Tag Archives: Testicular Cancer

MECHANICAL DONUT: CHAPTER 7

 

Hey, baby! Whether you’re here because you like the comedy or the train wreck, it’s Cancer Monday! And this week is a double whammy because you’re getting chapters 7 and 8 together! Oh, my goodness. What a deal.

So. If you’re all caught up and want to continue reading, please do! If you’re new here. WELCOME. This is a story about when I had cancer. Sometimes it’s happy. Sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes there is just fierce ambivalence to the force of life. Click here to jump to the beginning and start reading this tale of wonderful woe from the very top.

cancer_title_page_7

For the past few days, I’ve been drinking a radioactive concoction called barium and trust me, there is neither anything berry or yum about it. Seventy-two hours ago, a small yellow package showed up at my front door postmarked from the hospital, asking that I mix this powder with water and drink deeply. How to describe it? So many competing tastes and textures. If I were being polite, I would say it has the consistency of semen swimming in powdered eggs (powdered lumps included) and tastes of Elmer’s glue with just a hint of mint.

So no, it’s not terrible but it is bad enough to make me plug my nose and gag while I try to chug it as quickly as possible lest flies mistake it for what it smells like and begin to lay eggs in it.

2448_1098934318086_8015_n

The chemical drink, I’m told, causes my insides to “light up” and reveal any inconsistencies with a “normal, healthy human,” which, as far as I can tell, I am not. I’m not exactly sure what this procedure will be, but I assume they have some kind of machine that will take pictures of my insides; some kind of giant X-ray. I’m imagining lying on a bed and smiling; it’s school photos all over again. THEN I’m imagining going across the street to Denny’s because I saw that they’re featuring their seasonal pumpkin pancakes right now, and I feel like I deserve a little comfort food.

A male nurse with black hair and a soul patch approaches me with a gown and says, “OK, Mr. Brookbank, we’re going to get you in and out with your CAT scan. First, we’ll have you put this gown on and then we’ll get you all hooked up with your IV and blah blah blah.” Everything else he says turns into static. My eyes shift to my wife, who grimaces. I say, “Uh . . . OK . . . OK. Do you . . . do you have a restroom I can change in and, uh . . . have a panic attack?” and the male nurse with the soul patch says, “Yes, absolutely. Right this way.”

Inside the bathroom I change into the knee length, butt-revealing gown and stare at myself in the mirror; blue eyes filled with fear, wispy beard standing on end, skin the color of bad eggs. I don’t give myself a pep talk. I don’t say anything. I just stare at my reflection and try to imagine what it feels like to not be afraid of needles.

“Everyone is afraid of needles,” my wife says and I respond with, “No. Nobody likes needles. Not everyone is afraid of them. I don’t like the cold. I’m not afraid of it. You don’t like onions. You’re not afraid of them. My fear is deeply psychological and . . . it’s very . . . you wouldn’t understand. They’re pointy and silver and . . . They’re just so fucking pointy and silver!”

The Internet tells me the complex is called trypanophobia, an illness so foul that they actually had to give it a name no one could pronounce.

Soul Patch calls my name and escorts me into The Room. The door shuts and clicks behind me. In the middle of the floor is a giant Mechanical Donut, 6-and-a-half-feet high with a bed that rolls in and out of its delicious center. Next to the circular, steel pastry is a robotic arm that has a bag filled with clear liquid dangling from its “hand.” It is this clear liquid, I understand without being told, that will be shot into my veins to assist and activate the barium.

I ask Soul Patch how long he’s been doing this and he says, “Coupla’ years,” and I say, “I mean IVs. How long? Are you good at it?” and he says, “Oh. Yeah. Couple years. I’m good.”

Yeah, right. Your voice has the confidence of an eighth grader buying beer. Intern! Intern! Intern! And for the first time I find myself intentionally trying to focus on the pulsating lump of my lump, trying to distract myself from the needle.

I ask him what the CAT scan is for, and he noncommittally answers, “Oh, you’re a new patient, and we just like to do preliminary work on everyone prior to surgery,” and I say, “But specifically my pelvis, abdomen, and lungs?” and he says, “Uh . . . yeah . . . sort of everywhere, but yeah. There, mostly,” and I think, “Shame on you, kid. You’re not old enough to buy beer and that is a fake ID.” I think, “I know what you’re looking for. You’re looking to see if it’s spread anywhere. You’re looking to see if it’s growing. You want to know what to do if the surgery doesn’t work or if you’re too late.”

Soul Patch tells me to lie back and I do, reluctantly. He tells me to hold out my arm and I do, reluctantly. He holds my wrist and starts to slap around my forearm with two fingers. “How,” he asks, “are your veins?” and I tell him I don’t know. He asks if I’ve drunk any water recently and I say, “A little,” and he says, “Uh, OK. This is usually a bit easier if you’ve been drinking water but we’ll see what we can—” slap, slap—“do . . . . ”

My eyes are the size of dinner saucers, and my hands curl into fists of fear. I want to scream for Jade to bring me water, water, WATER!!! A cup, a glass, a gallon, a hose, anything. We’ll see what we can do??!! What does that mean?? I imagine him sliding the needle under my skin and into my vein, missing and probing, fishing, hooking, sticking, stabbing, wiggling, my wrinkled and hibernating vein exploding over and over, blood leaking out and running all over the floor. In my mind, Soul Patch keeps saying, “Oops, oops, sorry, again, once more, my bad,” until I finally just pass out.

“There ya go.” I look down, and it’s done. He tells me to lie back and keep my arm with the silvery, pointy needle sticking in it above my head. “Keep it pointed at the ceiling,” and I say, “The needle—is the needle still in my arm?” and he says, “Uh . . . no. It’s just a small rubber hose,” and I say, “Can I bend my arm without getting poked?” and he says, “Uh . . . yeah. I’ll be in this room over here and I’ll give you directions over the intercom.” I try to bend my arm and feel a little poke. Intern! Or maybe it was just the tape pulling at a hair. I don’t know. But I bet that needle is still in there. In my arm. In my vein.

Soul Patch’s voice comes over the intercom, and I turn my head to the left. He’s in a booth that looks like it’s being protected from radiation caused by nuclear fallout. I have to pause and wonder what sort of danger my body is currently in, what sort of rays I am about to endure. I try to remember what it was that The Fantastic Four were hit with when my train of thought is interrupted.

“Remember to keep your arm up—at the ceiling—like you have a question.” The only question I have is, When will this be over?

I have no idea how unanswerable that actually is.

The tech, from his bomb shelter, says, “And here comes the dye.” I watch the fluid come down the bag, through the tube, and into my arm, and then I’m pretty certain that I have legitimately shit my pants. Everything from my abdomen to my thighs is steaming hot.

The intercom comes back on. Soul Patch says, “The dye may cause you to feel like you’ve . . . wet . . . your pants,” and I shut my eyes and take a deep breath, trying not to focus on the warmth in my pelvis.

The bed jerks and slides into the donut. I open my eyes and read a sign taped to the top of the donut hole: DO NOT LOOK DIRECTLY INTO THE LASER. A female robot voice comes through the donut, The Bakery God, and says, “Hold. Your. Breath.” And I do. And I shut my eyes. And I pray. Not to the bakery god, but to That Faceless And Eternal Being. I do not blame you. I do not understand. Help me.

“You. May. Breathe.” The robot says and the bed pulls me out of the donut sanctuary. “Doing OK?” Soul Patch asks, and I say, “Yeah,” but in my head I think, Not so great . . . . Did I shit my pants?

The bed jerks forward again and the robot tells me, “Hold. Your. Breath.”

What hangs in the balance of this test? What will these results reveal? The thought of this being the beginning of something bigger crosses my mind, and I try to push it away. For me, surgery is the end. There is a definitive period afterward, and I go home and go back to work and that’s it but . . . .

