Sunday, May 31, 2015

I Left My Brain in San Fransisco

We are going go have to make this a weekly post as babies, work, and sleep are taking up the majority of my time. I will try to post every Sunday to keep everyone updated on our craziness.

Before I begin, I just wanted to thank everyone for the outpouring of love and support. Since we have been home, many kind people have gone out of their way to lend a helping hand, whether it was to help feed the babies, do laundry, or bring us a meal. We are humbled by the generosity of our friends and the community and we are so grateful for them.

From left to right, Ruby, Everhett, Zadie
Lincoln feeding Everhett 

 Feeding Ruby 

Okay, here we go.

According to the US Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to the legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.

Lacey has not had a drink of alcohol in her life so she can't juxtapose sleep deprivation with the sensation of mild to moderate inebriation.

I, on the other hand, have had my share of experiences with alcohol when I was younger. Although I am far removed from the impetuous lifestyle of my youth, I seem to remember a mild to moderate state of inebriation as being more fun than our current status of moderate sleep deprivation, which can only be described as a fresh helping of hell piled high and deep.

Parents with newborns can empathize with our exhaustive plight. Our problem is that we are undertaking this tiresome feat  with three little munchkins instead of just one.

Lately, the following has become our new routine:

Lacey and I wake up every 3-4 hours to tag team feed and change the kids.

Next, we burp them. This can take several minutes.

Finally, we swaddle them and place them gently in their respective bassinettes

After this wave has ebbed, we happily resign ourselves to our pillows and attempt to get some needed sleep until we have to wake up a couple of hours later. Lather, rinse, and repeat.

This has been our lives since we have been home. I wish I could give you something a little juicier than this but this is the life of parents with newborns. Plus, the kids are only newborns. There's not much to report. It's not like I can tell you about Everhett's overwhelming anxiety about his upcoming decision regarding which college he should attend or the drama that ensued after the girls unwittingly wore the same outfit on the same day. The babies are essentially cute little potato sack blobs. They eat and sleep a lot. That's about it.

I'm not complaining about losing sleep to help take care of my babies. I love them so much and I am happy to have the privilege to do this. It's just that I'm not exactly a young parent anymore. This type of work would take a toll on anyone, but especially a middle-aged parent, such as myself. I'm not old per se but, as a father rounding the bases to 40, I'm definitely not a young parent anymore. The problem is that I feel old and, apparently, I look old. Just four weeks ago, I attended a business conference in Austin and I was asked by two different individuals on two separate occasions if I was retired. Retired? I'm not even 40. I am not even protected by the age discrimination laws. Technically, I can still be fired due to my age without any recourse.

Meanwhile, Lacey has the energy and the face of a 28 year old. I am paranoid that people think Lacey is significantly younger than I am, when in reality, we are only 2 years apart. When we venture off into the public, I can usually hear people thinking, "Awww, that's so nice of that lady to go out to the park on a daddy-daughter date with her father".

Maybe this paranoia or perhaps collective observation is due to the fact that Lacey generally seems to handle life with much more grace and elegance than I could pretend to have. I spend most of my day trying to con people into believing that I am a functional human being.

However, Lacey and I currently share one similarity, and that is we are both starting to sound old. I find that lately, we are asking each other questions revolving around pills at an alarming frequency. We are constantly asking each other things like, "Where are my pills?" or "When did I last take my pills?" I'm also complaining more frequently about my hip hurting. It's popping all of the time and feels out of place. These topics make me sad.

As a 100% sober person, it is hard to admit that I sometimes exhibit behaviors that would usually only be exhibited by the mentally ill or toddlers. These behaviors are unintentional but are completely devoid of rational forethought. For example, during one of my common space-out spells, I once placed a perfectly good, cold  gallon of milk in the pantry where it would inevitably spoil. I also once placed  some frozen chicken I the same cupboard cabinet where we kept our pots and pans. The misplaced chicken was eventually discovered hours later, only after salmonella-filled chicken juice started dripping through the cabinet doors.

Do you see why I and others should be concerned about me? This type of Josh behavior is part of my default programming. If you add interrupted sleep, there is no telling what may happen.

When I was about the age Lincoln is now (7), I had a pet guiny pig named Lucy. She was also my first pet. If you guys don't know what a ginea pig is, it is like a combination between a large hamster, a groundhog, and an obese rat. They are the craziest looking things. To top it off, they make these pig-like squeals, especially throughout night because they are nocturnal.

Anyway, when I was a kid, I used to sit down in the middle of my living room with Lucy on my lap. I would feed her fresh lettuce and carrots and then she and I would play a game of hide and seek. I would close my eyes for about a minute or two and just let her roam free all over the house. She would find some of the greatest hiding spots like behind the couch, under the fridge, or under my bed. Sometimes it would take me half and hour to find her.

For those of you who don't know me very well, my sense of direction would horrify and appall you. My father used to say I could get lost in a closet. It's true. To this day, I can get turned around in my home town. Some of my closest friends and family can attest to this.

When Lacey and I lived in Tennessee while I was attending graduate school, one of my brothers from another mother, Mike Stuteville, would have me drive most days when we would go on our daily lunch outings. He thought it was an adventure because, like I did with Lucy, he just wanted to see where we would end up. For Mike, the idea that we could end up anywhere was exhilarating. For him, it was a fun adventure filled with anticipation and wonder. We could end up in Bowling Green Kentucky and we would miss the rest of the work day but Mike would just laugh the entire way knowing that he had a great story to tell everyone later.

