Monday, May 31, 2010


"The Boy, where does pee-pee go?"

"The floor!"


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Sunday, May 30, 2010


The JCC Family Park opened up for the season yesterday, and we're quite happy about it. The Family Park is a large outdoor pool and a nice sized baby pool, maximum depth 1.5 feet, with a sprinkler area AND a raised mushroom that deposits water on the children below! It's lots of fun, and it's utterly ideal for our children. We went yesterday and today, and we will likely go tomorrow.

(Who is now Foursquare mayor of both the JCC and the Family Park? Yup, me. We are using that scholarship they gave us to its fullest extent...)

When you enter the park, you go through the locker rooms. No problem; Younger Bro goes with Mommy, The Boy goes with me. Yesterday, we go inside. I change him into his bathing suit and put his clothes into the duffel bag. Look up... he's gone. Like, vapor.

Oh, frak.

After 10 minutes (literally) of running around, we finally find him outside of the family park, slowly picking his way up the fence towards the little person play area outside of the pool area. One of the workers was following him discreetly, making sure he didn't make a mad dash towards the parking lot and roads (which were, thankfully, a quarter mile away). So, after that wonderful first impression, and trying to scold a laughing toddler, we made our way inside.

He's still scared of the sprinklers (although today he ran through them twice) and the raining-water-mushroom (although he'll walk out from underneath, if dragged inside), but he has a great time walking around through the water and playing with toys. He won't really sit in the water or do the "swimming on the hands" thing common in the baby pool, but give it time. He enjoyed seeing all of the other boys and girls swimming and having fun, which made the adjustment a heck of a lot easier.

Younger Bro splashed around a bit and was unimpressed by the mushroom and the sprinklers. He likes crawling on the VERY shallow (inches) area, because it's easy on his hands and his knees. Today, we had a picnic outside, which didn't work quite as well as we would have liked - next time, we need to bring a portable highchair for YB.

I'm of two minds about the Family Park. On one hand, most of my summer memories growing up are of the time spent at the town pool - playing with my friends, taking swimming lessons, joining the swim team, lifeguarding, chasing my brothers, playing in the playground, etc. On the other hand, I lifeguarded for six summers and an additional couple of years in college, and am not excited about the prospect of spending more time around the pool. Swimming as an exercise has lost its luster for me; I understand the benefits, but got severely burned out at staring at that stupid blue line for a couple of hours per day.

I was never a fast swimmer, particularly, but I was a strong swimmer. In college, I was doing 20-ish minute miles, 2 or 3 miles at a time without breaks; I swam recreation-competitively locally, and I always did okay. I have a nice freestyle because of my wingspan and comparatively narrow frame; I don't have enough of a kick-base to be good at backstroke (also no shoulder flexibility) or breaststroke, and I was a decent butterflier. I'm sure that it's important for my sons to swim well.

The nice thing about pool days? Between the sun and the couple of hours running around in the water, the kids are exhausted when they get home. Last night, they were all asleep by about 8:15, and The Wife and I caught up with the rest of the season on House.

Next on the agenda: getting a little swimmy-tube for The Boy to play with, along with some toys and such to bring to the pool. Maybe tomorrow, I take The Boy into the Big Pool with me!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Valerie Fund

I can't help but reiterate how much of a pleasure it is to be dealing with normal toddler issues on a daily basis rather than the hospital crap. Sure, much of it is intensely annoying, frustrating, and - frankly - boring, but it's a whole lot better than the stuff we were dealing with earlier.

Which brings us to the topic du jour: we've been asked to write a sentence or three about the Valerie Fund for some press they're doing. That's difficult, because they are wonderful people whose support system utterly failed this fall and were a primary reason for our mad, desperate flight out to Pittsburgh. Great intentions, not so great execution.

We firmly believe that The Boy's case just grew too intense and complex for them; factor in Younger Bro's birth, and things reache the tipping point much faster than we could have imagined. The Wife asked about the possibility of reduced chemo doses and was told that that wouldn't happen and wasn't a good idea. We got to Children's, and the first thing they did was reduce the doses based on The Boy's kidney function, because the originator of the protocol said that that was the right thing to do. Why didn't our Valerie Fund doctors discover that?

Can you imagine the possibility of The Boy, still in treatment, getting the full doses of those "medicines?" I can, but I've seen way too many horror movies and tragedies. Don't think for a second that, as we became more educated, that I didn't consider the possibility of eventual legal action; not a high possibility, but a possibility nonetheless.

Also factor in that nonsensical rule about the no-infants thing, and factor in the amour of crap that they put my wife through... let's just say that, as I acknowledge the niceness of the people and their sincere caring for The Boy, I also need to acknowledge how their system hurt my family and endangered the health and recovery of The Boy.

