Monday, May 30, 2011

I Love A Parade

This morning, Grandpa, Mum, the boys, and I got in the car and went to breakfast before heading out for one of the local Memorial Day Parades. This was a semi-planned event; Grandpa coming along was a wonderful last-minute bonus for us. We had hunted down where the parade would take place, which was a surprisingly difficult thing to do. The parades don't come as they used to come, you know? Lots of areas don't do one, or just do a ceremony, or do their parades earlier in the weekend. It depends, I guess. There's no central Pittsburgh parade; just a parade in one or two of the neighborhoods featuring neighborhood organizations and a few representatives from the city and area.

Breakfast was a difficult thing to find, considering that it is Memorial Day and nobody was really open. We finally went to Eat'N'Park, which is open 364 days per year or so. It's not ideal - the food is kind of cheap - but it's fast and the kids know that they get a smile face cookie at the end of the meal, so it's pretty good. Their breakfast bar is really decent, and it has lots of fresh fruit and the usual breakfast foods. The boys were quite excited over quarter-sized pancakes, and The Boy loved strawberries with strawberry yogurt dipping sauce.

We headed down to Lawrenceville, the neighborhood around the Children's hospital, to find the closest parade. The highlight of our search wa sa cop getting really cheesed off at us when I stopped to let Grandpa out of the car to go ask that same police officer where the parade route was so that we could get a seat! We found a nice spot in the shade, about a hundred feet from our parking spot, about two blocks from the parade origin point, and camped out and waited.

The boys then proceeded to go absolutely nuts during the 45 minute wait before the start of the parade. I mean, they went bonkers waiting: fighting with each other and us, trying to break toys, throw phones (not mine), just being cranky and grumpy children. We love them when they're good, we love them when they're not. As I keep reminding myself, when they misbehave, that's when they need our love most of all!

When the parade started, it was totally worth it. Little Bear sat on Grandpa's lap for the whole 40-minute parade, while The Boy sat on the curb right in front of me. They were entranced by most of it, particularly when different groups started throwing candy or handing out lollypops to the nearby children! It was also nice to see the mascots from the Pirates, Steelers, and Penguins make appearances and give high fives to the kids. (I wouldn't want that job. How hot are those costumes!)

The boys got little flags to wave from the Boy Scouts. I'm not thrilled by the anti-gay stuff by the Scouts, but they are usually nice people and helpful folks. The boys loved their flags and waved them at anybody that came near.

The best part of having little kids is the attention that the folks in the fire trucks and army jeeps and ambulances pay to them. We can usually get siren wails and honks and other cool noises. The motorcycles in the middle were a big hit, as the boys loved the loud engine noises. The girls on horseback were a huge hit for the boys, who think horses are pretty cool. (I feel bad for the lady carrying the shovel right behind them, though. What a crappy job.) There were two bands n the parade: the first was the bagpipers and drummers by the local Scotsmen, and the other was the "Letter Carriers Marching Band."

Not kidding. The postman marchers. That's just cool.

We played for a bit at home, and then everybody passed out in naps. We will probably go to the pool at the JCC family park when/if everybody wakes up.

Two pictures to share, which are in the early running for picture of the year:

Little Bear is expressing enthusiasm for a passing parade display while waving his flag patriotically. Below, can you tell that The Boy dressed himself this morning? The flag had been put down in favor of a two-fist approach to eating candy.

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Saturday, May 28, 2011

Swimming Pool Is Open!!!

Today, the boys woke up grumpy and sniffly and runny nosed. The cold that is flowing around the house is running its course slowly and surely, and nobody is feeling particularly well. We kind of grumped around all morning, doing nothing in specific. Nap time could not come too early; neither boy slept particularly well last night, so they were both able to nap relatively easily.

Nap is kind of relative; we put Little Bear in his room and closed the door. He spent about an hour roaming around his room, playing with various toys and books and such before deciding to lie down and sleep. Now that he's in his toddler bed and not locked into his crib, he feels the need to wander around the room for a time after he goes to sleep.

After nap time, I got The Boy ready to go to the Family Park at the JCC. Little Bear woke up slowly, poorly, and with great difficulty, so we thought it might be prudent to leave him and Mom at home. So, we had a nice snack, I gathered up our things, and Mom then decided to bring Little Bear with us. The four of us got into the car and left. We stopped at the local Family Dollar to pick up some new pool toys because our old toys from last year didn't survive the winter.

The pool visit was a huge success, blowing our expectations away! We got to the baby pool area, which is nicely gated in to prevent the Wandering Jews from getting too far away from us. Little Bear was in the water, sandals and all, before we even got our stuff on the ground! There were a half dozen other kids in the pool when we got there, and they all loved playing with our toys. We had the coolest stuff: a SpiderMan and Lightning McQueen bucket, two soft squeeze balls, and a big beach ball.

The boys really loved the water. Last summer, Little Bear was just too small to deal with the water. This summer, he's able to climb into and out of the pool by himself and walk through the middle of the water. It's pretty awesome to watch! The Boy is more able to handle the water, and he even walked under a couple of the sprinkler things without any help! They played with the buckets and the balls and spent some time jumping in the water from the side of the little pool.

