Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gallimaufry

Inspired by several blogs that I read, here's my attempt at Random Tuesday:

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The Wife found a nice way to post the pictures from the boys' photo session on Tuesday. Check her blog for more examples.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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How'd I do with Random Tuesday? Should I do it again next week, or just as the emotions take me?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sigh.

My children are crazy as heck. Good imaginations, though.

YouTube Video

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Nice, Boring Thanksgiving

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...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Image Center - Olan Mills Portrait Studios

We got photos done yesterday, and they’re already available online! Their security is better than it used to be, so for now I’m just going to provide links to the photos. They came out wonderfully.

I can’t believe how much the kids have changed.

Meatball

The Boy

The Kids

Our Family

Crowded Bed

For the last two nights, both boys have slept with us. It's quite cute. There's just not quite enough room for the four of us. Who'd have thunk that such little people would take up so much room?

Plus, Younger Bro snores.

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Friday, November 26, 2010

The Big (Breakfast) Decision

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?

The banana.

Little monkey.



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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Picture Puzzles

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.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wanna Go Outside?

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."

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Monday, November 22, 2010

Still here...

...just busy.

Playing in our leaf pile:


Can you hear the 6-Million Dollar Man effects: nuh-na-na-na-na-na...


Chili as a stylish hair gel:


1) insert baby powder in mouth. 2) squeeze. 3) repeat as needed.


Swingset!


Counting something. Birds or leaves 'n at.

YouTube Video

Now with a hard hat!

YouTube Video

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Friday, November 19, 2010

Daddy Who?

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?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Late Night Conversations

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."

"I love you, Daddy."


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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Everyone's Sick

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.


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Monday, November 15, 2010

NED!

Ah, the three best letters in the language... No Evidence of Disease, which is doctor-speak for "They Can't Find Any Cancer Right Now."

Because, of course, cancer's never REALLY gone. It's like Chuck Norris: it doesn't sleep, it waits. Still, we'll take the good news where we can find it.

Scanxiety

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.

YouTube Video

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.


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Location:Reynolds St,Pittsburgh,United States

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lots of News

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.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Back to the Working World

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.

YouTube Video


Monday, November 8, 2010

Back To The Future...

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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bleary Eyed and Still Living

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!