For Lola

That smile
That smile

Tomorrow morning Esther and I are running this season’s first race, a 5K in Prospect Park.  Despite running over 200 races between us, this one was different.  It’s not about goal times or PRs this one is for a cause, to honor my late mother-in-law’s memory.

Two years ago, Maria Hernandez, or Lola, as she was known to her friends lost her battle with Pancreatic Cancer causing a loss that hasn’t been replaced.  This ugly disease with an extremely low survival rate took Robert, Lucas and Justin’s grandmother and Cristian will never know her because of it.

pic for postLast year running became a family event as Lola’s children Esther, Bobby and Rose Marie, joined by friends and teammates signed up for the PanCan Purple Stride 5K Run/Walk to honor her memory. I paced Bobby while Rose Marie and a pregnant Esther walked the 5K.  We had a great time on a beautiful Saturday morning raising money for a good cause.

We’re back in Prospect Park tomorrow morning with a bigger group of friends and family to keep Lola’s memory alive once more.  Last year we got off to a slow start but Rose Marie, our Team Captain, took charge printing up T-Shirts and heading up the fundraising effort.

Although Esther is a little nervous running her first race in 16 months, she’ll be fine.  Mami will be looking down with a smile on her face.

If you know anyone suffering or lost someone to Pancreatic Cancer or are interested in donating to a good cause click here.  Thanks in advance.

This entry is being posted to both of my blogs North Queens Runner and I’m Not Grandpa.

Lola's children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby after last year's event
Lola’s children, Esther, Rose Marie and Bobby after last year’s event

 

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Parenthood – The First Six Months

In his bassinet in the hospital
In his bassinet in the hospital
One Month Old visting Grandma
One Month Old visting Grandma

Has it been six months already?  I can’t believe it went by so quickly.  It was only yesterday that Cristian was born.  I’ve enjoyed being a Dad but I’m still learning—I’ve only been on the job six months.  I thought about submitting a self-evaluation form like the one you fill out before your annual performance evaluation at work, but Cristian’s reading and writing skills are still non-existent maybe next year.  Esther hasn’t come home from work to find the baby with any new dings or dents so I guess that’s something.

I’ve learned a lot since we brought Cristian home from the hospital, some were common sense and others were on the job training.  Through it all Esther and I still look at each other in amazement unable to believe this adorable baby is ours.

Here are a few highlights of what I’ve learned so far:

Two Months Old - Cristian about to find out what happens when an old man tells you to "Pull My FInger."
Two Months Old – Cristian about to find out what happens when an old man tells you to “Pull My FInger.”

 

  • My Son is a Diva — Cristian chose his first pediatrician appointment to get the hang of breastfeeding, making the doctor wait while he gave Esther privacy.  He then peed on the doctor during the examination.  The doctor, an old pro, avoided most of the spray impressing me with how fast he could move for an older guy.  I’ll say this for the kid, you gotta admire his spunk.
Three Months - Quality Time with Mommy
Three Months – Quality Time with Mommy
  • Don’t Ask Me How He’s Sleeping — Cristian sleeps well, although I did take him a few months to get the hang of it.  He usually sleeps from 10pm until about 5am except when someone asks how’s he sleeping? For some reason that phrase upsets the balance ruining the baby’s sleep pattern, and more importantly, his mom and dad’s sleep for three or four days.  I know our friends are curious but please stop asking, a good night sleep depends on it.
  • There are Never Quick Trips to Pick Up Something for the Baby — I quickly learned whenever Esther says ”Let’s make a quick trip to Buy Buy Baby or Carters to pick up something for the baby, there is nothing quick about it.  I keep an emergency bag in my car similar to those found in fallout shelters.  It’s packed with water, snacks and my tablet.  Esther knows where to find me sitting in a chair where they sell baby furniture while she shops.
Four Months - Smiling at Daddy before his baptism - Photo Rose Marie Santiago
Four Months – Smiling at Daddy before his baptism – Photo Rose Marie Santiago
  • My Son is a Chic Magnet — I always knew babies drew attention, just not how much.  Every time I take Cristian outside he instantly attracts good looking women.  It doesn’t matter if we are at Starbucks, Target or the post office it’s like they are drawn to his stroller like I attached a magnet to it.  Of course I’m a happily-married man who doesn’t notice these things.  I thought Chico was good but this is unreal.
  • My Son is a Peacemaker — Since Cristian was born, we’ve reconnected with relatives we haven’t seen in years. He’s also helped with our neighbors.  Everyone has that strange neighbor, the one, who never says hello and always looks like she’s sitting on a pinecone.  She now says smiles and says hello and sings to Cristian in two languages whenever she sees him.  I didn’t know she spoke English, much less a second language.  Go figure.
Five Months - Dressed for St. Patrick's Day
Five Months – Dressed for St. Patrick’s Day
  • My Son Likes Busty Blondes — Maybe he gets this one from me.  Women stopping by to see the baby received the type of attention that gets adult males called into Human Resources office at work for a little chat.  I remember how excited he became when a very well-endowed blonde friend stopped by.  Maybe he thought she was the milk truck.

I’ve learned a lot over the past six months watching my son grow from a fragile newborn to the cute chubby-cheeked baby he is now.  His smiling face every morning makes me forget the sacrifices and the sleep deprivation.  I’m sure there are a few challenges ahead, but for now I’m enjoying the moment.

Six Months Old Today!
Six Months Old Today!
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Sibling Rivalry

Classic ChicoBringing a newborn home can inspire jealousy in your older children.  It’s yet another adjustment for new parents, in addition to sleep deprivation, late-night feedings, and diaper changes—the things I’ve been posting about.  Our oldest isn’t a child but an eighteen-year old mixed breed dog, named Chico.

Chico’s been like our child for many years, (don’t worry we’re not like the crazy woman who lives with 30 cats).  Chico was a birthday gift to my sister-in-law Rose Marie. Taken from his mother when he was three weeks old, Esther became Chico’s mom, wrapping him in blankets when he was cold and feeding him from a bottle when he was hungry.

Chico - Christmas StockingWhen Esther and I met Chico’s approval helped seal the deal.  I liked him immediately because he didn’t think he’s a dog, he thought he was a person.  We’ve taken him to family gatherings and on vacations to Cape Cod, Maine and Florida.  I remember Esther instructing the maid in a boutique hotel in DC “scold him if he misbehaves.”

We were curious how Chico would behave when we brought Cristian home from the hospital—our friends were too.  It was the most asked question after How’s the baby, and How are you sleeping?

Ignoring the baby Chico initially was upset with me—that baby was taking time usually devoted to him.  I’d be giving the baby a bottle, and he would signal that he wanted a walk.   When we to sleep the first night, he defiantly claimed a corner of our bed.

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When friends came by to see the baby we put Cristian in front of him.  He walked by him without acknowledging him.   Poor dog, he had such a good life before we brought that baby home. FullSizeRender (34)

After a few weeks he realized he’d have to deal with it because the baby wasn’t going anywhere.  Coming inside from walks, he would run up to Cristian, playing in his swing or watching Sesame Street and wag his tail at him, before running away.

When we put comforters on the floor for Cristian to roll on, Chico came over letting the baby pet him.  He was good when the baby grabbed his chest hair or tried to squeeze one of his paws.   For now the boys seemingly reached détente, although I still keep an eye on them to make sure Chico doesn’t hurt the baby.  How will it be until we are protecting Chico from Cristian?

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New Challenge—This Time It’s Personal

Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,
Weighing 220 pounds a few weeks ago,

Parenting is full of challenges, mine started the first night.  Exhausted but elated I spent the night trying to soothe my cranky son who was on a hunger strike as he weaned off the epidural used during his delivery.  I remember him licking the back of my neck as we turned laps in our hospital room.

Each step in his development brings with it a new challenge.  This is nothing I didn’t know when I signed up for this parenthood thing—of course experiencing it is so much different than reading about it in parenting books or talking about it with other parents.

Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park
Esther and I after the 2013 Colon Cancer Challenge in Central Park

As the weather slowly starts warming up it’s time for my next challenge—a personal one—it’s time to lose weight.  I gained about 25 pounds during Esther’s pregnancy and a winter spent playing with our new baby and eating comfort food did little to help that.

For me this isn’t a new challenge—it’s an ongoing one.  Over the past 15 years I’ve lost 200 pounds, 20 pounds 10 times.  I’ve tried the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet and several others, they all worked for a short time but weren’t the answer, so a few weeks ago Esther and I joined Weight Watchers.

If you are unfamiliar with Weight Watchers you probably think it’s a room full of fat middle-aged women swapping recipes for low-fat muffins.  I did.  However the program works it you follow it.  I lost 45 pounds in 2013 before getting derailed by family issues.

When I joined in the past my goals were simple, lose weight and be healthier.  They still apply but there’s more to it now.  I’m the 50 year old father of an adorable son. Facing the challenges needed to raise him will require energy.  I owe it to him to be there.

My latest challenge is me against the scale.
My latest challenge is me against the scale
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Flying Solo

One of several care charts left for me
One of several care charts left for me

After six weeks of Tag-Team Parenting Esther’s maternity leave was over. Returning to work meant it was time for me to fly solo.  Although my newborn crash course taught me much, this was a new challenge.

Photo texted to Esther letting her know Crisitan is ok
Photo texted to Esther letting her know Crisitan is ok

I’m no stranger to challenges.  I’ve run a dozen marathons and two ultramarathons, and managed a complicated trading-system installation for the U.S. Treasury Secretary but taking care of my six-week old son had me a little nervous.

Esther did her best to ease this rookie Dad’s growing pains, packing the diaper bag, leaving three matching outfits, onesie, pants, and socks per day and posting care instructions that rivaled nuclear launch codes.  Turn your key now Frank.

Cristian and I drove her to work on her first day back.  Sure there was some crying and carrying one but before long Esther was ok.  I kept her in the parental loop texting pictures and updates several times a day.

Another photo texted to Esther
Another photo texted to Esther

Why Is He Crying-A crying baby usually means one of three things, I’m hungry, diaper change, or nap time.  Of course it’s never that easy.   A few times Cristian wasn’t hungry, had a dry diaper, and wouldn’t go down for a nap—he just cried louder.  This was usually when Chico wanted attention.  Why are you ignoring me Frank?  Now what?  Keep your cool— don’t pull your hair out, don’t throw the baby bottle across the room.  Stay calm.  Put him in the swing, walk him, or take him out in the stroller.

Sleep When They Sleep-I’m convinced whoever offered this advice never took care of a baby. Maybe the nanny cared for the children, or they’ve forgotten how demanding babies can be.  Feel free to contact me if you want to relive those memories and I let you change a few diapers.

I ran and Cristian slept, it works for both of us.
I ran and Cristian slept, it works for both of us.

When the baby napped, I’d scramble like a contestant on a game show.   I sterilized baby bottles, folded laundry, and prepped dinner (I’m not just another pretty face, I cook), take a quick shower and if I’m lucky shave before he woke up.

Baby Friendly Programing-Like many new parents I was introduced to Sprout and the Baby First Chanel and searched Netflix. We watched Curious George, Peppa Pig and Sid the Science Kid. You know you’re watching too much of it, when you’re singing along with the songs.  I’d cringe when it was time for Susy to sing, but she kept Cristian entertained for 20 or 30 minutes so I dealt with it.

Motion Is Your Best Friend-Whether it was riding in the car or cruising in his jog stroller while I ran (that’s a different post) motion lulled Cristian to sleep. Taking advantage of this I took him everywhere, grocery shopping, the post office, and off to Grandmas.  It served a dual purpose of getting me out of the house and getting the baby a nap.

Thinking back I realized I’m pretty lucky.  Cristian’s a happy baby, he’s easy to take care of (despite my growing pains) and watching his daily development gives me unspeakable joy.  Although I’ve needed to de-stress from time to time when Esther came home from work I can’t imagine doing this another way.

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