The Big “Three”

Today is my son, Short Stack’s birthday. The whopping big “three” has been achieved and with the messily devoured cake and ice cream, the presents and family, our son has enjoyed himself thoroughly.

Three years seems like such a short time to me now, but for him, it’s been his whole life and I try to remember that when I have the opportunity to do something with him or by my self. It’s so easy to put off playing when there are things to do, but as the old chestnut goes, “He’ll only be this age once.”

I try hard to make time for the playing.

It’s been an amazing time over these last three years. I’d wanted a family for a long time and waiting for things to come together financially and domestically before starting one was hard. I may be an only child, but I’ve always loved the idea of having children of my own. Short Stack was the perfect way to start off. He’s sweet by nature, smiles by default and is relentless in his quest to find out “why.” He makes us laugh almost daily. He may have only been part of our lives for a brief time, but I can’t quite remember what it was like before he joined us and I look forward to each day I have with him and his sister.

That’s not to say that he was easy on us in the beginning. Oh, no.

It’s funny how the horror shows of infancy fade from memory or morph into funny stories to be related to friends over the dinner table. It’s like showing off your scars long after the wound that made them has long since stopped causing you pain. You laugh, nod knowingly compare war stories and have another glass of wine. It all makes for good conversation, but when it was actually happening, you would have happily slept in the unfurnished basement in an effort to escape the six month old who refused to stop screaming no matter how far you bent your will to making them happy.

Short Stack has turned into a great little kiddo, but as a baby, he was tough. During the day, he was almost always a peach. He’s smile and burble. He’d playa and laugh. He’d fool just about anyone into thinking that we’d hit the easy kid lottery.

Then, the “witching hour” would arrive.

The witching hour was right about dinnertime and from that moment on, all bets were off. Our sweet little baby boy would turn into the fussiest baby on the planet and there were damn few things you could do to placate him. Usually, it was just me, alone in the evenings. Action Girl often works second shift and that left me with my dream come true, strapped to my chest and screaming like an air raid siren as I paced through the neighborhood, drying to get him to calm down. Being outside had two benefits. Firstly, he loved being out in the fresh air. He still does. About three quarters of the time it would get him calmed down and possibly even asleep. The other benefit was that if he didn’t calm down and continued shrieking and carrying on, it didn’t bounce off the walls like it did in the house. I doubt that the neighbors liked listening to it much, but I was in pure survival mode at this point. I’m willing to bet that our cats appreciated he being gone for an hour or so.

Then there was getting him to bed. This was an exercise worthy of any martial arts dojo. Everything was laid out in preparation for bed and followed a perfect trajectory. Deviation in any way spelled doom. The last step of the rigmarole was laying him in his crib, whereupon he would grab my arm and pull it to his tiny chest. My job was to not move and pretend that the top of the crib was not cutting off the blood flow to the rest of my arm. Then, I’d wait.

Pull the arm out too soon, and he’d wake up and scream.

Pull the arm out too fast, and he’d wake up and scream.

Try to wiggle fingers in a hope to keep the blood from pooling and the arm from going numb, and he’d wake up and scream.

If the screaming started, the only thing to do was to start the entire night time rigmarole form step one and be on the job for another twenty minutes to a half hour.

As I slowly, oh ever so slowly extracted my arm from my son’s snoozing grasp, I’d work hard at pacing my self. I was the ninja. I was imperceptibly slow in my movement. For extra entertainment, I usually also had to pee as well. To slow my self down to mitigate the risk of upset my tiny but loud applecart, I’d turn on my internal music collection and mentally play back every single note of the Beatles, “A day in the life.” The entire time, my hand was slowly, slowly pulling away. When the song was done, I would be free, but not a second before.

This worked, right up until it didn’t. That was the breaking point.

