Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Many Faces of Jackson

Mommy and Jackson had a nice morning together. He kept her company at breakfast while Daddy slept in. All these pictures were taken with the camera phone, so they aren't good, but all of Jackson's expressions entertained me.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Oh Summer, why must you end?

Today is always a sad day...the final day before the school year officially begins. Although we have been back to school for 2+ weeks, it isn't official until bells are ringing and kids are flowing through the halls.

This has been a different summer. We didn't move (3 and 4 summers ago). We didn't get married (2 summers ago). We didn't vacate our house for a month while traveling to amazing exotic and not so exotic locations (the past 4 summers). What we did was so much more.

We gained a son and spent the whole summer getting to know him. We are so blessed to have had this time together, as a family, without work to get in the way. Now that school starts, we only have holidays, weekends, and afternoons. We've always loved weekends, but now that we have a child, the last two weekends have had a whole new meaning - Son. Last weekend we took Jackson to the Farmers' Market in La Centerra and enjoyed walking around outside until it got too hot (unfortunately that didn't take long), had a slow and relaxing breakfast at Berryhill, and spent the rest of the weekend being together. Unfortunately, this weekend Noelle had to work the Texans game and got sick. So, it wasn't as much fun. But, hopefully she is on the mend. Since she was sick she missed out on seeing one of our favorite people from one of our favorite families, Brad McGrath. He's living in NYC, although he rarely seems to be there, and we're happy to see how well he's doing. He got to meet Jackson, who seemed to love Brad as much as we do.
Who wouldn't love a successful accountant who orders chocolate milk for breakfast and calls himself "Uncle Dorko"?
Here are some random Jackson pictures to wrap-up summertime.


Bye summer. We'll miss you. We look forward to next summer when Jackson will be ready for the pool and more outside time. Also, he'll be able to stay sitting up.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Cousins-Once-Removed

Last weekend, Jackson got to head down south to visit Uncle Chris and (almost) Aunt Melissa's house to celebrate his (almost) cousin Chelsea's birthday. There he got to see his cousin Colin again as well as meet our (almost) extended family of the Yorks. Chris and Melissa are getting married in just over a month, and we're all very excited about getting rid of those "almost's" in parentheses so we can just be officially family. At that point, we'll have our first niece and Jackson will have his first girl cousin. And because of that upcoming wedding, Jackson will also get to meet his other two cousins, Neil and William, when they fly in from California with Aunt Penny and Uncle Stephen (not to be confused with Uncle Stephen Noelle's brother nor Uncle Stephen Grandma's brother).

This is a lot of family talk, and you people are just here for pictures of the boy. Here are some pics from the get-together, with only one Jackson pic:

Chelsea and her cousin-to-be

Chris the serenading dad, Chelsea the serenaded


The MacGregor Men



Noelle, Chelsea, and Sophia pose as Colin attacks Kevin
And now to my point. I'm so happy that Chelsea will be able to mention to Jackson how her friends at her nineteenth birthday party all gathered around his car seat to watch him sleep. I'm so happy that Jackson will hopefully inherit some of Colin's hand-me-down toys someday, and Colin will get to explain how special those G I Joes were to him, just like his dad did for me. (Chris also gave me his Legos, and I passed them down to Colin a few years ago, and when I asked Colin if he would give them to Jackson when he was done with them, Colin let me know he would never be done with them. That's a perfect response, by the way.) I'm so happy that William and Neil constantly outgrow clothes and send them to Katy for Jackson to wear, espcially when they can one day look at him and say, "Those pants were mine." Really, I'm so happy that Jackson will grow up with cousins nearby.

Me? I wasn't so lucky. My extended family was always an ocean away, back in England and Scotland. I've met my cousins a few times, but I've probably spent more time with most of you than I ever have with them. The last time I saw my cousin Claudia and my cousin Richard, I believe I was 8 or 9. The last time I saw Kirsty, Bridget, and Elena was 1999. I only got the chance to meet my late cousin Neil a few times, and I believe he was actually the cousin closest in age to me. Oliver once made it over here to the states, but that one fun night in Clear Lake is about the extent of my memories of him. I've met my cousins-once-removed Fraser and Alasdair, but there are a number of them out there I have never met at all.

