One year ago, we were just getting out of the hospital, due to another PICU stay because of another mystery infection caused by low blood counts. We were waiting, impatiently, for a surgeon to plan time to root around in The Boy's abdomen, hunting for second relapse tumor. We were angry, frustrated, and exhausted. I had been in Pittsburgh for nearly two weeks and been at the hospital for that entire time, more or less.
There isn't an aspect of our lives that isn't better at this point. The Boy is in remission and out of treatment, and he's growing and learning and wonderful. He's talking very well, despite chemo-related hearing loss, and his intelligence and sense of humor is disproportionate for his age. Younger Bro is growing nicely and developing normally, even if he's far too canny and perceptive and creative for a kid his age.
This is the third year that I haven't really had much of a Christmas at home: no decorations, no tree, no carols at home. (I did listen to lots of Christmas music, but it was at work and in the car.) On the other hand, thanks to my brother coming in from California, we had a very nice Christmas with my entire family (save for one sister-in-law and their youngest child, who's dealing with some issues of his own). The boys got some very nice presents and had a great time.
Again, when I look at what we were facing a year ago, and when I look at our life right now... there's no comparison. It's astonishing. I honestly feel like a very different person, albeit one that has aged a hell of a lot more than one year. I'm still immature in many ways, but mostly in fun ones at this point. I'd still like a full-time job, but I'll take what I can get at this point.
I mean, look what I have: two beautiful, healthy sons; a gorgeous, vivacious, talented wife; a place to live and food to eat thanks to her family; my father's support and love; and new friends in my new home. I have a great temp job with really, really cool coworkers / supervisors, where I'm doing interesting stuff and learning to do more than that. And, I have lots of technology to keep me occupied.
Thank G-d for 2010. It was a crappy year, for the most part; but it helped us turn the corner. A miracle occurred with The Boy's surgery at the beginning; a second miracle helped us end his treatment. We've had steadily building good luck, hopefully cashing in on some of the bad karma we've burnt since 2008. I'll be glad to see it go, but I'm sure thankful for what it gave us.
May 2011 bring fewer hospital visits, fewer doctor's visits, fewer filial conflicts, more hugs and snuggles and songs and dancing and games and climbing and tackling Daddy.
Our December voyages started inauspiciously: The Boy developed a case of pinkeye (conjunctivitis) on Wednesday night, to go along with a nasty cold, which consisted of a sprinting nose, lots of snot, and coughing fits during sleep. He was gracious enough to share his pinkeye with his brother by Thursday morning. So, we scrapped our plans to teach lessons on the way out east for a more conservative “Pick Up Antibiotics and Head Out Anyway.” My brother’s in town from California, and I’m not going to miss seeing him, come heck or high water (or high levels of eye gunk, anyway).
(Side note: here’s where some of my games start to backfire more than a little bit. The Boy and I play a game called “Gonna get your boogers!”, which consists of Daddy making motions towards getting some hangers from The Boy’s nose. He squeals and wriggles and covers his nose, then tries to return the favor. Of course, when he’s tired and sick and really excreting large amounts of nose candy, the game turns less fun and more of a power struggle. Such is life.)
We got to Aunt M’s in Harrisburg, after first calling to explain the medical situation and getting a confirmation to still stay - although when we got there, we discovered that the rest of the house was less than thrilled about the young plague carriers. They were having somewhat immune-compromised guests the next day and were afraid of transferring their germs. We understand that, so we decided to just hop back in the car (after being provided with dinner of an amazing steak) and head up to Grandpa’s house, one day early. Lord knows we’ve been in the opposite side often enough; we’d never “force” ourselves on someone who doesn’t want our germs.
The 24th opened simply enough: two hungry, grumpy children and an extremely ill Mum. Sigh. Took the children to Shop Rite to pick up Christmas Dinner food. Younger Bro started to pitch a major fit by the end of the trip, considering how hungry he apparently was. A trip to Dunkin Donuts cured that quite nicely. We got home and played with the children for a couple of hours, letting Mum rest. The Boy napped with her for some time during the afternoon, while Younger Bro decided to forgo most of his nap.
At night, we went to dinner at a local watering hole, celebrating the birthday of Cousin J. It went surprisingly well, considering that I took the two children by myself. The Boy was the picture of politeness all night, staying in his seat all the way through dinner and playing and coloring nicely with Grandpa and Uncle P. Younger Bro was his normal self, and I kept him entertained with the patient help of Cousin J. After dinner, nobody was left in the back room of the restaurant besides one other family, with whom I had a 20-year friendship; so, I felt completely okay with allowing my children to run around the room and beat on each other. It was quite entertaining: Younger Bro would tackle The Boy, bring him down quite hard. They both thought that was funny. The Boy would then punch at Younger Bro, beating on his back. They both thought that was fall-down hilarious. Sigh. Boys = puppies, for the most part. Come see the violence inherent in the system.
Younger Bro eating birthday cake was epic. Full hands squishing cake and frosting - followed by a face bath in said cake. Epic Win, Younger Bro. Way to pwn that cake.
After dinner, we stopped by St. Peter’s to say hi to the choir and to the priests, all of whom had been amazingly helpful to us through the course of The Boy’s treatments. They were happy to see the boys, black eyes & pinkeyes and bruises and all. I was happy to see them, for sure, and I miss them greatly, particular Mr. K. and Judith, two of the nicest and most fun people ever.
We all opened some presents last night, then the boys went to bed more-or-less willingly. This morning, I woke up feeling peckish (nothing an overabundance of anti-histamine medication can’t handle), but The Wife was functional and the kids were happy. The Wife and The Boy visited Alan Rubin’s congregation to great acclaim, and we had a nice, boring, slow Christmas day.
Do you know what the Jews call Christmas this year? Saturday.
I have a post about the difference between where we were a year ago and where we are today, but it’s still percolating and coalescing inside. More later, maybe.
So, The Boy got his hearing aids today. It went remarkably easily: he knows how to behave in a doctor's office (surprise, surprise), and he's pretty adaptable when it comes to new medical things that we do to him. He accepted the hearing aids quickly and easily, all things considered. He flipped out a bit when we got home from the hospital (where the audiologist's office was), but that was 99% being overtired from a nap.
(He's got pinkeye - I think - and a cold, lucky him. And, on the eve of our trip. We're supposed to be leaving tomorrow morning for Harrisburg & New Jersey. Not anymore. Now, we're headed to the doctor's office, then to CVS for medication, THEN hitting the road. Assuming, of course, we can get an appointment tomorrow - or just a nurse to phone in a prescription.)
When he woke from his nap, Mum was gone to teach her lessons. So, I had two grumpy children with me, and The Boy didn't want his hearing aids in. But, he didn't rip them out; he just complained about them. The complaints were more about his need for sleep and less about the hearing aids in specific. We went to the comic book store and to Starbucks, then we picked up a pizza, which The Boy didn't eat but Younger Bro and I enjoyed. He's still got his hearing aids in, about three hours later; I'm going to take them out for the night in another half hour or so. He's had enough for today.
Aunt J, who's had hearing aids for years and years and years, suggested that he only wear them for a few hours per day, and longer and longer as time goes on. We're okay with that. I'd rather him slowly grow accustomed to them than to try to get him to go cold turkey.
Okay. There's a little bear that needs some attention. Talk more later.
So, I tried to update my iPhone last night when I got home from work, only to discover a strange email address heading up my account: email@example.com. Long story short, someone hacked my iTunes account, changed the email address and password, and bought $250 of bad rap music and ringtones. Frustrating, because it wasn't even good music.
90 minutes on the telephone fixes the email problem, only to leave another issue: the email account wasn't "verified" and wouldn't verify. So, it was another 45 minutes on the telephone to get my account verified, only to find another computer "authorized" to use my stuff besides my computer. Sigh. Problem NOT solved.
So, let's work through this. Changed email passwords for my major and minor accounts, including a new backup system for my passwords. Over two hours of time, a lost credit card report, a police report, and an email to Apple to get the problem rectified.
MUCH better use of time rather than playing with the boys, resting, and that sort of thing. And, a whole bunch of new passwords to memorize and change in my various machines.
At least it was an easy night for me. The Boy went with Mum to see the Nutcracker, leaving me at home with a tired Younger Bro. Now, I'm watching the season finale of Burn Notice while trying to get my thoughts in order.
