Friday, May 31, 2013

Preschool graduation

Tonight at Rodef is preschool graduation for The Boy. Now, I know what you're thinking: "It's preschool graduation. It's meaningless." You're not wrong on that: the real work starts next year, with normal sized classes, a wide range of personalities (most of them, in the local parlance, trending towards being a jag), and disparate range of teachers. Preschool graduation is not exactly showing a long list of state-required competencies to be displayed; there is no graduating with honors, majoring in letters and numbers (although that WOULD be cool).

This is another way where it is not quite fair to be The Boy as opposed to his brothers. Because it's The Boy, with all of the commensurate health issues, problems, and struggles, it's a HUGE deal that he's graduating from kindergarten. Frankly, it's a huge deal that he's even alive at this point: while Wilms Tumor tends to have a high cure rate, bilateral Wilms with relapse has a significant failure rate. That's not to say that it won't be important when Little Bear graduates, or when The Baby graduates from preschool; it's just different.
Of course, we love our children roughly equally. I mean, you can't, really - they're different people, and you're a different person as a parent than you were for the other kids at that point. Equal is kind of impossible. I love my children with passion and enthusiasm, and I will be celebrating each accomplishment as they occur.

Over the course of my life and education, I've given significant study to passion and drive, motivation and innate ability. What I've noted is that the more time a person spends with someone or doing something, the better they know it. The better they know it, the more attachment they feel. "Natural talent" isn't necessarily about being able to sit down at a piano and magically play like you're Billy Joel. "Natural talent" is an inclination to spend more time playing piano that everybody else does. Natural talent is finding the activity that supports your learning styles and provides a satisfying way to spend your time.
Because of The Boy's issues and treatment, we have had to learn a lot more about him, his body, his responses, his learning styles, and every other aspect of his life than most parents know. I know that lots of that information is out of date, somewhat, and will be progressively more so as he gets older and his friends exert more influence, but we've spent an awful lot of time and effort on him. There has been a lot of sacrifice and work involved, moreso than for the other children. So, things are a bigger deal for him, partially because he's the first child and mostly because... well, you know. That concept of time invested vs. attachment is absolutely magnified when it's your own kid; doubly magnified because of the issues we've faced, and mostly overcome, together.

I'm certain that I'll cry tonight. It's what I do. I'm very proud of him: progressing from the kid who was starting in the 3-year-old class with a questionable potty record to a kid who is a leader and - even better - known as a nice guy. He's got a long, bumpy road ahead of him, but we're through the first couple of stages.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Daddy Rules

So, The Boy is just starting to really GET the concept of video games. He still enjoys the fun letter and educational games that we have on all of our various iDevices, but he's also starting to enjoy playing some of the game-games. There's a neat endless runner game that stars the Peanuts gang on a rollar coaster; another runner game that stars Mike and Sully from Monsters, Inc; and Super Mario Party, a Wii-based "board game" with lots of neat little minigames.

He's not very good at them yet. He hasn't developed the hand-eye coordination and the gaming reflexes that I have. It's fun watching him play, but he gets frustrated and asks for help on occasion. That's kind of smart, because I'm good at video games. That's not really bragging; I've been playing them my whole life. I have a fast learning curve, and I figure out the games' patterns quickly. I mean, there are very few NEW video games. Once you figure out the basic movement patterns for the five or six types, you've got it for all of them.

However, I'm kind of egotistical. So, when The Boy asks me to play, I obliterate his high scores or the computers or whatever. I'm not a jerk about it, and I show him what I'm doing while I'm doing it. When I'm done, I say to him, "And, The Boy, who rules?" His response: "Daddy rules!" It's our Thing.

This past weekend, at Aunt C's, we played Fruit Ninja on the XBox Kinect. Fruit Ninja is a neat game, where you use your "sword" (in this case, your hand) to cut the fruit flying across the screen while avoiding the bombs. The kinect is pretty cool: it's movement based gaming without having to have a controller, and the boys were having fun flailing their arms and legs as fast as they could while playing. I've played this game before, so I know what to do, and I was in the process of setting a console high score.

The Boy turned to Mum and said, "My Daddy rules. Did you know that?" She rolled her eyes, and I informed The Boy that, indeed, she know. Why else would she marry me?

It's good to know that I'm training them correctly. Daddy rules, indeed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Weekend Excursion

We left Friday afternoon. The Wife picked me up at work at the end of my day, and we drove out to Silver Spring, MD, to stay at Aunt C's house. The drive out was fairly uneventful: The Wife had staved off naps as best as she could, and all three children slept for the first half of the trip. The end of the trip was a bit rough; The Baby cried for about the last hour straight. He was definitely tired of being in the car and definitely tired of being cooped up for as long as he was. I don't blame him; I don't like it, either.

They had two guest bedrooms set up, both with queen size beds. One was upstairs, near the master bedroom and the bathroom. The other was downstairs in the basement and was a bit of a labyrinth to find (you had to go around the stairwell, through the door into the laundry area, and around the corner). So, The Wife and The Baby stayed down there, and the older boys and I stayed upstairs. We kind of figured that we didn't want the older boys (specifically Little Bear) wandering around the house at 5 AM looking for a grown up. It worked out surprisingly well, considering The Boy's kicking spree.

Side note: the two or three nights before we left and last night, after we got home, The Boy spent the entire night in his bed. On one hand, I'm glad about that - kicked WAY less often. On the other hand, that's really depressing. I love my little boy snuggles. Side note over.

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we drove over to Slavey's house to visit with my college friends. It was, as I expected, all kinds of awesome. I've been blessed with some tremendous friends: interesting people who are successful in different disciplines of life, who are universally friendly and fun. We went to a go-kart place and drove go-karts, which was a huge success.

