Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rob: That Dreaded Feeling

I doubt there's a parent alive who hasn't experienced a feeling of dread. That moment in time where your heart skips a beat, your breathing stops and panic sets in.

Sometimes it lasts mere seconds like when your child falls off the monkey bars or you lose sight of them in a busy store. In these cases, the dread is usually quickly replaced by relief and then perhaps a little concern or even anger.

Other times, the feeling lasts longer and is harder to shake off once the crisis has been averted or the situation resolved. I have one such experience, while almost two years in the past, still haunts me.

The birth of your child is supposed to be a joyous occasion and I'll preface this by saying the births of each of my three children have been amazing, life changing experiences.  They have all been unique and I cherish the memories from each. I also recognize the importance of the birth stories and want to stress that this is not a birth story, but does revolve around the birth of our youngest daughter.

After giving birth to our first two daughters in the hospital, we decided on a home birth for our last child. On the day Laura went into labour, everything went fantastically. Our midwives were attentive, my mother-in-law came over to help and even our eldest daughter was around to be part of the story. Laura laboured with limited complications and our youngest daughter, Stella, was born at home in mid-afternoon.

After an initial examination by the midwives, everything appeared normal and we spent about 15 minutes basking in the joy of the latest addition to our family.

As a standard practice, babies heart rates are monitored for a period of time immediately after birth and while I don't clearly remember the details, one of the midwives noted that Stella's heart rate seemed really high and asked her colleague to confer. I do however, remember watching the midwives gently press their stethoscopes on my tiny girl's chest and noted the increasing level of concern in their eyes.

The midwives did a remarkable job of keeping their voices calm when they mentioned that Stella's heart rate was high and they were going to call 911. We would need to take a little trip to the local children's hospital.

Their voices were calm but I could see the concern in their eyes and that feeling of dread crept in.

The ambulance arrived and after a quick examination, the baby was bundled off to the hospital with me trailing behind. I don't remember the drive at all, but can clearly recall that overwhelming sense of concern for my child. All I really remember from the journey was focusing on making sure my hands didn't shake too much on the steering wheel.

When we arrived, one of the ambulance attendants mentioned that she thought our baby's heart rate had slowed on the drive over. I felt a momentary sense of relief flow through my body and thought to myself, "What a great story this will be to tell her when she gets older."

With a newborn, there is no waiting around and the nurses hooked the baby up to a monitor right away.  Again, I couldn't hear the conversation, but noted the look of concern in the eyes of the hospital staff.

I left the room momentarily to fill out some paperwork and when I returned, the circle of medical staff had doubled.  Their normal calm demeanor seemed to have been replaced by a frenetic energy. I looked at the heart rate monitor and it was at 250 beats per minute. I'm no doctor, but even I knew this was high.

The number of doctors and nurses kept increasing. Our daughter's heart rate kept rising. My feeling of dread went through the roof. Even now, almost two years later, I can clearly recall sitting beside my wife, who had given birth less than an hour before, holding hands, fighting panic and holding back tears by a thread.

The midwives sat in front of us, attended to Laura and tried as best they could to comfort us, but every time we looked over at this teeny little baby, lying on a hospital bed, surrounded by an ever increasing number of doctors, that feeling of dread just kept rising.

It all reached a crescendo when two physicians were arguing over a proposed treatment while Stella's heart rate reached 292 beats per minute and someone said, "I don't care what we do, just do something."

The reality is the doctors were likely just talking and probably suggested that they just take action but in my panic stricken mind, it played out exactly as described above.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, a wonderful young doctor came over and explained that this was a fairly common occurrence with children and there were lots of possible treatments, but the one they had settled on was putting a bag of ice on her face.

I'm sure I looked at her sideways and gave her the WTF look, but she explained that sometimes the heart can get stuck on a cycle where only two of the four chambers are pushing blood through.  It's like they are caught on a loop and this causes heart rates to spike. The hearts rates of children, particularly newborns, run at higher rates than adults and even 250 plus per minute is sustainable for a short period of time. According to the doctor, the ice would cause the baby to recoil in shock and this, in turn, would cause the entire heart to reset.

