After the night before last, during which I believe almost no sleep was obtained, and only twenty two days after giving birth to our new son, my wife went twenty one minutes on the elliptical trainer machine.
So tough. She laughed, almost spitting her tooth paste out, when I told her that she totally shaved off 3, maybe 4, ounces.
Did I mention how beautiful she is, too?
She's gonna need every ounce of that tough, by the way, since her mother arrives today for a three week visit.
I am certain that I am not the only person out there who is actively engaged in a conversation with himself. It isn't out loud, mind you. It is sort of a quiet undertone kind of thing inside my head as I "talk" to myself about observations and the world around me. Calling it a conversation gives it too much gravitas, actually. Its more like a stream of consciousness babble that I only sort of pay attention to. Kind of like just not being able to turn my brain off. It gets more active the more tired I am. I have been tired for some time now, of course.
Here's one observation I thought I'd share it with you here. I was walking through one of the secondary passageways in Grand Central, on the way to my train and observed to myself that when the gentle smell of feces wafts its way into your nose, the following thought sotto voce intrudes into your babbling dialogue: "Please let that smell be from a dog and not a person. Please."
Thus proving that I have been in this city for too long.
. . . because it is your alarm clock and you have to get out of bed now. Right now. No screwing around. Get up!!!
I am a creature of routine and habit, at least in the morning. That alarm goes off every weekday at 4:40 and I take the 5:17 train into the city. From there, I head straight to the gym for about an hour and a half to two hours of exercise and then to the office. This is my regular morning thing. I am like the milkman's horse. I just get up and go. I have it down to the point where it is more difficult not to go to the gym than it is to go to the gym.
But not today. Today, that alarm clock went off and I turned it off and went back to sleep for another hour and a half. About the same amount of time as a workout, come to think of it.
The baby is having bad and painful gas. He was up, I think, a lot last night. All I know for sure is that the Viking Bride never returned to the marital bed last night. That's not to say that I slept all alone, because I didn't; the Boy Child came in sometime in the middle of the night to cuddle and sleep with me. I escorted him back to his own bed after a lovely cuddle. He believes that the rule is that if our door is open, he can come into bed with us. And he's basically right.
The baby's gas pains were somehow soothed for little while after I picked him up and, holding him to my chest, began kissing him on his neck and collar bone. Three quick little kisses without taking my face from his neck. He stopped crying, seemed to really like it, and feel asleep on my chest for a bit until the internal pain woke him again.
We are all very tired and I have been burning the candle at both ends. Getting up at 4:40 all week and not going to bed until 11:40 -- filling the intervening period with court appearances and oral arguments, contentious board meetings and rancorous and difficult phone consultations regarding the same, hosting a dinner for 90 at which I had to speak (at three different points during the event), and otherwise just trying to stay on top of things generally.
So when that bell called this morning for this fighter to step into the ring, he did the only thing he could do -- he turned it off.
May I ask for your kind thoughts, by the way? My mother in law arrives for a three week visit tomorrow. Any good energy / nice thoughts you can send my way would be fine.
I had a bit this weekend. I looked deep into the abyss that is my dark heart and realized that I am not a hitter. I am not going to hit my children. I will not spank them. I am not going to do that bullshit thing that my dad did. You know, the "this is going to hurt me more than it will you" thing. I always used to tell him, that if that was true, why didn't we just skip it? I'd still get spanked. I didn't get spanked a lot, mind you, but I did get it from time to time. I am absolutely 100% certain that I deserved each and every one of those smacks, too. But, I don't think I will be doing that to my kids.
I threatened them with it on Sunday, though. I told them, after they continued to run around the house and after I told them to stop. I told them that since they had just broken the crystal bowl I was given from my much beloved, now dead, grandmother, that I would spank them if they didn't listen to me and if I had to tell them something again twice.
But, here's the thing. I can't do it. I won't do it; not over this. I might give them a swat in the parking lot if they tried to get away from me and thus scared the living hell out of me. But to just whack 'em for not obeying?
