Monday, October 26, 2015

What I learned from sleeping in the hospital with my 19 month old.

(This might be long, but bear with me.)

I have always been a sound sleeper. Very sound. Something in my body is wired to sleep when I get horizontal. In college, a dorm-mate suggested not to hang out in your bed. It is for sleeping, only. That way when you get into bed your body associates that environment with sleep and you will go to sleep quicker and sleep more soundly. My co-parental unit is very skeptic of this theory and routinely calls B.S. Who cares; it works for me. 

A couple days ago my littlest one came down with a runny nose. Not too surprising living with the up and down, left and right weather swings we get in New England. Yesterday she woke up wheezy with labored breathing. And not like her breathing was giving birth to another breath. Like her breaths were shallow, both in and out and she developed a cough that wasn't helping anything. This day was Sunday and we were heading to church. We all got into the building and sat in a pew in the back, as to not disturb too many (three kids tends to do that every now and then). Her breathing and coughing were too much for us to handle so I volunteered to take her home (my wife was teaching and it's kind of hard to teach Sunday School from home with a sick child.).

After our semi-regular visit to church (hey, we go when we can. We're a busy family. Get off my back!) we prepare for our next event: the annual pumpkin carving party a group of our friends have been having long before we all had kids. Usually it's a smorgasbord of soups and appetizers and adult beverages (there are less if these than the old days) and pumpkins and a rocking-good time. Lately the kids have been asking very sternly for very intricate designs to be carved into their gourds of choice. I don't know about you, but getting a stencil to stick to a pumpkin and then carve said pumpkin in a way that resembles the stencil is no easy task. Usually I go free-hand and end up with a more traditional Jack-O-Lantern. This year I tackled a stencil-carve. Or tried to. 

So before we head to the pumpkin dismemberment ritual, I decided that someone should skip the party (my wife) and stay home with the sick child. There will be at least eight kids all anxiously watching (i.e. Playing outside/in the other room) for their parents labor over the finest detail one can possibly put on a pumpkin so a sick kid wouldn't be all that welcome. And the parents take pumpkin carving very seriously. This is our children's pumpkins, we're talking about. Their whole lives depend on how a ceremonial squash looks for a week before it starts to rot on our front steps. 

So I go to the party, toting two kids, two rather large pumpkins (that I had to purchase on the way because not one of the five we had on our stoop were not big enough to carve), buffalo chicken dip, and a cooler of veggies and varieties of a beverage called beer. Perhaps you've hear of it. It's quite yummy and I think it will really catch on. 

We take our spot at the table; each kid cleaning out the "guts" of their pumpkins (or I am while the girls eat snacks and do kid things).  First up is the ballerina stencil. It has some pretty tight lines and is going to require reinforcement (toothpicks, for the untrained carver). After about half an hour or so, I lost track of time, (I think my eyes went blurry for a while) I think I've done a pretty good job and the oldest agrees. One down. Next up the middle child's pumpkin.  She says she wants a flower. A daisy? A tulip? A rose? A chrysanthemum? Bird of paradise? Venus fly trap? 

"A tulip. That's what I want."  Thank goodness. Easy. I can pull that off. Free hand a tulip, stem, a few leaves. Carve it out as one piece. Give pumpkin flower to one of the kids as a token of my love (girls love flowers!) and wallah. Best. Dad. In. The. World. 

My two creations

The whole gang's artwork (minus one, I think)

Then I get brought back from the parenting high by the news that the last two members of the clan are headed our way. It seems the little one has been coughing a lot and our friend, who is a nurse practitioner at the pediatrician's office wants to hear the cough and wheeziness first hand (And I don't mean her impression of Mrs. Jefferson); the iPhone video isn't the best quality for diagnosing a toddler. After the roadside exam, it is agreed upon to take a trip to the emergency department. Six hours, four nebulizer treatments, a round of steroids, a bunch of full strength juice (crack to a kid who rarely has juice cut with water, let alone high test) some bad, stale graham crackers, three botched IV attempts (because 19 month old's love to be pricked with needles. Repeatedly.), four hours past bedtime and a slew of loud "neighbors" coughing, hacking, scolding little boys for not sitting still snd getting into things, and one mother not believing the doctor's treatment and calling her pediatrician, we finally get admitted. Finally some piece and quiet. My wife went home somewhere between hour four and hour five. She has to work the next day. It broke her heart to go, but I reassured her I can take care of it. I only have been doing this for three years. Just another flower to be carved. 

