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Goodbye to Our Nanny, Part 2

About two years ago we bid farewell through tears to our beloved nanny in California, Livy. We didn’t know how we were lucky enough to find a woman like her. She loved our kids with her full heart, and it was crushing to leave her behind when we packed up and headed for Massachusetts.

 Turns out lightening can strike twice. We interviewed a number of nanny candidates, but one really stood out for us. We thought one person had an easy disposition, had solid education and great experience, and made us feel at ease in her presence. The kicker was when one of her references told Bixie: “Congratulations on finding Kayla.”

Congratulations? What a thing to say.

 And what an understatement. Moving back home was jarring for many reasons, but Kayla stepped into our home and into our lives and made the transition just a little bit easier. The kids gravitated to her immediately, and she essentially took “worrying about the kids” off the table, just when we needed it most.

She’s a beautiful young lady, and actually looks like she’s one of my wife’s sisters, with the Italian-dark features and a smile that lights up a room and quickly calms a child. Or in our case, two children who desperately needed to feel structure after being ripped from the care of Livy and our home in Sausalito, overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

Because of her consistently great work with our kids, and because of her big, good heart, we fell in love with Kayla and welcomed her unreservedly into our family. The kids have come to know her as a second mother, and it’s a designation I know Kayla welcomes and Bixie appreciates immeasurably.

But today it’s over. Kayla is joining a public relations firm to pursue a career in that field. She’s crushed to leave the boys, and they don’t yet understand that she won’t be around anymore.

The good news? The PR firm she’s joining happens to be Matter Communications – where Bixie and I work! So not only will she hear constant updates about the boys, but she will need to get a regular fix of Gus and Ozzie via “babysitting” assignments.

I’m grateful for this, her continued presence in our family and in our work life. My wife and I are truly fortunate to have met Kayla and her amazing family. We’ll miss Kayla in our home day-to-day, but this time around we’ll be able to make sure the boys get to see the woman they love so much.

Goodbye, Kayla. And hello.

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Our house is a festering disease pit

Enough already with winter, right? I’m just pulling out of a 7-day Coughapalooza that saw me sidelined from work for two days. The other three days were miserable, with people telling me things like “you look pale” and “you aren’t looking great” and “please get away from me.”

To add insult to injury, now that I’m feeling better I have very attractive fever blisters on the bottom of my nostrils, which cause people to look away uncomfortably because they don’t want to stare rudely at what they suspect are the snots of an untidy man. “Don’t look at the homeless person, Suzy.”

Awesome. What is it, late February? I’ve had three colds this winter, the last one a whopper, and there’s still a pile of snow outside so large you could hide a platoon of midgets underneath (unless they wore sombreros). Gus now has a fever, again, and my lovely bride is pretending her emerging cough is really just a reminder to get busy cleaning the house angrily, as if elbow grease is all one needs to beat back human frailty.

Our house is a disease den, the fixtures and nobs slimed with all manner of contagion. Gus and Ozzie gallop around the place, laughing in their jammies, sneezing and coughing and smearing and compromising every square inch of habitable household space. It’s the opposite of pollination. These children are spreading pox and despair, giggling all the way.

I’m not laughing. Because when I do, I have a coughing fit that requires me to hold my head to prevent the feeling that my brains will fly out. And I also worry that ligaments will separate from my ribcage.

But there are good things about being under house arrest during winter. There really are. We have a crackling fire going most nights, and its chicken soup for the soul to gather your kids into your arms and read them a book, their soft little necks exposed for quick kisses.

It also makes telling stories about a thing called “summer” a fan favorite, as was the case when putting Gus to bed last night. I told him a magical tale of playing with buckets of water at the beach, and his eyes were wide with wonder.

“Are we wearing mittens?” he asked, when I spoke of digging holes in the sand. “No,” I said. “No mittens. No shirts. No shoes. Just shorts – because it’s warm outside, buddy!”

It was a tough concept to wrap his head around, the mittens-free hands thing, in the same way he was stunned when we told him he wouldn’t be wearing a diaper during the day any more.

After the story I came downstairs and built a blazing fire. Everyone was in bed, nursing colds or, in the case of my wife, cursing them. I had a personal pizza, and was excited to get back to work today to focus on something other than my health and the lack of actual outside air.

It’s kind of funny, though, this winter Ecosystem inside our house. There’s a lot to complain about, but ultimately we’re forging memories together that (I’m told) families cherish. The togetherness. The idea that we may not be exactly where we want to be, but that we’re all in the same disease-addled boat, and that sometime in the not-to-distant future, we’ll all toss out the mittens and DayQuil and step outside boldly, cautiously, into the squishy mud of spring.