The other kids really loved playing with me, as I became a target for bucket dumping and jumping upon. The boys played with them as well, but not quite as much as they played with me. Little Bear played with one of the girls for quite some time.

When we got home, it was quite the struggle to get Little Bear to bed. He really felt awful and exhausted, and things kept conspiring to wake him: talking in the hallway, his brother banging cans in the hallway, police sirens, etc. He actually feel asleep while I rubbed his back, which is the first time that's ever happened! The Boy fell asleep quite easily after two stories: The Lorax and One Fish Two Fish, both read by the iPad by is choice. Sigh. Replaced by my own electronics.

All right. I'm going to sleep. Long day tomorrow: singing job in the afternoon.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Testing, testing, testing, testing

Yesterday, The Boy had some intelligence tests done at the Children's Institute (the place where he has his physical therapy and where Grandma works). We did this at Grandma's request, because she wants a baseline in case hearing-related issues or other therapy-related issues arise. We got out of bed nice and early, and I threw the boys into the stroller for the nice uphill walk to the building. Mum was at work, so I brought the little one with us.

The Boy went into the first round of testing, which was with a wonderful, grandmotherly lady, while we spoke with the psychologist. She asked questions about his development and chemo treatments and handed us a big stack of paperwork to fill out. We had from 9-12 set aside for the testing, which seemed quite excessive to me.

I was asked my opinion for the testing, when I told them that this was a Grandma-inspired thing. After I gave my wise guy answer, I was asked to clarify. The truth is, I don't really have an opinion about it. I haven't lived through raising a kid with special needs as he enters the educational system, certainly not like Grandma has (that's her profession and training, after all). I felt that if she felt a need for it, then there probably was a good enough reason for me to agree to non-intrusive testing. As an experienced and talented educator, I know how often I make a decision that I initially call a gut decision; inevitably, the reason for that decision becomes quite clear. It might not be for a couple of years, but the reasons become apparent. Sometime I'm wrong, but mostly not; trusting intuition means trusting the training, reading, and practice that has been drilled into me after years of experience. So, while I wasn't thrilled to be heading to the Children's Institute for a day's worth of testing, I certainly acknowledge that it is probably the right thing to do.

The first lady testing visual stuff: puzzles, acuity, recognition, that sort of thing. As expected, he tested out as a visual learner (like me) and tested off the charts (like me). He's far ahead of his chronological age in this regards. The second part of the testing was academic stuff: recognizing shapes, letters, numbers, spoken words, that sort of thing. He started that, then came outside with Little Bear and me and took a nice break for some playing and a snack. Afterwards, he did another half hour and was done done done with the testing. He tested average on his verbal skills (as expected) and above average with the other academic stuff, based on the extremely preliminary results. The real results will come after we've filled out the paperwork describing his developmental milestones and the psychologist has had time to study all results.

He didn't finish the entire battery of tests, but that's okay. He wasn't expected to finish them; he's just a little baby! He did quite well for a guy his size, though, and I'm very proud of how he interacted with the adults. The neat thing was watching Little Bear during the last segment of testing, which consisted of some "point to the oval" questions and some shape copying and some path tracing drawing games. Little Bear was absolutely rapt in attention to everything that she did, and he even answered a couple of question before The Boy did! "Oval right there!" was one of the responses, thank you iPad and iPhone shape games.

I'm glad that I have two children who seem to be on the far end of the bell curve, intelligence-wise. I know that they'll be a handful when they're in school and afterwards, but I'm okay with that.

The rest of our day was uneventful: long, long naps for the boys, followed by a new playground, comic books (The Boy asked for a Batman comic, which was nice), chocolate milk, pizza for dinner, a nice bath, and some iPad / iPhone time, stories, and bed. I also filled out some job applications and net some resumes. Should be interesting.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011


The rest of the weekend went fairly uneventfully. Saturday was a gorgeous day and the first sunny day that we've had in Western Pennsylvania in quite some time. The Wife went north to work with a middle school orchestra for the morning, then she went to a show with Grandma and Aunt W for the rest of the afternoon, so it was Bachelor Day at La Casa de Music: Grandpa, Musical Daddy, and the boys. We did some nice playing outside, some nicer resting, and then we took the boys to Blue Slide Park.

It is so fascinating to remember what Blue Slide Park was like for them last fall. It's only been six months since we we going there on a regular basis, but it's been a busy six months developmentally. Little Bear is now able to play on practically anything in the park, and he really enjoyed the bouncy bridge on Saturday. He could walk up the steep, steep hill to go down the big blue slide, both activities by himself, and he can even sort of wait in line. The Boy is climbing easily up the ladders, and he gave a mighty attempt to go up the little climbing wall. He's even starting to try to get into the games that other kids are playing!

