Saturday, June 25, 2011


Three years ago, today, we ran through a complete battery of tests which culminated in a diagnosis of bilateral Wilms tumor. This diagnosis changed our life utterly and complete and permanently: our residence, our careers, our lives, our friendships, our families were all irrevocably altered.

At this point, I'm doing my best to keep looking at the positive things. Yes, the move was hard, but we a living in a much saner environment with lots of help and love for our little ones. The Boy has received excellent medical care here in Pittsburgh, and he is happier and healthier than we have any right to expect. Little Bear is so happy, healthy, and smart, as well.

I miss my chorus and my church friends, but I've got two new choruses out here and am making new friends. My career is not progressing as we would like, but I know that things will turn eventually.

I'm still working on compiling the blog entries, and I'm at the start of The Boy's worst time in treatment. It is sobering to relive those events but also somewhat cathartic: it shows how far we fell and how far we have subsequently risen. Thank G-d for the experiences we have had, because it brings us forward into our brighter future.

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Pictures from our photo session at Olin Mills on Friday.

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Thursday, June 23, 2011


Bedtime is starting to get a little bit easier. The boys are adjusting into their schedules, and they are mostly putting forth token resistance instead of the determined defensive front that we faced in earlier times.

Little Bear is starting to go back to crib-type sleeping days. When it's bedtime, we might watch a little bit of Goodnight Moon or Winnie the Pooh to calm down, then we go into his room for a story or two. He likes the "Sleep Tight, Elmo" pillow book and Tubby the Tuba. He might want a song or two, then hugs and kisses and leave the room. He might cry for a minute or two, but he usually settles down pretty quickly. We close his door and put the gate in front of the door.

The Boy is still a little more complex, but even he is starting to settle down. At bedtime, we do potty and teeth, then put on his night diaper and pajamas. We will usually do between one and three stories; we've been doing only one or two lately because he has been gaming the system and picking the longer stories. Afterwards, we kiss him goodnight and leave the room. He complains, but he usually settles down quickly,

The tricky bit is the potty visits, of which there are many. Last night, for instance, he was up for potty visits at midnight, one, three, five, and six. While it's nice to prepare ourselves for having a newborn, it is a little bit frustrating. I might be a little less frustrated if he could get his night diapers on and off without help, but he can't quite handle it yet. We've tried a cotton night diaper that he could get on easily enough, but it swelled with liquid during the night and became too difficult.

A friend suggested to wake him up around midnight to use the potty, but we aren't quite there yet. He doesn't go back to sleep easily enough. That is an option, however, and might be done once the baby comes next month. We will have to see.

Little Bear's birthday party is Sunday afternoon, which will be fun. We have begun the cleaning and straightening process around the house and on the yard, and I'll finish the yard tomorrow after I finish my temp marketing job at 10 or 11. Wish us luck.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

There and Back Again

We got back about two hours ago from a quick trip out to New Jersey. Uncle B was moving into a new apartment, and I wanted to be there for moral support. I took The Boy along with me, mostly to get some pre-baby alone time with him and also to see if I could travel with one of the children.

I'm happy to report that the weekend was an absolute and unconditional success! We left on Friday and stopped at Lockhaven, PA, to visit with my niece, who is attending school there. It was a really sweet visit, where we had a nice lunch at a local family place and had a nice walk around the neighborhood. Lockhaven is almost exactly halfway between Pittsburgh and my father's house. After a couple hours' visit, we left for NJ. The Boy slept a little more than an hour during each three hour-log jaunt, which made the trip easy for him. At my father's house, we had a nice evening of playing.

The moving was a nice experience, as well. The Boy helped quite a bit, by carrying some pillows and blankets and video games and such inside the house. He played very nicely with B's nephew, who is a few years older. We went back to Grandpa's house for a nap, then went to Uncle P's house for dinner. It was quite nice; The Boy swam for about an hour, floating on some rafts and playing with a super-soaker toy quite well. My father put him to bed as I saw Green Lantern with Uncle B.

Today might have been an even nicer day. We had a nice father's day breakfast with Grandpa, and then spent lunchtime with Uncle B playing video games. The Boy slept most of the way to Harrisburg, and we had a brilliant dinner with Aunt M and the family: a great barbecue. He slept halfway home, which made the trip easier for him.

