Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fix Bayonets!

In the spring of 2003, just after we invaded Iraq and soon after I was selected to join 1/5., Capt. John Maloney took me to the library upstairs in O'Bannon Hall at TBS, and walked straight up to a small red book on the shelf, the precise location of which he very clearly knew by heart. "You're going to want to read this one," he said. 

Since that day, I have loved the imagery and cadence in the writings of John W. Thomason, a Marine Captain during World War I with service in the 1st Battalion of the 5th Marine Regiment. His book, Fix Bayonets, is in my mind some of the finest American writing (as well as battlefield sketches) to come out of that war. 

More than just his descriptions of factual events, the tone and measure with which he describes Marine traditions, set down in print nearly 100 years ago, still rings true with a certain timeless character that is the very best of our ethos. Thomason's essayLeathernecks, excerpted below, is a great example (the illustrations are Thomason's as well).


by John W. Thomason 

THEY tell the tale of an American lady of notable good works, much esteemed by the French, who, at the end of June, 1918, visited one of the field hospitals behind Degoutte's Sixth French Army.  Degoutte was fighting on the face of the Marne salient, and the 2d American Division, then in action around the Bois de Belleau, northeast of Chateau Thierry, was under his orders.  It happened that occasional casualties of the Marine Brigade of the 2d American Division, wounded toward the flank where Degoutte's own horizon-blue infantry joined on, were picked up by French stretcher-bearers and evacuated to French hospitals.  And this lady, looking down a long, crowded ward, saw on a pillow a face unlike the fiercely whiskered Gallic heads there displayed in rows.  She went to it. 
"Oh," she said, "surely you are an American!" 
"No, ma'am," the casualty answered.  I'm a Marine."
The men who marched up the Paris-Metz road to meet the Boche in the spring of 1918, the 5th and 6th Regiments of United States Marines, were gathered from various places.  In the big war companies, 250 strong, you could find every sort of man, from every sort of calling.  There were North-westerners with straw-colored hair that looked white against their tanned skins, and delicately spoken chaps with the stamp of the Eastern universities on them.  There were large-boned fellows from Pacific-coast lumber camps, and tall, lean Southerners who swore amazingly in gentle drawling voices.  There were husky farmers from the corn-belt, and youngsters who had sprung, as it were, to arms from the necktie counter.  And there were also a number of diverse people who ran curiously to type, with drilled shoulders and a bone-deep sunburn, and a tolerant scorn of nearly everything on earth.  Their speech was flavored with navy words, and words culled from all the folk who live on the seas and the ports where our war-ships go.  In easy hours their talk ran from the Tartar Wall beyond Peking to the Southern Islands down under Manila; from Portsmouth Navy Yard-New Hampshire and very cold-to obscure bush-whackings in the West Indies, where Cacao chiefs whimsically sanguinary, barefoot generals, with names like Charlemagne and Christophe, waged war according to the precepts of the French Revolution and the Cult of the Snake.  They drank the eau de vie of Haute-Marne, and reminisced on sake, and vino, and Bacardi Rum-strange drinks in strange cantinas at the far ends of the earth; and they spoke fondly of Milwaukee beer.  Rifles were high and holy things to them, and they knew five-inch broadside guns.  They talked patronizingly of the war, and were concerned about rations.  They were the Leathernecks, the Old Timers; collected from ship's guards and shore stations all over the earth to form the 4 th Brigade of Marines, the two rifle regiments detached from the Department of the Navy by order of the President for service with the American Expeditionary Forces.  They were the old breed of American regular, regarding the service as home and war as an occupation; and they transmitted their temper and character and view-point to the high-hearted volunteer mass which filled the ranks of the Marine Brigade.

It is a pleasure to record that they found good company in the U. S. Army.  The 2d Division (U. S. Regular was the official designation) was composed of the 9th and 23d Infantry, two old regiments with names from all of our wars on their battle-flags, the 2d Regiment of Engineers-and engineers are always good-and the 12th, 15th, and 17th Field Artillery.  It was a division distinguished by the quality of dash and animated by an especial pride of service.  It carried to a high degree esprit de corps, which some Frenchman has defined as esteeming your own corps and looking down on all the other corps.  And although it paid heavily in casualties for the things it did-in five months about 100 per cent-the 2d Division never lost its professional character.

Seven years after, across the world from France, I met a major of the American General Staff, who was on the Paris-Metz road that last week in May, 1918, and saw the Marine Brigade.  "They looked fine, coming in there," he said.  "Tall fellows, healthy and fit-they looked hard and competent.  We watched you going in, through those little tired Frenchmen, and we all felt better.  We knew something was going to happen-" and we were silent, over Chilean wine, in a place on the South Pacific, thinking of those days and those men.

There is no sight in all the pageant of war like young, trained men going up to battle.  The columns look solid and businesslike.  Each battalion is an entity, 1,200 men of one purpose.  They go on like a river that flows very deep and strong.  Uniforms are drab these days, but there are points of light on the helmets and the bayonets, and light in the quick, steady eyes and the brown young faces, greatly daring.  There is no singing - veterans know, and they do not sing much - and there is no excitement at all; they are schooled crafts-men going up to impose their will, with the tools of their trade, on another lot of fellows; and there is nothing to make a fuss about.  Battles are not salubrious places, and every file knows that a great many more are going in than will come out again-but that goes along with the job.  And they have no illusions about the job. 

