Friday, November 13, 2009

Bottles in Waiting

There are baby bottles in our kitchen cabinets, there are diapers hanging behind the nursery door. There is a second car seat riding expectantly in Moonshot’s car and there is a newly replenished bottle of whiskey atop the fridge. Yes, the House of Gren is ready for a second go-round at this whole parenting thing. True, some of us are more ready than others. For myself, I’m excited to meet my son, but I’m not sure how that compares to my wife’s desire to have the still-mysterious tyke stop pummeling her kidneys, stomping her small intestines, elbowing the back of her ribs, and generally making her grimace unexpectedly at all hours of the day and night. Lutine is also quite ready. She has painted young Dean many pictures and continually requests that we buy infant toys at the store, announcing that they are “so cute” and “Baby Dean needs that.” Her new favored play locale is Dean’s room…rattles and plush toys spread across the floor with a “how will Baby Dean play with this?”

In all, we’re as prepared as we can be…which is to say ready to be blindsided.

We’ve scheduled a C-Section for November 18th but are keeping our fingers crossed that we won’t reach that cut-off. Given her choice, Moonshot would rather go for the natural childbirth that brought us Norah. However, for reasons that are perhaps a bit more graphic than some of the readers here are likely to want…she’s unwilling to go natural on a baby as big as Norah again. And so, we’ve given Dean his first parental ultimatum. “If you’re not outta that uterus by the count of three, young man…the doctor is coming in after you!” To which young Dean is apparently replying with his sister's sense of defiance. there being absolutely no movement toward birth in the week preceding yesterday's check-up. "Yeah?" he says. "Come and get me, then." Of course, if he is truly like our Lutine...he'll make a mad dash for the exit just as we go into surgery prep.

In addition to our family, the entire neighborhood seems ready for Dean to join the community. They threw a shower for us a few weeks back and there is apparently a sign-up sheet floating around to supply meals to the new parents. If I haven't said so before, allow me to say now that I love our new neighborhood. I still miss the actual house we left last year, but the trade off has been well worth it. Between all the extra tools I now have access to in the neighbors' garages, the number of kids Norah and Dean will be able to play with, and the general wonder of living among a group of people who care about what you're doing without prying...I'm getting used to suburbia. I am sad, however it report that my friend three doors down...we'll call him Bob Appleton...lost the dollar he put into the "when will the Gren's have their baby" pool. He had picked yesterday and I was really hoping he was right...Moonshot and I were really hoping to have gotten started on that whiskey by this weekend.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Conversations with Norah

Norah changes on a daily basis. And it’s easy for me to lose sight of just how different she is from month to month as the changes are hidden away in minor…well…baby steps. I’ll look up suddenly and realize that some phrase or habit of hers that once dominated our routine disappeared unnoticed some time ago…can’t say for sure when, but now that you mention it it’s been a while. So, below are listed a few of her favorite current sayings. While her vocabulary is immense at this point, the quotes below constitute a disturbing percentage of our conversations with our daughter.

"That happens sometimes"
Said as she spills her water, slops spaghetti on her shirt, or if I do any of the same. She has become very wise in her acceptance that upsetting things do, indeed “happen sometimes.”

"I so silly"

Yes. Yes she is. This statement is most often joyously declared as she puts her underwear on her head, intentionally sings a song lyric incorrectly, pretends to be a dog darting between our feet as we try to set the table for dinner, or other such activities that she finds fantastically absurd.

“Make him talk.”
Demanded as she hands you a stuffed animal. It’s cute at first….but loses its luster after you’ve pretty much exhausted everything you can think of that a triceratops might want to add to the conversation.

"It was only an accident"
Her second favorite explanation for disaster. This one can be interchangeable with “That happens sometimes,” but finds better traction when the destruction is punishment-worthy.

"You want to play with me in my room?"
Imagine puppy dog eyes and a hopeful tone of voice that almost never fails to deliver you into her room for a rousing game of “Make him talk!”

"Good morning, Baby Dean!"
Said almost every morning in a high pitched voice that is muffled due to its being spoke directly into my wife’s pajamas and ever-growing belly. Norah is keenly aware that there is a baby in there and does her best to include her brother in moments of family togetherness.

"Daddy tooted!"
This one’s self-explanatory. There will come a time in the near future when she doesn’t find this nearly as amusing as she currently does. She’ll eventually come around to her mother’s view on this subject and my flatulence will be outnumbered by disgust votes. My only hope is to stall this inevitable betrayal by Norah until Baby Dean is old enough to find delight in such low brow humor. Then the votes will be tied and the tie breaker will go to he who is willing to face the ire of a mere 50% of the household.