What if . . . .

What if the cancer has spread? Lungs? Stomach? Liver? Is this possible? Yes. Yes, it’s all definitely possible. But is it probable? I pause, trying to be logical and not emotional and yes, I realize, it is probable.

“You. May. Breathe.”

Will I die in six months? Could I die in six months? I could die in six months. If it has spread, what are my chances for survival? The Internet tells me that, depending on what kind of cancer I have, it could be anywhere between 30 percent to 90 percent survival rate, which is basically like saying, “Maybe you’ll die. Maybe you won’t,” and then shrugging unapologetically.

“Hold. Your. Breath.”

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

 

cancer_title_page_8

 

Like all good hospitals, ours made us wait the entire weekend before giving us the (maybe) life-changing results of our test. Over those three days, every stomachache turned into stomach cancer, every pain in my finger exploded into bone cancer, every headache transformed into brain cancer. By the time they called back late Monday afternoon, I had diagnosed myself as a tumor wearing clothes.

“What are my results? My, uh, my test results?” and the lady on the phone says, “I’m not allowed to give out that information, sir,” and I say, “I know. I know you’re not. But it’s OK. It’s me, er, my body. It’s my body. It’s not a secret to me,” and she says, “I just really can’t, and actually, I just don’t have access to the information. The doctor would, however, like to speak with you.”

Outside, thunder claps and lightening strikes and the camera zooms dramatically into my face and I hear the soundtrack of my life play dun-DUN-DUUUUUUN!!!

I take a half-day off work the next day and drive back to Arcadia to visit with Dr. Honda, the friendly neighborhood urologist. When I arrive, all the receptionists know me by name and smile and welcome me in and everything is just too friendly. Jade and I sit down and she picks up the same copy of Better Homes she’d been reading previously and opens up to the page she had habitually dog-eared.

A woman calls my name and both my wife and I stand up. I start walking forward while Jade casually slides the magazine into her purse. The receptionist leads us back through a narrow corridor crowded by old people with various urinating issues. We take a seat in the room where I was told I had cancer and Jade says, “Is this where he told you?”

And I say, “Yes.”

And she says, “Where were you sitting?”

And I say, “Here.”

And she says, “And was he right here?”

And I say, “Yes.”

And she says, “Did you cry?”

And I say, “No. I said, ‘Rats.’”

She glances suspiciously around before sliding out her hot copy of Better Homes just before Dr. Honda knock-knock-enters. Jade shoves the magazine back in her purse like she’s just been caught trying to purchase extra-tiny condoms. The doctor shakes my hand, and I introduce him to my wife. He smiles and says, “Nice to meet you,” and takes a seat.

To his right he sets down a regular manila envelope with my name scratched onto the tab. Inside that envelope, I think, is everything. My future is just out of my reach.

He makes small talk with me and asks how my job is going, and I answer in short but courteous statements. He finally says, “Welp!” and grabs the folder and opens it on his lap and here comes The News.

“You have,” and he slides his finger down the page, turns it, examines the second page, “stage one cancer.”

I drop to my knees and tear my shirt and wail and scream and curse the Earth and the doctor says, “That’s . . . uh . . .that’s the kind we already knew you had,” and I immediately sit back on the paper-covered table and compose myself and say, “That’s great!”

Dr. Honda says, “It hasn’t spread. We’ll do the surgery and that should be it.”

YES!” We are going to (literally) cut this villain off at the pass and bury it alive. Goodnight, dickwad!

“Just out of curiosity,” I ask, “How high do the stages go?” and the doctor says, “Four. They go to four.”

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

If you’re reading this with us weekly, thank you. The above chapters were such a bizarre place for us. Fear, uncertainty, anxiety. What is going to happen is a good question but what IS happening is maybe the better one.

Next week we’re going to get into sexy finances. That’s right, sweetheart. Chapter nine is about sperm banking. World’s most awkward excerpt below . . .

 

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

 

The woman behind the desk hands me a cup and says, “Back through that door on the right. No lubrication. No spit,” and she looks directly at my wife and I say, “Oh . . . Ooooooh . . . .

We walk through the appropriate door and find ourselves in a room roughly the size of a hotel conference hall. Everything is white. Everything is sterile. The fluorescents buzz in the ceiling. On the walls: Georgia O’Keeffe.

Of course.

Sitting next to the door is a small table cluttered with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Editions. Motivation. In the center of the room is a chair that can only be described as something you would get a root canal in. It’s black, leather, and constantly at a slight recline. I sit in it and assume that this specific posture has been scientifically proven to help nervous men climax in public places.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Click FOLLOW or SUBSCRIBE or whatever the button below says to get updates with new chapters!

 

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Orange and the Sock: Chapter 2

 

Hello, boys and girls! Thanks for tuning back in for chapter 2 of the on-going series Cancer? But I’m a Virgo, a dark comedy about the time my body tried to kill itself. There’s romance, there’s sex and there’s drugs. It’s all coming, week by week, until the bitter end.

But before we get to that, I have to tell you a couple things that happened to me before. Way before. Years ago. Decades now, actually.

Today let me tell you a story about something that happened to me in elementary school. And it’s very important. Let me tell you a story about an orange and a sock.

Sit down. Curl up. And let’s get very, very, personal.

PS. To start from the very tippy-top of the prologue, click here.

 

 

 

 

cancer_title_page_2

 

I am six years old, and I know that something is wrong with me. It’s something that stretches far beyond the reaches of the faux-fashionable brown mullet that frames my over-sized head, making me look like the Son of Frankenstein. The wrongness is not the cold sore on my mouth that has been emblazoned into so many family photos from that year. It is not my excessively bushy eyebrows that look like storm clouds.

The year is 1988, and the wrongness has always been. It isn’t something that came about or was discovered one day. It is something that I’ve simply grown horribly accustomed to, the way someone who lives next door to an airport may eventually drown out the jet engines with their own thoughts.

I have only one testicle.

Or rather, I have two. But the second is undescended, just chilling out in my six-year-old abdomen, afraid to come down into its hormone hammock. I know this is unnatural and wrong and I’ve thought about it every single day for as long as I’ve understood its wrongness. For as long as I’ve understood that boys have two and I have one, I have dwelt on its absence. For as long as I can remember, this has been my body.

13873059_10154328611462510_2264191796753411322_n

One day, after spending an inordinate amount of time contemplating my testicle, I decide to approach my mother about the issue.

I go upstairs to their bedroom where my mother is folding laundry. The question burns in my stomach and in my throat, and I don’t want to say it because, even though she is my mother . . . she is my mother . . . and I don’t want to talk to her about my privates.

“Mom?” I begin. She sets aside one of my dad’s brown military shirts, folds her hands in her lap and smiles with a welcoming air. This is her finest quality; she will give you everything she has, every ounce of attention, every piece of love she can muster. It belongs to you.

I lean in the doorway and fidget awkwardly. I look down at my sneakers. I look down at my zipper, guarding my dirty secret like a monster with a hundred teeth.

“Why . . . do I only . . . have one . . .?” and I can’t even bring myself to say that final word, afraid it will just hang awkwardly between us like a vampire.

“One what, honey?”

Today, there are hundreds of synonyms for it. Then, I knew only one and the word choked me. I stare down at the brown almost-shag-but-not-quite carpeting, dirty with white dog hair. I look up and begin fiddling mindlessly with the doorjamb, reaching out and running my finger over the wooden plank. I expel my breath and quickly cough the syllable out as nonchalantly as possible.

“Ball.”

My hands convulsively go toward my crotch, and I feel dirty and perverse having said the word in front of my mother. We often forget as adults that children know shame, true and terrible shame that dwarfs our own. Children lack the proper familiarity that they are not alone in their experiences. To them, the world is happening for the first time, and the world only exists in the bubble of their own realities.

As a man, you can accept who you are, and you can own it. Your flaws can become quirks that you wear proudly, if not a bit oddly. As a child, you are simply different from everyone else, and at six years old, I am extremely ashamed about my secret, and I want nothing more than to be Normal.

My mother tells me that my “ball” is up in my tummy and that it’s been that way since I was born. She tells me that the doctor says it will just come down one day, abracadabra. It’s simply going to appear again like a mysterious second uncle.

She tells me that, after the doctor found it, he never checked again, never followed up—that during all my infant appointments, it was never rectified. As a man, when I press her and ask, “Why didn’t you do something? Say something?” She says, “I eventually stopped changing your diapers and then . . . ” She shrugs sadly as the thought trails off.

13659019_10154328611402510_4419972068252700847_n

As a boy, I cry about it often and the tears add to my shame and eat away at me from the inside like a cancer. Eventually, after not just months of living like this but years, I finally bring the issue back to my mother’s attention.

When? When is my bawl coming back down?” and I say it just like that, bawl instead of ball. I really lay the emphasis on the inflection, spitting out the word like venom. I am eight years old now and I’ve never felt so much as a rumble from the mythical Loch Nut Monster.

Sometimes I try pushing on my abdomen, hoping to cause a miraculous healing. I imagine an “extra” testicle just suddenly slopping down and filling up my nut sack like an orange in an old sock and voila problem solved.

This does not happen.

As the year progresses, larger questions begin surfacing in my mind. The Big Questions. The Long-Distance Questions that perhaps no normal third grader has any reason to be thinking. But I am no Normal third grader. I am a child who spends endless hours meditating on his genitals and pressing on his abdomen, hoping to give birth to a testicle.

What happens when I get married? The thought drops in my lap like a cinder block. I’m going to have to tell a girl about my secret. This prospect is worse than anything I have ever imagined. I try to conjure up the conversation in my head. Would I tell her before we were wed? Would I tell her after we were married? Would I tell her on our wedding day so that we’ve already spent a bunch of money and our families were all there and she wouldn’t be able to run away? Yes, that’s the way I’ll do it. I’ll trap her!

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the . . . . A heaviness fills me, and something I had never considered strikes me like a slap on the face. Fertility. Potency. Mobility. These are not words that I understand, but they are words whose meanings I comprehend. Can a man create babies if he is lacking half of his equipment? I’m imagining a jet with one wing. I’m imagining a gun with no bullets. I’m imagining a dick with no bawls.

At a third-grade level, I fully understand the basic concept of where babies come from—insert Tab A into Slot B. But I don’t understand what happens when one of the key components has gone AWOL. I don’t understand the science behind it. Is one a positive charge and one a negative charge? Do you need them both to create some kind of high-powered, special juice? Is one the fluid and one the sperm?

My life is crumbling before it’s even begun, and my mental state is collapsing. I rush home after school and begin demanding action from my mother. “Where is my bawl?! I want it back! It’s mine! I want to see a doctor, and I want him to fix me.”

 

***   ***   ***   *** ***

 

This is the first time I’ve had any kind of physical done. I’d never been in any type of sport, so I’d never been required to go through the customary “Turn your head and cough” routine. I am terribly nervous as I sit in the waiting room, my hands sweating, my foot bouncing. This is the first time that anyone outside of my mother will know my secret, and this person will discover it by touching me. I am eight, and I am about to be fully exposed in front of a stranger in the most intimate fashion possible. As I wait, instead of reading a magazine, I just stare at a Georgia O’Keeffe painting, an artist whose work I will become well acquainted with in roughly twenty years.

“Johnny . . . Broogbank?” People more often than not say my last name with a question mark and a randomly misplaced letter. My mother and I stand up, and in the back hall they measure me, weigh me, blood pressurize me, and escort me into a broom closet adorned with more Georgia O’Keeffe specials.

I stand up and begin to pace wildly while cracking my knuckles. My mother suggests that I relax because the doctor has “seen it all” and I care little and less because I have seen “almost nothing” and I’ve never had a grown man fondle my package before and I find the idea to be terribly off-putting, even at eight. Or rather, especially at eight.

There is a gentle knock at the door, and I immediately know that we have entered The Point of No Return. My stomach drops and all the butterflies inside of it take flight. He enters the room, a stethoscope around his neck, and his physical features immediately remind me of the pink Franken Berry cartoon character on the cereal box, enormous and hulking, thick in the shoulders, hairy hands, but a kind face with a gentle smile.

Dr. Franken Berry asks my mother and me a few questions in that friendly but sterile tone that most GPs have before tapping the table and telling me to “Pull down my pants and hop up here.” I fumble slowly with my belt and then, in sheer neurosis, I ask, “Underwear too?” and he replies in the affirmative.

And it’s in that next moment while bent in half, my hands clutching the waistband on my very tight, very white undies that I wonder why I asked my mother to come here with me.

Dr. Franken Berry feels around my abdomen and begins pressing and I almost tell him, “Don’t bother, I’ve been trying that technique for years,” but instead say nothing. He grabs my bawl and says, “Turn your head to the left . . . and cough. Turn your head to the right . . . ” and I see my mom sitting in the chair. She looks so sad. Her eyes are downcast and she fiddles with her fingernails. I am glad she’s here, and I am glad she’s looking away, supporting me quietly in my shame. “ . . . And cough.”

He tells us we need to do surgery to try and draw it down and I am joyous, celebratory even. I am going to be whole. I am going to have two testicles. Two bawls. Like an x-rated version of Pinocchio, I’m going to be a real boy.

I’m pulled out of school for the operation because I will be hospitalized for three days, the entirety of which are all very blurry to me. The tent-pole moments I will highlight are as follow.

I am all alone on a gurney in a hallway. A male nurse approaches me and says he’s going to give me an IV. I’ve never had one, and I am horrified. I see the size of the needle and my horror turns to terror. He rubs my arm and massages it and slaps it and then says, “All done.” The man was an artist and his craft so perfect and painless that, to this day, it is the IV that I rate all others by.

Inside the operating room, I count backward from ten and only get to nine before I black out from the anesthetic.

My next memory is laughing with my mom in the recovery room. Some commercial has come on that consists of a talking roll of toilet paper, and I believe I am able to recall this specific moment so vividly not because of the humor but because of the pain, which is intense and, very literally, sidesplitting. The surgeon has cut a three and a half inch gash on the right side of my groin, and I can hear it scream every time my muscles cinch up. What he did in there, I have no idea, but it feels like I’ve been stuffed full of hot thumbtacks. Laughing and crying, I ask my mom to turn off the television and to please stop imitating the talking toilet paper.

My next and final memory of the hospital is me asking my mom, “Did they do it?” and her simply saying, “No,” and I am so crushed that I weep in my bed. I am eight years old and the finality of it is the worst news I’ve ever had in my life. I will forever have only one testicle. One bawl. I don’t want to talk. I don’t want to listen. I just want to forget.

Perhaps this seems overdramatic, but to a young boy, fitting in is the world, and I’ve just been told that I will forever be different and not simply through the color of my hair or my height or my language but by the one thing that makes a boy a boy.

A doctor enters the room to check my incision. It is the first time I’ve seen my wound and the sight disgusts me. My skin on either side of the cut has been pinched together and folded over itself and then sutured through a number of times. It looks like someone has laid a thick string of flesh-colored, chewed up bubblegum across my skin and then threaded it with long spider legs. The smell is foul. It is yellow and blue and dripping fluids but the doctor says it looks fine, which I take as an extremely relative deduction.

