Things are moving quickly with Mr. Charles Oliver Thomas Miller. Above is the first photo ever taken of him without anything on his adorable face. Even when he was briefly off oxygen a while back he’s always had his NG (nasogastric) tube in his nose for feedings but as of yesterday morning he is finally off the tube and eating entirely by mouth. Woop-de-doo!! He’s on such a low flow of oxygen now that the doctors thought he could get off of it for good today and told me to take out the cannula which I did gladly. But after a while his numbers started to drop to the point where they realized he wasn’t quite ready. We’ll see where he stands as the week progresses. The really big news is that as of this morning the neonatologist thinks that Charlie can come home NEXT WEEK!! Not to tempt that damned Evil Eye or anything (I’ve seen many babies in the NICU have a planned departure date delayed because of various issues) but hot damn, we’re beyond excited at this incredible news.
Sometimes Kendall and I lie in bed and wonder how we got to this place. How we survived all of the trauma, grief, terror, and ups and downs of the past 127 days. Charlie’s stamina, strength, and will to live are nothing short of miraculous, in my opinion, and I find myself more and more fascinated by the photos I took at the beginning of this journey as I marvel at how far our son has come. Again, I’m grateful for every positive thought and prayer sent by so many of the people who read this blog and I know beyond any shadow of a doubt that these positive vibes had an impact on Charlie’s progress over the long spring and summer months.
For now, our days still revolve around the Cedars-Sinai NICU but everything is taking on a new tinge as we prepare to leave. Yesterday we took the infant CPR class that is required of departing parents. So helpful and necessary (I can’t believe I didn’t know CPR when Leah was a baby!) but terrifying to imagine such scenarios. Knowing that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter, I found myself a little more anxious today about something going wrong. Got to get over that. In my zeal to give Charlie as many calories as possible, I overfed him during his 9 pm feeding, ignoring the signs he was giving me (if he drinks it, he wants it, I rationalized) and he ended up hurling on me for the first time. It’s clear that my newfound and often tenuous ability to Live In The Moment will continue to be tested as we go through the joys and challenges of the days, weeks, and years to come.
After such a different existence for so long, Kendall and I can’t wait to return to some new level of normalcy in our house. I am chomping at the bit to start cooking healthy meals again (I haven’t so much as boiled a pot of water in months). Obviously our lives will change with an infant at home and I know there will be difficult moments ahead. I only pray to find myself kvetching about sleep deprivation on this blog in a few months. If that is our biggest problem I will scream “Hallelujah!” to the heavens.
In other transitional news, my daughter Leah started high school today. HIGH SCHOOL! Oy, how is that possible? Wasn’t I starting high school just a few years ago (and by “a few” I mean…THIRTY-SEVEN!)? I arrived early to pick her up from her first day this afternoon and sat in the courtyard of the ramshackle campus watching the students walk by. The new seventh graders seemed like toddlers while many of the older high school kids magically turned into adults over the summer. I love that so many of the kids at Leah’s progressive school march to their own drummers and would probably be considered the oddballs at most of the other private schools in the area. This photo of Leah was taken this weekend. I had just taken Leah to get her hair trimmed and the crazy stylist insisted on blowdrying Leah’s hair straight (against her will) before cutting it. She looks beautiful either way but I’m so glad that Leah doesn’t subscribe to the ridiculous Disney version of beauty where the wannabe princess turns from ugly duckling (curly hair and glasses) to stunning makeover queen (straight hair and contacts) by the end of the film. Yuck. The photo was taken at the Arclight Cinemas, one of our favorite movie theatres in Hollywood. We are all such movie lovers in our family and I can’t wait to introduce Charlie to the classic old films that Kendall and I hold so dear. Leah was barely out of diapers before we were watching films like “The Philadelphia Story” and “The Graduate” together.
Following a few months of a necessary cultural blackout, I’ve been able to squeeze about a dozen movies into my afternoon breaks from the hospital over the past six weeks or so. To show that life is getting back to normal, here are my capsule reviews of those films.
