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    Wednesday
    Jul022014

    Happy.

    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. 

    Wednesday
    Jan292014

    Ten Years?

    It occurred to me today that this month is 10 years since I left my last job in TV. It was the last production of Junkyard Wars, and I worked really hard to get that job. I guess I'd worked in TV production for 4 years at the time, but it seemed longer. I ended up being a segment producer on one show that was interesting, but ultimately not very good. When that show ended (because I got fired for leaving a flippant outgoing message on a co-worker's phone that was no longer in use), I struggled to find good jobs. I'd find something here and there, for three to six months at a time, and my credit and pay rate kept going down at each job. The gig before Junkyard Wars was at G4, where I thought I could really fit in, producing for a show called Filter. But I had a producer I worked under who seemed to have no idea what he was doing, and I got no input from anyone. I would put stuff together, and when it was done, the executives weren't so into it. At one point, I was basically instructed to take out every clever joke, and dumb everything down. The producer I worked for, who hired me, who was useless, got fired, and my job kind of ended. 

    That's Kathy. She was my boss' boss. Also his girlfriend.

    Finally, I ended up at Junkyard Wars, and instead of producer, the best I could get was researcher. Any other show in the world would have called it an associate producer, but desperate times. It paid $800 a week, which sounds not terrible, but it was a paycut, and you also have to factor in the idea that you're out of work for weeks or months between jobs in that field. So we produced a show where people made snow vehicles, and I found or helped find teams from the US, UK, and Russia, and we found expert judges, and we arranged for them to come out to the shoots, and stocked the junkyard with the right parts needed (spoiler), and it was generally successful. But then that was over too, and I had no more leads. I ended up taking a more regular office job, tangentially related to TV work, where I was for 4 years before leaving to do iFanboy full time.

    But that was my first career. Over at 26. Now I work in digital publishing. It certainly wasn't the plan, but the thing was, I don't know that I really had a plan, which might have been a problem, but it might also have just been a pretty normal thing that happens to people. TV sounded good, but I never found an opportunity to work in the kind of TV I wanted. I worked in an early version of reality TV, before it was even known as that. Since then, the entire landscape of TV production, cable and broadcast, as well as distribution has changed entirely. I used to always say that if everything fell apart, I could always go back into production, but I think that train has sailed, which is fine, because I didn't really love it. It sounds cool to people, and I got to meet celebrities, but that gets old pretty fast, and the long hours and unreliable work can wear you away. On the other hand, it taught me that I can literally do anything that needs to be done. I ended up with some strange objectives, and had no choice but to get them done. That gave me a form of confidence I still lean on today when I feel like I'm over my head.

    I don't have a moral or a point. I just can't believe it's been that long, and thought it was a bit of a milestone. Also, it took me a good minute or so to think of how old I was 10 years ago, when suddenly it dawned on me that I'm an idiot.

    Ooh, here's a lesson. It can be hard to follow your dream when you don't know what your dream is. Before you know it, you're hunting around the San Fernando valley for a 4WD truck that can be made to look like junkyard scrap moments after you get back. 

    Tuesday
    Nov262013

    The Cake

    Today is my wife's birthday. Every year, I make her a carrot cake. I don't even remember when I started doing this, but we got this cookbook when we got married, and it's supposed to be aimed at young married couples, and it's fine and all, but in there is this recipe for carrot cake. I made it for her one year, and it's pretty amazing, and it was decreed that henceforth, she would have this cake for her birthday. 

    Every year, we seem to get busier and busier. The runup to the birthday this year has been incredibly packed between a kitchen renovation, Thanksgiving, the general toil that is raising a toddler, and a million other annoying things that make you sigh heavily when you finally get to sit down, and make a terrible groan when you have to get back up. This year, like all the others, Lindsay gives me an out. "You don't have to make the cake this year," and I always wave her off. 

    I do have to make the cake. I realize it's one of our few standing traditions. It means a lot to me, as much as it might to her. Because of the swirling world we've created for ourselves, I never feel like I'm as present as I'd like to be. I never feel like I can be the best husband and father and friend I need to be all the time, and I certainly never get to treat her with the romance she wants and deserves. Lindsay has, especially over the last nearly 4 years, shown incredible strength and love and this seemingly endless compassion to take care of our son, as well as me. So, yes, I do have to make this cake. I have to make it for you. Not just because you want it, and you do want it, because it's a seriously amazing piece of confectionary, but because I don't know enough other ways to show how much I appreciate you getting up in the morning, and taking care of the things you take care of, and for driving me to the hospital as I literally squealed in pain passing a kidney stone, and for telling me to go take a bike ride because I'd gotten too cranky from being stuck in front of this damnable laptop. And I can't do all the things I want to do for you, because there's not enough time, money, or sometimes even energy left. But I can make this cake.

    Happy birthday, Lindsay. You are wonderful and you are my best friend. I love you and I made you this cake.

    And I hope it doesn't spoil anything, but you're getting it again next year. 

    Monday
    Sep232013

    My Boy

    My human boy is fine. Bit of a lingering cough, but really mostly fine.

    The first boy, the infamous George Clooney the french bulldog is in a bad way, and it is ripping me the hell up. They're not a healthy breed. Don't get one. Honestly, it's heartbreaking, and they kind of just should not be. But they are, because they're cute, and they're also quite sweet (mostly). But he's been hospitalized a couple of times for pancreatitis, and he's on hypo allergenic (expensive) food, and we live in a state of constant fear that he's going to stick his face into something, have a reaction, and either die, or end up in the hospital for a week. Even with pet insurance, I'm still sitting on a couple thousand dollars on my credit card from the last time it happened. With a young child and a house that needs... assistance, it's a lingering shadow in the background all the time.