Tomorrow: IEP meeting for The Boy, followed by the fittings for his hearing aids. Let's see how this works.
Last night, The Boy was playing on our bed, throwing pillows around and jumping all over the place. He threw himself at a pillow, overshot his mark, and took a faceful of headboard. He split his nose open and wound up giving himself a nice shiner:
I have to say, this was almost a pleasure with which to deal. Compared to three major surgeries and several minor ones, with many port access attempts and finger sticks and chemos and others. I mean, this still sucked big time, but it wasn't the worst thing in 2010.
It's an interesting thing, raising boys. My boys tend to jump into situations face-first, which leads to many bumps, bruises, and scrapes. This is not unusual in the male portion of the species, and some frequent injury history runs in my family. The Boy's namesake, for instance, had a large portion of the family's stitches applied by doctors.
Interesting twist: if The Boy was school age, would you let him go to school, knowing that teachers are required to report any potential abuse to CYF? The thought of anyone abusing The Boy is horrifying, and the concept of parental abuse is ludicrous. However, all it takes is one irritated teacher to make a call, and certain things become annoying.
Tonight, Grandpa and I went to see Tron Legacy in 3D, followed by dinner at Steak & Shake. It was a fascinating movie, and I'm glad that we went, but it kind of defies conventional categories.
The number one thing about the movie, in my opinion, is its timelessness. The pace is not the typical action-movie fast pace. It's actually kind of slow, in terms of how events unfold. The plot is extremely conventional: the dad disappears early in the hero's life, the hero enters into the world to meet the villain, then is rescued by his dad's team, etc., etc., etc. There really isn't much doubt about how the end of the movie turns out. Despite these things, the movie flows past and around the audience, and suddenly two hours plus has past without notice.
The number two thing is the effects: incredible and interesting and entertaining and beautiful and engaging special effects. The 3D in the movie was used to incredible artistic expression; it was an expressive element that enhanced the experience and brought the Tron world into a more real place. Some movies' 3D effects are incredible and important, such as Avatar. Some movies are 3D and shouldn't be 3D (I'm thinking of you, Shrek Forever). This movie was in the same category as Avatar in terms of the effects, although the opposite in terms of world: instead of creating life in a natural environment, the world was an artificial, modernist, computer world with "programs" instead of people.
The number three thing is the primary conflict, between Jeff Bridges and Young Jeff Bridges. The effects, which had Young Jeff Bridges as the antagonist, were amazing. I'm astonished at how the computers made the Young Jeff Bridges so lifelike and adaptive! I enjoyed it thoroughly.
So, this whole movie was an interesting mix: not a great plot, decent but not extraordinary acting, slow pace, amazing effects, chemistry between the protagonist and antagonist, and an interesting timelessness. I need to think about this some more, maybe watch it another time or two as things start to crystallize in my mind about this movie. I recommend this movie highly. It's not necessarily for children; I don't think that it's for my young kids, but I think it would be great for a 10-11 year old who loves science fiction. Maybe a younger kid, too, because light cycles and disc battles are really cool. Definitely recommended for the geeks like me.
Last night, The Wife and I had an interesting clash of parenting styles. Here's the situation: Younger Bro wasn't feeling particularly well, so he was sleeping very lightly and very poorly. It was 10:35PM (both boys having taken very late naps), and The Boy had finished his bedtime procedures, albeit amended somewhat because of the hour and our own state of exhaustion.
The strikes against us: Younger Bro's normally light sleeping was lighter than usual; we didn't read The Boy his stories and go through all of the normal steps; The Boy was overtired and overstimulated; he hadn't slept in his own bed for a couple of nights; The Wife, not I, took The Boy into his room for bed; and we, the parents, were exhausted and frustrated.
So, The Boy flipped out, as one would predict. The tantrum woke up his brother, and we had two frantically screaming children. At this point, my tendency would be to snuggle one or both boys in bed with us until they calmed down; we might move them or we might not.
The Wife, instead, decided that last night would be The Last Straw. The Boy was going to sleep In His Own Bed, come hell or high water. She got very, very firm with him - much more firm than I've ever gotten, bordering on raising her voice, overriding his screaming and crying. Younger Bro wound up sleeping a chunk in the other bedroom in the boys' playpen.
My general feeling about this one is that firmness at 10:30PM while exhausted is not the right call. The boys are quite young, and they just don't understand why the adult is angry with them. The Boy wants to snuggle with his loving parents (particularly Daddy), and Younger Bro wants to be soothed and consoled because of his illness. They're still young enough to see us as their primary caretakers and friends. We should be enjoying that for as long as we're able to enjoy it.
Of course, this doesn't fix the problem of getting The Boy to start to listen to us, and start to take some more independence for himself (potty issues, his own bed, et al). One can make a believable slippery slope showing the descent into teenage thuggage (is that a word?) from the lack of boundaries set at a young enough age.
Long story short, when The Wife started to bear down, I ran and hid. It wasn't the right time for push-over Musical Daddy to run to crying boys and soothe them. Within about ten minutes, both boys were asleep in the proper places and The Wife was in bed, herself, having handled things much more efficiently and smoothly than I could have - and did - handle them.
So, did we do the right thing, wading in with the figurative bat to get discipline and order restored? What would you do in that situation?
The coda was: within an hour, The Boy was in bed with us. At around 2AM, Younger Bro woke up and spent a couple of hours on Grandma's lap downstairs, watching Barney ad nauseum until returning to sleep around 4AM.
It's 10pm, do you know where your children are? Mine are still awake. The little one was put back in bed for the third time, and the big one is watching Winnie the Pooh, an eminently soothing movie in a vain attempt to calm him down for sleep.
For the past couple of nights, the boys have been on west coast time - about three hours off kilter in fall asleep time, and about an hour off wakeup time. The naps have been crazy 3-5:30pm naps, which don't help.
So, The Wife is asleep temporarily (isn't all sleep, save one, temporary?) next to The Boy and me, and I'm typing on my phone over his head. I was preparing a nice dissertation about The Boy's preschool time, drawing nigh, but that ain't happening now.
The boys went to the science center today and had a great time. The Wife noted that the boys play together quite nicely at this stage of their development. They still need careful attention, but they don't need parental hovering. There are occasional bouts of Mortal Kombat (The Boy's Scorpion to Younger Bro's Guile) that need a referee, but for the most part, they do fairly well.
Younger Bro has developed a nice reading habit. He chooses a book and brings it over to the designated reader, allowing them to pick him up for the book. If he likes it, he generally wants it at least 3 times consecutively. His favorites are "Pat the Bunny," a "Where's Baby?" lift the flaps book, and a Sesame Street book that has pictures to search.
One year ago today, I made my final, official move into Pittsburgh. The Wife and the boys had moved in three weeks prior; during that time, I went back to finish my school's winter concert, catch the flu, repaint and repair the house, and put our affairs into order. We also discovered the "spots" on The Boy's kidneys and lungs which turned out to be scar tissue later on, thank G-d. I did all of that, more or less successfully. Tuesday morning, December 15, I packed the rest of our life into a van, attached our car to the back of the van (thanks, Musical Grandpa and Cousin P!), and drove to Pittsburgh. I arrived late at night, retrieved The Boy from his Grandma (where he had taken to sleeping because of his issues), and went to bed.
Two days later, we made a trip to the emergency room which resulted in an intensive care stay for The Boy and the rest of the family. This started a horrendous, horrendous time period, which had, at one point, me in the hospital for 20 days and home for 16.
At the time, I was a beaten, destroyed man. I had nothing. I lost my job; my church job and life; my chorus (and my dad's chorus); my house; my friends; and everything else that I knew. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder" didn't even begin to cover it. I'm fairly sure that I had entirely lost my ability to interact normally with people, responding much like a whipped dog responds: tail between the legs alternating with vicious, unpredictable biting and growling.
Pittsburgh has been a miracle for us. Children's Hospital was a revelation, and they were actually prepared to meet the challenges of my family and my son' illness, unlike St. Barnabas and the Valerie Fund, who had neither the competence nor the desire nor the work ethic to meet our needs. Four months later, The Boy was out of treatment; he went from five prescription medicine in constantly juggling dosages to one medication with one dosage, among other things.
