Sunday, November 8, 2015

Testing

Testing

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Highs and Lows




When I got home from work, The Wife left to pick up The Boy from his choir practice. I was getting dressed (transitioning from work clothes to real person clothes), and Little Bear was tormenting The Baby. He was chasing the little one around, saying "Nom! Nom! Nom" This alternated between making the baby laugh hysterically and cry with frustration.

"Little Bear, please stop tormenting your baby brother."

In a rare moment of true honesty, he said, "Why? It's fun!"

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Today, The Boy found out that one of the other choirs in the organization is singing at the new Pittsburgh Holocaust Memorial. This lead into a discussion about what The Holocaust was.

How does one explain the true evil it takes to massacre millions and millions of people? How does one talk to an innocent child, who is just starting to comprehend the whole "death" thing and the huge part it's played in his life already, and explain the sheer numbers of people? Just as bad: explaining the huge numbers who were massacred for the "crime" of being Jewish?

I know there are people around the world who are living massacres not dissimilar. I just hope the next generation is smart enough to avoid it.

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Today, we broke out the new whiffle ball pitching machine that I picked up with bonus points at work. It's pretty cool, but it pitches fast. The boys will need a couple of weeks to get used to it. Little Bear was most frustrated, but he's also the most focused. The look on his face when he's playing... that boy is a competitor.


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Monday, April 13, 2015

Wet Stuff

So, the kids were staying with a friend this afternoon while The Wife was at a quartet thing, and around 4:30 she let me know that they were coming home from the playground. It was a beautiful, warm day: 83 degrees at that point in the afternoon.

The next text message, paraphrasing somewhat: "the Boy is running naked through my backyard." Fortunately, this was the same friend. It would be awkward from a different friend. This was followed by her letting me know that the boys were playing with water in the backyard.

I'm glad he's smart enough to take his hearing aids and glasses and stash them somewhere safe first. He does a good job with that. The boys know they're not going to get in trouble for being wet, like, 85 percent of the time, as long as they're smart about it. Take your shoes and socks off if safe. No electronics. If Dad has a phone outside of a Lifeproof case, he's off-limits.

Got them home, damp, without issue. Took the long way and made them run. Little Bear was whiny and complainy all through the run but, to his credit, made it through the end of the run. He's a tough kid. With his big brother? He'll have to be.

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Today I was flipping through the new Photos program on our iMac while The Boy was practicing, and there was a project there: a slideshow of pictures from our Make-A-Wish trip. He and I both sat there, looking at the pictures and crying. Poor kid gets his overly emotional personality from me.

But man. What a week. May be the best week of my life.

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Little Bear has started taking showers in the morning. So has The Boy. The Boy knows how to start the water. Little Bear doesn't but does know how to turn the water off. Seems like a problem that will solve itself, no?


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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Pitt Baseball




Today, I took the three boys to see the University of Pittsburgh Panthers play the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in baseball in Oakland. It was a youth group outing, and it was a wonderful afternoon.

The day started out slowly. I've been suffering from some back issues for the past week, and I woke up and decided against my normal Sunday morning workout (for the second week in a row). We had breakfast at home, then I dropped Things 1&2 at Sunday school. Since they had left sweatshirts at home, we retraced our steps before heading to be JCC to play as per usual.

From the JCC, we went back to Rodef for a pizza lunch, which was Papa John's. While I feel strongly about their stance on Obamacare, I felt more strongly about my need to eat today. So much for consistency in my political beliefs. Shrug.

The stadium turned out to be in the complex that I have driven past for the last few years on my way home from work. I've just never been inside! It's a beautiful Fieldturf field and an attractive stadium. Little Bear sat with me for an inning, and I did a decent combo of play by play and color analysis to teach him a bit of the game.



The day was absolutely beautiful: sunny and low 70's, about as perfect as it gets. I did remember the sunscreen, although I was not strict about reapplying often enough, which is okay. The boys say with me for a bit, then sat with friends, then sat with other friends, then took the little foam baseballs they got and threw them at a big concrete wall outside the grandstand.

They had a great deal, $2 for a hot dog and a drink. All the kids got drinks but didn't really want the hot dog - and it was cheaper to get the special than just a drink. There were a lot of extra hot dogs that we dads endeavored to finish. I'm happy to say that we mostly succeeded.



The game was a good game: 8-4 final, I think, but Pitt definitely won. At the end of the game, the kids lined up and ran around the bases, which the boys enjoyed so much they did it twice. The Baby waited in line as long as he could, then dashed out to the pitcher's mound to climb on top and look around. He then wandered around second base for a little while before sauntering over to me, standing in the third base coach's box to take pictures. Whatever. They were really chill about it and treated him with bemusement and amusement rather than annoyance, which I appreciated.



