On a Tuesday night Cory and I decided to have a date night. We called and got reservations at a restaurant called “Sea Me” on a recommendation from a friend of mine. As soon as we got there we knew it was a little different. Crowded family style tables were the norm, although we sat at a private table. All sorts of sea creatures are arranged on ice and you choose them market style. We just told our wonderful waitress Joanna to choose our dinner for us! She brought us scallops, prawns, a special tuna sashimi dish and a sardin sushi. Everything was so perfect! Cory’s favorite was the tuna, but I loved the sardin sushi. It surprised me how subtle the flavor was and how delicate the bite. We finished the meal with a butternut squash pie. A little pastry with a not too sweet filling topped with nuts. It was perfection.
Joanna did is well with dinner we asked what we should do next. First she asked if we liked electronic music? Nada. We said, something with cocktails and quiet. So she sent us to a parking garage down the street. YES. A parking garage. We went up this rackety elevator with graffiti everywhere…even covering the camera. We got to the top floor and it was just cars. I told Cory we shouldn’t waste the view “let’s just take a quick look”. We walked to the right towards the edge of the garage and heard laughter, we looked left and there was the bar! It was amazing, trees and white lights eliminated the tabes. We had a magnificent view of Lisbon. I could have stayed there all night.
This afternoon my mom, Caloway and I decided to do some grocery shopping. We left Ashley and Lillian at the apartment while Cory was working. Caloway fell asleep as soon as we got to the store. We got chicken and veggies to roast for dinner, 2 kinds of cheeses (my grocery ritual) and plenty of wine-which after we pay we stuff in our backpacks. We no longer buy “expensive” vinho, it’s all 2 & 3 Euro for us, and amazing! We are really enjoying the Pingo brand wine, it’s probably awful to a somolier, but we like it, and for 2euro a bottle, even better!
When we were walking home mom spotted a florist and wanted to stop to get Ashley some flowers. While she was in there the rain started coming down. Nothing is done quickly in Lisbon so the florist trimmed each flower, wrapped the bouquet in cellophane and tied it with twine-meticulously. When it was done and paid for it was really raining hard. We started to make a run for it, backpacks of wine, Caloway asleep in the stroller, groceries on stroller handle bar and bouquet of Ferber daisies. BAD DECISION. We made it 20 feet before Caloway was really upset and the rain was coming down in sheets. We found a pseudo shelter against a building and used our horribly feeble umbrellas. A beautiful woman came out of no where and used a key card and let us in the building! She opened the door and ran off again! It was wonderfully nice. We stayed in the shelter a few minutes where the groceries kept tipping over repeatedly. Mom kept looking for cabs and taking her hands of the stroller. I was holding a still somewhat sleeping Caloway who wanted nothing to do with an adventure in the rain.
Finally the rain seemed to let up so we decided to make a run for it. We had about 1.5 miles to the apartment and we thought we could make it. 30 feet later a crying Caloway and winds stronger than the strongest Oklahoma gust had us running for cover again! Now we were soaked through and not looking our best. Mom decided to go all in…wearing white pants. She was the only person on the street using a half broken umbrella trying to flag a cab. 2 minutes and a very nice woman stopped and picked us up! We were saved. I threw Caloway in the backseat and we tried to all get the groceries in the back. We were wading through ankle deep water. As we were getting groceries and stroller in the back , guess what happened??? No, the rain didn’t stop. A BUS HIT OUR CAB!! Seriously, sideswiped us and the cab rocked. We got everything in the cab and us and our driver started yelling at the bus driver. She was very animated and I’m sure using colorful Portuguese language with him.
Our cab leaves the curb towards our apartment and Rua Augusta Gil but our cabbie follows the bus route instead so she could yell at him more, it was fantastic. We eventually made it home as it promptly stopped raining. We had a wonderful dinner of cheese, bread, wine and chicken with veggies
On Jan. 29, 2013, Lindsey and I had the privilege of welcoming our first child into the world — Caloway Jesse Miller. And today that little boy turns one. To mark this occasion, I wanted to write about the last 365 days and what they’ve meant to me as a parent, a father, a husband, a son.
Because I’ll probably be crying through most of this, I’m just going to share my experiences being a parent to this magnificent boy in bullet point / random fire.
So here goes:
- The Absolute Best Days of My Life –– Each and every day we’ve had Caloway in our lives has been a miracle. Every second, every minute, every hour, every day is a gift to me. Although there has been a lack of sleep, some hard times, I count every day as a blessing. There was a time in my life I conceded that the door to having kiddos had closed permanently and thought I’d never have the opportunity. Only when I met Lindsey and found a lover and lifetime partner did I see any hope of ever having a child. So each day, I’ve sought to hold him tight and kiss his cheeks because he’s my little miracle and the best gift anyone could ever give me. I often look over at Lindsey as he’s plowing through our house or banging something or just looks over at us and smiles and just say, “Thank you for the best gift in the universe.” Everything I had to do or went through to get here … was worth it 100,000 times over again. Priceless.
