A Renaissance

“You’re a renaissance man!”

A high school teacher said after he heard I was simultaneously acting in the school play, running on the Track team serving on the student council.

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The term renaissance man sounded positive but I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant. Definition: a person with many talents or areas of knowledge.

It was an ideal developed in the 15th century by Leon Battista Alberti who summed it up with “a man can do all things if he will.”  Alberti should know, he was an architect, painter, poet, scientist, mathematician and horseman. (I presume this means a good horserider?)

By the way, women can be a renaissance man…see “person” in definition.

Anyway, I certainly didn’t measure up to Alberti but my crossover into varied activities was rare.  Was I a jock or a drama nerd? A student government egghead? Others were-class clowns, band geeks, braniacs, druggies(stoners)?

I was proud to cause pause when it came to characterizing me.  I witnessed how flimsy and inaccurate labels can be…when none of them totally represented me. I was nothing special. I happened to like playing football, acting, debating issues, music, etc. Truth is, I enjoyed performing whether it was on stage or on the football field. It tripped the same triggers, in both, you planned, practiced then performed. And yes, I enjoyed applause, call me a narcissist.

The emphasis on focus, determination and teamwork was essential to it all. And I gained friends from different walks of life who often misunderstood one another.

I imagine, like Meghan and I, all parents wish for their kids to be well-rounded, unlimited, open to defining and re-defining who they are as they go through life.

It’s a great big world, shouldn’t we push the edges and explore it?  Isn’t it wasteful and depressing to not?

Labels aren’t evil but they can be. They can constrain, they can nullify, they can extinguish the human spirit.

This is why I’m so concerned the idea of the renaissance man is in danger in the midst of our emerging specialization society. It’s all-too-apparent in the raising of our youth the last decade or so.

With the prevalence of youth sports and club teams and private coaches, kids are being forced into choosing a particular sport or activity at younger and younger ages. Sports don’t change with the seasons like they did when I was a kid. Now, it’s one sport–all year round! Kids are not only discouraged but often flat out told they can’t participate in any other sport.

Kids are often spread too thin. More and more studies are showing that over-participation and hyper-specialization results in more and more serious overuse injuries in young athletes. On top of that, mentally and emotionally, kids are burning out by the time high school sports roll around.

The idea of the renaissance man is under attack. (Heck, even the 1994 film, Renaissance Man only has a 17% rating from the critics on Rotten Tomatoes!)

Broad-based training and knowledge isn’t fostered much. What ever happened to cross training? (Not to be confused with Crossfit.)

I took an informal poll this past spring of a group of my former Badgers teammates, many of whom were lamenting the specialization and the amount of time spent transporting their kids to sports practices and games. Of the 8 or so former Division 1 football players–a couple had played in the NFL, ALL of us played multiple sports all the way through high school.

So, when I hear parents say they HAVE to get their kids started early and specialized in one sport if they’re going to get a college scholarship or even play on their high school teams, I highly doubt that.

Why are parents, coaches, instructors, so heavily pre-determining the interests of our children?  Their under a misguided notion that it’s what best prepares their kids for future success. While well-intentioned, some adults are losing the forest for the trees in wanting the best for their kids.

Parents should expose their kids to a wide variety of interests-explore sports and music and art and science, etc…and see what takes.

Cash has already taken art and music classes and will be playing any and every sport once he’s old enough.

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We want to develop his skills and curiosity along the way. And meet different types of people. We want to prepare him for the world and help him find challenges, failures, success and enjoyment.

All the while learning more and more about who he is and ideally turns into a man who can “do all things he will.”

Isn’t that the success we wish for our kids?

 

 

 

WWF

WWF. You may know it as the World Wrestling Federation, now WWE, with pro wrestling stars like Andre the Giant, The Ultimate Warrior, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka and Hulk Hogan…”What are you gonna do when HulkaMania runs wild on you?!”,

At least, they were stars in the 1980s when I, along with many guys my age, had an interest in the sporting entertainment empire.