"What kind of _____ is it?"
She has yet to discover the incessant “why” that I’ve heard so much about. But this is her current version of the same thing. “What’s that?” “It’s a bird.” ”What kind of bird is it?” “It’s a goldfinch.” “What kind of goldfinch is it?” “It’s a boy goldfinch.” “What kind of boy goldfinch is it?” And on and on and on. I really do try to humor this for as long as possible because she does learn a lot through this routine…but often I’ll try to end it by creating a loop. What kind of boy goldfinch? A bird boy goldfinch.

"I want that in my home"
Spoken in response to just about any toy commercial. Currently, her favorites seem to be Baby Doctor Barbie, Barbie Three-Musketeers, Paperoni, Slimer Shoes, Tinkerbell play set, and several others whose product names I cannot currently recall.

"That's awesome"
It’s a phrase her Dad overuses and it has rubbed off on her.

"I miss Grandma"
Don’t worry, Husker, she misses Grandpa too…but with two Grandmas, this phrase gets spoken twice as much. She’ll frequently and quite suddenly miss any number of people. She wept today in the car for 15 minutes because she missed her friend David. She is keenly aware of all her friends and family who are not with her.

"Watch TV?"
She asks this a bit more often than I would like. She’s in a Sponge Bob kick right now and we are often trying our best to distract her from her love of TV with coloring books, outside play etc…only to have her ask, “Watch TV?” again the second the page has been colored or she’s peddled her trike once around the cul-du-sac.

“Poo Poo!!”
The cornerstone of any three-year-old’s comedy routine. “Norah, what’s that a picture of?” “Poo Poo!” “Norah, what do horsies eat?” “Poo Poo!” It really is a quite versatile joke, the use of which is often followed by “I so silly.”

"Just a little bit"
Used to cutely mitigate a transgression and frequently an answer to the following questions: “Norah, did you hit any kids at school today?” “Norah, did you spill your cereal?” “Norah, did you have a potty accident?”

"I'm a nice T-Rex"
She feels the need to explain this quickly if your response to her jumping into the room with a roar is to act afraid. It seems to me that a truly nice T-Rex would stop scaring us like that and politely announce its niceness BEFORE it roared its way into our living room. But I’m not a paleontologist.

“He’s not real”
Norah loves to care for and talk with her stuffed animals. She brings at least one of them to the spare chair at the dinner table every night and feeds them imaginary food. However, should you be tempted to play along with her illusion, for instance to ask if Mr. Giraffe would like a helping of carrots or to playfully ask if Mr. Hippo could pass the pepper, Norah will fix you with a wilting “duh” look that declares to the whole room that you are the stupidest person in existence adding, “He’s not real,” just for good measure. There’s really no way to defend yourself against it. You just shake your head and get the pepper yourself.

  • Reminds me of a funny story. Mr. Dingus (my former boss) is an energetic guy who loves to play with his kids. Makes a fool of himself in public with them in a way I wish more fathers were comfortable doing. Anyway, we were out with his two daughters, one 4 and one probably 7 at the time. Mr. Dingus is playing with the 4-year-old. She would dart behind him and Mr. Dingus would pretend to have lost track of where she was. “Where’s [Dingus Daughter]?” he would cry in over the top confusion as the 4-year-old giggled hysterically. Me and the 7-year-old are off to the side watching this, the 7-year-old taking no part for reasons that I assume have to do with her greater understanding of the act her father is putting on. Surely, the game holds no interest for her since she’s in on the joke that the 4-year-old doesn’t get. But then, she turns to me sadly and shakes her head as she rolls her eyes and explains, “My dad gets confused sometimes.”

Anyway, back to my own daughter.

"I love that dinosaur/movie/book"
Exclaimed whenever she is reminded of one of her favorite things. She sees a T-Rex in a book. She points at a child at the playground wearing a Wall-E t-shirt. She sees a Tinkerbell backpack. Someone mentions Max and Ruby.

I’m sure there a many other expressions that I’m just not thinking of right now. Picking out small threads that make up your every day tapestry is rather difficult since it all just blends into the design. But these are the ones that stand out most in my mind as I write this, so that’s a good sign that they are the ones most worth mentioning. By next month, the quotes will undoubtedly be different and I’ll read back over these and wonder when exactly she stopped saying “What kind of _____ is it?”

At least…I’m hoping that’s the next to go.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Gren Rises

It all happens so fast. Life just keeps on propelling me and my family through the days, weeks, and months that have elapsed since last I posted out here. Norah just keeps growing and changing on a daily basis. She barely resembles the baby pictures I last shared. However, the good news about being away for so long is that I get to saunter in with exciting news.

