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The Family That Laughs Together, Stays Together *

The Family That Laughs Together, Stays Together *

* Blogger’s note: Due to the graphic nature of the following story and the family nature of this website, please note that throughout the blog, the word “laugh” and it’s uses will be used to represent the word “vomit.”

Ever had a stomach virus? For those that have, you may skip this next paragraph as I would hate to conjure painful flashbacks. For those that have not yet had the pleasure, let me describe a bout with a stomach virus. Imagine the worst 48 hours of your life. There. That’s pretty much it. Imagine dying of thirst, but not being able to drink even water because you can’t hold any liquids down. Imagine setting up a makeshift bed on the bathroom floor tile because there’s no real point in leaving the room where you’ll be spending most of the night plus you can’t waste precious seconds running all the way from your bedroom. Imagine involuntary chills, but a temperature of 102. Imagine if a genie appeared to you and said, “What is your wish, master?” and you unhesitant in your joyous answer, “Genie, kill me. I wish for death. Make it swift, but make it happen.” Of course this would be a strategic error because you could probably just as easily wish for the stomach virus to go away and still enjoy the rest of your life.

The TODDLER was taking a late afternoon nap when he laughed *(see above note) for the first time that Saturday. As adults when it comes to the unpleasant but inevitable task of laughing, we are experienced enough to run to the bathroom commode, laugh it up and flush it down. Toddlers can’t get to the bathroom so they just laugh and laugh. And man, there’s nothing more unpleasant than cleaning up projectile laughter. You find laughter in places that seem impossible. The TODDLER wasn’t done though. He began laughing every 15 minutes. The poor little guy was miserable. He didn’t understand what was happening. He only understood that he wanted it to stop. Every time he felt the laughter start to rise he would whine a meager, “No. No. Done. Done” as if to reason with his stomach that he was no longer enjoying this thank you very much. A doctor was called and prescribed an anti-nausea medication. Since it was after 6:00 on a Saturday evening, the prescription was called into an all night pharmacy. It was in the next town over and about a 15 minute drive. The FATHER raced over only to find that the all night pharmacy was closed from 7 PM to 7 AM that particular night due to “unforseen circumstances”. Of course it was. Upon arriving back at home empty handed the FATHER discovered that the TODDLER had been laughing in his own room, giggling in his parents’ bed, chortling in the hallway, and guffawing everywhere else. The MOTHER and FATHER would try to put a bucket in front of him, but the TODDLER began to associate that action with laughing and would push it away in hopes that it would stave off the next joke. Of course it didn’t and only made things quite a bit messier. Carpets needed to be scrubbed. The TODDLER’s bedsheets were soon soaking in the bathtub in an attempt to save them for future use. An attempt that would prove futile. The MOTHER and FATHER’s bedsheets were thrown into a washing machine that was about to have a very long night.

The FAMILY rushed to the Emergency Room of the nearest hospital. The title “emergency room” is one of those oxymorons like “jumbo shrimp” or “holy war”. Nothing about that place moves at the pace that emergencies should. And if you ever feel depressed because you’re sitting home on a Saturday night, take a walk over to your local emergency room. After spending 5 minutes in the packed waiting room of miserable, injured, and sick people, you’ll walk out feeling like a million bucks happily returning to your boring but healthy Saturday night at home. The FAMILY arrived at 9:00 and was seen at midnight. The TODDLER was given some medication that actually seemed to help. He stopped laughing long enough to hold down some liquids. The little guy was exhausted from his 6 hour ordeal however. The doctor looked at the PARENTS and said, “It’s so sad isn’t it? You just wish it was you going through it rather than him, don’t you?” Stupidly the FATHER agreed. And the irony began. When the FATHER turned to the MOTHER, he noticed that her face had gone deathly pale. She looked at him and said, “I don’t believe this. I’m about to start laughing.” She excused herself and went off to find a ladies room to chuckle in private. It was like the end of The Exorcist. The TODDLER was no longer possessed, but the evil spirits had hopped over to the nearest warm body. The hospital prescribed an anti-nausea medication (the same one the doctor had prescribed over the phone 5 hours before) and released the FAMILY. The pale MOTHER and recovering TODDLER headed out to the parking lot while the FATHER settled the bill. As he was filling out the paperwork, he suddenly felt the blood completely leave his face like the tide rushing out to sea just before a massive tidal wave. He felt his mouth go dry and his hands go clammy. You’ve got to be kidding me. The clerk handed his insurance card back and said cheerily,”You’re all set. Good night!” The FATHER grunted something incomprehensible and pondered turning right to the bathroom or left to the parking lot. Being the good father that he was, he decided to get his sick wife and baby home. He walked out to the car where the MOTHER was already in the driver’s seat. He was trying to talk himself out of laughing until he arrived home. No such luck. Things were just too funny on this night. The car was barely moving when the window was rolled down and the FATHER shared a joke with the parking lot. And then there were three…

