Wednesday, 26 February 2014

"Oh Mrs T, you came and you made me a tur-key"

Posts to look forward to in the next few days include all of the topical subjects of the moment. Tomorrow we'll finish our initial house-proofing so you'll be able to enjoy a full update about that later this week. Now that SJ is sitting up and since we are a few weeks into high-chair usage there'll be posts galore coming your way.

First, I'm gonna take you back a few months to November and last  Thanksgiving to be precise, for a post that had been erstwhile neglecting in the hand-wringing that went with how long it took me to finally publish the last post.

The day itself had started with all the calm excitement that comes from knowing that the three of us were heading to friends for lunch and didn't have to stress about imminent guests. Great food, great company and no prep- result!

Since we had turkey in the house, guests or no, it seemed only fitting that we should do the done thing and cook our 14 pounder in honour of the day.

Mrs T's valiant attempts to cook the bird we're halted not once, but twice by plumes of black smoke that came billowing from the oven. Not even the sage advice of Adaptive Gram'ma that was sought  after the 1st bout of smoke, could do anything to save a repeat performance when the turkey re-entered the oven.

The first time the apartment filled with smoke SJ and I could be found in his nursery, SJ on his changing pad. As it became increasingly clear that the alarm was about to interrupt the calm tranquility of our chilled out- guest-free morning. I realized I had better cover SJ's ears from the impending racket. Mrs T ran in within a few seconds. She swept up the baby and hurried off out the apartment whilst I was left with instruction to turn off the oven and open all the windows. Fortunately, SJ despite having been lying on the changing pad was, in fact fully dressed!

After a few minutes of dashing around letting in the frigid November air, the goal had been achieved- the alarm had ceased. Mrs T and SJ returned from their perch on the building staircase.

Within 30 minutes both the turkey and the smoke had returned to the oven. Unfortunately, only the resident poultry was staying put. This time, clever-clogs over here, decided, in an attempt to rid the apartment of smoke, I should open the window on our (shared, 2nd floor) landing. Before I could get the window to budge fumes from the apartment began to fill the hallway. Within seconds, not only did our apartment alarm go off, it was joined in chorus with the bellowing tones of the building alarm. Fire engines automatically called, the building began to evacuate. Mrs T grabs winter suit for SJ and a coat for herself and out they go, ready (or not, in fact), to coyly explain themselves to our erstwhile pleasant neighbours. (Only kidding, our neighbours are lovely and were very understanding).

It must have taken 15-20 minutes to get the all-clear from the fire brigade. When Mrs T and SJ returned to the warmth of indoors, SJ was exhausted from the cold and the commotion - there was only one thing to do!

As for me - I got an earful from the fire-woman who came to see the cause of all the dramas. Confronted with the half-cooked turkey in its two disposable roasting pans (both had been found to have minute holes in),  all she said was 'Don't you think your wife deserves a decent roasting pan!'


Beyond the dressing-down I received from the local fire-fighting services this whole episode raised a troubling problem. When the alarm first went off, unable to carry the baby unaided, all I could do was cover the babies ears from the noise. I ordinarily use one of the stroller, the high-chair or the baby-carrier (Baby-Bjorn) to transport the baby. None of these were to hand when the alarm went off, fortunately Mrs T was. How do I get the baby out the building (stairs n'all) in a hurry, if heaven forbid, I ever have to? For the moment the baby Bjorn should do the trick- still unsure what the options will be when he gets too big for it.

Monday, 3 February 2014

"Poop it out already!"

I know its been a long time since I posted, but, fear not, you haven't missed potty training. Just in case you read the title and thought, perhaps, these words encapsulated  the kind of tactics Mrs T and I are employing to encourage our son to either get over a nasty bought of constipation or shorten his contemplative moments upon the 'throne.' Relax, SJ's only 7 months old!

I'm great at procrastination. If you asked many of my closest and oldest friends they'd all tell you just how much I like a good faff. I'm sure, therefore, that there are many people out there who innocently assumed that I'd simply had a spectacularly elongated faff and thus not gotten around to blogging in the last couple of months.

