Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interactivity

The manner in which you interact with your children is important. The actions that you choose on a daily basis, the speech patterns you use, the thought patterns you use, and the choices you make are all imprinted on your children. There's no "they'll understand, they're my kids." When you treat them a certain way, that's the way that they respond.

Point of shame, for me: twice, over the weekend, Little Bear told me, "Put the iPhone in your pocket and play with me!" True, one of them was giving a status update to Mum about our plans. However, that's not what he sees. What he sees is his Daddy NOT playing with him, but playing with his iPhone. I'm kind of ashamed of that. After all, the kids are only young once, and there's a short window where they actually want to play with their parents. Soon enough, it's school and friends and friends and significant others... I'm going to try to make the New Year's Resolution of keeping my phone in my pocket when I'm with the boys, except to A) take cute pictures, and B) check baseball scores.

One must have priorities.

The Boy is a champ when it comes to taking speech cues from me and the family and from television. This week, he's started saying, "Yes, sir!" to inquiries and requests I make. He's very proud of himself, that he's made that speech change. I'm proud of that, as well. The Wife and I really strive to keep a positive and polite manner with the children at all times, and that shows because our children tend to be polite and positive when around other people.

Don't get me wrong, they have their moments. We do, too. Yesterday, for instance, The Wife freaked out on The Boy. He was sitting on the potty, playing with The Baby's nystatin cream that we had just gotten. Here's what I like about that: The Wife and I had a conversation about it, and the focus of the conversation wasn't "He is so bad!" or anything like that. It was, how can we avoid that situation in the future? Ultimately, children are children. If they weren't short sighted and somewhat irresponsible, they wouldn't be children. It is our job, as adults, to set an environment that allows them to learn responsibility and to learn how to think ahead. Their failure is sometimes their failure; more often, it's ours.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. We all have a genetic code that underlies our intelligence, our character, and our abilities. However, social scripts and interpersonal relations can be taught and can be relearned. I know that some of my greatest failures as a person and as a professional have been in my interactions with my peers and my supervisors. It's taken me a long, long time to learn to be better at that, and I still have plenty of bad days. I would love to figure out a way to model, for my children, the person that I'd like to be. Does that make sense?

The problem with that sentiment is that it's hard, and my nature is to respond harshly to failure. Changing that response, to acknowledging the progress towards goal even while I take steps to correct the flaws, has been a daily challenge. In the music and artistic world, things tend to be very black or white. That person is better than you, or you're better than them. You're playing the music well, or you're not. You pass an audition, or you don't. It doesn't matter if you are number 2 or number 200. Any flaw in your playing because all-consuming to you, enough that - as a young musician - you lose sleep over it. You obsess over it. You work it through your psyche like sore tooth, by poking at it repeatedly.

I don't want to live that way anymore, so I'm not. I don't want my children to grow up in that environment. I understand that that does come with some side effects; some of the greatest accomplishments in history have been because people have set out to "prove their Daddy wrong," and do great things. Looking at it, that's probably why I initially went into music: because nobody thought I could do it. Long term, they were right, but not for the reasons they suspected. But, I digress.

I want my children to know that I accept them, unconditionally, success or failure. I want them to know that the only requirements are that they try, and that they try hard. Failure is okay; you learn more by failing than you do by succeeding. I will celebrate their successes, whether it's something simple like cleaning up toys or something complicated like potty training or school work. I will comfort them when they fail.

And, it's a much better way to live when we're nicer to each other.



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Monday, April 23, 2012

Houses and Working

The difficulty of having a two-income household, in our situation, is that the two of us are workaholics. We're both really invested in our family, and we're really invested in whatever it is we're doing at the moment. In my case, working in an entry-level position with possibilities for advancement, I'm hustling as much as possible to do what I need to do to advance. This means that an enormous amount of energy is spent at work, and an enormous amount of energy is spent chasing after children at home, which doesn't leave an awful lot of energy for anything else.



This week, The Wife is substitute teaching on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. That's challenging, because caring for three energetic young boys requires a multitude of hands. Not the least of which is the issue that the baby sleeps 98% of the time on his mother, and the other 2% of the time with Grandma. On rare occasions, I can get him to sleep if I walk him around long enough. If he starts to stir, the only one that can put him back to sleep is The Wife. That's a little frustrating for all of us, and we're not entirely sure how to work our way out of it. Making matters worse is the fact that, since his teeth came in, he no longer sucks his thumb.