I was skeptical, but at this stage wasn't going to argue. Perhaps a minute later, someone gently put a very small ice pack on our daughter's face and held it there for just a few seconds.

I swear, there was probably 25 people in the room and you could have heard a pin drop as everyone stared at the heart rate monitor. It was probably the matter of no more than a second or two, but all of a sudden the 292 was replaced with 250 and just as quickly a 185 and then down to 130 something.

I'm not sure if you've been in a room where everyone breathed a sigh of relief at the exact same moment, but this was one of those times. Immediately the tone of the room changed. Conversations started and people drifted out to attend to the other patients.

All I can say is that I lost it for a few minutes.

The doctor explained that our little girl had a heart condition, but that if you ever had to have a child with a heart condition, this was the one to have.  It was treatable and in many cases resolves itself over time. After several days in the NICU, hooked up to a range of machines, we finally brought our daughter home again and spent the next year monitoring and treating her for this condition.

While I'm pleased to say that she has never had another incident and has even been officially discharged from the pediatric cardiology program, I'm still not over that feeling of dread from those first few hours of her life. Even while writing this post, I found myself overcome with strong emotions.

As parents we are all going to have these moments where we get that feeling of dread.  In the moment we do everything in our power to react and act calmly, but underneath we are a seething cauldron of fear and panic. This is human nature and while I haven't quite been able to let go of this experience yet, I am comforted in my belief that like all the other times the feeling of dread has struck, this too will fade.

PR Collaboration:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Rob: How Not To Change A Tire in Eight Simple Steps

This past weekend, we were able to cross off one of the items on my 12 Inexpensive Things To Do As A Family This Summer. We met up with some friends for a picnic in a park. Everyone had a great time, but when we packed up, I noticed a low tire pressure light on in the car.

After a quick look at the tires, everything seemed in order, so we headed home. Once we had unpacked, I did a more thorough search and sure enough, one of the tires seemed a bit low.

After going for a morning run the following day, I noticed the tire was looking a shade lower than the night before. Since this was my wife's car, I decided to play good Samaritan husband and quickly zipped the car over to the gas station and filled it up with air. I've had slow leaks before and figured this was something we could deal with later. 

I left for work and when I returned home, the tire seemed okay, so I didn't think much of it for the remainder of the evening. Unfortunately, when I went to leave for work the next day, I looked over and saw the tire was almost completely flat.

I'm no car expert but can do most of the basics. I've changed more than a few tires in my day, so I figured, why not quickly change the flat for the spare so that Laura wouldn't be stranded for the day.  
Please note: I'm not to saying Laura couldn't or wouldn't change the tire. Rather, I'm saying that our three girls barely give her enough time change clothes, let alone change a tire. 

Step One: After answering and sending a couple of emails to the office, I changed and did a quick inspection of the trunk which determined I had no idea where the jack or the spare tire were located.  
Step Two: A brief review of the owner's manual confirmed the existence of a spare tire conveniently located under the car and accessible using the tire jack kit.  The tire jack kit was accessible via a simple storage compartment in the rear of the car.  

Easy-Peasy right?  Almost. Except, after another thorough inspection, it would appear that when we purchased our used car, it did not come with a tire jack kit.

Step Three: A little scrounging in my own car, two trips to the tool box and some filthy jeans later, I was able to successfully extricate the spare from the under-belly of the car 

Step Four: Spare tire in hand, I blocked the tires, got down on my belly, found what appeared to be a good place for the jack and proceeded to slowly "raise" the car. Until I noticed the body of car was rising but the axle and tire weren't.....

Take Five: Jack re-positioned, some mandatory cursing and a little sweat equity later, the car was ready for flat tire removal. Until I realized the tire iron for my Mazda didn't fit the lug nuts for Laura's car....

Step Six: A third trip to the tool box for the socket set and a sort of fit, I was able to grudgingly convince the nuts to come free and voila: The flat tire was free!

Step Seven: Mandatory stop to wipe massive quantities of sweat out of eyes and beard. 

Notice the awesome "Popeye" impression.

Step Eight: Smoothly fit the spare in place, tighten the lug nuts, lower the jack and there you have it: A 15 minute tire change completed in only 65 minutes and eight simple steps.