There is nothing particularly glorious about sweaty fellows, laden with killing tools, going along to fight.  And yet-such a column represents a great deal more than 28,000 individuals mustered into a division.  All that is behind those men is in that column too:   the old battles, long forgotten, that secured our nation - Brandywine and Trenton and Yorktown, San Jacinto and Chapultepec, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, El Caney; scores of skirmishes, far off, such as the Marines have nearly every year in which a man can be killed as dead as ever a chap in the Argonne; traditions of things endured and things accomplished, such as regiments hand down forever; and the faith of men and the love of women; and that abstract thing called patriotism, which I never heard combat soldiers mention-all this passes into the forward zone, to the point of contact, where war is girt with horrors.  Common men endure these horrors and overcome them, along with the insistent yearnings of the belly and the reasonable promptings of fear; and in this, I think, is glory.

In Charles the Second's time the English formed the first sea regiment-soldiers equipped as infantry, to serve on the sea in the fleet; to clear with musketry the enemy's decks and fighting-tops when the ship's of the line went into close action; to go ashore, and take up positions when the naval forces seized a base preliminary to land operations of the army.

Here by the way, comes the quip of old time:  "Tell it to the Marines."  They relate of Charles the Second that at Whitehall a certain sea-captain, newly returned from the Western Ocean, told the king of flying fish, a thing never heard in old England.  The king and the court were vastly amused.  But, the naval fellow persisting, the Merry Monarch beckoned to a lean, dry colonel of the sea regiment, with a seamed mahogany face, and said, in effect:  "Colonel, this tarry-breeks here makes sport with us stay-at-homes.  He tells us of a miraculous fish that forsakes its element and flies like a bird over the water."  "Sire," said the Colonel of Marines, "he tells a true thing.  I myself have often seen those fish in your Majesty's seas around Barbados-...."  "Well," decided Charles, "such evidence cannot be disputed.  And hereafter, when we hear a strange thing, we will tell it to the Marines, for the Marines go everywhere and see everything, and if they say is is so, we will believe it!"

The Continental Congress, on 10 November, 1775, authorized a corps of American Marines.  This was the first Federal armed force to be raised by the young nation, and it antedated both the Federal army and navy, which had until that time, been matters of individual commonwealths.  And since that date Marines have participated honorably in all American wars, and in some affairs, more or less interesting, where powder was burnt but which do not rate as wars.    

Captain Richard Dale's Marines served with John Paul Jones, and manned the fighting tops of his ship, the Bonhomme Richard.   The task of the Marines was to shoot down on the enemy ships, attending, in particular, to enemy officers.  When the crew of one ship boarded another, it was difficult or impossible to tell friend from foe from high above.  For that reason Marines officers adopted the peculiar device that resembled an embroidered cross so that their marksmen could tell friend from foe.  Look at any Marine officers barracks or dress hat.  You'll continue to see that same device embroidered there as a tribute to those long ago Marines who fought so gallantly some two-hundred years ago.  Marines love tradition. 

Those Marines in the fighting tops were also tasked, when possible, to drop explosive devices on the decks, or better yet through the hatches of enemy ships.  Such a device thrown from the fighting tops of the Richard set off the powder-magazine of H. M. S. Serapis. This event turned the tide of events in favor of the poor old Richard, in the fight off Flamborough Head.  There were United States Marines in Barney's naval force, formed across the Bladensburg Road, when Admiral Cockburn's people marched to burn Washington; and they stayed there until the line was turned by British regulars and they were all, including Barney, casualties;  it was the only material resistance the British met.  Marines marched to Mexico City in 1846; the red stripe on the blue trousers of officers and non-commissioned officers commemorates to this day service in that war.  Marines served in the Civil War very widely:  Marines died on Henry Hill at First Manassas  and on the fire-swept beaches in front of  Fort Fisher, and on the Mississippi around Vicksburg and Island No. 10.  Colonel Huntington's Marines took Guantanamo, landing from the U. S. S. Marbleheadin 1898.  They marched to Peking in 1900, and were in the legation guard shut up there during the Boxer trouble.  Cuba knows them, and the Philippines.  They were ashore at Vera Cruz in 1914; every uneasy and volatile Wet Indian and Central American republic has become acquainted with them in a professional way, and their appearance at storm centers has always produced very presently a sweet tranquility.  The navy takes them there, and sends bluejackets and chow along always.  Every capital ship carries a guard of them.  Aboard ship, besides forming the nucleus of the ship's landing force, they man the secondary batteries, the five-inch guns; furnish guards of honor for the comings and goings of the admiral and distinguished visitors, and so forth; perform all manner of curious and annoying details; and post ship's sentries whose meticulous ideas about the enforcement of orders lacerate the souls of jolly mariners, seamen, and engineer ratings.  Normally, the strength of the corps is twenty per cent of the navy; just now there are about 19,000.  They constitute an organization within an organization, with their own commandant, who functions under the Secretary of the Navy, as a separate and distinct service like the U. S. Navy, as in the past, in time of war, the U. S. Coast Guard.  The rank and file are good enough Latinists to know what "Semper Fidelis"-which is their word-means; and any private will assure you the Marines are a corps d'elite.

In 1917, when trained Soldiers in the United States were at a premium, the Navy Department offered a Brigade of Marines for service in France; it was regarded desirable for Marine officers to have experience in large operations with the army; for it is certain that close co-operation between the army and the navy is a necessary thing in these days of far-flung battle lines.  The British distress at Gallipoli is a crying witness to this principle.  In a navy transport, therefore, U. S. S. Henderson, the 5th Regiment of Marines embarked for France in June, 1917,with the first armed American forces.  The 6th Marines followed.  The two regiments constituted the 4thBrigade, and served in the 2d Division.  U. S. Regular, until the division came home in August, 1919.  About 30,000 Marines were sent to France; some 14,000 of these were replacements to maintain the two regiments of the 4 th Brigade.  A brigade musters some 7,500 officers and men; this brigade took part in some very interesting events.

