Thursday, March 29, 2012

Party Day!

Today, my mother-in-law is hosting a gathering for a local political action group. There's a reasonably large number of people coming to the house, and an immense amount of food and cleaning has been done already. It's the first such gathering that she's had since we moved into the house, with the exceptions of Rosh Hoshanah right after we moved in and The Baby's bris. This is unusual for Grandma, who has made a habit of hosting gatherings at her home.

This has been a big sacrifice for her! When we moved in, she made the choice to be involved in the every-day aspects of helping raise 2 (then 3) little boys. This has meant that she's sacrificed some relationships with friends and acquaintances, and she hasn't spent as much time outside of our family as she would (I'm sure) prefer. That's a difficult sacrifice for me to understand: at this point in my life, I don't have much outside of my immediate family. Most or all of our friends are those that have similarly aged children or are involved with barbershop singing or are actual family members (and, Uncle B does count as family members - I speak with him more often than I do my actual brothers). Because of that, it's not a big deal for us to be immersed here.

Grandma? She's been through all that. She raised 4.5 children (#5 was picked up in high school, hence the ".5" - no diapers, you know? At least, no diapers that I want to know about) through toddlerhood, public school, college, and graduate school. She reclaimed her own life once her kids were old enough for more independence, and I do feel guilty that we impose on her as much as we do. Granted, she's got a wonderful relationship with all of our children - her relationship with The Boy is something that is very special and very precious, to be sure.

Still, it's nice to see her started to re-reclaim her social life back from our children's infancy. She's a social butterfly and loves getting involved with good social issues, and I'm certain that something good and important is going to come out of the meeting and dinner today. At the very least, we got some fresh baked and wonderful brownies.

To help out, I'm leaving work a little bit early today and working through my lunch. I'm going to finish any last-minute cleaning (there's some music of mine and some comic books that need to go upstairs), then I'm going to throw the two older boys into the car. We're going to go to the comic book store and pizza, and then I'm going to take them to My Little Outback, the play place, and let them run around for an hour or two until they close at 7. The Baby will stay home with Mom, but he's not a high-maintenance child. The party should be about the community group, not about my two active, older sons.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Monday was an eminently productive day.

I had a good day at work, but that's nothing new. I enjoy my job, and I'm surrounded by interesting people. It's nice to leave work with a smile on your face, you know? It's even nicer to walk into work with a smile on your face....

After work, the boys, Mum, and I went outside to play. We had a lot of fun, playing "Gonna Get You!" games and going on the swings. Little Bear is still very funny outside - every once in a while, after he tackles me, he says, "I want snuggles!" and lies down in the grass next to me and cuddles for a few seconds. He is happiest carrying around several different colors of chalk, either in his hands or in a bucket. He doesn't necessarily want to draw with them, he just likes having them. The Boy and I played super heroes and bad guys. I was the bad guy that kept kidnapping Plastic Man (an action figure). He would chase me down and rescue Plastic Man, carrying him back to the top of the swingset, where I'd kidnap him all over again. It was cute.

We had a very nice dinner, with all of us eating people food and Plastic Man eating - you guessed it - plastic food from the play kitchen. Makes sense, right? It was a simple dinner - sandwiches and chicken from Murray Ave Kosher - but everybody enjoyed it, and The Baby went to town on a handful of chicken. The boys went outside to play after dinner, and I had an insanely productive hour. I did our Pittsburgh taxes, renewed the registrations on our cars, balanced the checkbook (easy with Quicken and downloading of transactions from the banks' websites), and verified The Wife and the boys as being dependents / relations. After a little more playing, The Baby fell asleep on my lap, and The Wife bathed the older boys and put the middle one in bed. She made the lunches for the next day, and I handed the baby off to her and put The Boy to bed.

He read me two Elephant and Piggie books (again, including correct himself when he read a word wrong, such as telling the difference between "do not" and "don't"), we watched a motion comic book of The Hulk (this scared him a little bit), and we read another story before talking a little bit about our day. I love the gentle intimacy of bedtime. It's a nice flow for the end of my day.

After The Boy settled down in bed, I put away two weeks worth of laundry, did some dishes, took out the garbage and recycling, and spent some quality time snuggling with the baby before bed. Tuesday mornings are the only planned mornings of no exercise, because it's too much for me to run, go through a whole day of work, then chorus rehearsal. Tonight's a big night, with a coach coming in from the other end of Ohio to work with us.

Just for fun, here's a picture of The Boy trying to stick his toes up his nose.

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Monday, March 26, 2012

Eventful Sunday

So, yesterday was an interesting day.

The Wife had her Hebrew school teaching in the morning, and I had the three boys to myself (and grandparents) for the morning. We played around the house and watched a few cartoons after Mum left. At 10:30, there was supposed to be a pre-Passover thing in The Boy's preschool classroom at school. We figured we'd head there instead of the JCC; again, trying to be consistent with my theory of "If We're Going To Do Religion, Then We're Going To Make It A Part of Our Daily Lives." No problem. Ten o'clock rolled around, The Baby had been asleep for a half hour, and I handed the baby off to Grandpa while I began the procedure of chasing children around, putting their rear ends on a potty until it's used, then making sure they had pants, socks, and shoes on the correct body parts. That only took a half hour, including changing the baby and putting him into a new outfit, so we arrived at 10:40.