Okay, now I am supposed to discuss how Lincoln has terrible judgment. This is a terrible segue. How am I going to criticize Lincoln's judgment after what I just wrote and after the fact that I wrote about bacon for an entire paragraph in our last post? At least Lincoln has an excuse. He's 7 and his pre-frontal cortex isn't fully developed.

Not to give a biology lesson, but the pre-frontal cortex is the area of our brains responsible for judgment and decision-making. Most researchers say your pre-frontal cortex isn't fully developed until you hit your early to mid twenties. This is why we see young people do stupid things all the time. So when you see some kid recklessly drag racing down the street or you hear some teenager say something like, "I can totally jump that", you can just tell yourself that they have a broken pre-frontal cortex.

I haven't talked about Lincoln much. Lincoln is....Lincoln. He is so excited by the fact that he is now a big brother. He loves his sisters and brother immeasurably. He has the biggest heart of any kid I have ever known. Although he is obstinate and tunes Lacey and I out constantly, he loves everyone. There is not a mean bone in his body. He has never excluded other kids from play, he is friends with everyone, and he is so popular among his peers because, like his mom, he makes room for lots of fun in his life.

Lincoln has also been a great help since the babies arrived. He is always eager to hold or feed the babies. He is also a naturally talented diaper changer.

I remember the first time we let him hold Everhett in the hospital. He eagerly sat down in a chair and shot out his arms. His palms were turned upward and his elbows were bent at a 90 degree angle. He resembled a human forklift. Instead of anticipating the baby, he looked as if he were ready to catch a large bass that he ordered at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle and which was currently being hurled at him from a 20-foot distance.

Holding Everhett
Ready to eat some Pizza
Feeding unidentified child (Everhett?). Don't worry, she/he lives here.

There are, however, some frustrating parts to being the parent of a sweet but obstinate 7-year old. Let's review some of the broken pre-frontal cortex behavior exhibited over the last week, shall we?

Exhibit A: While we were still at the hospital, I was helping Lincoln transport his personal belongings from one caretaker to another. As I was escorting Lincoln out of the hospital, he felt compelled to play the infamous game we now call "The floor game". The floor game is simple. It entails getting from point A to point B without stepping on the cracks in the flooring and/or while staying within the same floor coloring. Lincoln learned this fun game about 2 years ago while we were on our family vacation aboard one of the Disney cruise liners. If I could go back in time, I would find the nice gentleman that taught him and the other children this game and I would capsize him off of the stern of the ship.

The game is nice in theory, but when put into practice by a 7-year old, there are problems. When people, especially new mothers in wheelchairs, have to swerve out of the way so my son can avoid the cracks in the floor is a problem. It's also a problem when all you hear in the postpartum floor of the hospital is dinosaur-like stomping.

Exhibit B: One of our friends gave Lincoln a portable artist lap desk. You know, one of those small surfaces with the beanbag base that you can comfortably rest on your lap so you can draw or write?
Anyway, someone gave him one of these things and he thought it would be an ingenious idea to carry his ice cream on top of this desk from the hospital room to the car. Furthermore, he thought that carrying the desk like a waiter carries a trey to his customers would be a nice touch. And he did actually look like a waiter carrying a trey....if the waiter was horrifically drunk and only had his index and pinkie fingers to carry the trey. Obviously, Lincoln couldn't manage to balance the trey for more than a second or two. The frustrating part was that we had to literally argue with him about not carrying the mini-desk in this manner. The trey even had a handle built into the stupid thing for ease of carrying and he still argued with us about the manner in which this new nightmare would be carried.

Exhibit C: This was Friday. Lincoln was mouthing off to me on this particular morning. He was being argumentative  and frankly, a little disrespectful. I patiently told him that if he didn't start listening and stop arguing, I was going to remove the cookie I just placed in his lunchbox for his lunch that day. As you might guess, the behavior didn't cease. In many ways, Lincoln treats me like an older brother. I'll get into this some other time. The bottom line is he does not fear me. Not even a little. He is afraid of mom.

Anyway, I finally explained to him that he needed to stop being disrespectful to which he replied, "I don't care."

Without saying another word, I quickly made a beeline for the kitchen. Lincoln knew exactly what was happening. He then started to bolt toward the kitchen. We were neck and neck all while trying to gain a strategic advantage for the cookie by pushing, prodding, and pulling on one another. Looking back, it was as if we were two desperate and manic monkeys in a post-apocalyptic hell racing for the last piece of rancid apple lying on the ground.

With some difficulty, I got to the cookie first, all the while Lincoln was screaming, pulling, and crawling on me. To the untrained ear, you would think that I was stabbing Lincoln with a rusty, blunt shiv.

This made dropping Lincoln off at school humorous. His last words to me after exiting the car and before slamming the door were, "I'm not saying good bye to you because I don't love you". Hell hath no fury like a scorned, cookie-less child. Thanks for throwing that grenade in, Lincoln.

When I came home, Lacey asked what happened. "It sounded like you were beating him, she said with some concern."

Lacey, of course, knew better. I don't spank Lincoln. Lincoln knew this too, which is probably why he takes so many liberties with me.

When I told her that we had an all-out brawl over a cookie, everything then made sense to her. "It sounded like you were beating him or something, she said with a chuckle."

"Nope", I replied. "It was all about a cookie".

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