A few of us in early high school, even attended a WWF show at the Coliseum, now, Alliant Energy Center, in Madison. We were not alone–the venue holds about 10,000 and it was full.

WWF to me now means the Wisconsin Wrestling Federation. As in, Cash and I’s latest bonding moments spent “wrestling” each other.

And while I may have him beat in the tales of the tape measurements= Me 5’11” 205lbs. Cash 2’7″ 20 lbs, Cash fights dirty.  His go-to move is the “Lip Rip,” a move where he plants his fingers on the inside of my lower lip, grabs tightly and pulls down hard. As I duck my head down to peel his fingers off my lip, he uses his other hand to pull my hair.

My main counter-move is to pick him up and fall with him to the bed, cushioning his fall on me–much sweeter version of Superfly Snuka’s turnbuckle soar onto his opponents.

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After my Superfly move, I then spin Cash off my chest onto the bed, flipping him from side to side and pinning him with nearby pillows.

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His giggles tell me my move causes him more enjoyment than pain.

Maybe our pasttime will lead to Cash’s future as a pro wrestler?  His current nickname, “Spanky” might even work into his persona.  “Spank the Tank?!  “The Lipper Ripper?!” Smash Cash?!

We’ll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my chin up, lips tight and hair back. What else are you gonna do…when “Spankamania runs wild on you?!”

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Whine before it’s Time

Toddlers whine.

Not from pain or discomfort, though that’s a possibility.

Not from being pouty, though that’s a possibility.

Not from seeking attention, though that’s a possibility.

Toddlers whine mainly because they don’t know and can’t say many words to express themselves…so we are left with the grunts, shrieks and moans.

Whining is a typical stage we humans go through. A whine of passage.

For the most part, Meghan and I have to endure it rather than eliminate it, at least until “use your words” is something our toddler, Cash, can actually do.

In the meantime…we’ll try to minimize his discomfort. We’ll try not to make him sad.We’ll try to give him plenty of focused attention.

And we’ll try our best to teach him words to help him express himself.

We are already treated to–and immensely enjoy– observing his non-verbals-the smiles, the cries and the way tucks his head into the crook of our neck when he’s tired. He seems to develop a new mannerism every few days.

We’re already seeing him stand on his own two feet-soon, all-too-soon, he’ll running around, climbing up and down.

But, won’t it be most interesting to hear him say the thoughts that go through his little head? The vast mystery of the multi-directions of his mind, his thoughts, pronunciations and observations.  Life…according to Cash.

We’re anxious to hear how the world is sifting itself through his developing brain. How many thoughts of Meghan and mine get repeated?  What in the world impacts him? At his thigh-high point of view.

For now, we have to wait. We don’t like it but we have to set the example. We can’t…whine about it.

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Bedtime Story

I assume all kids and most adults have a bedtime routine.

Mine is purposefully (and perhaps overly?) simple.  I brush my teeth and lay down in bed.

Meghan’s is longer–more face washing, flossing and lotioning.

Cash’s bedtime routine is by far the longest…lasting about an hour from start to finish.

It begins with Meghan or I filling one third of our bathtub with water and dropping in the toys.

Then getting the wiggly boy out of his clothes, into his birthday suit and into the tub.

He enjoys  bubbles. Who doesn’t, right?

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Cash is pleasantly distracted by the bath toys. His favorite now is a little bucket that holds one bath toy at a time.

He also used to really like splashing the water with full swings of his arms, slapping the water like it owed him money.

That spirited splashing is now replaced by scooping water with his bucket onto the bathroom floor as if he’s keeping a boat from sinking.

For awhile there, he thought squirting the water out of the mini-baseball was the funniest prank on the planet.

After his bath, we wrap him in a towel and he is transported to his bedroom-which is a little extra warmed thanks to a space heater.

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There, his loving Momma gives him a light massage with massage oil-baby safe of course. With the essential oil diffuser, dimmed lighting and soft music playing, his room highly resembles a luxurious spa retreat.