All of the kids are 6 and under, with three kids under 2. The three babies couldn't ride, and none of the kids could drive, but the others could ride with a grownup. It was an expensive morning but well worth it. The older boys were in absolute heaven, careening around the track, skidding / drifting around curves, and really feeling the wind in your teeth. Lunch at the Firehouse Subs went quickly and easily, as every child and adult had worked up an appetite.

Back at the house, it was really and truly wonderful to watch the kids playing together. It wasn't all smooth: they're kids. Stuff happens. But, it's still neat to see my sons become friends with my friends' kids. Around dinnertime, they started to turn into pumpkins, so we went back to Aunt C's and the traditional Jewish Meal of Celebration: Chinese food.

Sunday morning, The Wife took the boys and Aunt C to the local playground while I caught up on some seriously necessary sleep (about three hours' worth). Once they were back and we had some lunch, the older boys went with The Wife and me down to the train station.

We rode the Metro into Washington DC to see Armando's special birthday concert, and that went far better than we had an right to expect. The boys loved the train ride and were good for the walk over. The Wife and I brought the back carriers so that we could carry tired boys, and those got ample exercise. We passed a Rita's Italian Ice on the way to the concert, which became the bribing point: "Good boys who cooperate during the concert deserve treats from Rita's, right?" They agreed. The concert itself was great: both boys slept through large parts of it. Well, The Boy slept through large parts; Little Bear only slept a little bit and listened pretty attentively to the rest.

That kind of surprised us, because most of the music had been written since 2008. It was wonderful, and I absolutely loved it, but I imaged it being quite difficult for a 3.5 year old to understand! But, no worries. The Boy also liked the concert, even though the last piece (which was 13 parts, most of which were between 60-90 seconds) needed a countdown ("5 parts, 8 parts left!"). At least he got an education on what numbers add to 13, even if he wasn't so interested in solo guitar works. Still, they both made it to the end without issue and lived through the various hugs I had to give to people on the way out. We did have Rita's, and it was epic.

In the meantime, The Baby stayed with Aunt C without issue, including a trip to poo in the potty! Go, Baby!

That night, The Boy and I went back to Slavey's house from about 9 to about 12. I hung out and chatted with my friends, and he played with the other kids until they went to bed, and he then watched Tarzan and played quietly. He was very good, and he even bitched me out a bit: "Daddy, it's too late at night. You should have left me at Aunt C's house to go to bed." Smart-ass.

Monday morning, we went down to northern VA to see Armando and his wonderful family. They are some of my dearest friends, and it's such a joy to see them, particularly at a time when things are really turning in the right direction for them. After spending a couple of hours with them, we met Uncle C for lunch then drove back to Pittsburgh.

The drive back was uneventful and included a rest stop race through a field behind a gas station. The Baby used the potty a whole bunch during the trip, which was nice to see. All told, this was a wonderful and easy trip.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Easy night

We checked out the music school yesterday. It's in the Waldorf School, which is a beautiful old building on the other end of town - about three blocks from Children's, actually, which is a little cool. The building itself was built in the 1860's, which is a good and a bad thing. It's a good thing because of the beautiful moldings and wainscotting through the place. It's a bad thing because... well... old stuff like that that's used as hard as schools are used are rarely as nice as they should be. Still, they do an awesome job keeping it maintained, and I liked looking around.

The school of music rents out a fourth floor wing and consists of an office and about fifteen practice rooms. Most of them have a piano; some don't, because they need the room (quartets and such). There were a handful of teachers doing lessons. I took The Baby for a walk around the place while The Boy and Little Bear spoke with one of the teachers and watched some of a violin lesson. They do Suzuki there.

The Boy now says that he wants to play violin instead of piano. We're not sure if that's because he authentically wants to play it or if it's just the primacy-recency theory - it's the thing he's seen the most recent, so it's on his mind. After a few more days of discussion, we'll see what's on his mind. Little Bear wants to play the violin (same reason), and we kind of don't want the two boys to play the same thing. There's too much sibling rivalry between them, and if one gets significantly better than the other, it's not a good thing. We all understand that it's a stepping stone to another instrument (we hope - too many violin players out there. The world needs more violists and bass players and oboeists and trombonists).

After the school, I stopped at the comic book store on the way home and bought a Peanuts comic for The Boy, who had a great time reading it this morning. Peanuts is quite funny and perfectly appropriate for little boys - I'm going to have to get him some of the old black and white books that I loved as a boy. He originally didn't want to go into the store, but it was pouring rain so hard that he didn't want to stay outside. Still we stopped at Dunkin Donuts to pick up treats for the family and Mum's quartet.

While the quartet was rehearsing, I gave the boys a bath and put them to bed. Here's what I'm most proud of: The Baby fell asleep with me, and I soothed him back to sleep on no less than three occasions last night. He's still definitely a momma's boy: when she climbed into bed, The Baby climbed over to her. But, he's warming up to me more and more. His speaking is coming along quite nicely. This morning, The Wife was giving snacks to the older boys while we were getting in the car, but he didn't get any because his car seat faces backwards: "Eat cheese too, please, Mum!" he said. That's a pretty impressive sentence for a kid who's not even two.

The Boy was really acting up - hitting The Baby, hitting Little Bear, saying mean things to everybody. He got sent to his room three times to cool himself down, which he eventually did. Of course, the retreats to his room were accompanied by loud, dramatic wailing. He was the first to fall asleep, followed by The Baby and then Little Bear. I actually got to go downstairs and do some cleaning and straightening before the rehearsal broke up. Weird, no? We might actually get the three children to sleep somewhat independently by the time they're in college.

