an extra chromosome define him as a person. And I will strive to be the best father I can possibly be, just as I have since the arrival of our first Baby T in February last year.

Our family and friends have asked what they can do to help and support us. Here is our confident answer. Celebrate Gus’ arrival with us. Congratulations are what we want to hear. High five me. Bro hug me. Drink a toast with me to Gus. Love our son dearly with us just as you love our daughter. We are not sorry that we have a path ahead of us that was different from what we originally expected. When you sign up to be a parent, you inherit all of the unexpected turns and twists that come with that child.

Gus is still in intensive care because he cannot breathe on his own yet. I understand from the doctors that his respiratory issue is unrelated to Down’s. We will know more as the week progresses. Fortunately, his heart appears to be healthy based on all tests conducted to date.

Michelle and I are going home on Tuesday to reunite with Greta and to sleep in our own beds. Gus will be staying at the hospital for the time being. We are disappointed to not be bringing him home with us right away but we know he needs to be a bit stronger before that can happen.

We appreciate all of the kind words and offers of support our loved ones have extended. We will try to be in touch as much as possible but don’t be discouraged if we are a bit slow to respond. For the time being, just say a prayer for Gus that he will be breathing without oxygen soon. That is the only wish we have at this time!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

August in July

In keeping with tradition, we’re blogging to you live on the eve and morning of Baby T 2.0’s arrival.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

6:00 p.m. – I am painting Greta’s bedroom door and touching up the kitchen. The wife is folding laundry because she is obsessed with washing clothes in Dreft these past couple days. If you’re not looking, she’ll take the socks off your feet to complete a full load of whites. I’m still in denial that a baby is coming tomorrow. By the way, I think I’ve got a corneal abrasion after a mishap at Lowe’s loading a box onto the cash register’s conveyor belt. Long story. Bottom line is it feels like a pebble is stuck in my eyelid. Sweet.

7:00 p.m. – Nana took G for the weekend so the wife and I are heading out for a quiet dinner date. We head to a tapas restaurant not too far from our place. Glass of Spanish red for the wife. She’s having a contraction. Chopin chilled straight up with olives for me. My eye hurts. Are we really having a baby tomorrow?

8:00 p.m. – We hammer back some delicious grub: scallops, mussels, beef tenderloin, green beans with garlic and almonds, and empanadas. Great stuff. Yes, I’d love a glass of what she’s drinking. We have a 6 a.m. appointment for the c-section. Let’s have dessert. It may be a while before we have dinner without bibs, sippy cups, bottles, or burp cloths.

9:30 p.m. – Back at the casa. Mad dash by mama to finish packing. We check out “Deadliest Catch” on the DVR. (Rest in peace, Captain Phil!) I try to write but I’m too tired. I’ll try tomorrow

11:00 p.m. – Finally, we turn out the lights for our 5 a.m. wake up. I’m so happy to be in bed. This will be the last time we snooze peacefully for possibly the next several months. Mama announces that she’s having more contractions as I drift off to sleep. I’m uninterested and tired.

Friday, July 23, 2010

12:30 a.m. – The wife is having more contractions, she decides to tell me after waking me up. I roll over.

1:30 a.m. – The wife is still contracting. Thanks for the update.

2:30 a.m. – The wife continues to contract. What do you want me to do about it?

3:30 a.m. – You guessed it. Contractions. I’m really annoyed.

4:30 a.m. – Okay, let’s just get out of bed because clearly the wife is not going to let me sleep. Why? Because she can’t sleep. Naturally, I should suffer too, she reasons.

5:47 a.m. – We arrive at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. Contractions are five minutes apart. We check in.

6:30 a.m. – Michelle’s first measurement. Drum roll please. 4-5 centimeters. Whoa. I guess she is in labor. Glad to know that our son is prompt. How did he know he was going to arrive today?