We get settled in our new digs, each have a sandwich (finally, food of substance for the child. And I get to eat, too) and get settled to bed. Yes a bed. A real bed. It's a hospital bed.  It sure as hell beats the last "bed" I slept on in the hospital. (All dads know the joys of sleeping on that sorry excuse for a bed in your wife's room after your she gives birth to your child. I'm not even sure you can legally call that a bed) And it's only midnight. Perfectly acceptable bedtime for a 19 month old. 

Surprisingly she settled pretty quick for being somewhere strange, in a strange bed, with metal bars like a caged animal, (parental observation. I'm sure she didn't feel that way) but she must have been exhausted. I know I was. 

We both woke up to a coughing/crying fit a few times. Now recent studies have shown I do not wake for darn near anything. I'm pretty sure a bomb can go off and I'll sleep through the whole thing. It's not my fault (see second paragraph above). But this time, this night I was on top of my game. I was up, comforting back to sleep, shushing, coddling, the whole nine yards. My wife can't believe that I, in fact, woke up with the baby. Now I know this sounds like it's not a big deal, but for a dead-sleeper it is. And when you sleep next to a light sleeper, you don't ever have to get up, unless you get the elbow of death at three a.m.  But it was just me. I was that elbow. Or the coughing was. Either way it is not the ideal way to wake up. 

So here's what I learned from sleeping in the hospital with my 19 month old: 

I learned I can wake up in the middle of the night if I have to. 

I learned I am a good father for helping my child through this ordeal. 

I learned I am a good husband for stepping up when my wife can't. 

I learned sometimes hospitals aren't the most efficient at time management. (To their defense, we weren't the only ones there and I understand that, but an hour wait for transport up four floors is redonk). 

I learned nurses on the children's floors of hospitals are awesome and I thank them for that. Even at midnight.

I learned life sucks, but you make the best of it. 

I learned my kid is amazing. Always having the go-getting, get out of my way attitude, even when she's not 100%.

I learned this dad thing is hard. This dad thing is easy. This dad thing is amazing. I recommend it to anyone. (I understand it might be a little difficult for the ladies, with the gender thing and all, but y'all are smart and resourceful. I'm confident you can figure it out.)

Dad on!

Friday, October 23, 2015

First World Problems.

I almost called it quits this morning.

While at a local shopping establishment, (ok Target, you caught me. For the second time this week. Don't judge.) for birthday gifts for a couple of Anniversary Of Your Birth parties coming up, I realized I could care less about most of the toys in the isle.  Sure LEGOS are still cool, but they are not the same as they once were. Where is the broken glass we once played with when we "were your age," (said in your best grumpy old man voice)

But the really bad part came when I was loading my little one in the car.  I had gotten a coffee from Starbucks, (as one does because Target and The Bucks made a pact with the devil so you can buy stuff and then fuel up with some high-octane nectar of the Gods, or vice versa) and set it on the floor of the "trunk." (I have a Chevy Travers, hence the "trunk") After strapping her in, I close aforementioned trunk. Spilling said coffee. Luckily I remembered my coffee when I was about to start the car. On the bright side, I got to enjoy about 5 sips of coffee. I debated too long with myself about going to bed and try to start the day over, but there is too much laundry to do. And who wears all these clothes? On the bright side, I am catching up on Cheers while folding the never ending garments. Thank you Netflix!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Spilled milk. No crying. Just cleaning.

Today, the littlest and I had a few errands to run. Not really an errand. More like a shopping trip to the golf store to pick up a few things before my annual trip south. (A tough job, but someone had to do it) There were two objectives to the trip:

1. To get a few things and to peruse the clearance items, and

2. To test the "She does not need the "plug" (Binky, Pacifier, Rubber sucker thing) anymore.

I have been saying, much to the chagrin of my spouse ("Cant we let her have it till she's 5?") that it is time to cut the tether. She's almost 18 months old. It's time to "Let It Go!" (I apologize for the Frozen reference. You all had just kicked that horrible habit, I hope.) And I have taken and hid said plug for the last week, at least in the car. She fusses at first, but it is very short lived, and getting shorter as the time passes. (Notch one in the belt for daddy!) And how happy was I when we got to the store and she was asleep. Without it. (Not so humble brag)

Any-hoo, I shopped, browsed and thumbed through a few things, debated a few things, and bought a few things.  Under budget.  Who knew I could go to the golf store and come out under budget? So I decided with the extra, new found (not really, but sort of) money we should have a lunch date. Just me and her. I had done it with each of the other ones, just never really had the chance to do it with her. And why not? So after a visit with Grandma at her work (where the little one was proudly shown off to anyone that was in the building and could not run the other way) we had our lunch date.