Tonight, we leave for Maryland. We'll see Aunt C, the Quad folks, A & S, and a few other people, I'm certain. Should be a fun trip.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Music School

This afternoon, we're going to visit a music school that teaches, in the afternoons, in a local private school. The Boy seems to be just about ready (maybe) to start piano lessons again, and we're thinking that having lessons be out of the house - maybe with other kids around, to be more social - will trigger his interest. He's a tough nut to crack, very much a creature of momentum, and "ripping" him away from playing with his brothers might not be the best manner of starting his musical education. He's also a creature of routine, so hopefully getting him started on something regular (it's Saturday morning, it's time for music classes) will help him. We'll see. I'm always a worst-case-scenario person, so I'm hopefully this will be better than that. Little Bear has started with the holding-the-violin and pushing-the-bow thing, which is kind of cool. I think he'll be ready, earlier, than The Boy. He's not ready yet, but I don't predict that it'll be as much of a struggle. He sung more than The Boy did as an infant; he probably sung the most of the three boys. The Baby was a tad more vocal than Little Bear, but I think Little Bear actually sung / vocally experimented a bit more. I really want my kids to be proficient musicians. I don't want them to pursue music as a career - not much of a retirement plan, you know? - but I do want them to be able to play and to sing. My ideal would be to have the three boys sing in a quartet with me. I'd kill to have them in contest with me as a quartet! (There was a dad with his three sons at the contest in April, and it was such a wonderful, heart-warming thing. The fact that they were really nice - and really good - only made it that much cooler.) I want them to be able to sit down at a piano and noodle a bit. I want them to be able to pick up an instrument and play, if they'd like. I know that I'll gleefully join the local barbershop chorus if one or more of the boys would sing with me. The family went to the zoo this afternoon while I was at work, and the skies just opened up in an incredible deluge. So, they're soaking wet, and Mum didn't pack any extra outfits for the big boys. Oh, well... damp children at the music school today. I'm sure they're not the first. Little boys tend to accumulate dirt and moisture from everywhere. I always thought Pig Pen, from Peanuts, was an exaggeration, but he isn't. My children can walk, perfectly clean, into a sterile clean room and walk out with dirty faces.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tooth Fairy

On the good news front, The Boy lost another tooth yesterday. It's the lower middle tooth; he had lost the other one. The Tooth Fairy completely forgot to visit last night; looks like he got a little distracted by the Officers' Installation Dinner for his chorus and it entirely slipped his mind. Sigh.

Not really sure what I'm going to do for the tooth fairy this time around. I think I'm still going to go with the action figures, mostly because I have a big trunk of them thanks to Uncle B. I'm fairly sure that there's enough for all the kids' baby teeth - at least for the first two. Granted, there might come a time when they'd rather have money - we'll see.

We haven't discussed the money thing with them. They know what it is, and they know that I go to work to get more, but that's about it. We haven't started any of them on an allowance yet. If they've wanted something, they ask for it. If we can afford it, we'll get it - maybe not right away, because that's how to find good birthday gifts. If it's something that's too expensive, we'll explain it to them and see if there are any alternatives - like, making our own costumes and that sort of thing. I know that we eventually have to do the money thing with them, but I'm in no rush. Let them live in blissful ignorance for a little while.

Kindergarten, we'll probably start the boys on an allowance. Do your chores, earn your allowance. I think that's pretty fair, although I'm willing to remove chores from the allowance discussion - there's some thought that the two are separate because household chores should be done without the expectation of a reward. I mean, SOMEONE has to clean their room / load the dishwasher / scrape dishes / clean bathroom / whatever they eventually wind up doing. I'm not sure I buy that, but I do understand the rationale behind it. It's more important for me to help teach them some responsibility to use their money.

One would hope that, considering that my job responsibilities revolve around credit, that I'd eventually do a good job of teaching my kids how to be financially conservative and careful of their credit. Just because their credit card has a $5,000 limit doesn't mean that you SHOULD spend the $5,000.

Interesting thoughts for the day.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Three Years Old

Yesterday was a perfect example of Little Bear being - well - three and a half years old.

The Boy was home from school because of the obvious stomach issues, which somewhat limited the abilities of the other children to go out and do much of anything.

While Grandma did sit with The Boy while The Wife took Little Bear and The Baby to the toy library to return some toys and to blow off some steam, they were home most of the day. When Little Bear starts to get cabin fever, he gets mean: pushing, hitting, throwing things at his brothers, talking back, and spitting/hissing at his parents. He is too little to be able to skip his nap as regularly as he does, but he's old enough to willfully resist the nap. Also, when he naps, he tends to be awake until midnight. She finally sent Little Bear to his room to cool off, only to find him curled up in bed, asleep. She only let him sleep fifteen minutes or so; a catnap to relieve some of the pressure.

I stopped home quickly after work to pick up a sandwich, get changed, and go to rehearsal, so I threw Little Bear in the car. We were a trio last night, so I knew it'd be a short rehearsal. He wandered around and explored a bit but got frightened when a big housefly divebombed him in the bathroom. While he was sitting and playing with my phone, the custodian asked, "Can he have an ice cream sandwich?" and gave him one from the school cafeteria. How cool was that? I had been planning to take him to Dunkin Donuts after rehearsal, but he got a neat treat and saved me the calories.

He watched a little bit of the Disney movie Hercules while we sang, and he was excited to hear that the song "Go The Distance," that my quartet sings is from that movie. Good ears by him for noticing that.