Harsh words? Yup. But, richly deserved. They do great things - the holiday party was very nice, and the gifts thing in 2008 was quite nice. The Center itself is a nice place to spend time in a hospital, and the people care a lot about the kids. Sharon is still The Boy's best and favorite nurse, and Laura interacted with The Boy far more than the child life people at Children's ever tried to. They helped ease our transition into being a cancer family - if "ease" is the right word for such a traumatic and world-shaking event. The doctors are caring people who work hard to take care of the patients, and the rest of the staff work hard to take care of the rest of the family through outreach things like their summer camp and holiday party.

But, man... the ball got dropped over here.

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Location:5th Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

A Good Sign

On Sunday, The Boy woke from his nap and had bedhead - you know, where your hair gets wonky and bent out of shape while you sleep! We're pretty happy about that, for the obvious reason (namely, that he has hair). It's not long yet, but it looks kind of crew cut length.

He's been spending a lot of time pantsless, as we've discovered that he's slightly more likely to go to the potty when it will run down his leg than get caught in underpants. That doesn't stop him from pooping on the floor, but it helps.

He does do the annoying thing of going when he feels he isn't receiving enough attention, like when Mommy's on the telephone with New Jersey about a car title transfer. Sigh. Again, nice, normal toddler problems are good things.

Last night, The Boy decided to stay awake until Daddy got home from singing. And for another couple of hours afterwards. Sigh. Midnight bedtime, the night after I was awake for the Lost finale. Not fun.

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Location:5th Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Monday, May 24, 2010

Zoo Time

Yesterday morning, we took advantage of a beautiful day: we went out to breakfast, then went to the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. We bought a family membership there earlier this month; our home is a ten-minute drive from the zoo, so it is a place that, theoretically, we could go on a regular basis. For the four of us, it cost $40 to get in; a membership is $60. Ergo, membership.

It's neat to watch the progression of The Boy's awareness as time goes on. He's fascinated by the animals nowadays. The elephants were his favorites, although he enjoyed the lions as much. The fish in the aquarium were a huge hit as well; watching him run from window to window saying, "Wow!" "Wow!" "Wow!", was something else.

After we ran the boys around the zoo for a few hours, we all came home and napped for a while. I heart family naps, even if The Boy took a long time to fall asleep. Whatever.

Interesting social interactions: The Boy now will walk up to people and say, "How are you doing?" When asked the same question, he responds, "Doing well!" It's very cute. Only issue is that he hasn't developed volume in his voice yet; his conversation can be missed unless you're paying close attention to him.

He also will say, "Hello, nice to see you!" and stick his hand out to shake. That's funny because he does it to Mum and Daddy when he's been with us the whole time. Children's social interactions are fascinating, because it takes the action entirely out of context while the child is learning proper social mores. More on that when I'm not on an iPhone and a bus.

Thanks go to The Wife, who graciously allowed me the privelege of watching the Lost finale last night. She didn't have to, but i'm glad she did. It was worth it; a satisfying conclusion to a masterful show. Did they explain it all? Heck, no. Not even most of it. That's okay by me. We got the important stuff, and it was nice closure for all of the characters I love.

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Location:5th Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Friday Night Lights

Friday night, the boys and I had a nice excursion: I took the two of them, by myself, to the comic book store, out to eat, and to Starbucks for dessert. It was a lot of fun, even if it was a bit difficult at times!

I took the double stroller out, and we had a difficult time at the comic book store. The Boy didn't want to leave the stroller, so he stayed downstairs near the door, in the stroller, until he got bored enough to come upstairs. Younger Bro and I had a nice time grabbing my books. I intercepted The Boy halfway up the stairs, taking him back down to the stroller.

The restaurant was "Lulu's Noodles," a Chinese place across the street from the comic book store. The Boy did two trips to the potty, using it once. The cool thing was that the floor was clean enough in the bathroom (it had just been cleaned before we got there, evidenced by the "wet floor" bits) that I could leave Younger Bro on the ground while I dealt with the potty. The waitstaff was very sensitive, getting the boys' food to us quite quickly. Our only "accident" was when The Boy accidentally poured some of his juice onto his lap. Sigh. Wet pants, one way or the other.

We stopped at Starbucks on the way back to car. Daddy needed coffee.

So, it is certainly possible for me to take both boys places. It's been a while! It was a lot of fun, even if it was tiring because of the amount of scrambling I had to do. I'm very much looking forward to the opportunity for more boys' nights out.