No. I can't do it. I won't have my children look at me fearfully. I told them, too, that I was changing my mind, that I wouldn't spank them for not listening to me, at least, not automatically. I do want to leave a small area of doubt. But when I sat back and thought about it, I realized that I can not just cold bloodedly, at this stage, put them over my lap and hit them. Laps are for cuddling. Laps are for hugging and for squeezing and sometimes for tickling. Laps are not for hitting. Cold blooded, by the way, because I never, ever want to be the person who physically corrects his kids in anger -- that's a disaster waiting to happen.
I don't know how my dad managed to make himself do it. I don't mind at all that he spanked me since, like I said, I bet I drove him to it. I was a bit of a terror and had a mighty smart mouth on me. But I just can't see myself doing it.
Especially to my daughter. I don't want her to EVER think that any man has the right to put his hands on her violently. EVER. End of discussion there.
So, where does that leave me? Where I started -- enforcing discipline through a consistent application of the rules so that the kids know where the limits are, where the boundary markers lay, what my very, very clear expectations are for their behavior. I don't want to force adherence to the rules out of fear, no matter how badly I want them to adhere. Some things may just not be worth it, some avenues are too likely to transform all of us in ways I am just not comfortable with.
So, I put the hand back in my pocket. You see, the next time I take my hand from my pocket, I don't want my kids to flinch when I go to stroke their hair, which I do a lot.
All bets are off when they get to be teenagers, of course. Although, by that time, its probably way too late.
And by the way, I reserve the right to change my mind as circumstances require. After all, grand pronouncements of parenting rarely, if ever, survive contact with a real, live child.
Hope some small part of that above ramble made sense.
Today I am two years old. It almost slipped past me actually. But as of today, I have been blogging for two whole years now. In that time, I have had around 70,000 visitors, according to the not terribly accurate sitemeter. I have posted over 1000 entries. I have received, since moving to MuNu, over 4100 comments.
I set out, with my first post, to do the following:
My goal here is to create an outlet where I can comment on the things that piss me off, interest me, amuse me, or will do any of those three things to my readers. In short, this will be a general interest blog for catholic (with a small c) interests. I welcome your participation in my little experiment. I will be adding more later, including email contact information.
I think I have mostly succeeded in doing that. But what has made it all worthwhile is the comments I have received and the friendships that I have been fortunate enough to form with some of you.
Thanks for sticking with me these last two years! I'm off to have a long lunch and a short afternoon!
One of the great things about living in New England is the sense that history is just around every corner. I took a picture of the oldest house I've been able to find, so far. It is in Fairfield, CT and I think it is absolutely charming:
Want to guess how old it is?
Yup, about 1690. Fascinating, isn't it?
In Michigan, a few days ago, a minor league baseball team did a cash drop to drum up attendance. They chucked $1000 out of a helicopter onto the field and let everybody run around to collect as much as their sticky little hands could hold. The problem was that two small children were injured. Not seriously injured -- a split lip on one and some bruising on the other. But the bruised one had to do to the hospital. Asked for a comment, the team PR flack said:
"It's for fun and games," spokeswoman Katie Kroft said. "This is why we have everybody sign a waiver."
I have to remember this bit of learning for the next birthday party. All kids have to sign waivers before they play "duck, duck, goose".
Seriously, isn't that a ridiculous comment?
Easy. Make it two toned.
As seen this morning at Madison and 40th Street, the Mercedes Maybach:
I wrote, this morning, a long letter of thanks to a friend, a Hasidic Jew who gave me a gift this year and a gift several years earlier. With some minor changes, I realized upon re-reading, it would make an excellent blog entry. And so:
Please excuse the fact that I am writing to you on my computer as opposed to by hand. I want you to be able to read my note, you see, and my handwriting would make that much more challenging than strictly necessary.
This is a long overdue note but, just the same, I write to thank you for the gift you made me of the _______ Haggadah some several years ago and for the gift you gave me of the matzah, this year.
As you may know, I now have three children: The Girl Child, age 5; The Boy Child, age 3; and, The New Addition some 10 days old now. I send the Girl Child and the Boy Child to preschool at the _____ Synagogue of ____ where, along with playground time, they receive the beginnings of a formal Jewish education. Frankly, their education is already probably better than what I was open to receiving. Indeed, I wish you could have heard the Girl Child sing the four questions at the Seder on Wednesday night in Hebrew. It was lovely and better than I could have.
