Last week, we went to Maine for my Grandma's 80th birthday. There was a big party, and all of these people from her life attended, and it was very special. After dealing with addiction of her own, she became a substance abuse counselor, and helped so many people over the decades. It's a wonderful case of taking the worst part of your life, and turning it around to help others for nearly 4 decades.

    When I was a kid, Grandma took me out on adventures, to go see Star Wars, go skiing, and camping, and riding bikes. She was also a hell of a surrogate father it turned out. When we went anywhere, *anywhere*, she would run into someone she knew, and they would always be thrilled to see her. She has this wonderful warm, open manner, and the best smile and laugh. Along with my mother, she is the most important person in my life who made me who I am. So it means the world to me when she can see me trying to do the same with my kids.

    If you can build a life where 80 years in, there's are that many people lining up to tell you how important you are to them, and how much you've made a difference in their lives, you're living a great life. And no, I didn't make it through the speech without breaking up. But I'm so glad I got to do it.



    Exactly one week ago, my wife Lindsay and I boarded a plane to Turks and Caicos Island (TCI) for four and one half days of vacation in honor of our 10th wedding anniversary in August. It's the first time we've been on a real vacation since 2007, which was obviously well before we had kids. The plan was to do nothing, which neither of us have done since long before there were grey hairs encroaching on my chin. And do nothing we did. If you can follow that.

    It was really beautiful on the beach, and I don't even like beaches. We mostly read books all day and hung out, and as has always happens, we get along beautifully, especially when we don't have to deal with any of the sticky issues of parenting and paying bills and all that other stuff that makes modern middle class American life an endless marathon of stuff to do and deal with. Her and I are completely different people who get along really well. We come from different places and interpret the world differently, and we're a normal couple who have been together since we were basically big kids. Overall, it was a perfect, if too short vacation, and it's rare when something happens in your life that is everything you expect and need and more. 

    Now we've been home for 2-3 days, and the kids are here and we're back at it, and both working, and it's real life again. I can't help but think the more European notion of making sure you have holidays and travel, as opposed to the American work-till-you-die ethic is probably a good idea. 

    It was a great trip though, and I'm still in love with my wife, and was happy to see our boys on the return, and hopefully we can maintain some of the perspective gained. Also, TCI might be the most expensive place on Earth. It was like everything was movie theater pricing. Get past that, and it's a good time. Also, helps to like seafood. Which I don't. Didn't matter though.

    And I'm supposed to be working right now. Also, we barely took any photos.



    Today is Henry's first birthday. 

    I was pretty against a second kid. It took years of negotiations to make me reluctantly OK with the idea. But now I'm going to say something so utterly trite and lame sounding that I am having a hard time with it. 
    He utterly completed our family. Henry made every single one of us happier, and closer together. He's that happy of a kid. He's almost a guaranteed smile every time. He's shown us that inside our much moodier Oliver is what might possibly be the world's greatest big brother, which we honestly didn't expect at all. 

    This isn't to say it's been easy. It's not. It seems the only time he's not happy is between 1 and 3 AM. Regularly. But then you see him when the sun comes up, and he's got another big smile for you.

    Henry is constantly moving and crawling, and will start walking soon enough, we're sure. He's the world's greatest reason to baby proof. When he sees an opening, he goes for it. He doesn't get frustrated. He points at things he likes. He's pointing all day at this point.

    Lindsay, Oliver, and I are lucky this wonderful tiny person came to live with us.




    My son Oliver turns 5 today. 

    I can tell you that 5 years ago today was not a great day. It was complicated and difficult, and we didn't know what was going on, and it was very mixed. The time the followed that was not always a party either. And people would tell us that we'd miss it, and we said, "never!" 

    But now, it's true, there are things I kind of miss about it. Except, with Oliver, he gets more interesting and fun every day. This is a kid who watches natural disaster documentaries over and over, but won't watch a movie with a scary character in it. This is a kid who wants nothing more in life but to give and get a laugh. He's unlike any other person I've ever met. It might give him some trouble in high school, but we know that makes for interesting adults, after they get through it. Oliver is not an easy kid (little bit my fault), but he's a great kid. He's a caring kid. He's a smart kid. He's my kid.

    Five years ago, I grew up. Lindsay and I learned (are learning) how to work together to give this kid what he needs (ever changing), when we're both coming from completely different places half the time. We totally changed our lives in every way, and for some reason, we decided to have another one. There were some long held, and intense discussions over that, but we decided to go again, and it really helped everything, oddly enough. Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same, and this kid is at the center of it, and he has no idea.

