Thursday, February 8, 2018

"Not So Super" Bowl and Our Heart Stop Moment

I am rapidly becoming a firm believer that if you think parenting is easy, then you clearly aren't doing it right. Little bundle of joy? Ha! You always have to read the fine print: For that little "joy", side effects include extreme anxiety, perpetual sensations of inadequacy, dizzying second guessing. There are easily a million little things that keep you up at night as a parent. Every moment of sleep, everything they eat, their schools and learning, their social interactions with family and friends, illnesses....is it enough or not enough? are we doing it right or need to do something better or something different? enough variety? enough stimulation or not enough or too much even? learning right and wrong and morality or is our kid the next Charlie Sheen?

With everything that can worry us, now the other foot drops, emergencies. The major fears of first time parents are usually centered around the notion of rushing your baby to the hospital. It's a gut wrenching thought. For 3 years and 11 months (15 of those months with 2 kids), we were blessed to not have to endure a true emergency with our kids. Enter Super Bowl Sunday and 4 toddlers playing.

It wasn't the first time these kids played together and won't be the last. But it was our daughter who got her finger slammed in a door. I was the first to see it happen and sprung towards her. Her screaming was piercing. I opened the door, moved the other kids away to examine her thumb as it resembled disheveled play-doh. We rushed to kitchen, wrapped it in towels with pressure, and little ice for comfort. I looked at my wife and said "We got to go to the ER now."

She didn't believe me at first. I have somehow gained the reputation of the "dramatic one" in our household even though my wife cries at Wells Fargo commercials, my son throws a shutdown tanturm if he can't watch the movie Trolls 3 times in a row, and my daughter cries when she only has 7 stuffed animals and not 9. But I'm dramatic. So she opened the towel to see the crime scene and immediately "Oh yes. We need to go."

We didn't tell our son much. My wife: "Gunner, stay with Papa G. He's putting you to bed so listen to him. Mom and Dad are taking Gray to the doctor. She's going to be okay and we will see you in the morning." We were out of the door before he even processed it I'm sure.  We live about 20 minutes from the closest hospital, we made it in 11 minutes. I dropped my wife and daughter off and parked and when I came in, they were being shown to a room. My wife forced the nurses to take her immediately to a doctor. A screaming 2 year old, a blood soaked mom, a disfigured thumb bleeding through a towel like a Game of Thrones episode, and they told her to "we need to get some information first". Thankfully, my wife's insistence helped them put a pep in their step.

Of course, my daughter was MISERABLE, screaming bloody murder while the towel and all our clothes looked like bloody murder. Even then, we constantly poked out of the room to see where the doctor was while we waited. When a nurse closed the door to our exam room, we opened it. They weren't going to leave our baby girl waiting any longer than absolutely necessary. If she had to suffer, everyone would suffer with her. Want it to stop? Heal our baby girl.

And thank God for the morphine. A small prick in the butt cheek and within 10 minutes, our little girl was comfortable, tears had stopped, and even some silliness and smiles at times. We put a movie on our phone for her while we waited and she was even singing along to Moana. Of course she sounded like Mariah Carey without the backup sound assistance but she didn't care. She had settled down.

Our wait was for them to prep an operating room for an emergency surgery. My wife and I aren't doctors, we took one look at the thumb in our kitchen and our reaction was "this is too much for a band-aid and some neosporin... to the ER" naturally assuming stitches for a bad cut and maybe a broken thumb also. Oh no no no. The doctor came in with "We called the Hand Surgeon on call to come in. He will need to fix this. It's beyond me just stitching it up, The bone was not broken but was exposed. It was a near complete amputation of the entire thumb. We need to reattach it."

I mean Holy Shit! I started my night wondering why Tom Brady went to the Super Bowl looking like an SNL skit of Andy Warhol to hearing my right handed daughter may lose her right thumb! At age 2! Her thumb! One of the very assets to distinguish her primitive innate dominance as a human over other animal species. And what of her future? A surgeon, a gymnast, an artist, a musician, a pro golfer? Just how much would this impact her down the road.

Every time my mind wandered to the dreadful place it shouldn't, I found comfort that Luke Skywalker had a robot hand it didn't seem to stop him from defeating Vader, the Emperor, and toppling the Empire. Lefties are also tough in tennis with being able to kick serve wide on the ad court (yes, I know my tennis jargon) and if she did want to play for the Yankees one day, lefty middle relievers are always in demand.