6:45 a.m. – The original C-section was scheduled for 8 a.m. so the wife’s doctor may not be on time to deliver Baby T. She begins to cry. Don’t mess with a laboring pregnant lady.

7:00 a.m. – Phew. Our doctor made it early so we can get started! The wife is whisked off to have her spinal. I am left alone with my booties, jumpsuit, mask, and cap. I hated this part with Greta. I’m hating this part with 2.0. No other nurses or parents in waiting. I’m by myself.

7:15 a.m. – Wish they had ESPN in here. Or a sports page.

7:30 a.m. – Finally! A nurse comes in to get me. They are ready for me. I have the camera in hand.

7:32 a.m. – I sit next to Shelly’s head. I am avoiding looking beyond the curtain for fear of passing out.

7:45 a.m. – The doctors, nurses, and Teravainens are all chatting as if we’re in a coffee shop sipping lattes and exchanging light hearted small talk – except the wife’s insides are exposed to the world to see and I’m trying not to let on that I’m freaking out inside. The doctors occasionally tug and pull at her belly, which I witness in a shadowy silhouette I wish I could not see.

7:50 a.m. – The wife and I squeeze our hands together in anticipation. They say he’s almost here.

7:55 a.m. – We hear a squawk, finally! And, we’ve got a dong. “It’s a boy!” they announce officially. “What’s his name?” they ask next.

We happily reply, “AUGUST THOMAS TERAVAINEN!” Thus, we give you, August in July.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Friday, July 9, 2010

House of Pain

I’ve tried to write so many times the last couple weeks without luck. Not sure if anyone missed the posts besides my baby mama and me, but it’s been killing me that all this time has gone by without writing anything considering how much has been going on with our family. We closed on our place finally, moved out of Nana’s basement, painted indoors without AC (can I trade one of my kidneys for central air?) during “vacation” from work, packed up and unpacked, etc. - all of which would have taken much, much longer if not for the help of really supportive loved ones, etc. Anyways, think I’m jammed up on the boards partly because of fatigue from all the unpacking but also because the original post I was trying to write just sucked. So I decided to scrap the last draft and start from scratch.

After who knows how many hours logged watching HGTV with the wife, combined with my two whole summers of painting experience in college, I was ready to go Van Gogh on our house’s ass after we closed two Wednesdays ago. Well, sitting here now in retrospect of the work we crammed in last week, I kinda hope never to watch any show ever again whose title contains the words home, house, makeover, design, or color splash. These “hosts” who double as “workers” subliminally mislead weekend warriors such as myself into believing that a single room, or even a whole house for that matter, can be transformed in merely thirty minutes (twenty-two without commercials). Of course, these half-hour facelifts even include a montage of how bad the place looked before the work, some compelling melodrama about the residents’ life situation, and the climactic “reveal” complete with absurd decorations like a recycled Cessna plane propeller jutting out of a closet door for the 7-year old kid who casually mentioned that she might want to be a pilot some day. Naturally, six days should be enough to add another floor to our house let alone paint a paltry four rooms.

In any event, I haven’t tried so hard to do something so well lately than paint Greta’s bedroom last week. I wasted so much damn time in that damn room trying to make it just perfect. I should’ve saved it for last because the paint part of my brain needed a bit of a refresher course. In any event, we ran out of the really pretty light lavender for G’s walls when we needed one more coat. A few days later when the paint finally arrived from the web site where mama ordered it, the wall got its final coat. When I removed tape from the ceiling to finish off the job, of course I peeled off between one and three layers of prior paint coats from years passed and the ceiling’s edges looked like shit. It was late, it was hot, and the new carpet was arriving the next morning. Hastily, I slapped a coat where needed in the hopes that all peel spots would be covered up. My new mantra of “touch it up later if necessary” mouthed silently from my lips without me even realizing it. To the tired yet still critical eyes of Nana and myself, the room looked a million times cuter than it did before.