The fateful evening when I had stood on my head and done all my tricks to no avail, I had had it. I kissed him, told him I loved him and when down stairs. All I can say is “thank God for head phones.” The screaming for “DADDDDDY!” went on for over an hour. He got hoarser and hoarser and I ground my teeth down lower and lower. When he finally stopped, I waited another good hour before venturing up to check on him. My nerves were shot and though it was murderous to go through alone, I was happy that Action Girl wasn’t home. She’s tough in a lot of ways, but I seriously doubt that she could have lived through the tidal wave of guilt that had been thundering down the stairs at me that night.

As I carefully crept into Short Stack’s room, the sight the appeared to me was somewhere between heart breaking and hilarious. There he was in his crib on his knees. Both hands were over his head grasping the vertical bars that held him at bay while his tiny noggin sagged down like that of prisoner who had lost all hope of escape. He was fast asleep. With great trepidation, I carefully uncurled his hands from their grip and laid him down. Much to my relief, he didn’t even stir.

This was not the only night of these shenanigans, but it was the most memorable. Eventually, he got better at falling to sleep and just about the time of his second birthday, he consistently was sleeping through the night. Then, Lulu Belle came along…

It’s been a log time since we’ve had a full night’s sleep on anything like a consistent basis but that’s all right though. To quote my Grandma, “ I’ll have plenty of time to sit still when I’m dead.” I knew the work load of having children was going to be epic and I also knew that I had no real idea of how hard it was going to be until I got there, and I was right on both accounts! I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

These days, my hobbies gather dust and my “to-do” list gets longer and longer as I fail to accomplish items faster than new ones accumulate and yet, I’m happier now than I could have ever imagined. I have two of the most wonderful kids in the world and a moment spent with them trumps a year doing just about anything else.

I can’t wait to see what we’ll do next and I’ll do my best to savor each and every moment at is passes us by forever. They’re only this age once, after all.

Happy Birthday, Short Stack! We love you more that we could ever put into words. What adventures we have to look forward to together! I can’t wait!

But I will.

Happy Birthday, buddy.

dad-and-john

Advertisements

Solo Dad and the Grand Adventure

Well, calling my day out with the kids this Sunday a “Grand Adventure” might be laying it on a bit thick. The three of us (Lulu Belle, Short Stack and I) decided that rather than knocking around the home stead on such a beautiful July day, that we’d strike out and have an adventure. Action Girl was working a full day today so it was just dad (me) and the kids. For those of you who might not me keeping track, Short Stack is two and a half now and thus, chatty, inquisitive, funny and hard to keep track of. Lulu is only three months and is by far the easiest to deal with as far as kid-maintenance goes. Two caveats… Short Stack, though chatty, inquisitive, etc, etc, is also of the age where he wants to do stuff that is not necessarily on the agenda. This can be problematic. Lulu, though a cooing little ball of pink who fits nicely in a car seat, can go from smile to full on air raid siren in .3 seconds with no rhyme or reason and there is no talking her out of it.

I try very hard not to let these things effect my decisions. I flat out refuse to be held hostage to what MIGHT happen. Life’s too short to worry about all the stuff that could go wrong. I get in a lot of trouble for following that line of thinking sometimes. It’s usually worth it though.

So, the original idea was to zip up the Maine coast to surprise and visit Action Girl. She works as a sea captain and I thought I knew the harbor she was going to be in at noon. Luckily, at the last minute, I called. Nope, she wasn’t taking that route today. I would have missed her and far worst of all, I would have gotten Short Stack all revved up to see Mom and then not have delivered the goods. To put things mildly, that could have been a very bad scene.

So, my choices were to head back home or throw caution to the wind and simply call it a road trip day. I decided on the road trip.

With no particular plan in hand, I picked “North” as our direction. Not only north, but north via pretty secondary roads. This worked for about three minutes. “Where’s Momma? Daddy, where’s Momma? Where’s Momma? Daddy? Wh…”

Ok… have to think fast… “Hey Short Stack, maybe we’ll see a water tower.” Silence from the back seat. Short Stack has a few very important areas of interest in his life. Trucks rate at the highest but there are others that can completely derail his current train of thought as well. Water towers, for what ever reason, are a particularly effective distraction. “Where’s da water tower? I can’t seeeee it.”

