Just Roll With It

Cristian and his Godfather relaxing in the yard.
Cristian and his Godfather relaxing in the yard.

Responding to and meeting challenges is a big part of life, because you are constantly thrown curveballs.  Since Labor Day Weekend Esther and I have faced our fair share, making us long for something simple, like a sleepless night with a cranky baby.

Over the past years my Mom cared for Dad—putting her life on pause and neglecting her own health.  56 years of marriage makes you do that sort of thing.  During Dad’s illness, Mom and I spoke about her health, and maintaining the house as I drove her to and from the hospital and nursing home.

Eighty-five years old and restricted to a walker, those tasks are considerably tougher than they were five-years ago.   The neighbors helped, sweeping sidewalks, shoveling snow, and bringing in trash cans.  While much appreciated it’s not the sort of thing one can expect done on a consistent basis.

After many conversations with Mom and Esther both separately and together, we decided it was best if Esther and I moved in with her to.  Moving in with your mother at 51 is never an easy proposition—moving with a wife, baby and 18-year old dog, is a reality show in the making.

After Dad passed away in July, we started the twofold process of packing our apartment and decluttering Mom’s house—no small task. I come from a family of pack rats—it’s in our DNA.  My old bedroom looked more like an oversized walk-in closet than Cristian’s new bedroom.

Clearing a home after someone passes away is never easy—especially if you are doing while keeping an 11-month old baby entertained.   Fifty years of memories needed to be dealt with, old clothes, old pictures, and just plain old junk.

Moving day was the Friday before Labor Day Weekend.  Our team of friends and family (those who didn’t go away for the long weekend) squeezed the contents of our two-bedroom apartment into an already cluttered house.  It was like recreating the set of Sanford and Son.

Cristian’s room was priority one.  One group unloaded the truck moving things into various rooms, the garage and the backyard.   A second group reassembled the crib and looked for boxes marked “Baby’s Room.”

Chico enjoying his new front yard
Chico enjoying his new front yard

The first day was the roughest.  Boxes and packing bins were piled high everywhere creating an obstacle course.  I worried about the boxes in the backyard, many were covered but some weren’t.  Fortunately it didn’t rain.

Sitting in the basement on a third of my disassembled couch with a slice of cold pizza and a beer watching Chico navigate his new environment, I got twitchy wondering if we could put things in order. Making things worse my godmother called with bad news, her 18-year old grandson was killed in a car accident.

As usual Cristian provided stress relief after a chaotic day.  Peeking in on him he looked up from his stuffed animals, giving me a Hi Daddy smile.  Watching the baby play in his new room with Mom, reminded me why were doing this.

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When Esther and I planned the move, we knew there would be adjustments.  I love Mom but she’s old-school and a little blunt—sometimes more than a little.  At times her concepts on parenting differed from ours.  We came to help, but never lost sight of the fact.  We were in her house, not ours.

A main priority was maintaining normalcy in Cristian’s life while we adapted to our new environment.  This meant, not missing his My Gym classes, exploring new parks for him to play in and devoting time to him before during and after the move.

Esther and Cristian playing in the park
Esther and Cristian playing in the park

The rest of the weekend was a blur of boxes, bins, and garbage bags.  The stack of boxes shrunk as things took shape.  More than 70 bags of clothes were donated to the Salvation Army and I filled an entire donation bin—one of those huge containers one sees in your local supermarket parking lot.

Over 100 bags of trash and stacks of discarded cardboard boxes, and recycled items, ensured I’d become fast friends with the garbage men.  Maintaining the relationship Dad forged with them over the years was important, because months of dumping, organizing and decluttering still remain.

The house has a finished basement with a separate kitchen and bathroom.  We set it up as our apartment, with a newly constructed play zone for the baby—The Cristian Zone

In the reassembled "Cristian Zone."
In the reassembled “Cristian Zone.”

Tuesday night Esther, Mom, Cristian and I drove out to Eastern Long Island for my cousin’s wake.   It’s sad when someone dies so young—you wonder what might have been.

The next morning, Esther went to work while Cristian and I took another trip out east for the funeral.  Leaving the church for the cemetery, my phone rang.  A neighbor named Valerie had more bad news—this time about Mom.

Mom’s had issues with varicose veins for years.   I planned on asking for a referral to a specialist during her next round of doctor’s appointments—we never got the chance. Valerie and my cousin Annie were visiting when Mom’s vein popped, spewing blood, a lot of it.  She also fell out of the chair she was sitting in, crashing to the floor.

Valerie called an ambulance and escorted Mom and the paramedics to the hospital.  I called Esther, and asked if she could meet them at the Emergency Room.  Turning the car around I hurried home.