He asks me if I have any questions and I do. It’s one that I have to know the answer to but am horrified to ask for fear of the truth, for fear of more bad news. I simply say, “Can I still have kids?”

The doctor looks at me and just chuckles and says, “Yeah. You can still have kids. Think of your second testicle like a spare tire. It’s just in case.”

Just in case, I think. Yeah. After all, what are the chances I’d lose my backup, as well?

The doctor leaves and my mother, at a failed attempt to make me feel better says something poetic like, “It was all shriveled up and dead so they had to pull it out. They said if we’d left it in there for another week it could have caused cancer.”

It is a phrase that I will revisit frequently in my life, wondering if something was left behind, lying dormant, waiting. . .

10616152_10204990176898646_3795949844925958803_n

 

We did it! We made it through! Together! And I’ll be honest, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little like Dumbledore taking Harry Potter into the pensieve to share with him my darkest memories.

And now it’s your turn to share! Please share this post. I want to get this thing published but we need it to spread its vile tendons out into the weird world of social media. Share, rinse and repeat. And click the follow button down at the bottom to get alerts when new chapters come out. Next Monday. And next Monday. And next Monday. And on and on. Until we’re done.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Discovering Rainbows: When your children turn to memories

Sometimes, when we speak to children, specifically those under the age of 3, we find that there is something of a communication barrier.

Sometimes it’s because the words they use contain different meanings than the words we use. For example, when my children say “yesterday” they don’t mean “the day directly previous to today.” Instead they mean “any period of time that came before my last sleep.”

Dinosaurs were yesterday.

Sometimes Rory says that I’m being a bully. But he doesn’t mean “someone that pushes smaller people around” he means… well, he actually means exactly that but the heart of the matter is quite different. He doesn’t like being disciplined. So when I give him a time-out for hitting his sisters, I am, effectively, being a bully.

And then there are times where things are not understood because they are taken out of context.

One day I’m at a friend’s house and Rory turns to one of the girls there and says, “My dad says that we should eat blood.”

And then all eyes slowly shift towards me and I smile sheepishly and stupidly because, well, yes. Actually, as a matter of fact, I did say that.

But my context… was a little different.

Jade and I had recently visited Ireland where they have black pudding. Black pudding is made by taking animal blood, mixing it with oats and spices, forming them into patties and then frying them. Ultimately they look and taste a little like breakfast sausages. So I was telling the kids about this. I was telling them about the time daddy ate blood. And I was telling them that people do this. And I was telling them that they could do it as well.

So yes, I was telling them that they could eat blood.

Conversations and words are strange things because ultimately, words are just empty containers – empty cups – and each of us gets to choose what we’re going to fill them with. Knucklehead can be aggressive or endearing. It’s just an empty cup until I fill it with intent.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Sometimes, however, we can’t understand children of that age because, well, we just literally can’t understand them. Their lips and tongues and brains aren’t quite functioning at full capacity yet. Their words sound mushy and drunk.

Like today when Bryce said, “Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”

I hear these words escape her mouth and they’re said with such conviction that I’m certain they mean something. Certainly she’s saying something. For Bryce it seems that she has full intent but no cup and her words, rather than being neatly contained, are just splashing all over the place.

And so we try to interpret.

“Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”

I’m sitting in a chair reading a book when she says this. I’m in the other room. There’s a wall separating us and my location in space has my back positioned to her. Ironically, you’ll just love this, my book is about finding happiness in the minutia of life. So it makes sense that, reading this book, I turn my head a quarter of an inch in my daughter’s direction and I say, “Oh, yeah. Neat. Okay,” and then go back to reading.

Rather than finding joy in my daughter, who is discovering and interacting with the exciting world around her – rather than connecting with a human, a child that came from me, no less – I choose to bury myself further in my own thoughts.

Because that’s what kind of person I am, I guess.

Because actions do speak louder than words.

Because even if we say, “I’m not like that,” our actions show us who we are. It’s so funny how, more often than not, our thoughts and our actions do not align. Our thoughts speak to ourselves (no one else can hear them) and our actions speak to others. So if we think one thing but do another, it creates a rift in our reality. We begin to think that we are someone that we are not. Or, worse yet, the world thinks we are one way while we think we are another.

There grows a haunting disconnect between that which we think we are and that which we actually are.

If I think I am the guy that gets up and engages with my children but when my children speak out to me, I pay them lip service in order to make them go away so that I can indulge in whatever it is I’m doing… who am I?

I give her just the absolute most minimal attention possible to hopefully satiate whatever want she has in this moment. Because I’m sure it’s nothing.

And then Bryce says, a little more enthusiastically, ““Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”

“Nice. Nice. Yes. Yes. That’s very wonderful, isn’t it?” Look! I’m paying attention to you, Bryce! I’m giving you words.

I am giving Bryce empty cups. My words are cups but I have filled them with no intent at all. She is asking to be fed with attention and I’m just pushing empty plates at her.

“Nice. Nice. Yes. Yes. That’s very wonderful, isn’t it?” Whatever, whatever. Please leave me be. I’m reading a book. You are a babbling child who is almost certainly making a mess out of chocolate cereal at my dining room table. What do I have to say to appease you?

Or… what do I have to say to silence you?

Or… best yet… what do I have to say to make you go away?

Because you are bothering me and I want to be left alone.

What are we really saying when we say the words we are saying.

Sometimes I don’t understand what my daughter says because she’s three.

Sometimes I’m thankful my daughter can’t fully understand what I’m saying because she’s only three. Thank you, Bryce, for not understanding that I’m pushing you off.

Daddy. Darezah aimbow in our-owse.”

Alright. So this problem is not going away. I’m actually going to have to engage. I shut my book and I set it down and I stand up and I walk around the corner and I see Bryce sitting at the table with, wouldn’t you know it, a mess of chocolate cereal in front of her. Wonderful. Guess whose cleaning that up?

“What is it, Little Ohm?” This is a character from a movie I saw once and for some reason I started administering the name to Bryce.

“Look. Darezah aimbow,” and she points. And I look. And I see nothing. I see nothing and I just think to myself, of course.

“What are you saying?”

“Darezah aimbow. Dare.”

“There’s a rainbow?”

“Yah.”

“In our house?”

“Yah.”

Where is this rainbow?”

“Dare.” She points. I still see nothing.

I sit down next to her at the table. I lower myself several feet. I squint. I lower myself further. I try to relax my eyes. Still nothing.

“Are you a freaking psychic medium?”

“Yah. Dare.”

I squat down lower. I bring my eyes to her level. I tilt my head like hers. And I follow her finger and I see… a rainbow.

In our house.

And it is a simple thing. But it is also a beautiful thing.

“There is a rainbow. Look at that.” I sit in silence and stare at the thing for a moment. “It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?”

“Yah. Vewy pwetty.”

“Yes. It is vewy pwetty, isn’t it?” And then the two of us just sit and watch it. We just… enjoy it together. Like a piece of art in a gallery. We just sit and watch the rainbow, the silence periodically broken by the sound of dry, crunching cereal next to me.

“I wuv you, Daddy.”

It’s out of nowhere. Out of the blue. It has no greater purpose. No shadow intent. She isn’t trying to get something out of me. She isn’t trying to do anything. It is a cup that is filled with cold and refreshing water. The perfect amount. At the perfect time.

Where do I fit in this picture? How did I help create a being like this? They arrive here perfect and then we just start to slowly mess them up.

“May I have a hug, Bruce?”

“Oh, yes. Yes, Daddy.”

She puts down her spoon, delicately and intentionally balancing it inside the bowl, steps forward and hugs me. And she holds it. And she squeezes. And I can feel her smiling. When she pulls back she gives me a kiss on the cheek and says, “I love you, Daddy.”

Oh, it’s funny what a little perspective will do to your life. It’s funny that if we stop looking at things the way we see them and start looking at them the way someone else sees them, we actually get to experience life in a richer capacity.

