A Nice Story.

On the day your first child is born you are at once overwhelmed and at peace.

When he or she first learns to walk you are enveloped by a sense of wonder; things you typically took for granted seem like tiny miracles.

When he or she first learns to talk its like their personality is finally breaking through the shell of infancy.

When he or she first defies you, you question wether you patience will hold out for 20 odd years (or longer).

When he or she first brings punishment upon his or her self, you fear that you have been too harsh.

When the punishment is over, you really want to apologize.

When he or she first falls asleep on a long car trip they are at once the picture of innocence.

When he or she first climbs up on the roof, you wonder how the hell they got up there.

When you read this, relax, I made that last one up.

When the alarm doesn’t sound.

About two years ago, my department gave everyone a personality test. This test gave everyone a score based on how strongly each of four defined personality types appeared in a person. One of these defined types, labeled “gold”, was for those who valued rules, structure, organization, well defined plans, thinking things out ahead of time, and being well prepared. Since taking this test, I’ve held the notion that Cheryl had more gold than a goldfish.

Well, a certain “gold” individual had their worst nightmare come true this morning. I woke up on my own this morning and immediately determined that it was much too bright outside for 5:45 am. I went through a hopeful, half awake “is it the weekend or am I late for work” self examination before succumbing to the awful truth; I was indeed late for work (or soon would be). Depending on the type of person you are, this realization speeds the waking process significantly. As you can probably guess by now, the alarm did not go off. Without naming any names, it appears. . .aw hell. . .CHERYL did not remember to set the alarm. Being a sworn non-gold person**, this awoke a healthy dose of anxiety even in me. Cheryl on the other hand was having tremors that likely registered on seismographs out west. Since she had more responsibilities, and would get into more trouble for being late, I volunteered to diaper, dress and deliver the young one on my own.

Now Beth is accustomed to getting up with us at 5:45. The normal routine is to get her up, give her food, turn on the TV, and let her do her thing while we get ready for work. After we are ready, and she has had a chance to eat (or smear half chewed, formerly dry cereal in her hair like mousse – one of the two), we get her ready and head out the door. I followed this same formula this morning. It was apparent that Beth knew something was amiss (and I found it amusing) when she walked into the bathroom while I was shaving and said, “daddy, something is wrong. The clock doesn’t say five this morning!” What could I possibly say to that?

**Slowly but surely, I feel I am being pushed to the dark side by an unstoppable, determined force; Cheryl.

A Scene from the Lowry Park Zoo.

Today we learned that the animals can go wherever they want to.

We were visiting the baboons, and a very large male baboon was facing us just on the other side of the retaining mote. We were right a eye level, staring at each other; the large male baboon and I. Not much more than ten feet of water separated the two of us, when I confirmed that the baboon was a male. He had been just siting on a rock directly above the water when his shoulders visibly relaxed, and it almost appeared that he had cast a fishing line into the water. The lack of fishing pole and the faint sound of running water ruined the metaphor. I was barely able to contain my amusement when a stuffy looking yuppie mom was excitedly snapping pictures of the large baboon with her compact 35mm (with built in zoom), false enthusiasm in her voice while yapping with her small child. By the tone of her voice (a kind of distracted, doing two things at once tone – trying to take pictures and carrying on meaningful conversation with a small child at the same time sound), I’m quite sure she did not notice the baboon had his line set. I’m taking all of this in, and I wonder at what her reaction will be when she notices all of this, after the pictures are developed: “Here’s that great big baboon I was telling you about. He was right up close, looking ri. . .wha. . .oohh?”

No laughing matter, really.

What do you get when you don’t take a crap for a week?

I’m afraid that there is no punch line to this one. But it does describe Beth’s condition last week. She was full of crap. As of Friday, she had not moved her bowels since the Friday prior, and she was not happy. We went to see the good doctor, and he had us give her two (yes two) enemas per day for the duration of the weekend (Friday – Sunday). Adding insult to injury, he also prescribed a prescription strength laxative which made her throw up. Beth, still wary of things being poked into any of her body cavities, particularly those south of the navel, was not pleased by this solution.

The phone rings. . .”Hi, I’m Elizabeth Kauffman’s mother. She’s a patient of Dr. Hennessey. . . .The prescription he gave her seems to be making her throw up.” “Well, throwing up is not a side effect of that medication.” “Well, she was not throwing up before she started taking it, and now that we stopped giving it to her, she isn’t throwing up any more. . . ”

Beth did have several industrial sized deposits in her diaper throughout the weekend, so hopefully the bank will continue to except regular withdrawals without such drastic measures in the future. We therefore did make it through the weekend, aided by plenty of KY Jelly.

The phone rings this evening. . .

“Hello.”

“Hi, this Marie from Dr. Kornfeld’s office. Can I speak with Elizabeth please?”

“Ah. . . well I guess you could, but it wouldn’t be a very meaningful conversation. . . .”

(As it turns out, they were just calling to confirm an appointment, but I thought it was funny that they asked to speak with Beth. It was a first.)

A Lesson in Physics

Beth, doing her best impersonation of Isaac Newton, reaffirmed a couple of principles this evening: mommy and daddy’s rules are for good reason, and gravity plays no favorites.

Beth was in the family room when she decided Stuart Little was no longer worthy of her undivided attention. “Daddy, could you please give me my balloons?” I promise you I handed them to her innocently, with no idea what she would do with them… despite a couple years of practice as a parent.