Upon arrival home, the MOTHER and TODDLER wearily climbed into the master bed which was now a bare mattress with a bare comforter. The TODDLER quickly fell asleep while the MOTHER made a few more trips to the bathroom. The MOTHER and FATHER debated getting the prescription filled immediately or waiting until morning. The MOTHER reasoned that there would be no sleep without some form of medication. The FATHER reluctantly agreed, climbed into the car that didn’t have remnants of laughter all over the passenger door, and headed out to the other all night pharmacy which coincidentally was in the strip mall across the street from the previous all night pharmacy. This begs the question: what’s wrong with the inhabitants of this town that they need two all night pharmacies within fifty yards of each other? The FATHER felt queasy and exhausted, but was proud of his heroic efforts to take care of his family at 2:30 AM. In fact he felt downright thirsty. And he remembered that as a small boy, his mother always let him have Coke to help his upset stomach. So he picked up a bottle on his way out of the pharmacy. But always mindful of his weight, he settled for Diet Coke. Now this was stupid because A. he had probably dropped a pound or two anyway in the last couple of hours; B. the sweet coke syrup not found in Diet Coke was what helped upset stomachs and C. sipping the Diet Coke was probably the way to go rather than gulping half of the 20 ounce bottle in one swig. Needless to say the FATHER was halfway home when he felt the urge to cackle which quickly turned into a strong urge to hoot and holler. Having no time to pull over he rolled down the window and leaned out while acrobatically keeping the car straight. N
ow this was also stupid because if he had paid attention in Physics class he would know that expelling an object out of a vehicle moving 50 miles per hour would just bring said object right back into the vehicle at an equal velocity…or something like that. The joke was now on the FATHER not to mention the front seat of his car. Laughter: 2 Family Cars: 0. Had anybody been witness to this pathetic display, they would have seen a grown man driving a car down the highway screaming,
”AHHHHHHH! AHHHHHH! OH MY GOOOOODDD!!!!” Upon arrival at home, the FATHER quickly undressed and threw his clothes into the overworked washing machine. He jumped into the shower, scrubbed himself with the ferocity of an obsessive compulsive, toweled off, gave a pill to the MOTHER and took one for himself. He then staggered into bed and the family enjoyed a restless sleep for 2 hours.

The next two days were spent alternately on the couch and the bed. Frequent trips were made to the bathroom by both the MOTHER and the FATHER. The TODDLER was thankfully good as new and couldn’t understand why his parents didn’t enjoy it when he gleefully climbed all over them or jumped on their heads and why they remained in bed moaning all day. The MOTHER and FATHER were actually grateful that the TODDLER felt better. It would have been impossible to take care of him in this state. The FAMILY eventually recovered and actually relished in the weight loss. But they never will forget the night of 1000 Laughs.

So why do I recount this graphic tale that at times crosses the line of over sharing? Because looking back, it was a 72 hour period of time that can only be endured by people who truly love each other. Never has the term “for better or worse, in sickness and in health” been put to the test more. Because nothing says happy family like a night filled with laughter.

Make Art!!

Make Art!!

I am back from my wonderful, much needed family vacation!! It’s been years since we did something like this.

I started organizing and packing up the family at least 4 weeks before our excursion to the other side of the country, the entire time wondering if the trek with 2 young and energetic boys, the rising level of our expenses and my loss in sanity would be worth sitting on a beach for a week.

It was.
It was, it was, it was.

I am eternally grateful for all the relatives who were drooling to spend time with my children- and did, leaving me with REAL legitimate relaxation…not the kind that is interrupted every 5 minutes with a child’s need for attention. I took complete advantage.