The culprit: A nail firmly embedded in the tire.  


Unfortunately, I was so late for work at that point that I didn't have time to take it to the shop for repair and had to leave that task for Laura to complete with the three girls in tow.  In spite of my challenges in getting the tire replaced, I suspect I had the easier task.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Rob: 15 Signs You've Become "The Runner"

So you started running. Maybe you loved it from the first day or perhaps you've been grinding it out.

Maybe you're not that fast, maybe you don't run that far and maybe you don't run in many races. Or maybe you're a natural. In my books, everyone who puts on the shoes and gets out the door is a runner. Running is running. 

However, for those who stick with it, over time, every runner I know, including me, slowly evolves from a runner into "The Runner." That person who talks incessantly about running, who plans family events and functions around running.  The one who automatically searches out fellow runners at parties and inevitably ends up talking about running.  

But how can you tell that you've morphed from someone who just likes running into an over-the-top, owns more tech t-shirts than regular t-shirts runner? How can you tell it's too late to turn back?

Signs You've Become  "The Runner":

1. You know what Nuun is and how many to take before, during and after a long run.

2. You know that it's not just breastfeeding mothers that have to worry about bloody nipples. (It's a thing.)

3. If your running buddy says they've got the chafe, you nod sympathetically and exchange lube advice in a non-sexual manner.

4. You know what a FARTLEK is.

5. A (insert animal) has chased you at least once.

(Okay maybe not this animal)

6. You leave early or don't drink as much on a Friday or Saturday night because you have a long run the next day and yet you actually run the races to go drink with the other runners afterwards.

7. You know what KT tape is for and have it in several colours to match your different running gear.

8. You understand the proper protocol to use the nod or small wave and you get that there is an appropriate look to give fellow runners when passing or being passed during training runs: Sympathetic, yet supportive.

9. You have attempted to coerce family, friends, acquaintances, even enemies into joining you as a runner. 

10. You can tell without trying whether you're on an incline or decline no matter how small.

11. You stop your Garmin or Fitbit at lights because it would impact your stats.

12. You won't go out in the rain or snow except for runs because you have a training schedule to keep.

13. You can't get up early. Ever. Except for run mornings.

14. You can have a 20 minute conversation on pace.

15. You planned hydration stops and breaks for long runs at least a week before and may have hidden water bottles along your route.

If you've answered yes to more than half of these, then odds are it's too late and you've become, or are well on your way to becoming "The Runner".  Don't worry though, there's a cure: Run more and find runner friends to talk to so that you can spare everyone else in your circle.

Good luck and enjoy all your miles!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Rob: Dating Rituals Of The Happily Married Suburban Parent

I cannot in good conscience write this post without first admitting that I am perhaps the least romantic man in the world. I don't cuddle. I'm not a hugger and I'm definitely not a candles and flower petals on the bed kind of guy.

Actually, to be absolutely honest, I was never much of a "dater" growing up or even during my early adult years. Sure I had girlfriends, but it always seemed to go from zero to serious in a very short period of time. There really wasn't much in the way of real Hollywood style dating that went on.

Even with my wife, whom I met at work, I think I followed a somewhat similar path. Although, I do have a recollection of an epic early date with Laura involving a very formal gala, me wearing a suit with tails, a seedy dive bar and meeting her parents for the first time very early the following morning, we got serious very quickly.

Perhaps it's my interpretation, but when I think about dating, it involves planning, is a bit formal and requires at least some effort. The ironic thing is while I dated little as a single man, since getting married and subsequently having kids, I now date more than I ever did in the past.

As a dad with three young kids, a full time job, a running habit, not to mention my wife's photography business and all of her interests, it's easy to start to take one another for granted.  As a result, ever since having kids, we've tried to make time at least once a month to have a date night.

Based on my own experience and firm anecdotal evidence, I firmly believe there are common dating rituals within the married suburban parental habitat:

Once untethered, it tends to take about 30-40 minutes and at least one drink to unwind and get over the shock of not having someone tugging at your pant leg, or asking for food or wanting a drink or needing to go to the park or (insert typical child request). 