Sunday, The Boy was invited to go to a birthday party of a schoolmate. It was a "Royal Ball" themed party, so we dressed him up in a nice little suit and took him to the party. The party was just darling: the perfect length, with well-chosen snacks and yummy cake. There were arts and crafts to make, such as the crown that King Boy made:

The Wife was in no mood to deal with the boy that afternoon, mostly because she was up until late-o'clock in the morning making some recordings for me. So, I took him. It's kind of an awkward thing for me, because I was one of three fathers at the party (compared to about ten mommies or so), and because everybody else seemed to know each other from other children or other activities or whatever. So, there weren't many people who were willing to allow me into their conversations.

Still, The Boy had a marvelous time, and I enjoyed myself playing with him and the other kids and talking to the mommies who were cool enough to talk to me.

Side note: The Boy has been going gaga for Dr. Seuss over the past week.

He has been reading the books on the iPad that we have: Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham (his favorite), 1 Fish 2 Fish, Lorax (his next favorite), and Cat in the Hat Comes Back (his third favorite, which is on Grandma's iPad and not mine). They are well-designed apps that encourage experimentation and exploration, and I'm amazed at how thoroughly and joyously he's consuming those stories.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Poor Child

Today, The Wife and I both went to work. The exciting bit was that we both worked in the same building, co-teaching the same subject. That's a really cool thing, and the second time we've been able to do that. We work fairly well together, considering that our teaching styles are similar.

There is always an interesting tradeoff when someone else, even Grandma, watches the boys. The Wife and I are really in tune with how we like to live our lives, and we work very hard to plan the days so that the boys are put in the best position to do what we need them to do. We've gotten quite good at scheduling the day so that we have naps, meals, snacks, playtime, television, timed to allow us to accomplish all that we need to accomplish. That's not to say that the boys don't throw us curveballs on a regular basis; we've gotten as good as any parents at guiding them along the path we want to go.

When someone else takes them, they have a different plan of attack for the day. The boys respond to their physical and emotional cues differently. And, the timing of everything is different. Not better, not worse; just different. It takes a little while for us to get back into the groove of things when we are both out of the house for a day. Tonight was a perfect example of that.

Aunt J was with them most of the day, because Grandma had a full day of work. The boys love Aunt J; she does an amazing job with them, and they really consider her to be as much a part of the family as Grandma and Grandpa, Grandpa, or their aunts. There were many days that I would have sworn that Little Bear loved her more than me!!! Because they love her and her style, they are generally more active for her than they are for Grandma, who encourages the boys to do more passive pursuits: reading, spelling, letters and numbers, watching Sesame Street and Super Why and Barney, that sort of thing. Because Aunt J was with them today, they didn't nap and didn't rest much.

We didn't quite catch how exhausted they were when we got home from school. The original plan for the night was for The Wife to take The Boy to temple services because they had a new member blessing and picnic. Shorter service (always good) would be followed by food, with some of The Boy's school friends thrown in for good measure. I would take Little Bear, go get a bite to eat at the local Eat N Park, and then spend a gift card at Barnes and Noble. We want to get him Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin!

It wasn't happening. The Boy flipped out when he got to temple - I mean, a major league freakout. The Wife, sensing discretion was the better part of valor, threw him back in the car to catch up with us. It took the better part of 45 minutes after the car ride to calm him down, but we wound up having a nice evening shopping at Barnes and Noble and reading the different books that were there.

(Side note: they didn't have Zin Zin, and the copy of the Lorax book was $15. Argh. I don't like to spend that much on a book for myself. I'll just fork out $4 and get the iPad version, which will read to him with or without me, and it has words and pictures that he can manipulate.)

Had one of us been home and able to juggle the boys for the day, I can not say that things would have turn out better. It would have been different, but that kind of goes without saying. I think that would have been more in tune with the boys and not tried to go to temple at all, or I would have taken the boys to the park, let The Wife go to services, and met up with her for the picnic.

Hindsight being 20/20, that would have been smarter. Lest you accuse me of intelligence or of criticizing Aunt J or Grandma (I'm not), if I was such a good parent and so in tune with my children, I would have realized that the big black bags under his eyes indicated that he might be too tired to deal with religious services.

But, we were more concerned with getting out of the door in a timely fashion and chose to ignore any and all warning signs when they were written in bright read neon lights. That'll learn us.

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Thursday, May 19, 2011


Next week, The Wife has an interview for a string position in a district southeast of town. It's an interesting potential position, as she's done a lot in that district this year to make herself known and to earn herself an interview. We are interested to see how it turns out, for some of the normal obvious reasons - we'd love to be able to, say, move out into our own place at some point in the reasonably near future (say, within five years).

We are wondering what the reaction is going to be when she walks into the room. It isn't often that an extremely pregnant woman walks into a teaching interview. More often nowadays, I'd wager, but still not that often. We will tell them that, if she gets the job, I'll be staying home with the babies. I wonder how much an interview panel will believe it, subconsciously.

It's one of those interesting societal standards: women stay at home, men go to work. Men don't stay at home willingly, and women don't leave their children willingly. Men don't know about babies and can't possibly be as good as a woman when it comes to caring for babies. If a man would stay at home with the babies, then there must be something wrong with him or her.

That's something that still pops up when dealing with our parents. My father has taken years to get used to the fact that I know my sons as well as I do, although the cancer treatments accelerated the process. Grandma still has some issues with my child-care abilities. It's mostly a generational thing, but it still sneaks into conversations.

We are certainly afraid of how it will factor into the decision. I'm positive that it won't be a conscious factor by any person there, but how will that factor into the emotions of the decision? Interviewers are people, of course, and people are emotional. If they have to choose between a non-pregnant person and a pregnant person, then will that be the overriding factor?

I know she's the most qualified for the job. She's amazing. I wonder if shell get the chance.

Cute picture of a sleeping Little Bear, who actually fell asleep snuggling with me this morning:

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I've finally gotten started organizing my thoughts and blog entries for writing my book and our family's cancer journey. I don't have illusions that it'll sell more than 25 copies (and 24 of those will likely be bought by us), but it's important to me to do it.

Anyway, I've started re-reading and categorizing the blog from January of 2008. I've just hit June of 2008, and we're two weeks away from The Diagnosis. I actually feel a little sick to my stomach in anticipation of re-reading and re-living those days.

Isn't it interesting, how reading is so visceral of a process?

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Day of Number Two

Surprisingly, The Boy actually slept fairly well Sunday night, all things considered. We didn't put him in his own bed; we know how much more comfortable he is with us, so we figured the extra comfort was more important that the routine. He had a couple of pain-related wakings, but nothing too awful like I was expecting.

It's funny, watching The Boy subject himself to medical procedures. I mean, even when they were administering the enema (not comfortable under the best of circumstances), he still didn't buck too much. During the x-rays and ultrasounds, which he really doesn't like, doesn't understand, and is terrified of, he cries and complains but stays absolutely still. The look of "OmG WTF" during the DRE (not going to define; look it up) made me laugh despite the circumstances. I feel your pain, boy.

The next day was interesting. We gave him the laxative with soy milk and chocolate sauce, which he thought was a real treat. Cutting a long story short, he took the laxative at 8am and didn't poop until almost 10 at night. He held it in all day, despite the pain and discomfort, because he's been associating the potty with pain for a day or two. He doesn't understand the whole "once you go, you'll feel better" thing; he just knows the pain that going has given him. He wouldn't even go pee willingly, and we haven't had that fight in a long time.

We had our regularly scheduled appointment with oncology yesterday, right in the middle of this whole thing. We had asked, during the ER visit, if they could combine the x-ray and ultrasound they were going To take with the x-ray and ultrasound that oncology wanted the next day - our kid has gotten enough radiation, why do we need to add more? The message eventually got relayed to Dr. Graves as, "The Boy's parents think this is a relapse."


Don't get me wrong - every sniffle, every runny nose, anything causes the thought to flit through our minds. But, relapses don't work like that. It is not going to express itself as constipation. What we were concerned about was intestinal blockage, which is a possible long-term result of both the radiation and the multiple surgeries. As it turns out, that's expressed by vomiting, which The Boy wasn't doing.

So, yesterday was back to a snuggly and inactive The Boy for a day. All he wanted to do was cuddle and watch television, which I'm okay with. The Wife and I switched off as much as we could so that Little Bear got lots of individual time.

(Picture: post-bathtime, Little Bear reads himself a book ("I Do it!!!") while The Boy reads "The Cat in the Hat" on Grandma's iPad.)

Incidentally, Little Bear is doing wonderfully with his new bed. He still fussed a little bit, but he's adjusting quite well. He will get up and play a couple of times during the night, but he will then put himself back to bed. Iterestingly enough - Aunt C put him to bed in the bigger trundle bed on Saturday night, which we thought was less than good because he fell out at 1am. Yesterday, he was put down for his nap in the toddler bed and moved himself to the big bed! Very cute.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Poopy Evening

So, remember that constant pain and constipation that The Boy had yesterday? It was worse today. So bad, as a matter of fact, that The Wife finally called the pediatrician for a third time. The pediatrician sent us to the emergency room, which makes the first non-cancer emergency room trip for The Boy in quite some time.

Making a long story short, they did the requisite ultrasound and x-ray to see what was going on in there. The x-ray techs never diagnose constipation, but they pointed out the huge blockage of poop in his midsection. Best part of the evening? The enema.

Without getting too graphic, you get two fluids up there to loosen stuff up. Both fluids are supposed to be held in the body for fifteen or twenty minutes before being let out. The Boy held the first fluid for ten minutes and the second for three, which is not a good thing. It loosened stuff up, but not in the manner or quantity that we needed. He's been pooping little wet chunks constantly for over two hours now, and the pain does not seem to have subsided an appreciable amount.

Which kind of leads to an interesting point: how do you figure out from a child their discomfort and/or improvement? The Boy doesn't quite have the tools to be able to say that he feels 75% or 50% or any kind of comparative measure. The sad thing is, you really can't tell except by reading his expression, body language, behavior, et al. I think his belly is feeling a little bit better, but I might just be projecting my hopes and needs onto him.

We are home with a prescription for a strong laxative for three days and a weaker one for a month or so afterwards. The Wife is watching him for an hour or two while I rest for a bit, then I'll take the first half of the night shift while she sleeps. This is going to be a messy, smelly, lack of sleep night. The poor kid is exhausted, and I hope that the poop slows down enough for him to sleep for a couple of hours,

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Peter and the Wolf

Tonight, The Boy and I went with the grandparents to see Mom play "Peter and the Wolf" with her symphony orchestra. It was a good show; the orchestra is a community orchestra (which means volunteer players culled from the community, but not likely professional players), but they're a good community orchestra. The Boy enjoyed the show, and it was interesting to see his reaction.

I think this might have been the first real concert that he's seen since he got his hearing aids. I really wonder what he heard before and what he hears right now; he doesn't quite have the words and concept to explain the before or after. I suppose he'll be able to tell us later.

Sesame Street has a movie starring Elmo and the Boston Pops Orchestra. Baby Bear learns about the instruments of the orchestra while he learns about programmatic music, or music with a particular story. The story goes through the story of Peter and the Wolf starring the Sesame Street characters as the characters of the story. It's quite cute, and The Boy has watched it several dozen times. When The Wife learned that her orchestra was playing this, we were excited to bring him to the concert.

Earlier in the day, he had some nasty, nasty constipation. We finally fixed it with a suppository, but in the process, he ripped himself a little bit - a normal consequence of getting backed up like that. It's been causing him immense pain all day, until our pediatrician told us to put Orajel on it. Same kind of mucous membrane as the mouth, after all. So, he had discomfort during the concert, but not as much as we feared.

That's why I'm awake right now. My medications do a great job of knocking me out at night, but if I'm woken up at the right time, then the drowsiness turns to jitteriness. Guess what happened today? Screams of agony and pain and agony and pain. This will be twice in the last three days that I'll be up until 3 or 4 in the morning.

Before the concert started, I reminded The Boy about the beginning of Tubby the Tuba: "First the oboe gave his A note to the strings, the woodwinds, and to the brass." I told him the conductor would then come out, just like in Tubby. When it actually happened that way, he was interested and amused. A waltz was the first piece, and he and I danced in our seats together while he listened.

When Peter and the Wolf started, he started picking up the instruments: "Daddy, that sounds like a flute!" "Daddy, that sounds like a bassoon!" (Yea, my three-year-old knows what a bassoon sounds like.) "Daddy, that sign says exit!"

They're not all winners.

He followed along with the narration and with the music quite well, considering his age. I don't have the same standards of behavior for him that I do for an adult, obviously, but I've been to concerts and had elderly people (who should know better) behave worse. He did, however, enjoy pointing out: "Daddy, look! That's Mum way over there!"

To be honest, I don't like bringing the kids to concerts. I know it's good for them, and I certainly want them to participate in the things that we consider to be important. But, I really hate when other people go to concerts and make lots of noise, and I hate being that person. I know that in this situation, when the orchestra is playing some stuff that is definitely child-oriented, people are more relaxed about that sort of thing. Still, it concerns me.

The Boy behaved beautifully all night, particularly concerning his age. I was very, very proud of him. He was interested, engaged, and doing quite a good job! Nights like this make me want to take him to more events like this. I mean, not the waking me up at midnight, the other thing.

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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Singin' In The Rain

Surprise, surprise, Western Pennsylvania! It rained today!

For those not in this general area, this has been an exceptionally rainy season. In my somewhat educated opinion, this spring has not been spring but Rainy Season. Monsoon Season might be a tad more like it, but I don't want to be accused of being dramatic.

So, we were supposedly stuck inside the house all day today, while we waited for Mum and the family to return from Aunt W's graduation from law school. The boys were grousing and grumping at each other and me, and we were just bored out of our minds. Since we had to do entire wardrobe changes in order to go out to dinner, I made the executive decision to test out The Boy's rain boots in the actual rain. (editor's note: he's sleeping in the boots again tonight. Third night in a row.)

Good decision. They ran around like little Tasmanian devils for an hour, then got changed like good little boys, sat still for a whole five mnutes at the restaurant, and came home and pretty much went right to bed without making any fuss. Really - no fuss at all. The restaurant bit is not quite true; The Boy sat still and ate about a pound of spaghetti and a slice or two of pizza. I think he really must be growing, with the amount he's been eating over the past couple of days!

YouTube Video

Best part of the whole thing? The boys had nasty bed head from their naps. The rain slicked it down, and I didn't have to do anything. I also remembered to take the hearing aids out before they went outside. That's what we call progress towards goal!

In other news, I've finally made positive movement towards writing my book. It's going to be the story of The Boy and his struggle with cancer, and how it affected my nuclear family, my extended families, our careers, and our friends. I kind of figure that I've written about 75% of it here in the blog, with the rest being organizing my thoughts, editing myself, adding in The Wife's observations and corrections, and other information that I consider to be relevant.

I think I'm going to organize it in broad sections, with each section being something important. Section 1: the diagnosis and first surgery. Section 2: the first chemotherapy regimen, until the diagnosis of the relapse and/or second surgery, at CHoP. Section 3: CHoP and the start of relapse therapy. Section 4: the start of the second chemotherapy regimen. Sectio 5: the bad hospitalizations up to the birth of Little Bear. Etc.

I have the sections loosely sketched in my head, but I won't really know what they'll be like until I organize the notes. I have four years' worth of blog entries in PDF form on my iPad, along with Pages, and I'm making brief descriptions of each day from January, 2008, forward. When that's done, I'll officially categorize and reorganize.

Just think: you're getting the book in serial form, for free, right now. I don't know what kind of market the book might have, but I'm pretty stoked about actually getting the project underway.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rain Boots

The Boy got a set of fire truck rain boots yesterday and hasn't taken them off yet. He slept in them last night. There's something beautiful about the simple love of a child, that a pair of boots becomes the most important thing in the whole world.

I did take the boots off when I put him in bed. He woke up, climbed out of bed, put them on, and went back to sleep.

Seeing a boy in a baseball shirt, cargo shorts, and rain boots pick up a bat and swing at a ball is cute beyond reason.

Had a field trip to a strawberry farm today, which one would think we be of interest to a strawberry-obsessed boy. Nope. He complained and whined the entire time until I took him home early. Not surprising - none of us has slept well this week, with Little Bear and his histrionics. Still, it was fun for a while.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Toddler Beds

I'm utterly and completely shocked at how difficult the change from crib to toddler bed is going, and I'm also a little surprised that I'm surprised. This is a big deal for kids, particularly Little Bear: he's been sleeping in a crib since he was born. He's been in this crib, particularly, since he was four months old. There's an attachment and comfort in this crib.

I guess I just didn't expect the struggle and the screaming fits and the lack of any kind of stability in his keeping patterns with this adjustment. I guess the freedom of movement allowed him by the toddler bed has put extra ideas into his head that the crib would have prevented; in the crib, if he wanted to protest bedtime, he didn't have much of an opportunity. Now, he can wander to the door, screaming his head off, and there's no realistic way to prevent it.

It's frustrating because, until this change, Little Bear has been the best sleeper in the house. He's gone right into his crib with few protests and gone directly to sleep without passing go and without collecting $200. We've had a nice routine: nap, playing less-active games, watching Goodnight Moon or Winnie the Pooh, reading a couple of stories, and going to sleep. The room has a nice nightlight over the door which bathes the room in a soothing 15 watt glow.

Now? Same routine, but insert an hour and a half of screaming, carrying on, running to the door, throwing it open, and screaming out into the hallway. He's dramatically overtired because he's not getting to bed on time. Scratch that - he's getting to bed on time (8:00-ish) but the screaming and fit-throwing is taking him to 9:30 or 10:00.

What do we do? I'm pretty satisfied with the bedtime routine. Maybe we shorten the television, but the shows are very soothing and relaxing. The stories seem to be about enough, and he tells us when he's done with the stories and ready to go to sleep. That's when the screaming begins.

We can't sit with him, because he won't fall asleep. He'll stare at us while he sucks his fingers and force himself awake. I've been in here for 30 minutes, after 20 minutes of hugs and kisses, leave the room, wait until he opens the door, then walk him back to bed repeat.

This is such a dramatic change, particularly since The Boy also has his nighttime issues still unresolved. At least, Mom can put Little Bear to bed, or I can do it. The Boy is still only really satisfied with me. Worst part of the whole thing? Little Bear's communication skills are still not quite where he wants them, and it's very difficult for him to communicate his needs to us. That only makes the problem worse, because he's trying to tell me things like he wants music, or wants me to sit with him, or wants me to leave, or wants different music than what I put on, or something like that, and he can't say it.

I hope number three is somewhere in the middle of these two when it comes to sleep issues. I don't think I could handle this for another three years. Now it's time to really work my way through Elizabeth Pantley's "The No-Cry Sleep Solution." I still am uncomfortable closing the door and letting him scream - Lord knows he has enough trust issues with me already. I don't need to add this on top of everything else.

Update: left him alone in his room with the gate up while I put The Boy to bed; TB had fallen asleep earlier in our bed. Finally, I resorted to holding to door handle when he tried to open the door; after three attempts to open it, he wandered back to his bed and fell asleep. I think I'm going to pay for that later.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

All Things Considered

All things considered, it's been a pretty darn nice day today. Last night was pretty rough on us: The Boy took a fever-nap from 6 to 8:30pm, which meant that he was up really, really late - as in, we were doing stories (for a third time) at 12:30am. I finished getting him to bed around 1, got settled, took my nighty-night medicine (a Benedryl at night dries me out and doesn't let my allergies back up my breathing and vocal mechanism too much, and it has the beneficial side effect of helping me go to sleep), and climbed into bed. Thirty minutes later, Little Bear was awake and requiring attention.

He wanted to snuggle with Mom and Daddy, except that he didn't go to sleep. He just lay there, tossing and turning and kicking. We tried several times to get him to get back to sleep, and finally, around 4am, he did. The Boy joined us in our bed soon after, but we didn't notice because we had passed out cold.

The original intention was for me to take the boys out to breakfast for Mother's Day, with Grandpa's help, thus allowing Mum to get another hour or so of sleep and relaxation. We're not too big on the whole breakfast in bed thing around here. Nope. We were all up at 7:30, and nobody was really awake and all were grumpy, so Grandpa went out for bagels and we had breakfast at home. Mum went shopping while I chased boys around, and then she played with them while I did the first significant yard work of the year.

The Boy had another nap late, which is why he's just getting to bed slightly before 11. I'm kind of chalking it up to the 100-plus degree fever that he's sporting, which didn't stop him from spending a couple of hours outside today. I figured that the outside air was going to do him as much good as sitting inside and watching television, and I think I figured correctly. If he not feeling better physically, he's in a much better place emotionally and mentally.

Plus, I got out the baseball tee and plastic golf clubs, and we had a grand time with them. Even Little Bear got involved with the fun - he might turn out to be a bit of a mashed from the left side. I think I'm going to try to teach him to switch hit.

The rest of Mother's Day was nice. The Boy had some nice projects for his mother from school - it is nice that Mother's Day falls at the end of the school year, so that the kids can do nice things for Mum. He made some handprints on construction paper, and the teachers pasted a little poem next to them. He also helped decorate one of those foam frames, and they printed out a picture of The Boy holding a "Happy Mother's Day" sign. Plus, I had the boys sign a card in their own way: Little Bear with lots of scribbles, and The Boy wrote his name. He wanted to write "I love Dad" on the card and wouldn't be dissuaded; I got him to write some of it and was creative with the rest.

This year was my first Mother's day without my mom and my grandmother. My grandmother had pretty much been gone for a few years, but she officially passed away a couple of months ago. My mom's been gone for a decade now (gosh, how time flies). It's bittersweet, but with luck, my boys won't know that feeling for a long, long time.

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Mother's Day

Mother's Day got an early start this weekend. Those that know The Wife and me know that we really don't have elaborate or intricate plans on holidays like this. While there is the occasional need to surprise the other person, we tend to communicate openly and frequently about these things, and we let our needs be known as early as possible. For instance, Mother's Day. She wanted a manicure / pedicure, which she got today, and Grandma got our laundry done at a local laundromat for the holiday as well. Tomorrow night, we are having dinner at home with cake. There's a chance that we will go out to breakfast, depending on sleep patterns.

I haven't gotten her a card yet, and I haven't had Little Bear do anything for her. That's my failure, and I have no excuse for it other than the fact that I'll get it for her by the end of the day. I've been thinking about it, and I have some ideas, but nothing concrete. I'm not so good with cards, anyway. My oldest brother and I have a pact: we don't bust each other's chops about cards until after the next gift-bearing holiday has passed. So, birthday cards aren't officially late until after Christmas. If they are delivered with Christmas presents, they are on time.

Father's Day? I don't care. I really don't. I've told her a couple little things I would like: a book or two, a CD or two, that sort of thing. I don't want gifts. A card made by the children would be nice, but hugs are necessary. Maybe pancakes. A baseball game, if the Pirates are in town, would be luxurious.

(A baseball game if the Pirates are in town would be a nice change. Zing!)

Birthdays are kind of a big deal, but much less so over the last couple of years. I just don't care anymore. Sure, I like opening presents - but it's not going to ruin my day or my year if I don't have much to open. Pancakes, again, would be nice. My priorities have shifted a considerable amount over the last couple of years.

Funny about that: having two (soon to be three) small children in the house will cause some lifestyle changes. I mean, really: I follow one or two television shows in any given season nowadays. I read a book or two when I can, and I save my magazines for when I'm going on a trip. I exercise once or twice a week at the gym and once or twice a week on Grandma's elliptical machine. I don't have bad habits other than comic books and coffee, and neither of those is a particularly giftable habit unless amply communicated ahead of time. Other than take care of my kids and work, I don't do much. Sing a lot, so maybe gigging throat lozenges would be practical.

So, we don't really gift each other much anymore, and we usually don't wait for special dates on the calendar. We buy presents when we see them, and we give them straightaway. That's probably why I'm not on top of the card thing like I am a lot of other things around the house, but, well, that's not the worst thing we've endured as a couple.

Here's a picture of The Boy in Little Bear's toddler bed:

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Location:Home, Pittsburgh, PA

Saturday, May 7, 2011


The little bundle of boy you see below is Little Bear. 24 hours in his new bed, and we are all still alive!

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Friday, May 6, 2011

The Great Leap Forward

So, this week, we've managed to get into Little Bear's bedroom to find him with two feet over the crib rails, holding onto another side, with his bum hanging down into the crib. This is not a place that one wants to find one's less-than-two-year-old, so we made the decision to maneuver the little one into the next phase of sleep: his own bed.