Then, the players sat at a big table and signed autographs for the kids, which was pretty cool. The players, as a large group, were friendly and engaging (easier after a good win, I imagine), and they were all kind to my little boys. I was coaching them to say thank you to all of the players and to say "good game today!" And "good luck for the rest of the season!" So, I think that helped a bit.

It was a good, and tiring, day.


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Sunday, April 5, 2015

A Good Day

Today might have been my best day in a couple of weeks.

The second Seder, last night, went quite well. It was a much smaller group: an illness derailed one family, and one of our guests had a time miscommunication where he thought everything was starting at 8 instead of 6. Whatevs. He still got fed, which was the important bit. But, ironically, because there were less people, things wound up less structured and more spread out. So, we didn't get back home until around 11, which is very late for my small people.

I was asleep about a half hour after them, which was before The Wife finished up and came home.

This morning I slept until about 6:15 and was woken by snoring little boys. I lolly gagged in bed, enjoying little snuggles, before coming downstairs and having a brilliant cup of coffee in an entirely silent house. There are few feelings better than a good cuppa and the morning news in a quiet house.

I did my normal Sunday workout with the boys hanging out and playing iPad. Little Bear, for his afikomen present, requested some extra levels unlocked for his favorite game, Mr. Crab. We had breakfast after exercise, and we lazed around the house until The Wife and The Baby got out of bed around 9. We facetimed with Grandpa for a while.

Little Bear and I had an epic duel which I won. He took a little while to get over it, and once he was ready to listen, I told him a couple of moves that he should have taken which might have won him the duel. I mean, so much of dueling card games comes down to luck (drawing the start of your powerful combinations before your opponent does), but you have to know how to use the cards. He's struggling with that, but he's learning quickly. Too quickly, as he wiped out a couple of good gambits I started earlier in the game.

We jogged our mile for the Steel City Kids Marathon around the neighborhood: it was a 60-something degree day. The Boy wasn't happy about our running route but finished strong regardless.

Once we got back home, they packed and left for Washington, DC. Aunt W got tickets for the boys to participate in the White House egg roll tomorrow morning. I hopped into bed and slept for an hour to celebrate.

When I got up, I read for a while before getting to work paying the monthly bills and finishing the state and local tax forms. I treated myself to a nice dinner at Applebee's tonight before settling down in front of the baseball game. I'll watch until I'm bored - probably about three or four innings, considering I have other things to do before bed.

The Cubs look good this year. Not as good as the Cardinals or the Bucs, but good.


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Friday, April 3, 2015

First night




Tonight was the first Seder of Passover. Outside of Israel, many Jews will have two Seders on the first two nights. But, night number one was the big one.

We had the Seder at Grandma's house again. It's a wonderful environment for it: really really big living room that holds a lot of people, and we had 33 people come to this one (including the five of us). It was definitely a kid friendly place: there were toys and crafts on one side of the room, within easy sight of the table, so that kids who needed to take a break could.



There were my boys; a 2-year old son of college friends; a family with three little ones litter than mine; and another family with an older kid in a wheelchair. It went well. The kids were reasonably well behaved and participated in the festivities, singing their songs.

They were dressed in their finest clothes tonight, which is always cute. They love their clip on ties.



It's always a late night, so we didn't get home and didn't get settled until ten o'clock. Another long day tomorrow, with The Wife singing services most of the day.


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gallimaufry

Passover Eve: the boys have had their haircuts, they have some new clothes to wear for the first Seder, and most of the food is prepared. Everything seems to have survived my illness and my wife's illness, and the kids have been briefed as to behavior and standard for the next few days.

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The walls are nearly done outside of our house. Surprisingly quickly, considering the breadth of the project - there is a lot of wall around our house. They are doing a wonderful job, and these walls look like they'll outlast the house. Which is nice, I suppose. All I need is for them to last long enough so that when we sell the place (when we're too old to be going up and down these stairs all the time) they'll be a plus and not a negative.

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One correction that The Boy needs to understand: yesterday was not HIS day but OUR day. It wasn't his fight; it was our fight. While he directly experienced the medicines and surgeries, we were there to clean surgical wounds, clean up puke and poop and piss, cheer him when he was sad, comfort him when he was in pain, and live through the peaks and valleys. My wife, my mother in law, and I were there for every single day; our fathers were there for an exceptional amount of it as well. Little Bear spent most of his first year going to hospitals with his brother. The family and friends who gave time, and help, and money, and gifts, and prayers were there for us as well. A village does not even begin to describe it.

I have all of the get well cards that people sent, saved in a box on a shelf. I will give him those one day, when he needs it.

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Opening Day is on Monday, and I'll have my usual terrible baseball predictions over the weekend. Spoiler: I might not have, for the first time since I started blogging, picked the Yankees to win the World Series.


