Thursday, September 30, 2010

Got my iTv today

It can stream music, movies, and tv shows from my not-unsubstantial collection to our tv - also stuff like Netflix and YouTube. What was the first thing I played?

An episode of Barney.

The young, cool person in me just died a little bit more.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


I had my interview at the Apple Store today. It's an interesting thing, debating about entering into the retail world for a time. I'm fairly sure that it's not a permanent thing, although one never knows; The Wife said that she saw me, long-term, being something like a regional manager for the one-on-one training. Or running a store. Or something like that. Can one make enough money doing this?

The thing about teaching is that all of the money is well-defined in advance. The teacher's contract has all of the salaries and stipends and such laid out in advance. There's no negotiations, no debates, no hard feelings, no nothing. Whether you go to Pennsylvania Clown College for Educators or to Harvard University on a full academic Smart People's scholarship, you get paid the same amount for teaching the same number of years. The retail world, I guess, is like the business world. One asks for and negotiates a salary. That is, of course, entirely out of my skill set.

The interview went well. Pretty much everything that they asked was in my easy-answer file. I think I was charming and funny and professional, and both interviewers smiled and laughed at the appropriate places. I won't hear back until Monday, I think. They probably won't offer me a full-time position out of the gate, but that's okay.

Again, what do I do? If The Wife gets her job, then things become complex. We don't really want to put the kids into day care at this point, particularly since it won't make us any money. It's not a huge deal, if it's a day of babysitting or something like that. Multiple days, we're not enthusiastic. That does assume that she gets the job; they wanted to do the interviews late this week, and we haven't gotten a telephone call yet. That's kind of distressing. I think I put more emotional hope into the job than she did, but it's disappointing to both of us. She's keeping the rest of the week open, just in case, but she'll be able to start substitute teaching next week.

I wonder what the salary is, for a part-time retail Apple Store worker? Weird.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bedtime is a Struggle

Nighttime for The Boy is usually fairly predictable. We stop the fast-moving stuff around seven o'clock, so that he has enough time to calm himself down. We might watch some television, or we might just play with toys. It doesn't particularly matter. At some point between 8:30 and 9:30, depending on how active he has been and the status of his afternoon naps, we do teeth and stories and such. The stories calm him down more, and he'll walk into his bedroom, climb into bed, and accept hugs and kisses. We'll sit with him for a little while - at this point, in a chair in the hallway - and he'll fall asleep.

That was a hard-earned bedtime routine. I remember starting that, back several months ago when his other bedtime routine finally hit critical mass. It was such a struggle!

Younger Bro, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal. If he's not ready for sleep, there isn't a power on this planet that can help. Tonight was an example of that: around 8:10, he wasn't ready for bed like normal, thank you 3:30-5:30 afternoon nap! He watched Hush with me a little bit, then hung out with Grandma. Around 9:15, he went into his room. The Boy, meanwhile, had stories at 9. I let him sit with me for a little while and fall asleep, so that he wouldn't upset YB. About fifteen minutes went by - I figured that the little dude was asleep. Snuck The Boy into the bedroom. No dice - YB was awake and standing at his crib. Sigh.

He calmed down in a few minutes, but it was a little hairy for a while.

It's frustrating to me, because I just don't know how to relate to the little one. I don't understand how he thinks, and I don't understand how to help him calm down. He's the only baby, like, ever, that I can't calm down. Every other baby uses me as tranquilizer... not my own second son. I don't get it.

At bedtime, it's particularly frustrating. I can't read him, like I read his brother, and I can't manipulate the situation to help the both of us. I'm sure I'll figure it out - or he'll outgrow this - but it's frustrating. I want to help him, to soothe him, and to make him feel better. Can't do it yet.


Monday, September 27, 2010

Interesting Week

So, this might be a week where some direction is finally restored in our lives. The Wife is off down south today, to Washington Township, where she has an interview for a middle school orchestra / chorus job. It's a heck of a commute - analagous to my commute to West Paterson, which means sucky. It's a real killer - a full hour each way, with the potential for lots of traffic at random times and points. This week, I also have an interview in the Apple Store on Wednesday for a retail job, and a band director job just opened up in Carnegie for a middle school band teacher in a small school. So, lots of possibilities.

Big question: do I bother to apply for the teaching job? I think my work history probably says that I'm not suited to be a teacher. I have a knack, even on my best behavior, for pissing off administration. My time at CAPA proves that: I managed to piss off the administration because I didn't do things that I was not supposed to do. You read that correctly: a list of things that I was not supposed to do, I didn't do, and I got reprimanded for not doing them, despite those same administrators giving me explicit instructions not to do them. How do you get in trouble by doing what you're told to do? This is why I'm not sure if teaching is my path in life. I know that I'm good at it - I'd wager that there are very, very few people in the profession that can teach better and more positively than I can. And, I've always had excellent relationships with my colleagues. But, I can't seem to handle the rest of it - dealing with principals and supervisors in particular.