As we were coming home from the Seder, the Girl Child told me that she did not want to have a second Seder on Thursday night. Well, I certainly wasnât going to push Jewish life on her. My view is that it needs to be a part of her life because she has been led to want it as a part of her life not because I have forced her into it. It may not be the right decision, at the end of the day, but I am doing the best I can. So, I acquiesced and told her that that would be fine and we could skip the second Seder.
Then I got home last night and, I am happy to report, was confronted with an angry and disappointed young lady who demanded to know why we were not having a second Seder. I explained to her that if she had wanted one, we would have been able to have one but that I had to prepare and would have had to have come home much earlier than I did. Her mother promised her that, with the seven days left to us, we would have a second Seder. She was mollified.
And so, I went to the bookshelves in my den. I knew that I would find there the only Haggadah I owned: The _____ Haggadah you had given to me. I took it from the shelf and put it in my bag to bring with me on the train for my commute so I could review it and make some appropriate selections from it for our second Seder. I had never, I must confess, looked at it beyond a sort of cursory fashion before but, I thought, it is a Haggadah and a Haggadah is exactly what I need.
I read through the first half of it this morning and, in one sitting, feel as if I have acquired a vastly different understanding of the Passover holiday, of the miracle of the Exodus, of the importance of it all to me as a Jew. It is a wonderful book, my friend, and, I am almost ashamed to say, I have already learned so much from it.
I did not realize that âthe Children of Israel âwere naked and bareâ -- they did not perform mitzvot in Egypt [and] [e]ven the mitzvah of circumcision was forgotten. When the time for the redemption finally arrived, G-d gave the Jews to mitzvot to perform: the Paschal Lamb and circumcision . . .â (citation omitted). I did not realize that it was, among other things, due to the performance of these two mitzvot that G-d redeemed our people from slavery in Egypt. This affected me greatly and I want to share with you why.
My newest son, the New Addition, named in blessed memory of my grandfather, _______ who died in December 2005, was born on April 5, 2006. We held my sonâs bris on Wednesday, April 12, the morning of the first Seder. His circumcision was held the morning of the day on which we gathered to thank G-d for his redemption, just as the Haggadah recounts that our people were circumcised those thousands of years ago. With that beautiful ceremony, we were all privileged to share a connection with our fore-fathers as they too were circumcised and waited to be freed from slavery. I, obviously, did not realize the significance of the timing of the New Additionâs bris until I read the book you gave me. My grandfather would have known, I bet.
I was terribly moved by this wonderful occurrence and felt, as I felt when my wife was spared the devastation of September 11, 2001 because we were all at the mikvah for the conversion to Judaism ceremony for the Girl Child, that somehow G-d has welcomed my children into the covenant of his people, despite the fact that I married, for love, outside my faith.
Reading this Hagaddah that you gave me has given me greater insight into the holiday and spurred me on to want to know more and to study and to acquire more knowledge. And so, I write to thank you and to tell you that, in my view, you have performed a mitzvah. You have allowed me to learn and kindled within me the desire to learn more. You have made my Passover more significant, more meaningful and more important, less rote and more feeling and intellect. In short, maybe, you have helped me with your gift become a better Jew and a better guide to my children as they learn what it is to be a Jew. I will, I suspect, always think of you at Passover from now on.
While you gave me this gift several years back now, I think that it was only with this Passover that I actually received it. Thank you, my friend.
And while I thank you, thank you also for the wonderful matzah you gave my family and me. We will have it and eat it, in fulfillment of the laws of our people, at this second Seder that my daughter has now demanded that we hold.
With the fondest of thanks,
I have fulfilled my promise and played my role in the unbroken covenant dating back 3500 years to Abraham. My son has had his bris. He did beautifully, although my father had to be cautioned by the mohel to hold the boy's legs more firmly and a bit more carefully. The boy is rather strong, according to the mohel.
The attendance was low but the important ones managed to come.
I wore my grandfather's yarmulke for the ceremony. It was the first time I had put it on, ever. My grandmother had made it for him. He wore it all the time I knew him. The cantor said it was Bukharan in style, which I did not know. It was a difficult moment for me. The bris for the boy named for my grandfather and my wearing his yarmulke. I took it out of his tallis bag and closed the bag up. I had been delaying, coming up with reason after reason to avoid taking possession of these things from my mom. It doesnât take a genius to figure out why. But I wore it.