The classroom was empty. Sigh. Last time, we didn't know where the pre-Purim thing was, so we went home. This time, at least, it was Israel Day, which meant that there was cool stuff happening in other places of the temple. The coolest thing? There was an actual, real-life CAMEL in the backyard of the temple! They were doing camel rides! The first time we went outside to look at the camel, it scared the heck out of The Boy. Little Bear was interested in the camel, but probably more interested in the goings-on around it: the other children, The Wife who was there with a class of students, and his teachers. We went back inside and poked around the other stuff, which included chicken schwarma samples and spiced pita bread and Israeli candy.

Side note: why does candy from other countries suck so much? And, do they think the same things about our candy? I mean, in the Middle East, do they have candy bars like we know them? What do they think about our sweets and treats? But, I digress.

After we tooled around inside for a little while, we went back outside. The Boy overcame his fear, and he and I went on a camel ride. It was fun, although I don't think my behind would like being on a camel for an entire day's journey. The air conditioning isn't great, you know? And, you really, really don't want to see when you have to plug in the iPhone. I was quite proud of The Boy for overcoming his fear and trying something so new and so different!

We got home and had a snack, then threw the kids back in the car after The Wife got home and went to Carmine's birthday party. As per usual, it was a blast! His family really knows how to throw a party, for sure. It was a "Cars" themed party. The tables had black tablecloths with lane markings down the middle, like highways; the snacks had clever movie-themed names; they had "Ramon's House of Body Art," with temporary tattoos. The cake was a beautiful thing as well, made by a neighbor and looking like a garage. Carmine's family are all really, really neat people, and I love that my kids absolutely love him.

It's a slightly rougher crowd of kids than we're used to hanging around; there was a lot more tackling and impromptu games of "Kill the Guy With The Ball." I'm okay with that. Getting tackled by friendly people is a good character-builder. Plus, they think it's really funny.

The boys started turning into pumpkins around 2:15, and we were home around 2:30. It was resting time, although The Boy wanted to rest with Grandma instead of with me. That's fine, although I missed my snuggle buddy. My quartet came over at 4, so I was awake in enough time to do a little bit of warming up. The quartet left at 5:30, and The Wife left at 5:45 to go to dinner with Grandma, Grandpa, and some cousins, and that's when all hell broke loose.

Little Bear just did not have a good night. Five minutes after the adults left, while The Boy, The Baby and I were still eating, he climbed up on a shelf and knocked over a laundry basket full of hangers that we were returning to the cleaners. About 150 hangers exploded on the floor! There was no way to get them back in the basket without individually picking them up, so that was fifteen minutes. During that time, he retreated into the living room, a little scared and disappointed that I was irritated, and pooped his pants. It was not a clean one, which meant that we had to throw him in the tub. After the bath, the three boys and I went upstairs and played with the car tracks in The Boy's room. Little Bear decided to take a small folding Mickey chair and set it up on the bed. When I told him to take the chair off of the bed, he bounced the chair off of my head on the way down.

At that point, I put him in his room so that I could calm down a little bit. Five minutes later, I got him out of his room and back with us to play. I must say, The Boy and The Baby were doing a great job - playing with everybody, keeping Little Bear involved with track building and experimenting by letting Little Bear hold the cars and run them down the track. Little Bear was lying on the edge of the bed, and then suddenly, he was face down on the floor, screaming.

I calmed him down, stopped the bleeding (mostly), and examined the split-open chin. No big deal, but it wasn't a small cut and it was in an awkward place. I called The Wife, advised her of the situation, and she started on the way home. I called the doctor, emailed him a picture of the cut, and he sent us to the emergency room. The Wife came home, fed the baby, and threw Little Bear into the car. At the hospital, they "fast-tracked" him, numbed the area with some cream (we know all about that, don't we?), put in two stitches, and bandaged it up. They were home within three hours. Not too bad!

Little Bear is really quite a good patient. He understands far more than he should, as a two year old. I sat him down before he left and asked him, "Little Bear, we need to take you to the hospital to have a doctor look at your cut chin. It is probably going to hurt a little bit, and it's going to be scary. Do you want Mum or Daddy to take you?" He thought about it, looked at each one of us, and asked for Mum. No worries, there; Little Bear has always been hers. The only trick, from this point forwards, will be keeping a bandage on the wound and preventing him from picking the stitches out.

The interesting thing? He was angrier that Mum wouldn't let him wander around the emergency room floor than he was at being poked, prodded, and sewn back together. He's a tough kid with a huge stubborn streak.

So, that was our eventful Sunday afternoon. Certainly not boring, even though it was exhausting!

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Sunday, March 25, 2012

In Stitches...

Little Bear is with The Wife in the emergency room, getting a few stitches in his chin. Poor thing took a header off of his brother's bed and, as per usual, lead with his chin.

It's been a rough night for the poor kid. I'll explain later. The remarkable thing is how calmly we handled this. It surely isn't cancer, and it's not the first time we went to the ER. Sigh.