The next few minutes were comprised of me trying to explain to my back seat occupant that he couldn’t see the water tower yet because we weren’t near one. I also was stepping on it in an effort to get off Old Route 1 and to the highway. The next water tower was at least ten miles away, and I didn’t know how long I could keep his interest and my sanity. Lulu Belle seemed unimpressed with the entire situation.

After about a thousand iterations of why we couldn’t see the much vaunted water tower yet, it’s bulky green mass finally loomed into view. All was right with the world and Short Stack was grinning from ear to ear. “Dare it iiiiiiiiis!”

As I continued on past it, I was quickly given directions from the back. “Daddy will back up, please. Want to see it again. Daddy… Want to see it again!”

Think, think, think…. COWS!

“Hey Short Stack, let’s see cows!” I was greeted with more blessed silence as this information was digested. We bumped along and the roads got smaller and rougher. I knew that there was a farm down this way and I thought that I remembered that they welcomed the public. Actually, I preyed that they welcomed the public. This is the danger of winging it. “Where’d da cooooooows go?”

Come ooooooon, COWS!

The fates smiled and they had a wonderful little set up for visitors. Diapers were changed, children were fed and shoulders were burped on. Then, we were off to see the cows in the barn. As it turns out, there were far more than just cows. Goats, sheep, and pigs rummaged around in neat, clean stalls and chickens wandered all over. Short Stack desperately wanted to touch a chicken but the combination of his and their skittish behavior made this highly predictable. He never made it closer than a meter. Lulu Belle watched the whole show from over her pacifier, Maggie Simpson style. “Nook, nook, nook.” What a good baby!

We spent perhaps an hour there looking at the animals and riding the thoughtfully provided toy tractor around the barn. After knocking the majority of the poo out of his and my footwear, we hopped back in the car and headed off back down the road. It was lunch time and we needed hot dogs. We discussed hot dogs at length as I scanned the various road side stands. He has a book called “The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog” and we quoted it back and forth as I tried to locate at lunch stand.

Lulu had nodded off and missed the Hot Dog vendor I stopped at as well as our witty banter involving birds and processed meats. The seating arrangements at the stand were fine but rudimentary and I was not going to risk waking her. We continued on with me handing french fries, one by one over my seat into the waiting pudgy hands behind me. After a few false starts, we finally found not only shade to sit in and eat our hot dogs, but a play ground to boot.

More diaper changes, a hundred tips up and down the slide by Short Stack, punctuated by his dad calling him in for bites of lunch and another happy hour passed. I noticed various approving looks from other moms at the playground and I’d be a liar if I said that it didn’t make me feel proud. I was a dad out by my self with my two little kids and we were having fun.

Action Girl happened to be back in port by the time we were ready to head home and we stopped in for a visit. We managed to find her a hot dog of her own at a street vendor and presented it to her with pride. She got lunch and a cuddle from her kiddos and a kiss from me before we headed out for home. Short Stack was pooped and was out cold as we pulled into the drive way. I put the windows down, brought in Lulu Belle and let him sleep.

As I sat down with my daughter, I realized something about the day’s adventure. It had been a success and a good time but the realization hit me that I would be the only one to remember it. Short Stack is still too young for the memory to stick and Lulu Belle… well. This would be my memory, alone. Rather an odd thought, really.

It was a little tricky to pull off, naturally, but it’s a day I’ll always remember as being special. It was my first day out adventuring with the kids on my own and they had both behaved wonderfully. I can’t wait to do it again.

I wouldn’t have minded a little help, though. Next time, I think I’ll check Action Girl’s sailing schedule a bit closer and be in the right port at the right time.

New dad, old friend, only brother

A quick entry for now. I’ll expand on it later tomorrow, but I wanted to seed it today.

As of 1:17 PM EST, my good-as-blood brother, The Doctor is a father for the first time. His Daughter and wife are doing very well and I got a great phone call from him today around five-ish with all the details (weight, height, etc).

