Friday, December 28, 2012

Entertainment Habits

When he was younger, The Boy's principal form of amusement was using things to make letter shapes. He'd use silverware, drumsticks, toys, pens, and whatever else he could manipulate to make an A, a B, a C, etc. He really enjoyed that activity, and whenever we went anywhere, he'd have an awesome time showing off his letters. Little Bear has continued and expanded that little game. Now, he builds letters and numbers from Trio blocks, straws, and green beans. The most interesting bit, in comparison with his older brother? He makes Hebrew letters out of everything, also. Two days ago, before bed, he drew the entire Aleph-bet set of letters onto the magnetic drawing board. That's pretty good for a kid who isn't even three and a half. He's always been an interesting child. He's much, much busier than his brothers at comparative stages. I understand that you can't compare kids, and you certainly can't compare The Boy to his brothers: the various stages of treatment affected his physical development, energy level, urge to explore, etc. Little Bear was always more restless and more inclined to explore and play than his older brother. The Baby is almost at the same level, but I think Little Bear is still more wandering than he is. And yet, if I have to pick one kid to take to a concert or a religious service, it's Little Bear, hands down. He's quite patient at a show. He likes listening to the music, watching the staging, and that sort of thing. The Boy gets restless and resists going out on general principle; Little Bear enjoys it. "The Sound of Music" in Pittsburgh is on Groupon this week, tickets for $12; we'll probably get two tickets, for a parent and for Little Bear. He's far more likely to sit through the entire show than his older brother. The latest thing in our viewing habits is The Muppet Show. I've shown some episodes of the original Muppet Show to the boys, and they seem to enjoy it a bit. I forgot how much of the Muppet Show is talking and pop culture jokes! I don't really remember those as a child. There is a bunch of awesome Muppet Show segments on YouTube, and the boys request their favorites at night. The current favorite is the "mah nah mah nah" with the pink monsters; they love quoting Staler and Woldorf at the end: "The question is, what is a manamana?" "The question is, who cares?" It's really, really cute and hysterically funny. The Boy has discovered YouTube for himself. Currently, he searches for clips about his favorite books and authors and cartoon characters; there are a couple of great readings / reinactments of the Elephant and Piggie books by Tad Williams that he enjoys. Of course, we're trying to keep a close eye on him - there are a bunch of things that we'd prefer him to avoid on YouTube, for obvious reasons. The various incarnations of Sesame Street are still hits, for sure. My Big, Big Friend has fallen off the watch list, and I haven't seen much WordWorld lately. Batman & Super Friends are reasonable regulars and "Daddy things," but The Boy and I haven't watched much Three Stooges lately.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Let It Snow, Let It Snow

Yesterday, we had the first snow storm in our new house. It highlighted a couple of problems: namely, how to get cars and people up the 60 degree grade of our driveway and how to get our tiny, light, little Pontiac Vibe up and down the 45 degree grade of our street. The answers: very, very carefully (park the minivan at the bottom of the driveway) and not at all (park on the street at the top of the hill).

Shoveling the driveway was a problem, as I kept sliding down the hill. This is definitely not a driveway for a snow blower: it's too steep and too dangerous. If you started sliding, the machine would eat you. Basically, we'll hold steady until the boys get old enough to handle the shoveling for me. I like the exercise, for sure, and I like the little bit of solitude and quiet.



The Boy came outside and helped me shovel a little bit as I was finishing up. We went sledding down the hill of our street a bit, which was problematic: we came far, far too close to ending up underneath cars parked in the street. So, after a couple of attempts, we stopped. We made some snow angels and had a little bit of a snowball fight. It's awesome that he's old enough to play in the snow.



Neither boy napped yesterday, so we had the two older boys in bed by 8:15 or so. I was in bed asleep by 9:30, which is a rarity. As such, I could wake up and work out first thing in the morning - getting up at 6 wasn't a problem. I had 8.5 hours of sleep, after all. I re-shoveled, and we had breakfast at the Bagel Factory using a Grandma-supplied Groupon before the boys went to their swimming lesson.

They went sledding this afternoon at the park. The Wife sent me a video. It was epic.

YouTube Video


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Celebrations

Yesterday was, as we hoped, a nice, boring, uneventful day - at least, as uneventful and boring as a day spent with three little boys can be. Nobody was bleeding, so there's that.



We all slept in yesterday. Little Bear snuck into bed with us around 7:30, and he was quite content to snuggle until about 8:15, when he got a little restless and woke the baby. The Boy slumbered quite peacefully for another couple of minutes, until I threw a pillow at him and woke him up. The Wife wasn't feeling too well, so she stayed in bed while I got the kids dressed and fed. She eventually joined us downstairs.



I saved one present each for the boys: a wooden puzzle for Little Bear (which he did once or twice), a Doc Hudson matchbox car for The Boy (which The Baby carried around for most of the day, occasionally making vroom-vroom noises at it), and a pop-the-balls-out toy for The Baby, which The Boy and Little Bear played with - and fought over - all day.

I always have a tough time shopping for my wife. I'm an easy person for whom to shop, mostly because I start telling her what I'd like for a present roughly 8 weeks before a holiday. She's not so easy. I settled on a DVD which I figured women would like (thank you, Greater Harmony Chorus, for pointing me in the direction of what women like), and she seemed entertained by it.

We watched "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and "Monsters, Inc." After that, I took the three boys to the JCC (figured that they'd be open on Christmas) to play in the playroom for a couple of hours, letting The Wife rest at home. We had a fun time playing.