First of all, the backlogged tidbit that many of you already know. Norah is preparing herself for her new role as big sister. Her baby brother is expected to join in the family hubbub sometime in late November. Moonshot and I are rushing around in an attempt to get the house ready for the neglect it will suffer in the months following the arrival of the child we are temporarily calling Nugget. We’re unpacking and organizing boxes that we’ve been ignoring since we moved last year. We’re painting walls and generally making the house our own after all this time since we know it will never get any easier than right now.

For her part, Norah is excited but a little confused about the logistics of it all. Last night as Moonshot read her a story, she asked to look in her Mommy’s mouth. Moonshot obliged with a doctor’s office type “aaaaah.”

But Norah was unsatisfied, “It’s too dark, Mommy,” she complained.

“Too dark for what, sweetie?”

Norah’s face turned sad as she explained, “I can’t see the baby.”

These are the sorts of things I love about toddler logic. There is a baby in Mommy’s belly. Food I eat goes to my belly. Therefore… say aah, Mommy.

In other child related news, today was Norah’s first day of preschool. She has been excited about this for a few weeks. Her teacher Ms. Michelle mailed her a welcome letter last week and Norah has carried it around with her, periodically asking us to reread it to her. So, it was with much anticipation that she hefted her Elmo backpack and marched bravely into the new and fascinating world of public education. She did not reenact the screaming tantrum that I recall from my own childhood, but rather sat down at the tables and began the important task of making friends. She hugged us goodbye and never looked back. Three hours later, we picked her up and her first words to us were “I want go back there, Daddy.” Ok, I’m glossing there. Her very first words to me when I picked her up were “I want ride the bus.” Apparently, being seen with her parents is already uncool when all the big kids get to tool around town in a bright yellow party-on-wheels. I had kinda hoped to postpone that development until she hit her tween years, but I suppose I should just be proud that she’s clearly so wise beyond her years that she understands how unhip her father truly is.

But I digress, the second thing she said was, “I want go back there, Daddy”

So, I think she liked it. Here is the photographic evidence:

And finally, since I know this is what most of you come here for. Here are a few extra pictures of Norah that I’ve been hoarding to myself the last few months.

*As always, images can be clicked for closer scrutiny

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reverend Gren's Holey Finger

I have a hole in my finger. Personally, I am fascinated by it; but knowing that most people get a little nauseous when they see it, I do my best to conceal it from friends and customers. Most days I remember to put a Band-Aid on it, but when I forget, I spend my working hours bending my left middle finger under my hand while I type so as not to disturb the little old grandmother who has come to our store for a loan.

I guess I should qualify my statement. The hole isn’t really in my finger as such. That implies impaled flesh, and that’s not what I’m dealing with here. It’s more precisely a hole in my fingernail. It’s one of those injuries that make people a little queasy to look at but that’s about the extent of it. Having never lost a fingernail before, I would have assumed it was a more painful ordeal. It certainly looks painful. But the truth is that my left middle finger feels no different than my right. This leaves me totally free to marvel at the oddity of how my body is dealing with this injury.

The body’s ability to heal has always impressed and mesmerized me. Its ability to rebuild itself to a state that is almost indistinguishable from the pre-injury condition is just shy of magic to me. And something like this, this slow-motion restoration, gives me time to watch and wonder what will come next.

It began as little more than a slightly smooshed finger while building a stack-brick wall around our mailbox in early October. You see, the previous owners had surrounded the mailbox with decorative lava rock, and my wife thought it would be even more decorative to have some flowers sprouting from that rock. I agreed with her easily since it didn’t really involve me. Some money spent on bulbs, sure…but mostly it just meant I’d get to look at pretty blooms when I get home from work. Who would complain? She would simply scoop the pebbles aside, shove the bulbs down there and walk away; waiting for nature to work its tiny miracles. And that’s how it would have been at our old house. Our old house with its rich topsoil deposited by the muddy Missouri River and left untouched when the house was built 70 years ago. But here in this new house nestled in the suburbs of the St Charles explosion that metastasized in the 1980’s, there is no topsoil. It was hauled away by the same trucks that brought the concrete and asphalt to the trees and farmland; sold by Bob Whitaker as he unfolded his curved streets and cul-de-sacs to make room to plop down his little, green, plastic houses. And so, when my wife donned her gardening gloves and cleared a small circle in the lava rock, all that greeted her was clay.