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Our Sons: Yin and Yang

Ozzie is two and Gus is three, and they agree about almost nothing except for a mutual love of trains. They carry them around in bunches, held tightly to their chests like wounded appendages.

There’s Thomas and Percy and Bash, Dash and Ferdinand. There’s Luke, and Henry and Victor. All of these contraptions are and have been our boys very best friends for several months running. The boys line up the trains on the dinner table, each with their own favorites, and enjoy an audience of multi-colored metallic pals, each with their own unique human face painted on the front.

But the boys don’t share in common a mutual favorite. Each day they decide on a new “best” train, but they never pick the same one. And it’s not just trains. If Gus wants crackers, Ozzie wants grapes. If Gus wants a certain episode of Thomas and is Friends, Ozzie screams aggressively in the negative. He wants a different show.

About that screaming. Ozzie has a gift. He has the ability to scream louder and more jarringly than most NFL linebackers. It’s nuts. He’ll scream several times in a row solely because he knows the loudness and ferocity of his guttural yells immediately reduce Gus to tears.

It’s a weapon, really. When he screams like that (approximately 70 times per day), I picture a Matrix-like sequence in which the scene slows down, and objects directly in front of Ozzie’s mouth (couches, tables) lift off the ground and smash into the walls in slow-motion violence, a mist of spit hanging in the air in front of his o-shaped mouth, caught in the light, evidence of his power and reach. It’s his super power – it really is – and with his great power comes zero responsibility.

Gus, on the other hand, is a mush ball who possesses no such intestinal fortitude. While Ozzie is knocking things over and smashing other things like bugs, smiling all the while, Gus likes to be tickled and do puzzles and “snuggle with mom.”

They’re different boys by any measure. Gus has fluffy, curly hair and Ozzie has the tightly cropped manicured cut of a Marine heading into battle. Gus has a sweet, sing-song voice that beguiles his subjects (when he trick-or-treated he succeeded in convincing every family to give him two, not one, pieces of candy). Ozzie’s sentences end dramatically, the final word semi-screamed for emphasis like a quick uppercut to the ribcage by a bookie who’s serious about getting his god damned money.

None of this is to suggest Ozzie isn’t a sweet boy. It’s precisely because he’s so rugged that his tender moments are so precious. He’ll sometimes give you an unsolicited hug or a peck on the cheek. When he hurts himself he’ll look into his mother’s eyes and assure her that “I’m okay, mom.”

And he is. And so is Gus. Each is perfect in their own way and yet diametrically opposite of one another – except that they both worship trains. I just put them to bed in different rooms, and left each of them clutching two trains to their chests like life preservers. Gus has his daily favorites and Ozzie his, but both of them are mine.

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Remembering “Cookie” James Kennedy

Editor’s note: My sister-in-law Ali is trying to come to terms with the loss of a cherished neighborhood friend. I have provided the forum for her to put down her parting thoughts, and I think you’ll agree it’s a moving tribute to a special man, Cookie James. Off we go…

Early this morning, a very dear friend of mine passed away.  James Kennedy;  a man with the largest, kindest heart – was waiting for a heart transplant, and his heart never arrived.

Five years ago, Josh and I moved to Gary Lane.  I think it was meant to be.  Let me give you a glimpse of the man who lived across the street…the man who I consider family.

Early one morning, Evie and I were leaving for school and Josh was walking us out to the car.  I opened the door to find a colorful path of Easter Eggs that were secretly placed in our yard.  I smiled.  I knew it must have been an act of James. He had hopped over the night before to create a magical moment for my family.  Evie was just over one year old and toddled about to collect each egg.  She smiled and looked up at Josh and I after she picked up each egg. It was unexpected, it was fun, it was kind.  This was signature James.  He would always leave treats without a trace.  No notes, no explanations necessary.  He was simply thoughtful and he simply loved my girls.

Some of my dear memories:  Evie & James singing You are My Sunshine, while he was in the hospital.  James’ tradition of bringing Evie chocolate chip cookies earning himself the nickname, Cookie James.  Going to my car to find a note that said, “Happy First Birthday, Princess Evie” ~ telling us that he had signed her up for swimming lessons.  Seeing the joy that it brought James to hold my babies.  He could BARELY wait to get over here after each of our girls were born!  He had such a way with them.  He was calming and gentle…and they could feel peaceful and cozy in his arms.

James became Evie and Josie’s neighborhood Papa.  When he would introduce our girls he would say, “This is Princess Evie and Little Josie, my granddaughters from across the street.“  He loved my little girls with all of his heart and he knows that they love him to the moon and back.