He was asking to go home about 45 minutes into rehearsal, which is actually much longer than The Boy lasts. He likes some of our songs, but the rehearsal process is, after all, boring to hear when you're not participating.

Bedtime was kind of challenging, as all three kids hit their second wind around 8pm, when they should have been settling down. However, with some perserverance, we got them to calm down and, one by one, go to sleep. For the first time since The Boy got sick, we had three children asleep at (roughly) a normal hour.

The Boy stayed home from school today - one more day - and will be ready to go back tomorrow. He's eating normally, and everything else is starting to return to normal. We'll see.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Home Again

So, Saturday night in the hospital was a heck of lot easier than Thursday night at the hospital. For one thing, the diarrhea was more under control and there was less vomiting, and because of that, the nurse and nurse's assistant were only in the room for two brief visits apiece. That meant that I got almost 90 minutes of uninterrupted sleep on no less than 3 occasions! I was pretty excited about that. The final occasion was just about 90 minutes before the new morning nurse burst in the room with a cheery, loud, "Good morning!"

You'd think that you would know not to do that, but I digress. Up in hem/onc, that nurse would be killed, and I'd probably speak with a supervisor about it, discreetly. In the general populace, it's just idiocy.

So, we had a nice breakfast - made nicer by two facts: 1) The Boy was enthusiastic about eating, for the first time that I'd seen in a few days;

(Side note: Mouse pancakes)

and 2) since he's old enough to manage himself, I was able to run down to the cafeteria and back and get my own breakfast. We watched Wreck It Ralph again (it was on the hospitals on-demand service, so he watched it about four times per day while he was there). The nurse said that we could go down to the playroom for a little while.

The playroom was quite nice. Because it was Sunday morning, there were ample volunteers - six volunteers for The Boy and the only other kid there. Kind of intimidating for the kids, actually. So, The Boy played with some college kids and did some art work with different college kids. He felt paid-attention-to, I suppose. We were told to be back in our room for a final blood draw. Once the results came in, we could go home.

We went back upstairs, obediently at 11, and were told that the blood draw was unnecessary. They were drawing up our discharge papers! I met The Wife at home around noon, we had lunch, and she napped with The Boy while I took Little Bear and The Baby to the park. After naptime, I did some outside work (the lawn was resembling a rain forest at this point) while she entertained the children. The Baby and Little Bear went to sleep early. The Boy was in his bed for an hour or so, but he joined me quickly in our bed. "Daddy, I don't want to sleep alone. I still feel icky."

All in all, not our worst visit, not our best visit. It's reassuring but scary that our "inpatient" muscles reassert themselves so quickly! The violent expulsion from both ends made Thursday and Friday difficult, but things started to come under control on Saturday. We're not out of the woods, yet, but we at least found a path. Back to normal.

But, man, it's easy to forget how freaking exhausting the hospital is.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cleveland and Back Again

Thursday night in the hospital as fairly easy. Since he had been sleeping on and off for a big chunk of the day (getting your fluids drained down to, well, nothing is surprisingly tiring), he was up for a good chunk of the evening. We played and drew and used iPad and did the normal Daddy and The Boy thing. Around 12:30, he asked me to play a comic book game on my iPhone, to which he fell asleep. I was asleep a bit later than that and woke every other hour when the nurse came in to check vitals. Twice during that time, I changed and cleaned The Boy's diaper (he slept in a real diaper because he was pooping uncontrollably and copiously). I was up for good around 5:30, when the beeping to change the IV bag went unattended for five minutes or so. Sigh. The Wife got to me late, but I got to work by 9am.

That night, I was supposed to head out to Cleveland for the Sweet Adeline convention. I was supposed to get there for the end of the quartet contest, have the chorus contest and show Saturday, celebrate and network and stuff afterwards, then head home Sunday morning. That obviously changed. The Wife and I maintain strong communication all day Friday to determine what my plans would actually be. I hate the thought of leaving The Boy in the hospital and leaving town, but, as she put it, I went to contest while he was getting chemo. Why would I stay home for something correspondingly less serious? No real argument.

So, I went out to the contest. I did spend and hour at the hospital first, relieving Grandpa and - you guessed it - cleaning up more poo. I got to Cleveland around 9:30, checked in, rehearsed with the chorus and went to bed. Woke up the next morning, ran on the treadmill, did the contest thing, finished second in the region (to my deep shock, surprise, and lifelong pleasure), recapped with my chorus, then went back directly to the hospital.

The Boy is in much, much better spirits and better health. He's happy and playful and active (sort of). He was coloring when I got there, and he said that he got to play with Guru, from my quartet. Hooray! He also watched Wreck It Ralph about six times. He and I roughhoused a little bit (VERY gently), we read some stories, and played some video games together. He just fell asleep around 11:15. He requested that I sleep in the bed with him, which I'm considering except for the facts:

1) He's not three anymore, and while he's grown, the beds have stayed the same size, and

2) I don't want what he's got. I was in the hospital already within the last year, and I don't want to be there again.

I'm probably going to take the couch again.

We are hopeful that he'll be released tomorrow. They need to see him off fluids and eating for 12 hours. They're measuring ins (food/drink) and outs (he poops into an asshat. Not kidding, that's the name), and as soon as the ins outweigh the outs....

I guess there is at least a decent chance that he's in for another night. We'll see.

2nd place. Hee hee. I'm tickled.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Familiar Surroundings

So, Wednesday was considerably easier than Tuesday. Not easy, mind you; just easier.