As I said, I’ll expand on my thoughts tomorrow morning, over coffee. I just couldn’t let the day slip away with out saying “Welcome” to her and wishing the happy parents all our love.

We can’t wait to see her!

[following text added the next day]

The Doctor and I have been fast friends since the third and fourth grade. I’m actually one year his senior but he’s always been about a grade level ahead of me so it somehow works out. Both of us are only children and for what ever the reasons were for a eight and nine year old, became each others de-facto brothers. In fact, we often have referred to each other as “My brother”. The only real thing that kept us from spending just about every waking moment playing together was the fact that we lived on opposite ends of town with the added bonus that I live in the valley and he live on top of Mt. Everest. Actually, it’s called Chapman Hill, but to a non-driving nine year old, it was much the same. In both cases, Sherpa are involved. Just that in my case, the Sherpa are my parents.

When ever possible, were are at one of our houses together and having a blast. Being “only-ies”, we were used to self entertainment and more than once, what ever parents were around would feel compelled to come and check on us, since they hadn’t actually heard either one of us say or do anything for the last hour. What they usually found was both of us engrossed in our own individual project. Usually something like painting a lead figurine or working on a model or playing on the computer. We’d both be off in our own world and having a great time, but totally independent of the other. Our folks used to find that fairly amusing.

That’s not to say that we didn’t like collaborating. Far from it. To give you an idea of how close we were as kids and how strong our friend ship was and still is, I will give you an example so bold that it will make some of you go “Wow!”. Other’s might not get the significance, but I can’t help that.

We pooled our Legos together in one pile.

We both had a lot of Legos, but together we ruled the Lego universe. For those who don’t see what that means, I’ll just say this; once you put your Legos in with someone else’s, there is NO hope of figuring out who’s is who’s. AND WE WOULD DO JUST ABOUT ANYTHING TO GET MORE LEGOS!

That’s the kind of friendship we have.

Well, we grew up, went to schools, got married and moved away. The Doctor went off to Cornell and then to Dartmouth, got his Royal Smartypants certificate and now he studies how to save the world from infectious diseases. I went off to my own college experience, got my Fairly Smartypants certificate and tried to save the world from Third Graders. We stay in touch mainly through email but try to get together a few times a year.

So now, he has a baby girl. It’s amazing to think back to those days of playing GI Joe’s out in the woods and building secret Lego bases in the couch cushions and to now think about our growing families. Action Girl and I have two and now The Doctor has one as well.

The fun part will be when we can finally get together and all our kids can play with one another. Our daughters are only 6 weeks apart and Short Stack can lead the bunch on adventures in the yard. It’s going to be great. The thing that I really hope for is a comment that The Doctor made last year about maybe finding work here and moving to the area. I know it’s a huge long shot that he could find something in his field here, but the thought of having my best friend and brother living across town, not to mention our kids knowing each other well, is just too good not to wish for.

Who knows… maybe some new infectious disease research center will sprout up down town. I can only imagine the uproar over that! However, you can bet that I’d be the one standing opposite the protesters, cheering on cholera!

Welcome the the world little kiddo. You haven’t met me yet, but you have an uncle who will do anything for you.

Now where’s that box of kazoos and the drum set I’ve been saving for her?

Be careful. Baby’s are catching.

A few very short and sleepless nights ago, Lulu Belle entered the world. Action Girl and I have been waiting anxiously for some time for this event and thank goodness, all has gone well. Both Mom and Lulu are in great shape and there were no worrying or unexpected events. The three of us were tired, happy and relaxing in the recovery room the evening after the happy event.

As it happens, a truly improbable number of our couple-friends are expecting babies of their own in the very near future. In total, we know four other couples who will be getting family additions of their own either in the next week or so or some time this summer. One of these friends is almost tied with action girl in respect to due dates. In fact, they were only one day apart. Because Action Girl had a C-section scheduled and since they set those up before your actual due date, she was going to beat our friend by about a week. It would have been fun to be all in the hospital at once, but hey, what were the chances that they would be so close in the first place? It was nice for Action Girl and our friend to be there to commiserate and shop with over the last few months, though.