Adam. Sweet and interesting movie about a guy (Hugh Dancy) with Asperger’s Syndrome. Heart-warming and depressing at the same time (a combo I happen to like). I enjoyed Rose Byrne as the girlfriend and it was fun to see Amy Irving and Peter Gallagher as her parents. (Oy, when did Amy Irving move from playing “the girl” to “the mother?” I guess some time during those 37 years since I started high school!) Hugh Dancy deserves credit for tackling this difficult role and playing Adam in an often less-than-sympathetic way. He also did a great job with that American accent. (Is that all that the Brits do these days—play Americans?)
District 9. Very disturbing film about a 20-year-old colony of aliens living in a ghettoized district in South Africa (and, of course, I mean real aliens from another planet, not illegal aliens, but the parallels to apartheid and other forms of Earth-based discrimination are impossible to miss). While I had to turn my head many times to avoid various grotesqueries, I actually thought this was a very well done film with a smart script.
(500) Days of Summer. Clever, cutish film that mostly avoids being cloying by turning the typical structure of a “chick flick” on its ear. I have always liked Zooey Deschanel and think she was perfect for this film (kudos to the filmmakers for not casting Jennifer Aniston in this role) but sometimes I wonder if Deschanel is as annoying in real life as most of her characters are. Joseph Gordon-Levitt survived the transition from child star to adult quite well and was excellent in the lead. (He comes from a long line of movie people. His grandfather Michael Gordon directed “Pillow Talk” and other films of the era but was blacklisted for much of the 1950s.)
Funny People. Wanted to love it…but didn’t. As far as his “serious” roles go, I much prefer Adam Sandler’s performance in “Spanglish” and even “Punch-Drunk Love.” Seth Rogen seems like a super nice guy but I found some of his and the other characters’ actions completely unbelievable. I guess I’m not a huge Judd Apatow fan (and I’m not sure casting his wife in a leade role was such a great idea). But, of course, I loved the subplot of Seth Rogen trying to take his new girlfriend to a Wilco concert. I’m sure Wilco fans noted the partially obscured Wilco and Uncle Tupelo T-shirts Rogen was wearing in the film and Jeff had a song on the soundtrack so I should shut up and stop dissing the film.
Inglorious Basterds. What a surprise! I went to this film dragging my feet and expecting to loathe it since I’m not much in the mood these days for gruesome violence or revisionist World War II history. But I loved every second of this film and thought it was Quentin Tarantino’s best work by far. Brad Pitt was fine but it was the French and German actors who blew me away. Christoph Waltz, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Fassbender, Daniel Bruhl, and others were just perfect. There’s so much about this film that I loved and I can’t believe that a Tarantino movie exists that I could happily sit through again. But why am I so surprised that I liked it—incredibly beautiful women slathered in red lipstick and 1940s couture dresses going around and killing Nazis by the dozens? I’m in!
Irene in Time. Director Henry Jaglom is like a car wreck for me—I know I shouldn’t but I can’t not look. His self-financed, self-distributed films starring his latest protégée-slash-wife (currently Tanna Frederick) always irritate me and yet I’ve never missed an opening weekend. Jaglom does have a knack for attracting good actors (here he gets Victoria Tennant, the luminous Andrea Marcovicci, and a grossly underused Karen Black), but his films often end up being little more than vanity projects, none more than this atrocious monstrosity. As the film blathered on I was riveted to the screen, it was just impossible to believe that anything could be that bad. The tagline should have clued me in: “Time Never Kills the Love of Your Life.” I’d be vomiting right now if I weren’t afraid of being barred from the NICU tomorrow morning.
Julie & Julia. As we all know, Meryl Streep is an acting goddess descended from on high. Her Julia Child is pitch perfect and incredibly poignant. While I usually enjoy Amy Adams, my main complaint about this movie is that the “Julie” half was just so-so. I could have used three hours of Streep’s Julia Child with lots more of Stanley Tucci as husband Paul and Jane Lynch as sister Dorothy. I did leave the theatre ravenous for any French cooking but if I ruled the world I would have sent Julie to the compost heap and lavished way more attention on Julia Child’s fascinating life.
