Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Presentation

Mention the word "presentation," and I immediately think of food.

That's the way I am, I guess. I imagine a thoughtfully conceived and artfully conveyed plate of tri-colored tortellini alla panna or perhaps an artsy rendition of enchiladas.

But with Nathaniel's arrival in our family, I've had to rethink the meaning of the word.

That's because Natty has become a big fan of a game in which he presents himself. Not for eating, mind you, but for tickling, snuggling, snuffling, growling, blowing, squealing, thigh squeezes, toe tickles, tummy rubs, you name it. It goes like this: I'm sitting on the sofa, and Natty wobbles up to me and extends his arms upward, gesturing for me to lift him on to the sofa next to me. He then starts bounding along, from one end to the other, a madcap, happy-go-lucky amble in which it looks as if he'll careen right off the sofa at any moment. When he gets to the opposite end of the sofa from where I'm sitting, he stops, turns around and eyes me. Then he puffs his chest out and leans back against the sofa, his head tilted so far backwards it looks as if it will pop off his shoulders. He spreads his arms away from his body, leaving his torso completely stretched out and exposed.

This, my friends, is the presentation. Nathaniel is begging me to scooch over and play with him. He wants to be tickled. He wants me to bury my head in his midsection and nibble at him. He wants me to bounce him, hound him, twist him, turn him, wrestle with him, turn him upside down, toss him, and whatever I can do that tickles his little fancy. And, naturally, I oblige.

What happens next is pure joy. Shrieks of delight from the little guy. Shrieks of delight from his father. Giggles from Natty. Snorts of laughter from his father. Pleas for more hand-to-head combat from Natty. Ready acceptance by his father.

We play this game almost daily. And it never gets old. I can't begin to describe the gushing of good vibes I get when I have any excuse to nuzzle my son, but when he actually is begging for it? Rapture, folks, rapturous.

Watch the video (coming soon – technical issues). See what I mean?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

February is a cruel month

Yes, February has been a cruel month for the Lewis/Murken clan. Again.

Last February, Nathaniel was wracked with a series of ear infections that caused him nearly uninterrupted pain and his parents nearly uninterrupted misery.

In July, he got the magical mini lug nuts in his ears otherwise known as tubes, and he was pain and misery-free. Until February.

Readers of this blog no doubt know about Michelle and my succumbing to some strange, awful virus that emptied our insides. That marked the beginning of February. About midway through the month, Natty got irritable, he began pawing at his ears and his nose resembled a spout that drained gooey, yellow liquid. His breathing sounded like a decades-long smoker.

Yes, he was congested, head, nose, ears and all. It was only a matter of time before he wouldn't be the only one.

Next was Michelle. Her signature sound has been a cough that raises itself from the dead when we hit the bed. She unleashes her cough in a rapid-fire, quadruple, stutter-step cascade with an emphasis on the last hack, kind of like a "Huhhh, Huhhh, Huhhh, HUHHH!" She hacks her way through the night, arising in the morning with a crappy night's sleep to show for her efforts. Me, being the light sleeper that I am, suffer by proxy.

Then Michelle got congested – really congested. She said it felt like having glue pumped into her head. You couldn't find her without a tissue in one hand and a tired, miserable look on her face.

About three weeks into the month, I got it. Actually, it began last Friday, as in eight days ago. It all began when I couldn't stop myself from coughing. It felt as if someone had stuck a feather in my throat, and I couldn't dislodge it. Enormously frustrating.

By Monday, the cough was a foul, deep-throated beast. By midweek, it was joined by a swelling of seemingly all my glands. I felt like my head was a balloon, and some evil being was blowing mucus-filled air into it.

That pressurized feeling has worsened in the last few days where I now feel as I if I am living underwater. I haven't tasted food since Feb. 19. I remember important dates like this, and everyone knows about it, because I've whined to all who would listen. Only yesterday did I finally resign myself to the fact that my taste buds would remain MIA until the cold came under control.

Please let it be soon.

So, my take on children, is, yeah, they're great. You know I wouldn't trade Natty and the joyous times we've had with him for anything. (so many and it's just the beginning!) But man, the germs he captures and carts home. It's just downright cruel. It sucks. I'm sick of it.

I like winter. I really do.
But please bring on spring.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sleeping Baby

Is there nothing better than a baby sleeping in your arms?

Tonight, I put Nathaniel to bed. Usually, as I lay him in his crib, he cries, babbles or plays with a doll called "Baby Tad," a stuffed frog through which you can program up to six minutes of bedtime music. This night was different.

As Natty tipped back his bottle of milk, I read him a book about a boy's visit to the doctor in Italian and another about Elmo and Valentine's Day (that one in English). I really like reading the Italian book, because it allows me to brush years of dust from once learning the language. (And it's simple enough that I can understand it.)

I then turned him toward me to pat his back for a burp or two. He smiled sweetly at me and fingered the books we had just read lovingly. Then, without warning, he sighed and placed his head sideways against my chest. I held him.