Once sufficiently relaxed, a fantastic conversation between the married couple follows, where there is actually an opportunity catch up on what's going on in each other's lives without resorting to checking Facebook. 

Please note: While parental dating rituals normally occur in the suburbs, any interaction with other children is strictly frowned upon.  The suburban parent reserves his best dirty look for any family that has the misfortune of being seated within his vicinity at the restaurant. Despite the fact that he was there last week and his kid had an epic meltdown.

Standard suburban date post dinner activities include a combination of: Going to the movies, a trip to the shopping mall or local Costco, or, in rare instances, a meet up with other suburban parents to compare stories and have a few drinks.

Please note: It is 100% guaranteed the yawning will occur at, or shortly after dinner. Yawning will increase at an exponential rate unless counteracted by alcohol consumption.  Consequences include: A mandatory child illness, dog escape or (insert minor crisis) for the hungover suburban parent to resolve within the following 24 hour period.

Six times out of ten, common sense or perhaps parental survival instincts kick in and the date is terminated at a reasonable time to avoid Suburban Karmic Kickback.  Reasonable is defined as late enough that the kids have been bathed and put to bed, but early enough for some lounging in pajamas on the couch.

But yesterday, Laura and I took it to a new level.  We had an appointment at the bank and used this as an opportunity to have an "afternoon date." Our date was a meeting with our financial advisor, then lunch in an empty Pho Fusion place, a wander through a couple of shops and followed by a 4:40pm movie.  We were home before 7:00pm.

You know what? Maybe it wasn't romantic, but I still loved every minute of it. I actually had enough energy to have a conversation with my wife. The restaurant was so quiet I could hear a pin drop and we purposefully picked an R rated movie so the theater was almost empty.

Perhaps we have stumbled onto a new, previously uncharted habitat for the suburban parent? Whether urban, suburban or rural, I'd love to hear more dating rituals for the married parent because I'm starting to think there's a coffee table book in the making here. That, or a Sociology PhD thesis.


Laura: Silent Sunday Photo - July 26, 2015


Friday, July 24, 2015

Rob: Little Hands and Little Feet

I have a fascination with little hands and little feet. 

When each of my three girls was born, I can clearly remember marveling at how tiny their little hands and feet were. Almost like a perfect, microscopic version of my own. 

Even now, years later, I can visualize holding each little finger in my hand during those long first nights together. Counting them. Inspecting them again and again as if to confirm their perfection.

I loved that feeling of each of my tiny, newborn girl's hands clenching my finger tightly while they slept. I don't know how many 3:00AMs I laid on the couch with a teeny little hand clutching my pinky or index finger.

I really do have a fascination with little hands and little feet. My girls are slightly older now, but compared to mine, they still have the tiniest of hands and feet.

I can't resist tickling the little one's little feet and watching her cackle with laughter and scamper across the room. Even when changing her diaper, I marvel at how her little feet kick and fuss. 

Sometimes I pick up a tiny shoe or sandal and just shake my head at how small they seem compared to mine.

There's something incredible about spying little footprints in the sand and I envy that my middle child refuses to wear shoes. "Dad" she says; "My toes just need to be free."  

Even my eldest still has tiny hands when compared to mine.  She took my hand the other day and I was struck by just how small her hand still was.  She might be the eldest but she's still my little girl whose tiny fingers used to clench my hand in the middle of the night.

I think I'll always have a fascination with little hands and little feet because they'll remind me of when my girls were so young. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Rob: An Open Letter To All Celebrities

To Every Single Celebrity,

From the A-list to the C-list. From the reality stars to the famous sports personalities. From the celebrity bloggers to the musicians. This is a letter to each and every one of you.

As a father of three very young and impressionable girls, I implore you to take a few minutes and consider these words. I promise to keep this short and won't chastise.

Instead, I merely want to ask you to think about the power and influence you have through your very celebrity. I want to ask you to think about the fact that many will accept your messages just because you are famous.

Please do not misinterpret what I'm saying. I'm sure you are smart, intelligent, thoughtful people and I am in no way, shape or form trying to tell you not to have an opinion.

Rather, I'm asking you to consider the consequences of your words and actions, intended or otherwise, because it is very likely that you will influence those in awe of your celebrity.