The truth is I've been dreading this post, avoiding it for what is now stretching to months. I've mentioned this 'writers' block' to a few people. A common response has been 'you don't have to write it' - can't argue with that! Except I can. Indeed, the fact that I'm persisting with this post owes much to my dear friend (we'll call him AL -for those are his initials). He helped me clarify in my own mind why I feel its important that I write this post and deal honestly with the difficulties it will discuss. I write this blog, in large part, because I hope that it can find an audience for whom it can be both illuminating and somehow useful.

A long while ago I mentioned that I was excited to find that being a father was helping me be more anal, more productive, more goal-oriented, able to get baby-care jobs done, succeeding in finding time for them. Sadly this initial surge, proved to be just that. Probably helped by the fact that, at the time, becoming a father was my sole focus. Being a dad was the only thing I was thinking about, it wasn't competing for space in my head.

Cerebral Palsy is described as a physical disability but in a certain sense, as the name suggests it is much more. In my case, CP  encompasses, amongst other things, a processing issue that makes multi-tasking a challenge, writing a  30% more time-consuming process than for able-bodied folk and my time-management and self-organization skills can be about as refined as the mental image I have of the 44 hippos crammed into a house as they 'GO BERSERK!' in one of SJ's favourite bedtime stories.

Throughout my life these are challenges I've had to learn to manage. Nothing prepared me for how constantly parenting would be difficult, frustrating and frankly upsetting, not due to my physical limitations, but because of the combination of these, less immediately noticeable, aspects of my disability.

I've made reference here before about how I have a tendency to be  both overly focused on a task and at the same time inefficient. This combines with regularity so that I end up procrastinating my way through  the one task I set out to do, unable to focus on another task at the same time.

Lets take today as a perfect example- I'm at home writing this blog post. SJ and Mrs T are out with friends. They are due back at 4. Clearly as soon as they are at home my focus will have to change to taking care of SJ. If they are early and thus I am not done with this post, I know from experience that my frustration from 1) not finishing and 2) finding it difficult to switch focus- will spill over into my behaviour. It's not that I wont do my share of helping with the baby- but I'll do it grumpily. This grumpiness is interpreted as lack of gratitude and resentment by Mrs T who then feels that I am neglecting my end of parenting, forcing her to pick up the slack and feeling as if I don't appreciate the fact that she took the baby out, sacrificing her own productivity, so that I could be at home and get things done uninterrupted.

This combination can be toxic. This is not the kind of father I want to be. This is not the husband I want to be.

There are established elements in SJ's day that are specifically my responsibility- getting him up, dressing him, taking him for his weekend morning walk, his night time story- these  I know are coming and can factor into my time. It's the frustration and annoyance that I feel when I'm trying to attend to something 'non-baby' and suddenly I have to feed him, change him, rock him in the swing, fill his bag etc that irks me. Often my sullen reaction means that Mrs T will take my apparent reticence as a cue to do the  baby care task instead- a recipe for increased resentment.

As I reflect on why this happens so often, I find myself recalling the description in an earlier post I gave of what success looks like for me. Since most tasks big or small require effort, success is getting the job done. How it gets done- the aesthetics or efficiency involved-  are irrelevant. This is, I think, why I commit so much emotional energy into getting the tasks I've committed to in my head done. Done to the exclusion and sometimes detriment of other tasks that are not necessarily any less important, that is. In the past this was an ok paradigm because there was only me to worry about, as long as I got what needed to get done completed, it didnt matter how time or effort consuming getting something done was. I could allow myself the time I needed to get it done and work later and longer to make up for it.

This is no longer a workable paradigm.It's no longer just about me.

I want to be a proactive father, able to prioritize my child's needs over my own.

Sounds simple, doesn't it...?

Not wanting to leave things on either a cliff hanger or a downer, let me take a moment on how I'm trying to be proactive about this situation.