Elsewhere, I have written of the Marines in the war with Germany; how they went up, and what they did there, and how some of them came out again.  Being a Marine, I have tried to set forth simple tales without comment.  It is unnecessary to write what I think of my own people, nor would it be, perhaps, in the best taste. 

And I have written of Marines in this war because they are the folks I know about myself.  Those battle-fields were very large, and a man seldom saw much or very far beyond his own unit, if he had a job in hand.  As a company officer, I always had a job.  There is no intent to overlook those very gallant gentlemen, our friends, the U. S. Army.  Their story is ours, too. 


Friday, October 26, 2012


Our lovely caring son Jack has the makings of a top-notch counter-sniper team: incredible patience, an eagle eye, memory like an elephant and a bias of un-hesitating action. To wit:

Ol' Santa has been busy around the 'Boro, running hither and yon, directing her elves in all manner of ways to prepare for the coming of Christmas morn. In her sly way, she makes passing suggestions like "Wouldn't you like some galoshes from Santa, Jack?," hardly hesitating to hear the reply but busily moving on to other more pressing matters. It's hard to believe he even notices, though his eyes go briefly wide with excitement - maybe just a seed has been planted. He goes back to whatever near-mishap is close at hand, hardly missing a beat.

But remember he does. Oh yes - he remembers well.

One of Santa's well-meaning but non-detail-oriented elves put said galoshes way up on the top of the dresser, presumably out of sight of peering 3-year olds and their pack of smaller siblings. Said elf did not anticipate that Jack would climb up and stand on top of his bed to make sure the regularly-appearing items on top of his dresser were undisturbed. And then, faithful readers, comes the pitter-patter of little soon-to-be-clad-in-yellow-rubber feet:

"Mommy!!! Santa came early and brought my galoshes! Come see!!"

Silence. Bewilderment. Chagrin. Sniper in the open. Compromised.

"Umm, hey big guy.. I talked to Santa the other day and he was having trouble finding your size, but I found some at the store so I went and got you some. Want to go ahead and try them on?"

Back to the drawing board.

Ol' MacDonald Has a Brain Spider

These kids crack me up...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Waxing Gibbous

I feel full. Or rather, I feel like my life is getting full. There are days when I am so torn between all of the emotions, events, demands, obligations, and opportunities of life that I just can't decide which direction to turn next. Driving home tonight, after a little over 15 hours at the office trying to finalize a summary judgment brief, I just could not help thinking about all of these things, and dozens more that I can't recall. Now, half past midnight, I am drawn to a simple text editor, trying to empty out some of the thoughts in my head so that it is just a little less full, and maybe then I can sleep.

Full of love. My life is full of love, more than I feel like I can appreciate. I am floored by how sincere, and sweet, and loving my children are. How honest, and devoted, and caring my wife is. How quickly our lives have gone from one to two to five to full. All day long I kept opening this picture - taken a few weeks ago of all five of us, just a snapshot of a glimmer of fun, nothing like the real thing - but I probably opened it 5 or six times, just to stare at it a few minutes and recharge.

Too full of myself. I was working like a dog today to get this assignment finished, and all three of us stayed at the office until 11:30, until it was done. There should be a sense of relief, of accomplishment - but there's not, because tomorrow or the next day or the next week it is the same old routine. I need to just back off and not try to do so much, because I know it is wearing me thin just as much as it wears on the rest of my family. Doc especially, who bears the brunt of my absence or distraction. And the kids - Jack especially - who are starting to realize when one of us is gone.

I recalled driving home how much fun it is to play in the waves at the beach, when you re comfortable in the water and know that a big one will come every now and then that you aren't quite ready for, but you just roll with it and pop back up the first chance you get. But there are times, when it really catches you off balance, and then before you get back up the next one rolls in, bigger than it looks, and for a little bit you take a good pounding until that set is over. But before it is over, before you say Hey, maybe I should go sit on the sand for a bit - you start to get hear that little voice of panic saying How many more times am I going to get knocked down? I didn't realize a wave could pound you that hard against the sand. When you are on top and catching the crest, its a lot of fun - but if you get caught off guard in a big set, well - it will wear you out. Makes you stop for a minute and think Maybe I'm not in charge here, there's a lot of power out there that I didn't fully appreciate.

Full of loss; full of grief; full of regret. Bob Millikan, a good friend and great role model, passed away earlier this month. Bob taught me to row, came to our wedding, wrote me a recommendation for law school and a handwritten letter when jack was born. "Long battle with a chronic disease" was the line - but when that happens, you wonder Could I have been a better friend? Spent a little more time staying in touch? Noah Pippin has been on my mind a lot this summer as well. Noah was one of our Marines in 1/5. Incredibly bright, remarkable person, he wandered off into the Montana wilderness in 2010 and his remains were discovered earlier this month. He knew what he was doing - I think. Maybe he saw a beauty in it that I see hints of but just cannot quite come to terms with. Unlike Bob, he was likely not a person I would have seen again. For some reason I still miss his presence in the world.

I feel like I am entering the fullness of my life, that I should stop and take more than just a sip of the depth of beauty and love and loss and sadness that surrounds us all. And at the same time, knocked over by wave after wave, drinking becomes a concern very secondary to just drawing another breath whenever you get the chance.

