Monday, December 24, 2012

Travels with Baby #4

Parents, if you haven't learned this one yet, keep it in mind at all times, especially when you travel:

Just about anything can be a toy. Use common sense, though. Sharp things are out. Poisonous stuff too. The size of the mess allowed is directly related to risk of mental breakdown to everyone involved.

Got a fussy baby while sitting at dinner? Give her some butter or jam packets to play with.

The little tyke having a full-out, breath-holding, foot-stomping tearfest two hours into waiting in a mile long line at the airline counter during a snowstorm way after bedtime and all you've got is the marinara soaked paper used to wrap your meatball sub? It's a toy. The few moments of quiet are well worth a bath and a new t-shirt.

When you travel, space is limited and you also don't want to be lugging around a heavy bag full of blocks. Just bring a couple favorite small toys and figure out the rest as you go.  

Friday, December 21, 2012


Life has been pretty hectic lately, hence the complete lack of any blog posts. Things seem to come one right after the other and sometimes in twos or threes. Even when I do get some down time, I try my best to shut my brain down and melt as far as I can into the couch. The motivation to do anything is pretty much gone.

But I enjoy writing. I really want to try to get back into the swing of things and get those thoughts back out for ya'll to read about.

So here goes, today's bit of awe:

Referring to myself in the third person as "Daddy."

Whether I'm saying "Daddy loves you so much" or "Oh, man, Norah Grace. It's 2:30. Daddy needs some sleep," I love how it sounds. I am Norah's daddy and she's my little girl.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Monumental Views

I find it amazing that Amy and I (and now Norah Grace) have added these experiences to our life stories over the past few years.

It's true. The tower in Pisa is, in fact, leaning. October 2010.

Exploring Rome, eating lunch next to the Colosseum, October 2010.

 Paris on a rainy day, February 2011.

Experiencing Egypt, April 2011.

 The Parthenon on a sprint through Athens, November 2012, now starring miss Norah Grace.

We've seen so much, but there's so much left! 

Sunday, November 4, 2012

...And We're Back!

As you can probably guess from the title, we've survived our cruise and are back in Leipzig. It was a good trip and we got to see some pretty amazing things, like:

the waterways of Venice,

Oia village in Santorini,

and the Parthenon in Athens.

Throughout the course of our trip, we thought up some really good tips for traveling with a baby. The number one thing we realized was this:

A cruise is a great way to travel with a baby.

Some reasons:

  • We never had to go for a long train, car, or bus ride to get to our next destination. It was like going back to the hotel room after a day of touring, then waking up to something brand new. 
  • There were plenty of places, like lounges during the day, where Norah Grace could explore. 
  • Exploring the ports, for the most part, lined up pretty well with Norah's schedule.
  • Someone else did the cooking and cleaning.
  • The ship rocked Norah Grace to sleep.
  • Having our accommodations so close made nap times a bit easier. 
  • Knowing that it was okay to leave a meal if Norah was acting up; we weren't out any money and could head out to eat again later. 
  • Norah Grace cruised for free (some cruise lines offer free cruises for kids)
There were some downsides, but I imagine that some of these were particular to our cruise line, region, and itinerary.
  • The ports of call were far apart, so we never had more than five or so hours on shore, which is not a lot, especially for a city like Athens, before we had to head off to the next destination. 
  • Dinner didn't start until about seven and  was not a quick affair (at the restaurant, not the buffet)--not a good combination for a nine month old baby. 
  • Make sure you're prepared--there's no way to get more formula, diapers, or baby food on the ship (Some cruise lines do offer some of these, contact them first).
  • The downside to the ship rocking Norah Grace to sleep: we were worried the whole time she would get seasick (it was pretty rough). 
Overall, I'd really recommend cruising as an option for traveling with a baby.  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Travels With Baby #3

So far, Norah Grace has gone on a driving tour of southern Ireland, spent weeks relaxing and visiting family in the US, walked around Trapani, Sicily, and backpacked her way from east Germany to the south, including a night in Austria. She's stayed in bed and breakfasts, hotels, motels, and tents. She's taken trains, planes, cars, buses, and one boat (a hydrofoil ferry--she loved how fast it went). She's a well traveled nine month old little girl. The easiest trip was Ireland, when she was just three months, because she had the opportunity to sleep in the car seat whenever she pleased.