Some listen to music while on the sandy beach, others like to read. I choose to sand sculpt.

To me, there is nothing like sitting in the silk soft sand for hours and hours, getting filthy dirty the way I used to when I was a child, letting my mind wander freely and creating something from my deepest imagination. Sand sculpting is cathartic, therapeutic and cleansing. My only stress was wondering when the tide might come to wash it all away, and even that became less of a stress after a few days, and more of a way for me to feel part of the universe.

It was a terrific lesson of the natural process of all the we are and all that we are a part of. The tide, although different each and every day is something we can come to count on, toying with us, supporting us, watching what we build for hours before it slowly comes in little by little to wear our creations down…eventually until there isn’t even a sign of our work.

Yet, we don’t cry over it- we build a new creation the next day. I am glad to be back, and especially grateful that I was able to take with me a new sense of purpose and bliss. My sandcastles may be gone forever, but the construction of my spirit has given me a strong foundation for living a long and happy life.

Art is good for the soul.

Thanks. I got it.

Thanks. I got it.

Written By Chris Loprete

Why is it that when women see a father alone with a baby, they immediately assume we don’t know what the hell we’re doing? Now I don’t want to generalize here. I’m not talking about single women. In fact the single women tend to gravitate towards the daddies at the park or in other public places. Chicks LOOOOVE guys with babies. Babies and dogs. They say, “I want that.” Now of course we men are kidding ourselves because ‘that” is not specifically us, but rather a stable man who’s a good father, and the fantasy is fun. Anyway I’m probably already in trouble with my editor who happens to be my wife (and the two are very rarely mutually exclusive) so I’ll go on. No, I’m talking about the annoying mother who wants to give all kinds of unsolicited advice on how to raise your child. And rightly so. OBVIOUSLY I MUST need this unsolicited advice because my child’s mother is nowhere in sight. I therefore MUST be doing something wrong. And then, I imagine this “guardian angel” will go along her merry way and later at the dinner table tell her family how she saved a child’s life today.

Take this little encounter for example. It was a summer Saturday afternoon about two years ago. I was in my townhouse downstairs and my wife was upstairs with our infant son. I was watching a baseball game and cleaning. The cleaning part is not important to the story but I specifically remember doing it and I always like to remind my wife/blog editor that it does happen on rare occurrences. Anyway I could hear my son crying upstairs pretty loudly. He was probably getting his diaper changed which to him has always been the baby equivalent to a root canal. There was a knock at the door. When I answered it I saw a woman who was walking her dog in front of our door. She asked, “Do you have a baby?”
“Why yes” I said waiting for the inevitable compliment. Something along the lines of, I see you walking him. You have a lovely family. or Well, he’s obviously going to grow up to be a very good looking man. Why else would she take the time out of her dog walking to knock on our door?
This is why: She looked at me and said, “He’s crying upstairs.”
I paused to make sure I had heard her right. Then I said, “Yeah, my wife’s upstairs with him.”
She replied, “Oh, I heard the game on pretty loudly so I wasn’t sure you if could hear him”
Yyyeeeeahhh. Handled, honey but thanks. I’m sure the children of our housing complex are a lot safer with you roaming the sidewalks knocking on doors. Hey hero, I think I hear a baby coughing a couple of houses down. Do you want to call child services or should I?
Or how ‘bout the woman on the beach later on that same summer? I was walking on the beach, my son safely strapped into the front loader on my chest. I felt good. First of all the Baby Bjorn completely covered my huge gut so I wasn’t nearly as self conscious as usual. And secondly, it was a beautiful day and I was walking with my new son at the place I’m always the happiest: the beach. So when I saw a woman walking toward me and eyeing both of us, I started to feel even better. I was sure she could sense the good energy coming off of me and like I said the baby was covering up my huge white shirtless girth so I thought Hey, I think she’s checking me out.
So when she passed by and asked, “Does he have sunscreen on?” I was a bit nonplussed. First of all I had practically bathed him in SPF 560 or whatever the strongest baby sun goop is nowadays. This kid could have crawled across the surface of the sun and come away with nothing but a nice base.
So I told her, “Uh….yeah…plenty.”
She replied, “Oh. Cause his legs look a little red.” and passed by me never breaking her stride.
I immediately turned and shouted after her, “Yeah? Well they call his chubby legs and butt baby fat. They call yours cellulite!” ZING! That got her. Of course I didn’t actually say that but ooooh I wish I had.