I fear if this keeps up, he will want to have his 5th birthday party not at Chuck E. Cheese but at Sundara spa.

After his massage, Meghan usually reads to him from one of the many books on his shelf. Cash is more into the pictures than the plots, which is a good thing since most children’s books are absent of them…plots that is.

Meghan winds down the process by nursing him for a little and then laying him down in his crib.  Lastly, she gives him a kiss and turns on the white noise machine. Just writing this, I want to pass out and sleep for three days.

Believe it or not, Cash will still fuss a bit as Meghan tries to leave the room, sometimes pulling himself to his feet and screaming through the crib bars like a wronged prisoner.

We know he does this because I installed a Nest camera with night vision perched above his bed.

The bedtime fuss has become less and less and there are some times where he just lays down, snuggles up to his bunny and doesn’t make a peep.

After a half hour or so of his slumber, I quietly enter (and try not to trip over anything in the blacked out room) and drape a knit blanket over him.

Meghan and  use the next hour or two to clean up and catch up on anything we have to get done and/or watch a show, read a book, or sometimes silently stare at the wall in exhaustion.

It’s getting to be that time…bedtime.

 

Slip Sledding Away

Is there any better Midwestern childhood staple of winter than sledding?

The kids from my neighborhood had a great option with the hill next to my grandparents house just up the street from me.  It was also the first meeting place destination for all of us on “snow days” from school.

We would trudge our various sleds-from saucers to rail sleds to toboggans to the cheap, hard plastic body length ones-up the hill.

Each sled offered a different ride. The toboggans were for a handful of friends to experience together–our snow-covered boots criss-crossed over each other’s laps, we formed a sitting centipede speeding through the snow.

The one man saucers always gave you the extra spins and speed you wanted while the body length sleds gave you more steering control.

The old fashioned, wooden rail sleds gave you speed but also a loss of control.  Sledders ascending the hill had to keep an extra eye out for those traversing on the rail sleds…lest they get struck by an errant traveler and end up flipped flat on their faces.

The inner tube sleds came into play just as I was getting into my teen years and out of sledding but later in life, I got to try these tubes down the hill. The tubes sure make the ride smoother, no more feeling every bump on your stomach under the 1/4 inch plastic sleds, and went at a decent speed too. They also are easy to connect an arm onto and co-sled with others.

Hour after hour, we’d get our little endorphin rushes, even building up snow piles to act as ramps to shoot off for more speed and height and danger.  It was always a snow badge of courage to make it into the lawn of the house across the street from the hill.

My friends and I would take breaks by heading over to my grandma’s house. We’d leave our boots at the door and swap war stories in our socks over the hot chocolate drinks she’d prepared for us.

Later in life, I’ve had some of my buddies share that my grandma will always live on in the warmth of their memories because of these little snow break sessions around her kitchen table.  Me too.

Honestly, sledding was one of the first activities I was excited for Cash to experience. I’m happy to report, last week, Meghan and I walked up the block to our local snow hill, Garner Park to give Cash his first sled run!

As the veteran sledder in the family–Meg grew up in California and had her first sledding experience only a couple years ago when I brought to Madison on a visit–I put Cash on my lap for his first run.

I conceded to Meghan to start halfway down the hill and we “sped” down. It was too slow for Cash’s liking according to his bored face.

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This made me happy because I knew we could up the ante…and by “up” I mean start further up the hill the next run.

Cash and I made a few more runs and Meghan even got a few in and a couple more with all of us.

It was one of the more fun days this we’ve had this winter as a family. Plus, Cash can now say he’s a sledder.

Actually, his first words about sledding will likely be “faster, faster…”

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Wisconsin ‘Dogs

The nickname of my alma mater, the Badgers of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is misunderstood.  Many think it’s because there is a prevalence of the mammal in the rolling hills, woods and prairies of our state. The Badgers is our state animal after all, so the confusion is understandable.