1 - I took the initiative to get a referral to a neurological occupational therapy assistant at an out patients unit at a Boston Hospital. I did this in November. The inital appointment isn't until next month (sound fimilar, British readers)? Sigh.

2- We've also been  trying to do more of something we've always needed to do more of. That is talking through tomorrow's schedule at dinner time. This way. less elements of a day come as a surprise. As I said earlier, when a baby- care task can be pre-factored into my day, it becomes expected, its time accounted and often times eagerly anticipated.

3. I think in general, despite all I've said here, I am getting better at being more available for baby care. I think this is because the longer that SJ has a routine, the easier it is becoming for me to think ahead and predict what baby care will be needed, when.

Phew, there you go, I got it all out. What a relief, now on to the so many other entries I've been looking forward to writing but have had to take their place in line until after I got this one done.

Back soon!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

And introducing......Mrs T

Hi. Mrs T here, temporarily contributing to the blog. So, traveling with AD requires an extra set of hands. I know that a lot of people feel this way when they travel, that they would benefit from assistance. So, I’m not saying we’re unique, but this is AD’s blog anyway. The extra set of hands that we have for AD in airports—i.e. the handicapped assistance person—is good for helping AD out, but doesn’t take the place of a fully able-bodied additional person. The assistant’s main task is to push AD and take care of AD’s carry-on luggage, etc. This leaves me to essentially take care of the baby, my own things, and AD’s overflow stuff that the assistant can’t manage. There are only so many things that can be fit into the bottom of a stroller, and a rolling suitcase is not one of them. Then, when the stroller is checked, that leaves me to wear the baby on the front, my backpack on my back, my jacket around my waist, the baby’s bag over one shoulder, and something of AD’s (whether coat, one stick, or bag) on my other shoulder. It is crucial to have the boarding passes and passports put into a front pocket of one of the bags on my shoulder, otherwise it’s even more of a mess. So, to wrap up my ramble—it’s all well and good that AD gets an assistant for himself, but what about me? Not only do I not get an assistant, but AD isn’t able to be as helpful to me because he’s being pushed through the airport. I do appreciate going to the front of the lines, though. It would take forever and a day if we didn’t get to cut the line.   

(In the name of editorial full disclosure, you should know, that I was given a telling off for my use of dramatic/poetic/ license in the previous post- the pilot who helped Mrs T with SJ at security, was neither a dashing specimen nor overly willing to help- his mate next in line encouraged him. I stand corrected - AD)

Monday, 28 October 2013

Back Staging part 2

As for security, I've long since made my peace with the fumbling to get everything out my pockets and the groping. patting, tugging, swabbing and back of the hand-pressing that is entailed in having a one-on-one inspection (which is what they call a 'male assist') - such is life when walking unaided and shoeless through the metal detector is not a realistic option.

This left Mrs T to get herself and an  essentially comatose 3 month old through security. The plus know that star-jump, chest crunch type thingy they now get you to do through the detector...well they didnt make her have to do this thankfully.  Nor even did she have to go through the metal detector while throwing SJ over the top of the machine having to catch him as she exited. In Mrs T's case, she was permitted to do an approximation of the star-jumpy chest-crunchy pose while still holding SJ- phew! The real down side came before all of this metal related palava. Mrs T, not only had to schlep all the luggage and things onto the conveyor, but also the stroller, since we were checking it at the cabin door. What do you do with a baby, when you need to fold the stroller and put the car seat through the scanner? in such In a sudden Hollywood-esque moment of fate, Mrs T, found herself next in line behind a rather dashing, eager to assist, airline pilot who was only too willing to 'hold the baby' whilst the stroller was folded, placed on the conveyor, and of course unfolded on the other side. Thank-goodness for hunky, helpful airline employees- oh, did I mention his wife was expecting twins?!

The feeling of '3rd wheel-ness' was not lessened once we got to the gate where SJ decided he was hungry, leaving me with nothing much to do, other than look mildly gormless being left to sit in the wheelchair which our attendant kindly left us. 