We left the hospital at 5am, Gray passed out from a long night, thumb reattached and bandaged so thick she could dip it in battery acid and not feel a thing. Her and my wife went straight to bed. I relieved our awesome babysitter and got some stuff ready for the next day before my son awoke at 630.
Gunner's first question, "How is Gray?"
Me: "She is okay. She is sleeping with mom now."
Gunner: "Good. Can I have a granola bar now?"

What I find most frustrating about toddlers is the listening to safety conundrum. I don't care if my kids don't listen to me about everything so long as they listen to when it comes to their safety. But that's not how it works, is it? You can sound like a broken record, do a powerpoint presentation, reinforce with candy, and no matter what, it's still mostly a crap shoot to get 100% compliance. I am usually pleased with 80% or higher even though don't my grad professors that. I've told my kids 50 times about not playing with doors and they for the most part listen. But on this day, since we had other kids going in and out of doors, I told Gray specifically 6 times to be careful around the outside door and even physically redirected her twice earlier. But tired toddlers don't seem to care about much from their parents or for the rules. Even though we spend every waking minute and most sleeping minutes, trying like hell to keep them safe, something can always happen that can make your heart stop. Pray it never happens but be prepared just in case.

Room 11 was no party room....
 But the morphine helped, silly faces with a detached thumb under that towel....
 Still detached and bleeding away under that new dressing....but our girl was a trooper....
 Finally off to emergency surgery....
 Maybe realizing what was about to go down....
 Wrap this Sunday up....
 Thumb back on....for now, our girl is back to 10 fingers....
 Perks of catastrophes, breakfast in mom and dads bed with the big tv....

 Hanging out with mom while working....
 Still wanted to do her piano lessons....

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Whoa Now

It's just a normal Saturday night. Our kids are in need of baths for bed which we try to do every other day unless they are just gross or my wife and I are just feeling a tad lazy. So I tell my near 3 year old daughter Gray "it's bath time". She enjoys bath time so without hesitation she bounces up and makes her way to bathroom with Dad trailing behind. It was a quiet walk, calm and collected, one done hundreds of times before it. But then, out of the soothing silence came a thunderous roar, "NO ONE TOUCHES MY VAGINA!"

If you can't imagine my daughter's voice, she sounds like a 45 year old Ukrainian postman with all the deep raspy rattling of old Ford Bronco in that voice. And she was serious! She wasn't playing any games with her vagina. A slew of emotional reactions rushed through me, all in the blink of an eye, first being "what the hell was that?!?!" followed by "oh crap, she better not be screaming that at school" to "hell yeah girl, that IS YOUR vagina, good for you".....

The backstory is that my wife every so often during bath time reiterates to our kids the importance of protecting themselves vs. adults. The "no touches my vagina/penis" except if you're with mom or dad lesson is one I fully support. I already assume most of the people I see are awful human beings in some form, maybe they harbor felonous desires or just watch too many SVU reruns or feed feral cats. I don't know them. And here in Trump voting Louisiana, oh hell no there will be no p***y grabbing allowed with my kids involved.

Thinking back on my daughter's grand announcement later that evening, I quickly remembered the first time my children's private areas became an area of concern for me. While my wife was pregnant with our son, we attended baby classes at our hospital and had 3 baby books to "educate and prepare" myself for life with a newborn. I, like many guys I assume, aren't "baby people" and didn't really have much at all in terms of practical experience with a newborn. But almost as serendipitous as Kate Beckingsale and John Cusak could have drawn it up, in the same week, our baby class and the chapter of my current baby book literature, they brought up Smegma (I would go into descriptive detail but it is medical condition that is remedied by good proper cleaning of the penis for the first few months).

Instinctively as if billions of years of my evolutionary patriarchal fatherly genetics were instantly ignited, I knew I had this major role in my son's life. I would defeat Smegma at all costs, like He-Man vs. Skeletor, the Rebellion vs. the Empire, Frodo vs. Mordor....I could not fail. My wife will tell you how annoyingly diligent I was in this regard. I changed as many diapers and gave as many baths as I could as well as constantly reminded her to ensure our son's penis would be in good health. On Day 2 at the hospital, a nurse brought G back to our room after his circumcision and said "make sure you change the bandage in an hour or so" to which I replied "I'm going to need a nurse change the bandage while we're here. Thank you." Why take the responsibility away from the professionals? I got it when we get home, but for now, with trained licensed experts circling 24/7, no doubt I would enlist their services. Drew Brees doesn't try to complete passes to the popcorn vendor.

Needless to say, I took it serious and now we don't have to worry about it. I did my fatherly duties when needed. And now, with both my son and my daughter as they get older, my fatherly duties remain in protecting my kids from any threat or concern. And while it may be hilarious to hear out of the blue in my home, I deep down quite seriously love that my daughter is prepared not to take any s**t from anyone, especially with her body.