However, Wisconsin, and the university, got the nickname “The Badger State” because of 19th century miners who came to unearth lead from the land of the Southwest corner of the state.  The workers, instead of taking the time to dig foundations for homes, chose to dig into the hillsides to sleep and live.  The carved out half-caves resembled the den of a Badger.  So, these miners were nicknamed badgers and these residents became representative of the whole state-even though most of the state residents were farmers.  (I will say Bucky, our mascot, is much better off being a cute, furry badger rather than a miner or farmer.)

Wisconsin is often misunderstood, underrated and underestimated. So, it was only fitting the Wisconsin Badgers football team won the 2015 Holiday Bowl game a couple nights ago against the favored University of Southern California Trojans.

The Badgers team entered the game as 3.5 point underdog and with many college football “experts” picking USC to win.  No matter though, Wisconsin residents, fans, coaches, and players have learned to accept and dismiss these expectations.

If I might brag, the recent confidence started with the Rose Bowl championship team I was lucky to be a part of in the 1994 game where we upset the home team UCLA Bruins 21-16.

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In the twenty bowl games since then, we have been favored to lose more times than we’ve been favored to win. Turns out,  UW has won more than it has lost.  (Out of the last 21 bowl games, UW has won 12 of them.)

I’m not saying we should have been favored in all of these games.  We deserved our status as the underdogs at times. That’s fine. But, the UW is a default underdog more often than not.

So maybe a more representative nickname for our state is the Farmers and for the university’s sports teams, the Underdogs?  But, that’s okay because oftentimes labels don’t represent what they are supposed to.

My point is, Wisconsin Badger fandom will provide many good life lessons for Cash as he inevitably will be exposed to cheering for and supporting the Wisconsin Badgers by being around me and my family.

I’ll share with him what we’ve all learned by being Badgers fans.Expect to be misunderstood. Talent is great but useless if not fueled with hard work. Focus on preparation not on glory.  Preparation puts you in position to be in the right place at the right time.  Success isn’t lucky. Bucky ain’t lucky! We earned it.

Most importantly, expect to defy expectations.   Understand the underdog. And enjoy and be inspired when the underdog comes out on top.

On Wisconsin!

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BA NA NA NA NA NANA NA NA

Twas the night before Christmas

when all through the house

the husband was sent scurrying

pleaded to by his spouse

“We need bananas!” Meghan screamed

For our Christmas Day chocolate chip/banana pancakes

breakfast to be redeemed.

“But no grocery stores are open” I said

I’d have to go somewhere else instead

On empty streets I drove, in the dark of night

with nary an “OPEN” sign in sight!

I visited convenience stores and gas stations

who only provided fruitless frustrations!

Tiredly searching where to get bananas on Christmas Eve?!

A remote Walgreens held my reprieve.

“We have bananas here,” said the clerk truthful

And my Christmas eve became fortuitously fruitful!

So, in Meghan’s stocking hung a most welcome, appeeling sight

Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Ball Control

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Indeed. As we scurry to get last minute presents-are we the only ones?-it’s important to keep perspective.

I’ll repeat from a previous post…let’s stay present among the presents.

With all the gifts bestowed and such, I can’t imagine our kids don’t develop a form of ADD.

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Cash has 20 plus toys to play with in the Cash cave-and more upstairs.  He will pick something up and it might take a few thoughts to figure out, that’s okay, but when there’s the next shiny object right beside him, why bother?

This overstimulating array of toys needs to be curbed so we’re going to start stocking a lot of them away and then rotate them in.  Granted, more will still come in-Cash’s grandparents will be grandparents and are entitled to some spoiling-but Meghan and I have made a pact to choose quality over quantity when it comes to gifts.

Sometimes when you have little, you treasure it more, and you can learn more about life from it.  I know this firsthand.

On my 11th birthday, my golden one, I received a brand new Spalding NBA basketball.

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I took it with me every day to the park in the summer and bounced it a thousand times in my driveway and thousand more times I shot it at the basket above our garage.

I knew that ball well, the worn pores edged with flakes of orange, broken in and faded at the seams…my hands comfortably formed around it as I prepped to flick the wrist follow through and watch it majestically spin and soar right through the net. (Hey, it’s my memory and I like to remember the swishes more than the bricks, okay?!)

That following summer, I brought the ball with me to my dad’s Thursday night softball league game.

The softball diamond was part of a park that had a basketball court, playground, tennis courts and a large field.

Other kids and I would run off and play games, horse, or just shoot around during our dads’ game.  Sorry, dad, but hard for an 11 year old to sit through an entire adult softball game. Besides, we could always pause when one of our dads was at the plate and watch his at-bat from afar.

We’d play right past the end of the game until we were hollered in by one of our parents.

Some of us would gather our shoes-what is it with kids thinking they are faster with their shoes off?-and any other equipment we had brought with us.

One night, I went back to the basketball court to collect my beloved ball where I’d left it but the area was empty.

The light towers around the softball fields cast some big shadows so I sprinted around frantically with extra beats thumping my heart.

I yelled to a few friends to help me look for the ball and as we cased our many steps throughout the night, we didn’t find it. I searched in the panic of a mother looking for her child.

After taking a few laps and stalling my parents calls to get going, I dejectedly walked empty-handed to the car.

“What took you so long? When we call you, we expect you to…where’s your ball?”  I sped through the explanation that “someone had stolen it!”  A cry hung at the edges of my words that vacillated between anger and sadness and despair.

My parents didn’t have much sympathy but talked about responsibility and taking care of your stuff.  Yes, it seems someone “stole” it or maybe took by accident but either way, I was responsible for ensuring my property’s safety and in this case, I failed.

It was a quiet ride home as I imagined who would have taken the ball and what I could have done to not be in this situation-thrown it in the trunk of our car and then gone off and played tag.  Ugh, it seemed so simple now.

I asked my dad if he’d buy me another ball.  He would not. I later asked my mom, hoping for a different answer…and didn’t get it.

“We already bought you a ball. YOU will have to buy your next ball.”  What?! I had, like, no money! How am I gonna buy a cool ball?! Those are like $40, which might as well have been $4000 dollars to a jobless 11 year old.

I scrounged together what I had that next week and came up with $16.  Winter would hit in a few months so I couldn’t wait and spent my life savings on a $14 ball (damn sales tax!).

This bargain ball was a total dud-a brand that neither me or nor my friends had ever heard of. It had a plastic-y, strange shade of orange look and feel. It took terrible, unreasonably erratic bounces off the rim. It was impossible to put any touch on the ball because you couldn’t get a good grip.  I aired these complaints to my parents who shrugged. “Well, that’s what you get when you don’t take care of your stuff.”

I was embarrassed to bring my dumb ball to the park. My friends and I never used it as a game ball and even thought it might be nice to leave it for someone to steal but knew it would stay right where I left it even if I tried.

It was a serious bummer on the rest of my summer!

But, as a parent now, I appreciate that my parents stuck to their guns to teach me responsibility. I’m sure they felt bad for me but also didn’t want to be buying a new ball every other month.

They could have played up the victimhood that summer night…”Oh, that’s awful! Who would take a little boy’s ball?! What kind of world are we living in?!”  But, that type of defeated talk is poisonous for kids to hear. Makes them feel powerless and the world is an evil place.  So be it if that’s what you think but your kid has the opportunity to have a better, more positive outlook on life and why deprive them of that?

My parents put a positive spin on the situation. Take good care of what you can control.

The best way to go is to put your energies into doing things right to attain your desired outcomes.  Sure, life’s seas get rough and you may go off course for awhile.  But don’t let misfortunes and the storms be your guide.  Trust you can always right the ship because your hands are on the wheel…your direction is literally in your hands.

A few months later, at my October birthday, I opened a non-descript square wrapped gift.  A brand new Spalding NBA ball stared at me!

It was the best gift I’d ever received.

A ball wrapped in a lesson…that I can pass on to Cash.

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One Year

One year ago, Thursday, December 11th at 4:24am, a really sharp pain caused Meghan to suddenly sit up in bed. A few pains had visited and disrupted sleep the past couple weeks but this was one like she’d never felt before.

She tossed and turned and realized the pains were going to keep coming. We moved to the kitchen table where we sat while the coffee brewed, Meg with her laptop open to pages about labor pains and me blearily awaiting her cues.

On a white sheet of paper she was keeping track of the contractions. Another sharp pain swept in about 8 minutes later. More scattered contractions visited throughout the morning.

The hospital nurse told us to monitor and come in when they got to 5 mins apart. I called to inform Margaret, our doula-think birth coach/assistant-who said she would drive to Madison and be available and keep her posted. Margaret is a lovely, earthy, calm woman who gave Meghan and I great advice and support leading up to and during the birth.

I went to work to prep for my paternity absence in the coming weeks. My focus was at best, very divided. I was informed later that a radio script I turned in had the wrong date and title and client…but somehow still made sense and got approved for airing.

Would this really be the day-13 days before due date? Yikes. I was hoping to get the weekend in. I had bought tickets to the Nutcracker at the Overture Center for that Saturday-part of Meghan’s birthday gift. C’mon Cash, those tickets weren’t cheap!

I contacted Meg from work, half-hoping she would say the pains had gone away and we would have some more time to prepare for all this.  Nope.

The time between her contractions was…contracting.

I arrived to Meghan crouching on the floor and 7, 6, 7, 8, 5…scratched on a piece of white paper on the coffee table marking the minutes between contractions. The two cats circling her with concern and the expectant father basically there to fetch, bellhop various items and watch his wife wince and moan.

After an hour or so, we were hitting the five minute apart mark consistently.

I confirmed the luggage was packed and loaded it in the Jeep behind the Graco baby seat that had been installed for over a month.

We made the 12 minute drive to the hospital. I mentioned to her I could pull in, drop her off so she could start the check-in process, and I’d park the car and be back in three minutes.  She shot me a death stare. So I pulled into the valet circle and handed the car and $7 over.  Cash hadn’t even been born yet and he was already costing me!

Directed to triage for our evaluation,  we would be admitted if the contractions were indeed five minutes apart or we’d have to go back home.  I couldn’t imagine going through this again in a few hours. (The nurse said there are people who have been sent home multiple times before they are admitted. That would be one tough car ride back home!)

Stopwatch said…five minutes on the dot! Plus, Cash was positioned low in the birth canal and Meg’s cervix was dilated at 3cm. For reference, the green light for the pushing part of labor is at 10 cm.  Think aperture for anyone who knows how to use a camera.  And I hope this article is the last I ever have to write about Meg’s cervix.

Funny, the pushing part is what I always thought of as the labor, that you see in movies and TV shows. It is the shortest part of the labor process that actually starts with the first contraction.

We were transferred to the birthing suite. This is a good name for it. The St. Mary’s Hospital birthing suites could be mistaken for a spa. Deep tubs in nicely-tiled private bathrooms. Large open space and windows with a view. Meg added to the ambience by bringing an essential oil diffuser and decorative lighting.  There was even a TV and a little couch to sleep on.  Not that there would be any sleep. When your wife is hit by intense waves of pain every few minutes, there is no rest.

Meghan sat on a big fitness ball, draped over the bed to brace herself for the pains. Margaret, the nurse and I took turns rubbing her back and bringing her water. Unfortunately, Meg couldn’t eat to help keep her strength up.

Hours passed. We took a few walks around the floor, nodding at other couples we would pass.  One dad and I ran into each other several times in the complimentary coffee room.  Two clueless men in sweatpants and slippers who had no idea what the night would bring us making small talk.

As much as Meg endured, by midnight, she had only dilated to three and a half centimeters. Her intention throughout her entire pregnancy was to  deliver Cash without an epidural-injection of anesthetic into the spinal cord-and do this all “naturally”, she was understandably wearing thin.

Dr. Holz, our sweet OB/GYN who was also pregnant, had been periodically resting in another room, suggested popping Meghan’s water to speed the process along.  Margaret was opposed to this because the doula way is not to artificially do anything to disrupt the natural birthing process.

We gave it another hour or so and checked again. No movement.  The doula and the doctor looked at me while Meg’s face was resting on the bed.  Meghan is an energetic, strong-willed, workout fanatic who would do anything for the benefit of Cash.  She had a look of struggle and exhaustion I’d never seen before or since.

We discussed the option and confirmed that we should move this along and so Dr. Holz popped Meghan’s amniotic sac about 5AM-btw, in rare cases the bag doesn’t pop and babies can be born still inside the sac. This is considered good luck. Okay, then.

Anyway, the sac breaking caused Meghan to dilate to 7 centimeters in an hour or so…and a new level of ultra-intense pain for Meghan. Every contraction felt like she was “being ripped wide open.” Considering her overly exhausted state, Meghan couldn’t imagine pushing for another minute, much less potential hours upon hours to get another 3 cm and then have the energy to push through the delivery.

The next big decision was the epidural. Doula opposed because Meghan was getting to the home stretch and our previously expressed wishes not to use. Nurse Brittany and Dr. Holz were for it, especially considering Meghan had been in labor now for over 24 hours.

RN Brittany pulled me aside and said if we did want the epidural to order it now because the new shift was coming on and the anesthesiologist (by the way, I spelled this correctly without help!) may get booked up with other appointments.  The doula pulled me aside and reminded me of our intentions and that the hard part was over and she could do this…naturally.  Such decisions for a sleep-deprived dad…but sympathies for my position are a splash in the ocean of Meghan’s.

I asked for a moment with Meghan.  She said she was at peace with getting the epidural, she had fought the fight she intended to but she was okay with it. I confirmed and re-confirmed and then gave the nurse the nod, like a baseball manager tapping his arm on the way to the mound to call in the closer.

Margaret understood and reassured Meghan that all that mattered was our  beautiful baby was coming into the world soon.  She reassured Meghan in a tender moment. “This is what woman do to bring our babies into the world.”

Once that decision was made, the anesthesiologist couldn’t get there fast enough…it was about a half hour and Meghan asked me every 3 minutes where he was…and at one point, accused me of lying that he was coming.

He proved me truthful arriving then inserting the epidural, delicately into the spinal cord in between contractions. Me holding Meg’s right hand, Margaret her left. Meghan was straining through her contractions with great support and advice.

A new nurse came on board in the thick of the delivery push. Her name is escapes me but she was a seasoned veteran. At one point, she sat on the edge of the bed and calmly laid it out. “Okay, here’s how it’s going to go, it’s like riding a wave, push through the strain when you feel it coming on with all your might, then as the pain retracts, you retract and take a few deep breaths and prepare for the next one and so on.”  This helped Meg not to overwork but be efficient with managing her pain, strain and energy. I was impressed, for lack of a better word, with all involved.

Dr. Holz mentioned she could see the top of Cash’s head.  Meghan screamed and pushed and screamed and pushed and screamed and push…you get the idea. Until, Cash’s head popped out. Facing up. Crying loudly.

With ninja-like quickness, Dr. Holz placed the purplish, sticky, crooked-headed, long and skinny boy on Meghan’s chest.  He didn’t look like the Cash Michael Kennedy I had imagined-I think I was imaging he’d come out as a cute two year old smiling in a Badgers jersey…I’m not very smart…nonetheless, I agreed with Meghan who sobbed and repeated several times, “I love him so much.”

I was delighted/exhausted/relieved/impressed/dumbfounded/prideful/in love with both of them.