After we got home, both older boys melted down in a big, big way, so I took them upstairs to nap. Since they've been off from school, they've been sleeping later and taking late afternoon naps, which pushes their bedtimes close to 10 o'clock. That's unfortunate, particularly since I've had work and like to exercise after they go to bed, so I took advantage of their nap and


hit the gym for an hour.

We had another guest for dinner and another opportunity to bust out the good China. The Wife made turkey loaf - a big hit around these parts - and sweet potatoe pancakes, which were a learning experience. I loved them and ate most of them, but the kids and The Wife weren't happy with them. After dinner, we had a rousing discussion centered around gun control and mental health issues, then we threw the boys in the tub for bedtime.

Everyone in the house was asleep by 10:30pm.

That was our Christmas - nice and boring, just the way we like it. The Baby got up on the dining room table a few times in search for treats and presents (he actually ripped off his own wrapping paper this morning and really enjoyed that), and he got ahold of a steak knife from the drawer once. He also figured out how to turn on the garbage disposal, which scared the crap out of him. Little Bear is learning what "being a nooge" and a "pest" means. The Boy is... The Boy. He made a neat picture of Captain Marvel (SHAZAM) to hang on his door, meaning that my tooth fairy present hit on all the proper cylinders.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story




This is the story of my childhood, played out in my own children. The Baby is me, playing with other things because my older brothers were playing with my toys.

And, we have two older boys playing with toys made for a much younger audience. Sigh.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Tooth, The Whole Tooth, and Nothing But the Tooth

On Friday night, The Boy lost his first tooth. It was one of the bottom teeth, the front tooth on his right side. It was kind of funny: we've been trying to yank it out for a week or so, but he wouldn't let us do it. Friday night, it was REALLY ready to go. I bribed him one of my Trader Joes chocolate-coated Jo-Jo cookies (the special holiday batch that The Wife bought for me as a Channukah present - a present because I could then horde them and eat one per day for a month instead of the two days they'd last in the general population), and he let me reach in and yank it out. No blood, no pain, no muss, and it was out.



The Tooth Fairy visited and left him a Captain Marvel action figure - one of the figures that Uncle B gave to us last year when he moved into his new apartment. I've been keeping them hidden and doling them out sparingly so that it's a special occasion when the boys get a figure. The Boy is utterly thrilled with the action figure, and he's actually been sleeping with it since he found it Saturday morning. It's very cute. He made an elaborate super-hero story, with Captain Marvel, Superman, and Booster Gold (which was actually Little Bear's present from Channukah, but who's quibbling?) fighting the super-villain triumverate of Mongul, the little Joker car, and Giant Elmo.



I need to get that boy some more supervillains.

This began an interesting conversation via my Facebook page: having set the bar here, can we then possibly lower it or reset the bar later? They answer is a qualified yes.

For one thing, The Boy's first tooth is a big deal because, well, he's The Boy. He's the cancer patient, and every one of his milestones (like it or not) is going to be celebrated a little bit more than the other boys' milestones will be. That's not fair, and we're trying not to act it, but he's different. When you have your son in your arms in intensive care with a blood pressure of 60 over 20, and you're really not sure if he'll make the night, that kind of does things to your prespective and your psyche that are impossible to release.

For another, our children, at this point in their lives, have absolutely no concept of possessions, materialism, or the value of money. They don't see toys as "their" toy; merely the toy with which they're playing at that moment. They don't have a problem sharing a toy, for the most part, and the clothes / toys / costumes that are in the house are used by all children.

(It mystifies me how The Boy and Little Bear can spend so much time playing with the infant toys that The Baby likes, but they do. I shouldn't be surprised, considering that I don't actually remember a Christmas where my brothers let me play with my toys before they played with them.)

I know that that will change soon enough. Soon enough, he'll develop the same sense of possession and the same need for his OWN stuff and his OWN space and his OWN room that we all have, and that sense of possession will quickly spread to his brothers.

For right now, I'll enjoy living in a household dependant upon the barter economy ("You may play with the iPad only after you go potty... " which is a win-win) with children who have such startling innocence that an action figure from the Tooth Fairy is the greatest gift in the universe.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Multi-Faith Family

This holiday season, in particular, the boys are starting to recognize that there is a thing called Christmas, it's different from Channukah, and they don't celebrate it. Daddy does, because Daddy's not Jewish, and Mum and the boys are Jewish. One Grandpa celebrates Christmas, the other one celebrates Channukah. And, there's this big, tubby dude in a red suit and a beard that is just ALL OVER the place!



It's a tricky thing, because explaining the differences between the religions is difficult and not especially productive. How does one explain the concept of Jesus, and what he means to those of the Christian faith, to a Jewish child? I suppose, if it's framed like a story, they could kind of understand it; but I really don't want to equate Jesus Christ with Batman, even if that would be the coolest Batman story ever. "He died for your sins, and now he's coming back... to save Gotham City from Bane!" I would definitely go see that movie.



So, we're answering the questions with a basic framework of the actual system. Daddy is not Jewish, he's Christian, and he celebrates Christmas. Mum and the boys are Jewish, and they celebrate Channukah. We're fortunate in that we have a few other mixed-faith families in our temple and preschool, so it's not THAT strange of a thing. They know that Daddy likes to put up Christmas lights in the front of the house because they look pretty, and the two older boys helped me untangle lights and test them out. The Boy helped me spread them on some of the bushes, which was pretty cool.