Trapani was tough. We thought just bringing the wrap was the way to go. It would be easier than the stroller, we thought. She'll just sleep in it while we carry her, we mused. We can stick to our normal ways of traveling and she'll go along with us, we assumed. Learning experience.

The long weekend backpacking in Salzburg, Austria and Bavaria, Germany had its ups and downs. Overall, I enjoyed it, but have you ever tried sleeping in a tent with a seven month old that likes to roll around all night and wake up from time to time to hang out for a bit? It does not lend to a long, restful sleep. A big downside of camping with a baby: limited options of retreat. There's no quiet hotel room for baby to nap in.

Our next attempt: a cruise. Tomorrow we head off to Venice to cruise down our way down to Greece and Montenegro. This seems to be a good idea, in theory, at least. We get to see the sights, have multiple eating options, and retreat to the stateroom is always possible. Plus, tag team parenting. One parent can hang out with her in the room and the other can head off to read or eat or see what this "happy hour" thing is that people are always going on about. We're hoping for a playroom to give our little girl a place to burn some energy off in. If not, she can always army crawl her way down some cruise ship hallways. We'll see if this works. I'll let you know how it goes.

Travels with baby tip number three:

Pack for convenience. Amy had the idea to pack up Norah Grace's clothes in freezer bags, each labeled by which day they are to be worn (with a backup clothes bag, of course). This saves time while traveling and gives you a convenient place to bag up dirty clothes.

Monday, October 22, 2012


"Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?"
-Mary Oliver
(White Mountains, New Hampshire)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Travels with Baby Tip #2

The world is huge and full of amazing places you want to visit during your life. Each one of these places is made up of sights and sounds that draw you in and entice you to fill your camera's memory card to the brim There's so much to see! You just want to spend the day go go going (which we talked about...slow down, people) and seeing everything, but there's a catch.

The boss (a.k.a. the wonderful little baby).

Don't rely on your baby to want to do everything you do. Her interests, attention span, tolerance of crowds and loud noises, the length she can go without a sleepy-eyed breakdown--these are just a few of the ways you and your baby differ (probably). So, prioritize and compromise.

Baby's fresh off a nap, new diaper and a bottle. You've got an old city center and a museum to see before baby starts to fuss for another round of r & r, maybe about three hours. What do you do? My advice: when baby is at his or her best, that's when you can generally get away with the most. Give them a book or a quiet toy and hit up the museum. Besides, when they're wide awake, they can much better appreciate all the colorful paintings and old-as-the-hills-statues. When baby's getting towards the just-give-me-my-bottle-and-let-me-sleep time block, it's usually a good idea to be somewhere where retreat is an easier option. Walking around a city center you can just head back to the room, even if you need to take a tram or taxi (or just walk a bit) to get there. From a museum you need to navigate a maze, walking past all those things you didn't get to see on your own time, while your baby is the only one screaming throughout the building. Which sounds more enjoyable?

(Cliffs of Moher, Ireland)

That was the prioritize bit. The second part of this advice is compromise. If you know you're risking a tantrum, do you really need to take the boat ride or is the view of the cliffs from the top beautiful enough to satisfy your taste of awe? You'll need to think of your baby's needs and personality and find something that works for you both. Compromise. And you know what, in a few years your little one may love playing pirate on a sightseeing ferry. You can come back.

If you just won't feel happy about your trip unless you take the ferry, climb the tower or go in the pyramid or whatever, then ask your partner to hold onto the baby for a while and meet up with you later. You can always return the favor. (This is assuming there's more than just you and the baby traveling. If it's just the two of you, give the baby carrier a try. Not only could you see what you want to see, you'll get a workout while you're at it. Just don't rely on baby sleeping in the carrier. We made that mistake. And don't forget, if you're on a small boat, retreat is not an option.)


One thing to remember with all this advice I give is that these aren't laws and differ by age and baby. Norah Grace was just three months old when we went to Ireland and we did go on the ferry ride. She slept in the baby wrap beneath my jacket to protect her from the cold wind. We actually found this age the easiest to travel with because she would sleep in the wrap.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Travels with Baby #1

Before baby came along, our travel pace was go go go. Take a long train ride, follow it with some type of public transportation and top it off with a night or two at a hostel or cheap hotel. The following day would see us trekking all day around a city, soaking up the sights and checking out the landmarks. We'd stay one last night and head off to the next location the following day. I suppose you could call those days our "self employed" days. Then we got a boss.

