2020 – Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

It’s September 8th, Labor Day Weekend has come and gone.  Fall will be here soon, with the promise of cooler weather and pumpkin-spiced everything.  Calling 2020 an odd year would be an understatement.  If I woke up tomorrow morning to find an alien ship on my front lawn, it wouldn’t faze me, I’d probably make them coffee and ask them about their trip.  That’s an indicator of how the year has gone so far.

I’m about to start my sixth month of working from home, fully aware I won’t be returning to the office anytime soon.  Back in March, when I went underground, they instructed us to stay home and flatten the curve, but in New York City, the line kept going straight up.  Those first months were rough. Bars, restaurants, and movie theaters were closed, the NBA, NHL, and Major League Baseball, the Kentucky Derby, and the 2020 Summer Olympics were all canceled.  Sports fans wondered aloud if this is what the Middle Ages were like. 

The biggest problem was people trying to lead their lives the way they did before the Pandemic — some still are. 

I’ve been home since St. Patrick’s Day, how’s that for irony?  In the 176 days I’ve been home, I realized the glass wasn’t empty or half full. Good things happened along the way too.  You just had to be paying attention.

In the past 176 days, I noticed:

I Enjoyed Spending Time With My Son – This may run counter to my last two posts.  I’ve written about remote learning with an overactive five-year-old with a short attention span as he ran, bounced, and climbed the walls like he had three Red Bulls for breakfast. It’s been enough to make me reach for my emotional-support bourbon.

The benefit of spending the past months with Cristian, is I’ve seen his growth and development in real-time.  He now dresses himself, is potty trained, and speaks more clearly.  Sitting next to him during class time and therapy sessions showed me how smart he is and gave me a glimpse of his playful personality.

Another Afternoon at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve

I Found Things Hiding In Plain Sight – Taking Cristian out to play was easy in March and April when the weather was cold and the parks were empty.  That changed when the weather warmed up in May.  When Cristian’s Saturday OT Sessions were canceled because of a state mandate, Esther suggested taking him to the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Preserve.  Set on 9,000 acres, the preserve has hiking trails, saltwater marshes, and freshwater ponds.  It was mostly empty and the perfect place to run, play, and look at the Canadian Geese.  I’ve driven past it on my way to the Rockaways for years.  It took a Pandemic for me to discover this amazing location, less than two miles from my home.

Esther and Cristian during his Moving-up Ceremony

I Enjoyed A Moving-Up Ceremony – If you know me or follow this blog, you probably read that last sentence and thought, WHAT!  That’s valid.  I always thought Moving-up Ceremonies were the product of a generation who received participation trophies in Little League.  Through the course of my education, I had three graduation ceremonies, junior high school, high school, and college.  Cristian had three in the past three years.  Every year, the wife gets excited and plans a celebration, while I have images of George and Weezy.  This year was different.  Maybe being locked up like a hermit for three months affected me, or that the virtual ceremony was quick. It lasted only 30 minutes.  Cristian finally got a piece of the pie.

Cristian enjoying his day at the zoo.

Family Day At A Socially Distant Zoo – As Cristian’s Moving-up Ceremony approached, Esther scoured the internet looking for a way to celebrate Cristian’s achievements in basic crayon.  New York Zoos and Aquariums were closed, so she searched across state lines. She found the Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  They had just reopened with heavy restrictions and an emphasis on social distancing.  Guests reserved spots in advance, wore masks, and could only walk in designated areas.  A year ago, I had no idea we would have enjoyed an hour at the zoo as much as we did.

I Had Time To Write My Memoirs – No, really.  I’m aware the concept of a white-haired fifty-something man sitting at a typewriter and writing his memoirs is beyond cliché.  Like several bloggers I follow, I’ve considered adapting I’m Not Grandpa to book form.  I’ve spent the past two years reviewing notes and blog posts and even alluded to it here. I started a 10-week memoir-writing course in January and really enjoyed it.  When the virus hit, eight of us formed a writing group that meets on Wednesday nights.  Being around this talented group of writers has given me the discipline to stop thinking about writing a book and start writing one.

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Nine Things No One Tells You about Two Year Olds

Cristian taking off on the Rockaway Beach Boardwalk.

Once again it’s time for I’m Not Grandpa to provide valuable information for those considering having children.  Parenthood is pretty much a learn as you go proposition.  Sure you can pick up a parenting book or do a Google search but that’s time consuming.

In an effort to save time I compiled my list of Things No One Tells You about Two-Year Olds.