Hate to mention it - do we give him a pacifier? I mean, his only pacifier right now is the booby or a bottle of milk, although Grandma has some success putting Sesame Street on the television. I'm really, really not thrilled with a tv-watching 9 month old.



So, this means that, once The Wife is up for work, The Baby and I are up as well. If The Boy has joined us during the night (which he does, now, only 5.5 out of 7 nights instead of 7 out of 7 nights), then he's up as well. Considering the day that we have at work, and the fact that it's really important to me to spend time with my kids when they're awake, then the only time I can run is either at 5:15AM (which means up at 5:00), or at 9:15PM. Running at night doesn't work for me.

One thing that is important - not a deal-breaker, but important - is to find a place in a new house to set up the gym. I'd love to be able to run three days per week and lift three days per week. It's a lot of room to devote to my use for only a few hours per week, but I'm hoping that The Wife will also start to exercise with me (or taking turns with me). The boys, I hope, will also want to exercise.



I'm looking forward to having our own place, if for no other reason than to get a better handle on the daily chores. I'm also hoping that the kids will be able to help us take some responsibility with the cleaning with us. In our earlier incarnation, The Wife and I would take a few hours on a weekend together and clean the house. I'd love for that to become a family event, other activities permitting. In our in-laws home, it's been a lot harder to get a handle on things - more people, much, much bigger place that we'll be getting. I know it doesn't get easier, but it is different when it's my place. I'm so thankful that Grandma & Grandpa have a situation where they could take us in; I'm also so thankful that our situation has improved so that we can go house-hunting.

It's really, really nice right now. We're in a situation where we don't HAVE to move right away, but we have the ability to move quickly if we need to do so. If we have to wait for the right time and right price and right place, we can do so; we also can afford to buy someplace and spend some time fixing it up before we move in. I'm pretty happy about that.



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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Question for you...

Does it make me a bad person that I have no sympathy for Little Bear. When The Baby knocks down his structure, like Little Bear does to The Boy?


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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

House Hunting

So, we've started the process of looking for a new home. It's about time, for sure; my in-laws have been incredibly generous, but I'm certain that they want their living room back as well as a little peace and quiet. The Wife has started, today, to look at a couple of different homes. The process will likely include her looking at it, me looking at it, bringing in Dave the Contractor and/or my friends who do the same to look at it, and then figuring out how to pay for it. That's always the trick, isn't it?

Working in the loan industry has given me some idea of how the process works, and I'm not particularly optimistic about getting a decent loan. I haven't been working at this job for quite long enough to show any kind of history, and our outside-of-work stuff is new enough and insecure enough that it likely won't qualify. It'll probably mean loan from "Crappy Interest Rate Bank" for a year or two before I'll qualify for a loan from my bank. The good news is that housing prices and taxes are significantly lower out here than in New Jersey, so we won't be looking at a suffocating payment. Plus, I think I'll be able to ask for a raise soon. I'm pretty darn good at my job.



Little Bear, about a week ago, figured out how to chew gum. He really likes doing it, too. He can also get a decent sound (for a 2-year old) on a trumpet. And, he blows his nose quite well and usually will ask for a tissue. Yesterday, outside, he was drawing b's and d's on the pavement. He drew a capital B with three or four extra humps and said, "That's a silly B!" He and I also sat for twenty minutes on the ground and picked out little rocks that looked like different shapes, challenging each other to find an oval or a rectangle or a trapezoid. He also still loves putting tracks together, although he's moved from train tracks to the car tracks that we inherited from a friend.



The Baby has been in exceptional mood for the past couple of days, a 5AM wakeup this morning notwithstanding. Yesterday, when I got home from work, he heard me and started waving his hands in the air, saying, "Da! Da! Da! Da!" I love how happy babies get - their whole bodies get excited and bouncy with their feelings. Babies show whole-body emotions only. He's been really, really funny at mealtimes lately - he will cry and yell and carry on until food is placed in front of him. He falls silent immediately and starts to feed himself. When the food is gone (or mostly gone, to the point where it's hard for him to pick up), he'll carry on again.

His crawling is getting quite good and more fluid. He's able to go from room to room, and his pincer grip is good enough that it allows him to pick up every single little crumb and bug and schmutz on the ground that he should not be eating.

The Boy has been... well, The Boy. Nothing unusual. He reads far, far better than he should at the age of 4. His latest fun: reading "The Avengers" on my iPad. Marvel Comics has released Captain America, Hulk, and Spider Man stories as iPad apps, all read by Stan Lee. It's glorious! Particularly since they have this fun little minigames in the middle of the stories that makes sure you're paying attention. Batman is still his favorite, but he likes the Superman costume more than the Batman one for whatever reason. Lack of a mask, I suppose.


In short, it's been a remarkably uneventful week.


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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Weeks

The Baby started to crawl forwards, intentionally, earlier this week. Probably on Sunday, maybe on Monday, but it's definitely been within the past week. He doesn't quite have his legs and arms coordinated, yet, but he's definitely making progress. It's quite cute. He hasn't quite figured out the whole pull-himself-up on things, yet, even though he's trying his best to do so. He doesn't quite understand the whole three dimensional world, but that's only a matter of time. I'm looking forward to seeing him explore his surroundings.


People's reactions to that are still kind of interesting. I still get a majority responses of, "Uh-oh! Watch out! You're in trouble now!" Internally, I shake my head about that. How is it a bad thing, to have another mobile child? A little more challenging, maybe. It will definitely require more out-of-my-seat time, but that's not a bad thing. Besides, again, it's not cancer.

The Boy has moved his costume preference from Batman to Superman. Batman is still his favorite, but he's been wearing the Superman costume more often. I'm also supposed to be Lex Luthor, now, and he's been a tad more creative. He loves the whole "super-breath" power, particularly when it "blows" me over onto my back. I use pillows and blankets as kryptonite shields that protect me from the superbreath and let me tackle him. I think he misplaced the Batman costume's utility belt, or he just likes a costume without a mask. I need to find episodes of the Superman Adventures tv show.



Little Bear and I had a nice trip to the comic book store the other day. He really likes going, but mostly because he likes trying to use the rolled-up poster as bludgeons. I'm not too fond of that, so I usually keep him bottled up next to me, which irritates him to no end. He might be taking a break from comic book store trips until he's willing to stay with me.

The Wife was sick yesterday - mastitis, which is a booby infection. Lord knows how that happened, because The Baby spends most of every night attached to one side or the other. I was able to help her quite a bit, as was Grandma - she picked up dinner from Murray Ave Kosher, and the boys and I ran around for the rest of the evening. She felt better this morning, and she'll likely be fine by tomorrow.



Hm. Nice, boring week this week. Nothing particularly exciting happening. Quartet rehearsal tonight. Great rehearsal with my chorus this past Tuesday, with a coaching session this coming week. And, I've used the word "week" four times in this paragraph.


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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Daily Update

Written last week, pre-Passover:

Little Bear is really starting to explore the use of language, putting words and thoughts and concepts together at interesting times. His latest thing is saying, "Daddy, something's wrong!", in order to get my attention and ask him what's wrong. He's took young to understand the whole "Boy Who Cried Worf!" story (you know, the one about the kid who kept claiming to see Klingons - that's a typo that turned out to be funny, so I kept it), so we just have to keep reminding him that he doesn't say that until he needs to say it. The other thing he's doing is started saying, "Oh, Daddy...." when I do something silly, just like we tend to do to him. It's quite cute. His sense of humor and his ability to tell a joke is quite advanced for his age. I'm fairly sure that he's going to be "the funny one" in the family.



We've stolen some Simpsons-ism for normal everyday family use. The latest one is the adoption of the word "Yoink!" when you swipe some food from a family member's plate. Last weekend, at my show, The Boy saw that Little Bear wasn't interested in his hot dog. In appropriate fashion, he reached over, called, "Yoink!", took the hot dog and ate it. It was really, really funny. Little Bear thought so, too, even if he was initially miffed that his brother swiped some of his dinner. Even as late as yesterday, Little Bear said, "The Boy yoinked my hot dog!" That's pretty good memory for a minor event.

The show last weekend did not go particularly well, children-wise. The boys enjoyed the food parts of it and were quite good during the dinner. During the performance part of things, they were not well-behaved. They ran around the room, made noise, talked, etc., eventually culminating in The Wife and I throwing them in the car about ten minutes into the show. I'm not too concerned about it - we understand that some days, your kids are Those Kids. Most of the time they aren't, so I'll take the concept of "regression to the mean" as being a net positive on this one. The best part of our parenting? We didn't get mad, we didn't yell, we didn't treat them harshly. We realized that the situation wasn't tenable and removed them from it.

Last night, we had a short quartet rehearsal with my harmony brigade guys. It was pretty good, all things considered - we sang 10 out of the 11 songs, and only 3 were absolute crash-and-burns. Some of it sounded quite good. The boys were floating around during the rehearsal, doing some listening, making some requests - like Little Bear, asking us to sing "Sweetheart" for him. The Boy asked for some hugs while we were working our last song, and he fell asleep on my shoulder midway through. It was very, very cute. There is something breathtakingly awesome about your baby boy (I know, he's not really a baby - but he'll always be my baby) asleep on your


shoulder.

It was also nice to find out that Tenor Guy's baby also sleeps with them. Hooray, hippy parents

Here's a picture of The Boy, who fell asleep next to me the other night. I got up, he stayed sleeping, and the pillow stayed on top of his head:



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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Passover 2012

The two Passover seders were this past weekend, on Friday night and Saturday night. Friday after work, we packed the kids in the car and made the 4-ish hour drive out to Harrisburg to stay with Aunt M. I find it really, really heartening that the boys love, love, love to see Aunt M - they were talking about it for days beforehand, and The Boy got really frustrated every time we stopped at a rest stop that wasn't her house. Aunt M has a great, big house with a nice yard and lots of toys in the basement and balls in the garage, and she's also just lots of fun. (Baseball fan, too, which is one reason why she's my favorite of The Wife's relatives.)



The seders at her house are beautiful affairs. They spend hours and days and weeks planning, creating, and decorating the house in a different theme each year. Everybody is given a question relating to their personal interests and a portion of the sedar. I don't remember what mine was, mostly because The Wife didn't tell me what it was until it was asked of me. Regardless, each aspect of the seder is discussed and analyzed, and it's impossible to sit at the table and not walk away with a new knowledge and appreciation for how the whole situation resolved itself historically.

The only issue? We are the only family with non-grown children. There were several young married couples or young engaged couples that could be called peers to us (although, on average, ten years younger than me). There were several older couples, whose children were the young married/engaged couples. But, there were no other small children at the seders, and - frankly - that made it quite a bit more difficult for us.



Our kids are really quite well-behaved. They have their moments, of course. All children do. But, for the most part, they sit and eat their meals quite well. Occasionally, they will even consent to sit with us and talk for a little while. But, they are 4 and 2 and 8 months. They don't do four hour seders at this point in their lives. Since this holiday is a really, really big deal for The Wife, I took child duty during the important family events. Friday night, I chased the boys around the house while the seder continued. Occasionally, they'd head back to the table for a few minutes to sing a song or to check in with Mum, but, for the most part, they were playing downstairs in the basement. Little Bear went to bed around 10. The Boy followed soon after. I accidentally fell asleep with him and The Baby, waking enough to hand a crying baby off to Mum and head back to my own bed for the evening.

It's hard for me, too. I'm up at 5:30 every morning to run before work, then spend the evenings after work chasing children. Once they're asleep, I'm usually asleep within a half hour or so. Little Bear turns into a pumpkin, in general, at around 8:30. The Boy tends to pass out within a half hour of that. That makes seders that start at 8:19 (when the sun goes down) kind of problematical for my children's participation. From my perspective, there's very little that I stay awake past 11 for. Even on barbershop weekends with my chorus, when there are definite political & professional reasons to meet people and to talk to people until all hours of the night, I'm in bed at 10 or 10:30. Nights where dinner isn't served until after 10? That's difficult for me.



Don't get me wrong - it's worth it. Definitely worth the attempt. I would just be happier if we could start the whole thing around, say, 4:30; eat at 5:30 or 6:00; finish everything up at 7 or 7:30 and still have time for some more songs and games before bedtime. I do understand the religious necessity of starting things at particular times; I would just rather participate in this with wakeful children.

The next morning, we tried to take the kids to temple after breakfast. They slept in, almost until 8 o'clock, so we got a later start than we would have preferred. We arrived right at the exact wrong time: middle of the Torah reading, heading right into the sermon. That's not a good time for three small children, particularly when, yet again, they were the only small children in the building. (Are we sensing a pattern, here?) After about ten minutes of wrestling with them to try to get them to participate, we left and went home. The hope was that we would arrive at temple in time for them to sing the songs and say the prayers that they've learned. No dice.



At that point, we had about two hours to kill before lunch. We threw the kids in the car and took them to the local JCC, which was about a half mile from Aunt M's house. They have a wonderful, gated-in playground in the back that was open to the public. They ran off some of their energy there, until Little Bear pooped in his pants and necessitated a trip home and a bath. We went to lunch at Cousin J's house. I took the two older boys back to the house for a long, deep nap when they started to turn into pumpkins around 2.

After we all got up, Little Bear and I went on a quest for coffee. I accidentally left my medications at home, which meant that I was running on decongestants, antihistimines, and caffeine all weekend. The entirety of the downtown was closed, so I had to "settle" for Dunkin Donuts, which is always open. I sat outside and drank my coffee, and The Boy sat with me. We talked about nothing in particular, which was nice. The second seder got underway a little bit later than the first. The Baby fell asleep on my lap about twenty minutes before the seder started. The Boy started crying, "I miss Daddy!", so he came upstairs and rested with the two of us from about 8:30 onwards. It was very cute. The three of us dozed on and off until around 10, when The Baby woke up and needed Mum. I took her downstairs, took Little Bear from her and brought him up to bed, and I read stories to the two boys before putting them to bed.



At that point, I went downstairs. I wasn't particularly hungry - both nights, I snuck some food before the seder started. I sat with The Wife at the table for a little while, but I didn't stay too long. The decongestants and general lateness of the hour sent me to bed in about fifteen or twenty minutes. The next morning, we played around the house for a little while then went to lunch at Cousin J's house. I took The Baby for a nice, long walk in search of coffee, and then I took a nice nap before we headed out for lunch. It was a very nice, albeit late, lunch, and we then packed into the car and had an uneventful drive home. The boys were in bed around 7:30, The Wife was in bed by 8:30, and I was in bed around 9:15.


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Friday, April 6, 2012

Happy Opening Day!

Every year, I like to do my baseball predictions. As always, predictions are woefully random and inaccurate, but it is fun to do. I've been doing this online since 2006 or so - when I started blogging using Myspace. One year, I accurately predicted the World Series winner - 2009, when the Yankees won. Then again, I've predicted the Yankees to win the World Series every year that I've predicted. I might be a bit of a homer in that regards, because I'm going to do that again this year. Consistency is a virtue...

Last year was an amazing year for baseball. The entire month of September was compelling, culminating in an amazing, wonderful, ecstatic day at the end of the season that had four baseball games happening simultaneously to determine who was going to make the playoffs. Last year was the year for those, like me, that keep checking the score when my team is down by 10 runs, because you never know when a rally is in the works. The Braves and the Red Sox choked away huge leads in disturbingly small amounts of time and in improbable fashions.

From a Yankee standpoint, it was amazing to watch Curtis Granderson all year, returning to the MVP form in 2007. Brett Gardner, in left field, was absolutely artistic in his defensive prowess. He was probably the best defensive player on any position on any team. Derek Jeter got his 3,000th hit in cinematic fashion, with a 5-5 day that included a home run for the magical number. I feel a strong connection with him as a fan - we are the same age (separated by two months), and his first year with the team was the first time I was really able to watch an entire season's worth of baseball. Mariano Rivera was again the G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) in his quiet, dignified, brutally effective manner.

From a Pirates standpoint, it was also an amazing year. Up until July, the Bucs were in contention for first place in the division. They did it with a breakout season from Andrew McCutchen, lucky pitching, and a whole bunch of improbable wins. It was smoke and mirrors - the statistics showed that they wouldn't be able to sustain it for any length of time, but for a while, it seemed magical. Baseball is like that: every once in a while, every once in a blue moon, a team comes out of nowhere, gets Lady Luck to smile upon them, and rides that into the postseason. Unfortunately, their luck ran out in catastrophic fashion, after a 12-inning loss to the Braves caused by a badly, awfully, obviously blown call by the home plate umpire. Following that was an amazing and mystical collapse; they couldn't buy a win in the last two months of the season. Everyone stopped hitting, and everyone stopped pitching, and everyone stopped playing defense. It was two entirely different teams. They wound up with the record that they should have earned, but the way they got their was extraordinary.

This year, the Yankees look... like The Yankees. Barring catastrophic injuries, they're going to make the postseason again. They're really, really good, and they have the payroll to cover any mistakes made by management. Robinson Cano is going to contend for an MVP again. CC Sabathia is likely to throw a million innings again. A-Rod is going to get more back pages than anyone else, and he's probably going to say something stupid. The question marks on the team are the normal ones: how will age affect them? Can they stay healthy? Do they thrive, playing in baseball's toughest division, or do they get beaten down by the great Tampa and Boston and Toronto teams? Ultimately, I still think they'll win more than 95 games, and they're my perennial pick for world series champs.

This year, the Pirates look... like the Pirates. There are question marks about every non-McCutchen player. The rotation looks to be the best in a few years, but the top of the rotation includes the frequently-injured Erik Bedard and the already-injured and rarely effective AJ Burnett, who should thrive outside of the AL East and in a pitcher's park like PNC Park. First base is a giant black hole of suck, Third base is a strong concern, with Pedro Alvarez doing his best impression of a windmill. The corner outfielders hit with no power, and the shortstop and catcher are old and moving to PNC Park from good offensive ballparks. That said, there's the same ray of hope that they had at the beginning of last year: there's upside everywhere. There's upside in Jose Tabata in right field; he's still only 23, when it seems like he's been around forever. There's upside in Neil Walker at second base; plenty of upside in Pedro Alvarez, although it's not looking likely that it'll happen. There's upside in Andrew McCutchen, as weird as that sounds. There's upside in Joel Hanrahan, in the rest of the bullpen, in the other parts of the starting rotation. In the minor leagues, there is a whole bunch of really, really exciting ballplayers. Ultimately, I don't think they're going to win more than 72-73 games, but I think they might be more interesting than my favorite team.

So, for the record, here's my picks. Please feel free to laugh at me in September when I'm way, way, way, way off.

AL East:
Yankees
Tampa (Wild Card)
Boston
Toronto
Baltimore

AL Central:
Detroit
Kansas City
Cleveland
Chicago
Minnesota

AL West:
Texas
Anaheim (Wild Card 2)
Oakland
Seattle

NL East:
Philadelphia
Atlanta
Miami
Washington
New York

NL Central:
St. Louis
Cincinnati (Wild Card)
Milwaukee
Chicago
Pittsburgh
Houston

NL West:
Arizona
San Francisco (Wild Card 2)
Los Angeles
San Diego

World Series: Yankees over San Francisco
AL MVP: Robinson Cano; AL Cy Young: CC Sabathia; Rooke of the Year: Jesus Montero, Seattle

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Anniversary

Sunday was a very, very important anniversary: the anniversary of Dr. Graves telling us, "You're done with treatment. Go home." I remember it quite vividly; we were standing in the atrium, having completed some kidney tests in the morning and spending time outside playing with students from U Pitt. They were hosting a field day for the kids at the hospital, and The Boy was playing some of the games. That is, he was playing with the equipment, but not quite in the manner one would expect. It's all good when you're 2.



We were definitely not expecting it, but when you're involved with a 30-treatment, multi-year chemo regimen that was already going on 20 months, it feels like you're going to spend the rest of your life on chemotherapy. We knew that the end of chemo was in sight; his body was just not regenerating after the rounds of chemo. It was taking 4 and 5 weeks to get his numbers back to acceptable levels, which is right at the border between effective chemo and just pissing off the cancer cells.

(One more shot across the bow at the incompetent care we received at the Valerie Fund: why is it that our oncologist here in Pittsburgh spoke with the originator of the treatment regimen, who encouraged him to adjust the doses to his actual kidney fund? Why were they at the Valerie Fund dead-set on giving The Boy full doses of chemo, no matter what happened? Why did our oncologist here in Pittsburgh actually do the research about what happens to kids who stop after x number of treatments, and they didn't at the Valerie Fund? Epic fail, folks, that could have cost me a child.)



I remember feeling like I had been punched in the gut. I couldn't breathe when Dr. Graves told us to go home. My brain - which is usually pretty quick, I can immodestly say - was absolutely dead and racing at a million miles per hour, both at the same time. No more weeks and months in the hospital? No more trips to get blood? No more seclusion from the rest of humanity for weeks at a time? No more shots given at home by The Wife? A chance to become an actual family again? A chance to reclaim our lives again?

Now, we have three beautiful, vital, energetic young boys. My new career is in its infancy, and things look bright. We're starting to house hunt, and our biggest worries (besides juggling hearing aid batteries) usually consist around Little Bear's potty training and the days when our children are uncooperative.... children. We've made a couple of emergency room visits, but those have been actual emergency room type stuff: cut chin, high fever, constipation. Normal kid stuff.

Man. What a couple of years. Here's to a lifetime more with no Wilms Tumors.


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