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 night 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.

Episode 3: Hospital Survival

Our newborn twin daughters were back in the hospital due to RSV. They’re doing well and so time to share my tips for dads on how to survive a hospital stay.

First, before going on, this is comedic with some truth. This video is primarily a stress release for me and I don’t mean to make light of the seriousness of the hospitalization of little ones. Take me with a grain of salt and then read much better tips for NICU stays. First stop should be Kathryn Whitaker’s index and the posts she links to from there.

Frankly, the experience is still too fresh for me not to make a half-joke out of it. Compared to Kathryn and Luke’s 44-day NICU stay, his complications, continued medical issues, etc, the twins are a cakewalk. They were only feeder/growers with relatively easy issues. Even the RSV hospitalization this weekend was kinda pointless–a little oxygen and a lot of everyone being careful. Eventually, I’ll write a serious post with some (more) serious recommendations. I admit this is me trying to play off their stay. Until then, accept this bit of quasi-comedy like you would the Daily Show, the Colbert Report or anything in that genre: true enough but framed for comedy; not as an exhaustive source of info or even focusing on what is important of the truth.

We were only in the NICU for 11 days. The twins’ RSV stay was only 24 hours. O and MC on separate admissions were in for 4 or 5 days combined (ignoring everyone’s normal postpartum time). That’s nothing compared to what some families go through, but still sucks. No one should have accrued almost three weeks worth of hospital time for their kiddos.

In reality, with all of these tips, the overarching message is the same as my Dads in Delivery post: be the chief advocate for your child through direct awareness of their immediate medical situation and as much awareness as possible of the broader “system”. Knowledge is power, so gain that knowledge and use the power that comes with it as necessary for the benefit of your family.

Episode 2: Table Rules

The experiment continues with recording straight-to-tape with the girls costarring in an episode featuring our mealtime rules. For those that don’t wish to watch the video, the list of rules are below the video.

Holidays are tough. In addition to all of the stress around the actual holiday, you have two weeks of all of the kiddos at home from school, daycare, or whatnot, which means instead of one meal all together plus a rushed breakfast, you have three meals a day.

These rules help us keep order at the table.

  1. Meals last for 30 minutes. We aren’t going to drag out a meal until the end of time only to have a fight when “I’m not finished!”
  2. We sit in our chairs the entire time (but allowed to go to the bathroom). Meal time isn’t recess. It isn’t free time. Keep your butt in the chair.
  3. Enjoyment doesn’t define meal time. If you don’t like something, that’s fine. Still have to sit there.
  4. You get what you get and you don’t get upset. Since O has allergies, sometimes, there are variations within the meal. O might get cherry soy yogurt while the rest get vanilla “moo” yogurt. You get the food that you get and don’t throw a fit if it is different than what someone else has.
  5. Seconds after firsts. They have to eat the gross veggies before getting seconds of their favorite.
  6. No playing at the table. If they’re using the forks as drumsticks or being goofy with their milk cups, it will no longer be their silverware or cups. Too many spilled glasses of water or milk.
  7. No whining. Table time is family time and whining isn’t allowed.
  8. Keep it to yourself: If you don’t like your food, don’t voice that during the meal. When one kid proclaims that green beans are hell on a fork, none of them will take another bite.
  9. No dessert if you skip food.
  10. A big fit at the table puts you in the chair. Booster chairs will come out of retirement if you’re throwing a big fit.
  11. No snack if you didn’t eat breakfast. The kids were skipping breakfast and cashing in during the morning snack.