Settling into a nice, little rut

I enjoy Foursquare. It's a location-based "game" social network thing, which is based around "checking in" when you visit a place. You get points for each checkin - 1 point for the first, 2 for the second, 3 for the third, etc. - in any given day. You get five points for a first-time-in-a-place check-in, and five points if you add a new location to the network. You get to be "mayor" if you check in more than anyone else in a given place. I'm the mayor of the Downtown Dunkin Donuts, the JCC, our house, and a bunch of other players.

What Foursquare has really shown me is... well... how boring my life is! I leave our house in the morning, get on the bus to go to work. Stop at Dunkin Donuts to get coffee - or go to Crazy Mocha, if the line's too long. Go to work. Take the bus home. Occasionally, I go to the gym before work. Once I'm home, that's about it; maybe we go to the park, maybe we don't, maybe we just hang out for the rest of the night.

This is an insanely welcome change to my life. I enjoy the fact that we are NOT going to the hospital so regularly. I enjoy the fact that we're able to have a few predictably boring weeks; not that we sit at home and stare at the walls, but we don't go lots of new places and eat at lots of restaurants and go see lots of shows and things like that. I come home from work, and I'm with my family until I leave the next morning.

What can be better than that? My wife is my best friend, and the person that I want to spend every waking moment alongside. My children are fun and interesting and engaging, even if it's not the most exciting thing in the world to sit and to watch them swing back and forth for 20 minutes at a time. There isn't anything that I'd rather be doing.

Thank you, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. Aside from saving my son's life, you've given us an opportunity to be a nice, normal, boring family.

Monday, May 17, 2010

An Improvement?

The Boy loves watching songs from "Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog" while he sits on the potty. Previously, it was a favorite when he was in pain at the hospital.

So, the question is, is moving the association from hospital to potty a positive one? It's a great show...

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Saturday, May 15, 2010


Last night, to celebrate the completion of a somewhat successful week of potty training, we went out to a local ice cream joint, followed by a quick stop at the park. The park was more of a treat to The Boy than the ice cream was, and he celebrated by pooping in his underpants. Sigh.

I'm understanding what The Wife is doing: starting The Boy on potty habits. I know that he's stubborn enough to require his hand to be held and dragged through the process. Look at his taking of medicine: at first, we had to hold him down, force his mouth open, and force the medicine down his throat. He's stubborn. We'll work it through.

Last night was a rough night. I was having flashbacks of my hellish work situation back in New Jersey, and I started to hyperventilate about the probability of finding someone as soulless and abusive as my last supervisor. So, my wonderful wife talked me back to sensibility, and we didn't get to sleep until late late late.

Of course, The Boy woke up at 6:15. Sigh. Good news? The Wife and Younger Bro stayed asleep, and The Boy and I had a nice morning. We went for a walk around the block, and he examined every flower along the way. It's very cute: he squats down, sniffs loudly, and says, "Mmmmmm!"

Other than that, today was a potty training fail day. He did use the potty at the JCC at night, but pooped in his pants a minute or two later. Sigh.

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Park and Sleep

Yesterday, when I got home from work, Mommy helped me pack two boys in the car for a trip to the park. This was the first time that I had taken both boys to the park by myself. It went pretty much as expected - no signifcant issues.

I carried around Younger Bro most of the time, although I did let The Boy wander around by himself while YB crawled about. I kept my eye firmly on both boys, of course, and we all had fun. Best part? The Boy was without a diaper and enjoying it.

We're going to take him out for a treat tonight to celebrate a week's worth of potty training. Probaby Rita's. He deserves it!

We also had the bedtime discussion again. We are hoping that The Boy will be in his own bed by the time he graduates high school. He enjoys playing in his own bed and will pretend-sleep, but he still needs a person to sleep on.

You know what? I'm okay with that. Really! There's something sweet and precious about having this little face resting on my shoulder, gently sucking his thumb and resting. It's calming and soothing for me, as much as for him. I know I'll miss my little sleeping buddy when he outgrows it, so I'll enjoy every minute of it while I can.

He fell asleep around 7:30 last night and stayed asleep for the duration again. Maybe he's growing! (w00t - clothes shopping)

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Location:Wilkins Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Thursday, May 13, 2010

No title.

So, life is interesting for me right now. Aside from my normal allergy medication (which is potent enough to knock out most normal people), I'm on an antibiotic that also is slowing me down. Factor in the stimulants that are in some of the "non-drowsy" allergy meds, and I'm a nice, jittery mess.

So, it was a strong relief when The Boy passed out in Grandma's lap around 8:00 last night and stayed asleep. I was running on fumes by the end of the school day and desperately needed a break. I watched Lost and some of the season finale of Clone Wars and took The Boy to bed.