He has done this before, but usually he gets bored, or antsy, and I put him in his crib. This time, however, he stayed where he was, head against my chest, arms dangling loosely by his side, legs curled up, and his little butt tucked up in my palm. His eyes closed. He began to breathe more deeply. Then he started snoring – tiny puffs of snores through his nose.

He was sound asleep in my arms.

Truly there are fewer feelings of fulfillment than this. I love him.

(P.S. – Another new post is below.)

Waves of Sickness

It would be an easy excuse to say the reason why I haven't posted in nearly a month is because we've had waves of sickness course through our little clan. So, instead of apologizing, let's get on with the story.

It all started on an early Monday morning three weeks ago. I woke up at about 1 a.m. with what felt like a ball of fire that had been dropped into my stomach. Then came a series of cramps, each stronger than the last, and before I knew it, I was up, out of the bed, and making a mad dash for the bathroom.

Some time later, I returned to bed, thinking my little crisis had been averted, that the cauldron in my tummy had subsided. But less than an hour later, the fires in my gut returned, and I was again sprinting to the bathroom.

Well, each hour for the next ten hours, I would repeat the bed-to-bathroom dash. Each trip I would alternate between vomiting and the other conduit by which your body expels unwanted stuff. I felt as if I had been poisoned. Towards the end, I was dry heaving over the toilet; my body had violently jettisoned all contents, and there was nothing at that point except bile.

As I lay like a heap of bones on the bed, Michelle appeared to have been unscathed. She got up and left for work. Yet within a few hours, she was stricken, and she returned home to repeat - in some measure – the same dance I had done.

I was knocked out of work for two days, and even though I returned on Wednesday, I was a shadow of myself. I ate exactly one bowl of chicken noodle soup over three days, and I didn't have an appetite until the fifth day.

One day during that week, Michelle brought home a copy of a local paper that said a prep school had been closed for the week due to an outbreak of a sickness called "norovirus." We had never heard of it before, but the symptoms matched ours: vomiting, diarrhea, chills, nausea, stomach cramps. Lasts 48 hours or so.

Apart from being miserably sick, I would say the hardest thing about the ordeal is we still needed to tend to Nathaniel. Miraculously, the little bugger had dodged the virus. So, while Michelle and I lat moaning on opposite ends of the sofa, Nathaniel was prancing about, urging us to play with him. And that was just the bit of it: Of course, we still needed to feed him, bathe him, change him, dress him ... the typical checklist of tending to a child.

We endured, as parents do, even when they feel worse than lousy. As we recovered by the weekend, it became Natty's turn to get sick. His appetite plummeted, and his demeanor turned quite cloudy. He pawed at his right ear, and his breathing became wheezy. In short, he got sick.

Thankfully, he didn't contract the norovirus, or whatever it was that we had. But for two weeks now, Nathaniel has been out of sorts. He's been to the doctor twice. He's on his second prescription of ear drops to relieve the gunk lodged in his right ear canal. (The tubes are still in, thank goodness.) We gave him a mist twice a day to loosen his congestion, and he's on antibiotics to ward off a potential infection in his head, nose and ears.

He's been a handful, but it hasn't been his fault. It's just been more trying with Michelle and I also being sick. But things appear to be looking up: Just yesterday, Nathaniel returned to his sunny self, and his appetite roared back with a vengeance. He's eating everything we're putting before him. Michelle feels better. I feel ... I mean, I felt better until today. My stomach has been boiling again.

I think I need to get to the bathroom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Walking Proof

Forgive the short post for now, but here's one of the first videos we got of Nathaniel walking. He's progressed a lot since, and he's now speeding his steps, so much, in fact, that he's tumbling all over the place, like drunk staggering out of a bar at closing time. It's as if his mind is moving faster than his legs can take him. That's where I want to go – now! Dang, why can't my fool legs get me there?

Meanwhile, we're witnessing some spectacular tumbles. Forward face plants. Backward butt landings. Sidelong, twisting turns that look like a pirouette gone awry. Eat carpet, little man. Each time, though, he bounced right back up and tries again.

You know, you can see the joy in his face with this walking thing. He really, really digs it. As Michelle noted, he relishes in seeing the world from this new vantage point, and he's now trying to grasp all of it at once. (She said it more eloquently, but you get the point.)

A month ago, Nathaniel was a crawler. Now, he's a walker. The transition has been incremental, I guess, but it still seems stunning when I think of it in its entirety. No wonder he seems amazed by it all.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Nathaniel is walking.

I'm a little late in letting you in on the news – about a month, in fact. So, let me catch you up on this monumental development.

Natty's walking saga began, as it does with probably all babies, with an accidental step or two as he went from clinging to one object (say, a table) to another object (like his miniature shopping cart). He had no idea what he had done, but Michelle and I sure knew. With a knowing glance and nod, we figured it would be just a few days before our little boy was strutting around the room.

How wrong we were.