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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Role Reversal

Yesterday, when I got home from work, The Boy decided that he was in the mood for some role playing. For most of the night, he was Daddy and I was The Boy. He had fun "ordering" me around to do the things that he's normally supposed to do. Ironically, he wouldn't receive the same orders, so I didn't get to go to bed at 8:30 and let him handle the Pittsburgh City Taxes and balancing the Quicken accounts.

That's probably just as well. He adds single digit numbers correctly, but he doesn't do decimals well at all.

The remarkably entertaining part came at bedtime, when The Wife was handling Little Bear and The Baby while I was handling The Boy. I crawled into his side of his bed, he sat where I normally do. I put my head on his chest, stuck my thumb in my mouth, and let him read to some some "Elephant and Piggie" books by Mo Willems. He did really, really well; while there is a significant amount of memory-reading, he does recognize words and is able to correct himself as he's going along. He read three whole books to me, with no uncorrected reading mistakes! Afterwards, we switched back to normal sides, and watched "The Night Kitchen." Granted, he took a solid hour to fall asleep, which included four trips to the bathroom or to get water or to read. When he was ready for me to go, he said, "Okay, now I'll be The Boy again, and you can be Daddy."

We had a marvelous 90 minutes outside last night. In Pittsburgh, right now, we're enjoying a week of sun and high 70's temperatures. It's marvelous. We went outside after dinner and played for a long, long time while Mom was teaching her lesson. The most fun part was the taking turns for piggyback rides: I'd sit at the end of the slide, a boy would slide down the slide and grab on, and we would run around the yard and back to the slide ladder. Then the next boy got his turn. The Boy also drew a very nice picture for me, which he labeled "For The Boy, From Daddy," because he was Daddy at that point and I was The Boy.

Tonight, we're having dinner at a friend's house. This particular friend is a classmate of The Boy's, and they are moving into a house right around the corner from Grandma's house. This kid also loves Batman, almost as much as The Boy does. That's pretty cool. Apparently, they play Batman and Robin at school together, with some of the other kids being bad guys.

Gave The Boy a pop quiz this morning: name 3 members of the Legion of Doom from the 1970's Superfriends cartoon. He named Luthor, Gorilla Grod, and Toyman. That's pretty good.


Monday night, The Wife made a valiant attempt to put The Baby in his crib to sleep. After the child screamed bloody murder for about fifteen or twnety minutes, I asked her to stop. We certainly want him to sleep on his own, but neither one of us is willing to sacrifice the intimacy that we've developed with him. Kudos to her, because she lasted a lot longer than I would have. THAT TONE of screaming is one that I can't resist and never have been able to resist.

It's a really difficult juggling act. The fact that The Baby will only sleep on a person, and will only be put to sleep by Mom or a bottle, is incredibly inconvenient and challenging. It limits the amount of "adult time" after the kids go to bed that The Wife or I can enjoy - not just things like playing snugglebunnies, but things like folding laundry, cleaning the house, washing dishes, and paying bills. We've finally gotten to a point with the older two that they are consistently in bed at a reasonable hour, and it would be nice to be able to reclaim a little bit of adult time.

I mean, I am certainly a proponent of a family bed. I'm used to waking up under a pile of little boys, and I would gleefully welcome Little Bear with us, if he would have it. (He wouldn't. He needs his sleepy space. I still do remember and love the night I spent with him a couple of months ago, when he was having bad dreams.) Our bed isn't really big enough for four people, but we find a way to make it work. When we get into our new house, we're going to get a king bed for that precise reason. I have been known, on a reasonably regular basis, to put The Boy to bed, stay in with him to snuggle for a little while, and wake up at 3AM realizing that I'm not in my own bed yet.

The Wife merely shakes her head at me when that happens. "You want to sleep in a twin bed with a 4 year old, go right ahead."

I've worked my way through "The No-Tears Sleep Solution," which almost but doesn't quite apply yet. As much as I hate to say it, it is going to take some work from me to get us through this. I'm going to have to start putting the little one to bed more often, so that he gets used to someone besides Mom putting him down. When he's sleeping, when he wakes, he will frequently go back to sleep on me, but the initial sleep period doesn't necessarily happen without Mom.

And, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow morning, when Mom leaves for work at 6AM or so. It's hard to keep the little thing asleep long enough to get done what I need to get done (namely, sleep).

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Monday, March 19, 2012

Friday Night Shabbat

Yesterday was a fairly awful parenting day for me.

The Wife wanted to take us to a special service at Rodef Shalom last night. This particular service is short on the praying, long on the singing: the entire service consists of songs. The boys have been doing a lot of Jewish song singing around the house for the past couple of weeks, so she figured that that would be a perfect way to spend an hour. I got home from work at 5:15, had some dinner, did the potty visits with boys, wrestled them into shoes, and got ready to throw them in the car. Little Bear needed a change of pants - a poo accident, the third in two days - which delayed us. We arrive at temple around 5 after 6, after they had already begun.

Strike against us: no other children there at all. I noticed that immediately, but what are you going to do? You're there. You're not going to throw them back in the car and head home because you've got the only kids.