If we open our ears and hearts to others, we get to see the world in a multitude of ways.

We can be both here and there. We can see things as adults. We can see things as children. And if we join together and sit down, we can somehow see the world as both. It’s like the 3-D glasses. You get to see through two lenses at once. And everything pops. Everything is brighter. More intense. More saturated.

I glance back at the rainbow and see that it’s fading – almost a gray color now. And I think about how fleeting all things are. The sun, nearly 100 thousand miles away, cast its light in just this way, to reflect just perfectly through that window, that someone built in that way. All of that coupled with my daughter standing in this room at this time (making a mess from her chocolate cereal), facing the proper direction as she was the exact height at this time of her life to see this miniature spectrum.

And she saw it in this tiny little window of time where it was available to her. Just a few moments in the late afternoon.

This special thing happened.

And then it was gone.

And we couldn’t get it back. So hopefully we enjoyed it.

“You want some cereal, Daddy?”

I nod. “Yes, please.” And she feeds me one small piece of chocolate cereal at a time. She drops a marshmallow on the floor, says, “Oops,” and then picks it up. It’s now covered in dust and hair. She balances it back on the spoon and says, “Here.”

I reach out, dust it off and bite.

The rainbow in our house is gone.

And then the cereal was gone.

And then Bryce left the table.

And then years passed.

And then Bryce left the house.

And then it was just me sitting in a chair with a book, remembering the time that I got to share a rainbow with her. Hoping that I enjoyed it.

Because this memory is all I have left.

 

 

Subscribe for more. Every Wednesdays there’s more Bald.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

THE CAVE: Getting lost in the darkness of a failing marriage

“You’ve been married for eleven years?” someone asks me.

“Yeah. Eleven years. It’s a long time. We’ve been together for fifteen.”

What? Did you get married when you were twelve? How old are you? You’ve been married fifteen years? What’s that like?”

I suspect that they anticipate me to tell them that marriage is beautiful and wonderful and that I’m married to my best friend and everyday is a marvelous adventure.

But I don’t.

Instead I tell them the truth.

“What’s it like? It’s, uh… Marriage is like this dark cave. And when you get married you both go into the cave together. You take hands and you step into the darkness. That’s the unknown – this new part of life. You walk next to each other for a while and then one day your hands get sweaty and so you let go of each other but it’s all good because you can still hear them next to you. You’re still talking and you know that they’re there. It’s dark. It’s black. But you know they’re next to you.

And then one day you’ve talked about everything and so you get kind of quiet and you decide that just spending time in one another’s company is enough. And so you just keep walking in the dark, next to each other, in silence. And it’s okay because you know that they’re still there. You can still hear their footsteps.

And then one day you ask them a question. And you get no response. And you realize that they are gone. You realize that you’ve gotten separated. You’ve drifted apart. And you are alone. And somewhere, they are alone as well.

You call out to them. You shout their name and you get no response. And so you go looking for them because you know that they’re there… somewhere. You know that somewhere in this cave they’re wandering around. They’re doing their thing and you’re doing yours.

You call for them and in the distance you hear them. And you keep shouting and you keep calling and you keep walking and you try to get back to them.

And you hope that you find them.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Some people are walking in the cave and they’re like, ‘I’m done walking in the dark with you.’ And those people turn around and they walk back towards the light. Sometimes they walk back towards the light and out of the cave together. And sometimes they do it alone.

And sometimes that’s okay.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

One day you wake up and you’re thinking, ‘This is not the person that I married. This is not the person that was standing next to me at the altar.’ And, if you’re self-aware enough you may realize that you are also not the same person that was standing at the altar and that your spouse is experiencing you in an entirely new way.

You’ve both changed. You’re both completely different people. And then you wonder if you can keep making it work. Because those other versions could do it… but you’re not sure these new versions are a fit.

How do you put together a puzzle when the pieces keep changing shape?

Now drop kids into the mix. Oh, shit. Things are getting complicated.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

You have a dream of having a career. A specific career. And so you educate yourself in that field. Maybe you go to college. Maybe you go to a tech school. Maybe you read books and watch YouTube videos. However you prepare for it, it is, at its core, a preparation. An education of self.

So then you get that job and then the industry changes – new technologies or practices emerge. So your boss sends you to receive additional training. You learn new ways to process information. You learn new techniques. The career field changes and so you must adjust.

So we apply hours and weeks and sometimes even years and sometimes even decades of preparation to a job (say hello, doctors!) and yet, when we discuss marriage, when we prepare to live with another person full time and make life changing decisions with them… we… do… nothing…

The church that married Jade and I encouraged us to take three 30-minute classes.

90 minutes of training for the task at hand is not enough.

I’ve been married for just over a decade and the training I’ve received on-the-job has not been nearly enough.

But marriage is not like a job. You just get thrown in first day with no idea what you’re doing and nobody encourages serious training. Nobody tells you to re-educate yourselves after five years or ten years. Nobody tells you that your marriage career is going to change and you’re going to have to make it work or get fired. And if you suggest education – if you suggest marriage counseling you get this taboo sense that something is wrong with you.

You know that feeling I’m talking about. That unspoken weirdness that everyone thinks but does not speak. This idea that is perpetrated in our culture that marriage counseling is for the weak and broken and… my personal favorite…

If you have to go to marriage counseling you weren’t meant to be.

Because if you have to ask for help it is because you are stupid. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that everyone else knows how to do this? Don’t you know that it comes easily and naturally to everyone else? Marriage is simple and straight-forward and if you need advice it is because the pieces do not work together and there is no hope anyways. Don’t you know that? Don’t you know that it’s better to live miserable little lives than it is to seek counsel? Don’t you know that?

What if we applied that logic to other areas of our lives? Son, if you need to ask a question in class, you probably just aren’t smart enough to begin with.

If you need to look at the recipe for how to make chili, you probably weren’t made for chili. Sorry. It’s delicious but you don’t get any. Shoo-shoo, Oliver Twist.

Listen. Seeking education does not make you stupid or wrong. Seeking education makes you self-aware. Education and intellect craft a stronger individual, crafts a stronger family, crafts a stronger culture, crafts a stronger world.

Do not allow the uninformed to inform your thinking.

Do not be engaged and dissuaded by a society that has a 50% failure rate in marriage.

Set your own rules. Live by your own standards.

Education is not a swear word.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

I’m broken.

That’s a fact.

I’ve got a bunch of baggage that I carry around with me everywhere I go. I’ve got baggage about my family. I’ve got baggage about my parents. I’ve got baggage about my faith. I’ve got baggage about my body. I’ve got baggage about my personality. I’ve got baggage about my grades and my IQ and my creative abilities. I’ve got pride issues. I’ve got insecurity issues.

And my wife gets to adopt them.

And I get to adopt all of her bullshit.

And then we have to figure that stuff out together.

We say things we don’t mean. We do things we know we shouldn’t. We raise our voices and we walk away from conversations and sometimes we hurt each other with nothing more than our intent.

Thank GOD people have not heard some of the stuff I’ve said to my wife in the heat of an argument. Shit has come out of my mouth that I think about today and cringe. I have said things to her for no other reason than to hurt her. And that speaks to who I am (or hopefully was) as a person, at my core. At the time I would have said it was her fault. It’s her fault for being a specific way and I was just bringing it all to light and if it hurt her it’s because it was true.

These are the words and thoughts of someone that is selfish and arrogant.

The vows tell us that we’re going to be together through sickness and health, for better or worse but what they don’t tell us is that it’s sometimes going to feel like you’re dragging along a dead marriage, fighting uphill to make it work. They don’t tell you that there will be periods of time – not just days and weeks but entire months – that drag on through the gray drizzle of time and you’ll wonder just what is wrong with your spouse because it’s not you. It’s not you. It’s never you. It’s always them. Making mistakes.

