Thursday, July 23, 2009

Birthday Break

My 39th birthday came and went last weekend. It was fairly uneventful for me, which is the way I like it. It was, unfortunately, much more eventful for The Boy. A week ago, he and his babysitter came suddenly home from his best friend's house with his arm held still. Apparently he fell while climbing around and down a bunk bed and landed on his left wrist. Now I'm no doctor (or at least no doctor that counts), but I could tell that his arm looked, well, wrong.

We left pretty much right away for the hospital. We rode nearly silently in the cab, his streaked face now dry, me trying to say something both soothing and believable. He'd been through this before more or less, and I assumed that he was thinking about what this trip likely meant. Which is to say a cast. Given our terrible experience with Q at NYU Med Center, we went back to the source this time — New York Hospital, where Q and The Boy were born.

It was the right choice. Whereas the folks at NYU looked at Q as if she were some kind of foreign object, New York hospital has a pediatric ER, with a waiting room (in which we barely waited) decorated with animal murals and a real fish tank. After checking in with a nurse (and not some grumpy lady behind bullet and largely soundproof glass), we were taken back to a bed to wait for an examination. As we sat on the gurney, a young woman came in to ask if we wanted to watch a movie while we waited. This ER had a waitress. The Boy and I settled upon The Polar Express, and by the time we made it home about five hours later, we had pretty much seen all of it. There were questions asked over and over by different doctors — "Did you ever black out?" — several x-rays that appeared magically on screens right after the beam switched off. He had, it turned out, a buckle fracture, and the bone needed to be reset. They used what they called "conscious sedation" so that he wouldn't be completely under while they realigned the fracture, but he wouldn't remember the procedure either. It all went quickly and without problem.

We went home tired and with his arm in a cast. (No purple this time; we weren't given a choice.) We also weren't given a lot of information about how long he'll need to keep the thing on. (We'll find that out next week.) We do know that his summer contracted in an instant — no more bike, scooter, beach, or pool. No tennis or soccer or basketball. Take it easy in the sandbox and on the slide, though he's probably better off staying away from both. Bathe, fittingly, with the arm in a trash bag. A week has passed, but he still says, every now and then, "I wished I didn't do it." He didn't do anything, of course. It's just one of those things.

Cast away

So that's a bit of context for my birthday, which, like I said, was much nicer for me than it was for him. I'll spare you many of the details, largely because some things I keep just for me. But I do have to share a bit of my great present from the kids. Q and The Boy (with a solid assist from my lovely wife) made me a book about them and me. On one page, for example, Q said:

Q's Birthday Thoughts

I am, in fact, on the tall side, and, if I do say so myself, good at giving slingshots. Note: Q colored the picture and wrote "100" herself.

And The Boy reminded me, among other things:

The Boy's birthday thoughts

Such a simple idea, this book. I have it here by me now, close, where I like it.

I'm not sure when it was exactly (maybe around 27 or so?) when I entered the middle stretch where birthdays don't seem to signify much of anything. At both ends of a life, they mark successful survival, which is certainly worth celebrating (with presents!). The middle is a little mundane, which is just fine with me.

Then again, thinking about that cab ride to the hospital last week lets me see a bit of how my middle-stretch birthdays matter. I'm still a puzzle to myself in many ways — and can't see what there is for me even a month out from now — but each year I get a little better at being a solid thing for the kids to lean and climb upon. I can be the person who gets The Boy to thinking how cool beds with wheels are and the one he looks to before the drugs take him under. And I can show Q how to twist the cutter on the counter to make a clean biscuit, which is the same as showing her how to make things to be proud of. (She figured out on her own how tasty the raw dough is.) Then I can be the one that she can be proud to.

There are other things, too, but some things I keep just for me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Birthday Wishes for Mom

Best. Mom. Evar.

Today my lovely and talented wife turns — well, just a little bit older. This morning Q and The Boy proudly gave her cards they had made themselves. The Boy made a picture of her holding a cupcake and a balloon under a deep-red heart. Q drew herself and mom seated at a round table enjoying brownies. They were just perfect, and my wife took them to work with her today.

Later, after dinner, the kids and I made cupcakes and were right in the middle of making frosting when she came home from work. Q and The Boy cut their losses and each frosted one up for themselves and ate it in her honor.

I've been looking through our stash of digital photos (now well into the 30,000 range), and she's responsible for so many of them — what's pictured as well as the pictures themselves — that she doesn't appear herself that often. Rest assured that it's hard not to smile around her, even if you, out there in blogland, may not be fortunate enough to see her face. That is my present, I suppose.

Happy Birthday, Mom, from all of us. We love you.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Unlike the past two years, the skies remained pretty clear throughout the Fourth of July. Also different this year was the location of the Big Macy's Show: Usually things blow up over the East River and the heads of questionable celebrities, but this year the barges parked in the Hudson just a little north of our building.

Though Q and The Boy are older now, the 9:20 launch time was still on the late side, and they had little steam when the dark actually arrived. From our roofdeck, the snag of small boats seemed dense enough to make hopping to New Jersey almost possible.

waiting for fireworks

Q was (and is) still convinced that she's scared of fireworks, which meant that as soon as the explosions started up (just faint pops in the distance), she asserted, "They do not look like flowers, and I want to go inside." Though she sounded more tired than spooked, my lovely wife took her down to our couch to watch the festivities on NBC.

The Boy and I stayed up with the crowd (largely made up of people who don't live in our building) until the end, around 10 p.m. Sure, the display was spectacular and seemed to go on forever and all, but I found myself missing the humbler show that Jersey City puts on annually out by the Statue of Liberty. It was still on this year, too, but it's hard not to look at the other end of the river where 40,000+ fireworks were being flaunted (and set to questionable music) by a middling department store. We left right after only smoke was left and the boats started sounding off as thanks for the show. The Boy was so tired, he fell into bed face first like drunks do in movies.

That wasn't the best part of the long weekend, though. On Sunday, facing an open day and an unending Wimbledon final, we decided to take the ferry out to Governor's Island. Don't let the 90's-era website fool you; the little swatch of land just five minutes off the tip of Manhattan is a marvel. The city allows no cars on the grounds, and the place just feels still. Lush lawns framed by ancient trees and up-kept old buildings are everywhere, and we never felt obliged to stay on the paths. We spent time under the great branches feeling small and cooled.

Green Island

We only wandered along one side of the small island but found plenty to busy us. We discovered sculptures inserted here and there, including a giant wind chime with a cord for making yourself into the wind. And there were retired cannons here and there that The Boy could pretend to shoot and could think out loud about.

But the most fun thirty minutes of the weekend weren't spent looking at a lit-up sky, but rather rolling in a hammock. Q and The Boy had never seen one before, and they couldn't get enough of using themselves to send it tipping in all sorts of ways.


My wife and I sat smiling nearby on the grass. No crowds, nothing loud except explosions of laughter. No need for a show; we made our own. And it was better.

Saturday, July 04, 2009