They understand that some people believe that Santa brings presents on Christmas morning. That's all we've said about it. We're not saying that he does or doesn't, and we've told them that it's not something we talk about with kids who believe in Santa Claus. I do not want to see my kid spoil the whole Santa Claus thing for someone else, particularly when I, as a child, pounded some kid into submission for saying there was no Santa Claus. (No joke, and I was far too old to believe in Santa.)

We did the presents during Channukah, and it was basically a present (or two tiny ones) per night. For our kids, that's perfect: give them something with which to play, and let them play with it. Or not, as the case may be. They lit the Channukah menorah, and - with some guidance - they actually lit their own candles! Well, we lit the chamash (starter candle) and they used the chamash to light the other candles. The Boy had no problem with it; Little Bear needed a hand on his hand to make sure he didn't light anything else on fire.

We had a nice Christmas celebration at my father's house, including the boys decorating the Christmas tree there. We'll probably have a tree in the house next year; this year would have been too difficult, with The Baby in a stage of development that doesn't include self-control. We opened presents there, which was fun. (I'm still processing some things about that, which deserves its own post about commercialism conflicting with our desire to give our children fun things with which to play.)



I'm still trying to figure out which traditions I want to bring forward into the next generation. I know that I have a couple of small things for the boys for Christmas Day, and I'll hunt for something for The Wife this weekend. It's not as easy as "let's celebrate both," because that's WAY too much time spent opening presents. It's not as easy as "let's celebrate one and ignore the other," because that's not acceptable, either. What's the compromise? I'm not sure, and I'm certain that this conversation will be held every November and January as we plan and debrief the holiday season.

Here's the comforting thing: the boys are very sweet and very good-natured, and they have been doing a good job playing with their new presents and reading their new books. I do not think that there is an expectation of lots of presents, nor is there an expectation of big presents. They are still happy about the gift of some nice pajamas, as much as they are about a gift of a big Trio blocks playset.



What do you think?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What I Miss

On Sunday, I had breakfast with one of my former clarinet students and her mother. This particular family is the ideal band family - both kids and parents are fully invested in the program, and she (the student) is graduating this year to pursue music therapy in college. Later that afternoon, I had a nice conversation with D, a longtime friend and colleague. We spoke about the big differences between my office job and teaching, because the state of education in New Jersey is dismal and deterioriating. He said that there were many days where he had thought about finding outside-of-education work. I like my job - can't call it a new job, because I've been an official employee for 11 months and was a temp for four months prior to that. I like my coworkers. I like the customers and associates. I wish I could get up and walk around a little bit more, and there are a few outside-of-my-control things that drive me crazy, but that's true for any job. Fact of the matter, I can very easily see myself staying in this corporation for a long, long time, and I hope to do so. Having said that, there's things that I miss about teaching that can't be replicated anywhere else. The number one thing is the relationship with students and their families. I've been fortunate that so many of my former students keep in touch with me, even if it's just as Facebook friends. I even have a number with whom I speak on a regular basis. Banking is great, but I don't think many of my customers would track me down on Facebook (at least, I hope they don't). As strange as it sounds, I miss football games. I miss The Boy sitting with the band, climbing up and down the stairs, and chatting with the students. I miss baby on bass drum time. I miss the sheer amount of music that surrounded my life. I miss the chats on the bus rides to competitions, and I miss (a little bit) hounding my students to avoid hot chocolate on white uniforms. Having said that, I do NOT miss the extraneous bullcrap that teaching entails. I'm not going to go through that now, because I'm awash in nostalgia and don't want to ruin it. Besides, I'm in a new job and a new career. I'm good at what I do, and there is significant growth potential in my job. I'm not going back to teaching, but I sure do enjoy the memories of the good parts. It was nice to see E & P. That was a real highlight of my trip, and that particular visit inspired much thought and discussion.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Wonderful Weekend Getaway

"The New Normal" is something that gets thrown around quite a bit. I know that I've used it quite often in the course of my writings, and it's something that we discuss in detail. Pre-cancer? 1 child, music teacher, directed a men's chorus, church job; The Wife, music teacher, community orchestra, taught lessons. Post-cancer? 3 children, working as a banker, directing a women's chorus, no church job, singing in a quartet. The Wife: homemaker, no lessons, church job (for a temple, same concept), teaching Sunday school, community orchestra. The New Normal.

So, when you're taking two of three children 400 miles east, one hopes for a trip that is not exciting and not eventful. Fortunately, that's exactly what I got: a nice, boring, uneventful trip.



On Friday, we arrived at Rodef right at 11:42 to find out that the Hannkuah play (which was supposed to start at 11:45) was completed. Annoying. We had a nice latke lunch with The Boy's classmates, then loaded the car back home and left for New Jersey. It was a bright, sunny, warm day, and the boys fell asleep quite quickly. They stayed asleep for almost two hours, waking up right before we hit the first rest stop on the road. Quick stop for potty and snack, then back on the road. One more stop at our usual stopping point - the exit that has the Cabela's and Dunkin Donuts on Rt. 78, which is like #29 - and then we got to my father's house around 8:30-ish at night.



The boys finished decorating the Christmas tree for him, which was kind of surreal. Little Bear loved putting the balls on the tree; The Boy, not so much. He wanted to show off his piano playing. The soundtrack for decorating the tree was "I Had a Little Dreidel." Not traditional, but still acceptable.