Hard at work....
 What else to do on a "snow day" in New Orleans....
 Twins....
 Big helper....
 On a Bear Hunt with his binoculars....Don't tell G it's right behind him!
 Swinging....
 Piano lessons....he loves them and is gung ho!
 Seriously?!?!? Can't be stealing people's birthday wishes!!!
 Way to start a birthday weekend...2 sick toddlers....

Monday, January 22, 2018

Come On Dad!

I have not spoken a word of this before, but I have always viewed gift giving holidays as a bit of a sport, the best gift wins the day sort of thing. There is a deep satisfaction in achieving this feat, even more so when I was younger and on a much more limited budget than by competition. It soon became evident to me that it was all in the quality of the ingenuity and not in number or price. It is Roger Federer's ability to hit the right shot at the right moment that makes him the greatest, not the biggest or the most weapons, just always the right weapon, the sling and stone vs the giant, the single x-wing vs the death star.

This Christmas, all of the gifts from everyone for my kids were absolutely wonderful, very thoughtful and enjoyable, and the kids do play with all of them often. But on Christmas Day, the gifts I had picked out were some of the biggest hits. Years before, I had gotten my baseball prodigy prospect toddler nephew a Derek Jeter jersey and a Yankees batting helmet that I was told was an all day every day fashion necessity for him. This year, we had gotten our other niece and nephew a PJ Masks sofa and remote control car, both of which were in constant demand and use once opened. Victory! Confetti falls from the sky, balloons, streamers, photos from all angles as my smile does not try to hide my self admiration.

But then, a couple days after Christmas, a little thought of gift from my mother in law to my son, was opened and played. It was a board game. At first glance, one would not expect a board game to capture the heart and soul of a toddler, the evolutionary equivalent of the energizer bunny. But my son is no ordinary toddler. Gunner has always loved playing with letters and started reading a few months before his 3rd birthday. By his 3rd birthday, he can read anything, phonetically sounding out the letters to pronounce any word in front of him. Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, you name it, he could read it. But to partake in something more suitable for a 3 year old, my wife decided, a week before Christmas, to start reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This literary genius story of a world of candy is bound to mesmerize any child. And of course Gunner loved it. And a week later, he found this board game, also draped and steeped in the same mystical realm of delicious sweets, Candyland!

Needless to say, my mother in law won Christmas. Gunner has insisted on playing it over and over every day and all day. He wakes up around 630 /7 every morning and wakes me up to join him while my wife and daughter sleep til around 730. This entire 30 minutes to an hour window is devoted to Candyland, 9 or 10 games. Then when my wife and daughter wake up, more Candyland! Get home from school, more Candyland! Snowing in New Orleans, more Candyland!

One morning, as we were engaged in a gritty bloodthirsty bout of Candyland, I pulled a card that gave me a commanding lead. Gunner, stern faced, looks up and says, "What kind of shuffling was that? Come on Dad. I thought you shuffled the cards." I couldn't help but giggle but then, taken aback as I realized my son, my first born, my flesh and blood, my DNA, my chromosomes, had just impugned my honor and integrity. But even more unsettling but equally as hilarious is the realization that life with a near 4 year old is just filled with sass, straight up sass, not real housewives diva sass, more like stand-up comedian sass.

Mom: Gunner, tell me the story of the 3 little pigs.
G: No, that is like a 1000 words.

Me: G, what do you want for dinner?
G: Chicken Pizza.
Me: Really? When have you ever had that before?
G: You're right. Just regular pizza.
Me: What's regular pizza?
G: Pizza with chicken on it.

Oh and my daughter is straight following suit.

G: Can I have a banana?
Me: We are all out of bananas.
Gray: (most shocked and exacerbated voice) Out of bananas?!?!? What can we eat?!?!?!
Me: Thank you Gray.

So while I don't believe terrible 2s start until around 2.5 years old, I also definitely believe they chill out around 3.5 years old and what you are left with is a pretty cool, pretty silly little kid.

The best breakfast mornings....
 Starting his doctor education and training early....
 The anniversary of Gray's arrival.....1 year later....
 Halloween Trolls....
 Official School pic....
 Tough one....
 Official School pic....
 Love....
 Cousins for Thanksgiving....

 Helping setup the inside tree....
 Helping decorate the outside tree....


 Gingerbread houses....
 Hot hands....
 It's time to go....(his first watch)



 Cousins for Christmas....

 Sweetheart...


