Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sickness Redux

When will it end?

No, I don't mean winter, which has seemed longer than usual and even as it snows outside as I write. I mean the weeks upon weeks of sickness that have hung over our family like dollops of mucus.

It really seems like someone has been sick for as long as I can remember, perhaps extending as far as Isaiah's birth in October. A little more than a week ago, it seemed like we had made it; spring had arrived (on the calendar at least), and the clocks had been booted back an hour. There was more sun than we had seen in months, and everything just seemed as if it were looking up. But now we've slipped back into our old, ill ways.

And this latest slide has been a precipitous one. Isaiah awoke on Wednesday with his eyes so puffy it looked like he has gone 10 rounds with Muhammad Ali. So, Michelle carted him to the doctor. Isaiah had hit upon an unusual trifecta of sickness – conjunctivitis in both eyes, a cold and a double ear infection. Talk about your cocktail of maladies.

Amazingly, the little guy has made barely a squeak despite being barely able to see, much less hear or breathe. Michelle said that on the morning she took him into the doctor, he even managed a weak smile for her. Maybe it was his way of reassuring her that everything would be alright.

The next day, Michelle carted Nathaniel to the doctor for a checkup from an ear infection he had been diagnosed with two weeks earlier. Nathaniel, we now know, will need a third set of tubes in his ears to relieve the fluid that has pooled there. While the fluid is not infected, he is on some kind of medication to keep it from being infected before we can get him into surgery for the next set of tubes. Poor guy. The tubes do help, there is no question about that. But I really don't like the fact that he has to be put under anesthesia for the procedure. The last time he was put under, I held in my arms as a technician put the mask over his face. He looked at me with his big, blue eyes. I saw a flicker of panic, and then it seemed as if he were questioning me: "Daddy, why are they doing this to me? Daddy, will I be alright?" It was absolutely gut wrenching, and I hoped then that I wouldn't have to go through that again.

But now I know there will be another time.

I can only hope that Isaiah doesn't have the same fate with his ears. He was healthy for the first four months, give or take, but he's making up for lost time now.

And, I don't feel so great myself. Where's my blanket?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Baby Run

Isaiah got his first run in this weekend.

OK, so it was a ride as his daddy labored for eight miles. But it was his first time in the baby jogger, and he really seemed to dig the time. It was a Saturday morning, and the sun was shining brightly, an altogether beautiful beginning to the day. Birds were flitting back and forth from feeder to feeder, and I saw some finches hanging from the nyjer seed bag dangling from a tree branch. The grass, while brown from being covered for weeks by a blanket of snow, was showing signs of rebirth, a soft hue of light green on the blades' tips. I put on shorts and a light pullover, and then I wrapped Isaiah in little white bear outfit with ears on the hoodie. I used a beach towel and Nathaniel's name towel (thanks, Lee Ann) to prop Isaiah in the jogging stroller and belted him in. It was a snug fit, with barely any need to loosen or fasten the straps. He was made to be in there, I thought.

I got outside and began my run. The bike path that runs along the water is about a mile from our house, and that's where I headed. It's scenic, as you might imagine, winding along the town harbor and then following next to the water or poking a tad inward amongst the trees. And, it's pretty flat, which is a lot to like when you're pushing a stroller. As we got on the bike path, I felt the wind for the first time. It was a steady headwind from the north, and I got a little nervous, as I hadn't thought about covering Isaiah's hands. At least I had the presence of mind to wrap him in a blanket, so I was reasonably confident that his body or his feet weren't getting chilled. But we were running directly into the wind, and there was no screen for his face. I thought about turning around, but I figured I'd encounter the wind with any other route. So, I kept going, running ahead of the stroller (while holding on with one hand, I might add) to make sure Isaiah hadn't frozen. He was awake, and never made a sound. Not a grunt, a grimace, nor a fuss. He just sat there, and well, I'm not sure what he did. I like to think he admired the view as much as I did.

The best thing about running into the wind is that you turn around, and you get it on your back. So, by the time I turned around, I knew it would be a nice ride back home. Isaiah seemed to know it, too. Some folks who were heading the opposite way got glimpses of the little guy, and judging by their smiling faces, he must have appeared to be content. I think I heard another couple remark how sweetly he seemed to be sleeping.

What a trooper on his first foray in the baby running stroller, in a mid-March chill. I sure hoped he liked it as much as I liked having him along.

I can't wait to do it again.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Sisterly Visit

My sister is visiting us this weekend.

Perhaps that's not big news when family or a relative comes to town. But with my sister, it's special because of what she brings and what she has left behind.

Let me explain: My sister has a husband and three children, ages 9 to 15. She loves them dearly and supports them entirely. You won't find her checking out on them. She is locked in to their needs and their wants, their joys and their sorrows, their victories and their losses. She knows everything that is going in her household, because she is involved in everything that goes on in her household. Not in a micromanager kind of way, but in an "in the know" kind of way.

So, for her to willingly leave her family behind to see us and our two children is indeed something special. A little sacrifice on her part, to strengthen the bonds between our families. She's getting something in return: Lots of cuddly time with baby Isaiah, who's never met a face he won't smile at. And Nathaniel, of course, who within five minutes had warmed up to his aunt and begged her incessantly to join him in everything he would do.

My sister brings a lot of love and a healthy dose of parenting perspective, too. As far as parenting goes, she's the veteran, while I'm the neophyte. Michelle complains that I listen to my sister more intently for parenting tips than I do to her. I hope that's not the case, or the vibe I'm giving off, but maybe it's subconsciously acknowledging the wealth of wisdom that my sister has.