She arrived again to push me down the jetty to the plane. When we left the stroller st the airport cabin door, SJ was asleep. We settled as quickly as we could given all our baby related paraphernalia (not least that both of us -according to our pre-arranged plan, were wearing baby carriers) into our bulkhead seats and the flight attendant brought the bassinet we had booked and the seat-belt extension so that SJ could be fastened into Mrs T's seat belt.

Now, as I write this with hindsight, I'm left wondering why didn't I ask for a second extension so that we had the option for SJ to also be strapped to me, freeing up Mrs T, for eating, moving around, movie watching etc? The answer is, of course, that I could have done, but that actually the pressure in those (public) situations where you are doing everything to prevent your child from causing a scene is to get everything done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Handing off SJ to me would have been a big faf, trying to attach him to me an even bigger one, essentially wasting our precious time and making him more prone to screaming.

With that, SJ happily slept and eat his way through the flight. Screaming only for the 3 minutes I was holding him so that Mrs T could take a well earned wee. All the rest of the time he was snugly attached to my better half.

There was one last moment baby related high-jinx just as we were about to get carried away with how smoothly it all had gone. That was the incredibly public wee  that our darling son did, as we changed his nappy while waiting to get off the plane at Heathrow. A bigger audience of already disgruntled people he couldn't have wished for!

We were whisked through passports and baggage in much the same way as we had check in and security at the other end. To arrive in my parents words (as they met us at arrivals) 'looking all put together'.

Appearances, don't tell the whole story.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Back Staging Part 1

Even Adaptive Grandpa wrote to me after the previous post to tell me how cool, calm and collected the three of us seemed when my parents were there to meet us off the flight to London.

It's true that our traveling went far more smoothly than we had any right to imagine. Frankly that's much less interesting (and I hope worthwhile) than hearing the story behind the story...

It all begins with our wearable baby carrier. Back in March we had bought bought a Baby-Bjorn as our wearable carrier of choice. To say 'our' is honestly more than a little misleading, You see, as with the vast majority of the baby equipment we have chosen ourselves the sole barometer of that choice is my ability to use the contraption/device/thingymabob/ successfully. Rigorous in-store practicing with the 'in-house' baby doll, seemed to show that I would be able to carry the  real baby in it successfully when the time came. With that, the choice was made, the 'Bjorn' became 'our' wearable baby carrier. 

 Now, this approach does have a distinct advantage in as much as it makes the process of baby shopping much less overwhelming because in every significant sphere it cuts down our choices. We our fortunate that every purchasing selection does not feature the agonizing choice between  150 versions of the same thing that seem distinguishable one from the next by little more than 'the cute dog design'  or the 'one with the spaceships'. Who knew you needed half this stuff? Truth is, in reality, there are a few bits of kit that have proven essential and many others that we now consider essentially superfluous. (I'm sure this must be in common with the experience of many other new parents be they adaptive or able-bodied).

In this case, our approach proved flawed as within a few weeks it became clear that the Baby Bjorn, while still comfortable for SJ and working well for me, was putting too much pressure on Mrs T's back. After some testing of her own, Mrs T selected the Beco Gemini (we'll say nothing of the aspirational, pretentious name) as her carrier of choice and so, on the very day of our flight to London we became one of those 'two-carrier' families.

We specifically wanted to have both carriers for the flight so that we could both take turns with parenting duties in the airport and on the plane while the other could eat, watch a film, sleep etc. Plus, of course Mrs T wouldn't have to carry all the luggage and the baby too. From my perspective this was great as I, as ever, was concerned that the burden of parenting was likely to fall on Mrs T during the journey and here was a way to even the load. This is part of the reason that the inside story of the flight was actually one of frustration for me.

As I said in the previous post, we were all packed and ready when the cab came to take us to Logan- thanks largely to my being sent to do trip-related errands (including buying Mrs T's Gemini carrier) while Mrs T handled the packing and SJ. Things started to go down hill once we arrived at the airport.