The first half hour went perfectly fine. I held The Baby, and he and The Boy were quite content to sit on my lap and listen or sing occasionally. Little Bear was a little squirrelly, as per usual, but he was happy to be with Mom. At the half hour mark, things started to disintegrate.

Potty trip for Little Bear, followed by The Boy running away from us in the sanctuary. The Baby started to cry - needed milk - and The Wife took him inside the baby room to nurse. Little Bear started a screaming fit, so he was deposited into the baby room three minutes later. The Boy was uncooperative when back in the sanctuary, talking loudly and complaining. The Wife came back with the other two boys, and The Boy took off and ran into the hallway. While I was gone chasing after him, Little Bear threw another screaming fit. To make matters better (sarcasm), I had just calmed The Boy down by allowing him to promise, "I'll cooperate, Daddy. I want cookies and lemonade." When I got back to the rest of the family, The Wife was dragging them out of the sanctuary and towards the car. She was done.

My issue: we did not put the children in a position to succeed last night. We left the door wide open for them to choose misbehavior, instead of putting them in a position to choose positive behaviors. Basically, by handling things the way that we did, we left a high probability for a negative outcome and next to no chance for a positive one. The question is, what could we have changed?

Here's the bottom line: when the kids outnumber us, there is essentially no chance for us to do something like this as a whole family. In a situation that requires attention and behavior from each child equally, one of two things must happen: 1) they must be at an age where they can either control themselves or supervise themselves for that time period, or 2) they must have a caretaker (adult or sibling) that is capable of meeting their needs on an individual basis. We were trying to play zone defense on small children with no self-control in an environment where people need to be quiet and attentive.

We didn't have a chance.

Thinking about it, it probably would have been smarter to have sent The Wife with only one of the boys. Or, we should have done something like leave one of the boys with a friend for an hour, to make the ratio somewhat more acceptable. Failing that, we should have removed The Baby and one of the boys from the sanctuary when they started to fuss. If we needed to switch boys somewhat after that, that's a different story. I mean, for the Purim reading, Little Bear was active for five minutes and sat quietly for the rest. The Boy was quiet for five minutes and ran around for the rest.

That failure kind of set the tone for the rest of the evening, although we had a very pleasant half hour or so of outside play when we got home. Bath and bedtime went relatively smoothly, although it's very difficult to manage The Baby at bedtime. He's forgotten how to suck his thumb, so his pacifier is - you guessed it - Mom. Or milk in a bottle. I know that this will pass and that he will develop some of his own soothing habits, but it makes it challenging right now. I'm looking forwards to the time when we can put him down and have a reasonable expectation of a couple of hours' sleep in his own bed.

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Friday, March 16, 2012


Last night, from upstairs, there was a solid thunk-sound of a body hitting the floor, following immediately by screaming. On my way upstairs, I heard The Baby (who had been sleeping in our bed) and Little Bear (in his room) both screaming. The Wife took The Baby, and I went in to get Little Bear. He had fallen out of bed (The Baby was just grumpy that he wasn't sleeping on someone at that moment) and was upset about it. I picked him up to give him hugs before a big gush of blood fell out of his mouth onto the floor.

Before The Boy got cancer, I remember how freaked out I used to get at the sight of bodily fluids. If The Boy cut himself, I kind of panicked a little bit. Not excessively so - I've been trained in First Aid and CPR for decades - but I wasn't as calm and collected as I've been. Not anymore. After needles at home, port accesses, several surgeries, an enema or three, ripped IV tubes spewing chemotherapy, and other horrifying things, a little bit of blood is not a big deal. Unfortunate, but not stress-worthy.

I got a washcloth, cleaned him up as best I could, and found a split lip that was roughly the size of the rest of his head. Side note: he's got a really tiny head and a little face. He's a big kid, particularly compared with other kids his age, but it's easy to forget that he's still a little, little boy. The Boy always had a huge noggin - takes after me, who has a hat size on the far end of bell curve - but not so much, Little Bear. But, I digress.

I checked out the split lip, and it wasn't actively bleeding at that point. The Wife got him some Tylenol, which calmed him down, and he was back asleep before I tucked him back into bed. Then, I went back downstairs and wrestled with my technology some more.

Earlier in the day, Little Bear and I went out to the Apple Store - my computer's OS crashed, and they did a hard reboot. I'm glad I keep everything double backed up! He was very good, particularly because they have all those wonderful toys there. He's a little bit too little to manipulate the mouse on the iMacs, but he was trying. He just doesn't have the fine motor control yet. He got a little squirrely while I was talking with the repairman, but while they were formatting the drive I took him next door to the coffee shop to get a drink and a brownie. That made everything better.

He really is a good boy, our Little Bear. He is quite affectionate, even though he doesn't like the sit-and-snuggle and sleep-and-snuggle that his brothers do. It's just different, and I can appreciate that. He likes saying, "I love you, Daddy!", which is always fine by me, and he's usually the first one to greet me when I get home from work. He listens, most of the time, even though he does have the disturbing tendency to drink his bathwater.