At some point during that whirlwind, I experienced a sense of fulfillment performing these “dad” jobs last week that was unrivaled in my whole 17 months of prior experience on the job. In Southie, we had no yard, no garage, no workshop. The environment wasn’t exactly conducive to traditional fatherly duties except maybe assembling hellish Ikea furniture pieces or cooking breakfast on weekends. I couldn’t even hose down our cars because there wasn’t any outdoor faucet to connect a hose. Consequently, in a convoluted way, it felt good to slide a closet door over my middle finger and tear off part of my nail – not because I’m into S&M but because I was yanking up an old carpet in preparation of laying a new one for my children to walk over barefoot on Christmas morning for several years to come. The prospect of future experiences under this roof with my wife and two children genuinely excited me. It was a nice feeling. And then my finger was bleeding on the floor, which felt not so great.

Fast forward to last night, entering G’s room in search of a diaper, I spotted a small layer of paint peeling away from the ceiling and dangling above the crib. I cringed with frustration immediately and hung my head. Slowly, I moved my head upwards towards a higher, invisible being before sighing and reminding myself it could be worse. I could be a Cleveland Cavaliers fans. My advice to them: “touch it up later if necessary.” I’m going to get my roller right now.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Apropos of Nothing

Boston Globe Sunday Sports Page enthusiasts may recognize my title. And I say that imitation is the ultimate form of flattery, Nick Cafardo… On Saturday, the T family went to a birthday party for the Conn triplets that was so cute and fun for both the kids and adults alike. (Thank you, Jess and Mike.) At home later that night, I realized that my attention span and level of preoccupation are at their worst when we’re interacting at social gatherings with Greta. Someone could be in the middle of explaining how Jessica Biel wants to sleep with me no strings attached but I cut them off because G is about to drink from an unattended wine glass or she’s trying to pry a sippy cup from another little one’s hands. While the veteran parent is empathetic, I still feel horrible in retrospect - especially if I was talking to a non-parent. My “clarking out” (my dad’s been preoccupied when I speak to him for the last 30 years) is only going to worsen once Baby T2 arrives because the wife’s and my defensive scheme at parties will naturally have to shift to man-to-man from our current 2 v.1 zone. My apologies to anyone I left in the lurch mid-conversation… My new favorite antic of G’s is easily the sudden and spontaneous dance party that ensues when she’s digging on a good song. She’ll be in her own world playing with a toy when she senses a good jam, moves to a clear space in the room, and begins to hop around in a circle on her knees jerking her head from side to side – all the while smiling and flailing her arms in delight. It melts my heart to see her so happy… When G farts audibly and obviously, she smiles with guilt as her eyes dart to the faces of all around for fear of discovery. It cracks me up… Changing G’s diaper nowadays is like trying to lasso a calf while on horseback. When she’s dropped a bomb in her drawers, she’s inevitably way more squirmy and I just pray she doesn’t get poop on her hands while I struggle to secure the adhesive straps around her waist in a barely symmetrical final position… The next time you see her, please ask G to show you her “pretty eyes.” Pep added this trick to Greta’s arsenal, which she usually reserves only for males. Occasionally, she greets me with her “pretty eyes” unsolicited as I get her out of the crib in the morning. Other times, G will crane her neck forwards to do the honors as we eat dinner, making sure to bat her eyes at each person sitting around her. Once in a while, she even follows it up with a flirtatious wink that is more accurately described as G keeping her mouth open and one eye larger than the other… Speaking of eating, we use these bibs with a snap in the back because Greta can’t yank them off. About a month ago, Nana accidentally caught some of G’s hair as she snapped the bib around G’s neck. Consequently, G says “ow” pretty much every time someone either takes it off or puts it on… While we’re on the meal topic, I’ve been trying to teach Greta that throwing her sippy cup or food on the floor is bad. Basically, I make a stern face with my eyebrows pointing down, lower my head towards G, and say in a deeper voice while pointing to the floor “No!” When she puts the sippy cup back on her tray, instead of the floor, I say “very good” or something encouraging. Shortly after these disciplinary “lessons” began, G has changed her behavior minimally. She still hucks food and the sippy cup like a brat, but instead of just carrying on nonchalantly, she actually stops and points to the floor, shaking her head, while saying “Nooooo” in her own deep voice. I can’t keep a straight face and the adults at the table look away because we are trying not to lose our shit laughing. Basically, I suck as a disciplinarian… On my bath nights, I kind of treat it like a starting pitcher. First inning, G and I turn on the bath and check for the right temp. We pour in the soap. We wave at the toys as they begin to float. Second inning, I take off G’s clothes and diaper. I place her in. Third and fourth innings, I scrub her down and give sound effects as she plays with the toys. Fifth inning, we shampoo and rinse the hair. Sixth inning, I rinse off the rest of her body. As soon as I switch the valve down to drain the tub, G says bye-bye to her toys. In the seventh, I wrap G in a towel, pick her up, and stand in front of the sink. We wave at the mirror and grab the Elmo tooth brush. She likes to stick the brush repeatedly under running water, and then we go to the dreaded changing table. This is where I begin to tire as the starter. 95% of the time, G fights me with her diaper (see above) and I am hoping for a conference at the mound with my catcher and pitching coach so that the reliever a/k/a the wife comes in to finish off the game. 67% of those times, my pitching coach is nowhere to be seen or updating her status on FB oblivious to or simply ignoring my struggles. Somehow, we make it through to pajamas, the final bottle, her sleep sack, and finally bed. Complete game shutouts are rare, but no matter what the result, a celebratory drink in the clubhouse is often automatic.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Tootie Fruity