And these brilliant pieces of parenting wisdom are not confined to just me when I’m alone. My wife has had to endure some slings and arrows of her own. It’s like divide and conquer. Once my wife and I are divided, they love to conquer. I don’t ever want to hear a sentence that starts with, “Y’know what WE do…” I don’t even like hearing it from our parents, but that I understand and tolerate because “parental interference” is in the grandparent’s code book. It’s a God given right. To tell you the truth as my wife and I get ready for baby #2, we’ve learned to tolerate buttinskys a little more. In fact I’m amazed how laid back we are about having another child and we’re only 3 months out. I guess we think of ourselves as old pros now. In fact it probably won’t be long before we’re handing out some advice of our own to other parents who obviously don’t have a clue what they’re doing. I’m sure they’ll thank us for it.

Thanks. I got it.

My Life: Take 2

Written By Chris Loprete

It’s true what they say. Once you become a father, you start to live your life all over again. My son is 2 ½ and I’m finally getting it through my thick skull that while I have said goodbye to many aspects of my younger self (i.e. sleeping in on weekends, peaceful mornings and quiet nights at home, 2 AM drunken breakfasts at all night diners), I have just begun to experience an entirely new quality of life. The life of a father, nurturer, protector, teacher and dare I say, hero. While it is absolutely one of the hardest roles I’ll ever take on, the perks of daddy-hood are irresistible. For instance: nobody has ever been so happy to see me when I come home from work. Every day without fail! Only a dog shows that kind of loyalty and they emit a loud bark rather than an adorable, “Hi daddy!” And I challenge your heart not to melt when your son or daughter lays their head on your shoulder as you gently rock them to sleep.

Something that I didn’t expect was the flood of forgotten or suppressed memories from my own childhood that would begin to resurface. I’ve always prided myself on having an incredible memory. I can rattle off dates, places, historical and personal events at a clip. And don’t even get me started on movie and TV dialogue. I tend to give the impression that all I did as a child was sit inside all day and memorize cartoons and sitcoms. That’s NOT tr…well okay that’s mostly true, but it also has to do with the fact that I have a memory like a steel trap. I thought the extent of my memory only reached back to my 4th or 5th year however. So I’ve been surprised recently because ever since the birth of my son, memories of my toddler years which had been tucked away for one reason or another have been popping up without even trying to recall them. The memories are so vivid it’s as if they happened yesterday. When his cries split the night at 3:00 AM, I no longer curse under my breath while stumbling into his room to calm him down. This is because I recently remembered a particularly terrifying recurring nightmare that I had as a baby. While I don’t remember the details of the dream, I do remember jolting awake while screaming at the top of my lungs and looking towards my bedroom door through the bars of my crib just waiting for it to open and my parents to come to my rescue. I also remember a particular bully from when I was 3. Who bullies a kid when he’s only 3?! Anyway I think I remember him because of his name: Keith Newton Shot. Isn’t that the greatest name ever? Sounds like an assassin. “The Prime Minister’s life was tragically taken by Keith Newton Shot” Then the local news would interview me and I’d say, ‘It doesn’t surprise me. He used to push me off of my Big Wheel when I was 3.” But the point of this memory is whenever I see someone pushing my 2 year old around I have to restrain myself from shaking the kid while yelling,” I WILL NOT LET YOU BE HIS KETH NEWTON SHOT!” But I digress. Another wonderful memory hit me recently and inspired this month’s blog.