So, several scenarios are in front of us:

1) The Wife gets the middle school job. This means, roughly, a 6AM to 5PM workday for her. This pretty much removes the Apple Store as a full-time possibility for me; I don't think I'll make enough to keep the boys in day care for any length of time. I could work nights and weekends, but that shoots any singing / lessons out of the water. The most likely outcome of this is her working the day job, and I work at night teaching lessons and singing.

2) The Wife does not get the middle school job, and I work at the Apple Store. She subs in local districts with good music programs as a music sub, and I work my way into a management position in the retail environment. Next year, she gets a full time job, and the kids enter preschool. I probably keep most of my singing, but not many lessons; she will teach some lessons, pending availability of babysitters.

3) The Wife does not get the middle school job, and I apply for (and get) the band job in Carnegie. Same as above, I guess, with more possibilities for nighttime stuff for her. It means curtailing my singing stuff; I'm really not willing to work seven days a week right now, like I was last year. I don't know what this means for my teaching career; I'm really, really, really gunshy and frightened to step into a teaching job right now.

Let's be honest: my last job emotionally raped me. I was unfairly targeted and attacked and harassed by the high school director, music supervisor, and band parents president. From there, I went into a no-win situation at CAPA, and won (at least, the students won an educational experience in a non-educational background), and then got harassed because of it. I don't know - and can't imagine - what a new place is going to do to me. Which will it be: a clinically insane principal, like Detroit? Being in a political epicenter around a tragedy, like Dearborn? Being targeted by an incompetent, soon-to-be-fired principal, like CHS? Being blamed when I follow the principal's advice, like WP? Being fired because my son is sick, like Westfield?

I just don't know what to do, and it's driving me insane. I hate being directionless. I've been rudderless for a couple of months now, and I'm ready to be doing something.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Title Unknown

It really never ceases to amaze me, how many issues are caused when The Wife and I are distracted with other things! Particularly considering the whole potty training issue: when we aren't paying full attention to The Boy's situation, accidents can happen. Our morning routine usually consists of taking The Boy's sleep diaper off, first thing; this cues him that he needs to go to the potty. He'll decide if he wants Lightning McQueen potty (upstairs) or Elmo potty (downstairs). If he's hungry, it'll be Elmo potty. If he isn't, it'll be Lightning McQueen so he can get back to playing. This morning? Didn't take the diaper off first thing. He peed in his diaper, and pitched a fit when we wanted him to go to the potty.

So, what's the magical lesson here? We had a fit and minor meltdown, and anger on both sides, caused by forgetfulness on our part. It's very humbling, as a parent, to realize that. It's such a tiny little thing; taking a diaper off is not a big deal. This tiny thing set a few things into motion that caused the meltdown.

Does that scare the crap out of you, like it scares the crap out of me? What are we setting in motion now, that will cause significant and important heartache and issue in the future? What are we forgetting to do now that will cause those problems? We don't make him pick up his toys often enough. Will he be a slob growing up? Will he have significant potty issues because of our struggles now? Maybe reading Neil Gaiman's "Dangerous Alphabet" at a much younger age than the intended audience will cause him to become a serial killer like Dexter?

I'm not so much worried about that last bit, because the other stuff I've exposed him to - Dr. Horrible, Buffy, Firefly, the Simpsons, significant superhero action and Batman stuff - is more likely to cause serial killing... or so the legend goes.

Today, we had a friend with twin 2.5 year old girls come by for a lunchtime visit. It was very, very nice and very, very fun! The little girls were very sweet. Imagine - kids who like to share! Kids who don't spend lots of time bonking each other on the head! (You mean, there are other things for Younger Bro to do with books, than to hit his brother with them?) The Boy really enjoyed playing with them, but had a breakdown after lunch.

It was really kind of sad. He hadn't peed since soon after breakfast, so we made a "we'll go back outside after you go to the potty" declaration. He was content to play inside for a while, which we were all okay with. We might, after all, have enough toys for four children to use. After a while, his body language (grabbing his crotch, for one) said that he had to pee. Mommy took him upstairs, and he pitched a fit. We switched positions, and the girls and YB went outside.

Here's the tricky bit: when I got to The Boy, he had lowered himself from Grandma's potty, closed the lid, flushed, and was washing his hands. He might have gone, or he might have judged it a "good try," flushed and washed. Either was likely. I figured the latter, because he was still feeling a little grabby. I took him into our bathroom and closed the door behind us, and The Fit started.

