Thursday, March 29, 2007


So you must have been pretty bored to have wanted to comment on whether or not I should do away with the beard. Here's the official tally: Eight (8) of you said keep the beard or some form of it, five (5) of you said shave it, four (4) of you said it could go either way and the rest of you out there could careless whether or not I keep it.

In the end, I kinda like mad4books's comment about letting it be a seasonal thing. So I'll probably shave it and keep it off until October rolls around. I'm seriously tempted to go here and let them pamper me. (Yes, I just used the word "pamper.")


Thank you for all the comments on yesterday's post. It helps to hear your stories and get your advice. Laura and I are new to this so hearing from those of you who have experienced this before is extremely helpful. We cherish your words.


I'm thinking this American Idol is going to be the last. The field is exceptionally weak this year and if this cat keeps advancing then the show will meet it's doom for sure. It's run its course. The end is near.


Much like Sanjaya of American Idol, why do we let Dr. James Dobson hang around? The guy is nuts! Now he's playing the roll of God declaring which candidates are Christ followers and which are not. His name is quickly becoming synonymous with names such as Pat Robertson and the like. He's either A) scary, B) nutty, C) disillusioned or D) all of the above. Yikes!


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

stop staring!

Yesterday was the first day in a long while that the temp got up to 70 degrees. It was beautiful. Everyone was out and about! We loaded Ira up and took the fam to a local playground.

Everyone, and I do mean everyone, stared at Ira. People weren't even trying to hide their stares. But I get it. I stare too when I come across someone who isn't "like me" so I understand. It's just that I'm on the other side of things now and I want so badly to protect my son. I want so badly for him to be treated like any other two year old.

This is, of course, a parenting instinct. All parents, whether parents of kids who are "normal" or kids who aren't, want to protect their kids. In this, too, Laura and I will have to find a balance of stepping in when appropriate and letting Ira learn how to cope on his own.

I remember well when a therapist in the hospital sat me down and said, "Don't let Ira become a victim of his circumstances." My initial thought was, "Well look at all the stuff my sons hooked up to! He is a victim!" but now I understand what he was saying. It is imperative, for Ira's sake, that we go about the business of life in as normal a way that we can. Now if we can just clue in our fellow Brooklyn neighbors to do the same.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

to shave or not to shave?

Laura here.

My husband has a beard. He's had it since November. At first, I didn't like it. But as it grew, so did my appreciation for it. It still feels funny when I kiss him but I've grown accustomed to that as well. I think Joe looks a little older and more mature with it and I'm sure he thinks that helps establish him a bit more in his profession.

Joe asked me today if he should continue to sport the beard. Truthfully, I like him with it and without it. (Aren't I a good wife?) So I need your help. Let me know if you think Joe should shave it off or keep it. Not that you really care either way but hey, we've got nothing better to blog about so...

beard or no beard?


Monday, March 26, 2007

Fifth Graders Rock!

My family was shocked last year when a bunch of fifth graders we didn't know rallied around Ira. I was even more shocked when it happened again this year. Mr. Brian O'Connor's fifth graders once again went above and beyond the call of service in order to reach out and help our family. Mr. O'Connor has weaved into his teaching Ira's story. He once told me that teaching the kids history, math and science was very important but the lessons they learned while keeping up with Ira were invaluable. Below is a picture of the 2006-07 fifth graders of a school in Westchester County sporting their Ira Lester Hays wristbands.

Mr. O'Connor and kids, thank you so very much. The money you raised in buying those wristbands will be used to help pay for Ira's medications and doctor appointments. I can't tell you how wonderful it is that you've reached out to him (and us) in this very tangible way. We can't wait to meet you all!


Thursday, March 22, 2007

final four

So who makes it through the weekend? What four teams will converge on Atlanta on March 31? Any guesses? Here are my final four picks based on the sixteen that are still in:

Texas A&M v North Carolina
Kansas v Florida


Wednesday, March 21, 2007

following up

To be clear, Laura and I really aren't falling out about the thumb sucking thing and Sophia, I'm fairly certain, knows we love and adore her. So fear not, my friends, for this thumb sucking will not lead to divorce or estrangement within the family! I was simply employing the literary device of exaggeration to coax you into commenting for we really did want your advice.