While I certainly enjoy sweets once in a while, candy and ice cream don’t pose as much of a temptation to me as compared to, oh I don’t know, say an eight-months-pregnant lady. Overall, I’m much more a fan of savory over sweet. But that's not to say I don't enjoy sweet.

Before G’s arrival, my eating habits weren’t necessarily bad but they weren’t the greatest either. Once G transitioned into eating real food, it was a perfect opportunity for me to rediscover a very simple pleasure somewhat forgotten: fruit.

As a kid, my parents always had at least apples, bananas, and oranges lying in a bowl around the house at 2 Bert Street. When in season, peaches, pears, plums, and grapes were common, too. During holidays, figs, dates, dried fruit, and nuts appeared in bowls on the dining room table for nibbling with coffee and dessert after a big family meal.

From the time I was in college through my glorious years of freedom that preceded cohabitation with the wife, 90% of my meals were prepared by someone outside of the kitchen where I lived. It’s fair to say I wasn’t ordering a fruit basket from Cappy’s Pizza. But once the wife and I were under the same roof, she reminded me it was possible to shop at the supermarket and make your own meals. Suddenly, bananas became a part of my diet again.

As Greta graduated from bottles to real food, I looked to the wife to explain what we’d feed her first. Cheese steak bombs with mushrooms, peppers, and onions? Chili cheese hot dogs with sauerkraut, mustard, ketchup, and hots? Boloco tofu burritos with peanut sauce and Asian slaw? None of the above. I think we started with mushy plain cereal of some sort. But fortunately for G and her colon, she made it to fruit pretty quickly thereafter. G eats grapes like a dog eats anything in a mass quantity – if you leave too much in front of them, they’ll scarf it down like contestants on The Biggest Loser the night before arriving at the ranch.

Fruits are fun food. Nothing says summer like eating cherries and spitting out the seeds as you go. Grab a handful, pop em’ in your mouth, sit back, and just carry on with your conversation. Watermelon’s good like that, too. And there’s something about slicing up an orange or apple to share while sitting at a table next to somebody. It’s a communal thing, I guess.