This was one of those epic fits, where the reason behind the fit wasn't important. He was exhausted and well past his endurance, and he was pitching this fit because he was angry and tired of being angry and tired. It took about 20 minutes for him to work through this, during which he screamed in my general direction and buried his face in my thighs. Eventually, he calmed down enough for hugs. "No, I not rest with Daddy! I not!" he said, as we walked into our bedroom. He was asleep, approximately, immediately. Of course, when he woke up, he was his normal sweet, sunny, affectionate self.

Easy night tonight. Mommy left for orchestra, and I played with the boys for a while. YB decided he wanted to go down and up the main stairs, which he did with my arms around his body. Only a couple of "falls," which was encouraging; he'll likely scoot down the steps instead of climb down them. After that, he said, "Bath! Bath! Bath!" and sprinted for the bathroom, so the boys had a bath. I put YB in pajamas, read Goodnight Moon and Spiderman, and tossed him in the crib. Watch Prince and the Pauper with The Boy, read him Toy Story 2, Dangerous Alphabet, and The Cat in the Hat, and threw him in bed. This almost makes up for last week.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Wrestling with Health Insurance

Over the last several weeks, we've finally gotten off of our lazy behinds and started wrestling with some of the overdue health insurance bills that we've been receiving from St. Barnabas. It's been an interesting education for us, as Grandma's oft-repeated declaration of "How would you know that?!?" says. Thankfully, we had teachers' health insurance (now, we're on public assistance), which covers an awful lot of things, so everything should eventually wind up paid for. Can you imagine being without it? For one hospital stay in April of 2009 - one of the bad ones - we racked up $192,000 in charges. The next week, another stay, resulting in $78,000 in charges. Catastrophic doesn't begin to describe that kind of money.

Side note: and, again, the Valerie Fund has let us down. They have people there that are supposed to help us with health insurance issues. They haven't done a darn thing, and they haven't helped us one little bit. We gave them our bills, asked for help interpreting the bills, and were repeatedly told, "We'll get back to you about this!" Guess what? Nothing. The bills have kept coming, we've been in collections for at least a half dozen bills, and the Valerie Fund has never done a damn thing. They talk a great game, but they have been entirely ineffectual. Folks, that's why I'm not contributing to them anymore. In their defense, they were good about getting the referrals. Ultimately, it's been up to us to resolve the issues.

Recently, though, we've started making progress about getting the insurance money paid. The major factors in getting this stuff paid are:

1) Talk to the hospital / doctors and find out exactly what the bills are for. Make sure all the referrals are up to date and have been submitted with the claims. If bills are being refused or refunded by the insurance company, find out what the hospital / doctors have been told.

2) The hospital and the doctors will bill you separately.

3) Talk to the insurance company, armed with this information. Find out exactly what the reason that it has been refused / returned / refunded. Resubmit all claims as often as possible.

4) Know your health plan as much as possible. Know what's covered and what isn't; coinsurance options; secondary insurance options.

For instance, did you know the birthday rule? That, if you and your spouse are both covering your children with your employers' health insurance, the primary insurance is that of the parent whose birthday occurs earlier in the year? The Wife's birthday is in July; mine is in August. Therefore, her health insurance was considered primary.

That's important, because we had assumed that her insurance was ended when she stopped working in January of 2009. Instead, it was continued to January of 2010, without our knowledge. So, every claim that we submitted in 2009 with my insurance as primary SHOULD have been submitted as her insurance primary. This means that all charges to my insurance can be refused or charged under out-of-network, resulting in huge copayments from me.

Complicated, no? Less so than you think. What made it difficult was talking to the person in the doctors' billing office for St. Barnabas. These people were not your high school valedictorians; these people, for the most part, seem to be barely high school educated and have IQs around a standard deviation lower than average. Things move slowly and carefully, and I had to repeat myself dozens of times and have the person repeat it back to me. Not to mention, they have great difficulty operating the computer systems and finding the information they need to find.

All insurance claims, then, are going to need to be resubmitted. Not my problem, really; except, it IS my problem if I didn't know that and just tried to pay my bills as they came in.

Oh, one other thing: you need to keep careful, OCD track of every bill paid, the check you write, and when the checks are cashed. The hospital bill payment department is staffed by said neanderthals, which means that any check you write will not be applied to the place you want it. There are numerous bills that have been paid for a year that still appear on bills, because they didn't apply the check correctly and don't have records of it. I call and say, "Why am I getting this bill? This was paid with check #596, written for $50, and cashed by you guys on February 1, 2010. The invoices that were paid by this check were A, B, C, D, and E." That goes a long way in solving some of the issues.

