Archive for November, 2007

Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

It is Thanksgiving weekend. I would like to give thanks for my two beautiful daughters and our extended family today.

We went to see our relatives in Utah for Thanksgiving. Janette is from a big wonderful Mormon family that was raised in Sunnyvale, California — the heart of Silicon Valley. She is the only member of the family who is no longer a church goer. But even though all four of her siblings were raised in California, they all live in the Salt Lake city metro now. This is because, for the most part, they all went to college in Utah, met spouses, had kids, and settled down there. The seemingly inevitable return to the mother ship of the Salt Lake metro for college age Mormons is something to behold — a natural, instinctive journey much like salmon swimming back upstream to spawn. I am sure they will love me very much for comparing them to salmon.

In any event, we sure love them very much. They are a lot of fun. My two girls had an absolute blast running around with all their cousins (and there are a lot of them…) for five days. We stayed at Grandma’s house. (Janette’s mom moved to the Salt Lake metro after her husband died, because all but one of her children lived out there.) We even visited Great Grandma (almost 90 years old and still kicking ass, although again, she probably wouldn’t word it that way). The girls’ great grandmother has lived in the same little house for almost 70 years. I’m not kidding. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a little brick house, about 1,200 square feet, right in Salt Lake City. Can you imagine the memories your home would conjure — not to mention the sense of home and security — if you had lived in it for 70 years? You would have memories of being in your twenties and being in your eighties, all at the same address. Amazing.

Watching Sidney and Riley connect with their cousins — who they hadn’t seen in almost two years — was the absolute best part of the trip. Their cousins are all boys except one girl — eight kids in all. They are really nice kids. Sidney absolutely astounds me in her ability to make good close friendships. Her kindness and love knows no bounds, and people pick up on this right away, even little boys. With apologies for sounding like a lovestruck daddy, it really is true. Sidney loves to roughhouse and run and play with little boys — she definitely has a tomboy streak in her. But she also always ends up getting the big boys to happily hold hands with her when we’re walking down the street at night in the cold — she runs around and plays with them in the boys’ world, then gets ‘em to soften up and be sweet to her and join her in the girls’ world every once in a while. I see her accomplish this feat all the time. It’s just amazing to me, especially considering that Sidney can also be rather shy. She does not immediately go up to people like her extroverted father and just grab them into her world immediately. She takes her time at first, but everyone — boys, girls, adults — always ends up wanting to be her friend. I am quite certain that Sidney will be a girl who creates lasting, close lifelong friendships, and I’m really grateful for that.

Riley is our little firecracker. She’s just turned three and she’s at pretty much the cutest age imaginable. Riley is our little rebel, our flirt, our Little Miss Contrary (she thinks it’s funny to disagree with everything with a little twinkle in her eye, and everyone else thinks it’s funny too). Riley easily becomes the life of the party — she is more of a ham than Sidney. She “scared” her big cousins all the week long by sneaking up on them and saying “Boo!” I saw this happen hundreds of time, and her big cousins never got tired of it, always feigning great terror, which elicited a big boisterous giggle from Riley. Riley is so cute, and so full of boundless positive energy, that she can pretty much get anyone to do anything, and they’re happy to do it. Riley pretty much believes the world exists for her amusement. She is full of love, but less caring and sensitive than Sidney. Sidney wants to make sure everything and everyone is all right with things before she does something; Riley says “what the hell,” jumps in, and assumes everyone will follow. As Janette says, Sidney is our “Why?” girl, while Riley is our “Why not?” girl.

And the fact that these two little girls, so different yet so similar, consider each other best friends is the ultimate icing on the cake.

Anyway, we loved our vacation, Janette’s family is big and warm and fun and great, and it reminded me how fantastic it is to have a big extended family full of kids. We have always made sure to visit Janette’s family in Utah at least once a year; now that I see how enriching it is to the lives of my kids, I am even more committed to seeing them on a regular basis. It makes me a little sad to think that the kids have no cousins on my side of the family (my brother died when we were in high school), but we do have second cousins on my side, and some fantastic uncles and aunts, and it made me want to make sure we stay connected with them too, to give my kids the feeling of a big family on my side too. They are already asking when we’ll go back to Grandma’s to see their cousins. They just loved it. And I just love them.