All weekend, he was cute, endearing, and engaging. He was well-behaved and fun, even when tired, and he was clearly vocal about expressing his opinions, which made him much easier to deal with. He was almost perfect on the potty, with the one exception being a Uncle P's where he didn't quite make it to the potty quickly enough. He took himself, but he took himself a little bit too late. No biggie. He was even perfect during the long car rides - we didn't stop more than once per hour and a half, which was a nice pace.

Best part? He greeted all of the principal players on the trip (Cousin J, Grandpa, Uncle B, Uncle P and his family, Aunt M) with enthusiasm and love. Nothing is better than an excited greeting from a near-four year old like that, and he was generous with the hugs this weekend.

Truly, a successful trip and one of the best weekends of the year, if not THE best weekend of the year.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Day

Little Bear started school today, and early indications are good. He is in the "little" classroom, so called because of the extra small size of furniture and not the size of the room itself. It also has fewer little potties and more room for diaper changes. The workers - one teacher and a couple of teenagers who are assistants - had no problems with using the cloth diapers, which was nice. We dropped him off and gave him hugs and kisses, which he didn't notice because he was too busy playing with the toys in the room.

It's interesting to see and a pleasure to note that our children don't seem to have any separation anxiety. I'm choosing to interpret that as confirmation that our efforts to raise confident, secure children are successful to date. Little Bear was quite happy to see us at the end of the day, which was nice. He asked up for hugs from me and leapt into Mom's arms and snuggled deep into her neck to say hello. Granted, thirty seconds later, he was back on the floor and playing, but that's just Little Bear.

The Boy is in a different room during the school day, but they eat lunch in the same room. Lunch for Little Bear is not "standard," but we paid for the lunch in school so that we didn't have to pick one child up at 11:30 and the other one up at 12:30 - doable, considering that we live a couple of miles from the temple, but incredibly annoying, particularly on days when no one is home to watch Little Bear and we have to drag him back into the car to pick up his brother. So, we avoided that and have him eating lunch at school. The boys sat together today at the table, which they seemed to enjoy. We've been told that they are both good eaters, and they seem more concerned with eating their lunch than with figuring out what everybody else is eating.

What did he do today? Well, he made a painting for father's day that I haven't seen yet. He played lots of games, played outside, and played with lots of toys. He did a nice job, apparently, of playing with the other kids and with the teachers.

Early success is nice. He is almost two, so I'm expecting some difficult days, but it is nice to see that he is having fun in the early going.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Day Tomorrow

Little Bear starts preschool tomorrow! I'm absolutely fascinated by the whole thing: this is the first time that he's been away from the two of us (or Grandma) for that long of a time. Not to mention, it's difficult to imagine my free-spirited son as part of a classroom environment. He's a real wanderer, and it'll be interesting to see him as part of a class.

I know that he'll be fine as he grows accustomed to the process. He's very, very smart, and he enjoys being around other kids (for the most part). He's also pretty good about being gentle and sharing, which can be very much unlike his behavior with his brother (very rough and tumble). Today, we went to the JCC to play in the playroom for an hour or so, and there were two other children there. One was about two months younger than Little Bear (albeit two thirds his size), and the other was a year younger. The little one decided that he really liked Little Bear, and he followed LB around the room and wanted to play with the toys that Little Bear liked. Little Bear was very, very cautious around the little baby and very generous with his toys. He was also smart - after a little while, he started distracting the baby by giving him other toys and books. It was cute. The Boy does that all the time with LB, and I guess he figured that out from dealing with his brother.

Still, it's a big adjustment. Thanks to Grandma for footing the bill for preschool for him. It'll be a neat experience, I'm certain.

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This morning, we met Grandpa at the diner for breakfast before taking The Boy to "camp" for the first time. Camp is at the same place that he's been going to preschool, and it's being taught by the same people. It's essentially preschool, but during the summer and with the occasional pool splashing. We're happy that The Boy still has Harriet as his teacher, as they love each other so much!

So, last night, the boys got to bed without much fanfare or drama. The Boy, because he took a late afternoon nap, did not get to sleep before 10 or 10:30, but he went to sleep quietly after getting his three stories and a few hugs. Little Bear woke suddenly at 12:30 and wouldn't quiet down until I brought him in bed with us. Maybe he's suffering from some separation anxiety? That would be a first, and kind of in line with the start of his terrible-twos behavior.