I've been slowly and surely healing throughout this time. I believe that I'm a different person than I was on that dark, dark day, 365 days ago, that I fled New Jersey. My relationship with my wife is stronger than it ever has been, and she truly has been the rock upon which I've leaned. My relationship with my sons has grown and blossomed through this time. Professionally, I'm still lagging far behind; it really wasn't until April or May that we were in any condition to do anything about hunting for a job, and I'm positive that I wouldn't have hired us through the summer months.
I've had a lot of hard growing up to do. I'm a lot more sensitive and more responsive to my family's needs and the needs of the people around me. I'm a lot more capable of dealing with work stress than ever before - how bad can it possibly get at any job, considering the hellish, unprofessional, vindictive behavior of the people in Westfield? I'm more capable of putting my family's needs ahead of my own, truly, than ever before. Lots of people pay lip service to that; but, I think being able to drop everything and move 400 miles away for better medical care kind of proves it.
It's been a very difficult, very trying, very challenging year, filled with highs and lows that were steeper than others. But, we're through one year, with many more to go. We have some interesting things happening in the next couple of weeks that I can't wait to share with you: a trip to New Jersey for the holidays, seeing lots of friends, some surprise visits to places, that sort of thing.
And, it's 10:26PM, and The Boy is still awake. Sigh.
The Boy, over the past week, has shown a wonderful fondness for connect the dots puzzles. Grandma has found great pictures that use numbers up to 25 and other pictures using the alphabet instead of numbers. It's pretty cool. His lines aren't really straight - he's only 3! - but he does get from number to number easily enough. Sometimes the lines even hit the dots. The pictures are reasonably recognizable.
In an interesting shift, The Wife has been playing video games - Wii and a Barney game on the Mac - with the boys. That's an interesting shift because I'm the video gamer in the family, by a long shot. Most of my gaming has wound up being on iPhone instead of on my PS3 or Wii, but that's because I still spend an overwhelming majority of my time either snuggled with The Boy (thus using the phone) or waiting for students / start of work / lunch to be over at work. My gaming time, during the week, is still somewhat under an hour, even with the phone.
I've found myself doing a lot more reading over the past week, and I'm happy about that. The boys see me reading lots of different things, and I like that behavior modeling. I powered through Stephanie Meyer's "Twilight" series and enjoyed it - kind of surprising, considering I'm a Buffy & Angel fan and am a little queasy about vampires that don't burst into flames in the sunlight. It was a little too much teen romance fantasy, but I could deal with that and get to the meaty mythology underneath. Vampires that choose not to eat humans... I have no problem with that, as Spike and Angel are two of my favorites.
I've also got a backlog of magazines to read. It's probably three months' worth. I get Sporting News, ESPN the Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, the Instrumentalist, Parents Magazine (not a big fan), Maxim (not a big fan anymore), and have been a Playboy subscriber for nearly 20 years. The magazines were awesome for hospital stays - read the magazine, throw it away and don't carry it home. Since we haven't spent a week at the Hotel Children's in a long time, I haven't been reading my magazines regularly. It's nice to get a chance to read.
Oops. I'm being attacked by a little man. Gotta go.
The last week or so, The Boy has decided to throw a major s&&tfit about random things. Usually, it's triggered by the potty; he throws a near sterotypical temper tantrum. I'm talking about a television-style tantrum: stomping feet, flailing arms and hands, eyes squeezed shut and crying, snot running down his face, screaming at the top of his lungs "I NOT go potty! I don't like the potty! I don't need go potty! I NOT!"
Nothing better to have the heart of your heart screaming in your ear, hitting at you, and preparing to poop his pants at the same time. It's just great.
The things that have caused tantrums this week: potty (#1 on the hit parade this week), putting on clothes (pants in particular), going upstairs or downstairs from where he is currently playing, bedtime, going out for lunch / breakfast, going to the store or other errands, going to a party to be with friends, and playing with new toys. In short, pretty much anything.
What causes tantrums? I've been lead to believe that the tantrums are caused by The Boy trying to exert control over his surroundings and the people around him. I get that. The one for whom I feel the worst is my wife; I'm just not around during the day, so I only get them for the last couple of hours of wakefulness. This means that it's easy for me to smile, get down on a knee, and hug through the tears and tantrum. It's a lot easier for me NOT to get mad at this behavior, because it doesn't necessarily impact the plans for the rest of my day. It still sucks, but The Boy (in particular) will frequently calm down when he gets a Daddy hug and nice, calm, soft Daddy talking and questions.
My wife said, last week, "You're so gentle with him all the time! I wish I could do that." My response: It's easy. Just be out of the house until 4:30PM every day. When you're working all day, it's easy to be patient and kind, because you've been dealing with work issues all day. A bad day with kids is still usually more fun than a good day at work. Then again, a bad day with kids isn't that bad - we've been through bad days (bad count days, bad PICU stays, bad chemo reactions, bad surgeries), and angry, tantruming children doesn't even make the top 20.
I wish I knew what the secret is, to avoid the tantrum entirely. I know that it's in presentation and timing; getting him to get excited about a trip or an activity is directly related to the timing and the manner of presentation. Two nights ago, The Boy tantrumed about brushing his teeth. I took his toothbrush, put toothpaste on it, and walked away, pretending to brush my teeth. He got very irate, saying, "No, Daddy! That's for The Boy!" He took the toothbrush from me and brushed his teeth happily. That doesn't always work, but - for one shining, glorious moment - I convinced him to avoid the full monty tantrum and do what was required.
Today, we went on a mini-shopping trip with Younger Bro that included lunch at Eat 'N' Park. The Boy didn't come with us, because he threw enough of a tantrum that he had to stay home with no television, computer, or easel. smh. We missed him, and we need to show him that his actions have consequences. The only thing is, I hope we don't teach him that he can stay home at will...
Yesterday, The Wife was subbing while I worked, leaving the boys with Grandma all day. When I got home from work (The Wife was teaching lessons), Grandma gave me the boys and $20 and said, "I'm exhausted. Take them out to dinner."
They are very busy, you know? Lots of energy and enthusiasm...
So, I threw the boys in the car and took them to the comic book store and Starbucks for chocolate milk. They were very good. After, we went to Eat'n'Park for dinner. That worked out nicely.
Put them in their chairs and go to the salad bar to load a plate or two with fruit and goodies. The waitress came, and we gave our whole order. Then, they were eating happily for the entire time.
At the end, I threw YB on my back. Turned around, and The Boy was gone. The other patrons pointed me to him; he was wandering towered a set of potted plants. Sigh.
Went home, bath, younger one in bed. Stories for older one, then Mum got home and took over, as I taught a lesson via webcam.
Yesterday, Younger Bro went down the stairs crawling backwards for the first time.
The Boy had three whole accident-free days, then had 2 pee accidents yesterday.
YB is now doing the "It's... the CLAW!" in his own way. It's insanely cute.
The Boy should have his hearing aids by the time we head west to Jersey for the holidays.
I auditioned to direct a women's barbershop chorus last night and did very well. Might be a long term paid gig - not enough money to be life changing, but might pay for my month's gasoline. And be fun.
YB can identify every Sesame Street character in pictures. Pretty darn amazing. He also can "flip backwards" out of your arms if you hold his hands.
It's interesting, watching and listening to my children as their thought processes grow and develop. The phrases that they pick up, the inflections and moods that they show and mimic, are fascinating and compelling to watch. Most parents know this, of course, but lots of things become instant mysteries as to their origins.
The Boy has started to say, "We keep you safe!" to The Wife and me at odd times. I think he knows the basics of what it means: the parental units are available for safety and comfort and security. Good. The context, however, is interesting. When we play a game that he doesn't feel like playing, like "Gonna get you!", he'll yell, "No, Daddy! You NOT get The Boy! We keep you safe!"
I have no idea where he got that from. I don't recall that in any television show, movie, or book that we consume. Maybe from something he watches with Grandma, on Bookflix? Not sure.
It's interesting, because I've never really considered that to be a "normal" usage of that phrase. My guess is that he's telling us, "Please don't play that game with me. I don't need playful Daddy right now; I need safe, secure, comfortable, snuggle Daddy right now." Children don't come with manuals, however, and it's hard to tell.
Your thoughts? What does your kid say that confuses you like that?
Younger Bro's talking is coming along quite nicely. He already knows the names of the Sesame Street characters: Elmo, Big Bird, Grover, Burt, Ernie, Cookie, Oscar, et al. He says one-syllable, consonant-shortened versions of their names. Really quite adorable, and frighteningly intelligent. That's a smart kid right there.