Again, how would I know? In this case, hard-earned experience. Above all, don't pay ANYTHING that you're not supposed to pay, until you've fought and fought and fought about it.

Book news

So, I'm going to start writing my book, "The Boy's Journey Through Cancer," or somesuch. I'll figure out the title later. I figured that my first two things were to read my blog from beginning to end to reestablish perspective, then make an outline of the things that I want to cover in the book. So, I spent the last half hour or so copying my blog posts to a "Pages" document. And, boy, do I like to talk:

2010 (to the last post): 218 document pages
2009: 309 document pages
2008: 302 document pages
2007: 56 document pages.

For the mathematically disinclined, that's 885 blog pages - albeit unformatted. Let's figure out how to compress that to around 250, with some updates and pictures...

Whale Done Parenting

I just started re-reading "Whale Done Parenting," by Ken Blanchard. The basic premise of the book is that children need to be parented just like the killer whales at Seaworld need to be trained: set them up for success, ignoring or redirecting them from negative or unwanted behaviors, and reward successes. Progress towards goal, as Grandma likes to say, is the desired objective. Okay, The Boy might have an accident, but he might have taken himself to the potty four times in a day. Which is more important to acknowledge? And yet, which do we usually spend more time talking about?

This isn't different from most parenting books that we have read here in the Musical household. We've read a lot on the subject, because we're nerds and we're teachers: part of researching our professions is learning how to deal with students, how to deal with children, and how to deal with large numbers of children in a classroom setting. Surprisingly, it's not that different at home; the biggest difference is that you're dealing with the same kids for years and years instead of for a period or three per day for a school year. "Teaching with Love & Logic" and "Parenting with Love & Logic" comes to the same conclusions.

"That would never work with my kid," we all say. "My kid has special circumstances." You know something? You're right. Every kid has special circumstances, usually known as a "personality." That's not meant to be overly sarcastic, it's the truth. Statistics can be kept and studied and are awesome predictors of large groups of people in similar settings. Run a Google search for when children learn to walk, and results of "11 to 14 months" show up. What does that mean? Well, Younger Bro was walking around 13.5 months, and The Boy was walking around 16 months or so. One is relatively normal, one is physically behind the curve. That's not the point. The point is to find a general set of principles that can be adapted to one's peculiar situation.

Here's what I know about my older son: he seems, personality wise, to be a mini-me. He will NOT do something until he's damn good and ready to do it, come hell or high water. He will actively do the opposite to spite you, if he doesn't feel like doing it. He can be mean, cruel, and vindictive when a person tries to force him to do something. He won't sit still for anybody, unless it's for a reason that meets his approval. Same as me, although I usually manage to mask my mean and cruel spirit (not always, just ask my wife about Tuesday night - but that's a story for another time, and something I regret). He didn't walk until he felt motivated and comfortable to do it. He eats whatever food he's motivated to eat, and he won't even tolerate any other food touching his plate. He'll read the stories he wants to read ONLY, without even considering or staying in the room for other stories. He will only sit and watch the shows he wants to watch, although he'll tolerate baseball on television grudgingly and complainingly. (Is that a word?)

In short: my son is a killer whale, just a few tons lighter.

So, how does one deal with him? Carefully. The Whale Done! principles really and truly apply to him. Put him in a position to succeed; ignore or redirect failure; and reward successes. Badgering him about going to the potty is not going to help, and forcing him to go to the potty is only going to result in poop on the floor in spite. Reminding him about the potty is never a bad thing, but it's not a consistent recipe for success. So, put him in a position to succeed: "The Boy, after this show / puzzle / song, we'll wait to watch the next one until you go potty." "I not need to go potty! I not!" "Okay, that's fine. We'll just wait until you go." "Oh! I go potty!"

It's not your idea, it's his idea. There's no judgment, there's no force involved, there's no arbitrary time limit set. If he doesn't have to go, he'll give it a try, and then we'll still put the show / puzzle on. If he tries to go to a new puzzle or new show or whatever, we'll do the same thing: "The Boy, we'll do that after you go potty, okay?" It's redirecting him to what he needs to do.

Heck, last night, he took himself to the potty about seven times from 7:00 until 9:00, because he REALLY wanted jelly beans. He only went three or four times (tiny bladder, donchewknow), but he really wanted those sugary little treats. I didn't push the jelly beans, but I let him earn them according to his pace. Therefore, no accidents. This morning? Similar, using his puzzle and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. "We'll play puzzle after you go potty, okay?"