The end of the Thanksgiving blog.

More About Barfing

Friday, November 16th, 2007

It seems like I’ve done an awful lot of writing about barfing in this blog. I swear it’s not because I have a fondness for yakking. It’s simply because I have a three year old and a five year old, and everybody who has young kids knows that, with kids of that age, barfing will be a part of your life.

Why do kids barf when they get sick more often than adults do? This is something I want to know. Is it because they haven’t gotten all the stuff yet, so they get it worse? Or maybe it’s because they run around at preschool with other kids who are sick, and they all pick their noses and grab each other and stuff. I have never visited my girls’ preschool when at least one child’s face was not covered in a delightful concoction of snot and slobber. And the kids don’t even seem to notice it. They are delightfully and disgustingly not self conscious. All I know is that, if there is ever a cure for the common cold and flu, parenting will be a very different experience.

So here is that experience: When your child gets the flu, they throw up. They might say their tummy hurts first — maybe — but they go around running and eating and playing anyway until they throw up all over your nice carpet. It’s almost never over the hardwood or tile. It’s always over the carpet. Or the car carpet. Then, after they throw up, and you clean it up — this is one of the coolest things about kids — they play and run around again and do pursue their interests until they throw up again. Adults who throw up bitch about it and lie low and feel sorry for ourselves and make sure we focus on how horrible we feel. (We also make sure everyone else knows how horrible we feel.) Not kids. They get up and do their thing until it’s time to barf again. So, as a parent, after a child yaks, you try to herd them toward the hardwood and tile for the next few hours.

I have a confession to make: On the morning of Riley’s third birthday party, she threw up. She was feeling great, and then bingo! She threw up. Then she said she felt fine after, and got back to playing. Let me tell you, my Riley’s nobody’s pansy. We didn’t know if she was sick, or had eaten some bad food, or what.

So this presented an interesting dilemma. We had already invested several hundred dollars to reserve time at one of the beloved bounce house warehouse heavens that can be found in every suburban district of the fine state of Colorado. We’d invited her friends. They’d bought her gifts. We paid good money for a rather freakish Barbie cake (featuring a real Barbie in the middle of the cake, and the cake as her dress — there’s something uncomfortably erotic about that, isn’t there?). Riley had been paying homage to this particular Barbie cake every grocery trip to Super Target Greatland for the better part of the year. She was totally committed to it. Now, two hours before her party, she throws up. What to do?

So we hastily assembled a crack team of experts to determine our course of action: A good friend and pediatrician (mother of three) who lives in another state who will remain nameless; a local mom; and a family of four (two young sons) to whom I randomly posed the question in the check-out aisle at target that morning (admittedly, I was fairly desperate for a third consultant to get an adequate sampling of opinion). The question: Cancel the party, keep Riley home but let her friends go to the party, or just forget the yakking and go for it? The answer was surprisingly and vociferously unanimous: Go for it. So, no longer feeling responsible for our own actions due to the firmly stated opinions of these unpaid and unaccountable consultants, we went for it.

Now I know what you’re thinking: You’re getting ready for a painful and hilarious Barforama At Sir Bouncealots story. That is certainly what would happen in the film version of this tale. In that version, nobody would escape dry. But in reality, the results were more subtle, more inconclusive. Riley did not throw up. She was rather low energy as compared to her usual self, but did not yak. Not even once. Nobody seemed to notice that Riley was not allowed to eat her own Barbie cake, a major accomplishment on her mother’s part. The party was a success.