I do appreciate the many comments you offered. Really good stuff to ponder. My desire for Sophia to quit, I've come to realize, stems from my own struggles with it as a child. I sucked my thumb for way too long. My mom tried everything. Socks. Hot sauce. (I grew to really like hot sauce!) Bribery. I was persistent in my ways. Eventually, mom and dad went for the orthopedic device. Picture Wolverine's claws glued to the top of your mouth. To say the least, it worked. But then my mom and dad and orthodontist forgot it was in there. It was left in way too long. Just ask the first couple of girls I kissed.

So I realize that some of my "she must stop" stuff is really my experience projected upon her. I just don't want her to go through some of the same stuff I went through. At any rate, you have offered some good sound advice and so Laura and I will proceed with what you have said in mind.
Remember the ethical dilemma about which I wrote? The one about the person who interviews perspective students for his college alma mater? The guy googled one of the applicants and found a disturbing blog in the applicant's name. The guy wanted to know if he could use this information as part of his evaluation?

I asked you what you thought was the "right" answer. Almost all of you who responded said that "yes, he should be able to use the blog and whatever else he finds on the web as part of his evaluation." At first read, I thought the same thing. However, Cohen disagrees.

Cohen first makes the point that these high school kids are ignorant of how public these online sites really are. Most of them, Cohen writes, think their sites are semi-private. It's only in college that they are made aware of how public they really are.

He then goes on to say, and this is what convinced me, that "such material will not be considered for most students. It's unfair to subject your interviews to this additional scrutiny." In other words, unless the application process makes it clear that those kind of queries will be made for everyone, then it isn't ethical to expand the search in that particular way for that particular person.

Finally, Cohen points to what we all know by now to be true: Many times online info is unreliable.

With all that said, I agree with Cohen.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

help us, please

Do you want to help save our marriage? Do you want to help salvage our relationship with our daughter? Do you want our family to stay in tact? Then help us. Please. I'm begging you. Help.

You see, our daughter, Sophia, sucks her thumb. Not just when she sleeps but at other times of the day as well. It truly does pacify and calm her. For so very long, her thumb has been quite convenient for us all. But now she must stop.

She must stop because her dentist wants her to stop. She must stop because both her parents sucked their thumbs much longer than should be allowed and stopping when your 9 or 10 is much harder to do. She must stop because her thumb is about to fall off.

Laura and I kinda disagree about how to go about getting her to stop. Sophia isn't doing well at all with the notion of stopping and even bribery doesn't seem to persuade her.

This is where you come in: How should we go forward? Any bright ideas out there? Remember, Sophia just turned four. I tried introducing a chart the other day in which she earns stickers that eventually earn her rewards but the idea was lost on her. Any ideas must take into account her age, of course. So no, Mom, I will not put hot sauce on my daughter's thumb!

The lines are open. We need your help but only if you want to save our marriage and our family. :)


Monday, March 19, 2007

4 Years Ago

We celebrated Sophia's fourth birthday on Saturday. (Yep, she's a St. Patrick's Day baby.) We invited three of her friends from school over, sent the parents off to brunch and had a party! Sophia had a blast.

Even though Sophia has never seen a Mickey Mouse cartoon while here at the house and even though we don't have any Mickey Mouse books, Sophia wanted a Mickey Mouse cake. (Why do you think that is, GRAM!?) And so Laura obliged...from scratch...without a pan in the shape of Mickey Mouse's head. I'm so impressed with this wife of mine. She's silly talented. Check it:


Laura reflected on what life was like four years ago:

I can remember lying in the hospital bed holding my brand new baby girl. The TV was on but I had more important things upon which to gaze. It was March 19, 2003. Sophia was two days old and my world had been rocked. I wasn't the center of the my universe anymore. I was someone's Mommy.

The world outside of those hospital walls was also being rocked. Every station on the TV was reporting on one thing. America had invaded Iraq. We were at war.

One of the lectionary texts for this week is Isaiah 43:16-21. It is a piece of war poetry that speaks about Israel's past dominion by Egypt and its present subjugation to Assyria. In an essay titled "Poetry for Peace in a Time of War" Dan Clendenin writes "Isaiah reminds his readers that the Hebrew God was one who vanquished military violence in the past and that He would do so again. Yahweh, wrote Isaiah, 'drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick.' Isaiah dares his readers to imagine a new future of peace that he likens to streams in the parched desert."