“I’m trying. You’re not.”

“There’s nothing wrong with me.”

Getting married is like a light to all of your shortcomings as a human being. Your spouse will illuminate all the problem areas. It’s painful and it’s terrible and it hurts to look at yourself and see all the flaws. And it’s just so much easier to turn your face to one side and not look at that pile of problems that create you, as a person, and it’s so much easier to deflect blame to the other.

It is so much easier to look at someone’s shortcomings and it is so much easier to nurture resentment for a million little things and a handful of big things.

It is so much easier to judge others.

And it is simple to judge our spouse.

And so you choose.

Those three thirty minute classes didn’t prepare us for cancer at 26. They didn’t prepare us for lay-offs. They didn’t prepare us for invitro-fertilization. They didn’t prepare us for twins. They didn’t prepare us for a miscarriage. They didn’t prepare us for the day-in-day-out minutia of life and they didn’t prepare us for the fact that Jade likes things done a certain way and I like things done a certain way and those ways typically are not the same but are, more often than not, quite opposite.

Those classes didn’t prepare us for anything.

I wish I could say that everyday Jade and I choose to hang onto each other in the darkness of the cave but the reality is that we don’t.

Sometimes we are cold and calculating.

And sometimes we are terrible.

And cruel.

But we try.

We choose.

We choose to continue to stumble blindly through the dark, seeking each other.

And sometimes we choose to talk about walking back into the light. Sometimes we talk about what a divorce looks like.

And sometimes we have fun together and we find each other and we remember why we do this. We remember why the search is worth it.

We remember that we love each other and that our family is amazing and that we’re very lucky and it is only our own selfish shortcomings that are destroying us and we realize that if we can choose to be better people, we can choose to be the best for each other.

And when our spouse shines a light on our problem areas – our selfishness, our arrogance, our pride – we can choose to get angry that someone noticed our darkness… or we can thank them for being close enough to us to point out our flaws. And then we fix them together.

“But, man…” I conclude. “Marriage is really hard.”

The guy across the table looks at me. I notice he doesn’t have a ring on his hand. I wonder if he’s thinking about proposing.

“But it’s also amazing. Marriage is beautiful and wonderful and I’m married to my best friend and everyday is a marvelous adventure.”

 

***Like what you hear? Subscribe for updates . New material every Wednesday.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rory and Quinn: 5 Months

twins, 1st year, progression, growing up, chalkboard wallThe two of you are five months old now….Quinn, you’re actually five months and 2 minutes old, if you want to get technical, having stormed into the cold delivery room just moments before your younger (but much larger) brother.

People say time is relative but I’d say time is funny….and family is relative.  Five months seems like a quick drop in the bucket, sand in an hourglass, a quick fart in the diaper of life, but it seems like years ago that Jade was pregnant and the two of you were hiding shyly inside her fleshy incubator.

I walked past our television earlier today and saw the first family photo we ever had taken – a young and handsome doctor that wasn’t very good at giving epidurals had snapped it on our digital camera in the delivery room moments after they’d handed both of you to me.  I sat with one of you in each arm and Jade laid stretched out on the table, her arms tied down like a death row inmate and click.  The photo is ours forever.  It just seems like a long time ago.

I put you into your cribs at night and you’re too tall to lay sideways anymore.  In fact, you’re both so big that we have you sleeping in your own cribs now.  We’d put you both in the same crib, on separate sides, and you’d fuss a little and then slowly go to sleep………and then you’d slowly start crawling towards one another and, once you found your sibling, you would start punching and kicking them.  Then the screaming would start.  Game over.

We separated you a few weeks ago and I think it’s fair to say that all four of us are sleeping better now.  Mostly you’ll each wake up only once or twice in the night and often times one of you will actually just sleep straight through.

You’ve both begun to mumble quite a bit but Rory is definitely taking the lead on vocality.  We have a little baby monitor that sits in your room and while we go to sleep we listen to you mumble in the dim light.  “mmmrrr…..scwaahhhh……sshhhmmmeeee….we-we!”  It’s pretty funny…..but at the same time sort of creepy because it sounds like a demon.  You also do this really low growl that sends shivers up my spine.  We’ll be changing your diaper and you’ll look right at us and in a raspy wheeze go, “hhhhrrrrrr habba-habba.  Grrrrr rabba-rabba”.  It really does sound like you’re trying to cast a spell on us.

You’re both sitting up now (sort of) but I’ve gotta say that I think Quinn might be galloping into the lead with stability.  Maybe it’s because she’s lighter?  Rory, you’re like a little cinder block with a face and Quinn is like a feather with a gummy smile.

One of my favorite things to do lately is to face the two of you towards one another and watch you play.  You reach out and touch each other’s toes.  You chew on each other’s fingers.  You steal each other’s toys.  You both cry.  It’s loads of fun.

We’re heading back to South Dakota in about two weeks for your first 4th of July and ALSO your first plane ride.  I’m really excited about the plane ride and I don’t really know why.  Everyone has said that traveling with babies is a terrible, terrible experience but I believe in you!!  You’re going to do just fine.  We’re going to get on the plane and people will love you!  You’ll steal the show – just like a thief at a comedy club!

By this time next month we fully anticipate seeing some shining ivories.  We suspect that Rory may be beginning his teething campaign as of yesterday and Quinn I’m sure is not far behind.  I’m trying to spend as much time with you as I can and enjoy every minute because I’m sure that in six months I’m going to look back at a photo of the four of us sitting on the floor, me half supporting Quinn and Jade trying to soothe Rory’s sore gums and I’ll think to myself – that wasn’t that long ago but you’ve changed so much…

4 Months

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rory and Quinn: 4 Months

“Little boys should never have to go to sleep because every morning they wake up one day older”.  That’s not an exact quote but it’s definitely an exact paraphrase of something someone said.  And it’s true.  In fact, it’s usually one of my final thoughts before placing each of you into your crib.  I look at you now, today, and realize that you’re much bigger than the day I first met you.  You’ve both grown and changed and…..”matured” isn’t the right word but I’ll use it anyway.  Your faces are filling out and your limbs are getting stronger.  You both smile more and more and you laugh constantly.

This month you’ve both taken a serious notice of one another – uh-oh, it’s 12:54am at the time of this writing and I’m suddenly hearing little noises percolating from the bedroom…….it’s Rory, up for his midnight feeding.  Hello there, little buddy.  When you were born you used to grunt while you slept and while you ate. Now, about three days ago you started to “talk” during any time you weren’t sleeping or eating..  Actually, I suppose it isn’t very fair that I put quotes around that word.  If tonality says anything at all, you both have a mouthful to say to anyone that will listen.  You screech, mumble, warble and sing, sometimes to me, sometimes to your mom, sometimes to your sibling and sometimes to yourself.  I walked into the bedroom a few afternoons ago after getting out of the shower and found you, Rory, lying in your crib on your side, humming like an infant mogwai.

For reference of what a mogwai is, please google search the term, “mogwai”.  Sidenote: Quinn, you sort of resemble a mogwai.  Trust me, it’s okay and is a heck of a lot better than resembling a golem.

I love listening to the two of you make sounds.  Rory, your noises are more like songs and coos while Quinn’s, yours are more in the vein of laughs and screeches.  If you are upset you put your fists down at your side and go, “eeeeEEEEEE!!!!”  When you do this I shake you a little and you laugh, haha.

We also recently purchased you each your very own Johnny / Jenny Jump Up.  We plop you down in this swing that hangs from the door frame and watch you bounce…truth be told there’s not a HUGE amount of jumping that’s happening…..YET…..but I’m sure it will begin shortly.  Currently you both mostly just hang there and stare at one another, swinging around and gently pushing yourselves in one direction or the next.