Thanking Annie for her for help and wrapping Mom’s leg as I took her home. I then dropped Cristian off with the babysitter before heading to the hospital.  Esther updated me on Mom’s condition-which tests were run which still remained.  When I finally saw Mom, she was literally white as a sheet.  She lost about a pint of blood and the doctors debated whether or not to transfuse her.

Bob joined us in the ER—the three of us listened as doctors updated us on her condition.  After spending most of the day in the ER, Mom was admitted to the hospital and placed under observation.

The next two weeks were spent visiting Mom in the hospital and consulting with doctors amazed at the lack of common sense.  During my first visit I was sent home for her walker.  Isn’t a walker something a hospital provides?  I guess not.

Although Mom looked better, she still didn’t look right.  Hospitals seem in a rush to discharge patients before they get sick—I thought treating sick people was a hospital’s function—silly me.

Two weeks later, Mom was sent to a rehab facility to regain strength and balance.  Cristian and I visited every morning—it was therapeutic for Mom and her roommate.  Mom’s room was a popular destination during our visits, nurses, aides and physical therapists stopped by to play with the baby.

During a visit Esther’s phone rang.   Her facial expression told me, it was bad news. Her aunt called from Puerto Rico informing her of an uncles passing.   He was only a few years older than me.  This was our families fourth in the past year—that’s too many.  I wondered if the Grim Reaper has the family on speed dial.

FullSizeRender (81)After a month in the hospital and rehab facility Mom was sent home, we were happy.  When she was away, Esther and I felt like children left alone while their parents were on vacation.  Fortunately for all involved, I didn’t do the Risky Business Dance.

Since Mom returned home I’ve worked with social workers, visiting nurses, and home aides and we’ve had appointments with specialists, managing her care.  When it gets overwhelming, I look at Cristian. His big smile and bigger personality tells me, take a breath and just roll with it.

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Top Ten Things I Learned During My First Year of Fatherhood

Being a parent is on-the-job training.  Although I’m not the baby spaz I was when Cristian was born, certain things still make me shake my head.  Last week I read a blog post on Inside Martyns Thoughts, (he’s another Daddy Blogger) about the ten things he wanted to know before he been a parent.  It made me smile.

Although I came into parenthood with open eyes, there was plenty of the unexpected over the past year.  Parents take a look at the list and let know how many you’ve come across or add a few I missed in the comments section.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery so here is my Top Ten List of Things I didn’t expect before being a parent.

  • Number 1 -Breastfeeding-I didn’t know some newborn babies have problems breastfeeding, Cristian was one of them. We don’t know if it was the effects of the epidural but it wasn’t automatic.  We tried everything, multiple lactation specialists, bringing a breast pump from home, we even hooked Esther up to an industrial-strength pump, which resembled some of my grandfather’s equipment, he was a commercial dairy farmer.  None of it worked.  When we were home, Cristian got the hang of it.  Maybe all he needed was privacy.
  • The baby bag, your baby's life support system.
    The baby bag, your baby’s life support system.

    Number 2-The Baby Bag-Okay this one might be me bitching and moaning. The baby bag is a parent’s life support system when you are away from home.  Failure to pack diapers, baby wipes or formula will have dire consequences.  Esther packs the bag daily, her unique ability of packing the contents of a one-bedroom apartment into a backpack make her better suited for the task.  My only question is why are the important things like diapers always at the bottom of the bag?  Another question is if this is such a problem, why am I not packing the diaper bag?  Yes this one is me bitching and moaning.

  •  My non-squirming practice doll.
    My non-squirming practice doll.

    Number 3-Squirming Baby on the Changing Table- I knew changing diapers was part of this Dad/Baby thing—I was ok with it.  However, no one mentioned twisting, rolling and squirming on the changing table during the prenatal-parenting classes.  Cristian kicks it up a notch when the changing table is next to a wet counter in a public restaurant.