Beth has taken to throwing things since staying in the hospital, in any direction that is convenient. Tonight it had unintended consequences.

Back to the balloons. Balloons in general, particularly the large foil – helium filled variety, are not very good for throwing. They’re all surface and no mass. Enter the rock ballast. Wrap it in foil, tie a couple of foil balloons to it with ribbon, it’s still a rock; and it still hurts when its dropped on your scull from 2 – 3 feet in the air. This is just what Beth achieved when, from a lying position, she awkwardly heaved the foil covered rock in the direction that tragically was most convenient at the time – straight up. Actually, I’m not sure if the rock technically hit her in the scull – unless the jaw/mouth is considered part of the scull (high school anatomy escapes me at the moment). Since teeth don’t bruise, and none of them were knocked out, the mishap left no visible marks or scars. There was just a bruised ego (if a 3 year old’s ego can be bruised), and hopefully a lesson as to why she should listen to mommy and daddy when they tell her not to do something.

Anyone got odds on wether I’ve learned anything?

You must be proud. . .

Today, Beth and her classmates did face painting in class today. The only problem was they were not using paint, the activity was not sanctioned by the school, and Beth was the leader. And to top it off, it turns out Beth contributed more than her leadership skills, she also “contributed” the “paint”, obtained “south of the border.”

Snapshot of an evening

DADDY: “Beth, are you going to say goodbye to mommy, she’s going to exercise.”

BETH: “Bye daddy.”

DADDY: “Beth, I’m not going anywhere.”

BETH: “I’m going to go exercise with mommy.”

MOMMY: “I’m sorry Beth, you can’t go tonight. You can go this weekend. Can you say goodbye to mommy?”

BETH: “Goodbye Beth.”

MOMMY: “I’m not Beth, you’re Beth.”

BETH: “Bye Beth.”

MOMMY: “Bye Beth.” (mommy goes out the door)

DADDY: “What’s your name?”

BETH: “John Jacob Jingle Smith.”

DADDY: “Did you learn a new song in school today?”

BETH: “My name is John Jacob Jingle Smith.”

DADDY (singing): “John Jacob Jingleheimer Smith, his name is my name too.”

BETH: “No, my name is John Jingle Smith. You’re daddy.”

DADDY: “You’re silly.”

BETH: “No, I’m John Jingle Smith”

A Little Helper.

There was a little girl in church today helping her mother usher. We’ll call her Beth. Now Beth was having a grand time helping hand out messengers to people as they entered the church. Her mother, we’ll call her Cheryl, was impressed that Beth was so good at this task. Beth stood at her post, with a stack of messengers in her hand, and dutifully handed one to each person as they approached. Beth delivered each messenger with a big smile. Uncharacteristically, she was very responsive to people when they asked her questions. She just loved all of the attention that the people gave her. She got to like it so much that she got a little impatient when someone lingered at the door with the greeters. She walked up to the tardy party, straying from her post, and thrust a messenger into their hand saying (with authority), “here.” When these people took notice, and paid her the attention she felt she was due, they asked her, “Are you helping your mommy?” “No”, she answered, “My mommy is helping me!”

Another day in court.

(Note, I’ve changed the names of those involved.)
I’m in court and I call the next case. I call the mother on the case, and ask to speak to her in the waiting area, outside the court room. The mother is a middle age white woman. She is of average height, with slightly above average girth. She is wearing more make-up than she should. She explains to me that she just got the kids back from foster care. She does not tell me why the kids were there, but I can guess. She seems slightly unstable emotionally. She is worried that she will be evicted from her apartment, as she has been out of work and can’t make the rent. If she is evicted, she believes she will loose the kids again. The kids are there, playing in the corner of the waiting area (the toy area). I try to explain to her that we will try to get a support order for her today; but that it will be months before it starts, and that she should not expect anything right away. All this time, I am having trouble focusing her on the interview. She keeps going off on tangents, blurting out her personal concerns as they come to mind. My normally rushed approach to court is given pause by the thought of their situation.

I send the mother back into the court room and call out the father. The kids are still playing in the corner. The father is at least 50, a late middle age black man. He is the picture of a hard life. He carries himself like a man without any hope left. He is beaten. I advise him that we are here to legally establish paternity and establish a child support obligation. He indicates that he has doubts as to wether he is the father. He has never seen the children. The children are 12 and 10. I tell him I will arrange for a test which will determine wether or not he is the father, and he agrees to take the test. Until now he has paid no special attention to the kids in the corner. He has not seen the mother in the same room with the kids, and gives every indication that he has no idea who they are. As I am about to go into the court room, to get the forms needed to arrange the testing, the younger child approaches the man and asks, “Are you Donny?” The child is obviously biracial. “Yes”, answers the man. “Who are you?” he asks. The boy replies, “I’m Jimmy.” The man’s expression changes, and a look of shame takes up residence in his manner of being. He knows who the boy is. The boy asks, “Are you my daddy?” My heart breaks. I am frozen. These lives seem completely foreign to me, and I am saddened for the loss that they may never realize – because they don’t know how life could be different.

I’m not sure why this case effected me so. It’s not that these circumstances haven’t presented themselves in court before. Maybe it was all of them being present in this one case. Maybe there was something about me that day that made me especially prone. Whatever the case, it had an effect that has lingered somewhat. I wish them all well, and pray that they will make the best of what they have in the future. However, I’m not terribly optimistic.