Last night, Younger Bro decided to start yawning and rubbing his eyes around 6:30. He had a nice bath, watched some Goodnight Moon with Grandma, came to me for stories and two songs, and was put in bed around 7:20. You know the rest.
9PM, finally fell asleep. Some crying, some playing with Daddy, and finally a bottle of juice and more Goodnight Moon with noted baby tranquilizer Daddy. Sigh.
The Boy did his stories and The Boy movies (watching recorded stuff on iPhone) and fell asleep in our bed. I never move him, being terrified of waking the little one for a couple more hours of hysterics. The little one, as far as I know, slept through the night with only one interruption (maybe) for the first time in a week or two.
This really illustrates two things. First, the difference in the boys' demeanors does make a difference in how much they can be soothed. Second, how much their differences impact us as parents.
First point: because The Boy is such a snuggler, he is usually easily soothed. Hugs and kisses will fix most issues. YB, on the other hand, will not take soothing because of his relative aversion to being snuggled. He's gotten better, recently, but he is an independent person that does not want anybody's interference with his desires and needs. When he's upset, there is no real way to calm him down! You just have to ride the storm, let him do his thing, and hope that he feels better quickly. When he's teething, like now, we thank Tylenol for his help and hope it's over quickly.
Second, because he's so independent, we don't feel averse to letting him cry it out. With The Boy, from birth, whenever he cried, we soothed him almost immediately. True, much of that was because of his treatment: when your kid is on blood pressure meds like he was, you don't let him cry for long - particularly when he had the tendency to cry til he puked, as a younger child. YB hasn't been on any significant medical treatment and won't allow himself to be soothed, so when he's exhausted and screaming, we're inclined to let him work through it on his own.
Funny thing? There's no guilt there, like there still is about the few times we let The Boy cry it out. I don't know if we've become inured as parents or are just bad people, but it doesn't affect us in the same way. We know the difference in YB's crying when he's tired versus when he's really, really angry and needs attention, and we don't let him cry the latter.
Our kids are very, very different, as we knew (intellectually) they would be. It's just surprising how much different.
Inspired by several blogs that I read, here's my attempt at Random Tuesday:
The Wife found a nice way to post the pictures from the boys' photo session on Tuesday. Check her blog for more examples.
My new hard drive for my machine - not installed yet, I'm savoring the enjoyment of owning it before it disappears into computer limbo - came with bubble wrap. Younger Bro is really enjoying stamping on the bubble wrap to make the bubbles pop. It's very cute.
The Boy has been very much a stubborn toddler the last couple of days - so much so that we haven't really wanted to take him anywhere. Does that make us bad parents? Maybe. It's just the fact that he's very liable to poop his pants - he's just been objectionable. Sigh. I hope this phase disappears quickly. He's really a very sweet boy, and I want that sweetness back.
Mum made a fun game with the boys: she puts a couch cushion down, then a boy (or two), then the other couch cushion, making a "The Boy Sandwich!" The boys think it's hysterically funny and spend much time giggling and laughing.
Grandma loves entertaining the boys (and herself to no small degree) by making JibJab e-cards. They're little flash animated things, and the software does a great job of taking faces from your photos and putting them on dancing people. It's really quite funny. The boys love them, and Grandma loves making them. Win-win, yes?
I have an audition to direct a women's barbershop chorus on Monday night. Should be interesting. I don't have a lot of experience working with the female voice, so it's a neat learning experience possibility for me - plus a paid gig. Downside? Won't be able to sing with one of my choruses. Upside? Replaces an unpaid night out with a paid night out. Anytime your hobby pays for itself, it's a net win.
I'm really irritated that I've found the external hard drive that I bought for $20 cheaper since I bought it. That's a BIG Black Friday fail.
The Boy has started telling me, "No, Daddy, you keep me safe!" and "C'mon, Daddy, you keep me safe!" I'm not sure what he means by that or what I'm supposed to do. It's cute, but a little disheartening in a strange way. That is my job, don't get me wrong... and I've done a pretty crappy job of it, in a cosmic sense, considering the amount of time we've spent in hospitals. Sigh.
The nice thing about my new job is that involves lots of physical activity. This means that I can eat more and still lose weight. In a way, I'm not looking forward to changing jobs when this one is over, because I love the constant exercise. It's tiring, though, particularly since my nighttime activities haven't abated.
How'd I do with Random Tuesday? Should I do it again next week, or just as the emotions take me?
Thanksgiving went off without a hitch, thankfully. No dry turkey, no stuffing malfunctions, no forgotten cranberry sauce. Unlike the last two years, no Thanksgiving hospital feasts and no Thanksgiving morning drives from New Jersey to Pittsburgh. We got up, entertained children while Mommy and Grandma cooked dinner, then had a very nice dinner with the family and some of Aunt W's friends. My wife's family is pretty amazing in their ability to pick up "strays" for the holidays - it's one of the more generous and admirable things about the family.
Black Friday was, for the most part, an unusual one for me. I did no early morning shopping, for the first time in a few years. I did most of my shopping before Black Friday, on the Newegg and Staples and Target online sales. Grandma and Grandpa were very generous, though, and kicked us out of the house on Friday evening for several hours of shopping at JC Penney, Sears, Borders, Macy's (didn't buy anything, because even with specials they're out of our price range) and Dress Barn. Best buys for us: some clearance Wii games for The Boy, pajamas for the boys marked down to $4 (Spider Man and Mickey Mouse onesies in 2T and 4T sizes), a 2TB hard drive, and two sweaters for Mum that cost $3 each on super-clearance.
Uncle C was in town from Maryland, and it was great to see him. The boys had a nice time with him, and Uncle C put together a couple of puzzles with The Boy. They're getting to the age where they can interact well with people they don't see every day, so it was really cool to see. The Boy is getting better and better at his puzzles; he's got the 100 piece Buzz puzzle about 67% together entirely on his own, unsupervised.
Today was just a bad day for Mum. The boys were in their full glory today as only 3- and 16-month old boys can be. Grandma had an emergency crop up with Aunt W (solved, without issue) so couldn't take The Boy to physical therapy, so Mum had to take both boys. To make matters better, the normal PT was not at work, which meant a substitute therapist. Sigh. The kids were bouncing off the wall, so I cleaned the kitchen, sent Mum to bed, and cleaned up the living room. Granted, the boys are doing their best to remedy the clean living room, but that's what they do best. I will copy my blog friend Christy (Eve's Mom), who nicknamed her first two children as "Search" and "Destroy." That's my boys, described in three syllables.
Good thing they're cute.
Grandma decided to try the whole "time out" thing with The Boy today. Not sure how I feel, positive or negative, about that. What do you guys do? I kind of see time out as being a way to calm a kid down who's flipping out (or to calm a parent who's flipping out), not as a punishment for mischief. I need to think on it a bit more.
Got to run - The Boy is jumping from couch cushion to couch cushion, and he's closing in on his brother, who's "resting" on one cushion...
Yesterday morning, I came downstairs after everyone had already eaten. I picked up a banana and the last Costco chocolate cookie. Younger Bro saw the food and came running at me. I held them an arm's length apart. Which did he go for first, the cookie or the banana?
Part of Windows Live (a suite of programs available freely from Microsoft) is a photo gallery - think of it as iPhoto light, for my Mac-using friends. I've been using it for a year or so, to tag pictures on my PC (my primary storage unit for pictures, music, videos) with whomever is inside the pictures. There's also a 5-star rating system, captioning, and basic editing capabilities. I'm in the process, right now, of figuring out who is in all of the pictures. It appeals to the OCD in me, as it lets me keep track of how many pictures I take of each child - I'm trying to avoid the somewhat stereotypical "five million pictures of child #1, 300 pictures of child #2, and three or four total pictures of children 3 and 4" that happened in my family, with my brothers and me.
(The joke there: hundreds and hundreds of pictures of my oldest brother, and I - the youngest of four - have a few baby pictures, then high school graduation.)
Tonight, I was finishing up some pictures from October and November of 2009. That time period has been on my mind quite a bit recently, no small part because today is the one year anniversary of loading The Wife and the boys into the car and moving to Pittsburgh. The pictures show two generally happy boys, with a tiny and cute Younger Bro, and a skinny and sickly The Boy. I see an exhausted and stressed Musical Daddy and Mommy.