Last weekend I spent a lovely weekend at the beach with my family. I’m a HUGE fan of the beach. I tend to pine for days gone by. It drives my wife crazy. The summers are a particularly nostalgic time for me. Growing up I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks every summer at the beach or “down the shore” as we say back East. 3 WEEKS! 2 weeks mid summer were spent at a rented house at the Outer Banks of North Carolina (the greatest destination…EVER! Don’t argue with me.) and 10 days at the end of August were spent at Ocean City, New Jersey. I looked forward to those weeks all year long. Every morning I would hit the beach with a ravenous appetite and stay there until sundown, alternating between boogey boarding in the waves and sitting in my beach chair listening to music or enjoying a good book. My family soon bestowed upon me the title of “Beach King”. Then at night the entire family would have a huge dinner and play games or head to the O.C. boardwalk and go on the amusement park rides, play mini-golf, eat Mack and Manco’s pizza (best pizza anywhere! Don’t argue with me.) And eat caramel popcorn or salt water taffy. It’s the kind of stuff that Bruce Springsteen songs are made of. They were the happiest days of my life. And not only did we kids enjoy those vacations, but the adults seemed to be having the time of their life too. Now that I’m a little wiser I realize that they were all completely drunk much of the time. We kids had no idea. We just thought that they were having a REALLY good time playing Charades with us.

Anyway ever since I became a father, my dream has always been to someday recreate those memories with my kids. Last weekend was my first taste of it. My in-laws own a lovely condo at the beach about an hour from our house. They have been generous enough to share it with us for which, believe me, I am eternally grateful. Last year my son was 1 year old and to him the beach was a brand new and wonderful world. He was terrified of the ocean though. You would be too if the only body of water you’d seen was a bathtub and a pool. This was water that actually crashed down and moved towards you! This year however he grew a little bolder. He would take my hand and actually lead me into the ocean and say, “I need up” which meant he wanted me to pick him up and carry him out to sea. While I was slowly wading out to just in front of the breakers feeling my son clinging to me in excitement with a touch of nervousness, I was blindsided by another memory. I remembered that I wasn’t born the “Beach King”. I had to earn it. When I was my son’s age, I HATED the beach. I used to stand at the top of the dunes and scream my lungs out because I wanted nothing to do with this hot and oddly textured ground and the roaring water beyond it. Then one day my father picked me up and carried me into the ocean gently telling me that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me and that frolicking in the waves could actually be quite fun. I remember how incredibly safe I felt in his arms and the complete trust I put in him. I survived my first foray into the Atlantic and an obsession was born. I saw that same trust in my son’s face along with that same look of cautious excitement as he truly experienced the ocean for the first time in his life. It was amazing. It felt like somebody hit rewind on my life but this time in a weird “Freaky Friday” experiment, the son had now become the father. I’ve begun to relive my life through my son. It made me realize that it was time to let go of the summers of my past and prepare myself for the summers ahead. We’ve conquered his fear of the waves. Can drunken Charades be that far away?

This all being said, is it too much to ask for the little guy to learn how to swim so I can relax in my beach chair and read a good book?!

THE FIRST WEEK (A confession)

THE FIRST WEEK (A confession)

“It’s okay, buddy. It’ll be alright, pal. Don’t cry.” I say half heartedly. I’m only saying it because it seems like that’s what I’m supposed to say. I don’t really know what I’m doing. In fact I don’t even know this kid. I feel bad saying that because I think I’m supposed to be laughing and cheering as I run down the hallway with tears in my eyes handing out cigars. That’s what every new father does in TV shows and the movies. I’m trying to fake it, but I’m having trouble. It’s 10:00 AM on a stormy morning in April of 2006. I’m in the nursery of my local hospital looking down at my son who was born exactly one hour ago. He’s naked, bloated, still a little messy from the trip, and screaming his lungs out. He’s been bawling since the second I met him. I’m standing over his crib (or whatever they call those hospital issued nondescript wooden rectangles with mattresses.) and thinking he must be freezing. Then I touch his exposed belly and it’s actually quite warm due to the heating lamp above him. He resembles a Rotisserie chicken on display at the front of a grocery store deli. I look up at the big window and there are my in-laws in the waiting room looking in and beaming from ear to ear as they alternately snap pictures and talk on their cell phones heralding the good news of their newly arrived grandson.. Then they look up at me and I figure I should probably go into my routine again. “Daddy’s here, buddy. It’ll be okay. Just a little longer.” I’ve been an actor for as long as I can remember and this is without a doubt my worst performance ever. My wife is in the recovery room after her c-section procedure. She’s probably emotional, lonely and in pain. I’d much rather be with her. She needs me. I’ve known her 8 years. I’ve known this kid an hour. He has no idea who I am. I try to touch his hand but he pulls away. He hasn’t even opened his eyes yet. I can’t even tell who he looks like. I’m just not feeling it yet.