Yesterday afternoon, after the Apple Store, he snuck outside while I was taking out the garbage and played in the playhouse outside. We didn't notice it for about ten minutes, although we did spend 5 of those 10 minutes searching inside the house for him. Sigh. A bear of very little brain, indeed!

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Thursday, March 15, 2012


In this kind of weather, there is nothing else to do except go outside and play. This has been an exceptionally mild winter, particularly for the Pittsburgh region, with only a couple of days with actual snow falling. That wasn't ideal, particularly since at least one son is old enough to spend some decent time sledding. We might get one more snow fall in the next couple of weeks, which would be really nice for the purposes of sledding. There's a couple of really awesome hills in some of the parks that I know they'll enjoy. Granted, Little Bear will likely only last for a couple of minutes outside - there's just not enough meat on those skinny little bones to keep him warm, regardless of the number of layers.

Yesterday, however, was in the 70's and bright and sunny. There was no way in heck that we could - or should - keep those boys inside. Little Bear had even gone shopping to Staples with Grandma and had chosen sidewalk chalk as a treat, so they had 15 different colors of chalk with which to play! The Boy drew a nice picture of a house, a sunny sky, and a leaf pile, which he labeled, "To Daddy Love The Boy." Little Bear carried around his four favorite colors but didn't feel the need to draw anything. The Baby sat in the swing for most of his outside time. I eventually had to leave to go to chorus rehearsal, but it was a marvelous time outside.

The Boy really, really wants to fly a kite. We have one that might do the job, but there haven't been any decent kite-flying days lately. To be honest, I've never actually had a successful kite flying in my life, but there is a first time for everything. Any suggestions from my friends?

I am looking forward to this summer. Our Give Kids The World pass does let us get into the amusements parks without paying admission, and I do have the flexibility to leave at 2PM. That lets me get home after naptime, which means a nice 3-6 time period at water slides or 4-8 time period at Kennywood. He might even be old enough to go on some other rides! I have a feeling that this might be the best summer that we've ever had, particularly if The Baby learns to walk quickly enough to be able to utilize Kiddyland at Kennywood.

Mandy usually comes Tuesday nights to babysit the kids while I'm at chorus and The Wife is at orchestra. She's coming today because she wasn't able to come yesterday, which means that we have an extra babysitter while The Wife is teaching lessons. I might go home then, steal Little Bear, and take him to the comic book store, playground, pizza... I think it would be fun. He doesn't get a lot of extra attention, and I do enjoy spending time with him.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Scans, Joy

Yesterday's scans went quite well, by all accounts. The Boy was well-behaved and cooperative during all of his doctor visits, and The Baby was a big hit with the nurses. The Boy watched "Little Bear" on the iPod while he waited for his turn, as per usual. Side note: I will be interested to see where his interests develop as he gets older. Considering that we really only turn on the television when we're watching a show, I'm hoping he will soon be transitioning to carrying books around with him more often. Then again, it's more likely that he's reading books off of the iPad.

After the ultrasound, they left the hospital for a couple of hours and kept a normal Monday schedule. The Boy went back to the hospital, without his brothers, for the oncology and nephrology appointments. I had sent The Wife a text message to advise Dr. Graves about a new favorite game on my iPhone. His response: "Tell Musical Daddy that he still owes me several months of my life for getting me hooked on Plants Vs. Zombies." That's pretty funny.

Three weeks from now, it will be the second anniversary of Dr. Graves finding us in the lobby of the hospital, where The Boy and I were just enjoying a little carnival being presented by students from one of the local universities. "Go home," he told us. "You're done."

Wow. I'm actually kind of tearing up just thinking about it. All right, this is a little too maudlin. So, here's a picture of The Boy and Little Bear wrestling:

My wife said a very, very awesome thing to me last night: "You deal with the children with such joy." That's about as high a compliment as is possible, as far as I'm concerned. This is a very deliberate choice that I make, and it colors how I deal many situations. For instance, last night, Little Bear was in the middle of a reasonably major meltdown caused by no nap during the afternoon. Little Bear was standing at the top of the stairs in full-blown "scream at Mom" mode. She wanted him to go to the potty, and he did not want to go. So, I picked him up and cradled him, and said, "Okay, Little Bear, time to go potty!" I held him over the sink. "Is this the potty?" I held him over the chair in the bathroom. "Is this the potty?" By this point, he was laughing. I held him over the tub, "Is THIS the potty?" I held him over the toilet. "Is THIS the potty?" At this point, he had forgotten why he was mad, and he did his business, washed his hands, and ran out to play with something.

Of course the children know how to push our buttons. They're our kids, and they know us just as well as we know them. I'm not around them for 10 hours out of every day, minimum, which means that they have less opportunities to push my buttons. It's a lot easier for me than for my wife to reframe their actions into a positive and fun manner, because I don't have a full day's worth of baggage affecting the outcomes. On the weekends, when I'm around them for the full day, it's definitely easier for her to deal with the evening shenanigans.

On an entirely different note, The Baby's top front teeth just started to poke through, and the bottom teeth around the front ones are popping up. He's very drooly, as you'd expect. This morning, he was playing on our bed, and pulling aside a blanket revealed a small television remote control. His eyes grew wide, and he dropped the blanket and lunged for the remote.

Typical male.

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Sigh of Relief

No Evidence of Disease. Oncology is done, on to nephrology. Here's a picture of The Boy enjoying a victory Cheese Sandwich.

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Weekend Update

This weekend, The Wife had a performance at the religious services on Friday night, then again on Saturday morning, then an orchestra performance Saturday night, teaching Hebrew school Sunday morning, and a quartet (her side project - bass, two violins, and a French horn) performance Sunday night. Particularly considering what her schedule has been, this was an insanely busy weekend for her. To make matters more complicated, I was gone Friday from 4 until Saturday at 8:30PM, then again on Sunday from early until lunchtime, because my chorus had their annual retreat to work on contest things. Kudos and thanks go out to Grandma and Grandpa and to the babysitter, Andrew, who actually convinced The Baby to sleep in his crib Saturday evening.

It's a weird dynamic when one parent is gone during a time that they are normally present. It throws everybody off. From the conversations with my wife, the days while I'm at work actually go fairly smoothly: get them dressed and fed, get the older two to preschool, morning activity or errands, pick them up from preschool, naptime, playtime, Daddy is home. That's not to say it's easy; please don't misunderstand. It's routine, which provides a level of comfort for all of us. On the weekends, when they don't have school, being absent makes things considerably more difficult.

The Boy's behavior was kind of erratic for us. Granted, I mostly saw him at bedtime, when he is inconsistent at best, but that did not go particularly well either night. He threw some unpredictable tantrums, was not cooperative, did some running away, that sort of thing. On Saturday and Sunday nights, he stayed awake long past the time we finished stories and snuggling and talking. I'd like to blame the time change, except that he did the same thing before the time change. The good thing is, he doesn't misbehave or destroy things during that time; he sits and reads his books, or plays with toys, or does a puzzle, or makes trips to the potty. I kind of shrug my shoulders at this; if he's anything like me (and, poor kid, he seems to be quite a bit like me), then he will spend many a sleepless night curled up with a book, powering through his favorites.

Today is his appointment for ultrasounds, oncology, and nephrology (scans, cancer doctor, kidney doctor). I'm not particularly worried, but I'm terrified, you know? Every little thing turns into a big deal when you're recovering from cancer. Is a pee accident a symptom of kidney deterioration? Is a bellyache a new tumor? Is a headache a new symptom of spread? My wife the wizard managed to get the ultrasound appointment for 9:10 this morning, which means that she can drop Little Bear off at school, then take The Boy to his appointment in one fell swoop. In addition, he doesn't need to be NPO until the afternoon, which is always a bonus, although we might be at the stage where he can limit himself to complaining about it instead of bolting for the kitchen every chance he gets.

Should be an interesting day. I'll keep you informed.

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Friday, March 9, 2012

Temper, Temper!

Last night's Purim service, the children's reading of the Magillah, was kind of a surprise, but kind of not a surprise, when it came to our children's span of attention. There was no children's Magillah at Rodef, where our preschool is, so we went to Grandma & Grandpa's temple, Beth Sholom. The reading was held in a ballroom downstairs, and there were many, many people there of all ages, with bright and shiny costumes of varying types. The boys were in their Spider-Man costumes again. There was also a video presentation - basically, a Powerpoint presentation with the readings in Hebrew and English - and a live band providing incidental music and playing along with the folk songs. The end of the reading had hamantaschen, the 3-pointed cookie specific to Purim.

It started a little rough, but not appreciably. The Boy went with his mother and The Baby, and they found a seat near the front. Some of the other kids were gathered around some noisemakers and drums in the middle of the floor, and he joined the throng. Little Bear decided that he liked the new place and wanted to explore - particularly the elevator by the front door. Knowing what he'd find, I followed him up the elevator. The second floor - the only other elevator stop - was pitch black. He took two steps out, freaked out a little bit, then latched a deathgrip onto my legs until I lit the hallway with my telephone and he could hit the elevator button again. He then went to the potty (his other favorite exploration besides an elevator). When Grandma and Grandpa got there, he walked around the other end of the temple with Grandpa. He settled down after a little while, and he watched the majority of the reading sitting in a chair, shaking his noisemaker at the appropriate points and singing the songs that he knew.

The Boy, on the other hand, never settled down after that initial period of musical instrument exploration. He decided to explore the upstairs a little bit, at least as far as his courage would allow him to venture into the darkness (farther than I would, naturally). After that, he found some of the indoor climbing toys that are used by the temple's preschool and played on those for an hour, much of it with a little girl around Little Bear's age (but half his size). It was a little annoying, but - considering my attention span when it comes to religious services - not as bad as it could have been.

The interesting thing, as far as I was concerned, was in the idle small talk I had with the little girl's mother. She was talking about how the girl related to her older brother. I found her choice of words interesting: "Yesterday was one of those days where she just, well, ruined everything. She ruined the picture he was coloring. She ruined dinner by throwing a tantrum. She ruined blah blah blah." I didn't hear the rest because I kind of stopped paying attention at that point. It was one of those moments where I made the unconscious decision of, "If I talk parenting with her, I'm going to wind up getting in a fight, so just nod my head and smile."