Thankful, on Thanksgiving Eve? You bet. There's not an aspect of my life that isn't better than it was a year ago. The move was hard. The preparations of the house were harder. Life is better.
The last two days have had a wonderful stretch of rare, jacket-free western Pennsylvania weather, so the boys and I have enjoyed some outside time. When I got home from work, I asked them, "Hey guys, wanna go outside?"
Younger Bro still responds the same way: a mad dash for the nearest door, regardless of the lack of shoes, socks, sweatshirt, and pants. The Boy just waits for shoes and stuff, then goes outside.
The highlight: YB moved in on some of The Boy's toys in the sandbox. The Boy, being def not down with the whole "sharing" thing, pushed him away. YB stood up and started whacking him on the head before being knocked on his (YB's) behind.
Sigh. "A quick and brutal application of violence has solved more problems than any other method in human history." A slight misquote from Robert Heinlein's "Starship Troopers."
During the past couple of weeks, there's been a number of relatively new events occurring in our household: new job (temp position for a few months, at least), entirely new schedule of living, new duties in one chorus, new chorus with new duties, new lesson teaching schedule, new church singing schedule, that sort of thing. It's been a strain on all of us, particularly since I've felt like an absentee father for much of the time. We're not a stranger to odd hours and long stretches of time spent away from home, but this is the first time since moving to Pittsburgh that I've had a stretch of weeks with significant time away from one or both children. Combine that with two insanely busy weekends - one spent in Michigan and one spent with Grandpa - and things start to blur.
I'm not even going to talk - yet - about my entire lack of exercise in the month of November. That'll change. I'm not sure how, yet; but I'll get to the gym two or three days per week as we all adjust to what's going on in our lives. The lack of exercise is starting to hurt, as my asthma issues are starting to creep into various aspects of my life. Kind of like the raw chicken wrapper left in the kitchen trash for a few hours too long: stinky and unwelcome.
I'm not entirely sure how I feel about sort-of retreating into the present-in-short-doses model of fatherhood. Back a year ago, I was doing that, but that was an extreme situation brought upon us by a sick child and the needs of a newborn infant. We were in dire need financially, and I did what I had to do: work a full-time job and two singing gigs at night. Right now, thankfully, we're not in those dire straits, even though we'd love to be able to buy a house and re-establish our own lives with alacrity and efficiency. So, why am I doing it? Why am I subjecting myself - and my family - to a crushing schedule of hours and hours of extra work away from the house? Why am I depriving myself of necessary family time, necessary husband-wife time, necessary alone time?
(For instance, look at my television and gaming habits. I haven't turned the Playstation on, at all, in the month of November. As far as my television goes, I have five shows that have at least three episodes backed up on TiVo right now. I've managed to watch two 30 minute shows that are not awful for the kids to se), and five episodes of hour-long dramas. So, some mathematics: that's a total of 8 hours of television in the first 18 days of the month, which is less than a half hour per day of gaming and television, two of my primary means of relaxation. I haven't read any books this month besides two issues of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World," which are anime, and I have two full weeks of comic book store trips sitting unread next to the chair. In other words, not a lot of me-time.)
I gather momentum is a strong motivator. The potential of future payback is a strong motivator. The "I said I would do this, when I didn't have anything happening in my life, so now that I do, I have to follow my promise" factor is strong as well.
It's damn frustrating. It's damn frustrating that our careers have fallen off the edge of a cliff. It's damn frustrating that my career has been derailed by factors generally out of my control (four jobs NOT MY FAULT: schizophrenic boss; 9-11 tragedy in an Arabic-American school; cut program & paternity leave; cancer-related insanity; one job MY FAULT: couldn't keep mouth shut). It's damn frustrating that 7 years of specific, detailed, highly valuable training in teaching music is being flushed down the toilet. It's famn drustrating that my motivation to continue my 25 years of playing the saxophone has been flushed down the toilet.
So, what caused this? A lack of sleep? "Normal" career stress? Stress of dealing with an insane supervisor and idiotic colleague - my fourth such, out of five jobs? I don't know
Last night, at my barbershop rehearsal, the director reminded us all that our verbal presentation is only 1 out of 9 parts (roughly) in any given conversation. With all these other things bouncing around in our lives, is it any shock that I'm sending out a "got too many things going on, don't hire me" vibe?
I'm just finishing brushing my teeth when the pitter-patter of little feet intruded. Hallway.
"Oh, hi, Daddy! Ummm..." quick look around "Look what I've got! I've got pajamas!"
"Yes, The Boy. They're very nice. Do you need to go potty?"
"Noooooo. Daddy, I did the whole puzzle, then had noodles and sauce, then played letters and numbers, then watched Dem Bones on the computer! Daddy, I have to use the potty." excited scampering into bathroom. Does his business.
"The Boy, would you like Daddy to take you to bed, or do you want to go by yourself?"
"Daddy take you to bed. Daddy, I don't want to go to bed."
"Okay, sweetheart. Good night. I love you very much."
The entire house, except for children, is not feeling well. I kicked up a fever yesterday afternoon at work, and I came home and collapsed until this morning. The Wife was feeling peckish yesterday, which has since morphed into whatever I have. Grandma's got it, too. Lucky us.
Fortunately, the boys have been cooperative today and not pushed the limits too badly. The Boy is currently napping on my lap, and Younger Bro is having a late lunch with Mum. With a little bit of luck, they'll stay kind of low-key today.
I think that kids, for the most part, know when to push the limits and when not to push. Granted, they're still young enough not to carry grudges and act like a jerk just for spite. (Although we're not convinced that The Boy doesn't poop himself just because he wants the attention.) We'll be on our feet by tomorrow.
The Boy has his scans today, the official 9-month ultrasound and x-ray scans. We're all confident that he'll come through easily, but there's always that niggling little speck of doubt in the back of the mind. What if, what if, what if.
The Boy will go to an early breakfast with Mum today, and then be kept busy while his NPO-ness takes effect. He's NPO at 8, clears until 11. Noting better than a grumpy 3-year old who hasn't eaten in multiple hours.
It was a nice weekend. Grandpa came to visit, and the boys really enjoyed playing with him. Even Younger Bro (who has been an amazingly social creature lately) played eagerly with him! Must be the name - he enjoys anyone named "Grandpa" quite a lot, although his #1 is The Wife's dad without a doubt.
YB has been enjoying his newfound powers of choice, giving a firm, polite, cute shake of his head and "No," when he doesn't want something. It's only backfired on him once, when he really wanted something that was subsequently eaten. He'll learn.
Anyway, keep us in your thoughts and prayers today.
So, if you've read The Wife's blog, you've heard the news about The Boy. His hearing test was this morning, and it came back with poor results. He is going to need hearing aids, and - worse - we're not entirely sure that the carboplatin damage has leveled off. It might still be getting worse.
(Yes, this begs the question: was the carbo damage inevitable? Was it caused by too much carboplatin, administered by St. Barnabas? Was it caused by the continued carbo given at Children's, regardless? Who knows.)
He will get an appointment with an ENT and a hearing aid specialist, and we will arrange for services to help all of us deal with the new reality. On the grand scheme of things, this isn't awful; it's certainly better than another relapse, but it's not great news. Emotionally, I haven't figured out what The Boy's potential deafness means yet; it's too big for a quick analysis.
In other news, a longtime friend of my family was struck by a car last night and passed away this morning. It's a shocking event that is rippling out through my family, and I'm in a bit of mourning for him. He was a wonderful man who was very nice and generous to me and to my family. This might prevent my father from coming out to visit this weekend, which would be a further shame.
In more pleasant news, Younger Bro has become a big more conversational, adding "Nononono" to his vocabulary. In one sense, it's nice. Tonight, I asked him, "Do you want some noodles?" "No." "Do you want some meatballs?" "No." "Okay." Five minutes later, he wanted some noodles. Very cute.
The Boy has started pushing cushions off of the couch, and he climbs on the couch and jumps off onto the cushion. It's very cute, particularly since he jogs in place for a moment before he jumps, to "gain momentum." He also likes lying a cushion and having a cushion put on top of him, creating a "The Boy Sandwich." Very funny.
Still, it's been a crappy day, and I'm not entirely sure what the fallout is going to be. Thank G-d that it's not something more serious - many kids go through school with hearing aids, and one can always hope that stem cell research will eventually lead to hearing cell regeneration.