By no means am I saying that your actions are necessarily a negative thing. I'm certain that many of you are already doing positive work around the world. But in today's age of instant messaging and immediate electronic news feeds, your words and actions will reach a wide and varied audience, like my daughters, in about a millisecond.

So instead, I'd like to ask you to consider pausing for a just a few moments before you speak or do and consider the possible impact your words and actions might have on young and impressionable minds.

I'm certainly not telling you how to live your life or what causes you should support. I do however, think it's fair to ask you all, whatever form you celebrity you are, to pause and consider the consequences of your actions.

Thank you in advance for considering my request.


A Father of Three Girls


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rob: Tales From A Toddler

While putting the children to bed last night, my four year old daughter decided she would rather tell me a story instead of the other way around. I was so impressed with her tale that I decided to draft a slightly more succinct version.

Princess Maddie and The Grumpher 

Once upon a time, in the land of Carewbia, there was a princess named Maddie. The princess Maddie had two sisters and each of the sisters lived in her own special kingdom. 

Princess Maddie's kingdom was called Bedroomy.  It was a magical place with mountains, deserts, hills and castles filled with all of Princess Maddie's special friends. But none of her friends were more special than her monkeys: Smushy Face, Squinty and Stinky.

 Each of the three princesses had magic powers like super speed or the ability to fly. Actually, the whole royal family had magic powers, including the king, who apparently had magic farting powers.

Unfortunately, in the kingdom of Bedroomy there also lived a mean monster named The Grumpher. The  Grumpher liked to scare and tease all Princess Maddie's special friends. One day, the mean old monster kidnapped Princess Maddie's special monkeys: Smushy Face, Squinty and Stinky. The Grumpher took the monkeys and hid them far away in his castle. 

When Princess Maddie realized that The Grumpher had taken the monkeys, she called her sisters to come from their own kingdoms and help her save the poor, unfortunate monkeys. Armed with magical "pewing" wands which could shoot rainbow curses, their own magical powers and their wits, the princesses set out to rescue the monkeys.

When The Grumpher saw all three of the princesses coming to save the monkeys, he got scared and started to cry. Then, he took the monkeys and ran away to hide in the Dirty Laundry Mountains.

The three princesses had to cross the Laminate Floor Desert, go over the Hills of Bunkbed and through the Caves of Lost Socks to get to the Dirty Laundry Mountains. 

Just as they were starting up the mountain, the princesses saw one of the monkeys poking his head out from behind a rolled up, pink shirt "boulder". They ran up and grabbed him before The Grumpher could do anything. Unfortunately, he got away with the other two monkeys.

Princess Maddie decided to send Squinty to stay with her younger sister who was getting really tired and needed to go home to her own Kingdom. The youngest princess was pretty young and chasing The Grumpher had tuckered her out.

The remaining princesses tracked The Grumpher through the Tunnel of Dangerous Dust Bunnies and around Dresser Summit back to his castle where he was holding Stinky and Smushy Face hostage.

Princess Maddie stepped up to the front of the castle and told The Grumpher in a very loud voice that he needed to give back the two remaining monkeys or else she and her sister would use their magical powers to turn his castle into a tiny dollhouse and him into a stuffed dragon.

The Grumpher huffed and puffed and then threw one of the monkeys right out of the window of the castle!  Luckily Princess Maddie's older sister could fly. So she flew right up and caught Smushy Face before he fell to the ground.

Princess Maddie asked her sister to keep Smushy Face safe in her own Kingdon while she dealt with The Grumpher and rescued the last monkey.

Princess Maddie turned towards the castle, scrunched up her face, pulled out her magical "pewing" wand and sent the most colourful, ginormous rainbow curse at The Grumpher's castle. POOF! The Grumpher was transformed into a stuffed dragon and his castle became a dollhouse.

Stinky was saved! Princess Maddie went back to her own castle in the Hills of Bunkbed to get some rest and prepare for tomorrow's adventures.

The End 

Isn't the imagination of children incredible. The stories that they tell are such a wonderful reflection of the days events brought to life but with magic, dragons and rainbows. Have your children reached a stage where they are able to tell you stories? If so, what are some of your tales?