Of course, the novelty of fruits’ natural sweetness has begun to wane now that G has dabbled in bites of ice cream, animal crackers, and other tantalizing treats. She’s a lot more likely to huck a strawberry over the side of her high chair now that she’s become more of a fruit pro. I guess we need to step things up a bit in the produce department. Maybe some mango or kiwi fruit. Perhaps a nectarine. I know. I’m a wild man.

Still to come: other culinary frontiers for us to conquer. Raw oysters. Buffalo wings. Sushi. Hot sauce. And the best treat is just around the corner: G’s first peanut butter cup!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Baby, Baby, I Got That Fever

On Sunday night, the wife and I were winding down the day watching the Survivor finale when we heard Greta stirring in the other room. After dinner, the wife thought that our little girl was a bit warm and I of course disagreed. I thought G was fine.

I did G’s bath, got her into her PJs, and filled the night bottle. (I suspect the wife is mortified now that the public is aware we still do a bottle because we have apparently broken some unwritten rule where a 15-month old should have graduated to sippy cups by now. The horror!) As she often does before I turn to leave her crib, G clutched a binky in her mouth, a binky in each hand, laid down on the mattress, and said “bye-bye” before turning over to fall asleep. (Uh oh, now everyone knows G still sleeps with a binky. More shame on us. We're utter failures as parents.)

Around nine o’clock, just about when the jury was listening to the final arguments of Russell, Sandra, and Parvati, we heard G. I got up to investigate. Misplaced binky perhaps? Bad dream? Poop? Lots of potentially harmless reasons.

G was crying groggily. She looked uncomfortable. I felt her head. En fuego. I immediately took off the sleep sack and the PJ pants. The wife came in to see for herself. Our collective red flags were now standing straight up. Eventually, the wife decided appropriately that we take G’s official temp. Fortunately, we purchased a digital thermometer for recording from the ear so we didn’t have to go in through the out door. Unfortunately, Greta equally disliked the ear instrument.

We tested the thermometer on ourselves first by placing it in our ears and pressing the button. A beep activated within seconds giving a reading on the digital display. I was a hypothermal 95 degrees. The wife was somewhere in the same neighborhood. I wanted to huck the piece of crap out the window and smash it with a hammer. Moving quickly because of G’s growing restlessness, we anticipated having to calibrate by roughly adding three degrees to whatever reading we got on G. It came back at 97 and change.

G had been noticeably drooling and teething recently so we knew a higher temp may be the simple by-product of her molars coming in. Even so, G was a bit moody compared to her usual happy self during the past day’s events. To be sure, we decided to be, well, anal and get a more accurate reading. As is generally the case in tough parent situations, mama was bad cop while I was good cop. (The wife’s tougher than me, what can I say? I start to wilt the second I hear G whimper.) I soothed our little girl and tried to keep her still as the wife probed dutifully. 102.7. Yikes! We were nervous now.

My grandmother Grace lost her firstborn son when he was two years old. As I understand it, my grandmother went to the hospital with her baby because of a fever. The doctors sent them home with instructions to take aspirin. He died shortly thereafter, most likely from meningitis. Undoubtedly, my dad’s parents were never the same again.

I have thought often about that family tragedy since becoming a father. I can’t even fathom the level of devastation my grandparents must have experienced. They did nothing wrong. They listened to medical professionals. The medical professionals were catastrophically mistaken. Eventually, the doctors of course moved on while my grandparents mourned their son’s loss for years. I tried to block out that thought and to focus on our little girl. I realized now that she was almost panting in her breathing.

The wife called the doctor's office and consulted with Nana who came down to help. We followed the nurse's instructions: lukewarm bath, Tylenol, and fluids. If the temperature increased, go to the hospital. Otherwise, prepare for a long night. The wife and I did the bath, administered Tylenol, reduced G’s layers, and comforted her back to sleep.

Without saying anything, we both knew the other was part scared and part nervous while trying to remain calm. We tried to distract ourselves by watching Survivor again. Suddenly, these “reality” characters' struggles to “survive” seemed more trivial and less entertaining.