After the bris, we hung it with our guests and then went for a long lunch at our old beach club. The kids frolicked on the lawn next to the ocean. It was a spectacular day. I drove everyone back home for a little while and we returned to Westchester that evening for the Seder.
The Girl Child sang the four questions in Hebrew. She's five years old. She is now officially more accomplished than I am.
We didn't get home from the Seder until almost 10:00. We were all terribly tired. The children had not napped and I have not had a complete night's sleep in days, if not longer. I put them to bed and went to my room to unpack from the day.
It had been a momentous day. We welcomed our son into the world in a spiritual, ritual way and we celebrated the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It was quite a day.
I opened my grandfather's tallis bag to replace within it his, now my, yarmulke. I don't know why I did the following, what prompted me to do this, but I put my face to his tallis bag and inhaled.
He has been dead since December, my beloved grandfather. I miss him more than I can possibly relate. I thought I was doing better with his death.
But the tallis bag. Oh, my. The bag smelled of him. I could smell his particular scent in it still. The scent I used to smell when I hugged him or sat next to him. I can't describe it but it was ineluctably his, this scent. I closed the bag immediately and began to struggle not to cry. It was such a blow, such an unexpected punch to suddenly find him there in that bag, there in the room with me. I shut the bag quickly so I could, as if I really could, preserve the smell, not expose it to air, bottle it for later, hold on to that dear man for a little bit longer.
Right now, the scent was too much for me. I'm not going to tell my mother or uncles about it, I don't think. Maybe later it will be a comfort to me but right now that faint scent is overwhelming.
I miss him so much that I have given my son his name. Although, right now, I have difficulty calling my son by his given name. Instead, I call him by the nickname my daughter has bestowed upon him and I find that easier.
I'm going to hug that bag to my chest, you know, and pray for the time that it becomes a comfort to me and not a trial.
I just slept for the last 40 minutes or so and am feeling marginally more human. It was an early start to the day (alarm at 3:40 a.m.) after a difficult night with the little guy, mostly difficult for my wife but I was up a bit, too. I had to get up so early to meet the new nanny at the airport at 5:20. It is about an hour's drive from her to Kennedy airport.
So, it was about 4:00 when I went downstairs this morning to quickly make some coffee before heading off and I heard some suspicious little feet pattering away upstairs. I went up to investigate and found the Boy Child and the Girl Child coming out of her room:
BC: Pappa, me so thirsty, me have some freshWAter, please?
GC: Pappa, he's really thirsty and wants some fresh water. My water on my night table is a little old.
Me: What was he doing in your room?
GC: Oh, he slept in my bed because he said he was scared.
I picked him up and carried him downstairs where I got him some fresh water and brought him back up and tucked him and the Girl Child back into her bed, hoping they'd get to sleep.
They didn't. I heard more footsteps moving around quickly upstairs.
Then my wife came down. Now, this is how you know you've married a good one, ok. It is just past 4:00 in the morning, your wife has been up and then asleep and then up and then asleep throughout the night, she has just been woken up by the other kids, and she reports to you with great humor:
You realize that you are leaving me all alone in the house with two members of the five and under crowd engaged in an active search upstairs for the prophet Elijah? At least, that's what they said they were looking for when they just came into our room and woke me up.
They are some lucky kids, I tell you. If I tried that, I'd have had some violence committed on my person.
The bris for the new guy, by the way, will be on Wednesday.
I would say we've made a few changes for the Girl Child and Boy Child this weekend. We've brought home a new brother for them, fired the nanny (that went very well, actually), are bringing the new nanny in to start tomorrow, and have put the Boy Child in a big boy bed. The Boy Child is still wearing a diaper at night (age 3) because he keeps peeing in the night. The following is what transpired this morning when I crawled into bed with him to cuddle with him after he woke up:
Me: Did you pee in your diaper last night?
BC: Weeeel, I went to the potty a lot last night.
Me: Yes, but did you pee in your diaper?
BC: Mamma changed me last night [tone: earnest]
Me: Ok, but did you pee in your diaper?