More family talk that involves no pictues, so here's a video of Jackson talking and giving a shout-out to his second cousin Alasdair, who is apparently making ceramic wrestlers nowadays.

video


So anyway, the point - I don't know my extended family well, and it's something that has always made me a little sad. Noelle has quite an extended family, and I love getting to know Aunt Lori and Aunt Shelly and the Mays family and my new cousins. (My parents even spent an afternoon with Noelle's mom's cousin in Colorado the other week!) I finally have cousins nearby to get to know, and when Noelle's grandmother died last year, I was a pall bearer, which was an honor I never had when my grandmother and grandfathers died. It's nice to have that extended family now, and I'm honored to be a part of it.

But now, I'm regaining that family an ocean away as well. This handy internet is finally giving me a chance to get to know my family tree. My cousin Kirsty and my cousin-once-removed Fraser are Facebookers, so we get to hear little snippets of how the family is doing overseas. Granny just moved to a nursing home near Kirsty, so we get reports of how she's adapting to that new life. Fraser's in college, which always makes for some entertaining status updates that make us feel old. And it's not a lot of communication so far, but I'm so happy that I get to have cousins, both new cousins here in the States and old cousins over there in the UK.

I think the biggest "Internet-Trans-Atlantic bonding moment" came when I posted this video of my grandfather on Facebook. He passed away a year ago last Spring, and he was as silly and awesome as this video shows.

video

When I posted it, I got to see my cousin's son (my cousin-once-removed) respond by saying how he wants to be like him when he's older, and the same is true for me. My grandfather Neil MacGregor was sweet, silly, loving, and wise, and though I have not shared many experiences or conversations with my family overseas, I'm so glad I got to share a love for him and Granny with them.

It's great to see my brother and my sister out with their own families now, and I look forward to explaining to Jackson how he and his cousins all share a Grandma and Granddad. I look forward to introducing Jackson to Claudia's children and explaining how his middle name was their shared Great-Grandfather's middle name. I look forward to Jackson getting to grow up knowing his family as I look forward to getting to know mine better.
Jackson gets to know Granddad better

In other words - Hi Kirsty! Say hello to everyone for us!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

This Week

The first half of this week was tough. Monday was Jackson’s first day at day care, which Rob already blogged about. Jackson was happy as could be that day. We checked on him at lunch and he flashed smile after smile. When we picked him up that afternoon, he was all smiles again. But, Tuesday and Wednesday he was asleep or getting close to being asleep when we picked him up. As soon as he got in the car, he was out. He slept until 6:30 or 7:00 when we woke him for dinner. After dinner he went back to bed for the night. It was really tough for him to be asleep the whole time we were with him. Today was much better. They were feeding him when we arrived, so Rob took over and finished feeding Jackson. We got to sit and talk to the teachers for about half an hour, which made us feel a lot better. They mentioned little things that reassured us they were really spending time with our son. We got to talk about all the other babies in the room, which was fun. One of the teachers also mentioned how the 2 month old smiles when she sings to her. Of course that was really nice to hear. I’m glad they sing to the babies. Jackson slept on the way home, but stayed up from the time we got home until we put him down for bed. He smiled and talked non-stop. It was nice to have my son back. I can’t wait until the weekend! Here are some pictures from this week.

Graduation/Felicia's Visit


This past weekend I walked across the stage for the first time since high school. Since I missed my college graduation (my softball team competed in nationals the same weekend), I decided to get the cap, gown, and hood and walk across the stage. The masters program that I completed was a special one year program partially funded thanks to a partnership with HISD. Typically the program takes two years to complete, but our program was condensed into one year. Therefore, the workload was intense - but it's over. HISD is generous and will now pay me an extra $500 a year for my advanced degree. After my scholarship, it will only take me 15 years working in HISD for the degree to pay for itself (not taking into account the money I could have made if I invested the same amount as the tuition). Nice.

