26 May 2011

Bipolar Opposites Attract

If you look at photographs of my two girls when they were both very, very young it is often difficult to determine which one is which.  Same general size, very little hair (and what there was was BLOND), blue eyes and flawless skin.  After a few weeks of age, this similarity evaporated and only photographic evidence remains of the time my girls were "the same".  Oh sure, they're both on the small side still.  They both have flat rear-ends and all the requisite female parts, but other than that they are diametric opposites.  Let me briefly introduce my kinder:  Paige Elara, 4 years old, whose middle name ("El" from Elizabeth, my mother and "ara" from Sara, my wife's mother) it turns out is shared by the concubine of Zeus.  Great start Mommy and Daddy.  Taryn Aoibh (pronounced sort of like "Eve" but with a drawn out and softened v sound...it's Gaelic), 22 months old, whose middle name is Irish as it is where the wife and I honeymooned some 6 years before her birth.

Paige was born at just over 7 lbs after 41+ weeks gestation by "non-emergency-but-let's-stop-fucking-around-in-there" C-section, and was needy as could be, seemingly from the womb.  She would not stop screaming if she was put down.  This was largely dealt with by, well, picking her up.  She got the hang of nursing in about 6-seconds flat and it was largely a breeze for my saint of a wife (said in all truth and reverence as her distaste for 3AM pumping and desire to supply all of Paige's nutritional needs allowed me to sleep a bit more than the average new Dad).  Paige did not crawl, really, ever.  There was a period of about 3 weeks around her 13th month where she did a little, but then decided that she'd just walk instead and hasn't slowed down since.  She developed reasonably good sleeping habits at night, at first with the aid of the binky/paci/nubby thingy, and then around her first birthday, we were simply done with that device, so long as she had a sippy cup/bottle of water at her side.

Taryn was born at just under 6 lbs after 39 weeks in the womb (scheduled C-section) and was far less needy initially.  Often more content to hang out on the play mat or in the bouncy seat/swing.  Not that she didn't have her moments, but a far more "hands off" infant than was her sister.  Nursing for her, and my now cannonized wife, was far more challenging.  The wife bled, and chapped, and was sore at a level I can not fathom.  But she was determined, and after 2-3 months of constant pain and worries about consumption (and lactation consults and extra doctors visits - begun with a worrisome departure from the hospital as Taryn was not urinating properly), things worked out.  She decided that Summer 2010 was to be bookended by her major physical milestones - no joke - and started crawling on Memorial Day Weekend and walking on Labor Day Weekend.  A little late on both milestones, but what are you going to do?  Her sleeping situation was a bit different as she spent longer in Mommy and Daddy's room, owing to the small number of bedrooms in our overpriced and undersized townhouse.  We were afraid to disturb Paige who had transitioned to a toddler bed and upset the apple cart.  She too developed reasonable night-time habits, with a binky...though she had a different level of attachment to the little chunk of rubber.  We tried at 1 year to take it away, and that was a nightmare.  Finally, around 18 months, and two-three tough nights, the Binky was banished from the house.  Taryn, though we've offered it, does not require a water bottle at night (though Paige still does...).

These are a few ways in which the girls are different.  It is, of course, much deeper and myriad than these few spurious remembrances, but I use them to illustrate the building individuality of my daughters. The clearest sign yet (besides the physical dissimilarities - Taryn is Aryan and Paige would be on the next train to Dachau...) is the potty training.  Paige learned over a long stretch of attempts (at first she wouldn't even sit on the potty) and tactics.  One supremely snowy day (~20" on the ground...which is a TON for DC) around 3 months shy of her 3rd birthday, we were at our good friends' home and we'd put Paige in big girl underwear...she held and held and held.  For ~10 hours, through car rides and dinner and sledding.  Then, she lost it in their basement (finished and carpeted...all right!).  That was it for her.  She's been using the potty, with only a minor accident here or there, ever since.  This was awesome because we'd just started the kids in a daycare/preschool setting (they'd been in a private home prior...a lamentable fact looking back) and her being potty trained saved us big $ each week in tuition.

Now, you'll recall that Taryn is ~2 months shy of her second birthday.  Well, she will sit on the potty and grin so big you think her face is going to freeze.  She's already peed on it several times and has dropped the kids off at the pool at least once now too.  I'm flabbergasted.  Is this for real?  Am I nearing the end of pumping cash into Pamper's coffers?  Sell your stock now people.  T-money is an all-world, championship caliber potty user.  Of course, I suppose it helps that the teachers at school are working with her and encouraging her participation in potty time (this never happened for Paige at the "other" place...).  But I think more than that, is the mounting evidence that Taryn simply wants to BE her big sister.  Anything Paige does, Taryn mimics.  Dancing, laughing, looking out the window at the baby birds, having a drink, washing her hands.  Taryn wants to read Paige's books, and play with Paige's dolls and sleep in Paige's bed.  She throws nightly fits when we tell her she can't.  Paige could ask Taryn to crawl over broken glass, roll around in lemon juice and cluck like a chicken and Taryn wouldn't even cry when doing it.  So different, in so many ways, and yearning to be the same...

I hope Paige understands, at least a little bit, her near infallibility in Taryn's eyes and decides to use her powers for good.  It is amazing to witness.

I'd like to thank the late Kurt Cobain for lending his way with words for use as my title today...


It has been brought to my attention by a reputable source that at an age I am not able to remember, and in Downingtown, PA - a location I associate with completing my one and only Topps full set of baseball cards in 1989 (I tried every year...pack by pack) - that I had occasion to patronize an ice cream truck.  My mind has been blown.