    Then this thing happened. Frenchies, because they're bred for dwarfism, have screwed up backs, and are prone to IVDD, or intervertebral disc disease. Over the last couple of years, there have been a couple times when he wouldn't walk up the stairs or jump up on the couch. After a few days, it went away. This happened again over the last week, and I tried not to worry. 

    Saturday, after being out all day with my son (perfect day), I took George out for a short walk. He pooped, we came back, and then it started. He couldn't relax, and started whining and panting. I'm alone with my son, and he's got to go to bed soon. I gave the dog some baby aspirin, and he laid down and went to sleep for a while. We went to bed. I thought I'd take him to the emergency vet in the morning. At 2 AM, he woke up screaming. If you've ever heard a frenchie scream, it is terrifying and high pitched. He doesn't bark ever, and this sound is terrible. 

    I took him in at 2 AM after 2 hours of sleep and they basically gave us some pain med, and I took him home. He didn't relax or go to sleep for another 2 hours, and we finally slept from 6-10, when he woke up screaming again. I couldn't give him any more pain meds until noon, and it didn't seem to be doing well at all. He was panting and whining, and couldn't walk or get comfortable. It was torture to sit there and not be able to help him at all. 

    I went back, and they said there was nothing more they could do at the moment. He's still got pain, which is oddly good, because he's not paralyzed, but he's just exising in agony. I gave him the pain meds at noon, and he finally went to sleep. 

    The pain meds, which I can give to him every 8 hours, last 2 hours. You can see how this is a problem. I can't handle sitting there and watching him writhe and wince with pain. And I can't do anything about it. We made it though the day, and he got his meds at 8, and I went to sleep down on the couch, next to him on the floor, and he woke up whining 10 minutes after I went to sleep. 45 minutes later, He settled down again, and slept until almost 2. We couldnt' get him to sleep again, and it was 2 hours until meds time. We called the ER again, and they said we could do 1 1/2x the Rx, and we gave it to him about a half an hour early.

    Then we went back to sleep for about an hour before he woke up again whining. I'm going crazy.

    Finally, more sleep until about 6, and I took him out to try and pee, which he can't do, because he can't stand.

    Finally, after whining and crying for almost 3 hours, Lindsay took him to the vet again where we're waiting to see what's next.

    The thing that's scary is, we straight up can't afford to have him go through surgery if he needs it, especially, if there's a very good chance it's going to be a recurring, consistent problem for the rest of his life. 

    It's all just too much, and I'm writing here because it's the only thing I know how to do. I don't handle it well at all. My wife does much better. But to sit here and listen to him in agony is agony, and it's no way to live. Also, I need some damn sleep. So does Lindsay, and frankly, so does the dog. He also needs to poop.

    So that's what's going on. Wish us luck. No idea what we're going to do. I've gotta do my job now though, and try my best to ignore this, because apparently that's what a man does, when he can't take time off because shit needs to get done. Thank goodness Ollie is in daycare today, because it's all taking up more energy than I have to spare.

    He's getting some different meds right now, and we should see improvement soon. 85% chance of recovery. 15% chance of oh shit.

    Thursday
    Jun132013

    Exhausted

    Every night for the last couple weeks, our 3 year old son has been waking up and refusing to go back to sleep. Prior to that, he'd been waking up at 5-5:30 AM, which we thought was pretty miserable at the time, but in retrospect wasn't nearly as bad.

    The problem for me is that while I have no problem going to sleep at night, if I wake up fully at 3, 4, or 5 AM, I have an incredibly hard time going back to sleep. It's 5:30 AM right now, and I've been up since before 4. I've put my boy back to bed about 5-7 times in that period.

    Right now I want to kill everyone and everything in the whole world.

    And he just got up again.

    We don't know if he's scared or going through a thing or what, or when it's going to end. But it needs to end at some point, or I assume I'll just expire from critical fatigue.

    My wife has it worse than me, but she's better at handling it. When he's upset, she's the one he really wants. When I'm awake in the middle of the night for the 4th night in a row, it's all I can do not to speak in pure curse words only. Normally, I try to get out on my bike a couple times a week, but that just leaves her stuck at home longer. At least I look at it as "stuck" which probably isn't the pediatrician-approved terminology. Getting away keeps me sane, since we both work at home and are, as such, ALWAY HERE and more recently ALWAYS AWAKE AND HERE. I'm also too tired to pedal, and it won't stop raining either way.

    So in the meantime, what on earth can you do? Obviously I can't actually kill everyone. For one thing, I'm too tired. You can try to go to bed early, but since I'm a blubbering simpleton now, due to the lack of sleep, I'm not getting anything done. By the time we get him to bed, we've got maybe an hour to just relax and then try to get to sleep. And I've got shit to do! This isn't working. It's almost harder than when he was an infant.

    But this is the real meat of being a parent. It's the part where you understand that you exist solely to take care of that kid because you are literally all he has. Some people adapt to this better than others. I do not adapt well. I get cranky and surly and resent everything mine eyes look upon when I'm this chronically tired. I resent the kid for doing this, even though I know full well that he's in no control of his tiny dictator brain. I resent my wife, even briefly for not just letting me sleep and taking care of it, even though she's dealing with it more than I am. It doesn't have to make sense to create an emotion. Of course following that is the guilt for having those irrational feelings in the first place. The resentment is chemical an fleeting. It's not real. But it feels real.

    When it all comes down to it, I just tell myself that this will end eventually, and ignore the fact that some other problems will take over these, and those too will be forgotten eventually. In the meantime, I've had a headache for days, I've seen 4 AM far too many times in the past week, and why the fuck do those birds have to be so loud?