I’ve been up since 4 AM after getting about 3 hours of restless sleep. I drove down to the hospital in a deluge that would make Noah nervous. I’ve been trying to remain calm while at the same time keeping my wife comfortable and relaxed. Our birth plan has pretty much been crumpled up, and tossed into the recycling bin. What was supposed to be a calm, new age-y hynpo–birth without any drugs has turned into an early morning scheduled c-section with quite a few different drugs. All of this after a very taxing pregnancy. Obviously I wasn’t the one carrying the load (literally) so I shouldn’t complain, but I witnessed first hand what my wife was going through and you can’t help but experience some of the hardships too. Especially when the hormones rear their ugly head. I’ll never forget the day I came home from a particularly grueling day of work only to be screamed at for not wanting to name the baby at exactly that moment….7 months before he arrived. Apparently that proved I didn’t even WANT a baby. Pile on the 6 months of fertility treatments, the anxiety of not knowing if we were even going to be able to conceive children and if we did, how we would pay for them once they arrived and you can see what a harrowing year and a half it’s been. And the cause of ALL of that is lying in front of me howling away and not caring. He doesn’t seem to be sorry at all. If anything he should be comforting me. I know this all sounds heartless, but mothers have that maternal instinct. Fathers don’t. My wife has known this child much longer than I have. She’s felt him move. She knows his eating habits, when he’s sleeping and when he’s awake. She has been his personal Santa Claus. I have to learn how to be a father. And apparently I have to learn it right away because my wife is going to be out of commission for awhile as she recovers physically and mentally from a very invasive surgical procedure.

The next few days don’t get much better. I spend the entire week in the hospital room trying to sleep on a small cot that a prison would reject. The baby is awake every two hours of the night and I am still trying to find my way around a diaper. My wife has fallen into a serious post partum depression through the pain killing haze. Oh. And I’m suffering back spasms that would keep a professional athlete out of a championship game. And it’s all this 9 pound 21 inch “bundle of joy”s fault. When does the “you don’t just love your children, you fall IN love with them” thing start? Right now he’s just somebody I have to keep alive. Kind of like those bags of flour they give you for a week in high school Sociology class. Except I have my bag of flour for the rest of my life.

And then it happens. It’s the fourth day of his life. The doctor is about to perform a circumcision. My wife is still bed ridden so I am present at the “ceremony”. There’s a little bit of ritualism as my father in law recites a Hebrew prayer via cell phone. Since my wife and I are an interfaith couple, she being Jewish, I being Catholic and neither of us very good at being either one, we have decided to compromise on the Bris. No big party, but a nice prayer and coincidentally our doctor moonlights as a Moyle. So there we are in a small sterile room in the maternity ward, my son fast asleep and the doctor preparing to begin the procedure. The act itself is not something any grown man should have to witness so I stand back against the wall. I suddenly hear a wail from my son the likes of which I’ve never heard in the span of his short life. I’ve heard him cry pretty much nonstop for a week but this is different. This is a scream of pain. He’s in agony and he’s helpless against it. My boy. My poor, sweet little boy. I would do anything to take that pain away from him. In fact it was at that moment when I knew I would do everything within my power to keep him out of danger for as long as I’m alive. HEY! I think I’m in love. And then a week, nay, months of pent up emotions completely gives way and the levee breaks. I burst into tears and start shouting across the room, “It’s okay, buddy. Daddy’s here. It’ll be alright.” This time I mean it.

The week ended in love but started with indifference. 2 years and 4 months later I wish I knew then what I know now. I wish I could hop in my Way Back Machine and stand beside myself in the nursery that first day and whisper in my own ear, “Hang in there. You’re looking at a stranger now, but this little guy will soon be your best friend. He’s going to make you laugh harder than you have in years. When you have a bad day at work, he’ll run into your arms as soon as you get in the door and instantly make it better. He’ll look at you with awe and wonder. He’ll also laugh at everything you do and say and you can’t beat that. So take heart. This is the toughest week of both of your lives. It only gets better from here.” Unfortunately the 2006 me would probably turn and say, “I HAVEN’T SLEPT IN DAYS! YOU’RE OBVIOSULY A HALLUCINATION! BUZZ OFF, 2008 ME!” But still. At least I tried.