Monday, March 28, 2016

Big Boy Time

Sam has plowed forward from toddler to childhood with both fists swinging. Happy Fourth Birthday, son.

Uncharacteristically for the third-of-three-children, Sammy had the unique pleasure of having a birthday all to himself tonight. We stopped for cupcakes at Delicious on the way home, cooked his favorite stroganoff for desert, and opened and played with possibly the two most perfect presents for this little warrior (see below).

Jack and Caroline are now off at Camp Sparty, cavorting with Nana over Spring Break. We were all down in Sparty for the weekend for Easter, hanging with the fam.

We did up a big party for Sammy at lunch on Saturday, opened presents and sliced and diced the custom-made, '77-vintage Wilton-brand Batman cake. Matilda stayed up all night baking that cake - well, actually I didn't get started until I was sure that the UNC victory over Indy in the Sweet Sixteen had been cemented. Doc slaved away all morning getting the totally sweet icing job completed - the result? Perfection:

 

 Sam was duly impressed. It was just what he had requested. The icing on the cake, so to speak, was getting to spend nearly all of the next day ensconced in his the arms of his beloved Annelise.



Before we left, I was a little concerned that Sam would feel like he was missing out, not getting to spend time at Camp Sparty with the other kids. Three hours in the car later, having basked in the glow of having the iPad ALL TO HIMSELF (we did not hear one peep out of him the whole car ride) I was reassured that he would be OK.

So today, just the three of us - a concept that Sam is totally alright with, at least in the short term - we had ourselves a pretty good little day. It ended up, after popsicles at school and cupcakes at home, with Sammy beating the snot out of his new "Bad Guy" punching bag:



When he's not kicking this guys toosh, he steps back to launch a few arrows from his new bow and arrow set. The only disappointment? "Dad, I really wanted my own hatchet for my birthday," he says. Maybe next year, big guy.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Four years in a flash

A lot can happen to someone in four years.

For BamBam, it was the development of his senses, growing teeth, learning to walk, to talk, to run, to jump, to reason, to laugh, to lie, to apologize, to chase, to hunt, to wrestle, and to love.

For me, it was transitioning from being a mother of babies to a mother of children and it happened so fast I hardly noticed.  I don't remember the last bottle I heated.  I couldn't tell you the last diaper I changed.  I don't even think I can recall the last night I was needed to rock someone to sleep.

I guess that's nature way of protecting a mothers' heart.  Had I known it was going to be the last night of footie pajamas or the last time I would see BamBam suck his thumb, I would have fought more to make it last.

I try hard to teach my kids about nature and the circle of life. I want them to be comfortable with the phases we all must go through and embrace them with excitement and optimism.  The best is yet to come, my children.  Today, though, I find myself needing that same pep talk.

So Doc...it's ok to miss the midnight feedings, the soft cries of a newborn, binkies, Huggies, bouncers, chest snuggles, nursing, napping with warm sweaty heads, boogers on all my clothes, puffs, strollers, the Bjorn, baby food, and sippy cups (though do let me remind you how much you cursed them at the time).  But now is the time of real work.  You taught them to walk and talk but now you get to teach them to think and to reason.  You are now going to be shaping how they see and present themselves to the world.  It's daunting, yes.  But it's also going to be so much fun.  Now is the time of sweet surprise questions in the car or while cooking dinner.  Conversations can be bigger and richer and so too can the emotions.  It used to only be happiness or anger, laughter or crying.  Next is curiosity and hope and melancholy and trepidation and pride and fear and empowerment and accomplishment.

Don't worry.  You still get to hunt for lovies every night and fight the monsters in the closet or the toxins in the veggies on the dinner plate.  And I bet they aren't done with the snuggles quite yet.  But you also will get to watch her keep a smile on the kindergarten stage even though HoneyBadger is scared out of her mind or watch BamBam sing his ABCs into the microphone at pre-K graduation with the pride of a thousand lions or listen to TenderHeart as he explains why BamBam shouldn't be afraid because they can conquer anything that comes as long as they are holding hands.

Your family is weaving together now that the babies have grow into their own skin and the connections you are making have so much more strength and color.  It's OK to shed a tear or two for the simplicity of the moments that are gone but don't dwell too much.  What is coming next is a thousand times more beautiful and powerful than you can even begin to imagine.

And Doc, most importantly, the moments to come are the same ones you will look back on with tearful nostalgia.  So work hard to be in them, with your entire self, both eyes and your full heart open.  The best is yet to come.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Perspective is priceless

I thought we were overwhelmed when Matilda and I were working parents to 3 small children, a dog, and an aging house.  Then I tore my hip labrum and realized we actually had it pretty good.

I thought we were overwhelmed when I went in for surgery.  Four weeks of crutches meant 4 weeks for Matilda to run the house.  Turns out the surgery was more extensive than we had anticipated and suddenly Matilda's workload doubled to 8 weeks and we realized only 4 weeks wasn't so long.

I thought we were overwhelmed post-op week 2 when the laundry started to pile up on the kitchen counter and the fridge couldn't be opened due to the smell.  But then I got shingles on the hip that is supposed to be wearing a brace 24/7 and simply being a one-legged invalid seemed easy in comparison.

I thought we were overwhelmed when I had a hard time wearing pants because of the shingles pain, much less helping with the laundry or the smelly fridge, when Tenderheart had surgery on his ear and Matilda got the flu simultaneously.  That was fun.  What hip surgery?

Then after a night of sleeping in 45min segments due to said ailments of all involved, Matilda and I finally fell asleep while the kids sat quietly in front of the TV when they all stormed up the steps with a burning electrical smell trailing behind them screaming that the wall was on fire.  True enough, the wall switch was hot and smoldering.  Apparently, electricians do not work on weekends. What shingles?

I thought we were completely and totally overwhelmed and stretched to the max.  Then, last night at 2am, Tenderheart woke up with the flu and I distinctly remember hearing God chuckling that we thought having 3 little kids, a dog, and an aging house was hard.

Here's to appreciating the moment we're in because God only knows what the next one may hold.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Night time

Someone just couldn't wait for Daddy to come turn out the light tonight:



Good night, sweet princess. That is what a hard day of playing in the snow and watching movies will do to you..

Monday, January 4, 2016

Red is the Rose

Come over the hills, my bonnie Irish lass / Come over the hills to your darling
You choose the road, love, and I'll make the vow / And I'll be your true love forever.

Red is the rose that in yonder garden grows / Fair is the lily of the valley
Clear is the water that flows from the Boyne / But my love is fairer than any.



Truly, my Love is fairer than any. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Star of Wonder, Star of of Night

Sometimes it seems that we truly live in the land of three wee kings.

Take for instance this exchange that passed for routine conversation amongst two of our children as we drove through the annual Sunset Hills Lighted Balls Christmas Light Display:

Doc: "Oh look at that one. It's a star." 
Jack: "That's not a star. It's a small baby blob in that awkward phase where it is shooting off bursts of fire and gas.\ 
Doc: "......" 
Jack: "You know, that's how stars form." 
Doc: "Well since it's on their porch, I sure do hope it keeps most of it's flaming gas bursts to itself." 
Sam: "I have gas. But mine's not on fire." 
Jack: "Sam, you don't have gas. You are not a baby starting to form. You are a human. But you ARE in that awkward phase." 
Sam: "MOMMY!! Jackson called me awk...ak...ahk....Jackson called me a name!"
Indeed, there is wisdom from the mouths of babes.

Also, here is some cool drone footage of this years' "Running of the Balls":

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Parting Glass, or The Joyous Life of a Thousand Goodbyes

Oh all the money that e'er I had / I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e'er I've done / Alas it was to none but me
And all I've done for want of wit / To memory now I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass / Goodnight and joy be with you all

Oh all the comrades that e'er I've had / are sorry for my going away
And all the sweethearts that e'er I've had / would wish me one more day to stay
But since it falls unto my lot / That I should rise and you should not
I'll gently rise and I'll softly call / Goodnight and joy be with you all


Doctor and author Atul Gawande spoke last month at the Bryan Lecture Series about the effects of age, and the effect of proximity of death - really, the increased uncertainty regarding the risk of loss which age and some other conditions bring - on people’s perceived well-being and happiness. Dr. Gawande cites a study out of Stanford that shows fairly conclusively that the closer people are to the uncertainty of life - either to the end of their own life or to situations and circumstances that increase the possibility that life will soon end - the happier they are, the more they appreciate life. If you haven't yet read his book on this topic, "Being Mortal," then I commend it to you. 

I got to hang out this weekend with a fine bunch of Americans - men that don't need to read a book to appreciate the essence of Gawande's insights. Greater appreciation for life results from increased proximity to uncertainty regarding death? I think we call that sometimes wisdom.  It would be an unsurprising observation to many of These Men, no longer quite as young as they once were but still just as fine and full of spirit. 

Reflecting on the weekend, I want to tell them this, in ways that is hard to do over a beer or in a large ballroom: There is really no one else in this country that is as well equipped to live a joyous life as you guys are.  You have been there and you have seen the elephant, and you have come back. And whether it was through your own courage or plain dumb luck or directly due to the sacrifice of another - whether you deserve to be here or whether you do not deserve to be here -  it doesn’t matter.  You’re here.  You have an opportunity to live a joyous life.  You have learned, or had the opportunity to learn, how precious life is, how fleeting it can be, but also how glorious it can be in that uncertainty.  

The new Star Wars movie is coming out, a couple trailers released. I like many other males of a certain vintage have watched with pleasure these trailers and am excited to see the movie come out. I saw the third and final trailer just last week, right before heading to Las Vegas, and it’s a moving piece and it’s exciting.  It stirs the blood partly because you know what came before, you’ve seen all the movies, and to see a saga like that carried on is phenomenal.  But Jesus, there was one scene in that movie that spoke to me in a way that I’m not sure really spoke to many people.  Fleeting scene.  Here it is, cued up to the right spot (1:31):


Did you see - it's only a few seconds, 1:31 to 1:36. Have you ever shaken somebody’s hand in a moment like this?  Have you once been a warrior, walking off to the field of battle, and passed a fellow warrior headed out and stopped and said, "I need to shake this man’s hand one more time.  I need to look him in the eye and say I am proud to shake his hand and tell him to go off and do his job."  Yes, you have.  And the gaze between the two men, burning over the short distance, the clasp of hands pausing in a hectic moment. It was worth your time to stop and shake their hand, and that – whether the director intended that or not, whether he understood that or not, these actors nailed it. Fighter pilots scrambling to alert out on the tarmac; bombing crews huddling one last time before they go to their navigation seat, bombardier stations, ball turret guns; infantrymen leaving the wire on patrol.

You know that hand shake.  You’ve had a last hand shake with somebody. And it was worth it to say goodbye, so many other times when it turned out to be unnecessary.  Because once or twice, it was the last chance you had to shake That Man's hand. The Joyous Life of a Thousand Goodbyes.

It's hard to get together after 10+ years. It's hard to discover - almost surprisingly - that you are as at home with this group as you are with anyone else in the human race, because you know this weekend will be fleeting, and there will then be a void when it is over.  It's even harder still to part ways again, uncertain when in the next decade you will again have the chance to stand shoulder to shoulder with These Men. It was overwhelmingly therapeutic to see nearly 100 of our alumni answering this new call to arms: to reassemble and reminisce over scotch, cigars, and warm hazy memories of the finest days of our young lives, and the finest of us that did not return.

Best men I've ever known. Best job I ever had.

Goodnight, and joy be with you all 




Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Day Without Rain

We have had rain in Greensboro for 31 of the last 48 days. Honestly, I had to check - I don't recall there being that much sunshine since mid September. Perhaps there wasn't - surely several of those days in which no precipitation was recorded at KGSO, the day was nevertheless the sky was cloudy and overcast and the ground was wet.

After spending most of yesterday barefoot, outdoors and in the rain at the James K. Polk birthplace, we lucked out with an overcast and chilly but reasonably dry November day. And for the kids it was like a jailbreak.

We went to the science center, saw the new Pacific Giant Octopus and all of our old friend, the gibbons and fishing cats and tigers and meerkats. Funny how we always run into people we know - I saw a buddy from downtown, Jack saw a friend from his class as Sternberger ("Daddy, I'm too embarrassed to go talk to her." Well, she ran right over to talk to Jack - embarrassment solved).

We bounded over to Guilford Courthouse and spent some time romping through the woods, leaving the path or trail whenever feasible.



Not to call it quits too early, we played a little front-yard soccer and did some driveway chalk art.







Saturday, November 7, 2015

From the Halls of Montezuma...

The opening line of The Marine's Hymn no doubt has its roots, much like the resolution of the Oregon boundary dispute and the annexation of Texas, in the presidency of our Nation's Eleventh President.

James K. Polk, just one of three U.S. presidents born in North Carolina (yes, of course I am counting Andrew Jackson despite South Carolina's claim to the contrary - but yet Polk's birthplace is only a mile from the state line), was responsible for the U.S. invasion of Mexico in 1846, for which he sought and obtained a declaration of war from Congress. "From The Halls of Montezuma" refers to the Battle of Chapultepec, 12-13 September 1847, during which a force of Marines stormed Chapultepec Castle in a bloody but successful assault.

Today's history lesson was less about war-making and more about pie-making: we trooped on down to the confluence of Sugar Creek and Little Sugar Creek in southern Mecklenburg County, to the original birthplace of President Polk. There, in 1795, little James K. Polk (the first of ten children) was born in an inauspicious log cabin, a recreation of which adorns the site. We were guided in our journey of late 18th and early 19th century American frontier life by the High Docents of the Historical Cooking Guild of the Catawba Valley ("the premier hearth cooking organization of North Carolina"), who regaled us with pumpkin and apple pies, syllabub, "snowballs," doughnuts, wood smoke and history lessons.

From GG's armamenterium of period-specific items we obtained a solid 18th century outfit for both Caroline and Jack and a "good-enough" shift for Sam to wear. I am informed that children of that vintage would have been largely unshod at such an age, so we peeled off shoes and socks and out into the muddy drizzle they ran. It is remarkable how much fun kids can have if you will just let them be kids. Mud is really easy to wash off of bare feet, much more so than from shoes, and any remaining dirt hardly shows on the smooth-hewn wood floor of a log cabin.


The ladies of the cooking guild, who have been plying their craft of "authentic and historically accurate methods of 18th century hearth cooking and other historical foodways" for well over 25 years now, had clearly spent most of the morning preparing a feast for the visitors of the historic site. However, due to fortunate county food code restrictions, all of the food was solely for "display purposes" and none of the visitors were allowed to sample a taste. No such restriction applied to the "reenactors" themselves, our little critters included. So Jack spent most of the day crouched around the hearth or perched over the edge of the table, asking "can I try that?" or "can I have a bite of that?"

 

Above Left: Caroline, after swiping an apple; Above Right: the kids, sampling "the goods"


  

Full album of pictures is located here, courtesy as always of Google's Picasa Web Albums:





Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!!

Well, we survived another Halloween on the war-torn streets of Old Starmount Forest. We were lucky this year to be protected by the powers of Captain America, overseen by a Very Pretty Witch, and had Fireman Sam on standby in case the backyard firepit were to get out of control.

One way to judge the success of Halloween - at least in my mind - is based on the net candy intake. With GG limiting the passers-by to just one small handful apiece (and only after they voluntarily said "Trick or Treat", no just sticking out your bucket expectantly at our house), and three full-fledged bucket carriers roaming the streets, I think we ended the night with more candy than we started. Jack and Caroline both ran out of room in their respective buckets, and Sam stopped off to empty his out because it was "too heavy."

We made out like bandits.






 

  

Sam sure was tuckered out after a hard evening of tricking, treating, and candy-eating. Too tired, in fact, to pick up his pile of trash which he cleverly left in the corner of the downstairs hall. But not so tired that he felt like he needed to let go of his glow stick - no, indeed, he fell asleep grasping it in his little sticky fingers. ;-). "Good night, sweet prince!"

 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Tar Heels On Hand

Tar Heels on Hand,
To steal the Thunder from the Sky:
Then take our stand,
As every man does right by Blue and White,
We'll give the Tar Heels a Hand,
And cheer them on to do or die (Yeah!)
All of us are for U.N.C.
and you can betcha we're proud to be
the Tar Heels on Hand!

We all trucked down to William R. Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill last weekend, to cheer our beloved Tar Heels to victory over the Demon Deacons of Wake Forest University. It sure was nice to have all these new Tar Heels On Hand as a family for the first time!

Three Future Tar Heels, Born and Bred



We got  everybody all dressed up in their Carolina garb - boy do we have a lot of it - and headed over to link up with Bud and Nana at Fearrington Village, where they were enjoying a long weekend of rest and relaxation. It was one of those classically gorgeous fall days in Chapel Hill, and we sat around all afternoon at Fearrington just enjoying being together.

A quick trip up to Chapel Hill, parked at the Boathouse and the kids got a kick out of riding the Bus into town. Had a tailgate at the Bell Tower with the NCBA and then on to our seats. We managed to snag some pompoms, and everyone had a blast cheering the 'Heels on to victory!


Wednesday, September 23, 2015