 New Years at the Beach....
 Not a fan of the sparkling grape....
 The first of many....
 Nails did....



Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Never Ending World of Parenting

Disclaimer: I apologize that I haven't posted my poorly crafted tales of parenting fails and non-insightful epiphanies for nearly a year now. But when we returned from a near month in China with our new daughter Gray, things got rather busy, and those first few months, quite difficult. But then the dust settled and things in our home have been quite amazing for some time now. And thus the tales of our adventures shall continue and you will spend priceless hours of your life reading about this pretty normal family who says thank you for pretending to be interested in their dad's musings.

My last post was titled "This is the End". I know a bit dramatic but at the time, I did feel very much as if I strayed aboard the Titanic and there was no wile and crafty Leo DiCaprio to keep me on that boat and alive and with the most priceless jewel artifact of a millenia. Our smooth easy routine life was jolted and disrupted. Even the simple things like not throwing toys threw windows or not pooping in our pants went away. Gray needed to learn pretty much everything. This was a life, home, family, language, culture, rules, love that she never knew before. Gunner already knew pretty much everything, except this one new fun little twist....having a sibling and being a sibling. And he was not a fan.

First off, ignore everything about Gray being adopted, living a year and half in an orphanage, only knowing Chinese culture, and speaking Mandarin. That girl is our daughter and she knew it on day 2 (day 1 was a little intense; 10 kids met their families that day and only 1 was screaming her head off; and yes of course it was Gray). She is super cute, super sweet, very clever and just fantastic. Our adoption classes and readings prepare you for the worst but it was evident immediately that her orphanage, its staff , and the other children had a great bond and very nurturing environment. We are so blessed.

So it's nearly Halloween, nearly a year since we met Gray in China, and our family went from 3 to 4, from a 1 kid house to 2, and we came home with all the new joys of a larger family and of having a baby girl. What I have I learned in the past year? I haven't learned much. I still don't why two kids can't live harmoniously for more than 10 minutes at a time. Or why those 10 good minutes energetically expand like a nuclear reactor until it reaches its breaking point and explodes. Or why is doesn't matter what one kid has or says but it seems to always drive the other kid crazy. It's like a perpetual role play of the Matrix; one kid is Neo and one kid is the Machine, and the splinter in his mind is maddening. And the ensuing chaos is brutal on everyone.

How do we parent this world of ever revolving polar opposite magnets? I still am not very sure. But I liken my quest not to the noble quests of King Arthur and the Holy Grail or Siddhartha and the Meaning of Life, but to the story of Sisyphus, the ancient Greek king. Much like most parents of toddlers who love to beam with pride (not external boasting, just the simple internal pleasure of feeling like a job well done) of our rare parenting wins (and with toddlers they come few and far between it seems), Sisyphus flaunted his cleverness without the humility of what lie ahead tomorrow. As a result, he was cursed (which many toddler parents would relate) in the afterlife to roll a giant boulder up a hill and could not rest until he reached the top; but every time he neared the top, he would lose control of the boulder and it would roll back down the hill, creating the endless grind of his eternity. We are Sisyphus. Every time we think we are close to a parenting or behavioral milestone, the universe knocks us back down to reality.

The biggest lesson my two toddlers teach me everyday is that I am not as clever as I want to be or think or hope I am and that I better be ready to roll the boulder up the hill tomorrow.

Since it has been almost a year, there will be a ton of photos to enjoy.

She won't be an Arsenal fan for long these days....
 Rubbing it in; He really roots for Man United....
 Settling in just fine....
 Christmas Eve Party....
 Christmas hugs....
 Sending G off to school for his first day....
 Family photo....
 Official Family Photo....
 Our little girl needed some tubes in her ears to hear better as she is learning....
 But right back it....
 First Mardi Gras....
 Loving the beach and the water....
 A little birthday cupcake happiness....
 Sharing some pastimes....
 Cold blooded savage tactics in sibling rivalries....
 And yes, our son got his 1st haircut after 3 years and 2 months....
 This....
 Day 1 of school for both of them....
 Time outs happen, and so does this face.....
 And does this....
 Baptized and so thrilled about it....
 We started outdoor soccer....World Cup 2036....
 Worth every bit of anything and everything....
 And potty training started and happened....
 Country Day love....
 Big kid at school....
 Oh lord....
 Even more so....
 And officially dreading this in 13 years....
 All sass and ballet....
 "There's glass between us!!!"
 And a real haircut, the short shave trim...
 Our little man....
 Melodrama is everywhere....
 Natural....milkshakes and Saints wins....
 Just as happy as can be...