The boss sets the schedule. You can't come and go as you please and you can't set your own break times. Try to do so and they'll make your life miserable.

When we traveled to Sicily in June, we thought we would just bring Norah Grace in her carry wrap and leave the bulky stroller at home. She would come along with us while we toured the sights and just sleep when she was tired.

We learned the error of our ways real quick. Babies need their quiet time. They need their nap. If they don't get it on their own terms, it can be very stressful for everyone involved.

So, travels with baby tip number one:

Do your best to stick to the baby's normal nap/feeding time routine, no matter where you are in the world or what you're doing. If you need to stay an extra day to make sure you see all there is to see, then so be it.

*Travels with Baby for Men (a sub-tip)--In the Sicilian culture, men are macho. They must exude masculinity. Keeping that in mind, I recommend against being the one carrying the baby in the chest wrap. Especially at the beach. Just pay your partner back with back rubs and loads of compliments.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Travels with Baby

"You better get all that traveling out of your system before you have kids."

It's a doom and gloom prophecy, camouflaged as advice, that's preached to expectant parents the world over. The well-wishers want us travelers, us adventurers to get all our traveling and adventuring out of our systems before we have a baby, because once that baby comes...poof! You can no longer travel, you can no longer spend your life as it is meant to be spent--living.

When we believe this "advice," we internalize it and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. Backpacking trips in Italy suddenly turn into a week at the shore. Flights to other countries turn into drives to the next state over.

This change is not a law. It is not something we need to resign ourselves to. The days of traveling do not need to end when a baby comes along. We can still travel.

All this comes with an asterisk, though. A big one.  

While new parents can still travel (without dropping baby off with the grandparents first), things have to change to make it possible and enjoyable for everyone involved. From here on out you'll be finding tips on traveling with a baby on A Life in Awe. The tips will change as Norah Grace changes and grows, so "Travels with Baby" may get changed to "Travels with Kid" and eventually on to "Why Won't my Teen Travel with Me?" I'll share with you what works (and doesn't work) for us in hopes that you'll find what works for you (or at least find humor in our own misadventures). And if you have your own ideas or stories to share, I (and everyone else) would love to hear them.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Rainy Days

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
- Dr. Seuss

Friday, October 5, 2012


Only those who look with the eyes of children can lose themselves in the object of their wonder.
 -Eberhard Arnold

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


The leaves are turning their perennial reds and oranges and yellows and my breath comes out in white puffs when I take the dogs out for their morning walk. Autumn is in the air. Although the bees and mosquitoes haven't gotten the memo that summer has officially drawn to a close, I've been in jeans and khakis for weeks now. Miss Norah Grace is sleeping in her footed pajamas, which is quite possibly the cutest thing ever, and Amy has discovered the wonder of a decent softshell jacket.

Norah is now eight and a half months old and still seeing so many things for the first time. She scrutinizes it all, each blade of grass she pulls from the damp ground, each bright leaf that falls beside her. It's amazing to see and such an amazing concept for someone who grew up where the year broken into four distinct parts: seeing the seasons for the first time. Everything is new to Norah and the most fun part is that she'll probably forget all about it and find everything just as interesting next year.

The changing of the seasons is one of nature's great wonders. Introducing a child to the changing of the seasons is another.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Funny Faces

This is the first in a new series on here that I'm calling bits of awe. Simply said, they're snippets of the world and my life than awe me. There's no need for anything long and drawn out. Just something quick, something concise, something that puts my thoughts into words. And sometimes words aren't enough, no matter how much someone flips through a thesaurus, and you may just get a photo and not much more. I encourage you to check in often and, as always, I encourage you to share what awes you.

The bits of awe come in no particular order, just the latest bit of amazing I've been thinking about in my life.

Bit of Awe #1

The funny faces Norah Grace makes.

Now she makes faces to get us to laugh and I assure you, pictures of these facial expressions will make it to the blog. This picture is an earlier one of Norah Grace getting away with sticking out her tongue when the grandparents weren't looking. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

It's Good!