This morning, Little Bear woke at his accustomed 6:30, except he had Mum, Daddy, and The Boy upon which to bounce (The Boy having joined us at 5AM after a potty visit). We temporarily distracted him with an episode of Super Why, and we did our normal morning ablutions while The Boy slept and his brother vegetated. Little Bear dressed with minimal fanfare, and at 7:25 I started dressing The Boy. He fought getting dressed, fought getting his teeth brushed, fought the potty visit, and whined while we put on his shoes and threw him into the car. We were really looking forward to having a whiny, screamy 3-year old at Ritter's Diner.

Except, once we got to the diner, the cooperative and placid Little Bear began to melt down. He wouldn't stay at the table. He wouldn't stay near Mum or Daddy. He wanted to throw his toys (and my phone) instead of playing. He was loud, screaming, and crying, so I took him outside to calm down. When we got outside, things took a dramatic turn for the worse, and he wigged out like I've never seen him wig out.

At that point, I was faced with a couple of choices: call The Wife, tag out, and let her take care of it; let him cry until the food came, then bring him in and hope that pancakes would calm him down; or throw him in the car and drive around until they were done. I chose #3. We drove around the block a few times until the rest of the family was done with breakfast, then dropped The Boy off at school and took him home to eat and to calm down.

Separation anxiety, resistance to sleeping, major freakout in public places... looks like we're in his terrible twos. I was wondering what this was going to look like. Sigh.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Life. Nothing more than that.

I'm happy to report that this weekend, while my father has visited, has been an entirely boring and utterly normal weekend. The most extraordinary thing that happened was a little accident while we were outside at a big library summer reading kickoff, which is not an extraordinary thing. But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The whole leaving The Boy alone at bedtime thing is working pretty well. Friday night, The Boy didn't go to sleep until after midnight, but he spent the time in his room alone from 9 o'clock onwards. He came out to use the potty a couple of times, but he stayed without much complaint. He stayed up later than I did, actually. He was so happy to see Grandpa on Friday night! On Saturday night, he fell asleep about thirty seconds after I left his room, so the experiment has been a success so far.

And, as for wakings: Saturday morning, he spent the whole morning in his own room and his own bed. Sunday morning, he joined us after 6am. A qualified success, so far.

The boys have been very good to Grandpa all weekend, and they've been on decent behavior towards us as well. We went to breakfast, then the park, then the pool for lunch, then home for naps. We barbecued steaks and chicken for dinner, then we went for ice cream. It was an utterly normal, boring kind of day.

It was perfect. No hospitals, no illnesses, no drama, no nothing. 18 months ago, this was a weekend that would have been beyond extraordinary - it would have been inconceivable. Now? Easy.

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Two More Steps Forward, But...

Two nights ago, Mom threw a bit of a frustration fit at 1am because of The Boy's inability to go back to sleep without having someone climb in bed with him. "You're almost four years old. Go to sleep!" Of course, that begs the question of, how much slack should he get, all thing and illnesses considered?

In reality, we probably are too permissive when it comes to the sleeping thing. With Little Bear, we are quite content to let him cry for a couple of minutes at the start of his sleeping times, because we know that it is temporary and that he's not really uncomfortable. Just tired. With The Boy, we are the opposite: we are violently against any expression of discomfort. It's not fair, and it's not productive, and it's not really helpful.

So, last night, we came to the conclusion that it was time to effect a change. When it was bedtime, I read him two stories (Fox in Socks, a current favorite, and a story from the big Disney collection my brother gave us a year or two ago) like normal. I offered to sing him a song, but he declined. Then, I gave him a hug and a kiss and left the room. He was very unhappy about it: "No, Daddy! You do not leave! You want to stay with The Boy and relax!"

Long story short, he cried for about a minute and went to sleep. When he woke up at midnight to use the potty, he was escorted back to his room and left alone. At 3am, when he came in, he was told to go back to his room, and he did without fuss. When we woke up this morning, The Boy was in his room sleeping. Success! Hooray!

Okay, let's see what happens tonight. I'm sure it'll be different. The two steps back part of it was that Little Bear decided to join us for the entire night. He doesn't do that often, so it really was kind of nice. I do enjoy my baby snuggles, you know.

Is it too confusing to continue naps the way we've been doing while trying to make the change at bedtime? I don't know. I think it might be too traumatic for me to give up my The Boy nap time snuggles.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Quirks of the Children

Today, The Boy figured out how to buzz his lips and make noises on the trumpet. It was quite cute, particularly since he walked around the house all day with my cornet. His namesake was a trumpet player in high school, as was my father, so it is in his genetic code a bit. He seems to enjoy it, and he seems to be curious about how to play songs. Who knows - he may wind up making a young prodigy!