We checked in on G at first every 15 minutes. I volunteered to do the 2 a.m. shift before we turned in at 12:30. G awoke around 1:45 and mama beat me out of bed. She soothed G back to sleep. I checked on G at 4. Sound asleep. Still warm but okay. Hour by hour, we rode out the storm until the morning. After another up and down day, G was back to her normal self by dinner time the next day. Phew, we made it. Cue the big sigh of relief and nervous laughter wondering aloud what we were so worried about.

I know this instance is of course only the first of many fevers, calls to the doctor, and other inevitable scares that will cause us to lose sleep in the future. But as long as we have the same outcome with G laughing, playing, smiling, and otherwise being her normal self, I’ll never complain.

Nice work mama. Thanks for being my partner … and for being the bad cop. Now where’s that damn digital thermometer? I don’t care if it cost 40 bucks, it’s outta here.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Tradition Revisited

A belated Happy Mother’s Day to my mom, the wife, nana, and all of the other ladies who are loving and wonderful mothers to their children. And a special Happy Mother’s Day to those who recently became moms including my cousin Kat who welcomed Aiden Patrick last week and Castleton Kristin E. who welcomed Lydia Eve a few weeks ago. Congrats ladies!

So, the T family had a really big night tonight. You may recall that when G entered the world last year, we were fortunate enough to watch an episode of Friday Night Lights (“FNL”) at the hospital before the labor went into full speed ahead. As a result of the show's timing just before G's arrival, FNL has a special place in our hearts. Turns out we’re not alone. To uphold the precedent established during G’s introduction to FNL, we’re fulfilling tradition with a running diary blog of 2010’s season opener.

To re-cap last season, Coach Taylor lost his job at the end of the football season because of the evil, rich father of a rising star quarterback J.D. who rigged the system to depose our beloved head coach. Meanwhile, the town of Dillon became redistricted resulting in the transfer of many students from Dillon High to previously defunct East Dillon High. In a curious twist, Coach’s wife Tammi remained as principal at Dillon High when Coach took the helm of the decrepit football program at East Dillon. Several other things took place but we don’t have time or space to summarize. Now to the basement at 46 Great Meadow Drive in Carver...

The wife and I are hunkered down in Nana’s basement. The DVR is 98% full and we're anxious to cross this one off the list. The wife is enthusiastically chewing on Swedish fish. Her crinkling of the bag as she reaches in for another is distracting me. I request a volume increase in the hopes that she gets the point without me having to ask her to be quiet. I forgive her though because she's carrying our second baby and she hasn’t been this pumped for a season opener of a high school drama since Gossip Girl and the new Bev Niner. She presses play.

Coach Taylor and the detective discuss who will most certainly become the juvenile delinquent turned football ringer at East Dillon this season. Let’s just call this kid Smash part II. I'm leery… Tim Riggins is in college with very fluffy hair. Looks like he’s been using a lot of Pert Plus. Also appears that he’s quitting college after one bad literature class. We knew it was too good to be true. Riggins’ Riggs here he comes… Tammi Taylor is still the hottest high school principal cougar ever. Redonculous. Parents are yelling at her because of the redistricting. Not fair. Not her fault. I can't believe she's over 30…

Matt Saracen’s sad story continues. The Dillon graduate and former starting QB couldn’t go to college because of his ill grandmother. He’s now a pizza delivery boy driving my brother’s old Chevy Celebrity station wagon. Even worse, he has to deliver some pies to the sophomore quarterback J.D. whose dad was behind Coach Taylor’s firing in addition to Matt's benching last year. By the way, J.D. has become a villain douchebag since last season. I see this ending ugly…

The wife almost just went into labor. She just fast forwarded with the remote over commercials a little too far and freaked out because Riggins is topless after a one night stand with a bartender (by the way, his bar going character is 18 still) who took him home to her house. The wife's finers are frantically struggling with the fast forward, play, pause, and rewind buttons. Wait for it. Wait for it. Now she’s paused it to look at Tim’s eight pack. I think I had one of those around 1985. I hate him. Anyway, Riggins’ milf lover has a hot daughter who is now singing the national anthem at the East Dillon game...

Game night is finally here and the camera is toggling between each of the school’s opening football games. I’m thinking that rich Dillon will be upset as J.D.'s leg breaks in half like Joe Theismann's by Lawrence Taylor while scrappy, underprivileged East Dillon will pull off an upset in Coach Taylor’s debut. Ok, maybe just wishful thinking. Let’s see what happens…

J.D.’s dad is an even bigger douche than his son. I want him to get run over by a Cadillac Escalade from Buddy Garrity’s dealership. I also want Lila to be back on the show. Derek Jeter is a lucky man… As suspected, Dillon is romping and East Dillon is not faring so well. The Lions are getting crushed and the locker room at halftime is filled with more injury clich├ęs than Any Given Sunday or The Program

Coach Taylor just forfeited the game at halftime. I can’t believe it. This is not the Coach Taylor we all know and love. This is also not the FNL that we all know and love. Too many unoriginal story lines. Too many predictable plot "twists." We are in for a long season. I hope that East Dillon’s football team and the show’s writers turn things around. Soon. Like next week. Go Lions!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nana's Basement: Temporary Tenants

When I tell people that we have moved in with my mother-in-law, most of them kind of laugh and smile the same way my buddies do when someone announces they’re getting a vasectomy. The reasons may be sound and logical on paper, but every married man still kinda cringes. Fortunately, I sincerely enjoy my mother-in-law’s company so our recent cohabitation until July should be relatively painless.

(For those just tuning in, the wife and I sold our condo a few weeks ago and we close on a house in Easton on June 23rd – knock on wood. In the interim, my mother-in-law graciously offered and/or surrendered to putting us up at her Carver home in the interim.)

In the blog, I was inclined initially to call the wife’s mom the “M.I.L.” but then I realized the name may be confusingly similar to “M.I.L.F.” and that’s just plain dangerous territory. Instead, we’ll go with “Nana” and move on.

Yep, so we’re living in Nana’s basement. If you told the wife in 2000 that she, her husband, and her firstborn child would be living in her mother’s basement by 2010, I’m pretty sure she’d think that something went terribly wrong. After a few weeks, though, it’s been pleasantly successful in my opinion. The change in scenery has resulted in a lot of changes for all involved.

For example, Nana’s house has transformed from a meticulously clean home straight out of Martha Stewart to a childproof day care center overnight. Her stairway is now a labyrinth of child gates. Her kitchen tablecloth and floor have souvenirs from every meal that G eats. Nana’s living room table was replaced by a tent in the shape of a green frog complete with roll out tongue. Sippy cups and plastic sporks have taken over her cabinets. Total bedlam, as you can imagine.

As for me, the biggest adjustment (besides not openly farting in three weeks) has been an overhaul to the daily schedule. Wake up is 5 a.m. (don’t cry for me Argentina) so as to avoid traffic on Routes 3 and 93. Dinner is at 6 p.m. on the dot, which is the greatest sight (besides my fam) after getting home from work. After sundown, I wear my headlamp to get around because Nana doesn’t use lights in her house unless she’s hosting guests – and now we’re technically housemates. Lastly, my bedtime is around 9:30 p.m., which makes me feel like I should be watching “Golden Girls” or “Matlock” with an earpiece connected to the TV.

Besides one major faux pas on my part (I flushed the toilet instinctively after a wake up pee, which activated the septic pump and woke Nana immediately – whoops!), we seem to be settling right in. Gigi is loving her new digs and all the attention from her Nana and Pep. The wife is happy to spend so much time with her clone, I mean mom. I’m beginning to like this “All in the Family” thing. Maybe we should drag this living-in-the-basement thing out a little longer.