- The most joy I’ve ever experienced — Along with that, having a child has been everything my father and others billed it to me as — The most joy I’ve ever felt. Seeing your baby smile at you for the first time, or giggle, or roll over, then crawl, then stand up are precious moments I’ll forever savor. When I pick him up and he snuggles his little head into my chest at night or when he rambles ‘da-da-da-da-da-da,” he is joy incarnate.
- The most pain I’ve ever experienced — When your baby hurts, you are tortured. I’ve never felt so helpless when seeing my child hurt or feel so much pain in my life as when we saw him taken away from us, for his hip surgery. So many times, we’ve said we’d take his pain for him, gladly, just to not see him hurt. I’ve realized and experienced the unconditional love of a parent. I would eagerly give my life for him. Every day. And if I had my way he would experience as little pain in this world as possible. (See our post on We Signed Up For This.)
- He has THE best mother ever — I knew Lindsey was my perfect mate and life partner. I knew and felt her immense love before Callie came into our lives. But 365 days ago, her Mama Bear awoke in her. And her entire being, her eyes, her smile, her actions radiate this mama love like none other. And I feel all the warm reverb of it all. When she holds her child and gazes at him adoringly, I feel loved too by extension. When she sacrifices her own comfort for his, I feel the radiance of that love and sacrifice and commitment. No one else could come close to loving this child as she does. I believe mothers are superheroes. Her energy, focus, protection, love and care for him is superhuman. I don’t know how she does it. He has the best mother ever. She is our rock, our north star, our mama bear. His eyes light up when he sees her in the morning and he literally jumps with joy. (And me too seeing how she loves our child.) There is no one like our little Mama Bear. (By the way, this boy is a REAL mama’s boy!)
- Slowing down and savoring each moment — I have a tendency to live in the future. To rush through and not savor what’s here right in front of me. Lindsey helped me slow down and to see each moment for what it is — something we’ll never have again with him. I told her early on I might not like this stage where he can’t talk to me, or go to the Lego store or play catch. But I was so so wrong. It’s a very tough time with lack of sleep some nights (and I’m just the part-time caregiver for him) but I want to burn each moment into my memory to play over for a lifetime. So I typically pick him up in the morning and feed him breakfast. And at night, I do his baths. Those have been such special times for me as I just stare in awe of this amazing little creature. In the mornings, we typically open the curtains, look out into the morning light and I whisper in his ear how much I love him, how I’ll always be with him (as he carries me into the world) and how he’s going to be a great man. I want him to hear my voice saying I love you over and over and over again. Believing in him and believing great things for him. These moments are priceless.
- One Smile Heals My Soul — His smiles melt me. They put my world back into rotation (or stop it). I live for those smiles. All my problems or worries just fade away in an instant. I can be intently focused on something then see that smile and forget it in an instance.
- You can run over me, but I’ll bulldoze you for my child — You can call me names, misplace my order and generally just push me around … but no one messes with my baby. I’ve always enjoyed being a nice guy. I like being liked by others. I like being pleasant and courteous and enjoyable to be around. But I am the force field of my child. I always start with charm. We tell them it’s FTP — “first-time parents” syndrome. And I smile and point to my adorable son. And that has typically worked 99% of the time (unless you encounter a heartless jerk who doesn’t realize he was an infant who cried and pooped too once). But I’ve realized I can also summon the Daddy Hulk to protect and ensure my child gets everything he deserves and more. In the hospital, I had this surreal realization when I could completely step outside of myself and my norms and be whatever was necessary to ensure he was well taken care of. I think Lindsey laughs a little at it inside, but also cherishes it and lets me do my daddy thing. I memorized all the names of his surgery team and knew their exact jobs. I quizzed them, restated things they told me for clarification (and testing) and ask a million more clarifying questions. Then I looked them all directly in the eye and made them promise they’d take care of him like their own. (Yeah, that’s call the Daddy Emotional Baseball Bat.) And when they didn’t call when they said they would, I went looking for them. No one messes with baby. If they do, they have a Daddy to deal with. And trust me, they’d rather deal with me, than an angry Mama Bear.
- He is MY teacher — I thought I would be the teacher, but he has taught me more. When he was in his cast, everyone felt so sorry for him and cried like we did. They ached for him. All the while, our little boy just smiled and laughed. He knew no difference. He only knew love and happiness and joy, even while trapped in an itchy cast from his chest to his ankles. This is when I realized he was MY teacher. I could have a bad day, get bent out of shape over something most likely very trivial and see him in that cast smiling and realize I was so dumb and naive and shallow. I was squandering my time and happiness on things that really didn’t matter. He’s taught me problems aren’t really problems, they are merely obstacles to blow through. He’s taught me about resilience, about obstacles and challenges, like none other. When he flipped over for the first time in his brace like an Olympic gymnast, I was soberly reminded there was nothing too big in life. And this is just the first 365 days. I’m looking forward to a lifetime and being taught by him.