Paper Heart. I liked this fake (I think) documentary a lot and am heartened that someone like Charlyne Yi could get a film made in this town. Michael Cera is always good and here he plays himself (sorta) in a very endearing story that serves to challenge Yi’s stated belief that love doesn’t really exist. We met Cera a few years ago when Wilco appeared on “The Tonight Show” with the three guys from “Superbad” (who were all big Wilco fans) and when we were in their dressing room I remember meeting Charlyne Yi who really was Cera’s girlfriend. So maybe at least this film is based on fact?
Spread. Oh my God. First of all, when Leah and I went to this film I should have been arrested by Child Protective Services. In my defense, it was a boiling hot day and it was the only film playing at the right time. When I saw that it starred Ashton Kutcher I thought it would be a light little indie comedy. Wrong. Porn is more like it but that’s not even why I was so offended by this piece of drek. It tries to be a modern-day take on “American Gigolo” but only succeeds in finding one excuse after another for the actors (especially Kutcher) to disrobe and start humping the nearest human. Truly the worst writing I have ever witnessed in a film and if I had the energy I would start a campaign to make sure the screenwriter never gets another gig. I actually felt sorry for Anne Heche for appearing in this film (as a creepy cougar—was this the cause of her mental illness?). The film is devoid of any values or moral core. There is no message here, only self-indulgence and a vision of Los Angeles that makes Sodom and Gomorrah look like Victorian England. But wait, that’s actually an undeserved compliment—in this film even the debauchery was boring. Shame on you, Ashton Kutcher! Demi Moore should send you to bed without any supper!
Taking Woodstock. I was so excited to see this film that I was practically lining up at the theatre a week in advance. I have no complaint about any of the acting (loved the whole cast including Imelda Staunton, Eugene Levy, Demitri Martin, Jonathan Groff, Meryl Streep’s lovely daughter Mamie Gummer, and many others) and the look of the film and recreation of 1969 was absolute perfection. But, oy, the truly fascinating story of how the Woodstock music festival was organized takes a nose-dive about two-thirds of the way through the film and peters out in such a disappointing way. It’s still worth seeing, but oh, it could have been so much better with a strong ending. My only other perplexed observation is that, in my opinion, the film sort of glamorizes 1960s drug use. What makes me feel that way? Because I walked out of the film thinking “Gosh, that LSD looks like a lot of fun! Maybe I should get me some of that!” Gulp.
The Time Traveler’s Wife. This was also at the top of my list of most highly anticipated films because I so loved the book when I read it a few years ago (I’m a sucker for time travel stories). I remember wondering at the time how something that complex could ever be made into a film. And guess what? I was right to wonder because it doesn’t work very well. I have no problem with leads Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams in the other films of theirs I’ve seen but I think their chemistry is absolutely nil in this story and that is one of the film’s fatal flaws. I kept wistfully speculating what the film would have been like if it had starred Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes. Oh well, at least it wasn’t Jennifer Aniston in the lead (sorry for my second diss in one post, Jenn) even though she bought the rights to the book when it first came out so that she and then-hubby Brad Pitt could star in it.
World’s Greatest Dad. Another big surprise. I heard this film was raunchy and over-the-top and in many ways it was but I thought it was excellent. (Don’t be fooled by the Disney-sounding title, by the way, this is a very, very dark comedy that is definitely not suitable for young children.) Robin Williams gives what I think is one of his best (and most restrained) performances ever, he's just great in this part. I can’t believe that his starring performance didn’t warrant a bigger release—the film has been relegated to a few small art houses. And who knew that Bobcat Goldthwait, of all people, was such a talented director and screenwriter? Kudos to Mitzi McCall for her moving performance (which could have easily have been played for freak-show laughs but wasn’t). I remember when I was five years old and Mitzi McCall appeared with her husband on “The Ed Sullivan Show” the very night the Beatles made their legendary debut. There are some extremely disturbing moments in this film (teenage auto-erotica anyone?) but it is a fascinating look at what grief, loneliness, and unfettered ambition can do to a person.
And there you have it. I guess the main lesson of my recent cinematic adventures is similar to the one I’ve been grappling with for the past four months. Whenever I thought I knew how something would go, I was either bitterly disappointed or happily surprised. Moral? Drop the preconceptions, experience things as they come, be open to new ideas, and LIVE IN THE MOMENT!