There's a whole lot I like about autumn--the chilly mornings, hoodies, the colors on the trees and the swish-crunch sound the leaves make when I walk. And football. Can't forget about football. Pro football isn't my preference right now, though. My interest has waned in the past few years and I no longer keep up with how the Eagles are doing (although my dislike of the Dallas Cowboys is as strong as ever).

It's all about Penn State football.

Say what you want about the past, but it's a different era now. The new coach, Bill O'Brien is from the New England Patriots and brings a new, exciting approach to the game. That's not even the best part. Now I have a fellow fan to watch the games with.

Norah Grace.

That baby loves her football. I'm able to watch the games streaming online and when Norah first sits in front of the screen she squeals and bounces up and down. Then she watches.

Even better, she knows what to do when there's a touchdown.

It's good!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Running to Escape...Literally

In this blog I focus on things that bring awe to my life, mainly my little girl. The awesomeness of adventure, though, is something different. Whether it be immersing myself in a new culture, admiring one of a kind vistas, or reaching for that surge of adrenalin, it's a passion, something I crave. There are so many adventures to be had from the north pole to south. This particular one takes place below the equator on an island that has never seen a speed limit above fifty-five and the Milky way stretches from horizon to horizon like a celestial rainbow. Fiji.

I lived in Fiji for three months in 2008 and ran a few times per week throughout the duration. One route was about five miles, part of which took place on train tracks. You can see where this story is going.

I never saw a train on these narrow tracks, plus most sections had areas I could step off if a train were to come. Perfectly safe. However, I doubt many stories beginning with "So I was running on the train tracks..." are without their fair bit of excitement (and dumb choices).

So I was running on the train tracks when I heard a noise. It sounded a bit like a train, but was far in the distance. I kept running, pace unchanged. The sound grew, like it was coming closer yet still far away. Still, I ran. I rounded a bend and kept going straight ahead. After a little while on this straightaway I chanced a look back and saw a train, loaded down with sugar cane, coming around the bend.

I didn't least not that I remember. What I do remember, though, was running like my life depended on it. I ran as fast as I could down the straightaway. There was nowhere to jump off and get out of the train's path. To the right lay a swamp, full of thick, trash littered muck, mud, and water. To the left was dense vegetation leaving it not possible exit to those poor souls who thought running on train track sounded like a good idea. So I ran.

My legs burned and I gasped for air, train growing closer second by second. I rounded another bend and saw salvation ahead. A road came close to the tracks, thereby providing a break in the undergrowth. My legs began to tired and my lungs screamed for air. The train's whistle cut through the air, giving me an extra boost. I ran as fast as I could to that road, to salvation. The train grew closer. My strength was leaving me.

Just then, I made it to the road. I jumped from the tracks and the train passed by seconds later. What a rush.

Quite the adventure. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It's Just an Outfit...

Just under a year ago, Norah Grace was no bigger than an orange and kicking away inside her mommy's belly. Right around that time Amy and I flew stateside to visit family and do the baby shower rounds. And, of course, we couldn't leave Kentucky without first visiting the outlet stores. The reason: stock up on baby clothes. Why there and not in Germany? Because most baby clothes in Germany are boring. Not all, but most.

We went from store to store filling shopping bags without thinking how we would bring it all back to Germany with us (in the end we filled two suitcases and a shipping box with toys and clothes from shopping trips and baby showers). Out of the multitudes of pinks, purples, and pastels, I came across some sensible clothes: a striped hoodie of autumn-ish colors, a long sleeve Daddy's Favorite Girl embroidered t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Real denim jeans, too, none of that stretchy jeggings stuff. The tags all read 9 Months. Into the shopping bag they went.

We got back to Germany and this outfit found itself in the back of the closet, impossibly big compared to the clothes Norah would need first.

Then she was born. Two days after her birth, little Norah Grace weighed a mere 5.5 pounds. So small! I caught the occasional glimpse of her daddy-bought outfit and found it astounding she would ever be big enough to wear it.

Fast forward a bit and the little bobblehead Norah's clothes were put aside and the I'm-almost-a-toddler Norah's clothes made their way to the front of the closet. In just a few short months, this little girl has gone from an infant who smiled mostly in response to the smiles of others to a baby that loves acting goofy to make her mommy and daddy laugh. It just gets better and better.

This amazing little girl has gone from curling up on my chest to standing on her own, holding on with just one hand.

And the outfit daddy picked out--it fits.