- Learning is Failure. Failure is Learning. — One thing in particular he’s taught me is about learning and failing and trying. Seeing how he learns to do things is awe-inspiring. Watching him figure out clapping, or crawling, or standing and soon, walking, is so incredible. It’s continuous failure, continous learning. Each time he falls, he learns something new. He adds that to his experience vault and tries it again or adds something new to the vault. It’s so fascinating to me. Somehow we forget how we are supposed to learn. Sure, he gets upset when he can’t do something or falls down. But he’s relentless in getting right back up and trying again. Testing, experimenting, learning. He drops things and looks over the edge. (And of course expects us to pick it up.) He sees me pick up the TV remote and instantly looks at the TV. When we read to him he looks intently then sometimes back at us. Or just yesterday touched the book to feel the animals. I see this little sponge just taking it all in. It’s just reinforced and reminded me how we all learn … Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn. Try, fail, learn.
- Lindsey and I prioritize our marriage and relationship — Before we had Caloway, we promised ourselves we’d prioritize our relationship. We knew we’d have less time, energy and focus on each other and sought to put things in place to ensure we keep our love and relationship in tact. One of the key things was getting a babysitter/nanny and the other was spending time together, alone. So what we’ve done is travel extensively (with and without him), we take monthly getaways (like to Dallas a couple weekends ago) and bigger trips (like to Europe in a couple of weeks), and then each week we try to have a date night. I will say, I feel strongly about it, but Lindsey has led the way with all of this and I’m so thankful for it. We’ve said and believe that we want to have a lasting and loving relationship for us AND for him. We want to show him an authentic example of two imperfect people who simply love and care for each other. Who give preference and priority to each other. Who sacrifice for each other. Who have their unique faults and strengths. Yet are deeply committed to each other. And of course we realize at some point, he’s going to move out and start his own journey in life, without us. (Insert tears and weeping here)
- Poop — I’ll change the tune a minute and just say POOP. There is a lot of it. Had no idea how much but all the stories were true and not exaggerated in the least. I could go on …. but I’ll spare you.
- Understanding my parents and grandparents better — After 37 years, my grandfather still kisses me on the cheek. Now I understand why. I love those little Caloway cheeks and can’t help but kiss them. (And people tell me he’s my little mini-me.) I also understand a mother’s love and a father’s love so much better now. Moms give so much (in particular of their bodies God bless them, but their energy and time and hearts and souls). They dream and want so much for their children. I have a better understanding of a mama’s love for her children. It’s very very special and unique. And sharing these times with my parents and grandparents has been so amazing and special in its own right. Seeing my mother and my father hold my child for the first time makes my heart well up in pride and love every time I think of it. And of course I get a father’s love now. (Reference this entire post for my thoughts on that.)
- My Daddy Bucket List — I started a different version of the Bucket List when Cal was born — one with all of the things I want to do and experience with him — like seeing the Northern Lights or watching Spaceballs to see if he laughs like I do. I don’t ever want to force him to do things he doesn’t want to do or enjoy doing. But I want to introduce him to things to see if he likes them or not. I want him to be open to trying new things at least once (the positive kind of stuff of course). I told Lindsey my greatest joy is thinking about his first reactions and hearing his thoughts about them, like watching a hockey game (I’m not a hockey fan really but want to know his opinions about it), voting in an election, or seeing a falling star.
- BBFs or Best Buddies Forever — That’s one of my new supreme goals and chief aims in life. I just want to be his buddy. If he’ll let me, I’ll learn and enjoy whatever hobby or sport or passion he loves. Promise. My brothers tease me about teaching him to hunt because they are avid hunters. I never got into hunting. My only enjoyment when hunting was spending time with them and my father. But if Cal decides he loves hunting, you better believe I’ll learn to enjoy it … I’d wake up before the sun comes up and freezes my tush off in a stand alongside him if that’s what he wants … all because I just want to spend moments and have experiences with him. I’ll carry the equipment. I’ll be his biggest fan. Cal, I promise to be the least obnoxious hunter I can be if that’s what you choose. And just love and support you even if your uncles brainwash you, buddy. #pals
- What We Want To Impart To Him — We talk a lot about his education and what we want to give and impart to him so he has the best chance to live a long, healthy, joyful life fulfilling all of his big dreams and goals. We’re still formulating the formal education plan. But our goal is to help him embrace and tackle challenges boldly on his own, be a creative problem solver, start and maintain healthy relationships and define and achieve success for himself.
- Finally, I added a new item to my Bucket List — I want grandchildren. Sorry, Cal. Pressure is on. Welcome to the party, buddy.