Oh how we need that same peace today. Too many lives lost to count. So many more physically, mentally and emotionally wounded.

Lord, on this fourth anniversary of war, the people of Iraq and the people of America desperately need your "river in the desert." Pour out your peace on both nations. We can't see an end to the violence in sight and so we beg you to do a "new thing" and let it "spring forth." Amen.



You might remember e-meeting some of Ira's NICU friends in this post. It's been an honor to keep up with these children and their parents. On Friday I got an e-mail from Lily's mom. The subject of the e-mail was, Here we go again... My heart sank. I didn't want to open the e-mail. Before I go on to say what the e-mail entailed, it might be helpful to remind you of Ira's (and Lily's and Ava's and Alix's) initial diagnosis and how the docs went about fixing the issue.

All these kids had congenital diaphragmatic hernias. In very simplistic terms, they developed a hole in their diaphragm while in utero. Therefore, organs that are normally found in the abdomen are found in the chest. Because the lungs are the last major organs to develop their growth is compromised due to the intrusion of the intestines, stomach and much more.

The way to correct this problem is to have a surgery in which all the abdomen organs are pulled down and put into their perspective places and then (GET THIS!) the surgeons patch up the hole with Goretex. Yep, Goretex.

Some kids have small holes. Eventually, the Goretex patch is enveloped by the diaphragm as the kid grows. Some kids, like Ira, hardly have a diaphragm; therefore, most of Ira's diaphragm is Goretex. When we asked our surgeon about Ira's future it was made clear that Ira very well might need a surgery in the future as Ira grows. Goretex is great and all but it doesn't grow.

So back to Lily. Lily has outgrown her Goretex patch. Technically, she has re-herniated...again. (Both Lily and Ira re-herniated while in the NICU.) But because Lily is doing so well (eats on her own now and breathes on her own now) and as Lily's mom put it, "acting completely normal," there is no rush to get it corrected. But it isn't surprising to hear that our favorite surgeon wants to get it done sooner rather than later.

Lily's mom wrote: Please keep my Lilybelle in your prayers as we are about to face once again another challenge.

We can do that, right?


Friday, March 16, 2007

Gig 'Em!

Guess who Ira is rooting for in The Dance?


a little perspective

I can sense the angst, the confusion, the worry as the person contemplates how they should answer the question that I've asked them. It is a rather simple question, one that's asked of us several times a day but it seems that when I ask it, the recipient immediately finds themselves in a dilemma much worse than that of JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis!

How are you?, I ask. After several seconds of uncomfortable non-verbal communication some version of this answer fills the air around us: Well, life is pretty hard right now but what am I complaining about really? I mean, you guys have it so hard that I have nothing to complain about.

What this person has done from the time I've asked the question until the time s/he answers the question is that they've held up their life situation up against mine as if to see if what they've got going on can, in any way, come close to what I've got going on. In those few short seconds the measurements are calculated.

Okay, Joe's got a sick kid. One point for Joe.
I'm miserable at my job. Half a point for me.
Joe has random people in and out of his home on a daily basis. One point for Joe.
My wife and I are struggling to stay together. One point for me.

And finally the tally is made and out comes, Well, life is pretty hard right not but compared...

We do this all the time don't we? You hold up your life situation against my life situation and you think, "Okay, maybe I don't have it so bad." In turn, I hold up my life situation against that of a single mother who has a medically fragile child and doesn't have time to fight the system and I say, "Okay, so maybe I don't have it so bad." In turn, she holds up her life situation while cross examining the life of a poor family who lives in the projects who has a special needs child and she thinks, "Okay, maybe I don't have it so bad." In turn, that poor family thinks of a third-world family...