Saturday was pretty close to ideal. The exception: Little Bear, in the course of playing, bashed his face against the side of a table. I was fairly sure he broke his nose! (He didn't.) The bleeding was stopped, the clothes were washed (blood stains all came out, hooray for quick washing action), and feelings soothed. We went to the Christmas Ice Caverns, which was lots of fun, then to Bromilow's Chocolates to visit friends and get The Wife's Hannukah present. Back to the house to rest, then a wonderful dinner and presents opening with my brother's family.



More on that later. I'm starting to question a few things about the presents-opening process.



The kids were polite and well-mannered. They got lots of attention, and they played nicely together and with whomever was around. They opened presents and were properly appreciative, although the clear winners of the night were the Mongul & Booster Gold superhero figures and the Trio block sets. The Boy's orange hoodie and Little Bear's blue hoodie were pretty close thirds.



Sunday, we saw a slow parade of friends all day: Uncle J, Uncle T, Dan. Uncle B came by and took me to dinner & The Hobbit; the boys stayed with Grandpa and were good. Monday, we went to the pancake house for breakfast and then hit the road. We stopped at Aunt M's in Harrisburg for lunch (she gave them this year's Hess Truck for Hannukah), and we were home around 6:30.



Nobody got homesick (except for The Wife, who was a little bored having only one child and no husband at home), nobody fought unnecessarily, and nothing was broken. It was a good weekend.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Trip Preparations

Tomorrow, I'll leave work at 11:30 and head to Rodef. They're doing a Channukah play, and The Boy apparently has a decent speaking part. I'm looking forward to it, not the least because Little Bear's class made "menorahs" out of candy bars, lifesavers, and chocolate "candles." The Wife is driving me back and forth to work so that I will have the time to get to the play. We'll go home, load the car, and The Boy, Little Bear, and I will leave for my father's house in New Jersey.

Should be an interesting trip - this is the first time that I've travelled with Little Bear without The Wife. Both boys are really, really excited about the trip - they can't wait to see Grandpa. Grandpa, meanwhile, has been really cute - I think I've spoken to him almost every day about the arrangements he's making for the boys. I think he's more nervous than anything else! I know he wants this to be a perfect weekend.

Of course, it won't - it's impossible to have a perfect weekend. It'll be a family weekend, and that's just ideal. I'm sure there will be fights, obnoxious comments, tantrums, a potty accident or two, some sleep difficulties, and a meltdown during the car rides back and forth. That's par for the course. I just hope it will be memorable with all the right things - presents, trees, lights, food, and games.

I still have a lot to do for the trip. I have to wrap presents, GET presents for my nieces and father, pack clothes for myself and the boys, and load the car. I'll get that done tonight after work (tonight's my late night, and Grandma's having a Channukah party, so it'll be a later night that usual. Sigh).

Last night, we had a funny story. The Wife had quartet rehearsal, so I put the boys to bed. The Boy fell asleep in our bed watching Classical Baby, so I put a night diaper on him and put him in his bed. Little Bear was up later (late afternoon nap), but The Wife put him to bed eventually. The Baby fell asleep, and The Wife and I embarked downstairs to clean and straighten and prepare for the trip.

Around 11-ish, The Baby woke up and wanted Mum. So, she went upstairs. She called down, "Did you put The Boy in his bed? Because he's in ours right now." I asked her to check if he was in a night diaper, and that I'd be up to move him in a minute (I was putting up curtain rods in the computer room). She said no, and I asked her to put one on him.



She called down a minute later, "I checked that little bottom, and it was bonier than usual. It's not The Boy, but Little Bear!" That was funny - how we assumed that it was The Boy.

Reading that back, it's not that funny. I guess you had to be there. Still, it was entertaining to us. And, not to keep you in suspense - The Boy beat me to my bed. He snuck into the bedroom while I was taking a shower and took my place in bed.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Slow but Eventful Weekend

This weekend was The Wife's turn to be insanely busy, as I outlined on Friday afternoon. She sang Friday night and Saturday morning, taught Sunday school, and had orchestra stuff Saturday afternoon and evening and Sunday afternoon and evening. The boys and I had a fun, slow, but eventful weekend as well.



Friday night was Tot Shabbat, and that went quite well. Little Bear's teacher sat with him and The Baby while The Boy and I got food for the family. When we were finished eating, The Wife was done singing, so we were good to go at that point. I was part of the "Daddy Menorah" during the tot service, which was fun. The Boy sat in the service with one of his school friends (probably this year's bff), and I sat with Little Bear while The Wife chased the baby around. Good part about that service? She was one of a large group of parents chasing a large group of babies.









Saturday morning, we all went to breakfast with Grandpa. The Wife then left for Saturday services, and I took the boys to the Pittsburgh Toy Lending Library. This is something that The Wife has been doing for a little while - it's this awesome little playroom in the downstairs of a Methodist church. You can borrow toys like library books and return them after a week or so. The cost is inexpensive - basically, a nominal fee as long as you spend some time volunteering in the place. Since they don't care if you bring your kids to your volunteer time, it's a win-win situation. They have little bikes to ride, little sliding and climbing toys, a puppet stage, costumes, dolls, and a reading area with books and comfortable little chairs.



We spent a couple of hours there before heading home, in time to have lunch with Mum. I took a quick rest, then I loaded the kids into the car, with Grandpa, took drive down to Washington, PA, to see the Pittsburgh branch of Tubachristmas. This is where a whole bunch (in this case about 30) of tuba, euphonium, and baritone players gather together to play Christmas carols. It's awesome. The boys made it about 35 minutes before melting down, which was quite good. They slept in the car on the way there and a little bit on the way back.