Aside from that, the rest of the afternoon and evening went smoothly. I'm adjusting slowly to the potty training process that Mommy is moving through - head over to her blog for a nice summation of it (can't link through Blogpress). He managed to convince me to grab a diaper when I first got home, although he didn't use it. He also did pee on the potty for me.

Most of the afternoon for me, though, was spent with Younger Bro. I've been making more of an effort to spend time with him lately; considering how much time, at the start of his life, I spent devoting myself to The Boy's care, I have a lot to make up.

YouTube Video

Over at the Eve vs. Wilms blog, there's a really great chunk about trying to adjust to post-chemo life. "Go be normal!" Yeah, okay. Says you. Still not sure how to do it.

I do have to say, though, that I'm proud about how relatively little television the boys have watched post-treatment. Grandma likes watching tv with the kids; that's fine, because spending time with Grandma is a treat that the boys should enjoy fully. I want to encourage them to be more active while they're awake. Not a problem with Energizer Boy (Younger Bro), but The Boy can be a little bit of a couch potatoe.

Hmmmm... I wonder why? (#cancersucks)

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Location:5th Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Working, Working

It's amazing how much NOT being cooped up for long stretches in the hospital affects my blogging. It's been hard to get in front of a computer lately. I go to work, bust my butt from 8:30 to 3:45, go home, and spend the rest of the time with the boys and The Wife. Since I don't see them all day, I tend not to turn the tv on or open up the computer, and the iPhone tends to be reserved for baseball game updates. Once the boys go to sleep, I talk with my wife or play my game or just go to bed.

I also haven't been feeling particularly well this week - bad tummy issue has me sprinting for the potty altogether too often. I'm on antibiotics for it, which is only exacerbating the worn-down, flat-out-exhausted nature of me right now. Mother's Day was quite anti-climactic, as I spent most of the day in bed because of the aforementioned issues. Grandma's pissed about that - rightly so, because Mommy deserves a day off and a day of pampering - but, not much could be done. Sorry; hopefully won't happen again.

The Boy has been doing well. Mommy has been doing Potty Boot Camp with him all week. It's more than asking him if he has to go; he's a bit stubborn and will convince himself that he doesn't have to go until a puddle forms underneath his feet. So, she's been taking him to the potty and sitting him down every length of time. He complains, yes; but, he is my son and will thus complain on general principle. It doesn't really mean anything, and we know that, and he knows that. The rewards? Two days, only two accidents, and lots of going on the potty.

(Note: the Cars - Lightning McQueen potty doesn't have a little cone to direct boys' pee downwards. So, if you don't teach him to point downwards, then I hope you're not wearing anything that is sensitive to wet.)

Other than that, his hair has grown in well so far, and they might remove his port this month, pending an open surgery slot. That's one less thing to worry about.

Younger Bro has been his usual cheerful, very active, very busy self. He has been exploring the house with great zest and passion, and he loves pulling himself to standing and doing a funny little dance. Latest trick: he figured out how to blow through a little recorder - whistle we have (thank you, Passaic Valley HS band parents and Patsy, I think!) in order to make a nice, loud sound. It's very cute.

The other thing they do together: The Boy rides on the little animal-scooter, and YB holds on from behind and walks / crawls along. It's really funny, and very good for YB's walking development. I don't think he's going to be the early walker that The Boy was going to be, but that's not a bad thing.

Scary thought: we are now well past The Boy's diagnosis point in YB's life. We don't know what it's like to have a normal, healthy baby...

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Location:5th Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Saturday, May 8, 2010


This morning, The Boy woke at 5:15 and asked for a new diaper. I told him to go back to sleep, until the smell hit my nostrils... he had had a major poo explosion which shot out the sides of his diaper, leaving him in a puddle of poopy. This necessitated a major-league cleanup effort, including a new sheet, new pajamas, etc.

This could have been worse... we had borrowed several of the thick hospital throws that they use to protect the beds, and The Boy always sleeps on one. So, while there was a significant amount of cleanup, most of it revolved around cleaning him (bath time at 5:30! Screaming that woke his younger brother, who also had a major poopy!) and not having to clean the bed and mattress. Thank G-d for hospital-grade linens.

He's had a bit of diarrhea for a couple of days. Immediately before bed, he took himself to the potty and got rid of lots of poo. It seems that every day, pretty much, he's using the potty. Once of twice during the day for the past several days, we've found pee in the potty. It's not mine, it's not Mommy's, and it's probably not Grandma's, so he definitely understands the whole concept.