You Spend a Lot of Time Chasing Them – Remember how excited you were when the baby took his first steps?  The excitement fades when you’re chasing after him.  I coach running, I’ve lead many speed drills.  Few prepared me for a hyperactive toddler possessing the curiosity of an MIT student and the speed of Usain Bolt.  Over the past year, I’ve chased Cristian around playgrounds, up and down Rockaway Beach’s boardwalk, and through the aisles at Target. The cashiers at Key Food barely look up as I’m chasing him as he turns lap after lap, while my better half does the grocery shopping.

Projectile Vomit – You thought diaper blowouts were bad, wait until you’re cleaning puke.  I’ve heard my share of horror stories but figured they were like nightmarish stories of appendix and gall bladder removals—not something everyone experiences.  Then it happened.  It starts with a splashing sound, and you find the baby standing in a puddle of vomit.  It’s not just on the floor—it’s on the walls, the bedding, maybe even the ceiling.  Think it’s over, not a chance.  After changing the bedding and scrubbing the room with Fabuloso and bleach, he’ll puke again, just to keep you on your toes.

Tantrums are New and Improved – You thought those early tantrums were bad, wait until the baby turns two.  Those early toddler tantrums were mere tremors warning you of the full-fledged earthquake looming on the horizon.  Two-year old tantrums include screaming, tearless crying, kicking, banging his head on the floor, and Daddy rushing off to the bar so he could meet his tantrum-support group.

Don’t let the face fool you. Be afraid, be very afraid.


Establishing a Regular Bedtime
 Routine– Getting there takes work and differs from child to child.  Some only need a bottle and they’re good to go.  If this is you, I hate you. We turned Cristian’s bedroom into a sensory-deprivation chamber.   Soundproofing the walls, puttting blackout curtains on the windows, and tiptoed around like a submarine crew rigged for silent running.  Establishing a regular bedtime is important for a child’s development and his parents’ sanity.

The Consequences of Breaking the Bedtime Routine – There will be times when you break the baby’s routine. A word of warning, Keep this to an absolute minimum.  Life happens, friends visit, running errands took longer than planned, or he was so cute playing with blocks and puzzles you put him to bed an hour later than his regular bedtime.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.  Like in college, when you downed that fifth tequila shot, and hit on the tall girl with the Adam’s apple.  Waking up the next morning with a monster headache, and a massive sense of what did I do, is nothing compared to waking, dressing and dropping off a pissed off sleep-deprived baby at daycare.

Babies Have No Sense of Sleeping in on the Weekend – This runs counter to my last point.  Two-year olds haven’t grasped the concept of sleeping in on a weekend morning.  Call it Baby Logic.  You had a long week and decide keeping him up until 2am feeding him Coco Puffs and Cotton Candy washed down with three Red Bulls is the best way to get an extra hour of sleep on Sunday morning.  Guess again.  I guarantee he’ll be chirping the alphabet and climbing out of his crib at 6:30 the next morning.

Mommyitis is not for the faint of heart.

Mommyitis 2.0 – In previous posts I described Mommyitis as: the baby emitting ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.   Two-year olds scream just as loud, but now it takes less to trigger them. My son once became upset when he couldn’t find Mommy during a game of peek-a-boo.  Children are an extension of their parents, watching him clutched onto my better half, has convinced me of this.

You Spend Less Time Visiting Friends – Say goodbye to socializing with all but your closest and bravest friends—especially if their home isn’t childproofed. Much of the visit is spent eating in shifts.  My better half and I take turns chasing the baby, and keeping him from climbing furniture, cabinets and entertainment centers.  That’s just for starters.  We’ve been blacklisted from a few homes having small dogs that couldn’t defend themselves.

Two Year Olds are a Great Source of Birth Control – If you read this blog you noticed I’ve never mentioned having another child—not even once. I’m a responsible parent.  I’ve gone to great lengths educating those who think raising a child is just like taking care of a puppy.  I’ve taught, written and chased 19 year old employees at Costco, GNC and Target around the store, armed with words and a fully pissed off tantruming two-year old.  Sure the wife shakes her head, and pretends she doesn’t know me while I doing this, but it’s for the greater good.Share This:
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Chasing the Tazmanian Devil

cropped-Sent-to-Esther-3.jpgParenting is a time-consuming, energy-draining proposition.  Babies expect to be fed and those diapers need to be changed every day.  I knew this when I signed on, or thought I did.  Taking care of a baby is easy in theory.   Reality on the other hand…

During Esther’s pregnancy,  we debated baby names, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz had nothing on us, designed a nursery, she planned the layout while I moved furniture back and forth and back again and again and again, and stocked our home with every conceivable baby item.