BC: [sighs] Oh, dear. Maybe a lot.
I was so proud of him and his attempts to answer my questions without actually answering them. I think he's close to ready for national elective office.
I blocked it all from my memory. How bad the incomplete night is. I didn't get the brunt of it, I just took the 1:00 to 2:30 shift when, remembering that I was going to have to watch the two older children, I passed the new guy back to his mother.
Everything hurts -- head, neck, back. Not to whine, because no matter how bad I feel I can guarantee that my wife feels worse.
Sitting here right now with the older kids, I made the Girl Child (age 5) laugh:
Me: Girl Child, your hair looks so pretty since we got it cut. She did such a nice job.
GC: No, it doesn't. It looks stupid.
Me: Yeah, but it looks pretty stupid!
She laughed really hard. Gotta love a 5 year old with a good sense of humor.
I have to go make more coffee. Bye.
Here I sit. Quite tired, a beer filled glass at my feet, the baby monitors buzzing quietly behind me, my equally tired children sleeping upstairs, and a gigantic pile of clean newborn sized baby laundry that I washed in between assembling the cradle, going to the pharmacy, returning client phone calls and family phone calls, cleaning the new baby's room and sorting all his clothes, and visiting the wife and new child (who I still don't know what to call for my blog).
The Boy Child and Girl Child shared a picnic dinner on the floor of the Viking Bride's room tonight. They had McDonald Happy Meals, beloved of children everywhere, and the wife and I shared a celebratory meal that the hospital gives all new parents. Quite good actually (seriously), although if you give birth at Greenwich Hospital any of you out there, I urge you not to bother opening the bottle of NY State Champagne. Don't say I didn't warn you, ok?
Hopefully, the new guy will get released tomorrow from the NICU, where he has been kept as his blood sugar has not been stellar and he is still quite a tiny little fellow. I am optimistic that they will allow us to bring him home tomorrow. They kick the Viking Bride to the curb by 11:00.
Well, the mound of laundry ain't folding itself, so I must go.
Before I go, though, thank you all for this unexpected outpouring of support and happiness and good wishes and all the wonderful thoughts you all were sending our way. Even if it didn't influence the outcome (no way to know, of course but I figure it surely didn't hurt), it certainly touched my heart and I am terribly grateful. Thank you all so very much.
At 3:30 today, our newest son arrived in the world. I cried, just a little bit. He cried a bit more.
Mother and child appear to be just fine. The baby is in the NICU right now but, I hope, he will be out soon. They just want to make sure he's taking food properly and that his breathing is good. The Viking Bride has already been allowed to eat chocolate again and her blood pressure and other things are all back to normal again.
He's wicked cute and I love him already.
His brother and sister assured me that there was enough room in their hearts to include their new sibling.
And yes, he will be named for my grandfather who died in December.
Now, I go to sleep. I expect a good night's sleep for the first time in days.
Thank you all for your thoughts and support.
Bris will be held next Wednesday, according to the Mohel, who I just got off the phone with.
The results of the amnio are back and the baby's lungs are mature. That means, that as of about an hour ago, they gave my wife Cervidil. The labor induction has begun. I will join her tomorrow morning and, assuming everything goes smoothly, we will have a new baby tomorrow evening and the Viking Bride will be all better.
Thank you all, so very much, for your kind thoughts and your prayers and your emails. I have not been able to respond to them all (uh, any of them, actually) but I have read them and they helped.
Meanwhile, I leave you with the instructions the Boy Child (aged 3) told me to communicate to the doctor:
Pappa, tomorrow you go hopsbital, you see doctor, you say: "mamma ready come home now, she come home now", ok?
I have finally gotten the children to bed. We called Mamma at the "hobspital" on my cell phone, put her on speaker, and included her in the good night stories and the songs. The kids sang Norwegian children's songs for her and I think she melted.
I am beat. I drove down to the hospital this morning and had breakfast with my wife. Then trained into the city to go to work for a couple of hours and returned in the late afternoon. After another visit and a consultation with her doctor, I drove home to take the kids.