We went to Grandma's for dinner. She had a special latke dinner for Chanukah, which the boys enjoyed. They got their first round of Chanukah presents: really big legos, like 8 inches on a side big. I dropped the baby at home with a babysitter, then I took the two older boys to The Wife's orchestra concert. They made it most of the way through the performance of "The Nutcracker" before cracking, which - again - was pretty good. I made them stay for one more song, because Leroy Anderson's "Sleigh Ride" is just Teh Awesum. Home to bed.



This morning, we hung out until 10:30, when all of us went to Latkepalooza at Beth Shalom. This had singing, dancing, latkes, donuts, festival games (although I was unsure of what the prizes were), and lots and lots and lots of people. The Baby was asleep on my back in the carrier, and I followed Little Bear around. The Boy was gone almost immediately, and I didn't see him much over the next hour or so. Good thing that enough people know him from school and from The Wife, right? Grandma and Grandpa came after a little while, and everyone had a really good time.









The Wife now is at her orchestra stuff. She does have a dinner break, where she'll come home and eat with us. I'm not sure what - if anything - we're all going to do. The pickings around here for Sunday evening events are quite slim, and I really don't want to spend $50 going to Kennywood for the light show. Hopefully I'll be able to keep the kids from killing each other until bedtime. Pictures to follow.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Holiday Celebrations

We've started the discussions with the boys about the difference between Christmas and Channukah, and how some families celebrate one or the other, and some familes celebrate both. (It helps that our friend C's family is in the same boat, with a Jewish and Christian parent.) Mum celebrates Channukah, and Daddy celebrates Christmas. We're not really emphasizing the religious nature of the holidays yet; the kids handle Spiderman and Daniel Tiger fairly well, but I'm not sure that they're ready to conceptualize Jesus yet.



The weekend after Thanksgiving, I busted out the holiday decorations for the first time since 2007. In 2008, we were in the hospital for most of December, so I didn't put up lights. In 2009-2011, we were living with Grandma & Grandpa, and one does not put holiday lights up at someone else's home without an invitation. The boys helped me untangle the lights, test them out, and put them on the bushes. The Boy helped me put up my poor, old 6-foot inflatable snowman, who stands with a permanent bow right now. The ivy around the walls at the base of my yard make a great place to put the icicle lights.


Two days later, The Boy was playing school with Mum and brothers. He decided to teach about Christmas. "Christmas is when you put up pretty lights on the outside of your house, and there's a tree, and people sing songs." That's all he knew about it, mostly because we haven't broached the whole Santa Claus thing with them yet, either. The Boy recognizes pictures of Santa, because they're all over the place; we just haven't discussed it with him.




Next weekend, The Boy, Little Bear, and I will drive to New Jersey to spend a hybrid Thanksgiving / Christmas with my father and my brother's family. It's going to be a lot of fun, and they're REALLY looking forward to it. The Baby and The Wife are staying home; she's working Friday night and Saturday morning and teaching on Sunday morning, so she's out of commission for the weekend. The Baby just isn't old enough to travel without her. More on this next week, I'm sure.




Hannukah starts tonight, so Good Yuntif for those who celebrate it. I'm taking all three boys to the Tot Shabbat tonight by myself; The Wife is singing in the grownup service tonight and tomorrow morning. Then, tomorrow afternoon & evening she's in rehearsal and performance; Sunday morning, she teachers; Sunday afternoon & evening she's in rehearsal and performance.


It's a Daddy & Boys type weekend, which is exciting. I'm looking forward to it. Tomorrow morning, Toy Lending Library. Tomorrow afternoon, Tuba Christmas. Tomorrow night, Mum's concert. Sunday morning, Hannukah celebration festival and Rodef Shalom. Sunday afternoon & evening: unplanned as of yet. Considering that it's supposed to rain all weekend, I'm thinking we might go to My Little Outback. We'll see.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Been A While...