At the end of the work day, I was starting to feel a little sketchy. I was thinking that I might be catching what The Boy had - was feeling squeamish in the belly, but I was not exploding out of either end, so if I had it, it was a correspondingly minor case. Looking back, I think it was a case of extreme tiredness combined with sympathetic feelings. Either way, at the end of the work day, I went to Big Lots to get some Powerade (in case I did start moving the wrong way) and some pillows (because diarrhea wrecked two pillows, including my pillow).

When I got home from the store, I picked up The Boy to take him to the bathroom, and he felt warm. That comes back later.

The rest of the night was challenging. Little Bear and The Baby went out to dinner with Grandma and Grandpa, and LB fell asleep on the way home. He went right up to bed, and slept until about 9:30. The Baby went to sleep around 9, and I was settling The Boy down to sleep when he puked all over the now-freshly made Daddy's bed. Rookie mistake - left the bucket downstairs when I brought him upstairs. So, we slept in the trundle bed - he wanted the bottom one, I got the top.

At that point, I was nearly delirious from exhaustion. I had sent The Wife no sleep an hour earlier, and Little Bear now decided that he was both awake and needed direct soothing and attention. I tried taking him downstairs to watch some tv (and get some desperately needed sleep), the the extra show and a half didn't help. Eventually, The Wife woke up, put me to bed, and soothed the kids. We slept the night through uneventfully.

Today was somewhat easier - Little Bear and The Baby were in good moods, and The Boy was drinking a little bit of water and holding it in. But, as the day went on, he became progressively more lethargic. Long story short, I left work at 4 and met The Wife and The Boy at the emergency room.

They've pumped a prodigious amount of fluid in him, and he progressed from a limp noodle to a grumpy little boy (not angry, just discomfited). They're keeping him here at night so that they can keep an eye on him - once the fluids start coming in, he started with the diarrhea. And, since Mommy is The Baby's pacifier, she's home with 2 & 3 while I'm here with The Boy.

Only differences: we're on the 7th floor and not the 9th, and we're not VIPs. I'm okay with that. He also asked that I sleep on the couch and not in the bed with him, which is a pretty big change. I'm kind of okay with that; I don't think I would fit, and I don't want to be pooped on.

Interesting conundrum: this weekend is contest weekend for my Sweet Adelines in Cleveland. The good news is that we had reinforcements coming to help because I was planning on being away for the weekend. Nt sure how long I'll be able to stay, with The Boy in the hospital.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Out Both Ends

Last night was Friends and Family Night for my chorus - it's the night where the chorus and affiliated quartets get to show off for - you guessed it - our friends and family. It's a shorter (45-60 minute), informal performance and dress rehearsal (literally) for the chorus contest this coming weekend in Cleveland. I sang with my quartet and directed the chorus, and The Wife brought the boys up to the rehearsal site.

Things started... questionably. The boys last through the contest performance, which The Wife actually got to watch. They grew quickly restless during the quartets and made random, mad dashes towards the performers. (Including, during our second run-through, a mad dash towards me, which was REALLY not appreciated. It happened last year and still wasn't cute. I'm not pleased about that - not The Wife's fault, but the boys need to be better than that.) After the performance, we have social time and - most importantly - treats of a WIDE variety.

Best part about being director? When everything ends, I'm closest to the cookie table.

While I was socializing and doing some minor playing with the kid, I was called over to The Boy, who had just vomited onto the gym floor - it was a LOT of puke. Granted, not even in the top 50 of puking incidents (big, wide gym floor is easy to clean. Try to clean puke out of a car seat, buckles, and the little creases and crevices), but still pretty unpleasant. The Baby wandered over to me and got puked on (the third set of throwing up The Boy did). The ladies from my chorus helped me clean up, I threw the kids in the car, and The Wife took them home. I followed soon after.

Here's how the rest of my night went:

11:00: everyone is settled in and sleeping. I moved The Boy and Little Bear to their beds.
11:30: I slept.
12:30: The Boy's first diarrhea attack caught him by surprise, demolishing his bed (thankfully on the wet pad that was under the sheets) and pajamas. The Wife and I stripped the bed, threw boy in the tub, cleaned up the floor, steam cleaned it to get the smell out, put a load of diaper-type wash on, got him dressed and night diapered-up, calmed down The Baby, put Little Bear back to sleep, put The Boy back to sleep in our bed. The Wife went downstairs to keep The Baby away from whatever stomach bug The Boy has. Only good part was that the Pirates had just won their game in the 13th inning, so I got to watch highlights of that before settling down.
2:00: Little Bear came in, threw a major fit when I wouldn't let him into bed with us and wouldn't let him downstairs to bother Mom. I sat with him until he calmed down and went back to sleep.
2:30: The Boy went to the potty for the first time by himself.
3:15: The Boy went to the potty for the second time by himself. This time, he didn't put his night diaper back on before climbing back into bed.
4:00: Little Bear came back in the room. Repeat of 1:30.
5:30: The Boy had another attack of the runs, didn't wake up through it.
5:45: I discovered this when I put my hand on the other side of The Boy.
6:00: "Awake" for the day.

Breakfast didn't go well. He had some diluted grape juice and didn't keep it down. After I left for work, he started keeping some fluids down, which means that we're hopeful that we'll be able to avoid an emergency room trip. Rough night, to say the least.