Time to play.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Cleanliness is Next to Godliness

NED, ladies and gentlemen, stands for "No Evidence of Disease." When one undergoes a scan for cancer, that's the result. They can't say no cancer, because the fiendish little buggers are too small to see until much of the damage has been done.

But, the scans came back clean AND we are off the bicarbonate for the time being. So, while we wait for things to settle, we're on enalapril once a day only. w00t!

It's still too early to tell which direction his kidney will go - up, down, or sideways. Two of those three are fine. One isn't. I'll take those odds, even if I'm not happy about it.

Rough night for him last night. He slept poorly, waking frequently and bringing us up with him. Not good. Not sure what, if anything, can be done about it. Maybe he's growing again? Not sure, but that usually results in more sleep, not less.

Here's hoping for a better night tonight!

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Location:Penn Ave,Pittsburgh,United States

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Good start to the day!

For the second morning in a row, both boys were waking as I left for the gym at 6am. Lucky Mommy! Anyway, long story short, she changed Younger Bro while I soothed The Boy, and she took over both boys as I left.

I got an excited phone call an hour and a half later: The Boy had taken himself downstairs while Mommy was in the shower; by itself, not a big deal. He had no pants or diaper on, which is funny as heck. Anyway, Mommy came downstairs to find him rooting through the drawer in the bathroom for a pair of underpants.

Sigh. Where's the puddle?

But, no! He had taken himself to Elmo potty, sat down, and did his business! The pee was in the potty, not on the floor, and he did it all on his own!

I'm so proud of him. Now, this is a start of a day which will hopefully bring the news of clean scans. We've already had the good news of reduced medicines - lower enalapril. Maybe we'll lose the bicarbonate entirely!

(Is it weird that bicarbonate and enalapril come up in iPhone's autocorrect? Pictured below: The Boy and Carmine, from Sunday.)

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Location:9th St,Pittsburgh,United States

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Stage fright?

The Boy has his first post-treatment scans tomorrow, and his first appointment at the renal clinic. I'm nervous. I don't want bad news from either the scans or the kidney doctors. Sigh.

Please note his uniform in the picture: hard hat, sesame street backpack, rainbow colored shirt, and grover underpants. Ah, to be two...

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Location:Juniata Ct,Pittsburgh,United States

Good morning!

The family let me sleep an extra hour and a half this morning, so I almost feel normal from last night's poopy attack. The boys woke me up with lots of tackles and giggles, which was welcoming.

When I had breakfast, The Boy ate about half of my eggs and one of my pancakes. Then, he polished off a bowl of oatmeal - hooray, second breakfast! After breakfast, we played for a while in the living room, and then a certain little stinker fell asleep on my lap.

Now, I'm catching up with TiVo: Stargate Universe from this week, and two month's worth of South Park. The Facebook episode is quite funny...

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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Busy Day!

Last night, The Boy woke up at around 1:30am, along with his little brother. Long story short, Mommy and Daddy didn't get to sleep until after 3am. So, when the boys were up at 7:30, we were hurting.

To make things better, The Boy stripped off his diaper in the middle of the night and peed all over the place. Gross.

So, we got up and went to breakfast at the Eat'n'Park with Grandpa. It went relatively uneventfully, with the possible exception of the stomach issues it gave me later in the day. On the way home, we stopped at the park for 45 minutes. Younger Bro started to go down slides on his own - well, to lunge his body at us when he's placed at the top of the slide, to catch our hands and have fun. Very cute.

We dropped everyone off and went to Free Comic Book Day at our store. We met Wonder Woman (well, a lady dressed as her who was actually kind of cute), a couple of local comic artists, and got some free comics. The Boy was charming and had fun meeting people and looking around. We got home before 11 -a busy day, and it wasn't even lunchtime!

We packed The Boy in the car and drove out toKeystone Oaks High school, where my chorus was singing. We did well, and The Boy enjoyed the performance. We got back home around 5, and the aforementioned stomach issues knocked me out. Mommy and Grandpa went to a concert, and I rested until bedtime for The Boy.

YB was quite the charmer today. He and I had some wonderful crazy baby time, playing Daddy's Hat and tackle baby and tickle baby and bonk!

All in all, a very busy, very full, very fun day with lots of neat stuff for us. Tomorrow, the Pittsburgh marathon runs past our house in the morning, and then were going to go play with Carmine in the afternoon!

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Free Comic Book Day Today

Take your children of all ages to your local comic book store and get sone free comics today. It's worth it. Comics have the best writing in entertainment right now, and therefore the best stories... imagine an action movie with unlimited budget!

The Boy and I will be at the Phantom of the Attic Comics on Craig St in Oakland around 10:15 or so!

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Location:English Ln,Pittsburgh,United States