It was just a lunch date. At Panera. Nothing fancy. Sandwiches. Yogurt. Apple. Milk. A lunch of kings. (Ha!) My little date is not the cleanest eater.
She's gonna kill me for this picture when she gets older.

And she shouldn't be. She's a year and a half (in two weeks). So as I was clearing the table and putting her in the stroller, I noticed some milk had spilled (probably when she squeezed the box-o-milk, causing a geyser of moo juice). Being one not to cry over such spills, I did what any self-respecting Stay-At-Home parent would do; I cleaned it up. (Because that is what 85% of my day is about) The odd part was, as I cleaned it up, a mother who was also on a lunch date with her little one commented on how nice it was that I was cleaning a high chair. It struck me as odd that someone would not clean their child's mess in a restaurant. I know that people are paid to do such tasks, but during a busy lunch shift, things are bound to be overlooked. Maybe it was because I have waited tables in the past, or the fact that I am just looking out for the next parent, but I feel that my kid made that mess. It is my responsibility to clean it up. And this stranger was happy. She had, as most parents have, come across a dirty table, seat or highchair in the past and silently cursed the person before them.  Perhaps my insignificant random act of cleanliness will inspire her to do the same. Or not. Who is to know?

The moral of this semi-sensical story is this: One little thing will help the next person. And most of the time that little thing doesn't take much time or effort. And it usually is the right thing to do. Even if it is not for the next parent, it will make the bus person/waitstaff thankful for you lightning their load. It's like a silent "Thank You" to them. And the power of that simple phrase is immense. And if you don't know, you have not heard it enough. Go do some random acts of goodness. You will feel so much better. And who knows? It may just come back to you.

And that wouldn't be all that bad.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Someone Get Me A Time Machine

Today is my daughter's birthday. It is my oldest's birthday. (I have to be specific due to all the kids around here.) Not only is it the anniversary of her coming into this world, it is the anniversary of me becoming a dad. A Father. A caregiver. A grownup. (Let us not put too much emphasis on that last one. I will never grow up. What's the use? Staying young is way more fun.)

I was thinking back to when I was eight and trying to remember the things I was doing. My family just moved to a new house. I rode my bike. Played Legos. Played MASK (For those of you who are not familiar with this, it was a television show and subsequently a line of toys that were cars and such and did other things. I kinda can't recall what exactly they did, but I did enjoy it.)  I'm sure I did other, more exciting things, yet I cannot recall much; I'm an old man now (For Pete's sake, I have three girls and the oldest is eight years old! My memory is pretty shot.)

Anyhoo, as I was reminiscing of my glory days, I began to compare my past with my child's present. She draws. She is a good reader. She is a part-time vegetarian. (Read sausage and bacon - good; chicken breast - bad) And she is a phenomenal dancer. She is on a team with other, like-minded dancers who, as a group, are awesome. And she has performed a solo. Four times. She got on stage, in front of a lot of people and danced. All by herself. Four times. And did very well, impressing judges, teachers, teammates and strangers without batting an eyelash. And now she is learning another solo to do the same this year. I don't think I got on stage to perform until I was double her age. She must take after her mother. 

Looking back at all that she has accomplished in her short time, it fills my heart with joy and pride. All that done in just eight short years. I can't imagine what the rest will bring. Someone get me a time machine. Lets go see what she does. Better yet, lets go back and watch it all again. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

My street is crazy. More Good Samaritan stories.

I live on a main road. A pretty busy thoroughfare used my most travelers getting to where-ever they are going. It is safe to say that accidents happen. A few years ago my mailbox was "relocated" by a woman.  And just this past week the same thing happened to my neighbor's mailbox. Along with a telephone pole. Really, why do people not like our mailbox. And why don't they just say something to us about it instead of ramming their vehicles into them? I guess interpersonal communication really is dead. Darn social media!

Let me explain:

Last week was the kids spring vacation. A whole week off of school. (Cue nervous, wide eyed, "What am I going to do with these guys for a whole week," look?) Not to fear, a play date was scheduled. The eldest has gone over to this particular friend's house a few times and she has played here. Sometimes my wife and the middle child hang out for an hour or so during the date of play to catch up and let the younger siblings play as well. So this time that scenario was to occur at our house. Almost an hour into the playing, I get up to get some water when I see a car drive onto my lawn and I hear some crashing. I grab my phone to call the authorities, which would have been great if it weren't for the dog loosing his poop from people being in the lawn. Apparently my wife was asking what had happened but I could hear her over the dog and the fact that I was trying to talk to 911 about the automobile that took out a telephone pole and ripped wires from my house. As I am relaying information to the dispatcher, I see a woman emerge from the pickup truck with three (!) kids. All appear to be fine. I motion to them to stay away from the downed wires and they sit on my front stoop to wait for the authorities to arrive. And it just so happened that an off duty fireman was driving by as it happened.  He must have assessed them as I was talking to the dispatcher because I don't remember doing that. We set out some goldfish and water for the kids to try calm them down and it seemed to work,

All while this is happening, there are electrical, phone and cable wire strewn across my driveway, prohibiting any escape.  It looks like the parental portion of the playdate will be a little longer today. So as the police, fire, electrical, phone and cable companies come and assess the damage it dawns on us that we will have to feed our guests (Not those involved in the accident.  They got to go to the hospital to get checked out). But no power. And all we had were a handful of slices of bread.  PB&J's! Who doesn't like that? Thankfully everyone did. It was great because that was about all that we could give em.

After about three hours we were able to move our friend's car and let them escape, um go home. IT was a nice playdate with just a little added excitement. It was a good learning experience. We got to see how telephone poles were installed and how the different utility companies help each other do one common task. They really do work like well oiled machine. I'm sure it wasn't their first rodeo.

It turns out that the driver had turned around to scold one, or all three of the children when she drove off the road.  Everyone was lucky that no one was seriously injured. Otherwise it could have been a much darker playdate. Really, what is the cost of a pole, a mailbox or a vehicle in relation to a life? Or four? I bet the driver feels really bad now. I hope this opens her eyes. Or keeps them on road!

Let this be a lesson; Drive slow and always, ALWAYS keep an eye on the road. It's not your place to move mailboxes with your car!

Friday, April 24, 2015

I'm getting old

My birthday is coming up.  Its not a huge one; just the run of the mill "Half Way To 70" birthday that all people throw a crazy party for. (At least that's what I'm telling myself) 35 is the new 20, right?  Well if that is the case I certainly don't feel it.

Case in point:

The other day I took the two younger ones to a store to pick up some necessities. It had rained the night before and this establishment apparently lets their shopping carts be al natural (stores them outside).  So no cart ride for the one year old, just riding in the sweet and comfy seat of daddy's arms; being shipped between right and left just as the feeling is being removed from the hand.  No big deal.  Only a few things to get.  And besides, I have the middle one to help carry stuff. (HA. Nice try.)

So we (I) grab a basket as we walk in the store which the older one carries.  She carries it for a total of 30 seconds; right about the time it comes to put something in it.  Granted the somethings were two bottles of syrup so they were pretty heavy. C'mon kid. Help a brother out! Onward we go; me with baby AND basket, child with not a care in the world. When we get to the next items to get, I set the basket down and look around for the rest of the things we need.  They were all in the same area and I figured just leave it on the ground and make trips back and forth instead of lugging it with me.  A great idea, I thought.  That is until the middle child comes over with the most helpful voice, "Here, daddy. You left this back there."

So much for that idea of not carrying the basket.  Somewhere in this exchange of baby and basket wrangling something went in my back.  It wasn't immediate.  I didn't really feel it until the ride home. But boy did I feel it.  I must have tweaked something just right (or wrong, depending on your outlook) because later that day I couldn't do a damn thing.  It hurt to breathe. It hurt to fart, and that had become an issue because I had Kashi cereal for breakfast and that stuff cleans you out.

Long story short I blew my back out, but it is on the mend.  Nothing a little Alieve and a warming pad can't cure. It is not 100% as of yet but it'll get there.  It better.  I'm not ready for an old man back problem.  I'm not even half way to 70 yet!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Forgive me blog father for I have sinned. It has been too long since my last post.

That's right.  I have not fallen off the face of the planet, been mauled by wild wolves, or even been committed to an insane asylum (officially anyway.  I do live with four women!) I don't know where we left off, and I am too lazy to go back and read my own blog, so I'll just go from where I  think I left off.

We had our third girl A YEAR AGO! Time really has flown by. Since that family milestone, things have been crazy, but in a good way. Even though there are many times where I believe the third child has put me over the edge (and she isn't even walking and talking yet). Then there are other times where I think I got this under control. And most of the time I count my lucky stars that I haven't gone completely bonkers yet.  I guess that is the definition of parenting. (Look at me; I'm Noah Webster defining things and stuff!)

The older one is in second grade and doing great!  The middle one is rocking her four year old pre-school.  Both are growing up so fast both physically and mentally.  The latter far too fast for my head to grasp.

Today was the second of four dance competitions that the eldest child competes in.  This year she has a solo, which has been great for her.  It has taught her to work hard and that it is totally up to her on the outcome.  I remember early on where she went in for a solo rehearsal and it did not go well.  When asked if she had practiced, she said she didn't because her father hadn't reminder her.  The very awesome teacher (to whom I owe far more than dance costs, but don't tell her because I am a stay-at-home-father with no income in which to pay her more*) told her it was her responsibility to practice and that her father was not the one dancing.  That really struck home and she has been on the ball (most of the time) with practicing.

Bayly has three dances in this year's competition season: A team lyrical, team jazz, and the aforementioned solo.  The first competition last week was alright.  While it wasn't her first time dancing at a competition, she was on the team last year, it was her first time dancing solo.  Needless to say she did awesome.  She had some issues, but nothing horrible.  To the naked eye she did great.

Fast forward to today.  Her second competition.  Her dances were at 11:11, 11:44, and 12:05.  Three dances, three costume changes, three hair style changes in 45 mins.  Sometimes the cards get played that way and whatcha gonna do?  My wife was the wrangler to these changes, as a man is not really allowed to be backstage with millions (or it just feels like that) of young girls.  And let me tell you they rocked it.  No small feat when dealing with a child that doesn't always move with the swiftest intentions.

First the team lyrical dance; they do phenomenal.  Then change and solo.  Only 9 dances to pull that off.  No worries.  Mom is on it.

Solo time.  Cue music,  Cue dance.  Now I have seen this dance a thousand times.  I could probably do most of it, but I won't because I am liable to hurt myself.  So I notice little things.  Tiny things.  Like she was a little fast here.  Or she recovered from a brain fart here.  Again, tiny things that only someone privy to the evolution of the dance would know.  She dances like I have never seen her dance.  I was moved.  I know it sounds weird to be moved by a dance, but I was moved.  It could have been the powerful interpretation of the song by her choreographer*.  It could have been the fans kicked on and started blowing dust into the auditorium (for more on this explanation see prior post of dusty rooms).  It probably was the fact that my kid was killing it.  And the interpretation.  And the fans.  Right.  Dusty rooms.

Then six dances to change for the team jazz dance.  Again, done with plenty of time to spare and the team is great.  Every single parent was grinning ear to ear.

Fast forward to awards.  This is where every dancer gets up on stage and they go down the list and hand out trophies and/or medals based on the scores.  Luckily it was only the morning session's awards.  I can't imagine if they didn't break it up.  The awards would be longer than the dancing. But luckily the powers that be have thought of that.

The scores a usually Silver, Gold, and Platinum, with a "High" before each metal if needed. (So for clarification it goes Silver, High Silver, Gold, High Gold, Platinum, and then Platinum Pro.  Why change it up at Platinum, I have no idea.  I don't make the rules.)  Platinums are not easy to come by, but I have seen a few in my day.  And every one that I have seen deserved it, and then some.  It comes down to the team lyrical score: PLATINUM!  Waaaaahhhhhttt!!?? That is amazing.  They really kicked some lyrical dance butt!  Then a few more "Other dances" scores.  And her solo comes in.....................

PLATINUM!  I am ecstatic.  I knew she did well.  Just never thought she did platinum well.  I saw a few things, but I knew what to look for. And in my experience the Platinum was reserved for perfection.  But when her score was announced the fans were blowing again.  (Ya know, someone should really clean that place.  The dust is quite atrocious.)  To say I was proud would be an understatement.  I knew she could do it.  I don't know if the first competition score lowered my expectations, but this blew me away.  I knew she killed it.  And apparently so did the judges.

Then the team jazz:  High gold.  Great again!  The hard work paid off.

Today I was the most proud I have ever been.  I could have single handedly built the pyramids and it would pale in comparison to this feeling.  My kid worked her tiny, little hinny off and it paid off.  I can only hope she can transfer that work ethic to other things besides dance.

I think it will.

*Love you Miss Yvonne!