The speaker was sub par, but quick. Since it was summer graduation and the students were divided into two ceremonies, we didn't have to sit through too many people. It made the whole thing more enjoyable. Felicia came into town the same weekend to meet Jackson, so she killed two birds with one stone. I appreciate everyone that made the long drive: Mom, Stephen, Rob, Jackson, Mom2, Dad2 and Felicia. I learned a piece of trivia about the MacGregors that weekend as well. Apparently all the women have masters, but not the men.

On Sunday were went over to the Leo's to visit and see the newly remodeled garden room (correction - three birds with one stone). Mr. Leo - if you are reading this - don't forget, if you get bored... we have tons of projects for you out in Katy. It was great to see the family and also to spend some time with other young mothers. Sarah, Florence, and Tiffany all had adorable children for Jackson to meet.

Here are some pictures from the day:


Monday, August 10, 2009

Day 100/Day 1



As I've said earlier, I want Jackson to have more than the birthday experience. I want to take notice whenever an anniversary day like today goes by as well. I've been talking to Noelle about this 100th day appreciation since Day 1, and I've been talking to anyone who will humor me about having the biggest party of your life on Day 10,000. So far, Hallmark has not responded, so I guess it's just a me thing.

So I wanted today to be a special day for the little guy, but instead it might be my one of my least favorite days of his life so far, right up there with the late night hospital trip and the "No Insurance" discovery day.

So, son, when you get to read this, here's how your 100th day went, and here's how it changed things.


First off, I woke up from my first school year nightmare at 5:30. Every summer seems to conclude with me having panic dreams about me in a classroom with no control over my students, and this year's adapted to include my anxiety about my curriculum and my new position as an Instructional Coach. It sucked, so I woke up, and then there was the realization that it was pretty much time to wake up.

So I went back to sleep regardless. Noelle heard Jackson stirring around 6, and dispatched me to help him ease back into sleep, being as she had been up with him around 2. As I waked over, it dawned on us - it was time to get moving. We fed Jackson and got ready for the day, though it was definitely slow-moving for me. Just when we had everything packed for Day 1 of day care and had the dogs in their kennels, we realized that we hadn't fed the dogs. We put the food and water bowl in their kennel, which convinced them we would be gone for a long time, so they started whining as we left, which never happens. Usually, going to "their home" happens as easily as this.


video


Today they whined about us leaving them. That was rough to hear.


Then we get Jackson to his day care and got him all checked in. There was a crib with his name on it, and the teacher we met seemed very nice. Here he was, checking things out.

In the morning, the infants' rooms are combined as people checked in, which meant Jackson was sharing the room with older crawlers. Before we left, we watched through the window as an older baby got uncomfortably close to our baby. That was rough to watch.

But he needs that interaction, we know. And he's in very capable hands, we know/hope. So we headed out to go to school, and as I waited to make a turn, I looked in the rear view mirror. There, reflected in Jackson's little mirror, was the empty car seat. We've gone places without Jackson before, but never anywhere with an empty car seat being as he is still carried around in his car seat. Seeing it empty reminded me we had left him somewhere. That was so rough to see.


At school, people invariably asked us about Jackson. Every mother who had ever left a child in day care asked Noelle how she was doing, which is really not helping the situation for anyone. Everyone take note - just assume the mom is sad. You don't need to verify it. Of course, when people talked to me, they only said how hard it must be for Noelle. I guess they don't realize I'm one of those softy sensitive men who doesn't mind emoting, and I shouldn't feel slighted, but I missed him too. Anyway, long story short - rough day.

Here's the worst part though. My new position means I no longer have my own classroom, so one of my tasks today was to finish dismantling my classroom. I've taught in that room for three years now, and that was three years worth of posters and cards and projects and journals and pictures that I had to now box up or throw away. Here's a picture of my room as it was last year, when my students all put their heads down simultaneously on April Fools.

It's a busy room, apart from the comatose students.


And I realized at five to 3 that I had hours of work ahead, but it was almost time to go. Some new teacher had been waiting for his chance to move into the room. I could not make him wait another day. I would have to finish it today. So I told Noelle that once we got Jackson home, I would have to go back to school to finish my work.