James taught me an important life lesson that I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life.  Be kind – and tell people how you feel while they are here.  Over the last year, James stayed at Tufts Medical Center waiting for his heart.  There he was known by doctors and nurses as “a fine gentleman.“  EVERYONE knew him – and he and Gail made a point to get to know everyone there as well.  They knew the names of the kind men and women who delivered James’ meals.  They knew each nurse’s name as their shifts came and went.  They were sure to recognize and appreciate the men and women who made the hospital James’ home for the past year. His sweet wife, Gail always by his side: vibrant, positive, strong, kind, and in love.

Gail would deliver Evie and Josie’s artwork to James ~ to make sure that his room had a little ‘spunk.’  Evie would paint James a picture, cover herself in paint, add stickers that James would like and decorate her masterpieces with a ton of love.  Evie did this on her own.  She could be surrounded by a million family members and friends, but when asked who she was making her picture for…she would say, “James.”

Over this past year, I took James’ advice.  I wrote him letters and emails, I sent him pictures, I wrote quotes of things that the girls had said.  I let James know how I felt about him.  I let him know that I was grateful to know him.  I let him know that I love him.  I let him know that I love his sweet bride, Gail.  I let him know that he has had such a powerful impact on my family and that I truly appreciate our friendship.  I told him that he reminded me of my Dad, “Two of the kindest men I know.“  James wrote back – and my heart is holding on tight to his wise words, “My prayer is that my kindness will develop more each day.  When we are gone, it is the only thing we leave behind.”

James Kennedy, I love you ~ and I will forever be reminded of your kindness… the legacy you left behind.


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Top 5 Reasons Why I’m Voting For Barack Obama

My fellow Americans,

It’s no secret who I’m voting for, if you follow me on social networks. I’m not a democrat or a republican. Rather, I’m an independent who has been having trouble sleeping at night..

I’m also a husband. I’m a father. I’m a member of the work force. I’m a proud citizen of these United States. As such, I’d like to share with you the reasons why I’m voting for Barack Obama. You don’t have to read this, and I’ll defend your right not to do so. But if you’re any of the things I listed above, maybe you should give it a go.

Here’s why I’m voting for Obama:

  1. Though far from a perfect plan, Barack Obama finally did something decades of his Democratic predecessors could not: he passed health care reform into law. If it makes me a “socialist” to want myself and my family to receive quality health care – even if we have “pre-existing conditions” – then fine. Color me socialist. I believe everyone in a civilized nation should expect quality health care as a basic human right, and most civilized societies agree with me. I believe more affordable access to preventative care, especially for the poor, is a far better choice than waiting, as your illness gets worse and worse, until you have no choice but to visit the emergency room as a last ditch option, the damage done.  I might be a dreamer, but I humbly submit that an ounce of prevention is indeed worth a pound of cure. I also believe that a middle class family shouldn’t have to declare bankruptcy (after years of doing everything right) if the mother or father – or worse, one of the kids – develops a serious condition. I believe “survival of the fittest” is how it works in the animal kingdom. I don’t believe insurance companies should determine my family’s fate.
  2. President Obama is not a perfect man. Far from it. No politician can serve multiple masters and satisfy everyone – ever. But immediately upon taking office he set out to repair the years of systemic diplomatic damage caused by George Bush , whose mantra of “If you’re not with us, you’re against us,” was an immature schoolyard approach that went over like a lead balloon on the world stage. Obama understands that “listening” to an adversary is not synonymous with “weakness.” He understands that, in a nation as powerful as America, it’s wise to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Obama is playing chess. His opponent, in my view, is playing checkers.
  3. I have two young boys, ages three and two. I want them to grow up understanding without qualification that women are every bit as capable as men in the workplace, and that they deserve equal pay. Their mother certainly does. I want my boys to understand that women have the right to decide what to do with their own bodies and when to do it, and I want them to shake their heads in disbelief when they recall stories from 2012 about a man running for president that wanted to overturn Roe V. Wade; a man whose running mate co-authored legislation saying, essentially, that a raped woman MUST carry the baby to term, irrespective of the unspeakable violence behind the conception. Ditto for incest. My boys need to know that old white men – in their own lifetime – tried to subjugate my wife and her two sisters by imposing strict religious dogma onto the electorate. “When you were a little boy,” I hope to say one day, “women almost lost what decades of education and enlightenment had gained.” And then maybe I’ll blow their minds by telling them about a thing called a “typewriter.”
  4.  I believe that “entitlement programs,” though certainly abused by a percentage of society, are actually a worthwhile investment in the future for people who need a shot in life, so that they might attend college or afford to feed their kids while looking for a job. People in need are not, as many conservatives view it, a section of people to be pitied. Rather, as the Democrats view it, they represent an opportunity for the future of America. I believe a Pell Grant is a potential launching pad (it was for me). I believe it’s all right to plant a row of seeds knowing full well that not all of them will bloom, no matter how often you water them. Many of them will. Some will grow into giant trees bearing fruit for generations. It’s an opportunity cost that will pay huge dividends when compared to the alternative. Look around at your friends and families. How many of them took student loans? How many went through a rough patch and collected unemployment? Food stamps? If you answer yes to any of these, I bet you can also point to that person or those people and say, “it helped them to become who they are today.” I believe that Obama sees opportunities where the other folks see problems, and though the execution isn’t perfect, and never will be, the intention is pure. Pure America.
  5. I believe in science in particular and higher education generally, and I think they help us make a better world; they bring sunlight to the most pernicious diseases and vexing problems darkening the modern world. I also believe there is a movement afoot on the Right that says smart people are snooty and out of touch with “ordinary people.” I think I like the quote I read recently that said, essentially, that there’s been a train of thinking in recent years suggesting – even celebrating – the idea that “my ignorance is just as important as your knowledge.” I think that’s bullshit and utterly dangerous.  I believe in evolution. I know how old the earth is because science proves it. I think stem cell research is critical. I think a college education is something to aspire to, and not something to worry about “indoctrination into.” I think college needs to be more affordable, more commonly accessed, and more highly regarded, just as I think grade school and high school and early education programs need to be viewed through the lens of opportunity. I believe the country represents a macrocosm of my own family. I want my children to crave knowledge, but more importantly I want them to feel empowered and supported to act on that knowledge in a way that positively impacts their own families, their communities, and this great country.