I wanted to record Cristian’s birth, so we could show him the video every year on his birthday.  The doctor was onboard—the Go Pro Camera was strapped around his head and ready to go.  My better half objected, something about therapy being expensive.

Tummy Time - He hated Tummy Time.
Tummy Time – He hated Tummy Time.

Like most expectant parents, we thought had it all under control when in reality we had no clue.

As new parents we anxiously awaited each developmental milestone, lifting his head, tummy time, and crawling. We survived, sleepless nights, diaper blowouts and teething (wait that’s still going on).

Walking, or more accurately, chasing our walking baby is the challenge du jour.  We were so excited when Cristian took his first steps.  A baby’s first steps look a lot like college students on a St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl.  Before long they figure it out, and then it’s like chasing the Tazmanian Devil on Red Bull.

slide

Chasing a curious toddler down hallways and keeping him away from open doors and staircases requires teamwork (see my last post).  Think you’re keeping him out of the kitchen by putting a few chairs or a toy box in his way?  Guess again.

Cristian’s an amazing troubleshooter, climbing over and crawling under most obstacles.  He’s going to kill the Tough Mudder course in about 20 years, maybe 10, but that’s not helping me right now.

Hanging out with my brother last weekend didn’t help.  Ever the big brother, he let me in on a secret—we haven’t scratched the surface yet.  Thanks Bob, I knew I could count on you.  Oh well at the very least, I’m sure it will generate a post or two and give me some cross training once race season starts.Share This:
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Baby 2.0 – Your Survival Guide

Congratulations you survived the first year of parenthood!  It was rough but worth it. This post is an INTERVENTION to any parent thinking it gets easier from here on out.  In the coming year your adorable little one will be hitting a new set of developmental milestones.

You thought the first year was rough?  The year ahead will have you longing for little annoyances like a diaper blowout.  Forget everything you learned—that was merely the warmup—you are about to embark on Baby 2.0.

Here are a few things you can expect:

Don't let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough time.
Don’t let the smile fool you. You are in for a rough ride.

Walking is about to commence
Walking is about to commence

Walking – You knew it would happen—you either looked forward to it with anxious anticipation or dreaded it like the plague. Walking is a game changer—it’s crawling on steroids.  A walking baby means now more than ever you and your partner must work as a team, keeping watch on, and chasing after your child.  Those teams on The Amazing Race have nothing on a set of parents chasing down an eager toddler headed for an open doorway or towards a flight of stairs.

Tantrums – I’m going to let you in on a secret, toddlers throw tantrums.  Boy do they throw tantrums.   Thought you had a year of tranquility before the Terrible-Twos tantrums kicked in.  Surprise!  Fear not, tantrum support groups exist—they meet at most local bars.

Curiosity – In addition to walking your toddler is developing a sense of curiosity, as in how much will it take to piss Mommy off, or what can I do to make the vein in Daddy’s forehead buldge?  I’m not talking about crawling under the kitchen sink or banging pots and pans—today’s toddler goes after the big ticket items.  Nothing stimulates the mind of a fifteen-month old baby more than an iPhone, iPad or Smart TV remote. They become adept swiping the iPhone from Daddy’s pocket or grabbing the unattended iPad or remote sitting on the end table.  See the previous paragraph on Tantrums when you try taking one these devices away.

Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It's On!
Get the Red Bull Daddy, because tonight It’s On!

Mommyitis Also known as Daddyitis (if Mommy isn’t around) or Separation Anxiety.  Your adorable social-butterfly child, the one who smiles at anyone in supermarket checkout lines or the mall, now emits ear-piercing screams, similar to those an adult makes upon stepping in a bear trap.  This happens when Mommy tries handing him off to Daddy or anyone else.  Simple things like heading to work or even to the bathroom must now be handled with the same covert urgency Seal Team Six uses in planning its ops.

Bedtime/Sleep C’mon you didn’t think the sleep thing was going to improve did you?  Do you also believe in unicorns and the tooth fairy?  Besides being awakened several times a night, bedtime becomes a Darwinian survival of the fittest.  Who will outlast who?  We’ve held the upper hand, but more than once the last one standing put the baby in his crib before taking care of the sleeping spouse.  Who thought the baby’s bedtime required Red Bull or a strong cup of coffee?Share This:
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