A Chocolate Bar

My oldest is allergic to a lot of different things. In addition to various environmental triggers, she is allergic to milk and all dairy products, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts, as well as anything that has any of those items in it.

We’ve known she’s been allergic to this litany since she was eight months old. We’ve had blood tests done annually. Skin tests at least as often. Tried a food challenge of a muffin baked with an egg once. She’s not any less allergic now and we’re over a year past the magic age of five that her allergist hoped would see her outgrow them.

She handles it well. She likes to wear her medical alert bracelet, a fun kid food allergy one. She rolls with the extra doctor appointments and blood tests. She gets through birthday parties and school.

School has been hard—obviously we make her lunch everyday, we try to send her with homemade vegan baked goods on days they’re celebrating a birthday or to a birthday party. Everything is rewarded with a pizza party. Thankfully, there is one place in town that has a vegan cheese option, but she’s still the kid with the different pizza

People do try—the mom at school who runs the ice cream sales started stocking a frozen fruit option, so she can join in with her classmates who buy a treat the couple times a month they do it.

But, we forget sometimes. And sometimes, she just is tired of being different. Oreo’s are an easy-to-find O-friendly sweet, but it isn’t cake. It isn’t what the other kids eat. She very, very rarely complains about it though.

Tonight, we asked the girls what they would want as their Santa gift. O is old enough that she knows Santa as a game—she is a St. Nicholas helper now. MC asked for a princess this-or-that. T asked for a bike. Normal kid stuff.

O asked for a chocolate bar.

“I never really get to eat a chocolate bar”, she said. Vegan chocolate bars aren’t cheap and so we’ve bought, perhaps, one for her once. It’s easier and more cost-efficient to find the one kind of chocolate chips at the store that she can eat and make cookies out of them, or something like that.

But, all that said, she’s been given candy bars for Halloween that she had to surrender. Her friends and sisters can eat candy bars, Hershey kisses, and anything else without the slightest care. Her thought when someone offers her something sweet is to ask what is in it, and almost every time, decline.

I asked her if she wanted one with almonds or not. Almonds—despite being a tree nut—is one thing she can eat. She didn’t care. She said she could pick out the almonds if she didn’t like them.

I feel like we’re in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and our home on Christmas will be like Charlie’s. All of the excitement in the house will be watching a kid eat a single piece of candy.

It breaks my heart that all my little girl wants for Christmas is a piece of chocolate. 💔 🎄🍫

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Sisterly Care

I was hanging out yesterday with the four youngest kiddos while V took O to a birthday party. First, crawling twins are incredibly “fun” to keep up with and try to prevent them from toppling over everything they pull themselves up on.

MC, our four-year old, is not always the most attentive child. I love her to tears, but I wouldn’t peg her as the “Daddy’s Little Helper” type. She marches to her own beat.

She yelled at me “The baby has something in her mouth!”

I wasn’t sure what she said at first.

“She’s biting something!”

Before I had a chance to get to the baby, MC had ran over, stuck her finger in her mouth, and fished out the little piece of a wicker chair that had flaked off.

I am so proud of her. She realized how dangerous it was for one of her baby sisters to be eating something unknown, got my attention, and went into action to resolve it. At the end of the day, the little piece wouldn’t have caused any harm, I don’t think, but who knows what it could have been.

Later on, she realized the twins were quite interested in the little collection of Cheerios and other foodstuffs they had thrown off their trays earlier at lunch. Totally unprompted she says “They shouldn’t try to eat those. They’re old. I’m going to sweep.” She went to the closet, pulled out a toy broom and a dust pan, then cleaned up the floor around the table.

No deep reflection on this besides I’m really proud of MC. She really wants to take care of her sisters.

mc-a

 

The Kind of Grandfather I Hope To Be

Our youngests, twins, were born a tad early and we had to spend 11 days in the NICU. It has been easier to look back as the months go on, but it still an experience that is hard to quantify and express.

I’ve read this before, but it was sent to me again. Fellow Austinite, Jen Fulwiler wrote a wonderful post about her experience with her boy in the NICU that is best summed up as describing the kind of grandfather I hope I’ll be someday.

Walking out of the NICU was hard each time. We were in an amazing situation of being only 15 minutes from home and Seton had extra rooms one floor below that we were able to stay in for the duration of their stay (once V was discharged). Actually, we were closer to them while in the extra room one floor directly below the NICU versus Maternity six floors and a hospital wing over.

It was easier, it seemed, to know that we weren’t far away and didn’t have to deal with “the outside”—other drivers, clerks in stores, and whatnot.

Even though we were feet away, the medical team doesn’t wait to order things, though. Entering their bay with new, unexpected “stuff” after taking an hour away for dinner was outright scary.

The NICU is a roller coaster. You think everything is going great and you’re heading back to the station, then wham! The sudden, surprising turn hits that takes you on one more loop hits like a ton of bricks.

I hope that if—God forbid—any of my grandkids end up need to take up residency in the NICU that I’m like Jen Fulwiler’s dad. I hope that I’ll be simply present for whatever is needed, even if it is pulling all-nighters for a week to give her a bit of comfort that her little one isn’t alone for a quarter of the day.

Eating Out with Five

We’re not a traveling circus, but we play one in real life.

Before the twins were born, our typical Sunday tradition included going to church followed by going to Kerbey Lane Cafe, a local cafe, with our crew plus the grandparents, for breakfast. Once the twins were born, V and I would take the twins home while the girls went with Grandma and Grandpa to breakfast.

Last Sunday, the grandparents had a conference, so we decided to be brave1 and take all five of our kids out to eat by ourselves.

When you enter the cafe each carrying a carseat with a baby inside while using them as aircraft-style marshalling wands guiding your other three obviously young children into the cafe and toward the now-empty seats in the waiting area after the previous occupants saw the parade coming in and dove for cover… Well, that opens up a few more conversations.