Clearly, its not all bad. I imagine that tonnes of able-bodied folks are quietly jealous of wheelchair users at airports like myself who get whisked effortlessly through all the various queues. That said no ones ever fest this up to me, just a hunch. In fact, when Mrs T and I first traveled abroad when we were engaged she would constantly double check whether she should be coming with me as we merrily skipped the queues.

That said, as soon as we arrived at the airport and the wheelchair attendant met me the tone was set. I was put in the (naughty) corner where people requiring assistance are made to wait for a pusher. Fortunately, the baby was sleepy. Mrs T went to check in and soon returned to take all the luggage and get the stroller tagged for aircraft side check-in. I was left twiddling my thumbs, thankful that the baby was too busy being tired to cause any trouble.

When the wheelchair pusher arrived off we went, me with the hand luggage on my lap. The assistant, pushing me and Mrs T with the baby and all the other hand luggage.

No problem you might say, indeed there was no problem until, that is we got to the security check.

And for that come back for part 2... (which is a proof read away from being published so should be ready by some point tomorrow (Monday), see you then.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Tale of Two Plane Rides (and the holiday in between them) - Part 1 - Inbound

On the off-chance that you've been feeling somehow bereft without a regular dose of Adaptive Daddy, I'm glad to let you know that we are back.

Mrs T, SJ and I have recently returned from a holiday based mainly at Adaptive Grandpa and Adaptive Grandma's house in Deepest Darkest outskirts of London.

We haven't done much travelling of any kind since the baby was born. Every new, un-mastered task seems overwhelming, the greater the amount of logistics involved,  the more mind-mindbogglingly insurmountable it can seem. And so it was with the prospect of our first (international) air travel as a trio.

As a couple we are not prone to irrational panicking. In general my calm (if occasionally stern) rationalism is generally a useful foil for Mrs T's intermittent moments of snappy unreasonableness. Add to this the fact that I'm married to a woman who makes the German nation seem grossly blotted and inefficient and you'd be forgiven for thinking that the prospect of getting the 3 of us in a plane and to the UK all present, correct and accounted for would be a doddle.

Well, it would be a doddle, except you forget to consider two things. First, my lingering bachelor tendencies and, second the accumulative effect of parenting and being a breast-feeding Mum on Mrs T.

To the bachelor tendencies first. Gone are the days of my throwing my luggage haphazardly in an unnecessarily large check-in  bag and looking forward to the 'Giant Airport Combo', bought at the Hudson News closest to the gate -that's a  massive bag of cheezits washed down with Diet Coke. It wasn't just with vacuum packing and home-made sandwiches  for the journey that Mrs T rocked my world and won my undying affection, but these definitely helped.

The fact that I'm still tempted by these old habits and that the perennial exhaustion of parenting and nursing means I can no longer rely on Mrs T to do the logistics for both of us, definitely made fuflilling our international travel commitments seem even more daunting.

In the end, the day of our trip to London passed without major incident and all three of us were packed and  ready when the taxi arrived. Once at the airport, with the advantage of wheelchair assistance for me we were waiting by the gate in no time. This all seemed too easy- SJ had either been asleep or too drowsy to care what was going on around him.

But there was still the flight to come....

As for the flight itself....we needn't have worried! When SJ wasn't eating, he was sleeping. Indeed the only time he threw a bit of a tantrum is while I held him so Mrs T could use the loo - typical! Of course we're saying nothing of our darling son weeing all over the plane in front of all of the bemused passengers as they waited to deplane after landing. (Why did we decide to change his nappy on the table they have for the baisonette, rather than in the privacy of the arrival hall toilets again?)

Sound too good to be true? Join us in part two for a reality check...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Public Service Announcement

I'm  sure there is a better and more efficient way to alert you all to this, but thanks to those of you that pointed out that the videos were inaccessible. I had accidentally uploaded them as private - I've changed the settings for both to public. Enjoy!

Also I'm currently in the process of uploading the 3rd video (of the 'special' nappy set up) . According to Youtube it should be done in 24 minutes time. Check back then for a fully complete and functioning blog (with public videos and everything)!