Full of hope. I pray that I will always be full of hope. There is so much potential in life, so much capacity in each of us, for love and happiness.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The red pill

A good friend of mine recently had her first baby and sent me an email today thanking me for being so excited for her, as if it was an emotion I mustered up on her behalf to keep her afloat.  She is very much still in the post-partum, sleep-deprived haze of a first-born one-month-old and will get to a point when she realizes that I actually really do want to hear about how she managed to get all the way to the grocery store and back without any vomit on her shirt, but it got me thinking about why it is I cannot help but get so giddy over my friends' offspring.

Perhaps it's because I know what they have in store.  

Tonight, when I got home late from my meeting and went back into the kids room to kiss them goodnight, they were still awake. You'd have thought Elmo himself wearing a sweater of Hot n' Nows just walked in
their room by the expressions on their faces. We laid on the bed for over an hour and I was told about the unhealthy but obvious man-dinner Daddy provided (which Matilda will neither confirm nor deny but from what I could gather consisted of roasted flour tortillas that puffed up into "balloons," purple mac n cheese, and "so so much milk my belly sloshed in a bad way.")  I was also informed that Jackson is no longer a fan of cats, which is why Caroline was meowing and hissing periodically, and that putting one's nose in one's bottom is a bad idea. 

Becoming a parent is like choosing the red pill. You are suddenly thrown into a reality that anyone still in the fabricated reality of the Matrix cannot possibly understand or appreciate. It is overwhelmingly exciting to have a good friend cross over, if for no other reason than to commiserate on how incredibly inept our children can make us feel.  It doesn't hurt to share in their hilarious approach to the world, either.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


He has been welcomed with a genuine love I could not have known was possible by such little people.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Physician, heal thyself

People often tell me how lucky I am to be a doctor when my family members get sick.  I'm not sure what exactly about it they are envious of.  Clearly, it is easier for me to understand what is going on and appreciate the abilities and limitations of what our health care system can do.  Medicine these days has become a language unto itself so being bilingual is beyond helpful. And, truly, I'm sure there are some professional courtesies given to me, sometimes almost subconsciously, that I don't even really realize.  But there is a large part of being a physician that makes being a patient, or even worse the family member of a patient, a lot more difficult than I think most people realize.

Of course, I have never really known it any other way and, so, I am by no means complaining.  I have just had a series of events lately that have landed me on the wrong side of the doctor-patient relationship of which I am accustomed to generally being the controller and it leaves me contemplating the patient side of things. 

All medical providers should have to be patients, in various capacities, on regular intervals.  It provides an empathy and a humility I do not know how else to learn.  It also deepens our understanding and appreciation for the art and logistics of healing, none of which are taught in medical or nursing or PA school.  For instance, I was hospitalized in February with a fairly common intestinal infection.  Granted, I complicated it slightly by being 32 weeks pregnant at the time, but I have personally treated many people in the hospital with that very same infection and knew it perhaps better than my treating physicians did (given they were all OBGYNs).  I knew the symptoms, the treatment, the duration, the complications. I could quote statistics on rates of recurrence and transmission. I even had a fairly good concept of the pain it could cause, given that I've seen it enough to gauge the level of discomfort most people have.  What I failed to appreciate was what it means to a person to be isolated in a hospital room for a significant length of time.  To be woken every few hours day and night for blood draws or baby monitoring or vital signs or trash collection or room cleaning or meal delivery / pickup.  To be away from family, friend, work, my own bathroom.  It was eye-opening.  

And then jump to today. My mother went in this morning for scheduled open heart surgery to correct an overgrowth on her heart wall that was discovered in the last few years.  We have known this was coming and I have taken care of numerous people who have had very similar procedures to this.  I have know medically what this all means for a long time.  But, what I failed to ever find out was what happens when the doctor leaves the room. What does waking up with a tube in your lungs, IVs coming out of your neck and arms, drainage tubes and wires coming out of your chest, and a catheter in your bladder mean to someone who just had their sternum cracked open and then sewn shut?  What does being totally completely naked (no supportive apparati like glasses or underwear) in a strange room with all new faces while being in significant pain feel like?  What do families worry about, have questions about?  What do patients and families need to hear?  

I am very lucky to know what I know.  Walking into Mom's recovery room today was not nearly as jarring or scary to me as I'm sure it would have been to most people.  Somehow, I can see beyond all those tubes and wires and monitors and know that, assuming all goes as planned, she will very quickly return to the fully functional (and hopefully much improved) woman I have always known her to be.  But there is also an element of me that kind of yearns to just be a layperson.  I intentionally didn't tell any of the staff I am an MD but, in a strange way, we are hard to stay hidden for long.  And the tone changed when they discovered my secret. Not in a perceptible way to probably even my brother who was in the room but enough that I realized I was changing the environment just with my presence. For the better?  Probably.  I'd at least like to think so.  And anything that gets my mother that extra boost to recovery, the better.  But I find it difficult to be just a doctor or just a patient and so I end up in this very strange gray zone that is altogether uncomfortable in a lot of ways.  I know exactly what to say to get medical personnel to respond but I also know exactly what to say to get medical personnel to respond.  I liken it to that scene in Bruce Almighty when Jim Carrey's character has to take over for God for a day and just grants everyones' prayers.  All hell breaks loose and he very quickly realizes having everything the way you want it isn't always the way that works out the best.  

There is a reason why physicians should not treat their family members or themselves because we lose objectivity and can start to want everything to be perfect when we all know perfection is rare and often a sign of ignorance.  So I struggle with what I should say or not say and that makes me knowledgeable but powerless and with a very large stake in the game.  It is altogether an uncomfortable place to be.

Not nearly as uncomfortable as my sweet Momma today who has been a fantastic patient and truly the type of woman I would love to treat, if it weren't for her being the person who created me and all. We are not out of the woods yet, but the most uncertain part is largely over and now we're getting down to the business of healing, which is largely uncharted territory for me and some pretty darn good CME (Continuing Medical Education).  

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pure Drama

Never, ever underestimate the incredible dramatic effect of the phrase "And Then....":

Jack reading a story to Sissy, August 12, 2012

"And then.. the kitty kat ran away..."

And then... the kitty kat ran away!"

And everybody stand in line to wait for Momma's chocolate chip cookies..

The End!"

That was a Great Story

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Dean-O vs. Bugzilla

Faithful Dean-dog confronts a puzzling yet entertaining cicada...

Monday, August 6, 2012

Terrible Twos..

We all gathered in Spartanburg to celebrate my darling baby girl's Second Birthday, whereupon we were beset on all sides by pink and purple princess paraphenalia. Caroline was in top form, pursing her lips and grinning coyly, handing out hugs and kisses with cheerful abandon, and generally playing the part of royalty. Which she seemed to enjoy immensely. A crown, a pocketbook full of makeup and a cell phone, a cash register for imaginary shopping, clothes and dolls and books and cake - what else could a little girl ask for?

I keep looking at this picture of her, with her "I am Two" t-shirt and her purse, and her remarkable little smile, stealing ice out of someone's glass while I snap another photo. I really have to grin because I feel like I can start to see the young lady she is going to become. A little bit of sass with a sparkly-eyed grin, excitement bubbling over the "I've got this under control" demeanor.

I suppose it is cute right now how excited she is about becoming a big girl, but I am pretty sure I am not fully prepared for all that is to come. I know they say that two-year olds are terrible, but I right now I think that the terrified one is me..


Monday, July 16, 2012

For The Record

This has more or less become our baby book of sorts, as we keep track of the coming and growings of each of three precious young'uns. We've still got the hard copy, what with the locks of hair and the pre-formatted questionnaires. But when we look back over the life we've charted, we keep coming back to this blog, and it really does capture a lot of what we've lived through the last 3 or so years. We need to be blogging more, and have gotten a little off track of late, so here is a post of what everyone is up to, just for the record:

Jack a/k/a Jackson David Shaw a/k/a Baby Captain:

This guy is just getting bigger and older and more incredible by the day. Looking back at videos tonight from 2010, it is amazing how much he has matured. He has taken on the role of big brother (for both Caroline and Sam) with a seriousness that belies his tender-hearted nature. Right now, he is 100% into imaginary play, dreaming up elaborate scenarios at every turn, mostly involving friends from school, alligators, sharks, lava, and his Carolina Blue office that he painted in "35 minutes, front and back,"
 where he likes to go work to "make money" and/or "get ice cream."

He is still snuggly and affectionate, and has latched onto the automatic gratification associated with saying things like "you have beautiful hair today, Mommy" and "I like your pretty eyes!" He also has a little bit of an attitude, but is mainly limited to saying "Fine" and "You're not my best friend anymore." He will also parrot any complete sentence he hears from anyone that might possibly be construed as clever, funny, or naughty.

Caroline a/k/a Princess a/k/a Sissy:

This little girl has become the most affectionate fireball you could imagine, alternating frequently from body-slams to ear-holding two-cheeked Euro-style kisses (which Dean particularly enjoys). Her most recent acquisition is the favorite color of PurplePink (or sometimes (PinkPurple). She also has begun to self-identify as a Princess, and as he language skills have blossomed in the last month or so, her ominous brow ridge and accompanying frown have retreated significantly.

Still, it is clear that curiosity will one day kill the cat (Meeeee-ooowwwww), and Caroline is a archetype of that mantra. If it is hot, wired, submerged, or fanged, Caroline wants to touch it. Hug it. Pinch its ears. So far, the only things that have fazed her are Cows and Flies, both of which she appears to be deathly afraid of. Seriously - one encounter with the guy in the cow costume at Chik-fil-A on Friday, and we have heard no less than 1000 times this weekend: "No cows, afraid of cows. I'm a princess." Even Superman had Kryptonite, I guess.

Samuel a/k/a Baby Sam a/k/a Winston a/k/a Piglet:

A sweeter happier baby was never born. As much as we love the other two (now) this one's manners at 3 months are above reproach. He eats well, sleeps well, smiles sweetly on cue, gurgles and coos with reckless pleasure. Once he starts doing more than just lay there and smile, we'll let you know!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Our current favorite phrases (with translations)

"I missed you today, Mommy."
"I need to go to my office that I painted Carolina Blue and work."
"Fine, you're not my best friend anymore."
"Come sit with me, you're my best friend now."

"Whas dat right dehr?" = What is that right there?
"Pink one, Purple one" = My favorite colors are pink and purple
"I princess. No cows." = I'm a princess and because of that, I request all cows be banished. I am very scared of cows.
"Boo, Daddy"

Well, he isn't talking obviously except for insane amounts of happy babbling and laughter.  This kid is an angel baby.

And, just for the record, we are now very used to (and happy with) having three kids. There is never a dull (or quiet) moment around here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The funny papers

Jackson read the funny papers (upside down) for 30 minutes today. Strangely, he managed to discern most of what was happening in them.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

#PandoraFail #I'mGettingOld

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Five Alive

Matilda and I have thoroughly been enjoying the newest member of our family since his arrival last Wednesday. We were fortunate to have a few days alone with him as his siblings were very excited to spend the weekend with their grandparents in South Carolina. Going from two toddlers back to a single, tiny, sleepy infant has been infinitely more enjoyable than the initial arrival of our first child. So much so that up until today, I was seriously contemplating when Shaw baby #4 would be arriving. And then, we picked up the kids from the grandparents....