So, this is my second official week at my new job. I'm still loving it, incidentally, but this isn't about work - I mean, it is about work, but not about work. You understand. I'm struck at the large differences in our lives when I'm at work versus when I'm not. That sounds obvious, but it's more complex than it seems at first.
For instance, my full-time employment means that it's more challenging for my wife to do the substitute teaching thing. We're not entirely sure that the subbing is important; while we need to get our / her name out to the music teaching world, but it is unclear as to any actual benefit towards employment. She can sub on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays without a hitch; Grandma has graciously offered to watch the children, and since she only teaches one or two hours, it's easy to get things covered. Tuesdays and Thursday are more complex, and I supposed she might be available in special circumstances, but not really.
It also changes the activities dynamic during the day. Naptime becomes more complex; The Boy still won't nap without Grandma, Mum, or Daddy, preferably Daddy. If Younger Bro is awake, he's moving around; which limits the amount of time that The Boy can use for his nap. Today, The Boy didn't nap at all, and, as such, was asleep by 8PM. Younger Bro only had a brief morning nap, and he was asleep a little bit before 7. That's not a bad thing; however, it is a little bit different than our normal lives.
The amount of time that I spend with them is obviously different, and I need to find a nice balance between recovery and rest time and playing with boys time. I have a physical job, and I'm tired at the end of the day; but, considering that I don't get home until 4:30 and put the boys to bed three-ish hours later, I feel more pressure to spend time with them. It gets even harder when I'm dealing with nighttime activities, like a church job and barbershop choruses, and lessons, and things. Thursday, for instance, I'll be heading right to a lesson from work, which means that I'll see the boys from about 5:00 until I have to leave for church work at 7. That's a lot of pressure, without even acknowledging my large need for some alone and lack-of-stimulus time.
That happens at least twice during the week, maybe more often during some weeks. That also doesn't factor in exercise time. I have a feeling that, for the time being, my weightlifting days are done. I'll be using the elliptical machine upstairs here, or maybe just biting the bullet and finding a day or two to get to the gym. I don't know. We'll see.
On the "wow" side, YB gave me about five hugs when I got home from work today. He's not usually that affectionate with me, and I really loved it. I even held my arms out for a hug to The Boy, and YB jumped in front of him! Very cute. And, we had a really, really great time playing outside in the leaves. So, it's not bad; just different.
Actually, this post has nothing to do with the wonderful 80's movie starring Michael J. Fox, although I read a wonderful analysis of the series that presented the point that the professor is the main bad guy. Movies notwithstanding, it's been a heck of a 10-day period.
Last weekend, we took the boys to Michigan. One of my friends (PK) had a show on Sunday, which was his first as a director. Since we don't have full-time jobs and responsibilities to tie us down, we had the ability to take off. The fact that Grandma donated points from a reward program with whom she participates (getting us a free suite) only sealed the deal. The trip was, all told, a success.
When one starts to look at children, one assumes the bad with the good. Even the cutest and most well-tempered children have their moments; as a friend reminds us, "Sometimes your kid is THAT kid." The children did a nice job all weekend, although there were a couple of noticeable incidents. Younger Bro was not feeling well all weekend, and he didn't sleep much at all on Friday night. Call it the overly dry room, the travel, the cold, or whatever, he was basically up all night. I took him down to the lobby from 4 until 5:30AM to run around, which was frustrating. He slept much better the next night, and he did a good job napping during the day on Saturday.
The big incident, and the one that has caused us the most stress and turmoil, was the poo accident right at the start of Sunday's show. Without getting too graphic, The Boy pooped his pants in an epic manner: poo spread all the way up his back to his shoulders and down to his ankles, getting through his clothing and staining my shirt and pants. It necessitated a sponge bath in the men's room for the two of us, and we spent about 25 minutes cleaning up and, well, screaming at him. The frustrating things were: he had just changed his pants from another poop accident, and he responded to "Do you need to go potty?" with his usual "Two minutes," about ten seconds before he exploded.
That's the frustrating thing. He doesn't really understand what an issue the poop thing is. He doesn't understand why we're yelling at him, and he doesn't really understand - or seem to care - why we're angry with him. When he is naked, he never has accidents - maybe one in a fortnight. Get pants or underpants on him, and he might as well be wearing a diaper. As Mum put it, "I'm still waiting for The Boy to have that ephiphany moment, the one where we say 'he never had an accident after...'"
The damage done by the radiation can't be underestimated, which is a real concern for us. We know of children that, at 4 and 5, don't have the ability to be poo-trained because their insides are so screwed up. The Boy isn't there, we think, but we also need to factor that damage into the situation. How many poos does he have that he simply doesn't have the control of his bowels? I'm not entirely sure we'll ever really know.
I didn't like myself last night at the show very much. I was very angry at a small boy for doing what small boys do: having an accident, after a decent (4 for 6) day on the potty. I was not patient with him in regards to his potty issues, and the methods I used to keep him silent during the show were beneath me and him as well. He's forgiven me, but I haven't forgiven myself yet. I will; I'll make it up to him next time, I hope.
It was a successful trip. We had a fun time and saw lots of friends. The boys played with several kids their own age and had a change to play in some new places. These two setbacks didn't change the trip success, but they did flavor my viewpoint of it.
Things that suck about my new job: Having to get up at 5:15AM to get to work. Having to drive 45 minutes to work.
Things that don't suck about my new temp job: Everything else. The people are cool, the work is cool, the building is neat, and the job itself is interesting. Can't really talk about it, other than I have a job using my hands and building stuff, which hasn't traditionally been my bailiwick. Looking forward to that changing in the next several months.
It's been a really, really busy week: from work to home for dinner to barbershop on Monday; from work to home to bed at 8:30 on Tuesday, only to be woken by a sick Younger Bro an hour later; from work to rehearsal of my new chorus on Wednesday; from work to teach to home to pay bills and finish a portfolio DVD on Thursday. Tomorrow, we're leaving for Michigan, where we're visiting friends for the weekend, then for my BIG interview on the south side of town on Monday.
The boys have been well, even without me as more than a cursory presence for the week. The Boy has been his usual snuggly, pooping-in-pants self, although he loved his visit to the potential pre-school on Tuesday. He saw kids he knew and liked, which was nice. I'm going to see it tomorrow at their weekly Shabbat play service, which is when parents come to visit. The preschool is Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 9:30 to 12:30, with an option for afternoon stuff and another option for Wednesday as well. We're going to start with the three days and see where that leaves us.
Younger Bro has been fighting a cold all week, which is tougher on Mommy than on me, seeing as how I'm no help with the night shift, considering I'm already up at 5:15 to begin my labors of the day (and it IS physical labor, make no mistake, even if it's really awesome and interesting physical labor). Grandma and Grandpa deserve gold stars for the week, considering how much of the load they undertook. I honestly can't imagine what we would do without them.
So, trip to Michigan this weekend, interview on Monday, work through Friday (lessons on Monday and Thursday and Friday), and then my father comes to visit. Going to be a fun 10 days, with lots of friends and cool people and Ann Arbor!
Today, The Boy went off with Mum to visit a friend up in Wexford. This family has a 3-year old (born close to The Boy, I believe) and a pregnant Mommy, so The Wife heads up there every once in a while to entertain children so that Mommy can have some rest. That left me at home with Younger Bro, who petered out - as he is wont to do - around 10 o'clock, leaving me with household work to do.
How did my mother get any housework done with four boys running insanely around the house? I don't get it. With an infant, an 11-year old, an 8-year old, and a 7-year old running around... well, actually, that probably describes it. One infant is not that much to handle, particularly since I've always been a napper and was never a particularly busy child. (My boys have inherited my ability to entertain myself, even though I am an attention whore.) I wonder what the shape of the household was like when my oldest three brothers were 5, 2, and 1.
I know that putting toys away is a fairly useless endeavor. No matter how well you organize the puzzles, the crayons, the markers, the game pieces, and the balls, they will resume their skirmish positions around the room in short order. And, when you start to put toys away with children around, those toys become magnetically attractive to both boys. We do what we must do, as often as possible, and it dents the mess somewhat.
We have not started with the putting-toys-away thing, the clean-up time, with the boys yet. It's something that comes to mind fairly often. I'm not entirely sure how to proceed with something like that, but I'm reasonably certain that "Do you want The Boy to put those toys away, or Daddy? And, if Daddy does it, the toys won't be there tomorrow!" will work. Maybe that's an after-dinner thing. I'll talk it over with The Wife. Granted, we'll have to re-organize how we store toys in the living room at home - right now there are three tiny plastic bins and a large pile of toys under a spare piano bench (don't ask) instead of a toy chest or shelves or shelves of bins, like in their room.