I started this on Monday night, sitting in The Boy's bedroom and playing Trio blocks with Little Bear. The Baby and The Boy were chasing each other down the hall, tackling one another to the ground and laughing hysterically. Little Bear, with the Trio blocks, was doing his best to build every letter in the alphabet, focusing on the letters for "BED" and propping his creations against The Boy's bed. The Wife was puttering around, keeping an eye on the giggling ball of little boys rolling down the hallway and the laundry. That little moment of idyllic family life ended as one expects, with multiple little boys: one of them (The Baby) took a header into the door and gave himself a nice size bump on the size of his forehead. This went along with the cut under Little Bear's eye, giving us a family portrait that the Children, Youth & Family Services would not enjoy. Still, it's the price of doing business: little boys means some amount of roughousing means that scraped knees, scraped hands, bruised faces, et al, are going to occur. It was the end of a rough, rough weekend for us. Friday night, I had a quartet rehearsal / little performance at the house of my lead, Guru. The Boy came along with me, and I learned that leaving him alone with a Playskool collectible castle was not a good move. Side note: check out www.facebook.com/A4quartet and "like" us. We're pretty good. Side note 2: he's developed a nice, healthy conscience. He told me last night that he still felt bad about breaking the little pieces off of the castle. Doesn't make it better - still broken - but nice to know regardless. I put him to bed then almost immediately put myself to bed. At 12:30am, I woke up in agony - my stomach was killing me. This wasn't the sharp, agonizing, couldn't breath pains from Thanksgiving 2008, so I didn't think it was the same thing (and it wasn't), but it was awful enough that I couldn't sleep. I moved into another bedroom to get some space and to avoid waking The Wife and The Baby. Finally, around 5:30am, I fell asleep. I woke up at 7:30 and couldn't move too well. The Wife dropped the kids off at her parents' house, and she took me to the Urgent Care Center in Shadyside when it opened. They took my vitals and sent me right across the street to the Emergency Room. They did an x-ray, CT, and ultrasound of my abdomen - no organ damage, thank G-d, put a couple of bags of fluid in me, said, "Congratulations - you have something. If it doesn't get better, come back." I spend Sunday in bed, save for a 2-hour performance at Market Square with my chorus and my new quartet. Not really sure how I got through that, considering that my total caloric intake on Saturday was 2 bottles of Gatorade, my total intake on Sunday was 1 bottle of Gatorade and some turkey broth, and my stomach was not handling coffee well at all... but, we got through and did pretty well. After that, I went back to bed and slept until my doctor's appointment the next morning. By Monday afternoon, I was almost conscious. So, that was my weekend. How was yours? I'm not going to do the normal long layoff from blog thing and try to make excuses or promises to write. There aren't any excuses, really, other than saying how wonderful it is to be busy with non-hospital stuff. When we were inpatient in the hospital as long as we were, we had adequate time to sit and blog and a whole bunch of people that needed to get information about us. But, my day consists of heading to work quickly after waking up, and I get home around 5. I have quartet rehearsal on Monday night and chorus rehearsal on Tuesday night. Wednesday night The Wife sometimes sings, and I work late on Thursday nights. I've been working out pretty regularly (at least until Friday night's stomach issues), even getting three workouts per week most weeks since we moved into the house. I workout after the kids go to bed, so that's where most of the time is going. The boys are well. The Boy is showing leadership and maturity in preschool this year, which is to be expected because it's his second year in the same class and, emotionally, he's finally caught up. Little Bear is... well... Little Bear. At school, he's helpful and kind and smart as a whip. At home, he's helpful and kind and smart as a whip... and sometimes the biggest little bastard that you can imagine. Age 3, for both boys, was kind of a mean and vicious year. The Baby is walking full time now and he's trying to say everything. "Mama" and "Dada" and "Milk" and "cheese" and "bite" (when he wants something you've got) and "show" (when he wants to watch tv) and a bunch of other words. "Sit," when he wants to sit on your lap. I'm hopeful to write more. I miss it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Children's Museum

On Monday, I had a holiday from work - Columbus Day, which is the best fake holiday ever. I dropped The Boy off at school, got the Groupon from The Wife, tossed a little bear into the car, and left. We arrived at the Pittsburgh Children's Museum about twenty minutes later.

It was a marvelous day. We had so much fun!



Kids - particularly three year olds - are really pretty easy to handle one-on-one. Pretty much, their needs are basic: little people, little problems. They want someone's attention, somebody with whom to play, some tasty food when they're hungry, help with the potty as needed, and something interesting happening. There's really very little misbehaving that happens, because there's no actual incentive to misbehave. Why does he need negative attention, when he's got his daddy 100% to himself for the entire day?



We played with big magnets, we built structures and knocked them over, we played with light sticks, towed wooden trains, bounced in a bouncy tunnel, threw parachutes off of a high platform, climbed a rope net, went down a metal twisty slide, built car tracks, strung bicycle wheels with bungy cord spokes, poured little rocks down the side of a cool noisemaker, and saw five different potties. We had pizza and a turkey sandwich for lunch and a tasty scoop of ice cream on our way out of the museum.


Best part? When we got to the water part. He took his shoes off and immediately tried to jump into the boat pool.



Little Bear is definitely in a daddy-type mood right now, and I'm really okay with that. I think that he's starting to realize that there are multiple days in the week that he doesn't see me - on Tuesday nights during chorus rehearsals, and if I have an out-of-the-house quartet rehearsal or committee meeting, and, of course, work. That fact kind of freaks him out a little bit; he's just hitting the age where he's starting to figure out how time flows and starting to be able to plan and to anticipate the flow of his day. Multiple times in the past couple of weeks, we've woken up with three little boys in our bed. Personally, I'm really okay with that - I still have a nagging sense of guilt about not being able to cuddle little baby bear because of the ultraviolet light thing.

He's very funny, and very mature, and very tall, but he's also a little baby at the same time. His face, when sleeping, hasn't changed from his infancy, and it's one of the most beautiful faces I've seen. He still has the best smile of the three boys. He also has a funny little nod when he says yes - more of a little bow with his head and shoulders than a nod. Very, very cute.



Don't get me wrong - he can be demon child when he wants. He's great at trying to sneak out of the house during the day to play in the yard, and he enjoys making his older brother cry through physical or emotional attack. But, he's also very sweet and rapidly becoming sensitive to other people's feelings, much faster than his older brother or his father ever did.