I don't necessarily advocate one method of parenting over another. I try not to say, "This is how you do it," because I'm not you. I don't have your kids, your spouse / mate, your parental issues, your personal issues, your life; you surely don't want mine! But, with my older son, this is the only thing that works. I know that it's a heck of a lot easier to make the big fuss and have the big conversations about the negative stuff: the accidents, the "Stop it stop it stop it!" he says in defiance, or when he pushes his brother or takes a toy from him (or tries to take it and fails, as often as not). Lord knows that I try to follow those general principles as much as I can: complimenting him on his good manners, ignoring rude (non-please) requests until he adds the please, redirecting "stop it stop it stop it" defiance, making a huge fuss over successful potty visits and keeping silent during accident clean-up, and similar behaviors. It's not enough; I think I'm around 60-40 positive-negative, which is better than average but not where I want to be.

What about you? What do you think?

You Know He's Tired...

You know he's tired when he let's me get up, do my morning routine and take a shower without stirring... lazy little boy! And, yes: he's lying crossways on the bed.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, September 17, 2010

Getting the Hang of It

As Younger Bro starts getting a little bit older, I'm starting to really get the hang of dealing with two boys at one time. It's not easy, don't get me wrong; I always feel like I'm neglecting one of them. But, it's getting a bit easier.

(Funny note: I've got the huge thing of jelly beans right next to me. The Boy came over, "Want some?", to which I replied, "What do you have to do for this?" He ran off to the bathroom to go sit on the potty. w00t sugar!)

Tonight, the rest of the family is off for the start of the Yom Kippur services. It's not so much for small boys yet, so the boys stayed at home with me. Okay. No problem. I finished the dinner dishes while the two boys were playing in the sun room and dining room. I put the baseball game on, and played with the two boys while Mickey blared in the background. When one boy was angry, distraction was used. Younger Bro went to bed a little after 8, and The Boy is just... well, being three.

No problems, no one got hurt, not too many tears were shed, and plenty of tackles to go around. And, this is now the 5th time we've watched "Space Captain Donald." Sigh.

Nice, boring, uneventful evening. I could get used to this.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Potty: Winning the War

In a lot of ways, Potty Training is kind of like playing the game Risk. While it's possible to win the game quickly, with bold strokes and easy combat, the most likely scenario is a long slog. Win three battles, lose two, win three battles, lose two. I'm happy to report that we're in the process of winning the war.

Don't get me wrong: we've got a long, long way to go. But, over the last two days, we've had a lot of big victories: times when The Boy takes himself to the potty, and times when he actually takes himself to go poo on the potty. He doesn't wipe himself yet, and he doesn't like going to the potty when he's wearing pants, but he will take himself when he's just in underpants or naked.

What winds up working now is delaying things until he goes to the potty. "Okay, The Boy, we'll watch another Mickey after you go potty." If he waits a few minutes before he has to go, fine. I'm not going to drag him into the room, kicking and screaming, and force him to sit. It doesn't work like that. He's a little me, and I don't get forced to do anything. "You can have some juice after you go potty." If he's not thirsty, he'll go away. If he's really thirsty and doesn't have to go, he'll give a try and then get his juice. The trying is the important thing. With The Boy, he has to have a reason for doing things; the reward or the consequence must be laid out in advance and be better than the current activity.

(Edit: I wonder how that can be adapted to his sleep issues. How can we convince him to stay in his own bed all night long? What consequence or reward is more attractive than snuggling with Daddy? That's a toughy.)

I haven't had the fun of teaching him to pee while standing up yet. I'm looking forward to that. "Here, The Boy, go pee on that." "Okay, Daddy." Heh.

I wonder what it's going to be like when he reads this, in ten or fifteen or twenty years. I'm sure that potty training is absolutely scintillating reading for anybody, much less the impressionable, easily-embarrassed teenager he's going to be.

Younger Bro is doing well. He slept until after 10 o'clock yesterday morning, his morning home from the hospital. His naps were screwy - noon to 2 and five to seven, so he was awake past 10 o'clock at night... as was The Boy. Nothing better than trying to put two kids to sleep at 10:30 at night. It didn't go well. The Boy has been resisting and resisting going into his own bed lately, and coming into our bed earlier and earlier; it's gotten so that he's only staying in his own bed for an hour at best. Sigh. Back to the drawing board.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Coming Home Again

Younger Bro is on his way home. They did deep suction on his nose, ramped up the Tylenol, and gave some fluids, I think. All is okay.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Weird Feeling...

I guess this is what my wife felt like, all those times that I was at the hospital while she was at home. It's a little helpless, a little frustrated, a little annoyed (at life), a lot scared. I don't handle time away from the hospital very well at all, as those who know me can attest. I need to be there. Not that I can do anything more - I'm certainly not the comfort for Younger Bro that my wife is, as much as I try.