Could be worse, though - this isn't the first time we've been awake with a puking, pooping The Boy, and this is FAR easier than dealing with the puking and pooping that follows chemotherapy and low-count-induced sickness.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Potty Weekend

This next month is going to be quite busy for us. This coming weekend, I'm heading to Cleveland from Friday until Sunday for the Sweet Adelines Region Convention. Next weekend, which is Memorial Day weekend, we're heading to Maryland to visit some family and some friends. The following weekend, I've got a chorus coaching from 9-3; and, also, I'm going to be starting to work on Saturdays every three or four weeks as well with my new position. So, when The Wife texted me on Friday morning and said, "We need to start potty training The Baby soon, before he starts to develop an attitude about it," I responded with, "It's either now or the end of June." She responded with, "I'm putting the diapers away."

For anyone who wasn't reading me two years ago when we did the same thing with Little Bear: basically, the theory is that if a child is consistently waking up from sleep and from naps dry, then they have the ability to control their functions well enough to potty train. So, we spent this weekend chasing after a baby and checking his tiny, tiny little underpants for wet spots every five minutes or so. Friday, it was a 15% success rate. Saturday, it was a 30% success rate. Sunday, it was a 40% success rate. Today, a little bit better. It's a process. The Wife has been setting the stage for it for a while, because she (or I) would take The Baby to his little potty right after waking up to sit for a little while to develop that habit. Four days out of five, he would hold it for the potty. If we waited too long after him waking, forget about it.

Now, for The Boy, we did wait until around the "traditional time" of around three years old for boys, but we had a good reason for doing it - Chemo Pee. That stuff getting on his skin and clothes, and getting on the skin and clothes of his caretakers, would be a Seriously Bad Thing.

There's no really good time to start this sort of thing, but we definitely did want to wait until after the wedding. So, bam. Better now than waiting until he develops a conscious attachment to the diaper and an aversion to the potty.

Friday night was a brutal night for all of us, as Little Bear developed a cough and a bit of a fever that kept him awake for most of the night. The Baby also slept fitfully, which didn't help matters. They kept waking each other up.

Saturday was kind of a rough day. The Wife and The Baby slept an extra couple of hours in the morning, and the older boys and I played quietly and watched some shows. I won't say that I threatened my older sons to keep them quiet while their mother was sleeping, but I did warn them quite enthusiastically. The Wife was going to go to a Bat Mitzvah for the kid of a friend, but because of the potty training, she decided to stay home. After lunch, The Wife and Little Bear and The Baby lay down for their nap. "I'm not tired," The Boy said, I said, "I know, come watch some Despicable Me with me. If you still want to play in about twenty minutes or so, I'll come out and play with you." That seemed a reasonable compromise, so he snuggled in and went out like a light for the next 3.5 hours.

Best part? When he woke, he gave me the stinkeye. "I really wanted to stay awake, Daddy."

The Boy, Little Bear, and I were supposed to go see Tarzan, the musical, downtown on Saturday night. Because Little Bear had a fever and that awful, awful, painful, wracking cough, he had to stay home. After some negotiations, Grandma suggested that The Wife take his seat as an early mother's day present. So, the three of us went to the show. The neat bit was that The Boy picked dinner - and he picked Indian food. He really loved the paneen nan, too (pita with a special cheese baked inside). The show was a smashing success, particularly since The Boy got itchy and wanted to head home soon into the second act. I gave him the song list from the programs, and he felt comfortable counting down the songs until the end.

Little Bear was pretty heartbroken that he couldn't go. We'll do something really nice with him, too. He was still awake when we got home at 11-ish, and nobody really slept in yesterday.

Mother's Day was a nice, simple, easy day, which was a little irritating to The Wife, I think. Mother's Day and Father's Day are difficult when the kids are that small, as there's no real way to give either parent special, pampering treatment - and, neither one of us is really one to want that sort of thing. We had breakfast at home, and she took the older boys to swimming lessons; Little Bear's cough was down enough that we thought swimming lessons were a go for him. Lunchtime was a picnic at Grandma's house, and The Wife and The Baby took a nice nap in the afternoon. When they got up, we went to a nice playground for an hour (The Baby hadn't pooped yet on Sunday, so how do we get the bowels loosened? Go to a playground. Sure enough, five minutes into the playing....) then to Eat'n'Park for a quiet (ha!), romantic (what?) Mother's Day


Little Bear and The Boy were asleep by about 8. The Baby was awake until after 10. Sigh.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Swim, Little Fishies!

Last night, The Wife had another brilliant idea: I should take The Boy and Little Bear swimming so they can show off their hard work at swimming lessons on Sunday mornings. Little Bear was quite excited to go. The Boy was hesitant to go until The Wife (who had been looking forward to a quite evening home with The Baby) said that she's come, also.

We got to the JCC around 6:45 and immediately got changed to swim. The boys really impressed me with their swimming abilities, understanding that they're 3 and 5 and not really independent swimmers. The Boy can paddle around on his own a bit, and Little Bear can push himself off the wall and kick around. Most importantly, though, they're quite comfortable in the water and have no fear of going underwater or getting their faces wet. The Baby quickly grew to believe that he could swim as well and as strongly as his brothers. This lead him to try to venture independently into the water on several occasions. I suppose it's nice that he's not afraid of the water, although there were a few close calls where he almost sank like a stone.

(We all know that fat floats, so a chubby baby SHOULD be more buoyant. Turns out not to be the case. Babies sink quite efficiently)

The only thing that I wish I had brought were some of those flag-stick-ring things that sink to the bottom, so the boys could have had the fun of picking them up off of the bottom. We don't own them, but that might wind up being a good behavior present at some point between now and the start of outside swimming season. I'm sure that The Boy could have grabbed them pretty well. Not so sure about Little Bear, yet, although by the end of the summer - who knows?

It was a really fun evening out. I do not think I would want to bring all three children by myself. Two, yes, but not three. The Baby sinks too quickly and has too little fear. With another person, it's no problem. We'll see what happens over the next couple of years - will The Baby learn to swim faster?