Noelle has been an English Teacher Widow before. I have spent many nights working away at school, grading papers and entering grades, and her efficient, organized habits keep her from having to do the same. But to do it today was the worst. Jackson was out of wack from the new experience, and, as I've repeated not-so-inconspicuously above, it had been a rough day for us all. But I had to do my work, so after we got home, I fought every urge to nap to return to school.


And as soon as the car started, Cat Freaking Stephens was on the radio singing that "Cats in the Cradle" song to really drive the point home. That song is in much higher rotation in the past 100 days, I've noticed. How is "Cat's in the Cradle" remotely considered Good Times, Great Oldies? Those are somber, guilty times.


Anyway, it took me three hours more to move out of my classroom. I don't know if I will ever have a classroom again, actually. I might just carry on with my jaunt into administration to pursue a little higher salary, or I might see if there's some better way to finance our lives, being as the teaching gig is not so well compensated. Of course, every card and poem from a student I impacted was sorted through tonight, and that's really why we're in education anyway. But every second I spent going through everything I amassed kept me away from my family.

Rough.

Well, the classroom is barren now. No toasters, no posters, no projects, no nothing. A blank slate (with thousands of staples in the wall) for a new teacher to spend his nights trapped inside. My boxes have made their way to my office, and most of my materials are to be divvied up tomorrow at a meeting. The hours away were productive and destructive. I came home to find the family asleep.

On my son's 100th day, I saw him for maybe an hour, and my wife had to cope with the change alone.

I don't want any more days like Day 100. As much as I love my students, I don't want saying goodbye to summer to be equivalent to saying goodbye to my family. I've got to change as a teacher to ensure that doesn't happen. Now I just have to figure out how to make that happen. Hopefully, son, when you read this, you'll see where I made a commitment to ensure you had a dad that was always there for you. Hopefully, "Cats in the Cradle" will mean nothing to you.

I miss summer and those first 99 days.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Rain of Terror

Today it actually rained in Katy, which has only happened about four times this summer. The thunder reminded us that our boisterous little buddy Ruffles is scared of thunder. He wants to get in a tiny ball at your feet with every rumble.

So much has happened this weekend to report, but this sad little puppy's photo couldn't wait.

Day 99

The other day, my reliable Mitsubishi hit 150,000 miles. Well, I assume it did, because I noticed it at 149,994 and then I noticed it later at 150,003. I remember when a car hitting a nice round number was momentous enough to take pictures or invite a friend to sit in the car with me. Nowadays, the milestones happen so fast, it's hard to stop and appreciate.

Tomorrow is Jackson's 100th day out and about. 100 days ago we were sitting in that hospital, waiting, anticipating, and dilating, and we didn't even have a name for who was about to change us forever. Now there's this little person whose smile starts our days, whose attempts to stand delight us, whose screams stress us out, and whose existence inspires us to be better. Each day is another first for Jackson - his first time to meet someone new, his first time to grab his pacifier and bring it to his mouth, his first time to wobbly stand up, his first attempts to crawl. It's all happening so fast, but we've fortunately been here to see it all. The past 99 days have flown by.

And so has summer.

Tomorrow, we return to work full time. Tomorrow, Jackson heads to day care. Tomorrow, everything changes. Tomorrow is Day 100.

Though I wish we could stay in this lovely bubble of summer and this period of time when all Jackson needs is our arms and milk and his swaddle blanket, life has to keep moving. More milestones have to be made, in his life and ours. Noelle just got her Masters this weekend, and she's already planning what's next, of course. I'm starting my new position tomorrow. Jackson has a million firsts ahead of him, many of them tomorrow at his first school.

It's all changing, but that's life - always changing. I am just one of those who wants to pull over and stop when the odometer hits a certain number to appreciate the ride. As the late John Hughes had Ferris Bueller say, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

I don't want to miss a bit of your life, Jackson.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Health Care Needs to Change

The health care system in American needs reforming. This has nothing to do with Obama's plan. This has to do with the fact that medical related companies take advantage of the uninsured and being uninsured is awful.