I knew that he was really sick when he was sitting on my lap for around 45 minutes. He's got that little, sick baby cry - not really the sustained, lusty, lead-post-like-Tim Waurick cry. Sigh.

The Boy and I had a relatively uneventful evening. Mum and Younger Bro were dropped off from the hospital, and we had dinner, then played outside for a while. He likes hitting the balls - baseball and golf ball - off of the batting tee, then running over and going down the slide. We also played chalks. He brought himself inside, after a while, and we watched some episodes of Batman. His temperature - you know that he's sick, too - was up to 99.1 axillary. Some Tylenol, a trip to the potty, and we watched Mickey's Adventures in Wonderland. At the end, of course, he peed and pooped on my chair. Sigh.

Tried to read him stories, but he threw a fit instead. I got him changed into pajamas, and he recanted and asked for stories. I gave him one (instead of the 2 and one extra for asking nicely that I was planning), and he threw a fit. I brought him to bed, he resisted. I told him I'd sit with him when he was in bed, and he threw a full-on fit. When he calmed down, he climbed into bed, asked me to sit with him, then pulled his blankets up and was asleep inside of 10 minutes. In a second, I'm going to call my wife, start the diaper laundry, and figure out what I'm going to do next. I might play "Burn Zombie Burn" or the new Watchmen game I just got, to do something with my fingers, particularly since the Yankees have already blown a 6-run lead and have no bullpen tonight. Sigh.

Emergency Room Redux

So, it's our third non-cancer related trip to the emergency room right now. (The first? The Boy's potential stomach issue in the first month of his life. The second was him falling down the stairs and getting that weird, line-shaped bump on his noggin.)

Younger Bro has had a cold for a couple of days now. Nothing too big, until this afternoon - just your standard stuffiness and slight fever. This afternoon, The Wife used a nasal rinse and nasal suction to help clear him out, because he was too stuffed up to nurse properly. That caused a nosebleed. That bleed took a long time to clear; he was still sneezing out clots of blood for more than an hour afterwards. His fever spiked late this afternoon, and he began experiencing mild respiratory distress.

We're sure that it's just cold and stuffiness-related issues, but the respiratory distress is, well, distressing. So, Mommy and Younger Bro are in the emergency room right now, leaving The Boy and I at home to fend for ourselves.

Do we have any experience with one kid in the hospital, one kid at home? I dunno. We'll just have to wing it. I knew that the little one was sick because he stayed in my lap for over an hour without squiggling out to play with something.

I was going to take The Boy to Eat'n'Park. "Do you want to go to Eat'N'Park for dinner?" "No, I not want to go to Eat'N'Park. I want some cereal, please." What can I possibly say to that, other than, "Yes, sir."

And, now he's stuffing up and breathing funny. Great. Should only be hours before the four of us are in bed.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Home Again, Home Again...

Jiggity jig. Thankfully, we've arrived back in Pittsburgh without anything interesting happening to us on the trip back. One learns, after a certain point in life, that interesting events are rarely desirable. It was a nice, quick, boring trip back. The boys both slept most of the way, with a quick stop for a diaper change (for The Boy) and milk (for Younger Bro) at a turnpike rest stop about 30 miles from home. So close, yet so far.

And now, thanks to the highway tar known as Starbucks, I'm awake. Sigh.

I did just finish an application to work at the Apple Store in Shadyside, here in town. I know that many will look at that as a step backwards, career-wise, and they're right. It is. I also know that, for much of the last decade, I've finished every school year either unemployed or barely hanging on to my job. Let's be honest - aside from the actual teaching part of work, I've disliked everything about teaching except for summer break and Christmas break. It's time to step away from the grind of teaching and see what the other side is doing. I'm not sure that retail is a step up, but it's difficult to imagine it being much worse.

Anyway, the holiday was relatively uneventful. Younger Bro was on his absolute best behavior all week, putting on a clinic on how to charm a room quickly and easily. He played with everybody, smiled at everybody, walked around, was well-behaved at meals, played with toys, tried to eat everything in sight... in short, being a normal, cute, 14-month old boy. The Boy was on decent behavior, except for the potty. He was not great about that, once we got through that amazing trip out that resulted in no accidents. He had five or six accidents per day for the last couple of days and fought like a tiger to avoid going to the potty. It's annoying, for sure, but not that strange. He's in a strange place, with fun people and lots of cool toys. Why would he want to interrupt that for the potty?

It's funny, because I had suggested that we start having The Boy wear pants more often. My hypothesis, partially proven, is that he's pretty good with the potty when he's naked. When he's wearing pants, he's still stuck on the diaper-like feeling and doesn't do the potty very well. Here was our attempt, even if it was frustrating for us to have him have multiple accidents - in quick time spans, like three during dinner on Wednesday - in front of the family and in a strange house. I know that I was projecting my own embarrassment, but I felt bad for the kid. It can't have been easy for him.