Put on the brakes for a second. Everyone has been really nice, sweet, and kind to us. I jest a bit, but no one has been mean, a jerk, or any of other things you hear about in horror stories when talking to other parents of large families. 👨👩👧👧👧👶👶

While we were waiting for a table, the other folks waiting struck up conversations with us, asking us about having five kids (all five and under!). Then, we sat down, which preceded a greeting line of other parents with kids stopping by to say hi and check in on how we were doing.

One lady left her table to stand by and talk to us until her food arrived. Random folks would stop by to say hello throughout the meal. We were a freak show. A circus act. A magnet that drew toward us anyone who had an extroverted thought during that hour.

It was both really amazing and ridiculous at the same time. For the latter, we could have been filming a pilot of a new sitcom that the gimmick is this hyperbolic-sized family couldn’t finish half a pancake for they were always being drawn into conversation. It was amazing, though, because we instantly disarm people. Austin is a friendly town, in general, but folks don’t just talk to random people that often. If you’re at the same event or sharing some unique experience, I’ve had some great conversations, but not just while eating at a cafe.

It is amazing how seeing us with five kids, or with twins, folks are drawn to us and willing to just talk to us. We must not seem that scary. One of the problems of urban life is you’re always surrounded by a large number of people, but easy to feel alone as everyone lives their own lives avoiding each other. For whatever the exact reason, people don’t avoid us.

While comical, funny, and easy to write off as silly, it’s nice. Both for us—I do like attention after all—and for people that maybe are having a little bit better of a day after seeing our family in relative peace and harmony.

The twins were tired enough that they mostly slept through the entire breakfast and the other three girls behaved swimmingly. We did live up to the stereotype at the end. MC said she needed to use the restroom, so I took her to the men’s room and helped her. Before we get back to the table, T, who is a newly potty-trained two-year-old, declared her bathroom needs as well. With T, when she says she needs to use the bathroom, the path better be clear with nothing to cause a delay. When she says she needs to go, she should have already gone 20 minutes prior.

Poor V. Alone at a table with four kids, hearing one needs to go to the bathroom, no idea how to handle getting a kid to a tiny bathroom before she pees all over a cafe that we can’t just never go back to because one of our kids peed on the floor before when she has two carseats with babies, a 2- and 4-year old.

I don’t know what V’s plan would have been, but as we walked up to the table, she took T out so I could take her to the bathroom. Repeat the action, including walking into the guy who we had walked into moments earlier when I left the bathroom.

We take care of business and return to the table to, you guessed it, the third of three potty-trained kids needing to use the bathroom.

During the chain of bathroom visits, V didn’t realize I was still eating and sent the food away. A parent’s life is no longer fully their own, which is seen in no greater way, than in the ownership of your food.

In the end, we made it out of there an hour or so later with no bathroom accidents, all smiles, no major messes2, and with quite a few more friends.


  1. Let’s not kid ourselves. “To be brave” should be replaced in this sentence to read “that we didn’t have anything to cook at home and were more hungry than scared of taking all five out to one of Austin’s most popular breakfast stops.” 
  2. The bussers at the cafe may disagree. Nothing major by my standards at least. 💥 

The Snooze Button

Our middlest child, the youngest of the oldies, [insert other confusing ways of describing her birth order short of simply saying our 3rd child] has graduated out of her crib into a toddler bed. She has been, for awhile now, able to climb out of the crib, so it has been time.

The transition went well, except she would awake at whatever time and insist it was time to be awake. After a couple hours of sleep, trying to get a stubborn two-year old back to sleep at 3:30 a.m. is not enjoyable, so we passed down our “OK to Wake” clock.

Both an alarm and a "stay in bed until this thing lights up!" magical device.

Both an alarm and a “stay in bed until this thing lights up!” magical device.

This is a pretty cool clock. It has a timed nightlight, an alarm, and a “wake” feature which will turn on a green nightlight when it has passed a certain time. We’ve never used the alarm feature, but the wake feature has been a lifesaver. As the girls started pushing their natural awake time earlier and earlier, this little thing taught the girls to sleep in and, if nothing else, don’t leave your room until it lights up green.

As it was T’s turn to learn this lesson, we taught her what it does when it was time to wake up. Wake up and the light not on? Go The F To Sleep™.

This morning, I went and sat outside her door a couple of minutes before the light would have turned on to see if she was already awake and what she would do when the light turned on.

6 a.m. I hear her stepping out of bed and start pressing the clock’s two child-intended buttons a few times. Then, silence. I waited for a couple of minutes to see if she would come out.

I finally went into her room to discover that she had shut off the light and gone back to sleep.

I have a feeling I know what kind of teenager she is going to be…

Damn You Pampers

Watching some of the Super Bowl ads, I can only say damn you to Pampers.

This is a beautiful commercial. Perhaps it is because of the two eight-week olds across the room who just graduated to those exact Size 1 Cookie Monster diapers in the clip that it brings a tear to my eye. No wait, it’s the cedar. The cedar pollen sucks. That’s totally what it is.

Or Similac and their Sisterhood of Motherhood Parenthood commercial (will forego any more of my usual “what about the dads!” bit):

The emotion of running after the lost stroller, while comedic, is still genuine. No matter the parenting choices, I feel like most parents really get hit hard when they hear about something happening to a kid, as in they can put themselves in those parents shoes. It’s why I stopped watching Law & Order: SVU. Before parenthood, I could watch it all day without care. The wrong episode about something happening to a kid now and I’m installing military-grade proximity sensors around the house.

I’m a stoic guy. I’ve been through enough that a lot in the world doesn’t make an impact on me. Fatherhood has a way about it. I’m not a softie, even with the girls. At least, not yet.