The night after Lulu was born, our round and expecting friend came in to visit, bringing flowers and a small gift for our new baby. She got to hold Lulu and Action Girl got to tell her all about the experience and generally catch up and be buddies. I mainly sat in the background and nodded a lot. This was girl talk, after all. Our friend’s husband was supposed to come by as well but had begged off at the last moment after he came to the realization that he still had a ton of things to do before their own baby came into the world some time next week or so and he wanted to try to get through as much of it as he could that evening. Though robbed of “guy talk” that evening, I doubt I could have held a coherent conversation any way.

The reason for my more than normal dopiness was that the night before we were due to go to the hospital, Short Stack pulled an epic night of no sleep. After three nights in a row of sleeping right through, he managed to come down with a runny nose and stuffy head. What that meant was that he didn’t really get much sleep. What THAT meant was that I got less. Action Girl was in no condition to leap out of bed and help him, so that in conjunction with just being keyed up in general left me with something like three hours of real, good, deep sleep. Then, we went in the next morning and had a new baby girl by early afternoon which, though I was there mostly for moral support, took it out of me none the less. I was holding up alright but the visit that we were expecting from our very pregnant friend did run longer than I hoped. When the visiting hours expired at eight, the ladies were still yammering away while I was having trouble keeping from elegantly sliding off the chair and on to the inviting floor.

Finally, by twenty past, our friend was putting on her coat and giving out the good bye hugs. The last thing Action Girl said to our friend was that she should go home and just go into labor so they could be at the birthplace together. Our friends words were, (and I quote) “I’ll do my best”.

We turned in for the night and the three of us dropped off fairly quickly. For me, a folding cot, a pillow made from foam and a gauze thin blanket never felt so good. Lulu did have a few moments during the night. She needed a change of diaper once or twice and a new “urp-up” free shirt and pillow case, but nothing too bad. These were taken care of by me since Action Girl was down for the count after major abdominal surgery. Two AM rolls around and to my amazement, Action Girl’s bed starts moving up and down. It elevates, it goes down, changes shape, pauses and then starts squirming like an android caterpillar.

At first I thought she must be leaning against the controls in her sleep. No. She was playing. Then to my added horror, the light over the bed goes on and Action Girl starts asking me if the baby is keeping me up. What I quickly start to realize as she tries to drag me into conversation, is that all the pain killers that she’s on have her WIRED! She’s wide awake, hyper and bored. After about ten minutes of assuring her that Lulu isn’t keeping me up and that “no”, I’m perfectly comfortable, I finally inform her that the major impediment on my way to Sleepyville is in fact, Lulu’s mom. Through the haze of the percocet she slowly and sheepishly turns off the light tries to fiddle with the bed less an not ask me questions about… anything. Somewhere between nurse’s visits, Lulu whining and a woman giving birth in the next room, I manage to pull down… at least another two to three hours. WOOO!

The next morning I go to fill up the largest bowl shaped object I can find with what ever passes for coffee in the waiting room. On my way to scout caffeine possibilities I see a face I didn’t expect. It’s a buddy of mine and you guessed it, the husband of our very pregnant friend from the night before. He looks ALMOST as shell shocked as I do. Apparently, at 1:30 that night, her water broke and off to the Hospital they went. After a long labor, they have their own little boy and are moved into the room next door to ours. More mutual friends of our have come to visit since our happy family additions, one of whom is pregnant as well. We all cautioned her to touch nothing and stay away from the water, lest she join us.

It’s going to be interesting once we get home. No more nurses. No more coffee ready and waiting for me in the lounge. No more free laundry service with an unlimited supply of infant bedding. It’s going to be tough. But that’s okay. Once we’re home, I know that I don’t have to worry about our bed coming to life as Action Girl gets bored at two AM. And Lulu wouldn’t wake me up, right? Right?

Heh. It could happen.

%d bloggers like this: