Archive

Archive for the ‘Grand Parenting’ Category

First comes the baby, then the baby-naming bureaucrats.

October 1st, 2010 Comments off

Our Cassie has always been direct and to the point, not one to beat around the  bush. Always spoke her mind, always did what she wanted to do, always walked to the beat of her own drummer.  Raising Cassie was all about unconditionally loving and supporting her — and frequently about staying out of her way when she was on a mission to complete something.

And so it went Sunday, Sept. 26, when Cassie wGrantas wheeled into the delivery The new family.room after a half-day of contractions and, with four strong pushes, presented Grant Geldhof, front and center.  Jeanne took the photos and Kurt shot video (I stayed in the waiting area) and the event was over in less than eight minutes. Ba da bing. Looking at the photos of the doctor and nurse grinning, apparently they too enjoyed the easy delivery — or the jokes Cassie was cracking between pushes.

The stats: 7 pounds, 10 ounces; 20 inches, and enough brown hair to comb. He scored a 10-out-of-10 on a post-birth assessment and, aside from a swollen face suggesting he had gone a round or two in a boxing ring, he was beautiful.

And now Jeanne and I are in awe. Both of our children — Paul, 35, who lives near us in Las Vegas, and Cassie, 30, who lives in Antwerp, Belgium — are themselves parents of beautiful babies.

In other words: it’s payback time.  Heh heh heh.

Not that we’re  not filled with warm joy for our Sarah and Paul...children. For PauKieran opiningl and Sarah (right), who married January 8, 2000, their Kieran is nothing short of a miracle baby, and he glows like the angel he is.  For Cassie and her Kurt, who became engaged in July 2009 while traveling with us through Europe in an RV and who are getting married Dec. 31, the baby making wasn’t nearly as challenging.

Each couple has adapted to parenting quickly, easily and with confidence. And that pleases us immensely. Our grandchildren are in the best possible hands.

But for Cassie and Kurt, dealing with the bureaucracy was a bit of another matter today. It had to do with naming the baby.

Grant, three days oldCassie had considered naming the boy “Green,” being raised as a steward of the environment, conscious of the welfare of the planet we all share.  We were fine with that, but suggested — as did others — that Green  might encounter some playground teasing.  So Cassie and Kurt settled on “Grant,” which means “great.” And  to pay tribute to Cassie’s family name, Grant’s middle name would be Gorman.

On Thursday, Cassie and Kurt headed to the Belgian government office that deals with people data — from passports to immigration to deaths and births. And they were told in no uncertain terms that  “Gorman” wasn’t permitted as part of Grant’s name. The reason: Gorman is the mother’s name, and a parent’s name can’t be contained in the child’s name.

The parents came home and we pow-wowed.  We suggested she try to win the Belgian government approval to have “Green” be Grant’s middle name. That would preserve the aliteration, and Cassie’s desire that her son have a name that reflected a certain consciousness about the world.Father and son

Cassie and Kurt drove back to the government office. Yes, the woman said, “Green” was alright.  So let us introduce to you Grant Green Geldhof.

But the whole episode does raise the question: Your child’s name has to be approved by the government?  Indeed. And here is the back story:

In 1810 Napoleon had annexed the area that is now Holland, and a year later he decreed, among other things, that all citizens’ names be recorded. Well, not all Dutch used last names, which Napoleon demanded, so tens of thousands of them made up last names that were vulgar or funny, partly to protest the new bureaucracy.

Among the new last names: Suikerbuik (Sugar belly),  Spring in ‘t Veld (Jump in the Field), Uiekruier (Onion-crier), Naaktgeboren (Born naked), Poepjes (Little sh*t),  Schooier (Beggar, bum, tramp), Scheefnek (Crooked-neck),  Piest ([he] urinates),  Zeldenthuis (Hardly ever at home), Rotmensen (Rotten people)– and De Keizer (The Emperor) —ostensibly to mock Napoleon himself.

Today, the government wants to halt such craziness, and must sign off on names just as a Department of Motor Vehicles back in the States must approve a personalized license plate.

Clearly this particular bureaucrat on Thursday saw the value of  Green.Bring it on, buster!

A baby will be born today.

September 26th, 2010 Comments off

Maybe the trick was to walk around IKEA for two or three hours last night. Cassie is at the hospital, in labor.

Cassie woke up at 5 a.m. Sunday (8 p.m. Saturday, Las Vegas time) with contractions four minutes apart.  Kurt was asleep but, for some reason, had set his alarm for 6 a.m. today and awoke to discover his wife was quietly enduring contractions. He called us and by 6:45 we were at the hospital.