Those are just some of the things overflowing in my heart as I reflect on the miracle named Caloway …
To him, my buddy, I say, thank you for the best 365 days of my life. Here’s to many many more joyful days together.
With love, your adoring goofy father, Cory
Caloway hears “I love you” a lot. So often in fact that started at about 3 and 1/2 months old he would smile every time he heard “I love you”. The more and more Cory and I noticed this we decided.
He thinks his name is LOVE!
I am not kidding. We would just say Love and he would turn and smile. It was the cutest thing in the world. Now that he is older he is responding to Caloway, but for several months his name was love.
Caloway was born January 29th and on January 30th was put in a Pavlik Harness for hip dysplasia. When that failed we moved to two different abduction braces which both failed. Then in May he had surgery and was in a spica body cast until September. After surgery he was put in the rhino cruiser.
Now we are finally ready for the next steps.
Tomorrow is our big appointment. We will see where his hips are and how well they have healed. We could be walking out of OU Children’s Center tomorrow without any brace.
9 1/2 months. 9 1/2 long months…and we are almost done.
So, wish us luck because tomorrow all I want to hear is good news!
When Caloway was first diagnosed with hip dysplasia one thing I read repeatedly on support forums was “I don’t get to bathe my baby anymore” and similar feelings. I thought it was so silly. Bathing is the biggest worry these other parents have??? I even told Cory about this. That so many others concern was with bath time. We didn’t get to give Caloway a bath until he was 3 months old. For us there were bigger concerns than soap. We would sponge bathe him and use wipies and it was fine with us. I found others whining about baths frivolous.
As I was giving Caloway his night time bath last night I had a realization. Every night for 10 or 15 minutes Caloway gets to be a “normal” baby. No cast, brace or worries. He gets to kick and play. He gets to let his skin touch nothing but water and air. He isn’t stifled by anything and gets to just be a baby.
Not only that, but I get to have that experience too. For 10 minutes every night I get to touch my baby’s skin. I get to see him try to sit up–something he can’t do during the day. I get to feel free too. No braces or casts to worry about. No making sure I am holding him so he is comfortable. Sometimes I just sit beside him and help him splash and give him duckies that he throws out.
For those 10 minutes Cory, Caloway and I get to play and not worry. So now I owe all those other parents an apology for judging them. Now I get it. I don’t want to go back and take away these times. It isn’t about being clean and using soap. It is about the freedom we all get to have during bath time, even if it is just 10 minutes a day. I will take it.
Caloway after one of his baths
Ok, so you have probably seen the video by now of Caloway’s beach adventure. If you haven’t, you should. It is hilarious and a memory I won’t soon forget. But what we haven’t done is effectively told the story of our fantastic time in San Diego.
We were there to see doctors for Caloway, but really it was a great excuse to see our wonderful friends (really more like family) Dan and Becky. They were so kind and opened their home to us for almost a full week and gave us one of their cars to drive too! When I say they are more like family I mean it. Dan and Becky both volunteer at the Cabrillo National Monument which is a gorgeous place. At the lighthouse is where Dan proposed and remains their favorite place on earth.
Cal hanging in the sunroom
Becky and Caloway bonding
Posing at Cabrillo Park
We were testing Cal’s patience
In the lighthouse
Dan and Caloway
We also accomplished Caloway’s first successful beach trip. We had Dan and Becky’s help, but Cal got to touch the sand and the ocean. He was a little confused, but he wasn’t angry with us.
Recently I had the opportunity to watch my good friends son, Truitt for about an hour. This means I had Caloway and Truitt (he was 8 months old) at the same time. I am sure all you baby experts out there do not think this is a big deal, but for me it was huge. Jill had about an hour that she needed someone to watch Truitt before Jesse could pick him up. So I gladly volunteered. Truitt is an awesome kid and I was looking forward to getting to play with him.
Luckily, Caloway fell asleep just before Jill left. Not even luckily, it was a miracle. Then I was able to just focus on Truitt and let Cal sleep. We had a lot of fun. We played pick up the DVD’s and pet the doggies. Caloway slept until about 15 minutes before Jesse was picking him up and the boys got to play together. Truitt is a few months older than Cal and better at grabbing things and really wanted to interact. Caloway, however, was still in the looking around stage. It was because of this difference that I got these gems.
This last one was right before Cal started screaming and wanted in my lap. Then Truitt felt left out so he got in my lap too. Jesse and Cory got to the house at the same time and that is how they found us. Me cross legged on the floor a boy on each side. And all of us happy! We had a really great time and considering Caloway and Trutt are going to be best friends for life a wonderful story to tell them.
Here are some more pictures of the incredibly cute Truitt during our afternoon play time.
Truitt and I playing in the floor
He got really comfy on my legs
Climbing into my lap to join Cal