Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gender Roles

Yesterday, The Wife was playing at a benefit concert for one of the local high schools, and The Boy and Grandma went with her and watched the performance. Grandma caught me on the way home from work, and I swung by and picked The Boy up, to take him home – it was already almost 8:30 at night, and The Boy had school in the morning. On the way home, he and I talked about our day.

“Daddy, today I dressed up like Batman, and then I dressed up like a princess.” “Oh?” “Yup! It was lots of fun. Daddy, we should dress up like Batman and then dress up like a princess.” Pause for thought. “Daddy, I don’t think the dresses would fit you. We’d need to find a BIG dress for you!” I agreed that that would be a lot of fun and that we should play dress up when we got home.

When we got home, Aunt Jeanne had just put Little Bear to bed, “for the third time!” Grandpa was taking care of The Baby, and he let me get settled and play a little bit with The Boy. We put on capes (towels tucked into the backs of our shirts) and flew around the house a few times, landing on the couch cushions and laughing. Then, The Boy wandered around the house for a few minutes, look for pretty dresses to wear as a princess. He wasn’t able to find one, so I took the baby from Grandpa and the three of us watched an episode of Batman: The Brave and The Bold.

It does bring up the interesting conversation about gender roles. What is appropriate for a boy his age? Personally, I don’t care if he wants to play princess, fairy, superhero, Daddy, Mum, fireman, whatever. Culturally, he’ll wind up adapting whatever he wants to adapt. Lord knows I’ve worn makeup often enough in my life, and I’ve worn a dress once or twice (as a costume. Calm down). I know that Little Bear loves putting on whatever shoes are nearby and walking around the house, and he doesn’t care if they’re Daddy’s shoes, Grandma’s shoes, The Boy’s shoes, or whatever. He’s just entertained by walking around in bigger shoes than he normally wears.

I do know quite a few fathers that freak out if their sons want to play fairies or elves or princesses or whatever. They’re so concerned with their gender identity that they respond to those explorations with hostility and anger. I kind of feel bad for fathers that respond like that; I view that exploration as a natural progression of a child’s imagination. How many stories do we read to our children that involve a princess who needs to be rescued? How often do our kids feel like that person in need of rescue, that is powerless to change their particular situation? (No, I don’t think kids can conceptualize that into words, but I am certain that they feel that at times.) Why wouldn’t our kids, boys and girls alike, occasionally fantasize to be both Shrek and Fiona? To be Batman, rescuing Superman from the kryptonite, and to be Superman, who needs to be rescued from the kryptonite? Why is a princess that much of a stretch?

I will only address the “I’m worried that my son will be gay if he plays princess!” with the following comment: do you really think you have any control, whatsoever, on who your child eventually decides to sleep with? I’m sure Dick Cheney thought that he did, and one of his children still turned out gay. Worrying about it is only going to project your neurosis onto the next generation.

We love playing superheroes at home, mostly because my kids are small enough that I can easily pick them up and “fly” them around the house. It’s also easy to tuck a towel into the back of their shirt to make a cape, although I have every intention of asking The Wife to come up with a Batman cape and cowl. As far as the other costumes go, I’m not entirely sure about wearing them, mostly because we don’t have them and choose to spend our money elsewhere. Although, it might not be a bad idea to bust out the Spiderman / Astronaut / Dragon costumes every once in a while. It is fun to dress up.

Monday, November 28, 2011


This morning was one of those interesting miscommunications that can only happen in a household with multiple children. The Wife was taking care of The Baby around 5:30AM, and she returned to bed around 6:00, carefully putting the baby back to sleep. A little after six, there was some stirring from the other children – what I noticed was The Boy had padded down thehall, opened our door, and was peeking in the doorway to see if he could come in. The Wife said, “Put him back to bed, please.” Considering that The Boy had retreated from our doorway and was wandering around the upstairs, I naturally thought she meant him. I corralled him, lead him back to his room, and climbed into bed with him so that he would stay in bed for a little while longer.

What I didn’t know was that The Wife actually meant for me to comfort Little Bear, who was stirring and unhappy. He’s had a cough for a few days, so he hasn’t been feeling really well when he’s woken up. I guess it’s overdue for me to get his humidifier running… Anyway, The Wife was awakened three times by Little Bear, until she finally came into The Boy’s room with a nice “Did you get enough sleep yet?” for me. Whoops. Didn’t even hear Little Bear moving around. Not a big deal, for sure, although it didn’t help that, fifteen minutes later, the coffee machine overfilled the filter drawer and poured coffee on her music book for Hebrew School. 0-2 for Musical Daddy on the morning.

So, I thought I’d tell you about one or two cute things happening around the house… The Baby is starting to assert his own wishes and needs more than he used to do. When I pick him up and hold him in a cuddle/cradle carry, the first thing he does is snuggle up to my chest and stick his thumb in his mouth. If he’s tired, he’ll stay there. If he wants to play or wants to be held vertically, he will take his thumb out of his mouth and stretch his neck out, looking around at anything else that he can see. We also put him in his high chair for the first time on Thanksgiving Day, and we did it again last night. He seems to enjoy being in the chair and being able to see what’s happening around him, although he doesn’t have much more of an attention span for dinner than his brothers do. We’ve put a sippy cup with water or milk on the table of the high chair, but he’s not really good at reaching for things yet. He was chewing on a rattle this morning, which is cute and funny.

The Boy discovered addition within the past week. He’s been doing simple addition problems, up to ten, counting on his fingers. It’s very cute, and it’s heartening to see how quickly he’s picking it up! The cute bit? Little Bear has been asking him addition problems. “The Boy, what’s 1 plus 1?” “Little Bear, it’s 2!” “What’s 4 plus 3?” “7!” We spent a trip to school this morning doing math problems. Little Bear kind of gets that 1 plus 1 is 2 and 1 plus 2 is three, but I’m not certain if he understands WHY yet. That’s fine. He’ll get it.

(Above: guess who picked my wardrobe for the day? Hint: he's under 4 feet tall and is very bossy.)

The Boy has also been putting together quite complex things using the Trio blocks he got for his birthday. He really loves them, and he will frequently chose building with them instead of watching television or playing with the iPad. This is a wonderful thing, except that his OCD toddler brother (as all toddlers have OCD) likes to collect ALL of the pieces of a particular color, stick them together, then leave them somewhere around the house.

Little Bear, in the meantime, has starting singing the echo harmony parts to “Everybody’s Song” from Sesame Street (the Diana Krall version). It’s really, really cute. It’s only a matter of time before we have that boy singing baritone! He also likes “playing” his violin, and he’s getting a pretty decent tone on the trumpet – almost two years earlier than his brother! Musical and intelligent… it’s somewhat disheartening to realize that the smartest person in the house is probably the two-year old, although Grandpa likely gives him a run for his money.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Entertainment Value

Today, The Boy was running around the house. No particular reason motivated it; he had a balloon on a string, and he wanted to run around and pull it behind him. It's one of those really cute moments of little boyhood that I try to encourage and to enjoy through them, and I'm kind of proud that my sons seem to find those moments on a daily basis. For instance, The Boy was really excited, a couple of weeks ago, to get. A gift of several pairs of orange socks from Mum. One of his classmates said, "Socks? Who cares?" Well, The Boy cares, for one... and I'm happy that a simple little present like that can brighten his day. It is the thought and love that counts, not the price tag on the gift.

But, I digress.

I was watching the Michigan-Ohio State game at the time, and I kiddingly asked, "When you're running past, would you please get me a soda from the little fridge?" To my surprise, he came back in a few minutes with a Diet Mountain Dew for me.and, when I opened it, it wasn't shaken nearly as much as I expected.

I'm reminded of spring 2009, when we had gotten home, finally, after a particularly brutal stay in the hospital. This evening was a quick bright spot of joy in a difficult month. I was in our bedroom, cleaning and straightening and such, when The Boy came in the room carrying a diet Pepsi. He had opened the refrigerator by himself, taken the soda out, and carried it into the bedroom for me. I made quite a fuss over him for being so nice, which he appreciated. I then made the mistake of immediately opening the can of soda.

Do you know why they call them "toddlers?" It's because, when they walk, they rock violently back and forth from leg to leg. They haven't quite mastered the smooth shift of weight yet. As such, their bodies tend to move in a quick and jerky fashion while they walk. This subjects a soda can to a similar motion as those paint-mixing machines down at Home Depot. The soda responded with predictable result, exploding and creating more cleanup time.

The Boy was delighted at this, and proceeded to spend about an hour bringing every soda can in the house into the bedroom, then back into the fridge, then back into the bedroom. This is why we tend not to spend real money on toys; a $2.99 case of soda can provide as much, or more, entertainment value as a $50 toy.

And, running around the house with a mostly-deflated balloon is really quite fun.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Traditions

This year was the second consecutive year of celebrating Thanksgiving outside of a hospital. I think that we enjoy that aspect of the holiday, and I think we will try to continue to promote the absence of hospital time on Thanksgiving.

I'm not going to do any black Friday shopping this year. Part of the reason is that I'm working on Black Friday for the first time in my life. The rest of the reason is that we don't need anything. It's not like there's household stuff I need to get for us right now, considering that we don't have a house. It's just not worth going our and buying stuff, then having to store it for an unspecified length of time before we can use it.

Today was a nice day, no qualifications. There was a lot of work to do, between cooking the food, cleaning the house, watching the children, and cleaning up after dinner. The Wife did most of the cooking (Grandma did the rest), and Grandpa did the lion's share of cleaning. We had very, very nice guests, who were a real pleasure with which to spend the holiday. We even put The Baby in the high chair at the table for the first time!

The children were quite well behaved all day today. That's not to say they were perfect angels; but, on the whole, any transgressions were minor and were of the usual sorts: not sharing, not wanting to sit at the table during dinner time, a little bit of leaking instead of going to the potty, that sort of thing. Kid stuff. Highlight of the evening was holding our guest's 7 week old baby, and the mother being shocked that the baby was happy and content being with me for the ten minutes I held him. Silly mum - doesn't she know that Daddy is baby tranquilizer?

I'm not going to do an "I'm thankful for..." post. Y'all know what I'm thankful for.

Monday, November 21, 2011

My Night

I walked in the door around 8:20 tonight, and I was met by The Boy. "Daddy, here's your cape. We're playing superheroes. Let's go fly!" I introduced myself to the babysitter, who was helping Grandpa with the boys. At that moment, Little Bear woke up and started shouting from upstairs. I went upstairs to kiss him goodnight, and he flipped out. He wanted to come and play! He cried when I put him back to bed, and a couple of songs soothed his nerves. The Boy took down the gate and joined us for a little while.

When Little Bear went to sleep, I went downstairs and said hello to my wife, who just got home at that moment. The Boy and I then played superheroes for a little while, and he started to tucker out. "I don't want to go to bed, Daddy!" I carried him upstairs, and he did potty and teeth. We negotiated the terms of bed - one story, one short video of "The Night Kitchen" by Maurice Sendak - and climbed into bed together. I read him a Tory from a Disney collection, "Shadow Games" starring Woody from Toy Story. Midway through, Little Bear woke up and freaked out, so The Baby joined us to listen to the rest of the story.

The Wife picked the baby up once Little Bear settled. The Boy and I watched Night Kitchen, and he fell asleep midway through. I snuggled for a little while - definitely didn't want him to wake up when I was on my way out. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Update

This was one of those weekends that was non-stop action, to where returning to work on Monday morning allows you to sit back, take a deep breath, and relax a little bit. That's not a bad thing, mind you; just the sign of a busy weekend.

Saturday started off with the normal clarinet lesson for me, then was followed by my vision meeting with the assistant directors of my chorus. My first six month contract is up at the end of December, and there will be a vote to retain me at that point. I'm not worried about it - we've had a great six months - but it is important to have meetings every once in a while with my fellow leaders and make sure that everything is still heading in the correct manner.

The meeting went uneventfully, which is how these sorts of things should go. I've discovered, as I've been learning about leadership, that when you actively involve people, show interest and respect for their opinions, and try to help them develop their talents and interests, they tend to enjoy working with you and want to contribute to the cause. It helps when you surround yourself with motivated, intelligent, and talented individuals.

Following the meeting, we had a birthday party with some friends of ours, for their four year old son. They are really cool people who live in an awesome house, and their son is a nice kid. It was neat watching him and Little Bear play cars together; they had some really nice moments of sharing with each other. I love watching Little Bear play with other kids. He's a different person around other people than he is around his older brother, and I find that incredible to see. He really tries to be considerate and cooperative with the other kids, to an extent that he rarely shows around his brother. I know that's normal sibling rivalry, but it does remind me of watching my brothers and I interact with each other and with our friends. The party also had an amazing buffalo chicken chip-dip.

Afterwards, my wife's siblings, most of the significant others, and us went to Bucca Di Beppo to celebrate Grandma's birthday. That is the family-style serving restaurant, which was exactly what I wanted after eating great party food. Don't get me wrong; the food was pretty amazing, and I'm taking some of it for lunch for the next day or two. I just didn't want to stuff myself too full. It was a great time, though, and lots of great companionship and conversation flew around the table. The boys behaved themselves quite nicely, which is saying something extraordinary for a two hour dinner party. Bedtime followed immediately upon coming home.

Today, the boys were up for a nice 6am breakfast. Lucky us. We slummed around the house for much of the morning before heading to the JCC for the open gym time, as we have in four of the last five weeks. It's a lot of fun, with padded stuff on which to climb and lots of balls of different sizes with which to play. The Boy has been doing this cool dive onto a ramp right into a somersault thing, which his physical therapist will love to know! The kids do a nice job of playing with the other folks there.

Today, there was a dad with a five year old boy, whose older daughters were in swimming lessons. The Boy wanted to play with the big plastic ball that his son was using, and the older boy didn't want to share and was running away from The Boy. The Boy took it hard at first, but then decided that it was a game and spent time chasing after the older boy. This had the predictable result of The Boy getting knocked over by the ball, and I saw the father trying to figure out disciplinary action. The Boy and I laughed it off, and the two boys went off and continued their game.

It's interesting to see how parents deal with those sorts of issues, and I could tell that this dude was a little high strung. Since I'm definitely not high strung about that sort of thing (kids are kids, they bounce pretty well off of the ground, and they are going to be pains about sharing more often than not), I thought it was important to show the other parent that I didn't think it was a big deal. He visibly relaxed, and we had a nice "kids will be kids" discussion before going our separate ways.

The rest of the day highlights include taking the boys to an outdoor event where my chorus sung, except that it was indoors because of driving rain. Best part? Little Bear running up to me at their start of the last song, demanding to be held while my chorus sang. It was very cute and appropriate for a family event like that. Also, watching the ladies in my chorus pass The Baby around like a joint was pretty entertaining. Worst part? Too many people in too small of a space is never good for me, and we wound up splitting earlier than we had planned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Miracles and Thanksgiving

It's the everyday kind of miracles that I noticed these days, the ones that make you shake your head without quite realizing what it is you're noticing. It's the little things, that you never really quite see your children doing until they actually do them: sitting quietly together, watching a cute music video, or putting on a smock at school to paint a "Native American" headband for a Thanksgiving luncheon. There's probably a thousand of those every day that happen; more, if you're blessed enough to have multiple children.

The Boy really makes me wonder, sometimes, about the strength of a miracle and the strength of a family. When I think back to the things that he went through, and what we had to do to get to where we are... I will freely admit to wondering, sometimes, if we've sacrificed too much. This time of year it comes up, particularly as we approach our second anniversary of moving to Pittsburgh. I mean, look at what we sacrificed: our house; our careers (not much of a chance of breaking into the teaching and the music business out here); our friends; my family; our private teaching; the life momentum which we had built. Was it worth it?

Yup. A thousand times over. If I had to do it again, I would do the exact same thing, a hundred time over. The Boy.... there is just something about him. Every parent loves their children; those that have had to fight for their child's lives know something a little bit different.

Thanksgiving is going to be kind of light this year at Casa de Music. My siblings-in-law are going to their significant others' homes; my dad is traveling to California to be with my brother; and my work schedule won't allow me to travel to my other brother's home. So, it's likely that Thanksgiving itself will be just us and the Grandparents. I'm okay with that; it'll be the second consecutive thanksgiving that we are not in the hospital, which is more than a minor miracle.

The big miracles (health, victory over cancer) are beyond my comprehension and untangling. I just thank G-d every day they happen. The little miracles, though, those I watch, and appreciate, and walk away smiling and shaking my head in wonder.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


This morning, the boys and I were eating breakfast and watching Superfriends on the iPad. We don't watch tv together every morning, but sometimes it's nice to have a treat, and nothing says treat like 1970's super hero cartoons. Anyway, we were waiting for the boys' waffles to cook in the toaster, and Little Bear decided to appease his boredom by whaling on his brother. I picked him up and shooed him out of the room.

The little stinker goes into the living room, picks up a toy car, brings it back into the kitchen, and whacks his brother with it. Definitely pre planned and foreordained. It can be really humbling when your two year old outsmarts you.

This afternoon, I got home from work late and was greeting enthusiastically by three little boys and one mum. The boys spent about an hour climbing all over me, using me as a ramp and a trampoline and a climbing post. It was really quite funny of them.the climbing only ended when I showed them a really neat new iPad app, iwritewords.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Side Effects

Good stuff, first: when The Baby first saw me after being away for 24 hours, he got a really big smile and waved his arms in the air. That was intensely cute, and he smiled at me nonstop for about five minutes, which is an eternity in baby time. He's really quite a mellow child. When I pick him up in that special way, he wraps his right arm around my middle, sticks his thumb in his mouth, and snuggles into my shoulder. It tends not to last unless he's tired; he bucks out and wants to be upright. It's still nice to know that he likes snuggles.

The Boy and I had a good Saturday. A nice nap, followed by a birthday party at Build-A-Bear, pizza for dinner and then watching 101 Dalmations together, which he really enjoyed. He's a neat kid, and he gets steadily more interesting as time goes by. Today at the JCC open gym, he was doing this neat dive and somersault thing.

Little Bear is... well... two, with everything that entails. A two year old is a creature of joy and mischief and laughter and games, with all four happening in small increments of time. Perfect example: he went into the kitchen to open the refrigerator and take some food. Grandpa rerouted him into the living room, where The Boy was quietly playing with some Trio blocks. He goes over to The Boy and starts whacking him over the head, causing The Boy to run away with a handful of toys, yelling at Little Bear to leave him alone. Little Bear eventually got what he wanted - attention - when I picked him up and carried him over to my chair, where we did a puzzle, read a book, and played a coloring game on the iPad.

So, part of the fun off having asthmatic tendencies is that when I get really sick, an asthma episode typically follows. This manifests itself in a hacking, painful cough that moves nothing around in my chest, and the cough tends to last for around a month. I've learned the pattern of symptoms when these things start to occur, and I've learned how to put myself on and off oral steroids. I always make sure my pulmonologist is on board with this, but I won't wait until I go in for an appointment.

What I hadn't considered is that this was the first bad asthma incident that I'd really had since before The Boy was born. I mean, I had one in 2009, but it was not severe and exacerbated mostly by stress and a bad allergy autumn. So, my body was severely out of practice when it came to taking the same oral steroids that I'd used, on and off, since about age 5. I took a nice big dose Thursday night after the doctor's office, and I promptly wigged out.

It was bad. Shakes, dizziness, mood swings (already difficult to tell with me), severe concentration issues, fatigue, not able to sleep... combined with the fact that it takes a couple of days for the steroids to do their thing. I wound up staying home in bed when The Wife left for Michigan, and I stayed home in bed for a couple of days instead of going out to the wedding. Wish I had gone, really do; needed the time away with my wife.

Not a total loss for the weekend, however. I was able to take some of the load off of Grandma, who picked up whatever viral thing the kids and I had. Not a lot of the load; Grandpa went above and beyond the call of duty all weekend. But, between Grandma and me, we made almost one complete person while The Wife was away. She came back early to let us both hit the sack.

Here's some cute pictures of the boys.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


It's been an... interesting week, to say the least. Last Saturday, i wound up going to bed a little bit early, feeling somewhat drained from spending a day running around after the children. I woke in the middle of the night with a fever and chills, which kicked off two straight days in bed sick. Worst part of the whole thing? I had actually arranged a shift switch at work for Halloween, so that I could go trick or treating with the boys. Instead, I wound up asleep in bed for most of the week. Tuesday, I was back to work for a half day. Wednesday was my first real work day of the week, which was fortunate: no extracurricular activities beyond playing with children at night. Thursday was my dress rehearsal, and I started feeling kind of awful about fifteen minutes into rehearsal. When I got home, my temperature was over a hundred and rising.

What made things so much better for me and for us was that both of the older children were sick as well. I'm fairly certain that they didn't get it from me, as they've been sporting seasonally-appropriate runny noses for a week or so. I spent Thursday night in The Boy's bed to comfort him; we are fairly certain that we've reprogrammed his core into "sick means sleeping with Daddy or Grandma," and we were happy to oblige.

Side note, because I really enjoy pointing this out: his temperature hit 100.5 axillary.18 months ago, that would mean the following: I would take a quick shower, throw my hospital bag in the car, throw The Boy's hospital bag in the car, and get going. The Wife would call the doctors to get the isolation room ready for us and inform as to the symptoms, the start the email and telephone chain to get us whatever help we needed for the next day or two, then load The Boy into the car. We would prepare for a weeklong stay at La Casa de Hospital. Isn't it wonderful that a fever of 100.5 is not just annoying to all of us? But, I digress.

Friday morning, my wife left for work, leaving me with three boys in the morning until Grandma and Aunt J were ready to do their thing for the day. Bad move on my part for accepting even that little bit of responsibility: I was not up for even fifteen minutes of daddy duty. Grandma came downstairs to see what was going on, took one look at me, took the baby, and sent me back to bed. Next thing I knew, it was 2:30, I had been to the doctor's office, told I had (a cold similar to but not really) the flu, and sent back home. Not a great sign when you don't really remember driving yourself back and forth to the doctor's office. Pretty much, the day was an epic fail of illness.

I didn't regain sentience until Saturday morning, which was when I had to get up and get ready for my chorus's first annual show with me as director. The show went marvelously; I am really proud to be directing this chorus and so, so happy about the performance and everybody's involvement. The Boy came to the performance, with my father and my wife, and he seemed to have a really good time. Bonus: he was well behaved and cute at the afterglow. He made a friend for life with the baritone of Maxx Factor, our guest quartet and reigning Sweet Adelines champions: she took him up to get a piece of CAKE, which was demolished in short order.

After the show, The Wife went to the afterglow from my old chorus while I stayed home and rested. Good thing: my fever finally broke this morning, which seems to have had the ironic effect of waking me up for the day at 4:15am on fall back day. Sigh. At least I won't be alone for long; the children aren't aware of fall back, so they will be up momentarily, I am certain. Maybe not; Little Bear was sick all day, so he might sleep, and The Boy and The Baby can frequently be convinced to give us a little more sleep. Wish us luck.