I’m really enjoying watching you grow but, as usual, it holds a side of bitterness to it.  You’re both rolling over, making noises and beginning to grab things with your hands – you’re turning into toddlers!!  Today we gave you both your first taste of mushy rice cereal and you LOVED IT!…..just kidding.  Quinn, you began to lap it up like a dog but I’m not totally certain you a.) enjoyed it or b.) knew what you were doing.  Rory, you just started to cry.  Perhaps you’d enjoy it more if we splashed a little soy sauce on it?

I’ve started working nights and this last week with the two of you has been fanTASTIC!!  I am so happy to be blessed with additional time to spend with my kidlets during the day.  Working the standard 9-5, I missed you so and was feeling cheated out of a more time-dynamic relationship.  Now the flood gates are open and we get to spend nearly the entire day together before I go to work at 6:30.  It’s GREAT!!

That said, I do enjoy the weekends when I stay up late all alone, trying to remain on my night schedule, when I hear one of your mews from the back room and I rescue you from the dark, bring you into the light and feeding your hungry bellies.  It’s phenomenal having you both around but it’s also nice to get some one on one time as well.  I truly cherish our time together and am always more and more excited to see the people you are becoming.  Will you hate onions?  Will you like rock ‘n’ roll?  What will your favorite color be?  You’re here in our arms but there are so many unanswered questions.  Don’t worry, though, we’ll discover it all together.

3 Months

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Months

Rory and Quinn.

Looking at our monthly photos amazes me.  It’s incredible to see how you’ve grown so much in just the last 30 days.  Where you were once so easily carried around with one arm you are suddenly requiring the constant assistance of two.  Watching you grow and change has been an amazing treat but it also saddens me in a strange way.  Part of me looks forward to the days when you will crawl and walk and talk but another part of me just wants you to stay as you are – as our cooing babies.  You are wonderful little people and everyday I find myself loving you more and more.

I suppose that since I can’t control time nor the human growth element (yet…) I should just embrace your amazing process and run with it.  Just promise me that you’ll never be too cool to give me hi-fives.

Earlier this month your mom and I decided to embark on a well deserved vacation up to San Francisco to visit some good friends of ours.  Were we expecting the trip to be different than what we were used to, traveling alone or with dogs?  Yes.  Was it different?  DEFINITELY.  Was it more difficult?  Sometimes.  Was it more fun?  Sometimes!  There’s something strangely exhilarating about changing a babies diaper in the front seat of your car in a light drizzle at a gas station in a town you’ve never been to.  There’s something romantic about waking up at 3am in a strange hotel and watching Mtv with your family.  There’s something illuminating about buying beer then realizing that you don’t have a bottle opener and getting on YouTube to find a “How-To-Open-A-Beer-With-Your-Keys” video.

Rory, you fuss less and less as the days go on and Quinn, your eyes get bigger and bigger.  Rory, you’ve begun to thrash your arms and legs around, swiping at little objects and slapping me in the face while I sleep.  Quinn, you’ve begun to roll over, mostly onto your side and ALMOST onto your stomach.  Rory, you don’t even try to roll; you prefer laying face down and, from one deranged mouth-breather to another, that’s okay with me.  Quinn, you laughed for the first time when your mom was giving you a bath a few weeks ago.  The sound of your coos makes us smile; you’re becoming quite a noisy baby and will “talk” with us if we ask you questions.  Your big gummy smile cracks me up.  Rory, you drool…a LOT.  Honestly, I’m not even so fearful of you smothering yourself in your blankets as I am of you drowning while you sleep.  We put bibs on you in the middle of the day just so you don’t get your shirts soppy wet.  Quinn, you’ve begun waking up at 6:30am pretty consistently.  You are not hungry.  You are not wet.  You just want to play.  You cry until someone sits you up, at which point you look at us, smile, laugh and then start to coo.  I don’t even care that it’s 6:30.  Rory, you sleep all night….you actually sleep all night and most of the day.  The other day you slept 10 1/2 hours.  You are a true professional and you take your rest very seriously.

Everyday I leave to go to work and everyday I think about you all day long.  It’s tough to be away from you for such stretches…..maybe I should tape a picture of myself to the ceiling above your crib?  Maybe I should get you a live webcam?  When I come home and pick you up, it is clear that you recognize me and laugh.  You both do it and those two moments are the absolute highlight of my day.  We’ve got more family coming to town soon – Your Aunt Theresa, who you haven’t met yet and your Grandma June is coming back for her second visit and I think they’ll both be pleasantly surprised at how big you’ve gotten and at how much Rory drools.

TWO MONTHS

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Interview with The Fusionist

Make sure you go check out The Fusionist to see us gab a bit about cancer, careers and fun with IVF.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

One Month

Roe and Q,

Happy one month birthday!

Before you were born everyone told us, “Time will fly by all too fast so you better enjoy them while they’re little” and for once, all the unsolicited advice was correct.  I can’t BELIEVE you’ve been here for a month already – that’s the entire lifespan of a fruit fly!!  Regardless of how brief the last thirty days have seemed, they have packed a serious punch, like a dwarven version of Mike Tyson.  Now, not to sound like a decrepit old woman already but it really does seem like only yesterday that I was still massively pregnant and begging you to evacuate the premises……..

I’ll be honest, this has been a pretty intense month with you so far.  At everyone’s (unwanted) suggestions, we were bracing ourselves for the worst ( The Antichrist) but thankfully you’re not even close to as difficult as we were expecting (you’re only about as bad as The Pope) but it’s still FULL THROTTLE.  Sleeping is certainly not the thirteen straight hours we were used to but we’re still functioning with the every 3 hour feeding schedule you’ve so politely mapped out for us and are THRILLED that you’re on any kind of a consistent schedule at all.  The first night we had you home with us was insane; it was like The Three Stooges Have a Baby.  We were clueless idiots bumbling around with you all night while you were up for 6 hours straight tag teaming us.  After the first night spent inside Dante’s Inferno we were definitely bleary-eyed, sleep deprived and wondering what exactly we had signed up for.  Top to bottom, feeding you has been the most challenging part for us as you both are very thirsty Schrute babies (Dwight K) but everyday is getting better, easier and less painful for my poor mammaries.  John’s nipples seem to be doing fine; he claims to have taken an intensive 12 hour internet boot camp on milk-tating dads.

Both your Grandmas left two weeks ago so we are now fully on our own with you and it was pretty scary at first.  When you cried we felt like chimps trying to disengage an A-Bomb, slapping at random buttons hoping it would shut off.  The first couple days at home with you alone by myself (while your dad was at work) were pretty hard but the more I get to know your separate little personalities and bends, the easier it gets.

Rory, at this point in your life:  you love sleeping on your stomach (much to my and the AMA’s discomfort), hate having your diaper changed, want to be fed the moment you open your eyes, snore while you sleep, grunt while you eat, constantly want to be snuggled and look just like your dad.  I wouldn’t go so far as to outright call you a fussy baby but you’re definitely tipping the scale in that direction.  Hey…speaking of scales……you are a seriously stout little man at 10 lbs 6 oz and 22″ long.  Coincidentally, you are the exact dimensions as an Irish lager and hold the same physical attributes: tall and pale.  Your dad and I frequently refer to you as Meatloaf, Cinder Block or Ham Steak and play Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine who gets to lug you around in the Moby wrap.  Don’t get us wrong, we LOVE to carry you with us but in our own self interest and the safety of our lower backs we have to trade you off from time to time and take mandatory 15 minute breaks.