 

For these reasons and more (such as energy policy)I will cast my vote for Barack Obama. His vision for the country is more closely aligned to mine than is Mitt Romney’s. I believe Barack actually wants to make the country better and fairer for future generations, and I can’t help but think Romney simply wants to be called “Mr. President.”

 

What are your thoughts? I welcome a discussion in the comment section. I ask only that you keep your replies civil and thoughtful.

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Anniversary homage: Darlin’ be home soon

We got married during a hurricane.

It was Hurricane Ivan, eight years ago today. We planned a nice outdoor service in a quaint garden in Brewster, MA, but the festivities were forced up to the deck, which had a cover for such situations. We tied the knot with our friends and family standing, straining to hear our words against the battery of heavy raindrops and howling winds.

It was wonderfully moody and powerful.

I openly wept before everyone that day, moved beyond imagination by the import of the words I’d written for the woman whose hand I would take, and hold for life. The inclement weather made everything seem super-charged with urgency: no matter what life throws at us, we will be together.

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Sh*t my son says – by popular request.

A lot of my friends have said I ought to capture more succinctly the funny/cute/clever things my son Gus observes. Not one to disappoint, I’ve captured a few of his gems here. I fully understand that I post pictures and thoughts about my kids that exceed the limit of what is considered modest. I hear you. I’m definitely not going to stop, because someday the roundup of fodder I can present to my kids will be awesome, and probably embarrassing — but I hear you. Look away if this is overkill.

 

1. Gus: “Mom, I need a bunch of money, please.”

Me: “For what?”

Gus: “College.”

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Boy toots horn. Music to a mother’s ears.

On Sunday, Parry and I thought it would be fun-ish to take the kids to a carnival that was in the parking lot of a local school. As we were driving up, Gus saw the big rides, was wondering aloud what was going on and was thrilled to get out of the car.

We got in the gate and a woman noted that the carnival was closing down early (likely to low attendance) so only people who still had tickets could go on rides. I have to admit, I was a little bummed out, but Parry thought it’d still be fun to just walk around.

And it was.

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From Mom: “An Open Letter to my son Ozzie”

My lovely bride wrote this to O-Town.

Dear Ozzie,

I hesitate to tell you this but I think that it’s important that I’m honest with you. I feel like I have to tell you.

On mornings like this one when you wake up screaming your head off at 4:45 a.m., I am not a happy camper. When I go into your room and you are flailing yourself around your crib like a maniac, bouncing your head off the wooden slats, I am frustrated that you will not simply lay down, snuggle up with your raccoon and go back to sleep.

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President’s Day in Portland: A Living Hell with the Family

Okay, maybe the headline is a bit dramatic. A living hell is food poisoning in Mexico. A living hell is being stung by bees in the eyeballs. A living hell is a cross-country bus trip with Rick Santorum.

Our trip to Portland was something less awful, but pretty darned disappointing, especially to my lovely bride Bixie. She’s been dreaming of a family getaway for some time now, and we figured that rather than springing for airfare and a weeklong hotel stay in the tropics – with Ozzie and Gus sharing a room for the first time ever – a night at the Portland Harbor Hotel seemed like the path of least resistance.

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