    Being a parent is the hardest, most challenging thing I've ever done, but I love this kid like nothing else I've ever known, and I can't wait to see what he's going to be. 

    But not for a while. Please. 




    My second son is almost 4 months old. He's doing great. I'm doing great. This is significant, because my first son's infancy was one of the lowest and hardest points of my life. 

    I am loathe to write anything that says "I love my kid, but...", and still it needs to be said. I wouldn't ever blame the kid. It's not the kid's fault. He was a difficult infant, and is a challenging child, but he's also wonderful and smart and unique and funny, and has not had an easy go of things. The very first thing that happened with my older son was they whisked him away to the NICU, where I was left in a hallway by myself unsure if my new son was breathing or OK for about 3 hours. Then, over the course of the next year or so, I devolved. He wasn't a happy baby. He never slept in car seats or strollers. He never sat contentedly like those damned babies on TV. Or those other babies we'd see in life. If we got 30 minutes of happiness out of him, we were over the moon. I'm probably overstating it, because I'm sure there are worse babies, but what I learned was that I was not, at the time, at all equipped to deal with it. The lack of sleep and the utter disruption of everything we knew as our life nearly cracked me. My wife and I weren't getting along, and I was pretty well depressed for a while. 

    It wasn't supposed to be like that, and even though I'm smart, and should know better, and all things must pass, and all that, it ground me right down. I've got my own dad issues (shocking no one who knows me), and wanted to be so good at being a dad. I think that shot me in the foot too, not living up to my own expectations of myself. Basically, it was the hardest period of my entire life. 

    It turns out that the boy is quite unique, with a temperament made up of large parts of me and my wife, and that has its difficulties. It also turns out that he couldn't see very well for a long time, and that had long term effects on his life. After he got treatment, and started to move around on his own, and communicate, the real boy came out, and I wouldn't trade him for anything. 

    But given all that, why on earth would we opt to have another kid? That is an excellent question, and I'm in no position to answer it. I couldn't tell you why I agreed to it. I know I didn't spearhead the cause. 

    Now, the baby is 4 months old, and when people ask me how it's going, I say, "great." I've heard people remark in astonishment that I seem like I'm in a good mood, like it's some odd thing. I guess it is. I must have been pretty awful for that to be considered the norm.

    As soon as I found out my wife was pregnant, I got happy. It's always easier to embrace the idea of something, rather than deal with the reality though. I'd been through this before. Sure, there's some hesitation, but largely, I love the pregnancy phase. There's possibility there.

    He showed up about 4 weeks early, but unlike before, all went smoothly. It was cathartic. When we were given the hospital tour, both my wife and I teared up with stress memories entering the delivery rooms. But when the boy came out perfect, with no complications, it all went away. For years, I couldn't talk about my older son's birth without choking up. It did a severe number on me.

    Then when we came home, I was entranced by this boy. So was my other son, for what it's worth. He is a fantastic older brother. And the baby loves seeing him more than anyone else in the world. It's magic. This time out, I did almost all of the overnight and early morning feedings. Last time, I mostly left that to mom, because she slept more lightly than me, and would always wake up and take care of this. This time, I put her in another room, with earplugs, and woke her only when needed. I did lose sleep this time, but they were also the best times. I'd feed the baby. I'd watch something on my iPad, and we'd just be together. 

    In fact, and this is the part that gets me, I'm going to miss this infancy. I'd never have said that the first time around. This baby just makes me happy. I'm guessing I've gotten frustrated with him, maybe twice, when he wouldn't sleep or something. That's a ridiculously low total, given my past record. 

    Other differences... we don't live in New York anymore, and the house has some more space. We're both still working from home, but we're not in the same room all the time. I'm getting pretty regular exercise on my bikes, which is a massive lifestyle change for me, and it is understood that I'm much less horrible if I can get some riding in. My job situation has changed for the better. I have more friends. In real life. And I obviously have perspective. I didn't have that before, even though I wanted it.

    So that's where we are, and it's good. It's not easy. It's not always perfect, but it's 180 degrees different than before. Most of that is on me, meaning, I think it was my fault, and the crushing weight of responsibility and guilt compounded for too long internally in someone who didn't know what was coming.

    I'm not bragging on it. I'm sharing, because I'm happy, and I have to think there are others out there going through something very similar.