I was offered the cord to cut with a short-nosed scissors. The tubing membrane was not as difficult to cut as I’d heard it was.

Meghan and I kissed and stared at this newborn boy for a few moments, taking it in.  He looked healthy. She was okay. She had done it!

Then, it was time to weigh and measure him.

Margaret prompted me to take him over to the little incubator/crib in the room. He fit easily into my hands and didn’t cry as I transported him the few steps.

His eyes shut, I laid him in while the nurse said, “Six pounds, seven ounces. Twenty inches. He’s doing great.”  His AGPAR score was a perfect 10.(Appearance, Grimace, Pulse, Activity, Respiration) I didn’t know what this meant or what it was and was told it was the best score a newborn can get. He was healthy and confirming what we already thought, he’s perfect.

I realized I had my phone in my pocket so I took this pic…the very first (of now, millions) of Cash.

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This first-time father understood what a difference a day can make. And an appreciative awe at what mothers go through to bring their babies into the world.

December 12th. 9:28am. 2014

I witnessed two new heroes born that day.

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Cash Cow

As Cash’s one year birthday nears, one of the milestone changes we’ll implement is weaning him from his momma’s milk to cow’s milk.
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As his father who comes from a dairy farm family dating back to the early 1900s, I am proud to assist in the transition my son into the family and the state’s livelihood and heritage.
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Cash fast became a dairy connoisseur devouring cheese from the first moment it swirled amongst his taste buds. These days, the little guy has no problem downing an entire piece of string cheese, one nibble at a time.
I’ve been known to milk puns about the dairy important role milk plays in a healthy diet. Or how udderly crucial it is in delivering calcium. I butter not do that though before I’m met with lactose intolerance or put you in a bad moo’d.
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Wisconsin farms produce over three billion gallons of milk a year and my boy will be drinking 2 and a half cups a day. We’ll be serving him whole milk, none of that weird, bluish-hued nonfat nonsense.
Heck, I pretty much drank milk directly from the cow’s teat as a kid. My dad and I would drive over to the farm with empty plastic pitchers, walk into the milk house and scoop into the creamy milk that filled the stainless steel tank when the large stirring blade allowed.
We’d go home consume and a few days later, come back and repeat. Call it our family convenience store.
I didn’t realize the quality of the milk I was drinking until one morning after spending the night at a friend’s for a sleepover, I spit out my first bite of cereal. “Who put water in here?!” To which my friend’s mom looked at me quizzically and said, “That’s 2% milk.”  Geesh, if 2% milk tasted like water…what was I drinking on a regular basis?! Half and half?
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As a husband, I’m happy to “free the breast” of my wife. While Meghan has treasured her time breastfeeding Cash, bonding and nurturing, she looks forward to no longer having the sleep-deprived “soothings” several times throughout the night.  She no longer has to be the sole provider of sustenance for his milk wants and needs.  Time for daddy to step up to the bottle.

*side note: For those small few who argue against drinking cow’s milk or the milk of another animal, “we humans are the only “animals” who drink the milk of another animal.” I would agree and only also add, “yes, and we humans are the only “animals” who have rocketed to the moon, invented the internet and composed symphonies…so good enough for this human animal.

I have no problem with alternative milks-such as almond and soy-other than terming them “milk.” Just because you can secrete fluid from an object doesn’t mean you should call that fluid “milk.” We don’t do it for oranges and we shouldn’t for legumes, nuts and drupes either.

Anyway, cow’s milk is important in a child’s development. It is a rich source of the chemical element, calcium, which builds strong bones and teeth and regulates blood clotting and muscle control. And it’s one of the few sources of vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and is crucial for bone growth.

Milk also provides carbohydrates and protein for growth and energy. There’s evidence that with early introduction to calcium, children have a lower risk of high blood pressure, stroke, colon cancer, and hip fractures later in life.

And later in life, if Cash is anything like his old man, cereal will be a main subsistence, sometimes utilized for a few meals and snacks per day!

Milk, it does a baby body good.

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