After we got Jackson home from the hospital, Noelle remembered to check on adding Jackson to the insurance. She logged on and saw that Jackson was listed on the policy. Well, "Baby MacGregor" was listed. She was relieved and went about her business. EOBs (Explanation of Benefits) arrived and his bills were being paid. In June Noelle called the insurance company to find out how to change Baby MacGregor to Jackson MacGregor. After asking her 100 questions to make sure she was Noelle, they pulled up the plan, and told her it was easy, just to contact HISD. Jackson got sick in July. He went to the ER and had a follow-up at the doctor. Then, days later, he had his 2 month shots. The next day we received a call from the doctor's office stating that Jackson's claims were denied because he did not have insurance. After calling the insurance company, we were told he was added to the policy for one month and then deleted because we did not add him ourselves. He had been without insurance for over a month. We were horrified and could not believe it. After speaking to many "managers" we finally found out about an appeal process. We did not tell our family or friends because we knew our parents would worry. Nearly a month later, and many phone calls later, we found out (today) that our appeal was approved (and it was retroactive back to his date of birth). Living a month in fear that Jackson didn't have insurance (and couldn't be added until he was 7 months old) had us living in terror. Not having insurance is one of the worst things, especially when it's for a newborn baby.

In addition to not having someone pay part of your medical bills, the doctors actually charge you more, for the exact same thing, just because you don't have insurance. It's insane. If you get in a wreck, and you don't have insurance, the body shop doesn't jack up their price. "You're poor - let's change you more."

If you look at your EOBs you will notice that it shows two prices:
1 - How much the dr/hospital/etc would charge you if you didn't have insurance
2 - How much the dr/hospital/etc is charging because you have insurance

This is not taking into account the amount your insurance pays for you; this is just what the office is charging.

When Noelle had an epidural during delivery - the amount she would have paid if she didn't have insurance was $5000. Since she had insurance, the charge was only $755. We only had to pay a little over $100. The doctor does the exact same thing for both types of people and uses the exact same supplies, but would charge an insured person 15% what they would charge an uninsured person. Thanks to insurance we paid 2% of what an uninsured person would pay.

Something needs to change.

And we don't want to hear anything about your thoughts on Obama's Health Care Plan. We're just saying the system is broken, and it has been a very stressful month worrying about our son's insurance.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Baldies

Before
After


With the impending school year quickly approaching, we had the pups groomed today.

Boxy Jack

Here's Jackson threatening Bethany. Perhaps he's using her to get back at Violet.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Jackson Turns 3 Months Old

Today Jackson is 3 months old. Over the past month we have watched him grow into an interactive little man. He loves to swing his arms around to hit his toys and he loves to kick kick kick kick.


(VIDEO - will post once internet connection is better...)

Jackson is a big boy. He weighs 15.5 pounds and is 24.5 inches long.

He also is starting to be awfully helpful. When it's time to get his diaper changed, he now lifts his bottom to help out. Jackson loves to try to stand up. Obviously he cannot stand on his own, but if you hold his hands or stand him against the back of a chair or sofa - he can stand with the best of us. He seems to thinking walking comes before rolling over, sitting up, and crawling.


Jackson is an extremely smiley baby. One of our favorite moments of the day is when he wakes up in the morning. As soon as he sees us we get a huge smile. Then, when we undo the velcro on his swaddle, he really flashes those toothless gums. Although it looks like he might be screaming below, he's actually smiling a huge smile.

This month Jackson got to meet a lot of new friends and he was introduced to a Smurf for the first time. He took his first trip out of town and his room is almost finished. He is now sleeping in his own room as well.


Jackson loves to talk and talk and talk. Mommy thought Jackson only had eyes for her, but she was wrong. Jackson loves to talk and smile and flirt with others as well, including random people behind him at church. He also likes to try to eat his fists. He is determined to fit one into his mouth.


We also discovered this month that Jackson has reflux. Luckily, it is something that typically goes away at about a year.

Oh yeah, and Jackson is trying to crawl. He's not getting anywhere, but he's definitely trying to move on his knees.


Here are some more pictures from Jackson's 3 month birthday.