The reunion was most definitely the sweetest one we've ever had. Jack is about the best greeter in the entire world. He absolutely lit up when our car pulled into the parking lot and ran over, jumping into my arms, like a perfectly directed movie scene. His Forest Gump wave and suffocating hug were priceless. And when I woke Caroline up from her carseat with a kiss on the nose, she fluttered her eyes, smiled her sweetest toothy grin, and said "Hi, Mommy." There were hugs and snuggles and laughter and let-me-tell-you-abouts all around. It was birds-chirping, rainbow-making wonderful.

 And then we had to load up to head home.

Sam decided that was when he wanted to nurse. Caroline decided she both did not want to get out of my lap to make room for Sam nor did she have any interest in getting back into her carseat to ride home. And Jack decided that doing laps around the back of the minivan Jeff Gordon-style with his new bulldozer was the best way to break it in. Not three minutes out of the parking lot and I could barely hear Jack in the way-back singing some marching song ("Hup-two-three-four" repeated seventeen jazillion times) because his siblings were battling to see who could wail louder without passing out. I have never had a panic attack but, in that moment, I probably came as close as I ever have before.

We had to stop for food since Caroline was morphing into a Charlie Sheen-No Snickers-Diva, and Sam started to grow scales Gremlin-style. Let me tell you, if you haven't ever tried to feed a 3 year old, 1 year old, and breast-fed 5 day old in a fast food restaurant during a busy lunch hour then you just aren't living. It was like juggling flaming bags of poop with one hand, which is to say challenging, smelly, sweaty, and very close to a lawsuit on some level.

The ensuing hour long drive after lunch was filled with the Who-can-use-their-loudest-outdoor-voice game, Who-can-say-"Mommy"-more-than-a-million-times game, and the Who-can-bean-the-baby-on-the-nose-with-their-lovey game only to end with all parties, save the parents, falling asleep within 5 miles of home. Waking said parties and convincing them to go inside to nap in their beds was both rejected and disdained.

I won't even begin to describe dinner because, well, I'm trying to forget it as I start to hyperventilate when I remember that it comes every day from here on out. Bathtime....nobody drowned so that was a success. Beaten, deflated, and exhausted, Matilda and I collapsed onto the floor for the 10-15 minutes of playtime before storytime before bedtime and that is when God threw me a rope. Sam woke up and sat happily in his bouncer, contented to watch as Jack and Caroline played around him. Periodically, though, both would go over to him and include him in their game in a much kinder and sweeter way than I ever would have thought they could do. Jack would vroom his bulldozer around the bouncer and then very gently place it in Sam's lap for him to play with while he went to get another toy. Caroline would kiss his nose and state proudly between body-slamming her father and brother, "Baby Sam...mine!" And then, before I realized it, all three of my children were asleep in their beds.

I am still rather terrified of the morning when all three will be recharged and ready for another go at their parents' sanity. But, I can't help but feel overwhelmingly blessed by how pleasantly full (and thankfully momentarily quiet) our little starter home feels now.

From man-on-man to zone...and then there were five - wish us luck.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Welcome home, Samuel James

Look what the Easter Bunny brought us:

Welcome Samuel James, born quickly and easily on Wednesday March 28th 2012 at 9:42pm, and weighing in as our largest baby at 6lbs 8oz and 19.5in long.

And then there were Five...

Monday, March 26, 2012

Clever Girl

I noticed this past weekend that Caroline is a quick learner. I don't mean in the book-smart sort of way, although I am sure she will demonstrate high levels of natural intelligence and will work hard at her studies (a trait she no doubt inherited only from her mother).

At this point, however, she shows skills of a more primordial nature. My darling daughter is quick on her feet, and she readily adapts to every challenge or obstacle. Sure, faithful readership, I am sure you've had the same flattering thought about your own scion. But these traits that Caroline readily exhibits are more apropos to a humanoid AI robot, or the Ebola virus, or a genetically engineered Cretaceous-era therapod.

Upon realizing that dear brother Jack got a jellybean for successful potty performance, she promptly sat down and cleared her bowels. But a mere jellybean was not enough. In the days that passed, Caroline learned to mete out her minute bladder capacity over several discrete trips to the "paddah." We are presently out of Jelly Bellys, but fortunately we have enough toothpaste.

I am not sure where we are going to go from here. I imagine the next twenty years or so will be something akin to Robert Earl Keen's classic description of bull-riding:
"I used to be in rodeo, believe it or not - I had a rodeo career that lasted 15 seconds. That's five bulls times three seconds a piece. It was a fun career -  I don't know how many people have ever been on the back of a bull before - it's kind of like getting in your car and driving down the freeway at 70 miles an hour, and then just chunking the steering wheel out of the window."


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Valentines Day from Room 151

Room 151 at Women's Hospital.  That was my home for the last week and a half.  With a large imposing sign on the door that read "Contact Precautions" in large letters with gowns and masks and gloves conveniently hanging on it, it might as well have read "Caution, leprosy ahead. Avoid if possible."  Not the sexiest way to spend my favorite of holidays, hooked to monitors and IV poles and  leg squeezers, I spent most of the afternoon getting back-to-back 1 hour antibiotic retention enemas.  I just didn't, and honestly couldn't, appreciate the balloons and flowers and cards from my sweet husband and mother and children, nor could I enjoy the very kind steak dinner for two  personally delivered by the hospital chef that evening.

I know most people could do without Valentine's Day, with the biggest argument by non-believers being that "every day should be a day to show love."  Well, one could say the same about Independence Day or Thanksgiving. We should be patriotic and thankful for our freedom every day, shooting fireworks and eating ferocious amounts of sweet potato pie with family all the time. We should reveal in the spirit of Christmas and honor our veterans and celebrate trees and secretaries constantly. But it just isn't realistic to be grateful and perky and romantic and nationalistic all the time.  That's why holidays exist. To provide contrast points to the daily happenings of work and laundry and chores.  To help us appreciate the Kairos amongst all the Chronos.