Still, there are things that Daddy does well, and things that Daddy doesn't do well. Potty patrol is still Mommy's domain, mostly because she's better organized and better able to get him to cooperate when he's pissed off. I can calm him down and soothe him when hurt or upset, but she gets him to cooperate much better. /jealous/

A shoutout to our new friends, R, her husband, and their son, J, who we met at temple services on Thursday morning. They had an awesome young children's Rosh Hoshanah service, with snacks and games and songs and stuff. We walked in, and, as she later told us, she recognized The Boy and Younger Bro from the blog immediately. We had a nice conversation about blogging and the boys' lives. It was a little surreal, meeting a reader that wasn't a family member, but insanely cool to hang out with neat people. Hopefully, we'll see them next time we're in Harrisburg!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy new year!

Happy new year to my Jewish peeps. We're in Harrisburg right now, enjoying Rosh Hoshanah celebrations with the family. It's been an interesting day today.

On the record, I'd be a lot happier if the Jewish holiday stuff would just start earlier. I understand about the whole need to wait until sunset, but I also know that my children get grumpy and unfocused that late at night. I, also, start to lose my sh@t around nine o'clock and need for things to start rapping up instead of just getting started. Whatever. The time is the only complaint I have. The company is wonderful, the talk and discussion is sincere and interesting, and the food is sublime. My bedtime is not a difficult sacrifice. This many Intelligent, interesting people is a gathering that isn't to be missed. The boys and I love the songs and the fellowship.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

An Observation

"The Boy, is Younger Bro getting milk or coffee?"

"Nooooo... Milk!"

"Man, if those things dispensed coffee, I'd never leave home."

- Posted on the road from iPhone

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thoroughly Unpleasant

It's not been a great couple of days in the Musical household. Mum and Daddy have not been very well, a combination of poor sleep, a cold, and the immense stress of beginning a school year with no job and no prospects of employment. Heck, with no real interviews and leads on employment. Yesterday, I was sick and out of sorts. Today, The Wife was.

Of course, the kids have picked up on it. Maybe they're a little tired and unwell, also; they surely have not been the same sweet, well-behaved boys that we've expected. Younger Bro has been a terror around bedtime, which is unusual for him. Today, he had a major meltdown at the "Right By Nature" whole foods store down in the Strip District. It was not good.

Yesterday and today, The Boy has been a real pain about his nap time. Yesterday, he had a two hour long fit, which finally resulted in him passing out in Grandma's bed from the sheer exhaustion of fighting the nap. Today was similar, with the two hour fit replaced by four hours of rank bitchiness: screaming at us for everything, refusing to go potty until he wet himself, not eating during lunch only to demand the same food ten minutes later, that sort of thing.

And, bedtime... what a joke. Times like this make it seem like he's going to be sleeping in our bed until he's 15. It wouldn't be so bad, except for his recent habit of kicking us REALLY hard. And, yes, it's cute that he likes touching our bellies, but some nights, I'd prefer not to have someone's hand sneaking up my shirt like it's a prom afterparty.

If I have to hear him say "Stop it stop it stop it stop it" every single time we ask him to do anything...


And, just think, we get to travel to Harrisburg for the next three days and two nights. Fun.

Still better than cancer, but no fun at all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, September 6, 2010


Best presents from the birthday party last weekend, non-gift card division: the yellow Tonka truck that rumbles and rolls forward when you push the button; the plastic baseball batting tee; and the plastic golf clubs set. The other presents were cool, too; but those are the three that have received the most playing time in the first week of 3-hood.

I'm teaching The Boy to bat left handed. I don't care if he throws lefty or right; he could be the next Rickey Henderson (throws right, bats left) or Don Mattingly (throws & bats left). Pretty sure he's a righty, though. Or, maybe he'll switch hit. That'd be cool, too.

Funniest moment of the day: The Boy deciding that the golf clubs weren't for hitting the balls on the ground. He put the golf balls on the batting tee and swung at them with the golf clubs from up high. Very cute. Also help his batting eye? (Side note: does stickball make better hitters, because of the thinner bat?)

Potty training is doing pretty darn well. The Boy, again, took himself to the potty this morning with my iPhone and made poo. It was a big one, too... so I consider myself fortunate.