I spoke with the psychologist about The Boy's intelligence test results. The highlights: 97th percentile in his visual nonverbal skills, like putting puzzles together and recognizing letters and words. He was absolute average - 50th percentile - in verbal skills, which is expected. He has a huge vocabulary, but doesn't say a lot of different things. It's interesting how, when he has something so far above the pale, his skills that are average look like deficiencies! It'll be interesting to see how it works itself through. They noted some developmental delays in gross motor skills (hence the physical therapy) and in sleeping. In short, nothing we didn't know.

Little Bear has started singing songs by himself, unprompted. It's very cute. In the car, if I'm listening to the baseball game, he will frequently start singing. Sometimes, we will get the hello song that the bullfrog sings in Tubby the Tuba. Sometimes, we'll get the pre meal blessing in Hebrew. Sometimes it'll be another Barney song. It depends on his mood. He's been doing this for a couple of weeks.

Little Bear has also graduated out of his high chair. At the dining room table, he will sit in the booster seat, as does his brother. At the kitchen table or at a restaurant, he will sit or kneel or crouch on an actual chair. It's been a few weeks since I've seen him in his high chair. The high chair got used a couple of days ago by a visiting baby!

Nice change that we've noticed in the mess that used to be the living room: every toy that had been dumped onto the ground had been played with! We might just be past the stage when Little Bear dumps toys out just for the sake of dumped them out. Sure, the Legos are all over the floor - but they are in little groups surrounding central structures. They are being used to build worlds!

The Boy actually took a little "airplane" I built out of Legos, stuck a rear tail fin Lego on the end, and said, "Daddy, look! I made the airplane better!" wht an advanced concept - not just using other Legos to improve on a design, but being able to make the value judgment that the airplane with the tail fin was better than the airplane without. Cute.

In bed with Little Bear, when I checked on him tonight: Winnie the Pooh, Elmo, Abby Cadaby, a white Teddy bear, a brown Teddy bear, the Tubby the Tuba book, the Zin Zin Violin book, and a popup pals toy. Entertaining.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Potential and Probable

It's been a fairly eventful week around here, and the odd thing is that it's been eventful in a positive manner. In a blog like mine, frequent updates are not a good sign. Still, everyone's healthy and happy. The Wife is a little more pregnant than last weekend, and the boys are a little more impy than last weekend.

The good news: I've won the position as director of the Greater Harmony Chorus, which is a Sweet Adelines chorus north of town. Sweet Adeline International is one of the women's barbershop organizations. This is a pretty big deal - it's a big job, and it's compensated pretty darn well. So, I'm learning a bunch of new music, a bunch of new rules, and will be learning about 60 new names this month. Baptism by fire: first performance is in three weeks,

Unknown news: The Wife had her second interview this week, and she was told that they'd let her know at the end of the week. They didn't call her yesterday, but we don't know what kind of sign that is. No letters in the mail, no thanks but no thanks, no indications. For the moment, this job is in the same place as my church gig: we did our best, still waiting to hear anything.

Fun maybe news: I've got a line on two temp jobs. One is a 36-hour three day weekend, and the other is a two month position. I'd be happy with either one, truthfully. We need the money, and we just haven't been getting enough substitute teaching.

In the meantime, we've had some funny little milestones recently. The Boy has been carrying his toys around in a little cardboard box, and he has been quite careful to put the toys back in the box when he travels from one room to another. We have managed to get him to put the box aside when he eats meals and when he takes a bath. He is still, however, really into his boots. They are the first choice in footwear. I did hide them the other day, though, when he had a "beach party" at school that really required sandals.

Little Bear was reading his potty book out loud to himself yesterday, when the text was talking about the parts of the body. He was touching the parts (hands, shoulders, head, legs, feet, etc.) while he was reading it out loud. He is also been really reactive when we sing songs: we put in different actions during "If You're Happy and You Know It" and he does them pretty closely in rhythm. He's adjust to his toddler bed, although his naps in the past couple of days have ended with him sleeping in the trundle bed. In the mornings, he is still awake around 6:30, but he has started playing quietly in his room until we come and get him. He's a morning pooper, though, so it's usually pretty important that we get him quickly.

Funny little bit: Little Bear has started, when you change his diaper, to say, "Pee-pee right there!" with the applicable pointing. It's funny and cute!

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