We don't have pictures of this last night, although I wish we did. We didn't think it was smart to bring iPhones into the pool area, for what should be obvious reasons.

The rest of the evening was not as easy as the swimming. Little Bear fell asleep first, being the only child that didn't nap during the day. The Boy got to bed around 10; he did a masterful job of distracting me with a Spider-Man puzzle. The Baby was asleep on top of Little Bear, which was insanely cute, until he rolled off the side of the bed. >THUMP< >SCREAM< is never what you want to hear.The good news for the evening? The Baby started whimpering when I was just getting ready to turn in, so I pulled him onto my chest. He stayed quiet for quite some time. When I woke up this morning, he was cuddled up next to me and on top of me, which is a nice feeling. When I shut my alarm off, he gave me a nice, sleepy smile and reached out for more hugs/snuggles. Definitely hard to hand him to Mum so I could go exercise.

The night in between was difficult. The Boy and Little Bear were coughing madly all night long, to the point where The Wife got up and gave some cough medicine to Little Bear. We were all up at various points. The Boy had gotten up and taken his night pants off at around 1:30 and came in with us; I sent him back to his bed, figuring that, if he was going to wet anything it should be his bed. He came back 3 times before staying there for the rest of the night. He was not happy.

Me neither, for that matter. My belief is that if the kids really want to sleep with us, and if they're nocturnal behaviors (kicking) aren't keeping us from sleeping, then I had no issues if they come to join us. The Boy is still not in control over nighttime urination; not surprising, considering that he's only got about 2/3 of one kidney. Wilms kids, according to my wife, apparently take a little longer to get through wetting the bed. I really didn't want to wake up in a puddle, as has happened a few times before. If he comes in without his night pants at, like, 3:30 or 4, then I'll take that gamble. Not so much at 1:30.

With any luck, tonight will be an early-to-bed kind of night. I've suggested to The Wife that we do a dinner-and-movie night with the kids, to keep things kind of low-key, particularly considering that it's a bit of a rainy sort of Pittsburgh day.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dinner and Sleep

Last night, Grandma and Grandpa decided to take the boys out to dinner. To sweeten the deal, they gave us a gift certificate for a neat little Italian place in Oakland (one of the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh), which happened to be down the block from the comic book store. Win-win situation. It was a beautiful evening, and I was fortunate to have had a lovely dinner with my lovely wife sitting on a covered patio. The food was magnificent.

It was also an odd dinner, in that we barely spoken about the children. I mean, don't get me wrong - we did talk about them. The Boy had an eye doctor appointment earlier in the day (more on that later), and there was some excitement when they found a caterpillar crawling on the pavement. There were a few other status reports, but that was about it. We spoke about jobs, and about teaching, and about our respective quartets, and about my chorus. It was nice. We weren't solving the problems of the world - unfortunately, I outgrew that when pediatric cancer rapidly and suddenly narrowed my focus - but we talked through some things that have been on my mind for a while.

Most of the time, on those rare circumstances that we get to go out (the last one was back in March, which - as hard as it is to believe - is about two months ago), we spend most of the conversation time talking about the children. We've had remarkably few issues since The Boy has gone off treatment: some rage issues, potential PTSD issues with him and Little Bear, and the normal growing-up-stuff that every kid and every family experiences.

(For instance, how can our sweet, sensitive, intelligent Little Bear suddenly turn into a hissing, spitting, kicking little monster? Weird. Toddler/preschooler tempers are strange things.)

It's nice to talk things through like that, because I'm out of the house a lot. I'm gone by 7:20AM every day, and I'm not home until 5:40 or so. Monday nights I have quartet rehearsal and Tuesday nights I have chorus rehearsal. One weekend a month or so, I've been gone for chorus stuff (or quartet stuff), and in another week or so, I'm going to lose every 3rd or 4th Saturday for work 9-3. That's a lot of time out of the house. It's relatively normal, I understand, but I still clearly remember the year or so that The Wife and I were both stay-at-home parents. If we don't talk through things, then I am completely clueless as to what's happening with the kids.

(There's nothing worse hearing from someone else when The Wife and I haven't communicated about something. It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while in a busy cycle, something gets lost in transition. I'll hear from Grandma, "Oh, yeah, such and such was doing this, didn't you hear?" Sigh.)

It's even better when you're already caught up, and you can dispense with the news to discuss the good stuff.

The boys found a caterpillar on the ground yesterday. It was apparently quite exciting! Little Bear absolutely loves bugs and is fascinated by them - last summer, he and I would spend quite a bit of time turning over leaf piles to find rolly-poly bugs and centipedes and stuff. The three boys studied the caterpillar as it crawled quite intensely. The Baby lost interest first, as you'd expect; because he's little and something shiny caught his attention. Little Bear picked up the caterpillar and let it crawl up his arm. The Boy was content watching from a distance - bugs make him a bit squeamish. He's not afraid (except of stink bugs, for no really good reason), but he avoids them when possible.