She returned to the house and announced that we needed to buy some dirt to pour around the mailbox. Reasonable, I replied…but difficult. The stonework edging that was currently holding in the red rocks was only three inches high and already packed to the hilt. Where would this new soil go? The obvious solution was that a deeper space would need to be dug for this new dirt. And having dug this space, the old edging would certainly not be up to the task of containing this newly enlarged space. So, new stone work, more rugged and sturdy would need to be purchased and installed.

My wife’s eyes pleaded and suddenly this project very much involved me.

Fortunately, I was up to the task. Not only do I secretly enjoy a day’s hard labor, but I had also just purchased a 2005 Subaru Baja (white with leather seats and a sunroof) and had yet to come across a good reason to use that bizarre, little truck bed.

I was meticulous. After the digging, I tamped and retamped each layer of crushed stone foundation, leveled and releveled each brick. It was somewhere in the midst of the leveling that my middle finger found itself between two bricks.

I may have cursed a bit.

Always conscious of the possibility of loosing a nail, I walked to my open tailgate and rubbed firmly on the point of injury. It’s true that I often get strange looks when I do this.

“Doesn’t that hurt?” people will ask as I grimace.

“Oh, it hurts enough to make you pee,” I always reply...which is the exact reply my father gave me when he taught me this painful trick. His theory was that by continually rubbing the smashed nail, you prevent blood from pooling, thereby preventing the loss of the nail. Better, he reasoned, to suffer momentary pain than a protracted period with no fingernail. Although I have never attempted to prove this theory, I have religiously maintained the tradition. Consequently (or maybe coincidently,) I have never lost a fingernail, a distinction that will soon need an asterisk at best, a complete refutation at worst.

I completed the wall and it was a thing of beauty. We included a chicken wire floor for the planting area to keep moles and other burrowing animals from disturbing the bulbs. I washed my hands of the task and declared it good. Over the days, however, a small semi-circle of deepest purple appeared at the base of the squished fingernail. It was not sore in the least and was pretty easy to disregard, so I thought little of it. The small amount of blood would dry, I reasoned, and be broken apart and dissolved at my body’s own pace. I went about my business.

The purple grew. I reasoned that the blood was being flatted; marched toward the tip of my finger to be ejected like a splinter. I continued to ignore the coloration, but received ever more questions as it became more and more noticeable. It became more difficult to convince people that it didn’t hurt…not in the slightest. I would tap it vigorously to prove my case, leading only to more wincing from my unconvinced audience.

Then, last week, I gave up trying to convince people of the painlessness. Not that the injury became more painful…just that, well…the aforementioned hole appeared and no one was willing to believe that the nail could be anything other than agonizing. With that said, I feel I should warn my more squeamish readers that the next few paragraphs, while still painless to me, are a bit more graphic. If you’d like, you can skip down to the paragraph that begins “I have no idea what will happen now.” Conversely, you are welcome to the details.

I noticed that the very back of the nail, where the purple had originated, was surprisingly thin. Just a rice paper thin wisp of an idea of a fingernail. I pushed the cuticle back a bit and found the nail just faded away to nothing, leaving just the dried blood there from months ago. While the nail itself had clung on stubbornly, the finger’s ability to grow new nail seemed to have been nixed from the collected blood. Unexpected this was…and unfortunate. Would my fingernail fall off from the back forward? I’d never seen such a thing happen, but who knows. If that was true, I reasoned, I might be able to clear the way for new nail growth, allowing my body to grow a new nail before the old nail fell off; a slick piece of healing that would leave me nailless at no point during the process. I peeled back just a bit of the old nail, thinking to clear out some of that blood. A few chunks fell out, revealing soft skin below, visible through a squarish hole at the base of my nail.

It was at this point that I got nervous. Should I keep picking at the injury? Was I making it worse? Perhaps I should go back to my original theory of letting my body handle this, I thought. And perhaps I’d done enough already and this small hole would relieve pressure, giving the rest of the nail a chance to cling to life.

I reverted to my waiting game.

I have no idea what will happen now. Will the new nail grow from the base forward? Will the soft skin beneath simply secrete a new nail? And in either of these cases, what will the remaining old nail do to help or hinder this reparation? I wait to find out and walk about with a violent violet rainbow on my nail; pink above and pink beneath like some miscolored manicure depiction of my fair city’s arch.

As I said, I am astounded by my body’s long trek back to a healthy, non-descript fingernail. I watch with detached curiosity to see how this disappears, as I know that it must. In the meantime, I’ll keep the offensive sight of my disfigured finger, my grisly reminder of my attempt to bring flowers and beauty to our neighborhood, away from unsuspecting onlookers. A Band Aid here, an awkwardly turned hunt-and-peck there, and a picture of it viewable only through this link…for those of you who may have been curious to find what’s under the surface of this impish Gren.