Then, that afternoon, Riley and Sidney both barfed. And then, of course, they went back to playing. But in truth, they didn’t feel well for several days after that. So the mystery was resolved: It was an illness of some sort, and we were probably socially irresponsible by taking our girls to the party. (Remember, it was not our fault — our crack team of consultants are totally and completely to blame.) I have laid low for a while from checking in with our friends over the last few weeks, for fear that I would find that everyone was barfing and learn that it was all our fault for being selfish and holding the party anyway. If you or your child has recently barfed on account of our family’s decision making prowess or lack thereof, please send a complaint to our customer service department at barfing@pictoriarecords.com, “attn: Cory.”

The presents were nice, though. (Sorry, I had to put that in, just to bask in as much irresponsibility as possible.)

In any event, God, nature, and the tooth fairy have punished us for our sins: Janette had a nasty and unrelenting yakfest on Monday night that just barely kept her out of the hospital, so she got hers. Then she left on a business trip 36 hours later, leaving me with the kids and no babysitter for 48 hours… at which point I, of course, got nasty sick to my stomach for the second of those days, with no reinforcements and two kids to take care of. So I got mine. But, and I say this with great pride, it is now almost 48 hours after my stomach fell sick, and even though I have felt like crap for most of it — I haven’t yakked. Not even once. And, while I can’t explain this intellectually, I can tell you that, emotionally, I feel great pride in this accomplishment, as if I have somehow partially defeated the yak monster. I will let you know next week if my victory sustains over the entire course of my flu. And I will boldly and arrogantly predict right now that I will defeat the monster.

As a direct challenge to the yak monster, and with a groaning stomach, I am now going to fearlessly eat a burrito my wife made for dinner. You never know what will inspire a man to challenge himself and assert his manliness. This is this week’s challenge.

Wish me luck.

Get Well Soon

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

One of the things every parent learns quickly is that, even with great family discipline and organization, all calender planning falls under the category of “under ideal circumstances…” I had an enormous amount of success on my first Doctor Noize tour in California, and came home all excited to jump back to work and take advantage of the great momentum the tour’s success had given me. Instead… After being gone for three weeks, I seem to lose at least a few work hours every week since returning to family needs or illness.

First, we returned home to realize there was less than a week left on the warranty of our new home. So there were a few days of work checking everything in the house, making warranty claims, overseeing repairs, etc. Then, of course, there was the pile of three weeks’ worth of mail to get to — bills, etc. — which actually was more like a month of mail, because the week before we left was rather hectic. And, of course, the 776 emails I had amassed after being gone for a few weeks. (I’m down to 487 emails as of this writing…)

Fine. I sucked it up and took several days of work to do all that. Great. Mostly done, full speed ahead with the career, tomorrow morning I’m back to work, getting back on that momentum of success and good will from the tour… And that night, Riley (almost three years old) gets croup. This keeps us up fairly late, and then my wife pulls a super mom and decides to hold Riley in her arms all night, in the reclining rocking chair, next to the open window to help her breathing. So they get the best sleep they can. Way to go, mom! But, of course, the next day (Monday), Riley is too sick to go to school, Mom has meetings all day for work, so dad… Takes care of Riley. This is, of course, the same day I’m supposed to be heavily involved in the final day of book production before manufacturing the first Doctor Noize book. The book ends up done several days behind what was already several days behind schedule, and this costs me: XM Kids Radio was going to plug the book that weekend, but I was no longer sure the book would be ready in time for Christmas (a direct result of the lost work time over the last week), so I couldn’t give them the official info on the book in time for them to talk it up when they rebroadcast my CD last weekend. Bottom line: An opportunity lost.

This was frustrating stuff, so I made a wise decision and actually kept to it quite nicely: I decided to accept and forget these lost opportunities on Monday morning, and simply enjoy the unexpected day off of work to spend doing quiet and mellow things with my beautiful little Riley and her bad cold. And she was a wonder — low energy but high spirits, lots of hugging and reading books, napping in my arms a bit, taking a walk around the neighborhood on daddy’s shoulders, making me fall in love with her again. They way I see it, if you’re gonna lose something — work time, a business opportunity, some money probably — you might as well gain something out of it too. And getting to be with Riley and expecting to accomplish nothing else that day was, as they say, “nice work if you can get it.”