  • Number 4-Blowouts-Before becoming a parent this was strictly an automotive term, not anymore.  Every parent has experienced one.  Few things can change your mood faster than a blowout. “Why is the back of his onesie muddy? Nooooo!” Two blowouts are memorable. The Mother’s Day blowout in a Cuban Chinese restaurant with the tiny bathroom and no changing table.  The second was the Wake-Up blowout requiring a new cover on his changing table and the crib’s bedding .  Esther and I also needed a shower afterwards.  It got us going faster than a strong cup of coffee.
  • Number 5- Chico’s New Role-Before Cristian was born, Chico was our baby I’ve written about him.  When Esther and I read the newspaper in bed on a lazy Sunday morning, he’d be curled up next to one of us trying to hog the mattress. Chico had a better life than most people, until that baby came along. We still love you Chico, I’m sorry Cristian is getting much of the attention we once gave you.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
Hey kid, we gotta talk.
  • Number 6 – There Are No Quick Trips to Pick Up Anything For The Baby.-I know this one’s not new, I’ve posted about it here and mentioned it here but it bears repeating. There are no quick trips to Carter’s, Babies R Us, or Bye Bye Baby.  This one may run along gender lines. If you send me to pick up diapers, baby food, and sippy cups the trip takes about 15 or 20 minutes because I’ll pick up diapers, baby food and sippy cups.  When I hear we need to pick up a few things for the baby, I cringe because the trip involves all sorts of detours.  Watching her ooh and ahh looking at baby clothes makes my uterus pinch.  Advice to new Dads, bring a fully-charged tablet and find a comfortable chair where they sell baby furniture, this is going to take a while.
  • Number 7 Prunes- Most parenting books advise introducing babies to solid food at three or four months.  A new fruit or vegetable is introduced for about three days ensuring the baby isn’t allergic to it before moving on to the next one. This is all common sense.  Then there are prunes. Dark, sticky and gooey they look the same in the container as they do in the diaper.  I’ve spent a sleepless night or two wondering about the logic of feeding a baby with a well-functioning digestive system prunes.
  • Number 8-Babies Will Pee On You-It’s not as bad as a blowout but still an eye-opener. Cristian peed on the doctor during his first pediatrician appointment.  After a year, I’m pretty good at dodging the spray, but Cristian still laughs knowing Daddy is going to have to change the cover on the changing table.
  • Father son napNumber 9 -There is no Rhyme or Reason to a Baby’s Sleeping Habits-File this one under should have known better. We had established a routine at about five months of feed, bathe, bottle, bedtime and Cristian would sleep from about 10 pm until about 5 am.  Esther and I thought we had this sleep thing under control. Then his sleep pattern changed.  He’s now up once or twice a night, sitting in his crib like a Baby Buddha waiting for a bottle.
  • Number 10--Competitive Parents-I’ve been around a lot of babies in the past year.  Our building welcomed five and our family and friends had six more. That’s a lot of babies. Parents compare notes.  It’s harmless at first, checking on eating and sleeping patterns. Little by little, it gets competitive.  Your baby has two teeth, mine has eight. Yours started crawling; mine walks around the block.  I’m waiting for the inevitable, yours isn’t toilet trained yet?  Ours was toilet trained months ago, and now he’s training others. It’s not a competition. Let’s all take a breath or maybe a nap. Your child is as special to you as mine is to me there’s no need to be competitive.
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Happy Birthday Cristian

1st Father SonI can’t believe it’s been a year already.  A year ago I spent the night in a hospital room keeping friends and family updated via Facebook posts as nurses induced Esther—it didn’t work.  It turn out, Cristian like his parents is stubborn.  How stubborn we didn’t know at the time.

At 1:26 pm Esther gave birth to a 9 pound 3 ounce   21.5 inch boy, whatshisname.  We hadn’t agreed on his name yet.  Asking me to calm our crying and unnamed son, by speaking to him, I put on my best Darth Vader voice and said, “Son I am your father.”

The first few weeks were a blur or feedings, diaper changes and friends stopping by to see the baby.  Sequestered in our apartment like jurors on a trial while we took turns watching Jeopardy, napping and playing with our new son, the memory still makes me smile.

father-son-chill

I dove headfirst into my stay-at-home dad crash course.  I was introduced to the Sprout Channel, Peppa Pig and Sid the Science Kid and scrambled like a contestant on a gameshow folding laundry, sterilizing baby bottles and grabbing a quick shower while Cristian napped.

In March we enrolled Cristian in My Gym, a children’s fitness center giving him a chance to meet other babies socializing him through structured activities and giving me a chance to compare parenting notes with other parents.

The many faces of Cristian
The many faces of Cristian

Esther and I were amazed as out son grew from a fragile newborn to a chubby cheeked toddler.  His smiling face every morning made us forget the, sacrifice, sleep deprivation and occasional blowout.

As Spring arrived my time was split between caring for my son and managing my father’s healthcare first in a hospital and then in a nursing home.   My blogging suffered as my world was turned upside down, but Esther and I insisted on keeping as much normalcy in Cristian’s routine as possible.  My Gym classes and trips to the park were sandwiched between hospital visits.

Family Selfie
Family Selfie

Cristian will never know the joy be brought his grandfather during his last days or how much his cheery demeanor helps grandma cope with Dad’s loss.  His days consist of playing, crawling and general mischief. His electric smile and big personality changed Mommy and Daddy’s lives in ways we couldn’t comprehend a year ago as we anxiously monitored his vitals as nurses induced his Mommy.

Happy Birthday Cristian!

Cristian and Me

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