Leipzig, September 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

An Update

I know I haven't posted in a little while now, so I thought I'd add a quick update. With my master's classes back up and running for the fall semester, life has been quite busy. Along with work and being a family man, it's quite a balancing act to keep and sometimes the blog will fall by the wayside.

That's not to say nothing's going on.

The other day I found out that I was a top finalist in a writing competition for my short story "Lifted," a piece I posted last month. I am going to work with an editor to polish it up a bit before it gets published. Here's the website:

Miss Norah Grace is still herself, funny faces and all. She's working hard to start crawling but hasn't quite gotten it yet. She's also working towards pulling herself up and standing while holding on to something. She seems to like running in place when she's picked up or laying on her back.

More updates and pictures to come. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Our Children

Our first children were the four-legged kind. Bella, a yorkie-poodle mix (called either a yorkie-poo or a porkie, depending on your sense of humor) joined us about a year before Mika the border collie ran into our lives.

Bella was generally pretty calm and went with the flow while Mika shook things up a bit (and by "a bit" I mean there were moments of "Oh my God, what have we gotten ourselves into?").

We learned that having dogs, especially a border collie as emotional as a 15 year old girl, is good practice for having kids. HOWEVER, you don't trade the dogs for the baby--those dogs that were such great practice for having a child are still around when that child gets there.

We lucked out with very laid back dogs. Bella is like a Gumby doll, the kind with the wire inside that stays in any position you put it in. Flip her on her back, her side, mess with her face, her paws...she just lays there. Mika has never been around kids, so we weren't quite sure what would happen when the dogs were surrounded by five and six year olds at a parade a few years ago. We got our answer when one very brave/less-than-genius little boy shoved his hand into her mouth. He pulled it back out again in one piece, so we knew she didn't have any problems with kids.

Then came the real test for our dogs: a baby.

They've taken it surprisingly well. And by that I mean Mika will lay there and let Norah pull on her eyelids and play dentist, both hands in the dog's mouth, while Bella also tolerates her, but usually gives her a wide berth and seems to be wondering when that baby is going back to where she came from. We try to encourage Mika to stay out of reach for her own well-being, but she will plop herself down right next to the baby anyway.

I think Mika and Norah Grace are going to prove to be a formidable duo when it comes to getting into things. However, I think once Norah has a big enough lap, Bella will park herself there and soak up the attention.

And we're pretty sure Norah we'll be saying "Mika" before "dada."

Thursday, September 6, 2012


Miss Norah Grace is proving to be a bit reserved with people she doesn't know very well. She'll laugh and play with mommy and daddy, but she needs to get used to a new person before showing that side of herself.


She loves making strangers smile. Not to sound too arrogant about it, but she generally doesn't have to do much to light up someone's face. With her bright pink clothes and big, bright hair bows, this little one stands out in a crowd of German babies. She gets "ooh" and "aah" and "how sweet" any time she ventures out. People ask if she's the birthday girl.

Nope, this is just how she rolls.

Some aren't so quick to turn the frown upside down. This is where effort comes in. And awkward staring. The usual situation is this: Norah Grace will be riding on the bus, tram, or train and choose a stony-faced target. She will stare at them, sometimes smiling, sometimes making goofy faces, always awkwardly, until they break. 

Even the most stoic of East Germans can't hold out forever. Three to four minutes seems to be average. Not being able to hold it in anymore, they smile at the cute little baby. Men, women, old, young. Doesn't matter. And then, in true shy/awkward Norah fashion, she looks away and won't smile anymore.

Last week, though, Norah Grace met her match. She and Amy were riding on the tram when Norah sighted her next target. She stared. The woman looked at her. Norah made a face, continued to stare. The woman didn't flinch. This battle of wills lasted minutes until Norah finally saw the futility in it and gave up. With big, dramatic sigh, she broke eye contact with the woman and looked up at her mom, as if to say,

"Some people are just hopeless."

Leipzig, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Norah Grace is is making me happy, yet again. This time, it's something she's doing for her own benefit. At seven months old, she is already showing a love of books and reading. For the past two months or so her attention span for sitting and being read to is growing and growing.

She will lounge with us and read through a couple books without showing a sign of impatience. And, now that she has her walker, she has been going into her room and finding books on her own.