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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

April Fools

April first is a very important holiday for our family. This is the day that The Boy was considered cancer-free, and our treatment was over. This was the day that were finally allowed to rebuild our lives and our family. Today marks the fifth anniversary of being cancer free.

He went to Eat N Park for lunch with Grandma. We went to Subway to pick up dinner and picnicked in the park, playing baseball while he hung out with some of the neighborhood girls. It was a blissful and simple afternoon, and we capped it off with watching this week's Flash episode until he fell asleep halfway through.

We'll do treats at some point, when we're all healthy and Passover is behind us. No rush.

It's a good day. No pranks for us. Today's too important.


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Monday, March 30, 2015

Belly belly

I'm not sure if I'm happy about this or not: my sons are becoming quite sensitive when I've been sick, to the point that they try to do some nice things to help me feel better.

On Saturday, I ate something that really disagreed with me. I'm not really sure what it was; the boys and I had the same food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and they didn't have any ill effects. Still, I was a little queasy at bedtime on Saturday.

Sunday, I woke up feeling like a truck had run me over. I managed to get 1&2 to Sunday school, and 3 and I went back home afterwards instead of to the JCC like normal. He watched some shows and allowed me to pass out on the couch. Lunchtime was at grandma's house, so I was able to drop off 3 then head back home to sleep.

Well, considering it was a stomach bug, I only slept part-time, and very lightly. For obvious reasons.

I will admit to being more than a little panicked about this one. Considering that my last bout of stomach issues put me in the hospital for three days, I was more than a little diligent about making sure that my fluids were kept consistent.

The boys spent most of the day at Grandma's house. They came home in time for dinner. Little Bear came upstairs to get me. "Daddy, it's dinner time. You should at least come downstairs and eat some rice. It's good for your belly."

Isn't that sweet?

The other boys are very obvious in their care when they come to give me hugs. It's very nice to see. They can, on occasion, be empathetic.

Long story short, I'm back on my feet and ready to go. Sort of. I worked at home today, with thanks again to great management that gives me that option. It's a lot easier on the body, you know? I think I'll be normal - or as close as I ever get to it - tomorrow morning.

Good thing - I have chorus and can't miss rehearsal time.


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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday




This morning, we had the pleasure of The Wife having a Saturday off. It was good timing, because I had to work. One of the best features of my job: work at home, when I have to work on Saturdays.

So, she had the boys cleaning the house for much of the morning. I had lunch leftovers when I was done with work, then dueled Little Bear in Yugioh. He's still not quite figuring out how to combine his cards, but he's getting better. He reduced me to 100 life points before I finally managed to beat him.

He does beat me occasionally. Just not often, and the longer a duel goes, the better odds that I'm going to win. I'm not going to let him win, but I will admit to the fact that I don't press my advantage as hard as I otherwise would have. Today, there were three or four occasions when I could have ended the duel very early, but I pointed out his mistake or helped him play his cards better. I'm supportive and educational without pandering.

The Wife allowed me to have a nap while she took them to the JCC to run their mile. We would have run outside, but I was tired and it was snowing (!). After, we had a pajama party at Rodef. Two and three came with me.

Mom and One had a nice night: started some plants in planters by the window, then eat n park for dinner, then Grandma's house to play. She needed that kind of a night with him - just all positives.

The two boys and I went to hear stories - Passover stories. After we listened to them, we went to the mulipirpose room, ate pizza and ice cream, and made crafts. Then the preschool kids ran around, played ring around the Rosie, and tackled each other repeatedly.



The multipurpose room is the indoor playroom for when it's too cold to go outside, so they are programmed to go a bit nuts. I also remember a time when watching my children tackle each other on linoleum floors would make me nervous. Weird, right?

We went home, read stories, and went to bed. A wonderful, eventful, boring evening.


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Friday, March 27, 2015

Busy Evening










So, tonight I met The Wife and the boys at Rodef for services. The choir was singing, so it was a Big Deal service tonight. The boys were dressed in their cutest white shirts and clip-on ties.

Since I got there at 5, and the services didn't start until 5:30, we went into the preschool room to hang out for a half hour. The boys played with some pirate ships, and costumes, and trucks - you know, normal stuff. At 5:20, they started cleaning up, and we went in at 5:45.

We take a break at the 2/3 mark of the service, as a group. Each of the older boys took turns escorting The Baby into the bathroom and back. The Baby cutely fell asleep right at the end of the service, which was beautifully done by the choir and my wife. I left him snuggled on a couch during the post-service snack time.









When we got home, I started straightening up the downstairs and sent the little ones up to get ready for bed. Once they got upstairs, I heard some crying and "Yep, that's puke."

Sigh.