Giving a thorough cleaning to, say, bathroom and kitchen isn't as much of an issue. It's generally done when one child is napping and the other is being chased by another person. But, if the children are demanding attention, that can be difficult or impossible.
What do you do, to help your children clean up after themselves and/or get a reasonable room, or is it a not-worth-it battle?
Grandma, today, told us that she contacted one of the local temples, a Reform temple in town, about membership for us, specifically because this particular temple has a wonderful pre-school program for which we are eligible for scholarship money. The Wife later told me that she thought that it was a three day per week thing, with some potential for full school day length activities (until 3 o'clock), which does solve a few logistical issues for us. There isn't a spot for January for Younger Bro - the 18 month programs fill up faster - but that's not necessarily the point.
Now, prior to The Boy's diagnosis, I was not in favor of pre-school. I figured that we would be able to provide a richer experience for him at home, or with a single sitter: library programs, baby'n'me programs, the zoo, the children's museums, etc., etc., etc. And, before Younger Bro was born, we might have been correct with that. With one child who is 2 or 3 years old, significant socialization experiences and learning experiences can be given and scheduled pretty easily. However, there are a couple of considerations that have risen.
First consideration is the socialization delay that The Boy has experienced due to his cancer diagnosis. The fact is, for the past two and a half years, he has not been able to socialize with anyone outside of the immediate family and grandparents on any regular basis. Bringing him around other kids has been dangerous to his health. Kids learn by experience and by observation: by being around other kids, and seeing what they can do, and showing off what they can do, they learn an awful lot. (Many will say, naturally, that kids learn more from each other in school than from the teachers. The egotistical teacher inside of me would like to believe that it isn't true, but that's also the guy who isn't employed, so take his opinion with a grain of salt.) When your kid is part of a playgroup, or a baby class, or a day care experience, they are learning by watching and participating with the group. Younger children show that on a regular basis, when they pick up skills earlier than their siblings because they're watching and observing a child perform the skill.
Not having that experience has been a handicap for The Boy. He's more than a little bit behind, socially and physically, and he doesn't do many things that your average 3-year old does. Granted, he has his own skill set - he knows letters (Hebrew and English) and letter sounds and draws letters and numbers pretty darn well, and few kids at 3 know the entire book of Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog. But, we do want him to get a little "shock treatment" when it comes to socialization, and I'd rather that happen at 3 than at 12.
The second consideration is the employment situation. If one (or both) boy(s) are cared for during a chunk of the school day, then life is made considerably easier for whichever of us is at home. One child - even an energetic, busy child like Younger Bro - is fairly simple for which to care. That allows us to have one full-time job (or temp position, like I'm starting on Monday) AND the other parent to work some part-time employment (substitute teaching or temping or both) without fear. Realistically, this way, we can build up some fairly substantial capital for when we go house shopping when (and if) one of us finally lands a teaching job. Even if the hours aren't quite lined up with what we'd need as a full-time teacher, then the hours might be more amenable to help from Grandma or friends.
The third consideration is, of course, The Boy's health. Children are little germ factories, and it's a reasonably accepted hypothesis that exposure to dirt and germs and mold and such as a child promotes immunity and health in later life. Of course, when you're a cancer patient and have no immune system, that hypothesis breaks down. The Boy is off-treatment for seven months, and his immune system should be back up to par. I'm not thrilled about putting it through a normal workout, but better he get the colds and sniffles and other yucky stuff now than when he's supposed to be in school. This is the only one that's a holdup; Dr. Graves said that we might want to hold off on a full-time daycare center at this point. If this is a 60% thing, that might be a good compromise. Still not sure.
The fourth consideration is The Boy's academic success. This, to me, is kind of a lesser concern. There's no correlation whatsoever in a child's preschool activities and his collegiate academic success, even though many parents would like to believe that introducing their toddler to vector calculus will turn them into the next Albert Einstein. Sorry, but it's not likely, unless the parents are Albert's intellectual equals already. If you're normal, slightly-above-average folks, then your child is probably going to be a normal, slightly-above-average kid. That's how it works. The kid might be a mutant and inherit super-intelligence; it certainly happens. It's not likely. I don't really see that putting him in preschool, or NOT putting him in preschool, is going to make him smarter or more successful. Some of the extra skills he might pick up are nice, but aside from tying his shoes and learning how to go to the potty before he poops his pants, I'm not optimistic in this regards.
Fifth consideration is religious knowledge and skills. I'd love for him to learn Hebrew reading and singing and speaking, and I'd love for him to learn more about the Jewish world outside of the Musical Household. That's an awesome thing, and something I'm very interested in. Growing up Catholic, I never really felt connected to my faith; never had friends at my church, despite my parents' efforts to keep me involved with the youth groups and trips and such. If The Boy could get around that and develop friends and a connection with his faith, then I feel like he'll have a better chance for long-term happiness.
So, first consideration is extremely important and says do it. Second consideration is important and says do it. Third consideration is moderately important and says don't do it yet. Fourth consideration is not important and says do it. Fifth consideration is important and says do it. Your vote is?
(Side note: everyone on Chuck upgraded from iPhone 3GSs last season to iPhone 4s this season. Apparently, at the Buy-More retail chain, they make decent money.)
When I'm watching the children, and when I watch Grandma play with the children, I'm struck by the difference in our styles. I'm not saying one is better than the other; children need a variety of different types of people and perspectives in their lives in order to develop a well-rounded sense of understanding. I think.
Anyway, what I notice is that my parenting style, when playing with the boys, tends to be mostly child-directed. I'll let them play by themselves as much as they want, and I play with them when they want. That has the drawback of having a difficult time getting them to do what I'd like them to do, but it does have the advantage of teaching the children how to entertain themselves. I'm very content to sit and watch them play with their toys, and climb up and down on the furniture. Younger Bro, in particular, is very, very busy and does not sit still for any length of time.
When they want or need interaction, we play together. I help The Boy with puzzles or whatever toy he's got, or tackle or chase him around. The "gonna get you" game is a really, really good one with many different potentialities. Even YB is starting to get involved with that one; when I say, "Gonna get you!", he starts screaming giggles and occasionally starts running away. Sometimes, he'll just fall over, laughing, and wait to be tackled. It's very cute. This morning, YB actually joined me in chasing after The Boy and tackling his big brother.
Grandma, on the other hand, does an amazing job at interacting with the boys. She gets them looking at letters and numbers on the computer, or watching Sesame Street, or doing arts and crafts projects. It's extraordinary to watch. The Boy doesn't willingly do art projects with me, beyond asking me to write letters or numbers on paper or with chalk. And yet, he somehow manages to work with Grandma. Of course, there are tradeoffs... the boys generally don't play "gonna get you" with Grandma, but she doesn't necessarily seem to mind very much.
Kids need different types of people around them, which is one reason that I'm glad that they get to spend so much time with me, with The Wife, with Grandma, with both Grandpas, and the other people with whom he spends time. What do you notice about the people who care for your children?
Younger Bro is a climber. He will get on top of any available surfaces that he can find, and he will climb as high as he can, without any fear or care for consequences or next steps. It's all developmentally appropriate, I understand; I just wish he would take the time to learn to climb down things (like stairs) without going headfirst.
I've found him standing on the piano keyboard, on the puzzle cabinet, on the kitchen table, on the dining room table (well, not quite; caught him before he got fully up), and on the coffee tables. He's tried numerous times to climb into and out of the bathtub, and when asked the question, "Do you want to take a bath?" responds by chanting "Bath! Bath! Bath!" as he sprints for the stairs, climbs up, walk/runs into the bathroom, and turns on the hot water faucet. Not ideal, but still pretty darn cute.
The latest is climbing up onto the black chairs in the kitchen, to sit at the low table. I would love to let him eat his meals there, but he doesn't quite grasp the concept of picking up food from a plate or a bowl without knocking the bowl over. We still try every once in a while, but not consistently. I would bet that, with steady practice, he'd get it; I'm not sure if I want to spend the time making each meal two or three times.