Before I get too gooey on the sentimentality, though, I will offer this reality check: Sure, it’s nice work, but if I do that kind of work too much, we’ll have to sell the house and live in a fine, upstanding tent in the hills somewhere soon. But there are times in parenting when, despite the fact that you really really were scheduled to do something very important for your career, your kid will need something, and there will be nobody but you to do it. At that point, you can either feel great stress over this lost opportunity, or you can let it go and realize it just wasn’t meant to be. And in a way, there is no greater feeling than truly getting to this point for a day, and realizing that you are happily sacrificing one of your goals to nurture the life of your little Action/Adventure Superhero Who Is Currently On Injured Reserve until she is good to go full speed again. So if you’re gonna take a loss, you might as well do it right, and embrace the gain too.

Still, my beautiful Riley, and I mean this both for your sake and for mine: Get well soon.

Reality

Friday, November 2nd, 2007

The fragility of life presented itself this week as a friend in her thirties unexpectedly suffered a massive stroke and passed away, leaving behind her husband and three year old daughter. Two weeks earlier, she had taken her daughter to a Doctor Noize show in California, and I had gotten to see them after almost a year away from the Bay Area. Little did any of us know that would be the last time we’d see each other.

I have experienced deaths of loved ones and friends before. My father and brother both died when I was in high school. In those experiences, I felt great sadness and loss, but also great opportunity for growth and appreciating what I have. I miss my brother and father to this day, but have sincerely used the lessons I learned from their deaths as a challenge and opportunity to grow and learn and love life. Most of my life was still in front of me when they passed away.

I find it more difficult to find opportunities for growth or knowledge or appreciation in this case. Maybe I have lost a bit of my strong-willed youthful insistence on drawing something valuable from each difficult experience. But there simply seems to be nothing good or fair or valuable about nature, fate or God taking a good mother from a three year old girl. My wife and I have spoken of it a lot since it happened, and we are at a loss for a valuable meaning or lesson from this occurrence. Sure, we want to appreciate what we have and value each day we have together. That’s a given, an obvious lesson from all this. But that’s about us. What about this beautiful little three year old girl? She is not old enough to draw such a lesson. The memory of her mother will simply fade away with time. The lessons she learns in life will have little to do with the wonderful woman who was her mother. And the only thing I can constructively do to respond to that thought is to cry. So here I am, writing this momentarily pausing to literally cry like a little boy with no answers.

The thing is, the unpredictable circle of life and death seemed more acceptable to me before I was a parent. Until my early thirties, I was the young generation, I was the child, I was responsible for myself, my wife, my friends, all the people my age or older who I cared about. But this event makes me feel differently. I feel great sorrow for this child, and I also suddenly feel great personal fragility and fear — what would happen to my beautiful girls if I suddenly, unexpectedly died tomorrow? Who would be there for them like I know I will? And the answer is: nobody. Nobody like I would, or like this girl’s mother would have. Sometimes, a loss is just a loss. There is no gain.

And suddenly, as a parent who feels a great responsiblity to my children and who has now seen a few friends die and leave their kids behind, I understand on a much deeper level the pain my parents felt when my brother died in his teens. It was just a loss. There was no great gain or lesson or insight for them — no “go live your life to the fullest and pursue your dreams in honor of your brother, young man.” There was just a loss. My father felt so inexplicably guilty about this loss that he didn’t even last a year after my brother’s death.

I will write about that some other time. But not tonight. For now, please think good thoughts or say a prayer for a little three year old girl and her daddy in California. They have some challenging times ahead of them. I hope those of us in their circle of friends can give a little more than we would have otherwise. But I realize it won’t be anything like she would have gotten from her mom.

So now, as I write that obvious and not very insightful fact, here I go again. Sometimes crying, and learning to accept the loss, is the only solution for a while.

If you love someone: Tell them.