Not too long ago, I read a list of all the things a child should be able to do before starting kindergarten. It was ridiculous. It more resembled a list of things I would expect a child to be able to do after spending a year in kindergarten. Besides, it doesn't matter if your kid can recite the ABCs frontwards, backwards, and upside-down in their sleep; the number one sign of a future successful reader is the size of their vocabulary early on. What better way to expand one's vocabulary than through books? Plus, I love to read and it's pretty cool knowing I have something in common with my little girl.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Their voices were a broken record, spouting the same lyrics day after day.




Andy wove his way through a jungle of legs and feet, his view of the bustling hallway. From his bowed state, looking straight ahead would be like an upright person watching the sky all day.

He frowned at the sight of his locker. After four months he expected it, but could never get used to it. A single word shouted at him in fat, black letters: FREAK. His heart hurt for them, his persecutors. With such potential to do good, why choose cruelty? He opened the locker and a dozen small copies of the Hunchback of Notre Dame movie poster fell to the floor, mocking the hump covering his back. He dropped the flyers in the bin on his way to class.






“Prethent.” He heard the kids around him chuckle. Along with the hunched back, a strong lisp never ceased to bring amusement to his peers. A hint of a smirk crossed the teacher’s face as he called roll.

Sitting two rows back, Allison felt sorry for him, but would never admit she was glad he moved to the school. She was overweight, had buck teeth and hair that couldn’t be tamed. All her life, she had been a target.

Four months ago, Allison decided to kill herself. That same day, Andy started school. Her tormentors ignored her from the moment he walked through the door. Classmates that were hesitant to befriend her in the past, for fear of being ridiculed, started talking to her. Now she had friends, people she sat with at lunch and went out with on the weekends. She was happy.

Andy saw Allison grow from the quiet introvert to the girl who walked with friends in the hallway and kept a perpetual smile. Despite the torture he endured, she warmed his soul.

Today was special. School let out and three hours and miles of trails later, Andy entered a clearing. He crossed it and stopped inches from a two hundred foot drop. Pebbles skittered off the precipice and into the open air before falling to the rocks below.

He stepped to the edge, closed his eyes, and took a deep breath before standing to his full height, just short of six feet, and rolled his neck and his shoulders—they got stiff bending over all day. He let the jacket slide from his shoulders and fall to the ground and stretched his brilliant, white wings to their full length, more than fifteen feet and stiff from being tucked in tight so long. His muscles stood out under his tight shirt, with a large hole cut into the back, as he flexed and twisted, loosening up.

Eyes closed, wings tucked, Andy leapt from the cliff in a swan dive, falling a hundred feet before catching himself. His powerful wings beat the air as he flew towards the horizon, a silhouette against the sun. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Appreciating Every Moment

When I was in high school, I went through a rough stretch in which I remember my mother once saying that for me, good luck was simply the absence of bad things happening. Things have changed a bit since then and now I’m one of the luckiest men in the world. I have a wonderful wife and a beautiful, healthy baby girl. Norah Grace had a tough start, an account of which I opened this blog with. I thought I knew how lucky I was but, just in case I had any doubts, two months after my daughter’s birth the universe felt the need to remind me.

I remember the exact day I brought a cold home. Two boys had been acting up at school and I, the most convenient yes-man, ended up with both of them in my office while their classes sat through an assembly. One boy was being a pain, doing everything he could to get a laugh from the other and a rise out of me. The other boy, however, mostly just sat in his chair. The one exception, though, was when he got up to get a tissue. He got up a lot. By the time they left, my tissue box was empty and his sneezes contaminated the air with germs.

Had I known then what I do now, I would have spent the night at a hotel, washing my entire body with antibacterial soap and tossing my clothes in the trash. Instead, I brought his cold home.

It started with small sneezes and coughs, things that could have been mistaken for allergies. We brought Norah Grace to the doctor anyway, who said she had a cold. He told us to give her cough medicine. The next day, things were worse. We could hear some fluid in her lungs, now, and brought her to a second doctor who also told us she just had a cold and gave us a different cough medicine. Luckily, our city keeps an updated calendar online of all the pediatricians and when they take turns being open on the weekends. It is an amazing service. That night, I propped up Norah’s bed with books so she could sleep at an angle, which made it easier for her to breathe. She coughed less. I spent a long time holding her in the bathroom, a hot shower filling the room with steam. She breathed easier.

The next morning, a Sunday, I held Norah Grace in the bathroom once more and her coughing eased but I heard wheezing coming from her lungs. I left the bathroom and spoke to Amy about going to the doctor once more. In the middle of our conversation, Norah began to cough and ended up vomiting the entire contents of her stomach in one solid stream, like nothing we had ever seen happen. We dropped everything, cleaned the mess (I changed my clothes) and left for the doctor.

We didn’t wait long for the doctor, a woman who spoke very little English, to see us. She listened to Norah Grace’s lungs as best she could, for Norah was screaming and squirming. She told us our baby could have pneumonia and needed to go straight to the hospital, where she would probably spend a few days in intensive care. She asked us if we had a car and we told her no, so she called an ambulance. We waited what seemed like an eternity. I held Norah Grace in my arms and paced. She looked at me, screaming like she never had before, with eyes that said “When I cry you fix what’s wrong. Why won’t you help me?” She cried her first tears in that office and I cried with her.

The ambulance took an eternity to reach us and yet another to get to the hospital. There was no way to strap a baby in, so I held her the entire time while Amy took public transportation to meet us there. Norah fell asleep against my chest and I leaned in close every few minutes to make sure she was still breathing.

At the hospital, the doctor told me she didn’t need to go to intensive care, that she didn’t have pneumonia. She was diagnosed with acute bronchitis and shortness of breath and was taken to the pediatric wing, where she was put on oxygen and given an IV through her scalp. For days, she would not take a bottle, nor could she keep it down when she did finally drink. She stayed like this for days, struggling to breathe, arching her back in the attempt to get enough air into her little lungs. She was lethargic and our bubbly little girl went days without smiling. I slept in her hospital room nearly every night for a week, rocking her to sleep each evening and singing to her when she cried. I left the hospital every day with tears in my eyes, hoping with all my heart for her to get better. 

She had a virus, so there was nothing to do but treat the symptoms and hope for the best. Norah was given breathing treatments every four hours round the clock. She had cough medicine regularly and a physical therapist came by every day to loosen up the mucous in her lungs and help her breathe easier. Norah enjoyed the daily massage and the therapist told her she was sunshine on a cloudy day.

We had some scares, like when her temperature got high enough for the doctor to rush into the room in the middle of the night (the only night Amy slept there--she was sick all week, too) or when her oxygen absorption level dropped low enough to have us all worried.  Slowly but surely, her strength returned. Her coughing lessened and her breathing became smoother. Her energy came back and she smiled again.

With Norah being sick, plus having…interesting…roommates (that’s a whole other story), the week took a long time to pass. We had help, however, in the form of wonderful friends who filled our refrigerator and counter space with food ready to be warmed up and walked our dogs when we couldn’t.

Norah Grace was finally deemed healthy enough to head home the same morning her grandparents arrived in Leipzig. Meeting their first grandchild in the hospital two and a half months after her birth was not how we had planned it. But at least they got to meet her, especially now that she was on the up-and-up.

She came home that morning with an inhaler to continue her breathing treatments and an antibiotic to fight an infection she picked up. In time, I took away the books that had propped up her bed. She had a snotty nose for months but that, too, came to pass.

Last night Norah Grace and I spent an hour in the park, nearly all the way to her bed time. We played on a blanket together and she alternated between watching her border collie run around the field and pulling up grass by the roots, getting dirt under her fingernails. She laughed every time her puppy dog sprinted past after a stick. I treasure every one of those moments and hope she never stops enjoying spending time with her dad.

I love how excited she gets when she sees me and the funny faces she makes to make me laugh. I love how much she laughs when I tickle her and how excited she gets when she sees me, even if it’s only been after her hour-long nap. I love how much she smiles and how determined she is to be best friends with the dogs. She never ceases to astound me with something new, whether it’s figuring out how to go forwards with her walker or learning to stand holding on to something without any support from us. I am amazed every day by this little girl.

Most of all, I love that her lungs are strong, that she’s a happy, healthy baby girl. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Khufu's Revenge, part I

          The secret is out: I live vicariously through Indiana Jones. Adventures that involve beating booby traps, discovering long-lost treasure, fighting bad guys, and saving the day (not to mention surviving to tell the tale) sounds like my kind of school break.  Thus, fantasy and reality kind of ran parallel last spring when I visited the great pyramid of Giza, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. 

Part of the story is what I actually saw and the other is how it was playing out in my mind. I imagine it will be pretty obvious which is which.

I entered the pyramid through the Thieves’ Tunnel (so named because it was made by people burrowing into the pyramid to steal what was inside) and, despite the crowds of photo-snapping tourists outside, I was alone. The rough tunnel ended when it intersected an original passageway planned by the architects themselves. I stepped inside.

As opposed to the Thieves’ Tunnel, the walls here were smooth and straight. The ceiling was high, maybe twenty feet, and the passage was wide enough for three people to stand shoulder to shoulder. Arrow-straight grooves, about two inches deep and three tall, ran the length of the wall, parallel to the ascending floor. The grooves were spaced evenly, about three feet apart, from the floor to the ceiling.
It was a very simple passageway, with steps and handrails bolted into the smooth stone to help the tourists walk up the ramp, but my imagination made it much more…
I held a torch in one hand and eyed the grooves with suspicion as I ascended the tunnel. Who knew what dangers they held? Boiling mud to cook me alive? Razor-sharp blades waiting to cut me into pieces? I watched my step, careful to avoid any stones that looked different from the others--they could set the trap in motion.
I made my way upwards, using the steps. The tunnel narrowed and I got stuck behind a family with small children. The little ones tired quickly and needed a rest, so they let me pass. I reached the top of the ramp and stood inside the Antechamber. The horizontal grooves were gone, replaced by vertical ones.
I stepped carefully into the Antechamber, ever mindful of the grooves on the walls and the immense blocks of sandstone above my head. Another step. Click. The stone depressed no more than an inch, but the sound gave it away. Half a moment later, the massive block fell and I dove forward, escaping certain death by a hair. I was in the King’s Chamber.
I had to get on my hands and knees to make my way from the Antechamber to the King’s Chamber. Overhead was a stone block the size of a car. On the other side of the block I stood up. The first thing that surprised me was the heat. When I think of stone rooms, I always think cool air. This wasn’t so in the King’s Chamber. The constant sun beating down on the rocks brought the temperature of the room up to about eighty degrees. The room was also surprisingly bare. From a king’s chamber I had expected elaborate stone carvings and colorful hieroglyphs. The reality of the room was much less extravagant. The walls were pink granite, smooth and bare, with just two exceptions: one hole on each the north and south walls, both about four inches around and four feet up.
The light of the torch burnt through the darkness and I saw the room in its stark plainness. There were two fist-sized holes in the walls, one just next to me and the other across the room. They looked ominously like the ends of gun barrels. I walked in with careful steps, seeing no other entrance. I was trapped. Regardless, I had to get what I came for. The exit could wait.
I began to sweat right away from the heat. Besides being bare of all extravagances, the King’s Chamber was also unimpressive in construction, depending on how you think of it. On one hand, it was like a plain box: thirty foot by fifteen foot room with fifteen foot ceilings and all the lines meeting at right angles. On the other hand, it’s a thirty foot by fifteen foot room with fifteen foot ceilings built out of pink granite blocks the size of cars, all meeting at exact right angles in the middle of a massive pyramid. The ceiling also supports the four hundred tons of stone that rest upon it.
The Pharaoh's sarcophagus sat at the end of the room opposite from the little door I had crawled through, about two feet out from the wall. It seemed to have been made from the same stone as the walls, but did not have the same smooth finish. It was rough, as well as damaged. A large chunk was missing from a top corner. The cover was nowhere to be seen. I walked up to the big stone box and leaned over to look inside.
Right away I saw it: the stone coffin of Khufu, pharaoh of Egypt thousands of years ago. At about three feet wide, four tall and seven long, it cast an imposing figure in the bare room. What I came for, the object of my search, lay inside. I put my shoulder into the stone cover, braced myself against the wall and pushed. For a moment nothing happened. Then it moved. No more than an inch, but it moved. I stopped, took a breath, and pushed again, as hard as I could. The stone block slid further. I could see inside. I pushed again with all my strength and a moment later the top to Khufu’s coffin fell to the floor with a crash, splitting down the middle and taking a corner of the sarcophagus off with it. I brought my torch overhead so I could see inside. If the legends were true, I was about to become a very famous man. 
Too be continued...