Unlike my experience at U.S. hospitals, this one was amazingly quiet — and still very dark — when I walked into the lobby after parking the car. Not a single person was in sight and the hallways were pitch dark on the first floor as I walked to the elevator to the third floor.

That’s where Cassie is — in the labor room now with Kurt and Jeanne and I’m sitting in a hallway chair on the other side of some swinging doors in the maternity wing. I hear a fussy baby down the hallway and breakfast trays are now being delivered….

But I am still in touch with what is going on in the labor room. Kurt used Cassie’s iPhone to Skype call me and, on my laptop, I was able to hear the monitoring machine’s loopy Whoosh Whooosh Whoosh of the baby’s heartbeat. I can hear Cassie and Jeanne talking, and now we’ve hung up to save their cell phone battery for later.

And then I heard our first grandson, Kieran, giggling.  This, because Paul and Sarah posted a wonderful little video on Vimeo of their beautiful boy, smiling and giggling up a storm and cooing like a perfect baby.

So I’m hear to tell you,  technology is terrific.  Sitting in a hallway, hearing my daughter in labor while watching a fresh video of Kieran.  Sweet.

Update: It’s beCassiie and Kurt, waiting to find out whether the contractions mean she is in labor, receives a Skype video-chat call from best-en a couple of hours now, and the time has passed with help from new-mom Sarah, who was Skyping us with advice, and then a Skype phone call from Cassie’s best friend, Meghan Trojnar, herself a doctor (pediatrics) in the Bay Area.

We got Meghan to call back on my laptop and for some 30-45 minutes she  video-chatted with Cassie's best friend, Meghan Trojnar, a pediatrician, coaches Cassie via a Skype video-chat from the Bay Area.Cassie, who had come out to the hallway for a change of scenery while waiting to see if these were pre-labor contractions or the real thing.  Meghan coached Cassie on her breathing and gave her steady encouragement, and threw in a few sex jokes along the way…

When Cassie was re-examined by the nurses, she was declared to be in authentic labor, and on some chart that gauges the intensity of contractions, she is measuring 7 on a scale that goes to 8.

She has now had an epidural, and Jeanne just came out to tell me how proud she is of Cassie, for how well she is dong.

There is speculation how long labor will last.  Nurses say she ought to deliver in seven hours based on their rule-of-thumb of the cervix opening 1 cm per hour and she’s at 3 cmKieran.

So stay tuned. Another baby is joining the world today, a Gorman-Geldhof baby to join the Taylor-Gorman baby that was born three months ago.

God bless them and their parents on this marvelous day.

Dealing with love.

September 25th, 2010 Comments off

Love isn’t always convenient.

It’s nice when it is, when falling in love doesn’t seem to have any downside, such as taking you away from family and friends.

Tom's parents, Betty Lou and Howard, on their honeymoon in 1937. My parents met in Chicago.  Dad worked for my Mom’s father, which is how they met. And Jeanne’s parents met in high school in Long Beach, and when Paul went off to the Pacific in World War II, Mary — with a newborn — lived with her parents.

Jeanne and I met in college,  fell in love in coJeanne and Tom, dating in 1970llege, and got married while in college (Cal State Fullerton), in the same county where we had lived with our parents.  Dating was just a matter of jumping in my white ’65 Mustang and driving from Fullerton to Garden Grove, or for Jeanne to drive her teal Cougar the other direction. After marriage, we lived within minutes of Jeanne’s parents, and my parents were but a 90-minute drive away, in northern San DiPaul and Sarahego County.

Our son, Paul, met Sarah in 1992 while they both were in high school in Escondido. They dated for eight years before getting married in 2000, and3-pack.jpg they lived just minutes from us. Today they still  live just minutes from us — in Las Vegas, and we are blessed to have been with them when their son (and our first grandson), Kieran, was born on June 29.

And then, well, there’s Cassie.

Cassie seemed destined to fall in love with someone far from home. During and after college she worked in Washington, D.C.  She lived for a few months in Florence, Italy to learn Italian. She was hired by a cruise ship and crossed the Atlantic on its maiden voyage to the Caribbean.  She worked at Club Med in Florida and then at its resort at Turks and  Caicos Island in the Caribbean.

So we rather assumed she would fall in love one day with a young man who didn’t live down the street from us.

The phone rang one evening. Cassie, calling from the Caribbean, was nearly breathless. “Mom. Dad. I’ve met the man who will be the father of my children.”

“When did you meet him?”

“Last night.”

“What’s his name?”

“Kurt.”

“Where’s he from?”

“Belgium.”

Belgium. As in the other-side-of-the-Atlantic Belgium.

“I love him,” she said

Ten days later we were on an airplane to the Caribbean — for a hastily arranged 10-day vacation at Club Med — to check this guy out.

He was handsome. He had a thick accent. He clutched our daughter like some prize. Cassie beamed. We thought he was arrogant. Damn Belgians, an arrogant bunch if ever there was one.

He grew on us a bit.

When Cassie returned home to Las Vegas — check that, she really didn’t have a home, just some well-traveled oversize duffel bags, a handful of framed photos and a laptop — he came, too.

He proved charming. And he could cook. They clutched each other. They fought, too –  each is very stubborn and they don’t fight well. But they worked through the arguments.

Kurt, who had managed the scuba diving department at the resort where he worked, was checking out okay.

Then he shared his plans: He was going to return home to Belgium.  Cassie followed him there for a few weeks to check it out. She returned to Las Vegas but decided she could not live without him.

We helped her pack her duffels. We squeezed 70 pounds into each of three of them, knowing we’d have to pay overage fees. But she was moving to Belgium — for how long was unclear — and 210 pounds of stuff didn’t seem exorbitant.Daughter and Belgian Boyfriend

That was about three years ago, and my, the tears we have shed.

We miss each other terribly. Skype is good, e-mail is OK, but we miss the intimacy we once had, the long, rambling talks late into the evening, the giggling, the philosophical discourses, and the sheer enjoyment of each other’s presence.

Cassie would come home at least once a year, and we would visit CaKurt proposing to Cassie in July 2009, in Vienna, Austria, during our RV trip across Europe.ssie at least once a year (Jeanne, more often). We even shared last summer’s vacation together — the four of us, in a small RV, careening across Europe in 18 days.  (That’s the experience that launched this blog a year ago.  The post from Viennta tells of when Kurt proposed to Cassie, an event I photographed from inside the RV.)

But this trans-Atlantic relationship between child and parents sucks. Cassie and Kurt will fight, and we’re not there to hug and hold her. Jeanne has a bad day, and Cassie’s not here to hug and hold her. They are best friends, painfully apart.

There is no answer to this sadness. Jeanne and I rationalize that we are just being selfish, that Cassie is deeply in love with her Kurt, and that’s what really matters, her happiness. We’ve told her that, and that we will always support her in her life’s decisions. But when we said that the first time, we didn’t anticipate that we, and our son and his wife, and Jeanne’s mother, would all be living within milCassie stealing a kiss before Kurt referees a football game.es of one another and that our little girl would be living with a man in Europe.  A man who we’ve come to love, too.

Someday they may move to America. If you would like to offer a job to a man who is an expert in commercial diving and knows all about business marketing and logos and how to design dry suits, we’d love to pass it on. We would love for them to live dKurt and Cassieown the street — or, at least, on the same continent.

But in the meantime, Cassie has her Belgian residency card and is learning Dutch. And we are resigned that, except for vacations like this or when she comes home to visit, we will have to love her, and the man who has become the father of her child,  from afar.

This moment transcended just a diaper change.

September 24th, 2010 Comments off

Cassie, in Antwerp, watching her brother via Skype change his baby's diaper back in Las Vegas.I never could have anticipated this day: watching Cassie, in Antwerp, staring at a computer screen and watching live video streaming of her brother, Paul, back home in Las Vegas, changing his baby’s messy diaper and performing the necessary wipes that go with it before putting on a clean one.

This is remarkable on several levels, not the least being the technology of Skype and its various competitors in allowing us to not just talk for free on the Internet but to video-chat, too. It helps connect families separated by oceans.Screen-grab of Paul changing Kieran's diaper

But more than the blessing of technology is the joy of grand parenting — of watching our children become parents of their own.

Paul is five years ahead of Cassie and was the ever-so-patient big brother when they grew up in Escondido, California.  They played beautifully together. And so here we are today, Paul and his wife, Sarah, the parents of the beautiful three-month-old Kieran, and our daughter and her Kurt now with their own baby, who is due any day.

Video screen-grab of Paul and Kieran back in Las VegasAnd, just like back in Escondido, Paul is showing Cassie how to master something new. The beaming smile on Cassie’s face yesterday said either she was impressed how well Paul could change a cloth diaper, or (more likely, I think) she was elated by how Paul has become such a wonderful father in his own right. The big brother who played My Little Pony and Legos with little Cassie is back in her life as they each experience, almost at exactly the same time, the joyful adventure of raising their own babies.

How blessed Jeanne and I are to witness this.

Taking her baby for a walk. And a walk. And a walk.

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

Of the many things that amaze me about my 9-month-pregnant daughter is her conviction to staying in shape, including walking every day: to the market, to the dog park, and just to walk.

Yesterday — which was the second of her due dates based on conficting doctors’ opinions — Cassie, Jeanne and I took the subway to reach a more distant location.  (Cassie would have walked but she relented to our wishes to take the underground tram.) Why take the elevator when you can walk (Cassie on the right).

So what does she do? At the end of the ride, she walks up the stairs while the rest of us take the escalator.  That’s my girl, on the far right carrying the red bag.  Wow, I hope she is rewarded when she  goes into labor…

The fleas of Antwerp

September 23rd, 2010 Comments off

ANTWERP — We’ve arrived here, to be with our daughter for the birh of her son.  And apparently I came bearing gifts. I’ve given fleas to the two dogs in the apartment upstairs.

The pooches were fine until we showed up from Las Vegas and, witProvo and Indyhin a day, I broke out with flea bites like some mangy sheepdog. The dogs upstairs — a pair of cute Malteses claimed by Cassie and her Kurt — didn’t have any fleas until exposed to my hangers-on.  Some of the little bastards jumped ship for more traditional prey.

Where I picked up the fleas is the mystery.

Jeanne and I arrived here Sept. 10. We were fortunate enough — we thought at the time, at least — to be able to rent a nice apartment three floors below Cassie’s and Kurt’s; the owners are in France, tending to their primary home, and were glad to sub-let their Antwerp loft to us for a few weeks. The apartment building fronts over a main downtown street; across the street is the century-old opera house.

By the next morning my left ankle began itching unmercifully and when I pulled down my sock, I saw why. At this point, I hadn’t been outdoors, certainly no where near grass and not even that close to Provo and Indy, the two aforementioned white step-ons who, for the record, showed no inclination to scratch themselves.

By the end of the next day, the flea bites were progressing up my left leg.

By the third day, bites began appearing on my right ankle. And the dogs started scratching.

Not only has the march north continued up both legs, but I’ve seeTom's anti-flea medications.n the fleas and picked them off my calfs, more than a dozen so far. Twice a day I slather myself in no-itch creams and gels, and spray myself with an anti-bacterial spray I picked up at the apothecary across the street. Click on this photo: I am now ready to fight to the death with my army of over-the-counter ointments and sprays.

But these fleas seem to have descended from cockroaches. Nothing will take them out.

The bites have now progressed north of my waist. Everyone is very sympathetic. Kurt took a photo of my leg like some twisted souvenir of our visit. I won’t print it.

We all are puzzled as to how I became infested. There are two hunches:  On the 12 hours in flight from Las Vegas to Brussels, my feet may have unwittingly been planted where someone previously had transported a flea-occupied canine who now are collecting frequent-flier mileage. I mean, do the airlines vaccuum or otherwise scrub their carpets clean between flights? Me thinks not.

The second possible flea source is our rented apartment, which at first blush, and evenWhere we're staying. Flea Central is believed to be beneath the table on the right with the green chairs. second blush, seems as clean as a whistle. It is free of carpeting and even throw rugs; its wood-plank floor runs the span of the loft.

But here is why I am suspicious: We met the owners briefly when they turned over the apartment key, and they have a long-haired mutt that would be a most-upscale resort for fleas seeking a staycation. And where would said dog rest during the day? I think at the feet of its owners when they sit at their multi-purpose table. That’s precisely where I was sitting, claiming it as my workspace. And I remember the night, sitting barefoot, where I felt the barely noticeable tickle and discovered two fleas running up my left ankle.

I jumped out of the chair and got down on my knees and examined the wood planks. Between them are narrow channels and within those channels I found two more fleas.  I think the dog’s fleas much have a more permanent encampment in the material beneath the wood planks.

Today we sprayed the floor. For good measure, we sprayed Cassie and Kurt’s apartment, too. Their dogs already had a flea bath (yes, I should have had one, too). And before we head home, I will buy another can of insecticide and sneak it aboard the aircraft.  If you hear of a passenger being kicked off an aircraft for illegal use of an aerosol can, that would be me.

My American-Belgian grandson will be so proud.

How boys become men.

September 6th, 2010 Comments off

At our 3:45 a.m. feeding, Kieran and I discovered how little boys become men.

We discovered the NFL Network.

I’m not a huge football fan. I can’t name but two or three of today’s quarterbacks, for instance. I’ll probably watch one game a week, depending on the buzz at the office. I would follow our home-town team but, wait, we don’t have one.

But tonight I rediscovered the joy of the highlight reel. Kieran was mesmerized too, as he sucked down his four ounces. The focus of our attention: Fran Tarkenton, quarterback, Minnesota Vikings back in the day of black-and-white TV and muddy fields.

Man, could he scramble. Probably because his real name was Francis and he did a lot of running on the playground, either toward other boys  who teased him, or away from them.  Hey Francis! Hey Francis! Then he probably nailed some kid and emerged as Fran, and he went into football and proved himself with his legs as much as his arms.

Kieran and I watched Fran, our eyes as big as saucers. I don’t know if Kieran is ever going to play football but if he does, and if anyone suggests his name isn’t tough enough for the NFL, Kieran will remember the night he and Gramps watched Fran Tarkenton on the NFL Network.

The Next Chapter…and it’ll be grand.

September 6th, 2010 Comments off

When we left off last summer, we thought we had concluded a madcap adventure of a lifetime — an 18-day RV trip across Europe with our daughter, Cassie and for the second half, her fiance, Kurt.  We were ticketed by German police, formed international friendships at a Munich beer garden, got lost in Poland, were burglarized in Slovakia, watched our daughter accept a marriage proposal in Vienna, encountered the Tour de France in, well France, and made it safely back to Cassie and Kurt’s apartment in downtown Antwerp. Back home in Las Vegas was our son, Paul, and his wife, Sarah, who we see regularly. We were a tidy family of six, even if separated by the Atlantic. We couldn’t have imagined a a more-full life.

What a difference a year makes…

Paul and Sarah are now the parents of perhaps the most beautiful baby in the world, Kieran. Paul meeting Kieran within 20 minutes of his birth on June 29, 2010. I say perhaps because there’s another baby on the way.  Cassie’s is due any day.

I think our future is going to be a lot crazier than any zany RV trip through Europe with a GPS system that confused wheat fields for freeways.

This, because there is sibling rivalry in the Gorman family, and our Cassie and her Kurt have a tough act to follow in Kieran, our first grandson by three months. “Geez, their kid is really cute,” Cassie says, sounding like she’s sizing up a prize fighter and not sure how this little contest is going to end up. “I mean, Kieran is really cute.” It’s game time, folks. The bell just rang, Round One.

And Jeanne and I are caught in the middle like some overwhelmed, inexperienced referee in a championship prize fight. Kieran is awesome, weighing in at six pounds, four ounces. Cassie and Kurt’s little boy is bound to be beautiful, too. And us? We can’t play favorites. We’re wearing white shirts with bow ties that suggest neutrality.

And that’s been the story of our lives, trying to raise a boy and a girl separated by five years and not trying to favor one over the other. They didn’t have to have the same toys but every Christmas, you could count on Jeanne getting out the adding machine and making sure that we spent an equal amount of money on each.

KieranFact is, Paul and Cassie had very little in common — except for their parents. They had different academic goals, different sports goals, different life style goals.First family photo And now Jeanne and I are going to watch them become parents. This ought to be a hoot. I’ll be taking notes. We’re going to watch how Paul and Sarah raise their child, and we’re going to watch how Cassie and Kurt raise their child, and all the while, we’re going to remember how we raised Paul and Cassie.

As I write this, Paul and Sarah’s two-month-old is asleep in our guest room. We’re babysitting him for the night and I just gave him his 11 p.m. bottle. Tonight, for the first time, our eyes connected and he offered me a smile. I melted.

In three days we head to Antwerp, where Cassie and Kurt have lived for several years and where she will be delivering her little boCassie and Kurt, vacationing in Tenerife.y in mid-September. We’ll be spending a month in Antwerp — a couple of weeks ahead of the due date and then two weeks after our second grandson is born. Jeanne will stay a third week. Cassie would just assume that Jeanne spend a few years over there. Funny how, when our kids have their own little children on the way, they suddenly appreciate the parents that we were.

Yes, we have a few thoughts about raising children. We did okay by Paul and Cassie. They are mostly intact and functional. And we too survived mostly intact after having raised them.

Now it’s payback time. We get to be grandparents. Our friends have told us this can be the best days of our lives, holding Cassie at home in Antwerpthe little babies and then excusing ourselves and going home the minute the babies get fussy. Heh heh heh. That’s the easy part.

The hard part will be to not play favorites. So while Cassie’s child hasn’t shown himself yet, we know that there will be no baby more beautiful than him.  Yeah, I’ve given it some thought and I think that’s how I’ll word it: There is no baby more beautiful than yours. I’ll tell that to Paul and Sarah’s child, and to Cassie and Kurt’s child.

Stay tuned. This grandparenting thing might get interesting.