Well, gotta go. The light’s just went out. Is it 7 o’clock already?

(Editors' note: Thank you very much Nana. We very much appreciate you letting us disrupt your life for the next two months!)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Original Besties

In a prior life, I am convinced that G was living somewhere in Asia – and possibly vacationed in Rhode Island. My conjecture is based solely on one of the many ways that G presently pronounces “Hi” (by far her favorite word) when she is being melodramatic, which is often. Anyway, it goes like this:
“Hiiiiii-eeeeeeeennnnnnnnnnnnnnggggggg-ga.” To me, it sounds like what would happen if one combined 95% Mandarin and 5% Pawtucketese, then poured it over Bostonian English. Just saying. Moving on to the matter at hand…

As her mom and dad, the wife and I have taken credit for all of Greta’s breakthroughs and accomplishments in her first 14 months of life. I’ve come to realize, however, that accepting future praise without disclosing full credit would be like Brangelina or the Gosselins suggesting that they personally parent Maddux or Alexis for more than an hour a day.

In what is probably a long overdue post and confession of sorts, I finally have the opportunity to discuss one of the most important players in the T family parent team: Kate. Honestly, I'm ashamed it's taken me this long to introduce her to you because she plays such an enormous role in our small family's life.

When the wife prepared to end her maternity leave and rejoin the work force last spring, our original babysitter option fell through. We scrambled to find somebody on short notice. I’ll go out on a limb and say that the wife was a bit anxious about finding the right person to watch our two-month old at home. Kate's arrival was timely, to say the least.

Kate came to us by way of an enthusiastic recommendation from one of my own high school besties who had employed Kate part-time to watch her daughter. Next, the wife set up an “interview” in which she prepared notes on index cards and positioned a hot lamp over a chair in anticipation of a thorough interrogation. Surprisingly, when Kate walked in, the two ladies realized they used to work together at a bar in Southie and it was all gravy from that point forward. The wife and I breathed a sigh of relief.

As the time between Greta and Kate went from days to weeks to months, mama bear and I were increasingly stoked. Kate is a registered nurse - awesome. She lives in Southie - nice. She is trustworthy and responsible - essential. She is wise beyond her years - bonus. She’s taught G how to say “dude” along with probably every other word in her vocab - wow. She is sweet, funny, totally grounded, and devours books faster than anyone I know. She also enjoys teaming up with the wife and ragging on me for my lack of contemporary music selections in the iPod. You get the picture. (Yes, I’m crushing on her but minus any creepiness.)

Most important of all, however, Kate has come to love Greta (or at least it seems to me) in a way that’s as close to being a parent as we could ever hope. And Greta, in turn, loves Kate like a third parent-slash-older sister, cousin, aunt, and BFF. When Kate enters the door, G-Sizzle usually howls some indecipherable noise of glee and convulses in joy. Kate hardly has time to even take off her coat before she scoops up Gigi and they start catching up on all that they’ve missed since their last visit together. That dynamic, to me, is more precious than say the novel Push by Sapphire. (Thanks Oprah.)

I happen to write this blog entry at the same time a strong possibility exists that we could lose Kate in the very near future. Considering her professional ambitions and her superlative qualifications for same, it was only a matter of time. While we absolutely prefer to be a stepping stone on Kate’s journey – and certainly not an obstacle – I admit we’re shamelessly holding onto her pant leg for as long as possible! Just as you do during one of G’s moments, Kate, please forgive us for kicking and screaming.

Now, as for our reincarnated Chinese Ocean Stater, she and her three parents will be basking in the rediscovered sun during our remaining week of residency in Southie. After that, the wife and I quietly hope we’ll be seeing you down in Cahvah. Whatever the future holds though, Kate, thank you so much for being G’s first besty and her original third parent. We couldn’t have asked for better. We wish you the best and thank you for all of the wonderful influence you've had in raising G with us for the last year. Oh, and by the way, G says "Tanks."