But, still, it was a great day, and we had a lot of fun.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Teeth, Or Something

The boys went to the dentist last week - a pediatric dentist, not cousin Benjy the Dentist. They had a reasonably decent time, although Little Bear kind of freaked out a little bit and wouldn't let the dentist poke around in his mouth at all. The Boy cooperated, even to the extent of allowing x-rays. Miracle of miracle, we can see that one of his adult teeth are on the move - a lower front tooth! Considering all we've been through, it's kind of a miracle. That's exciting! This past weekend was magnificently unplanned and uneventful. I had a little bit of singing to do, but the weekend was spent around the house, doing a little bit of work, unpacking some more stuff, and, most importantly, chasing little boys around the neighborhood. We had Grandpa over for dinner, which is always fun. He and The Wife tried to put up a Sukkah. I helped, as did the boys, and we got it up after dinner. It failed during a rain & wind storm the next day. The whole house has been pretty exhausted over the past couple of days for no really apparent reason. The boys and The Wife have been asleep when I've left the house for work all week, which is strange. Today, they were just starting to move when I got up, so I got to give some hugs to a very, very sleepy Little Bear. He's very, very earnest in his observations, which is cute as heck. "Daddy, I drew this picture for Kelly (our new babysitter), but she went home." The Boy stumbled blearily out of (our) bed, and said, "Daddy, I'm going to get dressed before I go potty." He went back into my bedroom, found my wife, and said, "Mum, I'm going to get dressed before I go potty." The boys are really so... so... cute! There's no other word for it. They love the cartoon Kipper (from the UK), they love Little Bear, they love Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. The Boy loves The Three Stooges; Little Bear doesn't, yet. They're earnest, sweet, and sensitive. When they're not actively fighting with each other, they're very gentle with their friends and happy to spend time with others. I got the Avengers movie in the mail yesterday, and I can't wait to watch it. I want to share it with my oldest son, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to let him watch it for a little while. He's just too... too... innocent. I want to enjoy watching these silly, placid cartoons with him while he wants to do so. This is truly the innocence of children, and I'm in no rush to end that. There will be loads of time to enjoy Avengers, and Batman, and Buffy, and all of the great geek stuff that my wife and I enjoy. Watching my sons re-enact scenes from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood is too cute and definitely worth it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yom Kippur

Yesterday was the end of Yom Kippur. It was a really rough day for The Wife - I went to work, and she was home all day with the kids. She didn't fully fast - as a nursing mother, that's really, really bad for you and the baby - but ate minimally, and therefore had a rough day trying to keep up with bored little boys. I probably should have taken the day off, but I didn't, so I will next year.



Our kids are wonderful little people, but they have their moments. The Boy was an uncooperative little pain in the behind yesterday, physically fighting The Wife off when she was trying to help him get dressed so they could go to the kiddie services. Little Bear is an amazingly destructive little person when he's in that kind of mood, and he was in that kind of mood all day yesterday. It culminated in him pulling the hearing aids out of The Boy's ears and throwing them at the ground. Not so good.

He was banished to bed - it was late at that point. He and I talked about it, and he was quite upset about the whole thing. He doesn't mean to hurt The Boy or his things, but he has a hard time controlling himself. He also said something that broke my heart: "Daddy, when you go work, I'm afraid that you won't come back." Oh, boy. That hurts.

I met The Wife and the boys at temple for the evening services. The Baby lasted about three minutes before he was done, and he and I went down into the lobby to hang out and wait. He crawled around, looking at people and things in the lobby, and occasionally losing a shoe. At this point, he would say, "Shoe! Shoe!" and stop to pick it up. We also played the "You stole Daddy's hat!" game with the yarmulke that I borrowed from the temple. He was really quite cute. After a little while, the other boys came downstairs, too. I took them to one of the classrooms for entertainment while The Wife stayed for the end of the services. We went to Grandma's house for a break-the-fast meal, and I packed up our DVDs to take back home. The Boy helped me bring the boxes to the car, which was really, really cute.

The Wife and I went to sleep early - around 10, 10:15, because neither one of us was feeling well. She's got whatever cold is travelling around, and I have some back pain from having two cysts removed on Monday. Lucky me. The Boy joined us around 3am, and around 4am, I gave him the boot back to his bed - I couldn't handle the physical punishment of the kicking. That's actually the first time that I've done that to him, but I think it won't be the last. He came back later, but it was around 7am and we were all just thinking about getting up.

Interesting event: he said to me, this morning in the car, out of the blue: "Daddy, can I go to Sunday school?" It turns out that he discovered that one or two of his former school mates, who were now in kindergarten, were in the Sunday Hebrew school at Rodef. He decided that he wanted to do that. It's an interesting thing, because this is the first thing that he's actually asked to do like this. I'm really proud of him; it's a big developmental step to make those kind of decisions!

The answer, of course, is yes - if he's going to go for the whole year. He doesn't understand that yet. But, we're not going to pay an entrance fee for the classes, have him go twice, and never want to go again. The conversation will be revisited. We'll see what happens.

Interesting bit: for Yom Kippur, the preschool had the kids draw pictures of things they were sorry for doing. The Boy wrote, "I'm sorry for hitting Little Bear and pushing Little Bear and sitting on him." The interesting bit: he drew pictures of those events, and the pictures of him were orange (his favorite color) and the pictures of his brother were blue (his favorite color). The pictures of himself had angry eyebrows - which is pretty good thinking, to show eyebrows that convey emotions. Smart kid.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weekends

Last weekend, I went to Independence, Ohio (just south of Cleveland), for the Sweet Adelines Harmony Weekend. It was an awful lot of fun, with great music and great learning. It's nice to know that there are friends that I have in Sweet Adelines (despite my comparative newness to the organization) who are as happy to see me as I am to see them. I left right after work on Friday and arrived around 7:45 Friday night. I left Sunday morning and arrived back home around 11:45am.



It's hard for everybody when I'm away for a length of time. Don't get me wrong - my wife can handle it. She's a tough cookie, and our house is set up to amuse the children and still allow her to maintain some semblance of sanity, although she did sleep under a pile of small boys on Saturday night. I would have, too - if that helps them sleep through the night, then more power to them.