Take this, for an example: We've been giving Isaiah some antibiotics to treat an ear infection. We use an oral syringe to give him his medicine. Every time I stick the syringe in his mouth and plunge the stopper to deliver the medicine, some of the liquid shoots out of his mouth or dribbles out the side. It all means that Isaiah isn't getting the full dose. My sister watched me do this, and told me that if I stick the dropper in the far reaches of his cheek and dispense the medicine, he will involuntarily swallow. She was right. It worked perfectly. Not a drop of the pink stuff oozed out. I excitedly showed Michelle what I had learned; she looked at me and with a hint of exasperation said, "That's what I've been telling you." Oops. I honestly didn't remember that she had.

I need to come up with a way to make me think that whatever Michelle is saying is coming from my sister in the parenting stuff. Maybe that seems weird. I don't know. What I do know is it's a joy that my sister is here, little sacrifice at all. We thank her and her family for it.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Unexpected Moments

This is a rare, unexpected moment of bliss.

I arose in a grouchy mood at 5:25 a.m. because Isaiah would not sleep.

Mondays and Tuesdays are days when Michelle goes to work. That means I get the children up, dressed, fed and off to day care before hustling to catch the bus to work. It's an hour of hectic, frenetic activity in which I keep a mental checklist for how the routine should go seamlessly and then watch as it all unravels.

This morning appeared to be no different. Isaiah, despite Michelle's best efforts to leave him in a content, slumbering state of mind when she exited the room, was agitated. He tossed, he turned, he swiveled, he arched his back, craned his neck. He exhaled mightily, fussed, groaned and finally cried. It was clear he would not drift back to sleep, so that meant I needed to get up, even though I didn't want to.

So, up I got and stumbled downstairs to heat a bottle of mommy milk. Glass bottle of the good stuff in fridge? Check. Fill coffee cup with water and warm the water in microwave? Check. Put bottle in coffee cup, so milk can warm? Check. Wait five minutes. Try not to fall asleep while standing. Check temperature of bottle. Reheat water in coffee cup and repeat subsequent sequences. Once I had deemed the bottle (and the milk) sufficiently warmed, I trudged upstairs to roust Isaiah from his crib and give him a bottle. If all goes swimmingly, this will top him off, so to speak, satiate him enough, that he will ease off contentedly into slumber. And I can then turn my attention to his older brother, who by then should be stirring.

I walked into Isaiah's room, and lo and behold, not a peep from the crib. I crept in, tippy toe, looked over the rail, and there he was, on his side, asleep. Well, I'll be. I crept backwards, slowly, taking care to avoid the creaks in the floor, and gingerly closed the door.

Fifteen minutes later, still no sounds. It's still, and it's silent. I have a cup of coffee (Dean's Beans, Arctic Sunrise – I highly recommend it.). For a precious few minutes, it's just me and my thoughts.

Bliss, my friends. A rare, unexpected moment of bliss on a Tuesday morning.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's in a name

How did Isaiah get his name?

I wish I had a clear and compelling tale on that one. It's not quite as straightforward as Nathaniel, shall we say. With Natty, Michelle and I liked that his name was rooted in New England nomenclature, which, since we live in the region, gives him a sense of place. We also thought it was unique, without being kooky or contrived. Further, we liked any diminutive form of the name – be it Nathan, Nate, Nat, Natty or whatever else someone can conjure. And we couldn't think of any derivative that a mean-spirited child could dream up that could inflict verbal wounds. Meanwhile, his middle name is Ames, which is where Michelle and I met in Iowa. Another ringing sense of place.

Looking at the defense above, I guess we thought about his names a lot more than I had realized. We're pretty satisfied with what we did, and we hope Nathaniel will be, too, that he will love his name.

Isaiah's name doesn't have as rich a story. I will say it did come organically, just as Nathaniel's name did. In other words, we consulted no baby books, nor did we bounce potential names off family or friends. We definitely did not survey athletes, celebrities, U.S. presidents, pop magazines or other familiar depots of naming ideas. I admit that I would look at the births section of our local newspaper to see what names were in vogue, but I did not consciously consult it for ideas. Michelle and I would lob a name at each other from time to time and await the other's response. It was pretty easy to divine which names were either immediately tossed (Oliver, Abijah, Duane, etc.) which ones received a tepid response (Henry, Paul, etc.) and then those that we both liked and made a so-called finalist list. (I won't share them with you, since you never know.)

Isaiah, it's safe to say, was one of the names we both liked. I'm not entirely sure why. I've liked the ring of the name for a long time, and, well, it just seems like a fitting name for an athlete. Don't get me wrong, I am NOT buttonholing him or Nathaniel into sports in any way. I will be happy with whatever they pursue (especially science), so long as they use their minds and they're contributing to societal progress or the common good in a meaningful way. Michelle, I believe, initially was lukewarm to Isaiah, perhaps because of my thinly-veiled athletic infatuation with it. She likes it now, and it helps that it's unique and has been around for at least the last 2,000 years, as a book in the Bible will attest. It's a name that has stood the test of time.

Isaiah's middle name, Paul, is a nod to family. Michelle's grandfather on her mother's side was Paul, and he was a genial, honorable man. The quintessential typical Iowan, I'd say – a farmer who worked hard and made little fuss, doted on his daughter and listened to his wife.

So, that's how Isaiah got his name. We hope he loves it, too, because it all came out of love for him.