For out of those "Oops! I walked" steps came a string of days when Natty did nothing else but crawl. I'd like to think we're generally laissez faire kind of folks, but after a while, we got impatient and wanted to see Nathaniel repeat his fancy little trick. So, we'd stand him up and coax him to walk toward us. We were mildly successful at our ploy. Mostly, Nathaniel would drop immediately from his contrived standing position to crawling and scoot over to us, a big grin flashing across his face. "Look, Mom, I'm here. I made it!" he seemed to be saying. He had no idea that we were trying to get him to attempt another form of locomotion.

So, we gave up. Better said, we shelved the idea of rushing the little guy into bipedalism. He'd learn eventually, we figured.

Eventually took some time. Yet, suddenly, we noticed him taking two, then three steps all by himself. We also noticed he was doing this with some regularity, mixing in occasional steps even as he mostly crawled. So, we started coaxing him again. Gently. No pressure, kid. We just want to see what you're capable of. 

Days before Christmas and a time when we'd be visiting my sister and her family, Nathaniel set his personal record by taking seven upright, stiff-legged steps to Daddy. We cheered. We clapped. We roared with delight.

And he reverted to crawling.

At my sister's house, however, the walking bulb finally went off. Nathaniel began walking more, not only stringing steps together but at times making walking his first choice of movement. I think it was because he watched his three cousins, and, admiring them greatly, wanted to mimic what they were doing. Plus, with sets of cousins and relatives in different rooms, I imagine he wanted to keep abreast of the action in as many places as possible. No matter, it appeared to be a decided change in mentality. Our little boy seemed to want to master walking.

Watching a baby walk for the first time (and times) is a mix of comedy and dread. The comedic part comes from watching the movement; in Natty's case, he looked like someone on stilts. His legs were stiff and he lurched from side to side. As he took each step, he looked perilously close to listing over. If one sway was too exaggerated, down he'd go. Or, he'd accumulate too much forward momentum and down he'd go. 

Those falls aren't particularly forbidding when you're a couple of feet off the ground and cushioned with fat and diapers but to a parent, it can be scary. After all, who wants to watch a child fall and possibly get hurt? So, that's the dread I'm speaking of. 

The kid-on-stilt phase lasted in earnest for a couple of weeks. This weekend, it really looks as if Natty Lou has opted for walking over crawling. We watched as he walked through the kitchen into the dining room (converted into his playroom), hung a right and walked through the playroom and into the den, stopping at the coffee table for a well-deserved congratulatory hug. You can see his confidence going with each series of steps. Yes, he's still stiff-legged, and no, he's not running, but he's much more fluid in his walking than he was even a week ago.

This time, there is no turning back. Our boy is walking, determinedly. Video to come soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Year That Was

When I think about 2009, a lot of it seems a blur.

You know when in the movies, the director will evoke time passing by showing the pages flipping on a calendar? That's kind of how I felt in many instances last year.

Of course, the year was not without so many blessings and outrageous joy.

It was also a year turned inward, where my attention and affections were cast mostly upon wife and son (and dog, intermittently). I would say that Michelle and I are close, but Natty Lou's arrival tightened those bonds even more. It really felt like a nuclear family, and my perspective of home changed as well, I think. 

Not sure how to explain that exactly, but I guess the best way to say it is I was perfectly content to just plant my fanny on the sofa in the evenings, on the weekends, and just be with our little clan. 

That fanny planting never lasted long, however. There were always things to do, and the chores mushroomed with Nathaniel on the scene. I've written about many of those things already, so I'll go sparingly on the whining. Suffice it to say that a child's addition to a home presents a whole new dynamic to the family relationship. It brings such happiness, such wonderment at the creation of life and witnessing a child progress from a wholly dependent being to a caring, playful, tempestuous, yelling, giggling, cackling, blabbering, kicking, flailing, cooing, head banging, riotous, comedic person who, you never would think, actually wants to copy what you do and say. Natty Lou has been all that – and then some.

A real highlight had to be our week-long stay in Block Island with Michelle's brothers, sister and a sister-in-law. We couldn't have asked for crisper, more pleasant days to gaze from the back deck toward the shimmering Atlantic and Long Island, which appeared so close you think you could have swum to it. We hiked, we biked, we played games, we cooked gourmet meals (including lobster boiled in water straight from the ocean), we happy-houred, we swapped stories, we watched movies, and we simply hung out with ourselves and Natty. We couldn't have imagined a better trip.

We capped the year by traveling on Christmas Eve to my sister and her family's house. Unlike the first time the cousins saw Natty, this time they could play with him rather than simply cradle a blob-like being. Nathaniel basked in brotherly and sisterly love and attention. You could see how much he wanted to emulate them. I'll have to put up a video that shows Natty's seizing of the familial stage one night. It's a keeper.

So, here we are in a new decade, having ended a decade that no one seems able, or willing, to name. So be it. I'll take it. For me, the past decade ended just great. I can only hope this one will be as rewarding and fulfilling.