Two of the last three nights, I've kicked The Boy out of my room around 3 or 4AM because of the incessant kicking. I love the snuggles, hate the fact that his feet and continuously moving. If I'm facing away, I get kicked in the kidneys. If I'm facing his direction, I get kicked in the junk. It's a lose-lose. So, last night, I dumped him back in his bed (probably a step rougher than I should have). He gave me a questioning look, and I said, "Stop kicking me!" He actually stayed in his bed for the entire night! He was the first one downstairs and dressed this morning, which is a real rarity for him.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Movie violence, some ruminations

When I got home from rehearsal last night, I saw about fifteen sheets of construction paper hung around the house, all of them with arrows. I followed the arrows and found the three boys asleep in my bed. Apparently, The Boy hung the arrows so that their Word Friends - the characters from the TV show WordWorld - could find them that night, while they were sleeping. It was very cute. They had a good night last night. Apparently, there were a few college girls hanging out in the park - it's a convenient place to go and to sit. They were sitting on the merry-go-round, which is Little Bear's current favorite. He went over and started chatting them up. He told them that he had seen the new Iron Man movie and that he liked it, which was a little strange, because >>I<< haven't seen the new Iron Man movie. He was talking about the preview on YouTube, which I have shown the kids a few times because it's FREAKING AWESOME and needs to be seen. I'm not saying that wouldn't take the kids to see Iron Man 3 - I would screen it, first, and see what it was like. I think The Boy is able to handle sci fi violence; not so much, Little Bear. There is definitely some violence that I don't really mind the kids seeing; a cartoon Batman punching a bad guy, Po the Panda having an epic kung fu battle is okay. Bugs Bunny sticking his finger in a gun barrel, causing it to explode in Elmer Fudd's face is, well, funny. Some cartoon violence is too much - the battle against Smaug the Dragon in the 1978 Hobbit was too scary for The Boy. Iron Giant was too much for The Boy - the giant was a little too scary for him at age 4. Real life violence, I'd prefer to avoid. Sci fi violence is a little different. The Boy and I watched the end of Avengers, when they were fighting the hordes of aliens, and that was fine. The scene (spoilers!) where Hulk picks up Loki and slams him around the room was just as funny to him as it was to me. Obviously, Saving Private Ryan and similar are out for a long, long time; but, I'm not sure that Iron Man getting smacked around by Iron Monger is such a big deal. And, if he's watching a movie and gets a glimpse of a boob? Not too worried. He's seen two brothers get breast fed. He knows what they're for. (Train set: meant for the kids, but Dad always winds up playing with them.) I'd really rather him get used to seeing boobs than get used to seeing someone get their throat cut. I think one is a little worse than the other. I mean, a good story is a good story. Violence that serves the story and moves the story along is acceptable, within reason. I don't think my boys are ready for Batman Begins, but I would probably show them (The Boy, at least) the 1968 Batman (Adam West) movie, and maybe the 1989 Tim Burton Batman with Jack Nicholson, and that starts with his parents getting killed. Have you ever read the actual Grimm's Fairy Tales? They're brutal, full of people getting killed, body parts ripped out/off, and other ghastly things happening to them. Little Bear is slightly different, though. He's much more sensitive than The Boy is, and that can be reflected in a few different ways. I'll probably hold off on some the above violence for him until a little later Still, I'm not one to get hung up on rating and such. They're too young for PG-13 and R, particularly because they don't have the life experience needed to understand most of those stories. I mean, Fast Times At Ridgemont High is an AWESOME movie, but there's no way the boys would understand what was happening. If I've screened a movie, I have no problems taking the kids to see them.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Playing and Climbing

The Boy is an absolute snuggle fiend. It's cute. He came into my room around 3AM last night and snuck into bed on my side. When I noticed him, I switched so he was in the middle (I like sleeping on my left side, and he has a tendency to kick me in the junk if I'm facing him). No problem - he switched to his other side and snuggled. When I got up to exercise, he had already flipped over and snuggled my wife by the time I was out of the bathroom. When I came back upstairs, she was just getting up to get into the shower. Not missing a beat, he cuddled right up to the baby to get belly. The Baby's okay with it, because he also likes physical contact while sleeping. (Usually, it's physical contact in the form of sleeping across my wife, but sleepy little beggers can't be choosers.)

At bedtime last night, I finally got to read "The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish" to The Boy. I realized that the only issue with reading that to him was that he didn't understand the concept of "swap." Oh, well. It is still a funny story, even if some of the British turns of phrase were strange to him. Everyone was up past ten o'clock last night because all three children took naps from about 4:30 until 5:30 or 6, which is less than ideal.

Over the weekend, Grandma and Grandpa took the boys for about four hours on Saturday afternoon, freeing up The Wife and me for a bit of time. So, we did what any married couple with multiple children would do, given free time: we went home and took a nap. Well, I napped. She had a concert for which to prepare. They also picked up Chinese food for them, the boys, and me on Sunday night, when it became apparent that The Wife wouldn't be home from her performance until late late. I had been planning on taking the kids (and The Wife, if she made it in time) out to a Mexican-style place (I thought about subjecting my children's digestive tract to Taco Bell for the first time, but I really didn't want to deal with the consequences. I probably would have settled for Applebee's or Eat'n'Park, because they're close and have had Mexicans inside them, at some point, which is close enough). I have never turned down free, yummy food, particularly when it provides enough leftovers for lunch for a couple of days as well. Hooray, Grandma and Grandpa!

I also heard an amazingly cute thing. Grandpa and I took the boys to Blue Slide Park on Saturday morning. The Baby had a particularly dirty diaper, so I took him back to the car to get changed. The older boys and Grandpa walked down the path a bit. When we came back to the park, The Baby wandered around, saying, "Little Bear! Where are you? Little Bear! Where are you?" It was amazing cute. The cuteness of this doesn't translate - but he did use (name) Bear! in his questing.

The Baby can climb like a fiend. It's pretty amazing. I know that Little Bear was quite the climber, but I don't think he climbed with quite the zest that The Baby does. He probably shouldn't be able to climb the things he does, and I'm certain that I probably shouldn't be allowing it. He's just so GOOD at it!