25 May 2011

Community Ice Cream Trucks

I grew up in a pretty rural town in Upstate New York.  So small is this place that only ONE stop-light exists within ~10 miles of the town center.  There was no "middle" school when I was attending the public system...grades K-6 in one building and grades 7-12 in the other.  Amazing we didn't take notes on slate.  Don't get me wrong now; looking back, it was a great place to be a kid/adolescent.  I'm sure I'll delve into some of my younger life on here at some point (some of you will not escape mention...so be prepared), but I bring up the small size of my hometown to make a point: there were no ice cream trucks.  Oh, we had a bad-ass hot dog truck (which, one fine summer day, I "worked" in for a few hours for a crisp 10$ bill and 47 hotdogs with kraut and mustard...thanks TJ, wherever you are) but no traveling, frozen treat-toting kid magnet.  I only knew they existed because of the movie "Friday" and random "Simpson's" episodes.

Now, being firmly ensconced in Suburbia - a fact that I sometimes lament - I have come to realize that yes, Virginia, there really is an ice cream truck.  And it is possibly the single most annoying part of spring/summer on my street.  It isn't the eye-sore of a micro-van plastered in an obscenely colored laminate that would make a circus clown blush.  Nor is it the slapping of hurried flip-flops worn by kids of all ages (this IS real) scurrying home to beg for $2.50 for a bomb-pop.  No, it is actually a one-two punch of amplifier and DJ.  One can actually hear this truck coming as it rounds the corner in Bethesda (I'm 18 miles north of Bethesda).  And the kicker is that they must have a drunk, one-eyed, retarded Bonobo chimpanzee working the ipod and loudspeakers.  Today, this damnable vehicle played a 5 minute stream of Christmas carols as a montage mashup.  Really?  Good King Wenceslas at jet-engine decibel on an 85 degree day in late May?  What, you couldn't find some crap-tastic Lady Gaga or Katy Perry tripe to blare?  Nope, Oh Tannenbaum it is.

My kids haven't yet discovered the secret mysteries of the ice cream truck.  They hear it come in, but, since Mommy and Daddy both work full-time, we're usually sitting down to dinner about the time the neighborhood kids are climbing trees and craving waffle cones.  I guess it's a sort-of rite of childhood in the 'burbs to grab the occasional frosty treat from some creepy dude (why is it always a middle-aged dude with three teeth missing?) driving around a freezer.  I'm sure we'll let them indulge at some point...but these trucks are the embodiment of Pavlov's dogs.  Patronize them once, and they show up at the same time every day hoping to bilk the homeowners out of a few more dollars by way of screaming kids.

It sort of makes me wonder if all that other stuff Craig, Smokey and Big Worm dealt with exists in as accurate a fashion...

23 May 2011

Introducing Doctor Daddy

Therapy.  That is why I have decided to start writing about the often mundane details of my life.  Therapy for me; a non-destructive means to vent the steam from underneath my shirt collar after a normal day in the life of a Cell/Developmental Biologist and full-time Dad and Husband.  I don't cheat any aspect of my life, and in doing so, I actually cheat them all.  Therapy for my wife, whom I will not publicly out at this point.  By getting these things out, maybe our relationship won't feel so strained at times.  Actually, she is as solid a human being as I have ever known, which makes my occasional transgressions all-the-more troubling and difficult to move beyond (for me).  Therapy for my kids, simultaneously my greatest joys and most insurmountable obstacles in life.  Extolling their virtues (which are plentiful) and lamenting their foibles here might just smooth our relationships - now and in the future when they can look back on this collection of thoughts and learn a little bit about what things looked like through my eyes.

If I have discovered anything through the first 4 years as "Daddy", it is that one can not totally appreciate all that a parent has truly done for them until parenthood is thrust upon them.  I have developed a profound respect for my folks - a stay at home Mom (though toting a Masters degree in Theology and re-entered into the work force for more than a decade now) and a Catholic Deacon/US Army Colonel/Jungian Analyst Dad (Colonel Deacon Daddy Sir).  They dealt with me, and my two sisters (both quite successful in their own rights...even if they don't view it that way) and all of the trappings and pitfalls of parenthood in the pre-ipod/cell phone/Nintendo environment of Upstate NY in the 80's and 90's.

I'm about to be 34 in a few weeks.  I'm a bit overweight, but not obese by any stretch.  I was athletic at one point in my life, and I'm working towards getting some of that back.  I am greying, and more importantly balding.  Married to a true sweetheart for almost 8 years.  Father to a newly minted 4 year old and her nearly 2 year old little sister.  Both girls are healthy (knock knock knock) and on the small side of the national average.  They have been beautiful from the moment I first saw them...each the same way...with Mommy laid out on the operating table and Daddy holding them for her to see as she was sewn up.  I got to hold my girls (selfishly) for the first 45 minutes of their breathing lives.  They were both alert and taking in the bright light and funny OB/GYN who delivered them.  Everyone in the OR commented on how alert they were.  The second's birth was almost a carbon copy replay of the first's.  It was comforting...an "I can do this" kind of moment.

I hold a PhD in Tumor Biology from Georgetown University, and harbor a not-so-closeted passion for great beer and better food.  I used to post quite often on the FaceBook deal, but sort of tired of it a while ago and finally decided to stop paying it much attention.  A portion of my life was returned to me, though I should admit that the e-addiction was more difficult to kick than I figured it would be.  This stuff actually is a small dose of iocane-like poison I think.  Thankfully, I've spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.  So I have decided to branch out and do a blog in the hopes of achieving the stress-reducing sensation of tossing out word salad every so often without all of the immediate reaction and unsolicited advice associated with the book of face.

If you have found this blog in error, you are welcome to stay.  If you were invited to have a peek, you know you are welcome.  Maybe tomorrow I'll post something about my life to give you an idea as to what you can expect to see in the coming days/weeks/months...or however long I feel that this is necessary or helpful.