When I got home on Sunday, it was a joyous reunion. I had all three boys on my lap for a good chunk of the afternoon and evening, and we three had a fun time at the playground (until The Baby jumped off of a moving merry-go-round and scraped his face for a good six feet or so on the ground). Earlier, I had primed the new bathroom, and The Wife painted the room while I took the boys to the park. It was a pretty even trade; after watching the boys for the entire weekend, getting a chance to do something physical and productive was a welcome one for her. After putting the boys to bed, I exercised while she practiced, until the baby needed some more direct attention and ended our evening.


Yesterday, I had a couple of little cysts removed from my back, so - when I got home from work - I was really up for running around, chasing boys, and dragging them to the park. Instead, I watched some television with them. I read stories to both of the older boys while The Wife put the baby to bed and practiced, and we all went to bed early. It was interesting reading stories to both of the older boys at the same time, as their understandings are very different. They weren't new stories - Stan Lee reading the Spider-Man origin story, and the Scholastic Storybook Dem Bones - but their reactions are very different. They find different things funny, they get a little scared by other aspects of the story. I'm not sure Little Bear is really ready for the Spider-man origin story, but he did request it because he was wearing Spider-Man pajamas.

Nothing too exciting, I'm afraid... except that the new bathroom is up and running and ready to go. We now have 2.5 bathrooms, not 1.5. That's pretty exciting.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bedtime!

Last night was kind of a banner night for us, in the new house: We had, for a brief moment, all three children sleeping in their own beds. No little people were in our bed with us. It was marvelous! And, very cute. The baby slept in the lower bed of the trundle bed that we swiped from Grandma's house, and he was comfortable there for around an hour, hour and a half! By the next morning, we had two children in bed with us, but... baby steps, folks. We enjoy the little victories.

We celebrated the only way we know how: I exercised, she practiced. She'll exercise tonight, most likely. We live exciting lives: truly the stuff of legends.



There are times that it's concerning that the baby spends so little time sleeping anywhere else, and it's concerning that he will only sleep with The Wife at night. If he wakes up, he will not go back to sleep for me, pretty much under any circumstances. Kind of frustrating, actually, but it's the cost of doing business. I'm just not around enough, and I don't take the late baby shift often enough, for The Baby to feel comfortable going back to sleep for me. Don't get me wrong; he loves Daddy, and I know that and can see that. I'm just not Mom.

I'm curious to find out what it must be like to, say, sit in the living room and relax, instead of being underneath snoring children at night. I'd love to sit and watch television from a seated position instead of lying down; I'd even love to dust off the Playstation and play a game or two! I've got some awesome games that have been in wrappers for three years now.

All in good time. I'll still have my games, for when my kids play the X-Box 1440, or whatever's out in ten years.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Nice Weekend

On Sunday night, we had an early Rosh Hoshanah dinner with some friends. It was really nice, and the first kind-of-fancy dinner we had at the new house. It was also the first meal eaten in the dining room, and the first time I put one of the leaves in the dining room table. That felt kind of cool, actually. The table with leaves is a little too long to fit in the dining room, so we kind of held the table diagonally and just dealt with it. Any more people, and we'd probably pull the table into the family room - kind of like what Aunt M does. I still have only seen her living room as a living room a couple of times; on the holidays, when we visit, the living room is a dining room for 20 or 30 people.



The interesting thing is that little A, who's a shade younger than The Baby, was starting to stand up unassisted and take three or four steps on his own! The Baby watched him quite intently, and he decided to try to do a little bit of walking on his own. He took 3 or 4 steps that day for the first time, and he's been doing better and better as the days go past. He's going to a standing position unassisted yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

The other boys were later walkers, also. Little Bear walked around 15 months, and The Boy wasn't walking regularly until after 18 months (but he had some extenuating circumstances). The Baby is now 14 months, so it's probably imminent. It wouldn't shock me if it was another month before he was walking more regularly; he's very, very tall. That's a long way to fall down, and new walkers fall down a LOT. Little A is about six inches shorter than The Baby and built a little wider, so he's got less distance to fall and more padding on which to land.

Cute kid, though, just like his older brother. I happen to like those two boys more than I like most of the kids that are The Boy's and Little Bear's friends. The parents are cool, too.



Yesterday, the power of Goodnight Moon was in full effect. Little Bear actually crawled into bed at naptime with The Wife and the other two boys! She texted me a picture of the two older boys snuggled up together. It was very cute. He's been a lot more affectionate since we moved into the new house. On Saturday, he wanted to nap with me instead of by himself! I'm happy to oblige, as you might guess. I'm struck, at least once per day, that my Little Bear - even though he's so big, so mature, so smart, and so independent - is really quite a little bear, indeed. He curls up into a tiny little ball of boy, and he does enjoy a good snuggle now and again.

Tuesday are hard for me. I love my chorus and I love my chorus rehearsals, but it's hard to go directly from work to a rehearsal and not get home until 10:30 or so. It's more difficult because of a quartet job tonight, and then this weekend spent in Independence, OH, at the Sweet Adelines convention. Even without the crushing amount of work and unpacking still due on the new house, it's difficult to be so far away from my children for that long. I know that, soon enough, they'll be independent young men and able to take care of things on their own, but... still... while they're little, I don't want to miss out on the snuggles, and games, and stories, and other fun stuff.

It's nice to have a boring life sometimes.



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone