Monday, December 23, 2013


I've been playing through Kingdom Hearts again; mostly because, when our Playstation passed away a few months ago, the new Playstation wouldn't take the old saved games. Kingdom Hearts is an older game - 2004 - that combines the Walt Disney universes (Hercules, Tarzan, Alice in Wonderland, Nightmare Before Christmas, et al) with the Final Fantasy universes in a brilliant, fun, chaotic mismash. I finished 100% of the game when it first came out, and I decided to start again because it entertained the children (and The Boy asked). I'm playing on the "hardest" level, because 1) I'm good, and 2) why not?

Most of the time (and I've played for 10 hours over about 8 weeks), I'm playing in front of the children. Being a perfectionist and having less control over my mouth when I'm playing the games, I have a tendency to let slip a "Oh, sh&&," or "Oh, fu&&." This earns me The Look from The Wife; occasionally, The Baby will repeat something that he's heard. We are very careful about not reacting to it, because stimulus = response, and we don't want to encourage it.

Last night, I was playing, and my character died in a particularly unexpected way. "Oh, sh&&," I said, which was repeated promptly by The Baby. About fifteen minutes later, I died again but refrained from commenting.

The Baby looked at the television screen, saw the death picture, and said, "Oh, fu**."

Well, I guess it's a better reaction than throwing the controller across the room.


Tonight, The Boy and Mom are going downtown to see The Nutcracker at the Pittsburgh Ballet. They've been listening to The Nutcracker in the car playlist for a few weeks now; Little Bear has even learned a bit of the march on violin (the dum-da-da-da-dum-dum dum-dum-daaaaaaaa part). Little Bear was offered the opportunity to go but declined. I'm assuming that they're going to go out for dinner on the way to the show, and I'll be meeting 2&3 at Grandma's house. That's cool. If I do, maybe we'll go to the JCC and play in the playroom for a little while - just to get them out of the house. I like the JCC playroom, although for some reason The Baby always thinks we're going to leave him there. Weird.

Still, The Boy is excited about going to see The Nutcracker and going to the ballet. Personally, I'm lukewarm. I enjoy ballet as much as the next guy (ha!), but I'd really rather stay home and play with the other two children. Besides, Mommy rarely gets one-on-one time with the older boys. I missed my normal "playdate" with 2&3 on Sunday morning, when I went singing instead of stayed home with them. We'll see what happens. Maybe the younger two will not have napped and be exhausted by the time I get there; not likely, but possible. The Baby has been resisting his naps lately.


The Baby has been calling The Wife "Mama" lately. At bedtime, if he's irritated with me, he cries, "I want my mama!" "There's my mama!" etc. I think it's interesting. The Boy will occasionally use "Mommy," but I think that's a "that's what everybody at school" does thing.

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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Weekend Update Redux

Well, the battle plan is only good until you actually make contact with the enemy. At that point, things rapidly start to disintegrate as per usual.

Friday night went pretty much exactly as planned. No worries. The snow hadn't started, The Wife joined us after services, and bedtime was easy. Th Baby hadn't napped, and he fell asleep on the car ride back home and never really woke up again until the next morning.

Saturday morning, it was just starting to snow a bit by the time we all left for Mispacha Music, so we had more of a crowd than I expected, frankly. The boys tore around the multipurpose room, turning it into a mini-WWE arena, which we allowed on the condition that it stopped once more friends arrived. The other two families that came brought all boys, which meant that the royal rumble proceeded unabated. Sigh. They sang the songs and played the games, and we made some new friends. It's always good.

The rest of the afternoon went smoothly. We did little else than play video games: Super Smash Brothers and Super Mario Brothers, some Kingdom Hearts, some iPad games. I napped with the baby for a while. The snow continued, changed to rain, back to snow, and finally to ice. We decided that I would stay home with kids, and The Wife would go play the concert. No sense taking two cars out with solid sheets of ice. She loaded Herman into the car, said goodbye, and walked back in the house ten minutes later. The street is solid ice, and the car couldn't make it up. Sigh.

We watched some of the Sing-Off, had dinner. Little Bear had a major meltdown right after dinner, and he was sent upstairs. He crawled into bed and fell asleep; he woke up in time for bath, some stories, and then back to bed. The Wife, at the school book fair, bought easy chapter books of Superman and Phineas & Ferb for the boys, and we made some headway in those. The Baby was still awake late, so I took him downstairs and let The Wife sleep. He fell asleep to the hypnotic music of Pixeljunk Monsters, and I watched game of Thrones before sleeping.

Today, we managed to get up to the top of the hill and do our Sunday stuff as per normal. 1 and 2 are in swimming lessons now, and then we're going to Barnes and Noble to see the chorus from The Boy's school sing. There might be frozen yogurt in our future tonight. We'll see; the boys have been grumpy and mean, and those types of boys don't get treats.

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Weekend Update

This is a relatively uneventful weekend - particularly considering how busy the last couple of weeks have been. Granted, it'll be easier than last weekend, if for no other reason that my health is improving - meaning I won't be out-of-play all weekend. Not that I'm close to 100% yet, thanks for asking; but it's getting better. The cough has a tendency to last for a few weeks once treatment starts, but it's at a low-level for the last couple of weeks. It's just the first week, week and a half that sucks.

Tonight, The Wife is singing at services. I'll pick up the children at Grandma's house. They'll probably already have eaten, which is a minor annoyance; Grandma is the Ultimate Jewish Mother, which means that the children are extremely well-fed. If they cast a hungry look at something, Grandma has a plate of delicious food for them. I like to eat with the family, but the boys are ready to eat dinner before I'm home from work. Whatever - if that's the biggest annoyance with which I deal, then I'm doing fine. I'll eat whatever's left over after the children demolish the plates, throw the kids in the car, and head home. I'm planning on introducing them to Super Smash Brothers tonight, assuming that they're old enough to control the characters. The Wife will be home around bedtime. We will either watch the Sing-Off or a movie.

Tomorrow, The Wife is doing Mispacha Music - it's the Saturday services, specially designed for little, little children and babies. The boys and I will go. They'll sing some songs and play some games, have some fun, and drink juice / coffee (for grownups) and eat muffins. In the afternoon, we have nothing in specific - naptime, I hope, and maybe some playing outside in the snow. Tomorrow night, I'm playing some percussion with The Wife's orchestra at their show, then jetting out early (I'm only on one piece) at heading home to bed. Well, I'm going to bed; she's going to an afterglow for a different show.

Sunday is Sunday School and the JCC Open Gym (for the three of us, Little Bear - The Baby - and me), then the boys and I play while The Wife goes carolling at the VA. The evening and late afternoon are going to be some nice, event-free family time.

I'm looking forward to it. The next weekend is busy, with a trip to Ohio to sing for my bass's mom's church, and then we might be heading to New Jersey for New Year's. We'll see.

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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Santa Claus and Black Eyes

Little Bear - the same boy who so bravely took five stitches in his chin after jumping off the top of the slide at preschool - was playing cusions at Grandma's house on Sunday when he slipped (or so he said), giving himself a black eye. Sigh. Two injuries in the face in the same week? I'm expecting a call from CYF (Children, Youth and Family Services) any day now. This boy needs to learn not to lead with his face.

Side note: the other night, he read the entire book of "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid Of Anything" to me. It wasn't just memorization; when he made a word mistake, I'd point the word out and he'd correct it. There were some words that he was kind of sounding out / slurring through, but it was pretty darn impressive for a 4 year old. I love having smart children.


Yesterday, I took a sick day from work because of asthma issues. Long story short, I wound up meeting The Boy at the bus at the end of his school day; he came off the bus in tears. The kids had been talking about Santa Claus at school that day, and the teacher was talking about her version of the Elf on the Shelf. (If you don't know the elf, look it up. It's kind of cute, but outside the purview of a Jewish family.) It finally hit him yesterday, that Santa Claus wouldn't be coming to his house to bring presents. This was causing a bit of an existential dilemma to The Boy, as he knows he's a generally good kid that SHOULD be getting presents from Santa. The disconnect of not getting Santa presents, as a good kid, because he's Jewish kind of broke his brain for a while.

Santa Claus is firmly my wife's territory. Santa was the hardest bit for me to concede when we decided to raise the kids Jewish, and I've avoided any mention or explanation of Santa. Frankly, I'm still not sure I agree with the decision to remove him from the equation, but if that's the worst objection to raising the kids Jewish (and it probably is), then I can live with it. However, she wasn't there and wouldn't be there for another couple of hours. I'm not going to let that child cry over that.

I got him calmed down by reminding him that, on Channukah, he got presents every night for 8 nights, then he also gets presents from me (and my father) on Christmas Day. He was okay with the quantity of present-giving days over the whole Santa thing. It winds up being a tricky thing - how do you explain Santa in a way that does NOT single him out for being "differently" Jewish? You kind of don't; you wind up telling him, basically, that Christian mommies and daddies tell their kids that to keep presents on Christmas a little bit more magical. And, you tell him that in such a way that he is NOT tempted to ruin Santa Claus for the first kid that's giving him a hard time this month. "Oh, yeah? Well, Santa doesn't exist! It's your mom and dad!"

This, of course, begs the question about how to tell him about Santa (so it calms him down) without ruining the Tooth Fairy. The Wife and I are 95% certain he knows that the tooth fairy is me - okay, the Tooth Fairy brings HIM comic book action figures. The rest of his friends get a buck or so. The trail of bread crumbs is not challenging to follow. He's playing along nicely, partially because it's fun, and (I'm sure) partially because he is sure that the flow of loot will cease once he spills the beans. I'll find out later.


I had some nice The Baby time yesterday afternoon. He was going to go with Little Bear to Grandma's work party, but he had a nasty stomach issue crop up immediately before leaving, so he stayed home with me and my wracking cough. He was grumpy, anyway; I know he would have fallen asleep in the car before it left the driveway. He wouldn't fall asleep while watching an Elmo show, so after that I decided to play Playstation with him on my lap. Pixeljunk Monsters - which has very hypnotic music and simple, fun graphics - wound up knocking him out. He was asleep during the game, the drive to Grandma's, picking The Boy up at the bus stop, and discussing Santa Claus.

I was struck with the rarity, nowadays, of The Baby falling asleep on my chest. He still curls himself into a tight little ball on my lap - the Little Ball of Boy, I like to call it. He's so sweet, and so precious - even though he's a big man now (almost 2 and a half!!!), he's still our little baby. He's still sleeping with us full-time, but he's starting to fall asleep with stories and snuggles instead of just shows and Mom. I realize that these snuggles and these times are fleeting, and once they're gone, they're gone; but I'll enjoy them as much as I can.

We're removing him from the 100% gluten-free diet now; he's only mostly gluten-free at the moment. We still don't want him eating much of it, but we've decided it's more the crazy oils that are giving him the stomach issues. It's helping a bit - he's making poo on the potty once every other day or so, which is a much better average than before.

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Bedtime Redux

Bedtime is evolving into a nice, stable series of routines for the kids. Even The Baby is starting to (finally) level off and adjust to the nighttime thing.

Routines turn out to be a very important thing for the kids. Giving them a clear, unambiguous set of commands and actions to follow allows them a level of comfort and satisfaction as their day begins (or ends, in this case). Morning routines like getting dressed, teeth brushed, hair brushed, and hearing aids in (as appropriate) before heading downstairs has allowed The Wife to keep an organized and forward-moving morning, rather than having to chase the children back upstairs and around the house to get ready to go to school.

Bedtime starts after dinner. The boys practice violin while Daddy cleans the kitchen. After violin, we might have some dessert, depending. We go upstairs for bathtime, and most nights, all three boys go in the tub. The Boy, recently, has decided that he wants his own bath because he's bigger than his brothers. That's fine. The boys pick their pajamas and get dressed, and there is usually some planned chaos-time after bath, where they run around, play with some toys, build some things, chase each other, read books, etc. We don't guide that, just allow it to develop naturally.

Less often than we used to do (by a long shot), we will have family snuggle time in bed while we watch a show. That used to be the primary feature every night; not so much, any more.

When I'm home, I take The Boy and Little Bear into their room for stories. Sometimes, we'll do a story on the iPad - either reading a comic book or one of the books on iBooks. Lately, I've been sending them to the bookshelves in the playroom to pick a book out. This is my preferred option at this point, because it encourages some variety and the rare occasion where they pick an entirely new book. While it's fun to read the same things because of the security they provide, I want to encourage them to read lots of different things.

I sit up in the bed with Little Bear and read his choice, first. When I'm done, I ask him about his day, and he tells me the best thing that happened in school and the best thing that happened after school. I sit down in bed with The Boy next, and read his story and ask the same questions. The Boy still needs and likes a few extra snuggles after storytime; Little Bear just wants to cuddle in his blankets and go to sleep.

The Baby snuggles with Mommy. They'll read a story or watch one of the book-shows (like "Dem Bones" or "Bugs Bugs Bugs" by Bob Barner, through Scholastic), sing some songs, and go to sleep. He doesn't like going to bed for me, and he will resist while The Wife is at home. If she's gone, he doesn't have an issue; if she's around, he won't.

Little Bear seems to be the "sleeper" of the bunch. He enjoys going to bed and will loudly proclaim it: "Daddy, I love going to bed. I love my comfy jammies, and I love my blankets." He definitely takes after my wife in that regard. The Boy is like me - late to bed and early to rise, ready to go. Jury's still out on The Baby.

Bedtime had been getting kind of rough over the summer (when there was no real structure or routine to their days, so there was no structure or routine to their nights) and in September, when we were all trying to adjust to The Wife's new work schedule and the kids' new care schedule. It's definitely straightened itself out. I honestly have no idea how families with two working parents can handle it with little children - although, most of those families are probably not directing a Sweet Adelines chorus, singing in a quartet each, playing in an orchestra, teaching Sunday school, and a lay cantor at their local temple. That's kind of a rough outside-of-work schedule, so trying to cram in 40 more hours of full-time employment with the little kids (who are more time-intensive in terms of direct attention) was hard.

I'm glad that my children have inherited some of my OCD in their attention to the routines.

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Last night was my chorus's holiday party. It was all kinds of awesome, as it is every year: just a nice night, good food, good companionship, some singing, and people saying nice things about each other, to each other. The highlight of the night was the first annual ugly sweater contest. We had three categories: ugliest; most creative; and YIKES! The winner of the YIKES! category:

I'm overwhelmed by the gifts that my chorus gives us every year. Living in a 1-income home, it helps more than I have words to express. We have been so blessed, through the course of our journey, to find people who have helped us in great and small ways. Finding this group of ladies was an incredibly fortunate event, for sure.

Last night was the official (and temporary) breaking of my gluten-free fast, as I had the cajun chicken pasta and a cupcake for dessert. I've been gluten-free since a bit before Halloween, and it's made quite a big difference in my life - digestively, breathing-wise (delayed my normal October attack into December), energy-wise. I could tell a large difference in my energy and feeling last night after eating, and this morning kind of knocked me for a loop with some stomach issues. The food was great - absolutely loved it - but there is a price to be paid afterwards. Oh, well. Back to gluten-free.

I'm kind of lucky in the food regard, as my gluten-free makes things easier but isn't strictly necessary. I don't have an allergy, just a sensitivity. So, if I do choose to break from it - a dinner like last night, the occasional cookie, bread at a religious ceremony - it is something that will bother me for a day or two but not past then. Kind of like if a mildly lactose intolerant person has some ice cream - not fatal, just uncomfortable for a bit. Sometimes it's worth it. Last night definitely was.

The kids have been getting into the gluten free thing, as well. Grandma has been stepping up the plate big time - providing g-f options at meals and trying to find a great cookie recipe. The boys help her make the g-f cookies, which is a treat for all. This morning, The Boy wanted to share frozen waffles for breakfast. We had the gluten-free ones from Trader Joes and the regular ones. He specifically asked for the gluten-free ones.

The Boy, himself, has been on a reasonable health kick lately in terms of his eating. He's been talking about the "My Plate" that they use instead of the food pyramid nowadays. He's trying to figure out the connections between the food he eats and how healthy his "My Plate" is. He's making the connections between calcium (dairy) and bones, protein and muscles, that sort of thing. That's not to say that he doesn't eat his fair, normal share of sweets and things; he is a child, after all. He just is starting to develop a nice understanding between the relationship of food and health.

He's still in line to be tested for the gifted program at school. There's no reason why he hasn't been, other than where his name falls on the list. The interesting thing? The social worker / school psychologist who does the testing is pretty sure that The Boy is the smartest kid in the school. That's nice to hear. I'm not surprised by it - I always was, in my situations, and The Wife has days where she might actually be ahead of me. (Her father and brother are, likely by a half-mile or so.) Genetics, occasionally, is not a harsh mistress.

He and I have a nice time in the mornings together. He wakes up early - not quite as early as me, but not too far off the mark - and we spend the mornings together before I leave for work. It does tend to put a crimp in my normal workout television watching - usually, I watch my shows like "Arrow" and "Revolution" and such, and that's not exactly the best stuff to have a 6-year old watch. However, I can use the morning opportunity to steer the television towards something that he might not otherwise watch. "Okay, we'll watch a little of your program if you'll watch a little of mine." It's just nice to have some pressure-free time together - not rushing to do homework, clean up after dinner, get to bed, going here, going there. Just hang out - talk a bit, or not, eat a bit, or not. Easy intimacy, which is the relationship that I'd like to have with my sons.

When I got home from the party last night (a bit earlier than I usually do from Tuesday rehearsals), The Baby was still awake. He was watching Phineas and Ferb on the iPad, on Grandma's lap. Grandma: "So, The Baby, Daddy's home! Are you going to go say hi to him?" Him: "No, I too busy." Sigh.

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Sunday, December 8, 2013

Anatomy of a Surprise

So, The Wife had a piece premiered by the Edgewood Symphony Orchestra. It's a neat little arrangement of Rock of Ages, a traditional Hannukah-type song that they graciously agreed to perform. The performance went quite well, although I think that the dress rehearsal went somewhat better:

YouTube Video

There were a couple of other cool things that happened as a result of The Wife's piece being performed. The first is that, with the assistance of the conductor, Walter, we had a very cute moment of the three boys running up to give (silk) flowers to their mom after the piece was concluded. The levels involved with that:

1) getting the time to sneak the boys to Michaels to pick some appropriate flowers without arousing suspicion;
2) stopping at Dunkin Donuts on the way home to erase the memory of buying the flowers. The boys talked about donuts when they got to Grandma's house, not flowers. (Daddy level up);
3) figuring out how to get the flowers into the concert hall, while riding in the same car as The Wife, without her knowing. In this case, I hung my hat over the stems sticking out, figuring (correctly) that she wouldn't question why my hat was resting a solid six inches away from the rest of the bag;
4) grabbing Walter in the pre-performance chaos to find out which side of the auditorium in which to sit, so the transition would be easier;
5) having enough adults and coloring books available to keep the kids quiet and well-behaved through the first half of the concert, when they were playing selections from The Messiah;
6) getting the right flower to the right kid, getting them pointed at their to her, then getting them immediately offstage so a cute interlude doesn't become cloying.

Mission successful. She was surprised and pleased.

The other deception involved with the concert: her quartet mates telling her that they had stuff to do and couldn't come to her premiere, then showing up, surprising her, and spending a good chunk of the night at an after party singing. I had a minor hand in that: letting them know that tickets would be available at the door, helping sell the deception by expressing disappointment, then promptly "forgetting" about it so it would be a cute surprise.

The boys were not as well-behaved as I would have preferred, but to be fair, they have been sick and exhausted for a few days, as have I. They played their parts with their normal flair and complete lack of self-awareness (i.e. stage fright). Still, they cooperated getting in the door and to bed at home, allowing The Wife to go to the after party and stay as long as she liked.

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Quick Trip to Children's Hospital

So, yesterday Little Bear jumped off the top of the slide at school, landed funny, and split his chin open. 5 stitches later, he was good to go. This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened, and I'm certain that it will not be the last. I know that my older brother, The Boy's namesake, was the one in the family that was constantly injuring himself doing something stupid, and it looks like Little Bear inherited that part of the Musical genetic code. Sigh.

His teacher was agonized over it. "I should have stopped him!" Yeah, right. As if she had a chance to do that. By the time she would have gotten over there, spoken to him, and had him pause long enough to listen, he would have been in mid-air. It happened just as quickly when I was watching him a couple of years ago, the last time he seriously split his chin open. Granted, this doesn't let her off the hook - next time I see her, I have every intention of opening the conversation with, "So, why are you throwing my kid off of the playground equipment?" I will gleefully bust her chops for a couple years or so.

He was a very good patient - stayed still while they applied the numbing cream ("Daddy, they made my chin go to sleep!"), stayed still while they stitched him up, and did not freak out while they waited. It really helped that The Wife (who took him to Children's Hospital) was not panicking or freaking out - Lord knows that we've been through much, much worse. A cut-up chin and some blood is not going to freak us out.

When I got home, I cuddled him up and asked him about it, and he told me a nice story about the incident and the hospital. I laughed with him a little bit, saying, "If I were you, I wouldn't do that again." He doesn't seem to be affected by it, as he tried repeatedly last night to leap off of the couch. The couch is a little better than the slide, but it isn't ideal with stitches in your chin. He'll be taking standing-up baths, without his brothers, for the next couple of weeks. That's not the worst thing in the world.


The Boy has been waking up earlier and earlier in the morning, to come downstairs and "exercise" with me. He'll sometimes "lift weights" - mimic what I'm doing, with an empty 5-pound dumbbell bar, or something like that, but mostly he wants to watch television with me. It's fun, because he does ask about the exercises and what they do and how they make me stronger. Most of the time, we'll watch Phineas and Ferb, but I've been able to convince him to try other things as well. The 1973 Disney Robin Hood - the one with Robin Hood as the fox and Little John as the bear - has been a big hit recently. That movie was one of my favorites growing up, and I must have watched it 150 times; I'm glad that he's enjoying it as well. It's a little frustrating sometimes, because I want to watch Breaking Bad (and it's not quite appropriate for him), but that's life sometimes.

He's been very calendar-centric lately, as well. "Daddy, we've got 28 more days until the new year!" "Daddy, we've got three more days until Hannukah is over!" "Daddy, there's 22 more days until Christmas!" The school week is a 6-day cycle - so, Monday is day 1, Tuesday is day 2, etc., and the following Monday is day 6, then Tuesday is day 1, etc. This lets them have a reasonable division of extra activities : they have gym days 1, 3, and 5, and art and music the other 3 days. (I know, I know - kids in Kindergarten should have gym and music/art every single day, but that's besides the point. Education in America is entirely broken, and I'm not getting started on that today.) He's been writing "The Morning News" at school every day, which he does on the weekends: sometimes on paper, sometimes on an iPad. He might have a guest post soon.

He lost one of his top front teeth a couple of days ago. The tooth faity dipped into the large well of action figures donated by Uncle B to give him a Mongul action figure - I try to alternate good guys with bad guys, to keep it balanced. Good guys aren't as much fun if they have noone to fight. Best part of that: the tooth fairy forgot the first night, and forgot the second night - fortunately, The Boy was downstairs eating breakfast (rest of the family was asleep) when the tooth fairy visited. Whew. I think he knows the true identity of the tooth fairy at this point, but I'm not saying anything.

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Written Monday

Around Halloween, I re-started my gluten free diet. This is not a particularly new thing for me; I've been on limited gluten for a long time, except since we've moved to Pittsburgh, I've kind of let it slide. (Not coincidentally, my weight's crept back up about 15-20 pounds over the last few years. I'm not sad about that; with all the weightlifting I've been doing over the last year, I need the extra mass. When I'm lighter, I get hurt easier while lifting. When I'm this weight, I can lift with a lot fewer negative side effects.) The Baby has been suffering from some difficult digestive issues (read: icky, liquidy poop) that has made potty training more challenging for him, so we moved him to a gluten-free diet to see if that would help. The Wife and I joined him.

Over the course of the last month or so, we've kind of figured that it might not be the gluten for him; it might be the strange oils in so much food. So, we're trying to limit food with exotic ingredients for him. That's good practice, in general: if you've never heard of the ingredients, or if you can't pronounce them, then you probably shouldn't be eating the food. We think it's had a positive effect on him, but it might just be selective memory bias. We'll keep you informed. Suffice it to say, he's basically 100% pee trained, but #2 is causing some issues still. He gets it every once in a while, but not often enough. More often than The Boy at a comparable age, but not as often as Little Bear.

Saturday, after my chorus's show downtown, we went to a friend's birthday party. They had all sorts of yummy, delicious food, most of which was gluten-type stuff that some of us couldn't eat. The Boy and Little Bear are not following this diet, so they made up for the rest of our restrictions by eating everything in sight. The Wife, The Baby, and I restricted ourselves to corn chips with amazing buffalo chicken dip and veggies. From there, we went to an event at Rodef Shalom, where they served pizza. Again, 1 and 2 ate their weight in food while the rest of us didn't. The Baby was quite upset about it.

Dietary restrictions are really difficult for kids that young because it's difficult to explain to them and it's difficult for them to comprehend. Like, a month or two ago, we all went to Steak 'n' Shake and got milkshakes, which interacted poorly with all of our digestive tracts. The Boy and Little Bear can be made aware of the connection between what goes in and how it comes out again, but it's impossible to explain to The Baby. All he knows is this: pizza in copious amounts is over there. Mommy and Daddy aren't letting me have it. I'm grumpy about that.

We've been remarkably lucky with the way our children eat. I chalk a big chunk of that up to The Wife and the baby-lead weaning, which has been discussed a lot in this blog. The boys have always eaten the same thing that we have eaten, from the start of them on solid food, so they never got the picture that there was baby's food and grown up's good. So, I can definitely see why The Baby would be really confused and angry about being denied food, particularly when he sees other people his size eating the food.

After the recital yesterday, they had a "potluck" dessert table, with loads of different cookies and treats. Grandma had brought a fruit plate, which was perfect - the boys, to a man, will choose fruit over sweets most of the time. Don't get me wrong - The Boy and Little Bear ate their body weight in cookies, but they did it after they ate a plate of fruit. They had gluten free brownies there, which The Baby and I tore up.

The interesting thing will be thanksgiving. I told myself that I'd keep 100% gf until then. I don't mind breaking it for pumpkin pie.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Recital Day

Today, The Boy and Little Bear performed in their first ever violin recital. It was held at the Fox Chapel Presbyterian Church, and they played Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (Little Bear) and The May Song (The Boy). It was followed by a nice cookie reception in the lobby. Grandma and Grandpa and Aunt C were in attendance. The Baby also did a nice job watching his brothers play.

That's the capsule version. The rest of the story is more interesting, I think.

The day started like most Sundays, with the exception that The Wife and The Boy didn't have to leave until later for Sunday school. So, I slept in a little bit and did my normal workout, then ate and cleaned up after everybody's breakfast. They left and Little Bear and The Baby and I did our normal thing: hung out for a little while, then went to the JCC for the open gym time.

The neat thing about the open gym this year (besides The Baby actually being able to play with everything there without being in direct danger of falling over) is that they've put up this ginormous climbing mountain / volcano thing. Little Bear absolutely loves it. It's a tricky morning for us, because The Baby gets really nervous about going places in the morning on the weekends. He really thinks that I'm going to leave him somewhere and go away, and he gets quite anxious about it: so much so that, when asked to put his shoes on, he throws a major league fit. He doesn't - and won't - understand that the JCC is fun time with Daddy.

It's strange, because we've never left him there at the JCC when he's been old enough to remember - and even when he was an infant, we probably used the infant child care a half dozen times at most, so it shouldn't have been enough to leave lasting scars. But, whatever. Once he gets there, remembers the place, and conceptualizes that I'm not going to leave him, he has a great time. He mostly likes to play catch with the basketballs.

We played there until around 11, then we headed over to Beth Shalom for Latkepalooza, the Hanukkah celebration. That's always a fun morning: games, and crafts, and a Hanukkah play, and some dancing. The Wife had packed a bag with fancy clothes, and I brought the violins, so we stuffed ourselves with latkes (potato pancakes) and had fun. The Boy spent most of his time at the various craft tables - he does enjoy his art. Little Bear played with the mini golf putting area for a long time, then he danced joyously with the dance teacher for a half hour. The Baby just hung out and ate. Eventually, I wrestled 1 and 2 into their fancy clothes and we headed out.

2 and 3 fell asleep in the car before we arrived at the church. We left 3 in the car with me, and 1 and 2 went in to get tuned and warmed up. I joined them about ten minutes later and set up the ipad on the nifty iPad tripod that my chorus bought for me. The boys were number 8 and 9, and they played wonderfully. The Wife played piano, and they remember to bow before and after.

Little Bear played and bowed with his own aggressive, joyful style - that's really how he is, and it's beautiful to watch. The Boy (who reflects my personality to an unfortunate degree) took the stage with what can only be described as a "strut," putting his violin to his chin with a flourish. The high five he gave me on his way down the aisle was accompanied by a cathartic "Yeah!!!", which brought some laughs from the crowd.

After another person (there were about 25 kids on the program, which ran about 100 minutes), I took The Baby down into one of the youth rooms, and we chilled together. The boys were quite good during the concert; The Boy slept for a bit, which isn't surprising.

The reception after was quite nice: punch, and cookies, and gluten free brownies that I went to town upon. The kids ate a dozen or so cookies each, although Little Bear was eating an apple. Grandma brought a fruit bowl. The funny bits: Little Bear, standing on top of the small brick wall bordering the lobby, singing "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown," at the top of his lungs while dancing a little jig; The Boy, helping the baby swipe a few more cookies; our friend K encouraging the children for more mischief and more cookies. Like father, like sons, after all. The Baby was singing the words to the Suzuki violin songs that he could remember.

But, oh, that Little Bear was in fine form...

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Yogurt, Screen Time, Funny

Daddy: "C'mon, Little Bear, time for your bath. You're stinky."

Little Bear: "No, Daddy, YOU're stinky!"

Daddy: "I've been called worse by better."

Little Bear: "Okay, Worse. You need a bath."


There's a self-serve frozen yogurt place called Yogurt City that just opened up near the house. The kids like it because they have a TV there, and the counter workers are very good about putting on shows the kids enjoy. The first time we went, it was Phineas and Ferb. Second time, Super Mario Brothers Super Show. Last week, Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving was playing. There was another family at the restaurant when we arrived, so to show off, I asked The Boy to read the frozen yogurt flavors to his brothers. They were quite impressed with that, even moreso when he told them that he was in kindergarten.

They were even more impressed when Little Bear read the flavors down, only needing some help with some of the longer words ("original" tripped him up a bit). The Boy is starting to notice that much of the work in kindergarten is severely beneath his abilities, but he's not complaining too much, yet. The Wife is getting concerned that he's going to notice that the level of work is about what The Baby does on the iPad. Can you imagine how that would go in school: "You can't do this? C'mon. My 2-year old baby brother can do this." SMACK.

I've been told that The Boy is very well-behaved in school, which is nice, but expected. I've also been told that he's been handling himself well with the other kids - not letting himself get pushed around and not pushing the other kids around. That's even better. I was always a bit obnoxious in school - still am - and that occasionally caused problems for me. For the most part, though, I had enough people that liked me in most of the social cliques that I was just left alone. The Wife, at the private school, was a target, and she wasn't really able to overcome that. Once she made it to public school, she was fine. I honestly don't know how my brothers were in school - they were so much older than I was that it didn't register. Molly's sisters were relatively popular (among the more academically-proficient individuals), and her brother wrestled, so he had (at least) a detente among the jocks while doing well with the nerdy gamer-folks.

Little Bear does quite well at pre-school, The Baby does, as well, even though it's a little early to make judgments (as a 2 year old, he goes three times a week - he's not even at 30 days). He's adjusted to the school so the drop-offs are a little less dramatic than betore. As a matter of fact, we've even been able to remove some of the baby accommodations around the house - he no longer has a booster seat at the kitchen table any more! He's even getting himself dressed in the morning, kind of - socks are a problem, and he gets confused by the shirts. He'll frequently try to put the shirt on upside down, which doesn't work particularly well.

The Boy has been on limited screen time this week because he scratched him brother on the weekend enough to draw blood. So, until the scratches heal, he's on limited time. So, we started a tradition which I think we'll continue: one book on iPad, one real-life book. Yesterday, we read Neil Gaiman's "The Day I Swapped My Dad For Goldfish," which went over well. Very silly, and The Boy now understands swapping a bit, so he got it. The art is also weird and wonderful, which helps. I think we'll keep the "one iPad book, one real book" thing and just alternate who picks which on any given night.


Keep an eye out for a book called "I Am the Salamander," by Michael Jan Friedman. I just supported it on Kickstarter, and it funded! It's about a kid super hero who is also a cancer patient - a natural, considering my love for superheroes and my love for a certain child cancer patient. I'll post more info as it happens, but this is a must-get.

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Family Update

I arrived at the house at the same time as The Wife and the children a few days ago, and I parked in the street. I wasn't sure who was leaving first the next morning, so better safe than sorry, right? Little Bear and The Baby came down the driveway to say hi. I gave a nice hug to Little Bear and reached out for The Baby. He started giggling, turned around, and yelled, "You can't catch me!" I'm pretty sure that that's the first time he's said that. The Wife doesn't remember it, either. He's said, "Daddy, get me!" for a while, but never a sentence like that one. Side note - yes, I can catch him.

He has taken himself to the potty more and more often, which is really nice to see. Now that The Wife has left her substitute teaching job, she'll be able to finish the potty training for him. I am perfectly okay with not having to change diapers anymore. Last week, he took himself to go poo in the potty, which is great; except he didn't tell anybody before or after. It made quite the mess. Not the first, and probably not the last. Gotta teach him how to wipe, too.

The Boy has really, really been taking off, intellectually, since he's been in school. It's not that he wasn't beforehand; but, being around all those new people and new teachers has given him many, many new ideas. He's making intellectual and conceptual connections at an amazing rate of speed. It's things like "60 plus 60 is 120, because 6 plus 6 is 12.," which leads into 6000 plus 6000 is 12000, etc. He's been able to map that over into other numbers - 30 plus 40, for instance. He's become quite aware of the calendar and how days and weeks and months work with each other: we get a report, daily, on what rotation day it is and how many days are left until the next great event. In this case, it's how many days until the Veterans' Day day off from school.

I haven't seen that The Boy has asked to play with any of his school friends yet, though. I don't know if that's a factor of The Wife and I being overly committed in our personal and professional lives or of The Boy not finding any real pals in his class. There are a few names that keep popping up in conversation, which is nice, and his teacher told us (at the parent teacher conference last month) that he was doing fine in the social arena. He's even, apparently, had a few kids try to pick on him, which he handled well. I know that I always handled that sort of thing well - gave as good as I got, and I was always of a size with the bully-kids, so they wouldn't pick on me often. The Wife was bullied far more than I was, but I honestly think that that was more of a cultural thing as opposed to a personality thing - once she left the private school and went back into the public schools, most of that went away.

Little Bear has kind of been in a bit of a rut lately.He gets up, gets dressed, goes to school, plays after school at Grandma's, plays at home, then goes to bed. He's not doing poorly - he's just on a nice, happy, stable little island. He likes his friends and his teachers, he likes his work, and he likes his playing. He still will only wear Superman shirts; if they're all in the laundry, he will grudgingly consent to wear Batman. He loves to dress up whenever possible, and he's still the most patient of the boys when it comes to going to services, singing the religious songs, and paying attention.

He's been wearing out a little bit earlier than his brothers at night. A few nights this week, he's put himself to bed while 1 and 3 were still finishing up their bath. He just gets tired; I think he might be growing. We'll see.

Kids showing teamwork:

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Show weekend

From Oct 30:

My father drove into town on Friday afternoon for the weekend. This was the first time that he had driven out to Pittsburgh since he broke his back earlier this year. It was a little rough on him, but not moreso than he could handle at this point. We had a nice dinner Friday night at home, and I got to bed as early as humanly possible.

The Wife sang Saturday morning services, so the boys and I and my father went out to breakfast together. It was a relatively uneventful breakfast, although the Bagel Factory was more crowded than usual. All of us overslept a bit on Saturday morning, which meant a later start than normal. Surprisingly, breakfast places are more crowded at 9AM than at 7AM. I left around noon, leaving my father with the three boys until The Wife got back around 12:45. It's nice that they are old enough to not give him TOO hard of a time.

The boys did a nice job while I was at the show. They were a little bit obnoxious, but not actually misbehaving. They sat through the entire 2 hour show and even made it most of the way through the afterglow (which was a dinner 'glow) before turning into pumpkins. I'm really proud of them. I'm sure they were squirrely at times in the audiences, but they had a good time and seemed to enjoy watching the show. When the chorus set started in the second half of the show, you could hear "Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" on the recording, yelled by The Boy. Kind of cute, but.... sigh. Children, amirite?

The Wife left the afterglow a little early with the children, to get them home and to bed. Since my quartet was there (and performing), I stayed until the end. All in all, it was a wonderful day and a wonderful night. I'm really proud of my chorus and of my quartet.

Sunday was spent resting. I honestly don't remember the last time I was as exhausted as I was on Sunday. We didn't do a lot - played at the open gym at the JCC in the morning, went to the playground in the afternoon, went to dinner at Don Pablo's then frozen yogurt after. Little Bear must be in a growing cycle right now: he ate his dinner, half of The Boy's dinner, half of The Baby's dinner, and a full serving of frozen yogurt afterwards.

Granted, he puked up his dinner remnants on Monday morning, which wasn't cool, but other than that and some yucky diarrhea that caused him to miss a couple of days of school, he was fine. Monday, I took off from work, dropped 1 and 3 at their respective schools, went out to breakfast with my father, then got a new driver's license (only 2 months expired), new case for my iPad, some groceries, and leaf bags from Home Depot. I picked up 3 at the appointed time, and we spent the rest of the afternoon doing not much of anything. Daddy needed the rest, as did Little Bear, and The Baby... is The Baby. He's a ball of motion at all times, regardless.

The Wife is leaving her substitute teaching job after this week or so. I have a lot of thoughts about that, most of which have been discussed in this blog in earlier years. Not sure if I want to expound upon them at this point, other than saying that being a substitute teacher (even a long-term sub, where you're in one position) sucks majorly. I'm so glad that I have a good job at a good employer, with a good manager and good coworkers. I'm really, really lucky.

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Monday, November 4, 2013

Outsmarting a 6-Year Old

So, tonight, I coerced The Boy into helping me unload coats, sneakers, and dirty preschool clothes from Grandma's car. He threw a moderate fit about it, which I'm perfectly okay with: I waited the requisite two minutes until he got over it, then brought him downstairs anyway. Since he was making a fuss, I gave him a choice: one item to carry that I picked, or two items that he picked. He chose one item that I picked.

Since I'm an instigator and a pain in the rear, I then packed everything we had to carry into a box, then told him that the one item he would carry would be the box. (Closed, of course.) That was considerably heavier and more of a pain than the two items would otherwise have been.

Moral of the story: when Daddy offers you a choice with one easy choice and one hard choice, take the hard choice. The easy choice never is.

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Blessed Quiet

I will again repeat: these glorious moments in the morning, when no one else is awake, are some of my favorite times of the day. The children and my wife are blissfully asleep. It's a Saturday, so besides some singing for her, for the rest of us it's a relatively untimed day. I can sit here with my coffee, type a bit, and listen to the silence.

It looks like the fevers have mostly broken. Little Bear was fine at bedtime. The Baby was still a bit warm but trending in the right direction. Both of them stayed home from the kindergarten education dinner at temple tonight, and they were both asleep by 7:30.


Little Bear woke up and called for me. I sat down with him, and we started our normal morning ritual. "Good morning, Little Bear. Did you sleep well?" "Yes." "Did you have nice dreams?" "Yes." "What did you dream about?"

Last night's dream involved him being lost in Wonderland. The Justice League found him and saved him, and then they fought the Queen of Hearts. I always lean in, eyes wide: "Who won?" I wait with breathless anticipation. He pauses, gathers himself, and whispers intensely: "The Justice League!" I cheer, excited and concerned for them.


The Boy and The Baby were just starting to stir when I sent Little Bear to go potty and get dressed, so I snuggled in with them while they woke. Same set of questions. The Baby said he dreamed about elephants. The boy never chooses to answer. That's okay.


The fevers are gone and the trip is on. We just got back from breakfast, and I'm updating the iPads and iPhones that are traveling with us. Once that's done, the car is already loaded, so we'll go play in the park for an hour before leaving. Run the sillies out, then they'll nap halfway to Maryland. It's a long weekend, but any weekend spent with the boys is a good one.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Plan B

Here was the plan for the week, since Grandma and Grandpa are leaving Thursday afternoon to help with the wedding planning: on Thursday, The Baby was supposed to spend the day with the babysitter. Little Bear would go to Rodef as per normal and get dropped off at Grandma's house; The Boy had a half day of school, so he'd go to Grandma's. The Wife also had a half day; she'd pick the boys up at Grandma's house and hang out with them until I got home. Friday, all three boys would head to Rodef. The Boy would be the "student helper" for the day. You know, Big Man in Kindergarten with all the littler kids 'n'at. I was taking a half day from work on Friday and working at home, so I'd pick the three up at 12:30 and spend the day with them. Friday night, we have a Sunday School event dinner at Beth Shalom. Saturday morning, I was going to take the kids out to breakfast, then run them around the park for an hour or two before hitting the road for Maryland. Picnic at 6pm for dinner, then pictures at 1pm on Sunday morning. Complicating things a bit, I am supposed to drive them myself. The Wife has a concert Saturday night, and she'll be driving herself afterwards.

"Life is what happens when you're busy making plans." John Lennon. "Man plans, G-d laughs." Old Yiddish proverb.

Tuesday afternoon, The Wife got a phone call for a job interview VERY south of town. The interview would be Wednesday afternoon. Little Bear woke up at 3am with an elevated temperature; he went back to sleep after some Tylenol, and the fever was gone the next morning. His behavior was normal, so he went to school. The Wife went to the interview; the superintendent and principal got called away for an emergency (a legit one involving fire elsewhere in the district) and rescheduled the interview for Thursday afternoon. Little Bear's temperature spiked to just over a hundred at Grandma's house in the afternoon, and The Baby was feeling warm around bedtime. The Baby had a restless night and woke with a temperature in the high 99s. Neither child went to preschool today. The Boy is, at this point, fine and as normal as he ever is.

So, plans rapidly change. Grandma graciously accepted the younger boys until they are leaving for Maryland. I'm leaving work at 2:30 to get them and bring them home-ish. The Wife's interview is at 2:15 or so down south. Depending on what's happening with the sickies, either she's going to go to the parent/teacher conference (for The Boy, at 4:15) by herself, or we'll bring everybody with us. After the conference, I'll work from home and finish the last hour and a half of my day.

Tomorrow will depend on what happens with the other two children. If they're better and can go to school, then I'll still work the half day. Otherwise, I'll just have to take the full day off from work to care for the sick kids. I hate taking the day, but such is life.

As far as the wedding this weekend, we're in "wait and see" mode. Most of the time, these fevers come and go in 24 or 48 hours. If they're better by Saturday morning, then the weekend will go as planned. If not, then The Boy will go with The Wife late Saturday night, after her concert. I'd say we're probably about 60-40 going as planned; there's always the chance / likelihood that The Boy starts showing fever between now and the wedding, particularly tomorrow when he's cooped up all day with Sickie 2 and Sickie 3. Oh, and that also assumes that The Wife and me don't get sick, either. Considering that I have my show next weekend, it's a virtual certainty that I will be getting sick.

That's the big difference between 1 kid and 2 or 3 kids; we don't arrive at a place, we descend on it. There are an awful lot of balls in the air on any given day to make sure that the children have coverage 100% of the time, and having to re-do multiple days' schedules at the drop of a hat is a Herculean task. Wow.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Day Off

On Monday, I was off from work because of Collumbus Day. So, I took the boys to school and came home, armed with a "Honey Do" list.

I suppose that's kind of a misnomer and unfair to The Wife; she really doesn't have a Honey-Do list. If she wants me to do something, she asks, and I generally do it then and there. There aren't very many things around the house that she wants me to do - either she's going to do it on her own, or it just doesn't really occur to her to ask. I'm the one that pokes around the house, finds the broken stuff, and figures out whether or not I can fix it. In this case, I had a simple list: spackle some curtain rod holes still leftover from the move-in last year.

(I never said I did my tasks quickly.)

I stopped at the driver's license center to figure out that they aren't open on Columbus Day, either, which makes a certain amount of sense. I then went home, gathered my tools, then climbed into bed and went to sleep. I got up in time to stop at the doctor's office, which - because of the waiting time - turned into a not-quick visit. I then went and picked up Little Bear and The Baby at Rodef.

The Baby is funny. He generally doesn't have a hard time with most drop-off days at Rodef. He likes his teachers and his friends, and now that he's in the schedule, he's good. So, he was playing and walking around, turned and saw me, then burst into tears. Sigh. Little Bear was involved enough with his lunch that he didn't notice me for five minutes of so, then said hi, finished what he was doing, and came with me.

It was raining, so we didn't go to the zoo like I had initially planned. Instead, I took the kids to a neat playground in Fox Chapel. Both fell asleep quickly, as I thought they would. What I miscalculated: the length of their sleep cycle. When we got to the playground, I sat for a while and waited for them to stir. They woke up cranky and upset, and both refused to get out of their chairs and go to the playground. Sigh. Instead, we went back into town and got frozen yogurt.

After that, we went home and played. I'm cool with that. It was a nice afternoon, and we pretended we were in Kingdom Hearts. The Baby decided he was Donald, and I was Goofy. Little Bear was occasionally Sora (the main character) and occasionally Superman, depending on whatever was needed. I sometimes changed into Super-Daddy (you know, Superman's Daddy), and sometimes I was either Lex Luthor or Oogie-Boogie (from Nightmare Before Christmas), depending on which villain he needed to vanquish. The Wife got home, and we traded children so I could go to quartet rehearsal.

Interesting note about The Baby: Little Bear, The Baby, and I went to the JCC on Sunday morning. The open gym wasn't open yet, so we went to the playroom. The Baby saw the open playroom with the other kids and parents and absolutely flipped his lid. It took him 15 minutes to calm down. Basically, he was certain that I was going to leave him alone in the playroom with the other kids and go away. That makes me SOOOO sad! I hate that we have to do that to our kids, but iit's really expensive to live on one income. All was not lost: once he figured out that I wasn't leaving, he calmed down and played. Little Bear had no such qualms, having gone to the playroom with me on an awful lot of occasions


Maryland trip for the wedding this weekend. Down part: wedding is 3pm on Sunday, which means leaving 5 or 6pm on Sunday and arriving home between 10pm and midnight on a school / work night. Ugh. Excited about the wedding; not so much about the drive.

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

Facing Front

So, we reached another milestone over the weekend: we turned The Baby's car seat around to front-facing. That's a pretty big deal, as it's one step closer to not needing the car seats at all! (Imagine: getting my car back!) He seems to enjoy it a little bit more. I'm certain he enjoys the leg room.

Side note: he's actually not close to the weight limit for rear-facing. It's the height. Like his brothers, he's a skinny, LOOOONG little thing. But, his head was starting to poke over the top of the carseat, and that becomes dangerous.

We have a major complication for the week: the babysitter's daughter was diagnosed with hand-foot-mouth disease, which throws huge chunks of Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday into difficulty. Grandma and Grandpa are going away from Wednesday through Friday as well, which only makes it that much more challenging. Not to mention that, you know, my kids were hanging out with her last week. Sigh. Good thing that those things are most contagious before symptoms show, or we'd be quite worried. No symptoms yet, I think. We'll see what happens.

So, we're delving into the second and third stringers in terms of child care - putting together people to watch the kids for an hour or two at a time. What makes this REALLY difficult is the fact that the kids need - you guessed it - car seats to travel from place to place. Now that The Baby is front-facing, it should make it somewhat easier - many of our friends have multiple small children and thus multiple car seats, so they can transport one of their kids and one of mine from place to place. The transportation issue is what really complicates child care: how do we get multiple children from Rodef Shalom to a babysitter's house, for instance, when grandma (who has 3 car seats in her car) is away? Multiple drivers for multiple children, naturally. Sigh.

Please note that second and third stringers should not be considered as qualitative judgments on their child care abilities; more that it's the people that have said, "Let us know if we can help!" without having us actually take them up on the offer before. See: how to help from January 2009 or so. Incidentally and not coincidentally, there's a few people that have seriously moved up our lists this week by being able to take care of the slack. There have been more than one set of people who offer to help, except when it's not convenient for them. In this case, people have been accommodating and helpful for us.

(Not that they haven't been before. I have to give a major, major shout-out to Rodef Shalom, who have been so gracious, accommodating, and wonderful to us. They've really bent over backwards with no notice to help us out. Friendship like that will not be soon forgotten.)

It's going to be an interesting ride this week. Hold on to your hats.

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Thursday, October 3, 2013


So, last night, The Wife was not feeling well. She spent dinner time at her parents' house with the boys while I had quartet rehearsal, and I met them back at the house around 8. The boys had already taken a bath at Grandma's house, so they just needed to get into pajamas. The Boy was practicing violin when I got home, and The Baby and Little Bear were fighting over the iPad. I took it away from both of them and shooed them upstairs.

The Boy joined us soon after, and The Wife stayed downstairs to relax a bit. We all cuddled up on my bed and read the next section of Neil Gaiman's new book, "Fortunately The Milk," which is marvelous. It's a great, illustrated adventure story starring a father who is trying to bring home milk for his kids' breakfast. Along the way, he encounters aliens (who want to redecorate the planet - replace our mountains with throw pillows and Australia with a giant commemorative plate shaped like Australia), Professor Steg (a stegosaurus), natives looking for a sacrifice to their volcano-God, and pirates. In short, everything a young mind wants to encounter in their daily life: "scary" bad guys that aren't really scary and can be outwitted with some creativity.

I started reading the book Monday night. I had left my iPad at work, and The Wife was using hers. Seeing the illustrations really adds to the story, so I used an alternative solution than reading it on my phone to them: I used Airplay mirroring and read the book off of the television in our room. That way, the words and the pictures were visible for all. I'm really proud of that, particularly since all three boys enjoyed reading and looking at that.

The Baby lost interest fairly quickly and started to play with the iPad. Little Bear fell asleep after about a page, and The Boy hung on for about 10-15 pages before falling asleep. I just stayed there for a little while, enjoying the relative silence (The Baby was trying to play Cut the Rope and failing, but since he was having fun, whatever).There are few things more rewarding, I think, than having a pile of small boys asleep, snuggled up to you.

Tonight, the Pirates are playing in the division series against the Cardinals at 5pm. I'm meeting the family at my in-laws' house: we don't have cable, so we can't watch the game on TBS. We'll have dinner there. The Wife has quartet practice, so we'll head back over at the end of the game (or 7:30, or when the kids start going nuts). We might finish the book tonight, or we might not. That's okay. I think this one will become part of the regular rotation.

Editor's note: we didn't. We made about 10 more pages. It's a fun book, and they like it, but they're sleepy little things.

All About The Baby

The Baby is quite an entertaining little man. It is amazing to watch him interact with his brothers and to learn new information; having two little people around him, showing him by example how to do things, has allowed him to do quite advanced things. His singing, for instance, shows quite a bit of range and pitch accuracy (relative to other 2-year olds). I mean, don't get me wrong - he is clearly a preschooler / toddler, and clearly a 2-year old baby with all the positives (snuggling) and negatives (potty training and tantrums) that that implies. He is a delightful little person.

One of the little things that we play with the boys: "How much does Daddy love (insert child's name)?" The response is "SOoooooo much!" or "MMMMmmmmm-ah!" depending on the responder. The Baby responds differently: "How much does Daddy love The Baby?" His response: "Me!!!!" while putting his hand in the air. Same concept, different question ("Who's the baby?" "Me!!!!")

He also really, really loves the "This Is Halloween" song from "The Nightmare Before Christmas," and he sings along in the car with it. He knows a surprisingly large amount of the lyrics! He will also walk around the house singing some of my quartet's songs, particularly "Go The Distance," from Hercules - "I love Hercules!" he will say. He knows how to navigate a Netflix queue, and does a nice job with the letter and word games on the iPad.

His napping is becoming a little spotty - since he needs to nap with a buddy, he will nap with Grandma on the afternoons that he's there. If he's at the babysitter's house, he will not nap. His sleep at night becomes funny - if he takes the nap he really needs and should take, then he's up until 9:30 or 10:00. If he doesn't nap, he passes out around 4:30 and then is awake until midnight. So, pick your poison. The other boys tend not to nap unless a long car ride; The Baby still needs his.

The Baby's adjusted quite well to school. He doesn't cry any more when we drop him off. Today, we got into the classroom and changed into his pullup pants, and he said, "Bye, Daddy! Bye, Daddy!" and ran off to play without a second look. That's a nice change from a few weeks ago, when he'd cry hysterically for most of the car ride and for an hour or so into the school day. That child is attached to his parents.

He's also been splitting his nighttime snuggle time with both parents, which is nice to see. Mom is still his majority preference, but there are plenty of times when he sits up, looks at us both, and snuggles up to me. I love that. If Mom is busy at night, then he will snuggle with me without an issue. (The only issue is when she's getting up and settling down and getting up, kind of coming in and out of the room while doing stuff. He doesn't like that. He wants his snuggle partners to stay put.)

Going to preschool with Little Bear has been a big help. They play together during outside time.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Potty Delaying

Potty training takes on a whole new element when both parents are working. The Wife expressed her frustration thusly: "How the heck do people manage to potty train their children when they're both working? I guess that's why I've seen so many three and a half year olds wearing diapers." When you don't see your kids from 7AM to 4:30PM every day, it becomes a lot more difficult to get them trained exactly how you want them trained. It becomes a lot more difficult in a lot of ways, but potty training is turning out to be challenging.

Granted, people have had two jobs for a long time. This is not a new or an unusual thing; as a matter of fact, I think the unusual thing was that The Wife was able to be home for as long as she was! The Boy's potty training is well-documented (and, frankly, ongoing), made more challenging because of chemotherapy and resultant effects of kidney cancer. Little Bear potty trained early and easily (as he's done most things). The Baby pee trained at the same rate (maybe earlier) as Little Bear, but poo training is a continually elusive matter.

It's hard because The Baby goes from our house to a babysitters to Grandma's to home, or our house to school to Grandma's to home. He (and we) hasn't adjusted to his new schedules yet. The Wife is also discovering that's it's hard to work a full day, get housework done, relax a little bit, AND try to keep on top of a two year old boy who is determined not to use the potty unless forced.Potty training the way that we've done it for the older two - wearing underpants, frequent trips to the potty to try, catching them by body language to get them to a potty before poo accidents happen - requires an awful lot of constant, vigilant attention. He's not getting that right now because of multiple caregivers,

So, what are we going to do? That's an amazing question, and one for which we don't have an answer. The hardest part of everything is that The Wife's situation is so, so, so transitory. She's a long-term substitute - basically, a person that does the job of a full-time teacher (with all the same duties, paperwork expectations, et al) for one third the pay, no benefits, and no sick days. There's no guarantee as to when or if the "real" teacher is coming back. There's a vague promise that she'll be considered for any positions that might open up - but that assumes that they'll give her a fair interview and not find somebody for the full-time position and leave her in the substitute position because "she's doing a great job there." She's taken a couple of job interviews since the start of the school year, which has been nice, but has not yet been asked back for a second interview. Oh, she's also keeping going with singing 5-7 services per month at Rodef and teaching in the Sunday school there.

This means that we're going to continue in this busy, insane instability indefinitely. She can't give up any of her part time stuff, because if the sub job falls through, and she hasn't landed a full-time position, then we lose desperately needed income. And, frankly, most of the part-time stuff is awesome. The Rodef Shalom community has been such a G-dsend to us. They've been friendly, and welcoming, and generous, and accommodating; I honestly don't think we could have made it this far without them. Since they seem to appreciate and value The Wife's abilities, then the very LEAST we can do is keep lending her to them.

(I mean, it's silly stuff - like one of the preschool teachers spending twenty minutes with the boys before The Wife sings services; watching them until I get there from work to pick them up. It's not a huge sacrifice for H to watch the kids, but it's such a huge burden that's taken off of us. You know what I mean? That stuff is priceless and a big reason why I consider us fortunate to have found Rodef.)

So, it's back to the drawing board when it comes to potty training, and it's back to carrying lots of little underpants with us wherever we go. I am reasonably certain that, by the time he gets to high school, he'll be potty trained most of the time. Once we all adjust to the schedule, we'll be able to make a new plan and a new system to get this completed. Until then... ugh. We'll deal with it. It's not like we're strangers to cleaning up smelly messes.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Oncology Followup

Yesterday was The Boy's six month oncology followup. It's gotten a little more impersonal over the last couple of visits - the nurses have cycled out and don't remember or know him; Dr. Graves was promoted and is doing research full-time right now; and he's had three different primary contact physicians for his last three visits. Last time, in March, it was a little disappointing; we sat with a physician's assistant who told us that the doctors reviewing the case decided that they wanted to follow The Boy for five years and not three. Not a huge deal, but - with all due respect to my niece, who is working on her PA license - I'd rather hear that from the doctor.

So, we planned out yesterday's visit. I took a half vacation day from work and he took a half day from school. I called last Thursday because we hadn't received any notification about an ultrasound; the original order from six months ago was that the next ultrasound would be in March, not September. Because I'm that kind of guy, I called anyway. The scheduling folks checked with oncology and told me that no ultrasound was ordered or required.

We arrived at the hospital around 12:45 for the 1:30 appointment. We bought a hot dog and a cup of coffee and brought it upstairs with us. The Boy demolished the hot dog in about ten seconds flat; pretty impressive considering it was second lunch for him. The appointment was at 1:30; at 12:50, they brought us in for weighing, measuring, bloodwork and urinalysis. He was characteristically stoic during the bloodwork, without a flinch or a complaint. He's always been a great patient (with the exception of some of the medicines and the kayexalate debacle).

Side note: the fact that he can pee in a cup now is SO MUCH FREAKING EASIER than the bag. He hated the bag.

We met the first resident, who asked the standard questions - anything unusual, pains, etc. We did tell the story of our wonderful hospital visit from May, which seems to have been a GI infection without lasting side effects. He left, the nurse came to get the cup of urine, and the new attending physician came in.

First thing she did was question me about why we didn't get an ultrasound.

I don't lose it often. I certainly don't argue with doctors often (the occasional "please wash your hands" aside). But, I argued and got as upset as I ever get. I mean, you have GOT to be FREAKING kidding me. First of all, I was told, at the last visit, that they changed their mind and wanted five years of followup instead of three. Okay, that's nice. If they didn't like us, they would have booted us out the door earlier rather than later. Then, the PA at the last visit told me that no ultrasound was needed. When I called last week, they told me no ultrasound. We didn't schedule an ultrasound. And now, we need to schedule an ultrasound.

Probably the most annoying part of it was the doctor trying to sympathize with me about having to take more time off from work. "I understand that it is difficult to get time off to do these things. I've had to, also." Okay, look, no you don't. I know what oncologists make annually. There are a lot of issues that we would NOT be able to deal with, without the generousity of my in-laws; most of those issues, when you have some money, tend to become MUCH easier. I really don't want to hear a new doctor tell me that she's sympathetic. to my work situation.

I don't know. I guess I'm getting a bit tired of the whole thing. It's not the most productive time that we spend, at the hospital. It's not awful these days; The Boy entertains himself, and he's old enough that he doesn't need 100% attention every moment of the day. I would feel better if I felt like anybody there actually knew us, knew our situations, and was paying attention to what was happening. I'm ready to be done with this, and I don't remember feeling this way before. I just don't want to go back - not because it's particularly traumatic, but because I don't think it's necessary.

The kicker to the whole thing is that the ultrasound people will schedule it and send me a letter with the appointment day and time. So, I have no control and no choice over the time and day. Nothing better than having to take a full vacation day because of a 2PM ultrasound (not sending The Boy to school to avoid snack time and lunch time and such when he's NPO for the day because of a late ultrasound).

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

Audience Etiquette

So, I'm in Perrysburg, Ohio, for the Sweet Adelines harmony weekend, and things are wrapping up. The coach hired for the weekend, the incomparable Jim Arns, is working with the Cleveland chorus, and I'm one of about twenty five people in an auditorium that's set up with 200 or so chairs. I'm sitting where I usually do in such situations: smack dab in the center of the auditorium, with my recorder set up on there chair in front of me and my iPad on my lap taking notes. I'm in my seat five minutes before the session starts, ready to go.

Twenty minutes into the session, someone comes in, walks in front of me and around me, sitting in the chair directly behind me; of course, not in any one of the other 175 chairs in the auditorium. They then proceed to embark on a loud, sustained coughing fit that lasts for the remainder of the coaching session. Thank you so much, person, for not only coughing on the back of my neck but also sharing whatever germs you have with me and my family.

People, if you are coughing, leave the auditorium. Coughing is loud and disruptive. Would you talk loudly to your friend, or talk on your cell phone? (If you would, ignore me. You're an ass, anyway.) If you wouldn't, then why do you think it's acceptable to make loud, hacking coughing sounds in public?

Going out in public, going to work, or whatever "noble" thing you're doing while your sick is not noble, and it does not show strength. It just shows that you don't give a crap about the people around you: either for their enjoyment of the show without also enjoying your hacking cough, or for their desire to stay healthy without whatever plague you carry around.

I know coughs; I have these wonderful hacking coughs because of asthma that last for weeks at a time. When I have to go out in public, I sit in the far rear of auditoriums, as far from people as I possibly can be. I certainly don't find the guy sitting in the middle of the room and sit directly behind him.

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Location:Fremont Pike,Perrysburg,United States

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rough Night

The Boy was home from school on Wednesday. While I was at rehearsal on Tuesday night, he spent a nice chunk of time throwing up for Grandma and Grandpa. He was really okay by the morning, but we kept him home because 1) we don't want to spread any stomach virus germs around the school (we're good like that), and 2) the last time he was puking similarly, he spent five days in the hospital. I was positive that this wasn't a repeat occurrence, but better safe than sorry.

I stayed home from work because I don't use a lot of sick days, and because The Wife is a long-term sub; after 40 days in the classroom, she gets bumped up a few bucks a day and gets a nice check of retroactive pay, which is really, really important to us. The Boy was okay but not so physically active, so we rested together for most of the day. We watched "The Little Mermaid" (at his request, his first time seeing the movie), a couple of other shows, played some iPad, went for an easy walk around the block to get in the sun for a little while, and otherwise relaxed. It was the first slow-moving, relaxing day that I've had in months and months, and I probably needed it more than he did.

The other boys did their normal thing: pre-school to Grandma's, until Mom picked them up on her way home from work. We all kind of vegged out for the rest of the night.

Thursday was a relatively normal day: I took The Boy to school and got home in time for dinner. I took the boys to the playground for a bit while The Wife's quartet sang, then they had a nice snack (Mango fruit ice) before bath and bed. However, The Boy had a bit of a meltdown after dinner. He said that there was no school tomorrow (Friday), that Ms. B (his teacher) had said that there was no school tomorrow. He was really, really insistent about it! He was so insistent that I actually had to check the calendar to make sure that there was, indeed, school. He threw a moderate fit about it, which is really, really odd for him - he throws plenty of fits, but never about something like that.

Last night, The Baby slept without a diaper, as he had for a week or two. I took him to the bathroom shortly before bed, and he peed. That didn't stop him from waking up at 3:00, right after he wet our bed. The TEAM started up again, and The Wife took him to get cleaned up while I got a covering for the bed so we could sleep - a little bit of baby pee is disgusting, but not really worth the production of changing the entire bed sheets when we'll all be up in two hours anyway.

I got up a bit early because I had to finish packing for me trip (toiletries and power cords and such), exercised, ate breakfast, and came back upstairs. The Boy woke up and immediately started freaking out about how he wasn't going to school, his teacher TOLD HIM that he didn't have school, and he wasn't getting dressed. Then, he would take his shoes off immediately if they were put on. Then, he was not getting in the car. We got to the school, and he said, "You'll see, Daddy. When you ring the doorbell, nobody will answer it."

He did have school. It's been a long time since I've seen him so, so sad, as when the lady opened the door for the morning breakfast program.

Thankfully, Little Bear decided not to give us a hard time last night or this morning. The only issue he had was that he was tormenting The Boy, with relish and gusto. It's amazing how quickly Little Bear has learned how to twist the knife in his older brother's pain. Sigh. I'm moderately surprised that The Boy didn't pop him one, and I'm fairly sure that I would have pretended not to notice if he did.

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