Think of the word "ruin" for a second. What does that mean? That's a pretty extreme word. The connotations, to me, say that the child destroyed something beyond repair. The ruins of Rome, the ruins of ancient Greece, the ruins of ancient Egypt... that's what the word "ruin" means to me. How can a 2.5 year old child "ruin" something? How does a tantrum during dinner "ruin" dinner? Does that affect your ability to eat? It might affect conversation, but that's relatively easily solved: move the child out into the hallway or up into their room. When they come wandering back, if they're still screaming, move them back outside into the hallway. Rinse, lather, and repeat. When they're calm, welcome them back with hugs and kisses.

It is true that the little ones love to get into everything. It is true, also, that younger siblings want any attention, positive or negative, from their older siblings. But, ruining coloring? How about, just for the sake of argument, moving the small child to a different activity? Giving them a toy? Giving them some paper and crayons of their own, and a chair next to her big brother? Again, ruining is kind of a harsh word. Little Bear loves to "ruin" The Boy's iPad time by trying to steal the iPad or by standing behind The Boy and whacking him in the head. If they can't resolve it quickly (I'm actually kind of waiting for The Boy to stand up and paste him one, one of these days), then the nearest adult grabs Little Bear and gives him a book or a toy or something like that.

I'm saddened and disappointed by hearing the mother describe her toddler's activities as ruinous, when I know darn well that it is, ultimately, a colossal failure of leadership. Children demand and deserve flexibility; rigid responses are not compatible with small children. It is true that some health and safety issues are rigid: can't drink the stuff under the sink, period; can't take Daddy's medicines, period; can't run out into the street, period. Aside from that, very little needs to be rigid. If there's a family heirloom out in the middle of floor, and it's breakable, then you need to monitor it and the children continuously, or you need to move it into a more secure location. If a kid doesn't want to eat dinner right then, that's fine. It doesn't ruin your dinner, but be proactive and turn off the television, computer, iPad, whatever they're using. (If a kid is going to read and doesn't feel like eating, I don't really have a problem with that. They're not getting a crappy snack later, though.)

Cancer ruins a family's day. Temper tantrums are a mild annoyance.

Words mean something, even at a young age. It's taken me a lot of years and a lot of teaching to figure it out. When you're angry, it's easy to lash out and throw hurtful words at those you love. All of us do it, and nobody can push our buttons more than our immediate family. When you're using words like that to describe your kid's daily behaviors - particularly when the behavior is age appropriate, like food-related tantrums and pestering an older brother - then there's a greater issue at stake.

Hmm. My original intention was not to attack a stranger's parenting abilities or styles based on a sentence uttered during small talk at a public event. I guess the whole concept is that you have to be careful with the words that you choose.

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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Playing Baseball

Tuesday, I got home from work early, around 2:30. Since I’m only scheduled to work until 2, most days I choose to work until 4:30 or so. Overtime is a good thing. Tuesday nights, I have my chorus rehearsal. If I can get home and rest and spend time with my family, then I’m generally a better chorus director: more relaxed, more patient, more energetic. I snuck in the door at 2:30 to find my wife asleep under a pile of small boys. I grabbed one of the boys to use as a blanket and settled in for a nice hour’s nap.

The previous evening was a difficult evening for The Boy, bedtime-wise. I’m not sure that he was tired when we settled him into bed, and he did not use the excess of energy wisely. I was three steps past exhausted, and my plans for the evening included putting him to bed, listen to some soft music while reading a few comic books, and have lights out before 9:30. The Boy was having none of it, and I wound up playing whack-a-mole with him for the

better part of an hour.

Finally, at about 9:45, I got frustrated with him, and I told him (not too nicely), “Look, The Boy, Daddy REALLY wants to go to sleep. All I want to do is to read a stupid comic book and go to bed. I don’t care if you want to stay up all night; just don’t keep me up at the same time.” He seemed somewhat cowed by that, and he agreed to stay in bed. I settled into bed (no soft music so I could hear the pitter-pat of little feet earlier), and opened up the comic that I started four times that evening. Five minutes later, a little face peeked into my bedroom, said, “Daddy, you really should turn out the light and go to sleep,” closed the door and retreated back to his room. Stinker.

But, I digress.

Tuesday afternoon, we all wound up waking from our naps at around 3:30, when The Wife had a violin student come by the house. I got everyone to the potty without incident, got them dressed and downstairs, and left the baby with the student’s mother while I went outside with the two boys. We were outside until about 4:30 or so, enjoying a brief warm spell in the Western PA winter. The Boy has been interested in hitting balls with bats lately, which is an interest that I’m happy to feed. I threw him modified batting practice for a while.

I say modified, because, while I’m trying to teach him a lefty swing, he will also swing at the balls righty, straight up, and straight down. He’s considerably more interested in seeing where the ball goes than he is interested in developing a smooth, Don Mattingly-esque swing. That’s fine. For his physical development, considering his difficulties, hand-eye coordination of any sort is important. Besides, it’s more fun sometimes to hit the ball straight up in the air! Before he went inside, he did draw a picture on the sidewalk of a house, a leaf pile, and the sun and clouds in the sky, with the label, “To Daddy Love The Boy.”