Quinn, at this stage you are our calm baby.  You like to sit in your little lamb chair and just look around, smile while you sleep, love to have baths and are mesmerized by lights.  You are awake much more frequently but are very self content – although when you do get mad you scream very loud and kind of sound like a dying bobcat.  You are also getting much bigger in your own right at 8lbs 11oz and 20.5″ long but do not pack the heavy punch that Rory does, as a little lady you are much more dainty…ironically, you have more chins than a Chinese phone book.  The bigger you get the more you look like me (although at a whopping 9lbs 8oz you still don’t weigh as much as I did at birth) and you definitely have my/your Grandpa Wade’s eyes and eyelashes.  Right now our nicknames for you are Quinnie Pig, The Pig, Bobcat and Voldemort….because sometimes, when you’re swaddled and have a hood on you do sort of resemble The Dark Lord from Harry Potter Book 1 (also known as Harry Potter and the Sorcerors Stone OR as it is referred to in England, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone). Yes, we are nerds, you’ll have to live with it.  The other day while you were taking a nap next to me on the couch you woke up, looked right at me, smiled and put your hand on my face.  I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Has parenting been everything we were hoping it would be?  YES and more.  Has it been as difficult as we were anticipating?  NO thank goodness.  Can we imagine a life without you?  NO…but maybe an evening…We both are so incredibly blessed to have you.  Two years ago when your dad got cancer we thought it was the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to us and we were afraid that we’d never be able to have children.  Two years later, it was directly BECAUSE of that terrible and wonderful diagnoses that we ended up having twins.  Because of cancer, you are here.  Everyone tells us that God can take muddy circumstances and turn them into something gold.  Now, with absolute certainty, we can both say that every sleepless night, dirty diaper and  high frequency scream was worth every moment of chemotherapy.

We’re excited to meet you and talk to you when you’re finally old enough to read this…and for the day that you do: remember to just sit back and relax.  Right now you’re in the other room sobbing because you’ve dropped your pacifier.  Remember, things only get easier.

-mom and dad.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Birth

Okie, dokie, artichokie, like an old man driving on a Sunday afternoon, this post has been slow in coming.  I’ve LITERALLY sat down roughly 20 times to jot down my thoughts and keep getting distracted by different things (as a new mother, I think you know what I mean…….yeah, facebook).  Se la vi.

Two things I promised myself I wouldn’t do in this post:  1.)  I will NOT be giving you the nitty gritty details about my birth story.  I will NOT tell you about delivering a placenta via c-section or about trying to poop after said operation.  I will NOT tell you about staples in my abdomen or having a catheter.  The second thing I refuse to do on this blog is 2.) Make lists.

Going into the hospital we didn’t really know what to expect.  Not only were we not privy to the sexes of our children but we had no idea how the process was going to shake down.  To help my fellow woman and pregnant post-op men avoid the shallow but perilous pitfalls that I stumbled into, I’ve created a list…and I’m calling it, “THREE THINGS I WISH I WOULD HAVE KNOWN AHEAD OF TIME”.  You, fellow reader, are currently “ahead of time”.  You, friend of friends, can apply these rules to your future experience.

1. THE NOOB

Let’s say you need an epideral.  Would you come over to my house and ask me to do it for you?  No.  Why?  Because I’m not a doctor or professional anathesiologist.  I lack the training and knowledge.  When you go to a hospital, you hope that these people will be assigned to you.  Not so.  You should SPECIFICALLY ask to have all students, residents, nurses in training, etc. excused from the room OR, at the very least, ask to have the syringe removed from their desperate and shakey hands.  They can watch, but they mustn’t touch.  After receiving the lovely epidural twice, the “professional” (ie professional student) decided he couldn’t quite find the magic spot and handed the NEEDLE back over to the REAL DOCTOR.  Why, why, WHY, was there a nubian sticking objects into me without my knowledge??  This rule can be applied to IV placement.  If you’re not good at IVs, you shouldn’t give them.  If you have to “fish around” you should maybe consider a job at the wharfs.  My body is not your ocean.  I am not your class activity.  You do not pay me tuition.  Goodbye.

2. THE BOOB

Lactation consultants must die; they should literally drown in a vat of warm breast milk.  If they come uninvited into your room like a pack of grace hungry Jehovah Witnesses, simply wave around some garlic and crucifixes as if trying to ward off a vampire – they’re about the same sort of soulless monsters.  They grab at your boobs and nipples without permission like a football playing rapist.  They bring you machines and new ideas they want to try out.  “Try tickling the babies’ cheek.  Try tickling his foot.  Try cranking her elbow.  Try hanging him upside down and swatting at him with a bamboo shoot.  Nothing?  Hmm, maybe tomorrow….”  At one point a 200 year old woman who we dubbed Mother Earth entered the scene and tried explaining to us what we should be listening for; how we would know if the baby was eating vs. just suckling.  She says, “If the baby is eating, it will sound like this -” and she began to make suckle-suckle-gulp-gulp-suckle-suckle noises that sounded like someone trying out for the World’s Sloppiest Soup Eating competition.  “If the baby is merely suckling at your teet, it will sound like this -” now imagine an angry guinea pig trying to drink from his hanging bottle but the guinea pig has no teeth and the bottle is made from wet meat.  John, in classic John fashion, straight facedly asks, “Could I hear the first sound once again?  How did it go?”  Suckle-suckle-gulp-gulp-suckle-suckle.  I try not to laugh and John rests back in his chair, folding his arms.  He says, “I see”.

3.  THE NOOD*

Have you ever had that dream where you’re standing completely naked in front of a group of strangers?  They’re all poking you and prodding you and you feel sort of insecure but for some reason you can’t get out of their gaze?  Well, the fine folks at Kaiser Permenente can make that dream a reality.  You will be wheeled unceremoniously into a frigid cold room.  Your “clothes” (paper robe with twist tie) will be ripped off in one swift motion and you will be left standing there with nothing but your contact lenses to hide behind.  It’s not that bad if you come from a stripper background but for me, it was a little uncomfortable.  I’m so modest, you know, I wear chastity belts to my gyno appointments.  Anyway, prepare to run the gauntlet in your birthday suit.

*I know I didn’t spell that right (nude) but I really, really wanted it to look like the other two headings.

NOW, without further ado, allow me to take you on a visual journey of our trip into the ‘hood (parenthood).

Above, the view from our room; the top floor of a parking structure.  While this may seem trite, it’s certainly a better view than the room below us had; a brick wall.

Our anniversary is March, 26.  0326.  It’s not QUITE right but it’s still sort of cool.  Did anyone watch LOST?

This is where the doctor’s wash their hands before cutting people open and after making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

One last family photo while we’re still just an “us”.  The doctor’s asked “What are you having?” and we said, “We don’t know!”

And then there was Quinn!  I can’t even explain how amazing it was to hear the doctor call out that we had a little girl.  We had a girl……a sweet little footie pajama wearing girl of our very own.  The doctor’s asked, “What is her name?” and we said, “We don’t know!”  As you can tell by the giant cubist painting, Quinn is just as modest as I am.

This face is going to be my undoing EVERY TIME.

Quinn was followed quickly by our little man, Rory.  One look at him and I knew we had ourselves a little mini-John.

Getting to hold my babies’ for the very first time!  HEAVEN.  There were so many times in the last couple years that I feared this moment may never happen for me – such an incredible moment of God’s faithfulnes and blessings.

Later on in the recovery room Quinn and I had a discussion about the day’s events – clearly her face is saying she’s not so sure about this place.

We were disappointed to learn that they no longer do the standard hospital mugshot baby photos so we decided to do them ourselves.  Below are John and I’s circa the 80’s.  It’s crazy how much Rory looks like John!

And thus concludes our greatest journey right on the coattails of an even greater one.  Please be sure to come back for regular updates and adventures; thank you for playing and do come again.

John and Jade.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,