Valentines Day is no different than all the rest, except in my opinion, it is arguably the best.  There are no rules for it.  No specific menus that need be prepared, no extended house guest obligations, no fuss over remembering to gift to every single person you come in contact with.  The only purpose of the entire day is to show love and be grateful for that which comes back to you. It has been commercialized with flowers and candies and chocolates, which are just Hallmarks way of making it easier for us, but it doesn't have to be that at all to be perfect.

It has been my favorite holiday for as long as I can remember because of my parents.  My mother always helped me make personalized gifts for my friends.  My favorite was the year of the Squeezums. I was so proud to pass them out to all my friends after spending nights with my mother making and filling each one.  My father never ever forgot Valentines Day, either.  There was always a basket or stuffed animal or flowers hidden somewhere for me to find. So, I learned very early it not just about that one special person but rather all the special persons that depend and reflect your love.  Doing the thing that speaks directly to the heart of someone, be it gifts or quality time or words, is what the day is all about.

So, obviously, I am rather bummed I missed this year. Not because my family and friends didn't show me their love, far from it.  I was showered, and am still being showered, with more kindness and adoration than I know how to accept.  It is more that I missed out on showing it to them. I know I could declare Feb 22nd as make-up Valentines but it just isn't the same.  Just like moving Christmas morning, there is power in the collective recognition of a single day.  And, frankly, my body is still reeling from the 10 days of being surrounded by the space-suited government workers in the ET movie and isn't quite up to celebrating just yet.

So, dear friends and family, please accept my apologies this year.  I hope you had a wonderful, love-filled day and I promise to make an epic comeback next year.

Much love and affection.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our Dear Caroline

I just don't know what to make of our daughter. There are moments - like when she grabs my ears in both hands, grins a foolish chubby grin, and lays a toothy kiss on my cheek like she is part-lamprey - that just warm my heart. Honestly, even though these kisses last an uncomfortable 30-45 seconds in duration, you just can't help but smile at her eagerness. Walk in to school at the end of the day, and she will drop what she is doing, break into Da-da da-da da-da song and hurtle across the room - until she gets about 3 feet away, when she suddenly and inexplicable does an about face and goes to put her toys up. It is kind of infuriating.

We call her The Honey Badger, because really, she just doesn't give a shit. I promise, we say that with only with the finest parental pride and love, and some measure of admiration mixed with exasperation. Everyone looks at us with a "do you hate your daughter?" expression. Even Bud and Nana, who I am sure experienced her wrath during a recent 5 day stint in Juvie (i.e. Camp Sparty) are still begrudgingly in denial of her mean side.

Take tonight, for instance. After throwing a series of fits at the dinner table, she took the long walk for a short sit in timeout. I went back to check on her and found her reading to herself, the "Peek A Boo" book. One page has a mirror (Peek a You!) and you can see her look at herself in that. Another page has a cow (Peek a Moo!) and she lets out a low Mooooo. And the train page (you guessed it - Peek a Choo Choo!). Here, she mimics her brother's spot on copy of the Polar Express' "All Aboard!. Priceless. And then, the Honey Badger spies her tormenter....

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

All In

I wouldn't call myself a gambler, but I've been known to make a wager from time to time. I would say my betting style is fairly modest - I mainly play Blackjack, and I usually just move the chips around in a circle, all things considered, and count myself lucky if i got a few hours of good entertainment without losing a substantial amount of money. But there have been a few occasions when I've pushed the whole stack forward on a hunch, and I'd be lying to you if I said the outcome had anything to do with something other than just pure dumb luck on my part.


One of the things I love about music: the moment when you hear a song for the first time, and it is just the perfect song for the moment. Something about the lyrics, the cadence, the tone of the singer's voice that is just so, like you can see the glimmer of a half-smile on his face, or a wistful stare. And you get that feeling that every excellent songwriter must long to achieve, that sense that "this song must have been written about the one I love."


Take my wife, for instance. If you went back through my life, talked to the people that knew me in high school, my parents and sisters, drinking buddies from college and the Marine Corps - they would all have looked at Doc and said "No way, Shaw. Not in your wildest effing dreams." One young man in college, not knowing what he was talking about but hitting close to center mass just the same, remarked: "You know, if you got her to go out with you, that would be a victory for guys like us all over the world." That's the truth. 


One of the things I love about Pandora: the way you can plug in a song you lie and get some really great music, not too many repeats, even fewer commercials. Just really good tunes that take you to the place you want to go. Hooking Pandora up in my car was one of the best things I ever did, i was so sick of Top 40 radio and too busy to make new mix tapes - er, CDs.. And on top of it, every now and again you hear a new song, not just from another album of an artist you already love, but a whole new song. And rarely, it is the song that you had been needing to hear, the one that was actually written about the one you love and puts every inexpressible thing you've been feeling and thinking into words, and puts those words to music, and rocks it out over your car stereo while you hurtle down the highway, grinning from ear to ear.

Well it rained every day for a week / We had pots and pans and cans everywhere there was a leak
The sheetrock in the living room came down in one big sheet / on the couch, and the TV, and you and me

I tell you what we need to do / remember that above the clouds, the sky is always blue
If I was a betting man, I tell you what I'd do / I'd bet it all on me and you

We put every dime we had in that old car / but it's getting hard to count on 'cause it's getting hard to start
We're better off to walk these days if it ain't all that far / To the place we gotta be, you and me

I tell you what we need to do / remember that above the clouds, the sky is always blue
If I was a betting man, I tell you what I'd do / I'd bet it all on me and you


I haven't had much inclination to gamble recently, these last 5 years since I've been married. When you realize you just won a gazillion bucks by by throwing all your chips on the woman of your dreams, stacking quarters on some cheap felt with people you don't know just seems like a waste of time. I'd rather go home and count my winnings from the big game.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

A letter to my son

Three years ago today, I was scheduled to be induced.  You weren't growing very well inside my belly and the doctor decided it was time you came on out.  But you decided to come on your own 4 hours before your scheduled arrival.  It was 2 in the morning when I started feeling the contractions. By 6am, I was certain you had fashioned a knife out of your umbilical cord and were trying to cut your way out of my belly button so off to the hospital we went. By 8:11am, you were here.  You looked like a skinny old man from the land of Whoville.  You didn't cry much at first; you just snuggled up next to me and blinked through the goo in your eyes trying to make out these odd faces that were so enamored with you we could hardly hold it in.

Of course, that calm didn't last long. Oh, you were the hardest baby. You had horrible gas pains and you never slept more than 2 hours at a time after sundown. You were incredibly hard to feed, no matter where the milk was coming from.  There is a clearly worn path in our carpet where your father walked laps with you on his shoulder just to get you quiet enough to keep the neighbors from calling Child Protective Services on us. And you were a projectile vomiter.  I kept burp clothes every 4 feet in our house and always held you facing away from nice objects because you were exceptionally good at sudden eruptions that could ruin dry-cleaned shirts and new sofas.   Fortunately, though, right around the time we thought we might have to return you, you started to get more comfortable in your skin and by your first birthday, it was quite clear you were going to be a delightful person.

Your first word was "Da."  For Dada.  But it worked well for the dog "DeanDa" and also for "yes" when you used it with a more Russian accent and quick head nod.  You started walking by 11 months. Firetrucks and bulldozers were your passion from the first time you saw them.  In fact, everything is your passion. You are the most enthusiastic person I have ever known.  I used to think it was just your age, but as I get to know your daycare friends, I see that you are truly unique in your ability to find the utmost joy in the smallest of things.  I pray you never lose that.  It is one of the things I love the most about you. 

 You are infectiously joyous. Your smile can melt the worst of my moods in seconds.  You are also incredibly tenderhearted.  Even at 18 months, when your sister was born, your compassion was far beyond your years.  Whenever she would cry, you would sit nervously by her side and cry too, as if her hurting was contagious.  You are incredibly affectionate and love to snuggle up next to me wherever I am, no matter what we're doing.  You are shy, too.  Most of the world has no idea how adorable you are because you usually spend most of your time around others with your head buried in my clothes somewhere.  You wear your heart on your sleeve and can find almost everything both hilarious and terrifying.  You are not a daredevil.  You are dumbfoundingly generous. You always share your cookie with your sister. You do not have the ability to intentionally hurt others.  It just isn't something you are capable of.  I pray you never lose that either.

It has been three incredible years since that morning in the hospital when we first met and every day I love you more than the day before it.  I never thought it possible to love someone as much as I love you. I am so proud of you, Jack, for who you are and what you have brought into our lives.  I am so lucky to be your mother and am having the best time watching you grow up.

Happy birthday, sweetheart. 
I love you.

Thursday, January 26, 2012


There are some songs that I hear, and I just can't help but think of one particular person that I am lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with....


There's a song in my soul for the sun going down / When it dies at the end of the day 
With the sadness descending as soft as the sound / Of the light that was slipping away

The heavens above me seemed empty and gray / As dreams that won't ever come true 
Then the star-spangled glory of love fill the skies / And my heart with the wonder of you 

Pretty berries I carried to you / Pretty flowers still holding your hand 
Pretty reasons for dreams coming true / And for doing the best that you can 

I swear to be thankful the rest of my days / And worthy of whatever I do
For the chance I was given to live and believe / In the love and the wonder of you 

                                         -Wonder, Kris Kristofferson


Thank you, Doc - for being my sunrise and sunset.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

High Traffic

It seems like recently, we've been running at full capacity. Not in a bad way, mind you - I feel like the last 6 months have been some of the best yet. Jack and Caroline are marvelous, the boy-to-be is getting bigger, we are through winter and looking to spring. But with a new job for Matilda and the daily grind for Doc, and activities for the kids and holiday travel and all the other things that seem to be required to keep our heads above water, the carpet is starting to wear a little thin.

The other night, we were sitting on the couch after the kids went down, and ended up looking through all of our pictures from 2010 (which reminds me, I still need to make the album for 2011 - that used to be a New Year's Eve tradition, and now it is more like President's day). But what was amazing was to see how much we had been through. Graduation, pregnancy, melanoma, the bar exam, a version, starting two new jobs, getting to know Caroline - lots of stuff going on. But an incredible amount of fun-looking memories in there as well, and in the end a lingering realization of just how lucky we are.

What struck me the next day, driving to work, was how important that short periof of reflection was. It cast the next few days - the ups, the downs, chronos and kairos - all in a new light. Much like hiking in the Appalachians, you just don't have any real appreciation for where you are or how far you have come. And you climb and climb, dodging roots and hopping boulders and trying to see the skyline break through the trees ahead. And then you get to one of those breaks in the dense green, and instead of an amazing vista out in front of you, you look back. Through the gap, out over the incredible valley below, and the long wrinkled ascent. You have a new respect, a new thankfulness for all those vista-less steps, and a new tolerance for the closed-in   trail.