The doctor was interesting. Basically, my wife is getting worse, trending from mild to severe. The blood pressure is up and rising and the other issues are going the same way. If it weren't for the gestational diabetes, they would have induced labor already. Why wait? With gestational diabetes there are lung maturation issues. You see, complication upon complication. What we are going to do, assuming she stays the same, is to have an amnio again tomorrow morning to check for lung maturation on the baby. If the lungs are mature, they induce right away. If the lungs are not quite ready, and my wife is stable, they will try to delay the process for a couple of extra days. If, however, my wife begins to get worse, they induce, regardless of lung maturity status. Either way, we're getting a baby by the end of the week.
Thank you, all of you, for your good wishes, kind thoughts, and your prayers. I appreciate them all. I don't have the time right now to personally answer each one, as I am sure you understand, but I read them all and am grateful.
I lack the inspiration to title this post. I am, at this point, exhausted and am really just writing this to unwind a bit. Last night, I allowed the kids to have a sleep over again. After a while, the Girl Child called to me and I went running upstairs:
GC: Pappa, my tummy hurts. I don't feel good.
Me: [honestly, thinking at this point that this is the last thing I need] What's wrong, peanut? Is your tummy unhappy?
GC: Well, its not happy; its not angry or disappointed, but its not happy. I think that maybe its just empty. Dinner was a long time ago.
Funny, since I recalled, at that point, exactly what she ate the day. Breakfast, one huge slice of Challah, toasted with butter and jelly. Then we ran errands and came home and she ate a bowl of oatmeal with a half a bannana. Then she went to a birthday party and ate cake and pizza. We came home and she ate 6 dumplings that her brother and I brought home from lunch for her. Then she napped. A little candy after her nap and a little ice cream when we visited her mother at the hospital. Dinner with my parents where she had bread and a whole plate of tortellini. And she was empty. Did I mention that you can see the girl's ribs and she eats like this? Unreal.
So, update on the wife's situation. She is not coming home from the hospital. Not until after she gives birth. We are on a day to day thing here. Her pressure keeps moving in ways that make everyone unhappy and her liver enzymes are increasing. There is no way to know but there is a sense that she is brewing something and everyone is nervous that it could escalate at any moment. So, she stays.
The kids saw her twice today. Once in the morning after breakfast and once after naps. They understand that she is not well. The Boy Child told my mother: "My mother in hobspital; she not feeling well. She sick." The Girl Child hasn't spoken about it but she knew the instant we pulled into the parking lot that this was the hospital that she went to visit her great-grandfather when he was dying. She asked me, as I switched off the engine, "are you sad to be here, Pappa?" I told her I wasn't, that I wasn't sad any more about my grandfather dying but that I was happy about the wonderful life he lived. She seemed to accept that, but, you never know. She's a deep one and there is, really, no question in my mind that she has made a connection between the hospital and death and her mother being there. I hope, merely, that it fades.
I don't want to end on that last thought. Instead, I will end on hope. I leave with a thought of hope. And the words of the Boy Child, who wanted to know if his mother could come home and check on him sleeping. I told him she couldn't.
Finally, I leave you with Kiss me Kate. We, the kids and me, have been listening to the soundtrack.
Its too darn hot.
They're keeping her, maybe until sometime on Monday, maybe longer. The problems are, potentially, very serious and they don't want to take any chances.
I am exhausted. The kids are down napping, now, and when they wake I will take them to visit their mother at the hospital. They have, needless to say, no idea of the seriousness of the problem. All they know is that Mamma is having some tests and they need her to stay over.
I am feeling a number of things right now. Worried about my wife, concerned about the kids, unsettled by the hour to hour uncertainty, and a tad overwhelmed. It feels, for the first time, like I am a single parent, like I have sole responsibility for the kids and that's it and it may be for some time. Its different from having the kids for a week while my wife is away on business, for instance. I can't say how, but it is hugely different.
Our nanny has not offered to help at all. Meaning, she has not asked if there is anything she can do. She has no plans this weekend. I know because she told me that. If I was undecided at all, I am now resolved that this will be her last week. Come Friday, I will fire her. If I'm gonna be alone with the kids, then fine, let me be alone with them and at least I can do it while just wearing boxer shorts.
I will post more, if I have the opportunity, later. Or not. We'll see how it goes.
Thank you, by the way, for all your kind comments. They were awfully nice to read.