Younger Bro is progressing nicely with his walking. He pushes himself to standing without using something to brace himself, and he's walked through two whole rooms before stopping. It's kind of the Maggie Simpson-style walking: take several steps, fall. Take several steps, fall. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

The Boy's nighttime sleeping is regressing. We have the same routine for putting him to bed, but he's waking and coming in with us earlier and earlier. It's pretty predictable: as soon as the clock strikes 12:15, he wakes up and joins us in our bed. So, it can be a bit silly to go to bed earlier for the adults, because he wakes us up. What do we do? Put him back? It's tough.

I'm already doing the "chair goes farther and farther away from the bed" thing to get him to sleep. No problems with that, and when my wife puts him to bed, she barely needs to stay. It's the "getting back to sleep after midnight waking" thing that we're not getting right now. It's only really a problem from 6:30-7:30AM, when he's a very restive sleeper and spends his time kicking me frequently.

Younger Bro is doing a nice job of playing with chalk. He eats less of it, and he's actually using it to make marks and lines on the pavement. Pretty cool, huh? We bought, using some gift cards, a big stand-up easel that has a chalkboard and a magnetic white board, so with luck, when we have a rainy day and assemble it, they'll both be able to play with it easily and conflict-free.

Current favorite television shows: The Boy loves "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse," which is growing on me. Similar kind of interactivity and stickiness from Blues Clues. Younger Bro will actually sit still and watch "Goodnight Moon" with Grandma. Not with me, but Grandma.

Current favorite movie: the remastered "Prince and the Pauper" with Mickey as the Prince & the Pauper, Goofy & Pluto as the Pauper's friends, Donald as the Prince's friend, and Pete the Cat as the bad guy sheriff. When the movie starts, The Boy always describes Pete & the guards: "They're not nice at all!" The DVD also has a primitive animated Pied Piper and Old King Cole, and 1934 Medieval Mickey short, and "Goofy: Knight for a Day." Very cute.

Friday, September 3, 2010


With the amount of time these boys spend running around the house naked, you'd think they'd generate less laundry.

At what age does peeing on the floor become less cute? Four? Five? And then there's college, where it's funny again. Go figure.

I find it odd that I can take food that's been chewed only once or twice by one of my sons and eat it in good conscience. I would ne'er have done that pre-babies.

A month ago, the pack'n'play was considered Hard Time by the boys. Now, they ask to be put in it to play. Huh?

YouTube Video

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Today, I got two fillings replaced because there was some tooth decay underneath. This is frustrating for me, because I tend to get multiple fillings done every six months, like clockwork. I go in for my cleaning, make a second appointment on my way out, and plan to have an aching head and jaw for a couple of days afterwards. The screwed-up part? It's been years since I've had a cleaning that was less than exemplary, and I always get sincere compliments on the care of my teeth. As in, the cleaner goes in my mouth, pokes around a little bit, polishes it up, and send me out - usually in about five minutes. So, what's the cause?

(I'm discounting my coffee habit as a cause. I know coffee's acidic. Maybe the reduced amounts I'm drinking now will help next time. We'll see.)

Genetics, I guess. My mother's father had awful teeth, and spent the last 20 years of his life with many false teeth. I don't know how my mother's were; better dental care helped, and she passed away earlier than old. My father's teeth seem to be good, but I've never actually had a discussion with him about it. Genetics seem to be the answer behind the tooth thing.

So, where did The Boy get cancer, considering that - to our research - pediatric cancer rates are no higher in Scotch Plains, NJ, than anywhere else? (Other thought: our pediatrician, Dr. Kint, has diagnosed a half dozen cases of Wilms Tumor. His career is not that long - maybe 20 years. Maybe, ironically, something in his office?) Is it genetics? Do we play a blame game?

Unfortunately, there's plenty of blame to go around. Without getting too deeply into our medical history, between the two of us, we check off most boxes in the medical history section. 3 of our 4 parents have had cancer (2 won). There's plenty of odd medical issues on both sides. Again, ironically enough, no history of kidney issues at all from either side, including (knock of wood) no instances of recurring kidney stones.

So, what's the reason? Why did we win the genetic lottery? Why did those kidney cells (or cell) take a left turn into tumor instead of kidney? We'll never know.

I kind of hope we never know. I don't want to find out that it was caused by (pick one): high tension power lines; cell phone radiation; high fructose corn syrup; the Republicans controlling the government; the Red Sox winning two World Series; not enough broccoli in Mommy's pregnancy diet. Is that strange? Is it weird that I'm not particularly interested in finding the cause?

I would wonder how many people would agree with me. The cancer has changed every single aspect of our lives: our relationships with family have forever changed; our jobs and careers have been lost; our credit rating is likely shot; we've moved 350 miles away from our last home; and all the other bitchy, whiny stuff that we can think of.

Hopefully, the boys inherited their mother's teeth. They'll need braces (yay! More money!), but that's not the worst thing in the world. She doesn't get cavities like I do.