Little Bear, meanwhile, contented himself with stealing a ball from our game, drawing with different colors of chalk, demanding horsey rides, and taking the occasional turn at bat. He did, however, draw his brother’s name in clear print on the sidewalk. The “V” looks more like a “U”, but it’s still pretty darn good for a 2.7 year old. He is still very much entertained by having multiple colors of chalk in his possession at any one time. He says, “Daddy, I want colors!” The Boy is learning how to negotiate with that – he will hand Little Bear a different colored piece of chalk to get the color that he needs, which keeps everybody happy. Oh, and it looks like Little Bear is over his strawberry allergy – he ate a handful of strawberries the other night at the tot Shabbot dinner and never got a rash.

The Baby still keep chugging along. He may be fat. He loves bananas, and he just started eating oatmeal at breakfast time. That’s not as tasty as bananas. He, also, is the happiest, smile-est baby that I’ve ever seen.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012


This past weekend was the Purim festival at Rodef Sholom, and I was – again – struck by the difference that a year makes. Purim, if you’ll remember, is the Jewish holiday based around the story of Esther saving the Jews in Egypt from Haman. If I’m not mistaken, it’s also one of the few large-scale Biblical stories that does not feature G-d’s direct involvement, and it’s a holiday that is, essentially, a fun one.

At Rodef, they have a great little carnival for the kids. They’ve got carnival games, like dart throwing, the bowling ball roll-over-the-hill thing, pick the duck out of the water, lollypop tree, etc., all of which wins you tickets. You can use tickets to win prizes, most of which are the usual carnival stuff that’s immense amounts of fun for the thirty seconds after you get home before you break it.

Last year, The Boy had been out of treatment for less than a year. He had been in preschool there for three months, and the whole concept of “waiting in line” was foreign to him. Little Bear was one and a half, and waiting in line was simply nonexistent. We dressed them up as Iron Man and Spider Man, I think, and the festival was very overwhelming for them.

This year, The Boy was quite firm in what he wanted to do, and he was willing to wait in line to get it. He understood that the wait was worth the payoff, and we went around the entire festival and played every game once. He actually won a handful of skill games all by himself – knocking over some cans with a ball, catching a randomly falling device, throwing a beanbag through the “monster’s” mouth! He and I together won the rolling the bowling ball thing, which is a first for me in many years of trying. He tried a couple of times, but he couldn’t actually get the ball over the first hill. I helped him give a little push, and it was pretty awesome!

Evidence of the change in interests: last year, The Boy spent a solid 25 minutes playing with the little plastic duck pond. He wasn’t so much interested in playing the game and winning tickets as much as he was interested in pushing the ducks around the pond. This year? Walked up, pushed the ducks around for a few seconds, picked the duck up, took his tickets, and moved on to the next booth, which was – coincidentally – Sno-cones.

Little Bear was somewhat less interested in playing the games and quite interested in jumping in the bouncy house. He was not quite understanding the concept of “wait your turn” with that, which did cause some issues. There really isn’t anything much cuter than a 2 year old in a bounce house! Little Bear is quite the bouncing baby boy as it is, and anything that helps him ACTUALLY bounce…..

That’s not to say that he didn’t play any games. He did, enough to win some little plastic knickknacks. The Boy, on the other hand, won 47 tickets and took home one of those little “wood” dinosaur models. He and I will put that together this weekend, once I’m home from my chorus retreat.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fire Hose

Two nights ago, The Boy joined us somewhere between 2 and 3AM, as is his wont. He did what he usually does – goes to the bathroom, throw his night diaper into the trash (we’ve already lost about $75 in night diapers that we didn’t catch before the garbage was collected, despite training him to NOT throw it away), use the potty, and come in and snuggle with us. Around 5:30, he… well, to spare you the visual, I’ll just say that he managed to hose down me, The Wife, The Baby, my pillow, and the entire sheet set. None of us were pleased, to say the least, but that is kind of par for the course with young children. It’s not the first time I’ve been peed on, and it probably won’t be the last.

What wound up making this a little bit different was that this wasn’t the first pee accident he’s had over the past few days. He’d had a couple of little pee accidents at home and at school, in times and areas that he doesn’t normally have accidents. And, when you have a kid with one kidney and an interesting medical history who seems to be having urinary issues, you respond quickly.

He went to the doctor today, and the urine sample that he provided showed no immediate answers. They sent a bit of that to the lab to see if a culture forms. We’ll find out in a couple of days. We’re not all that concerned – it’s likely just a minor infection – but nothing is minor when you’re a cancer survivor.

From the “Learning From Your Mistakes” file, I did have an extra night diaper set aside for him, and when he joined us this morning, I put a new night diaper on him. I also had to say the sentence, “The Boy, please don’t drink the syrup out of the bottle,” over breakfast, but that’s another story entirely.

On the other hand, he had an eye exam today, and he apparently really enjoyed reading the letters wearing the funny glasses. I like our eye doctor – he’s apparently a friend of a friend or something like that, and he’s a nice guy that seems to be competent and knowledgeable. The Boy’s eyes came through fine, so he doesn’t need glasses (yet).

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