Every once in a while, I have to stop and do this. I have to stop and think through other life scenarios and when I do I think to myself, "Okay, Joe, what's good about your current life situation? What are the positives about where you are?" And when I do that, I'm given a little perspective. It DOESN'T mean that my stresses go away or that I should feel guilty for being stressed but it does mean that I recognize the flip side of the coin - that there is good in the midst of the bad. And more importantly going through this exercise of perspective seeking forces me to quit being so self-absorbed...even if it's just for a little while. It forces me to look outside myself and into the world of others and in so doing, I'm challenged to serve and help and advocate for others and ultimately, this is our goal, right? To do unto others...?


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Amazing Feat!

The Ethicist part two

The mere mention of "abortion" gets folks stirred up in both directions. My last post was about Giuliani but it quickly turned into a discussion on abortion. Meanwhile the NY Times posted this article on their site. It's a hard article to read but it is worth your time.

In sum, there are programs around the country that help parents who are told their unborn babies will die upon birth. These programs help parents make sense of their options and how to go about the pregnancy. The two sets of parents highlighted for the article are pro-choice advocates who decided to give birth to their babies. The article is heart-wrenching but makes it painstakingly clear that the decision to abort or give birth to a fatally ill child is not a question of wrong or right/black or white. Framing the issue in those terms is to speak foolishly and simplistically.
You might remember that I told you of my love for the article in the NY Times Magazine called The Ethicist by Randy Cohen. Recently, I was surprised by his response to the following ethical dilemma:

I interview high-school seniors who apply to my alma-mater. I routinely Google these students and discovered that one posted information on his blog that reflects poorly of him. May I ask him about the blog? May I mention it to the university? Should it affect the score I give him?

Without looking at Randy Cohen's answer online, how would you respond to this person's query?


Monday, March 12, 2007

Republican Rudy? Really?

I try hard not to label myself politically. In my ideal world I would take a little from both parties and some from lesser known parties to create my perfect candidate. Alas, this is not an option. Because I lean left I've voted in that direction in the last several elections.

I'm incredibly interested in the 2008 presidential election. I'm interested to see if the Democrats will say anything of substance. I'm interested to see how the Republican wannabes will react to President Bush's desire to help them in their campaigns. I'm interested to see if a first will occur: a first woman president? a first black president? So much to watch for in 2008. But this has my interest at the current time: Rudy Giuliani just might be our next president.

The polls aren't even close in projected primaries. Giuliani runs roughshod over his fellow Republicans. The questions I have are, Do the Republicans out there know that Giuliani supports gay rights, gun control and is pro-choice? Have they heard about his colorful past with women? Apparently his strength and resolve after 9.11 is so embedded into the consciousness of this country that even Republicans are willing to overlook his "vices." I'm fascinated by this. But, of course, it's early.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

City Life by Laura

I love living in New York City. Let me be more specific. I love living in Brooklyn. For those of you unfamiliar with the city, each borough making up NYC has its own feel, its own personality. I've never lived in Queens, the Bronx, or Staten Island so I won't speak for those. But I have lived in Manhattan and, for the last three years, Brooklyn. And I love Brooklyn. When I go into Manhattan now, which is surprisingly infrequent, I can feel the the pace quicken, the cabs multiply and the stress intensify. And I want to get back - back to my neighborhood where children are not an anomaly and where my brownstone stoop is a welcome place for bubble blowing and friendly hellos. (Yes, I know there are happy children in Manhattan...a few.)

But this isn't a blog about which borough rules. This is about why I love living in New York City. I love being able to walk everywhere. Not only is this a healthier lifestyle but it's also convenient. I love the ability to walk to my gym, walk Sophia to daycare, walk to get groceries, coffee, dog food. Everything I need is within walking distance. And if it's not, I can walk to the subway and get on a train that will take me where I need to go. Is there another place in America where this is possible?

Another reason I love living in New York City is that I can have gourmet food delivered right to my doorstep. We live one block away from Smith Street, which is quickly becoming one of the hottest spots for fine dining in the country. It is Brooklyn's very own "Restaurant Row." The food is amazing and every restaurant delivers. Isn't that crazy? (My favorite and Joe's favorite.)

I love New York City because I am forced to see all walks of life everyday. Sophia's school is six blocks away. Within those six blocks we might pass a person still snoozing on their bed made of metal, numerous four letter words being freely tossed about (at 8:30 in the morning, no less), a friendly old gentleman with whom we share nothing in common (or so it seems) greeting us with a cheerful "Good Morning!" There is no way to forget the homeless and less fortunate while living in this neighborhood. The racial, ethnic, religious and socio-economic diversity that exists within blocks or our apartment is staggering. And beautiful. Life in this neighborhood presents many teachable opportunities for me as a mother and I love it.

And finally, I love New York City because it feels like anything is possible here. I have dreams of becoming a published author or the next Laurie Berkner. Those are just dreams but there is a feel about this city that your dreams can become reality. I haven't felt this in any other city in which I have dwelt.

It's not a perfect city. I wish we had more space and a backyard. I wish the winters weren't so long and the cost of living weren't so expensive. But for now, I'll take diversity and the dreams over the extra bedroom any day.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

a few hits

1) Your ideas for Laura were brilliant. I can tell the suggestions have sparked something in Laura. Her wheels are turning and I've noticed her spending time on her laptop writing. She tells me there will be something for me to post come Monday. I promise you will hear from her next week.

2) This week's episode of LOST did it for me. I'll hang around a bit longer. It was a pretty darn good episode but I'm a sucker for scenes that depict radical forgiveness so it could be that I was suckered. What did you think about this week's episode? I always appreciate Jonathan's reviews. Check them out here.

3) How in the world did Haley and Sanjaya make the cut tonight on AI? Is America tone deaf? Good news is that AI will correct itself and the final few will be legit contenders.

4) Speaking of AI, did you see that the show is going to raise money for poverty stricken kids here in American and over in Africa? As they made that announcement on the show tonight they showed footage of kids in Africa and kids here in America who are victims of poverty. There was an incredible physical disparity between the kids in African as compared to those in America. I'm not at all saying that we don't have poverty issues here in America but I couldn't help but notice the extreme difference.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

good stuff

Thank you for taking the time to make suggestions for Laura's next writing piece. I noticed her taking notes last night on all the topics you suggested so I'm guessing you got her wheels spinning. Maybe we'll hear from her in the next couple of days. Stay tuned...

Several of you asked Laura to write about music. Today, I had the pleasure of attending her music class called Musical Mayhem. She was amazing. It was so very natural. The kids loved her and the caregivers (some moms but mostly nannies) were rapt with attention. I was in awe but ultimately not surprised. The girl is gifted. She rocks my face off!

And thank you for the the comments you left concerning what it means to "support our troops." I felt the conversation was civil with everyone making good points. I really appreciate Jesse's comment as a military spouse. In essence she said, please pray for us all. Jesse, that we can all agree on and that we will do.


Monday, March 05, 2007

help a sister out

It's been a while since Laura wrote for this blog. If you're like me, you miss her honest take on life. I've asked her on several occasions if she's interested in putting her pen to work but she's just not feeling it. She tells me she's in a writing funk. She loves to write but the well of creativity is dry. That's where you come in. If you're so inclined, suggest a topic you would like Laura to tackle. Over the next couple of days, Laura will read over the comments and choose which topic she wants to address...that is if she chooses one at all.


Sunday, March 04, 2007

i support...

Not long ago, Barak Obama made his first big public mistake in his presidential run. In a visit to Iowa Obama said, "We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."

It didn't take long for his opponents to take hold of that statement and brand Obama as one who does not support the troops! And in an even shorter amount of time, Obama issued apology after apology hoping to reconcile and make sense of his statement.

These three words, "support the troops," are ones I don't quite understand. For the most part, this phrase has been co-opted by the Right so as to imply that anyone who stands in opposition to this war stands in direct opposition to the men and women in our armed services. While this viewpoint is losing momentum - as is the support of this war - the phrase still carries weight and still moves people to think in a very particular way; hence, Obama's apologies.

So help me out. How do you define and make sense of these three words: support the troops?


Thursday, March 01, 2007

totally sick

I know, I know. The Aggies lost to t.u. in double overtime last night but Acie Law IV is totally sick. Did you see that three he nailed over Durant at the end of regulation? Sick. Nasty.

Durant is definitely the Player of the Year. No one can hold the dude. He should be the number one pick come the NBA draft but, BUT, Law is definitely the Big 12 Player of the Year and if there were such a thing, the MVP of the collegiate season. The guy rocks my face off.