Now, the decision that we had, which was a big one: toddler bed, in the same place that the crib was (which uses the crib mattress and sheets), or the bottom part of the trundle bed?

Toddler bed: pros: same size sleeping area; partially walled off, which might minimize falling out of bed (editor's note: nope. He's fallen twice already. It just helps it hurt less); small footprint in the room; easy to climb inside. Cons: easy to climb out; will eventually need the mattress for his younger brother, necessitating another adjustment.

Trundle bed bottom: pros: bigger sleeping area, allowing for someore movement; the mattress dips slightly under the walls, giving some rollout protection around the entire bed; easy to climb inside. Cons: huge footprint in the room, easy to climb inside, but can still roll out fairly easily.

We went with the toddler bed, under the hope that he would adjust to the new bed with the same mattress right now and adjust to the trundle bed later (if we haven't, like, moved out by then. But, that's a couple years down the line). He had a rough time falling asleep and, for the first time, wanted one of us to sit with him for a long time. Interestingly enough, he wanted me instead of Mum, at least for the first hour. He also was a lot more comfortable when there was music playing in the room; we found an old iPod Nano that was my sister-in-law's, and we're going to claim it in the name of the revolution and use it for bedtime. The Wife has now been asleep for a half hour, but I'm staying up to watch the end of the Yankees game and then watch last week's Fringe.

To tide you over, here's a cute picture of the boys holding hands while walking up the stairs today:

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Location:Home, Pittsburgh, PA

Sunday, May 1, 2011


Some snapshots of our weekend:

The four of us, sitting at the dinner table, holding hands and swaying back and forth, as The Boy leads us in several Passover and Shabbat songs he learned in school...

Little Bear putting his head on my shoulder and relaxing his whole body into mine in the way only babies can, saying "Yes," in a small voice, in response to the question, "Are you ready to rest, Little Bear?"...

The Boy building a tower of blocks, showing it to his brother, then getting really upset when the absolutely predictable happens and Little Bear knocks it over...

Little Bear giving an unsolicited "Play, woo!" in response to his brother's statement, "We're going to play in the playground?"...

The Boy falling asleep in the car, remaining asleep stretched across my lap in the Eat'n'Parl, until his food arrived; at that point, he woke up cheerily and began powering through his and his brother's dinner...

The sudden realization that Little Bear's extreme activity has worked off most of the mighty badonkadonk he was sporting in the back of his diapers, leaving him with only slightly more butt than his glute-challenged brother...

The Boy, singing a song that had letter sounds, leaving space for Little Bear to make the letter sounds; and, Little Bear, knowing most of the sounds and having the timing to put them in the song...

The Boy helping Mum pick up Legos from the ground while the three of us tried to prevent Little Bear from dumping them out again immediately...

The Boy and I hiding under a blanket together, until Little Bear raced in the room to join us in our little blanket-fort...

The Boy, tonight, running from room to room to dispense good-night hugs and kisses...

Little Bear's exhilarated smile, saying, "Again!" every time he flew in the air...

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Location:Pittsburgh, PA

Guilt By Association

So, The Boy is enjoying his chalk time outside, just like he usually does: he hands people chalk and requests that they draw him specific things. Letters, numbers, people, characters from television and movies...all fair game to his imagination and somebody else's drawing ability. He's really quite bossy when we're all outside to play, but that's kind of to be expected. He is an oldest brother, after all, and they tend to be the bossiest of all. (Yes, I'm looking at you, Biggest Brother.)

This year, he's been asking people to draw pictures of the family: Mum, Daddy, The Boy, Little Bear, Grandma, and Grandpa. He requests certain details - long hair on Mum, curly hair on Little Bear, no hair on Daddy ("He's got a bald head!"), that sort of thing. The new thing, from yesterday? "Grandpa, you draw a rectangle next to Grandma and a rectangle next to Daddy." "Why rectangles?" "That's for Grandma's iPad and Daddy's iPad!"

It's amazing how quickly things like that get related to a person. I probably have my iPad - my newest toy - with me a little too much, but it's so darn useful: story books, reading books, baseball games (important), letter games, tv shows, movies, and lots of media and work stuff for me. Heck, my audition piece for this morning's audition is on my iBooks! I obviously don't take it outside to play (unless I'm going to take some video) or have it when I'm wrestling with the kids, but I do use it in multiple other places.

Other interesting notes: Little Bear knows all 26 letters, upper and lower case, quickly and easily. He also knows many of the letter sounds, thanks to his big brother and the Leapfrog "The Letter Factory" movie, picked up at a thrift shop for $1. The Boy runs around the house singing, "The A says ah the A says ah, every letter makes a sound, the A says ah!", and continuing on down the alphabet. It's really entertaining, particularly when The Boy starts the song and lets his brother say the letter sound in the appropriate place.

Lastly, wish me some luck. I've got an audition this morning for a church job, and it pays enough to be quite a lifestyle shift for us. It's not a full time job, by any stretch, but each month of singing pays more than a week's worth of subbing, for work that's lots more fun and rewarding and fits into our schedule even if/when we get full time jobs.

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