This is in stark contrast to The Boy at fifteen (almost sixteen) months. The Boy was sitting at the table and eating; he was a lot more careful with his fine motor control than Younger Bro, who tends to respond like Bam-Bam from the Flintstones. He had had his second major surgery in five months and was two treatments into his relapse therapy. The etoposide had caused relatively significant developmental delays, and he wasn't really walking full-time yet. His climbing was not nearly as well developed, although he could identify a few more letters than YB can. YB is a lot more vocal than The Boy is; The Boy knew as many words, I think, but didn't have as much to say. Getting regularly pumped with large amounts of toxic chemicals will do that to you, I guess.
I'm struck, on a daily basis, how different my children are from each other. It's more than just being two different people; it's two entirely different developmental plans. The Boy's experience, and our experience as parents, was shaped almost entirely by his cancer diagnosis and treatments. Every waking moment of every day, by fifteen / sixteen months of his life, was spent dealing with cancer issues: sterilizing toys, our house, ourselves; avoiding contact with other kids except on those rare "high counts" days; recognizing that he was in mortal danger before he knows what those words mean. Even the little things, like snuggling and sleeping, are different. We'll let Younger Bro cry himself out a little bit when he goes to sleep. We know the difference between the "I'm crying because I'm tired and need to rest but am upset about it" cry and the "I'm crying because you put me in the stupid crib and I'm not going to sleep no matter what you have to say about it" cry, and it's not a big deal for any of us - him included - for a few minutes of crying. With The Boy, we hated to let him cry for any length of time because:
1) he had a rough enough time without us adding to it by forcing him to do things like sleep by himself; and
2) he was already on multiple blood pressure medications, and we were afraid he'd send himself into cardiac arrest if he freaked out too much.
Slightly different attitudes and ideas, no? YB has been a crier since birth, The Boy less so. Sick children are frequently more affectionate because of their need, and YB has been anything but.
The last two nights, YB has made more-than-cameo appearances in our family bed. He's stayed for at least an hour each time, snuggling close to Mum and Daddy until displaced by The Boy. Displaced might be the wrong word; let's say that the presence of his brother inspired him to play more than to sleep. I think I really do sleep better with a little, wiggly, warm body snuggling up close, even if it does tend to make our lovelife a little more difficult. Still, we're not the only parents to say, "Quick! The kids are asleep!"
I'm not entirely certain what I've been doing over the last several days. Not much, is the short answer; there's a few things brewing right now, but nothing imminent. I just don't feel like I've accomplished anything or moved in any one particular direction. Right now, I'm kind of floating around, more-or-less aimlessly, and I don't like it. I haven't exercised since last Thursday (more than a week), and I haven't even had the energy to think too much about it. I wake up; I may or may not go to work, mostly may not; The Wife may or may not go to work; and I spend the rest of the day sharing children with Grandma. We haven't really gone anywhere, and we're in a rut about leaving the house many days. Sigh.
On the surface, there's lots of stuff: my chorus and my quartet, which both competed last weekend; my leadership duties with my chorus and with setting up the new chapter, which starts in two weeks; a new temp job, working at a water waste treatment filtration manufacturer; a job interview for a town south of Pittsburgh; parenting two wonderful babies; and juggling my wife's efforts for a playing career, private lesson teaching career, and public school teaching career. And, that doesn't count the housework that I've been neglecting, either.
Excuses aside, there isn't that much going on that requires time and energy, more than thought and occasional discussion. Taking care of the boys and The Wife's teaching and playing are usually combined together. The temp job doesn't start for another week, and has some paperwork and a physical before I can start working. My chorus had a big rush of work, in selecting new music and getting it ordered; that's done, and only took an hour or so. The new chorus is occupying much of my thought right now, as we're trying to create an elite performing organization from the ground up. That carries a certain amount of stress and anxiety with it. Still no reason, yet, for a physically inactive person to carry the tiredness that I'm carrying right now.
The new information, from yesterday afternoon, is that I have an interview for a teaching position south of town. It's on November 8, and I'm not sure how I feel about it. I've documented my feelings about getting back in the classroom before, so I won't rehash my personal issues and demons. I'm just unhappy that I've got two and a half weeks to build up my hopes and dreams, only to (likely) have them dashed against the rocks if I fail to make it past the first round of interviews again. Or, worse: make it to the second or third round and fail. Or, even worse: get accepted for the job, only to have them talk to the soulless folks in my LAST job, and have the job withdrawn from me at the last minute.
Isn't it great, having such a vivid imagination? All the worst things in the world are called right to the surface. I used to be an optimist, with a bulletproof belief in myself as a teacher and a human being. The curse of age and experience is that you realize exactly how vulnerable and imperfect you really are. I know I'll reframe my beliefs as I get closer to the date. I'm just panicking a little bit right now.
What doesn't help is the fact that the boys have their stereo wake-up / freak-outs immaculately timed for the moment that The Wife and I are both asleep. So, we hold off going to sleep until the boys wake up. They don't, so we go to sleep around woot o'clock, then they wake up ten minutes later. It's amazing.
I think, if Grandma is amenable to watching The Boy, I'll take Younger Bro for a nice, long, two or three mile walk this afternoon. I also need to put away laundry, sort dirty laundry, mow the lawn, and blow leaves off of the patio and the driveway. That should wake me up. If not, there's a reason G-d invented coffee.
The Boy's favorite phrase, right now, is, "I not [do whatever it is we want him to do]. I too busy!", or "I not [do it]. I not!", or "I do it in two minutes!" That's his response, in particular, to requests for going to the potty. His potty training is coming along reasonably nicely; when he has no pants, he is really flawless when it comes to using the potty. In pants, it's hit-or-miss.
He's doing a lot of puzzles right now - specifically, some Melissa and Doug puzzles that show some Jewish holidays. He also enjoys the big fire truck puzzle from Uncle Pete. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is still his favorite show, and "Mickey's Big Band Concert" is his favorite episode, I think. Tonight, he was playing with a bunch of metal key rings in a cup.
Younger Bro is doing lots of new things. He's started doing the Sit'N'Spin, which is pretty extraordinary considering his age. The Boy still has some problems with that. YB is a big climber - loves climbing up into big chairs to play with stuff on adjoining tables. The only unfortunate thing is his desire to throw everything off of the tables nearby - including computers, remotes, telephones, etc. That's just annoying.
We've had mixed success getting him to eat at the table, which he seems to want to do. He wants to sit at the black table in the kitchen for breakfast, but he doesn't quite understand how to eat off of a plate without knocking the plate over. Sigh. He's still an eating machine - pretty much eats anything that you can put in front of him, even though he still loves meat the most.
His "piano playing" is interesting - much of the time, he pushes one note at a time. Occasionally, he even plays something relatively melodic. The Boy is not interested most of the time in playing the piano, but still occasionally enjoys taking out the trumpet and trombone.
The Boy's eating is not great, but typical toddler: a few foods, eaten frequently: Cheerios, Shredded Wheats, Egg & Cheese, Grilled Cheese, Noodles & ketchup, and a few occasional foods like meat or chicken. He still won't nap by himself, but he is putting himself to sleep now: we walk him into his room, give kisses and hugs, give him his teddy bear with "The Boy" written on it, and leave.
So, we're on our way home from the barbershop convention as I type - with luck, I'll get this in before we hit the area of Ohio that has no cell service whatsoever. Sigh. Lotta nothin' out here.
The convention was an absolute success, from my perspective. My quartet and chorus both performed well, and we got good, positive feedback from the judges that can make an actual impact on our performance. On top of that, I made some new friends and got to hang out with some old friends who didn't know I had relocated to Pittsburgh. It's always nice to relay The Boy's good news to people who haven't heard!
The best part of the conventions is the nighttime after all the shows are done. Barbershoppers love singing tags (the cool ends of songs, which are usually fun and exciting and sung without the rest of the song) and songs with each other. Last night was no exception. I got to sing with great people until 2:30am, when I crapped out and went to bed.
It sucks getting old.
Actually, that's not true. It was more being overstimulated and needing to calm myself down. I had hit a point where I was tired enough that I was getting kind of excitable, and that's not a good thing for me. When my wife is with me, she's a calming, focusing influence, and I usually stay up singing later and better. With luck, my kids will want to sing and to do all of the fun tagging and woodshedding that The Wife and I enjoy.
It'll be really nice to see the boys again. I'm not used to being away from them, and things aren't as much fun without them around. There were one or two other children under 3 there, so maybe next year...