The Baby got into the tub while I cleaned up, and The Wife finally arrived home to help. She took the baby, and I grabbed 1&2 to help me downstairs. The kitchen and dishes got cleaned, and I told the boys all about themselves. Once that was done, we got into pajamas, read some stories, and bedtime.

You'd think this would get easy.

Side note: wtf, Pittsburgh? Snow? It's March 27, for crying out loud.


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Thursday, March 26, 2015

A Night In The Life




I got home from work at the usual time, more or less, and I got changed out of work clothes. The weather was 48 degrees and drizzly, which is actually a step better than most of the month. Thursday is a running day. I gave the boys a choice: run before dinner and have more play time after, or run after and have less.

We ran before dinner. Cool thing? They ran with hero costumes on, Batman and Superman. Little Bear was Superman, of course. He had a rough run - he said his legs were tired from the beginning, which made it harder on all three of us. Eventually, he got the idea that we weren't interested in listening to him complain, so he stopped. (I might have encouraged him that complaining had negative consequences.)

We had a nice dinner, and they put their plates in the dishwasher. I cleaned the kitchen while 1&2 practiced. Afterwards, I played superheroes and bad guys with The Baby: I was Red Skull to his dinosaur. He would roar at me, and I would spin backwards, out of control. We "fought" for a while, and Little Bear joined in to defeat the villain (me).

I dueled Little Bear in Yugioh afterwards, and he got very upset when I beat him. He said, "Daddy, I dueled my hardest, and you still won!" I showed him how he should have used the cards and beaten me, and I'm sure he will next time.

The boys entertained themselves for a while (highlighted by The Baby building a recognizable house out of duplos), allowing me to straighten up a bit. Then, Mom left for choir practice, and I bathed the kids. We watched this week's Flash episode, and The Baby fell asleep. I read "The Matzoh Ball Fairy" to the bigger ones, then they went to sleep.

I did some chorus work, interrupted only by The Boy, who had snuck out of his room to play with Legos in the play room. I shuffled him back to bed, then did some pictures work after my chorus work was done. Then, off to bed once The Wife got home.

A wonderful, plain, boring evening at home.


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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Chocolate Sunday




Sunday morning, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I slept in and didn't exercise. Side note: as I'm getting older, and reading the things I'm reading, I'm really trying to pay careful attention to what's going on inside me, and to give myself a break when I really need it. At age 40, sometimes my body doesn't want to exercise 6 mornings a week, and I need to be patient with myself. I don't want to make a habit of it, but there is only so much willpower that one can use in a given day, and I knew later that day would be difficult.

We went to breakfast with Grandpa like usual, but we ate at the Eat N Park in Squirrel Hill instead of the one near our house, at Little Bear's choice. I dropped things 1 & 2 off at Sunday school, and The Baby and I went to the JCC, as was our custom. We did make a quick stop at Home Depot first, though, so were a shade later getting there than we usually are.

He doesn't like to climb as much as his brothers did at that age. He likes to run, and he really likes to play ball. We sat and rolled the ball and threw the ball back and forth. The best game was just me rolling the ball down a foam ramp to him. He laughed almost every time he caught it.

We left the JCC and went home to rest for a little while. I turned on a TV show and napped for a half hour while he watched the shows. After lunch and some cleaning around the house, we went to a birthday party. One of the boys' friends - a girl, B - has twin sisters that were turning 1. We went to Klavon's Ice Cream Parlor, which happens to be around a tenth mile from my office. Sigh. So much for getting away. The Baby and I met the rest of the family there.

The boys had spent a couple of hours at the end of preschool at the "Chocolate Seder." The Seder is the special meal/ceremony at the start of Passover where they retell the Passover story, drink ceremonial wine, etc. This day had the whole Seder thing, but with chocolate and candy. They drank glasses of chocolate milk (the cups of wine), had tootsie rolls instead of the lamb shank, chocolate eggs instead of the hard boiled egg, etc. so, basically, they spent two hours eating candy before heading to the ice cream parlor.



Did I mention the milk shoots right through my kids, to disastrous digestive results?

So, they arrive, already soaring from a sugar high and with upset stomachs from too much candy. They proceed to behave badly for an hour or so, until we got sick enough of them to go home. They didn't eat any ice cream, but at least they hung out with B for a while.

Grandma and Grandpa invited us over for dinner, so we sent them the children and stayed home. I cleared out my Hulu queue while The Wife messed around on the computer. We had leftovers - while not as yummy, I needed the rest.

The Boy started with the diarrhea as soon as he got home and spent most of the next hour running back and forth to the bathroom. The others got settled, and The Wife and I went to bed nice and early. At 12:30, Little Bear came in: "Daddy, I threw up in my bed."

Sigh.

Readers, you know that a little bit of puke is not a big deal. The Wife took him and cleaned him up, rinsed his mouth, and settled him down. I changed the bedding, started a load of laundry, and put new sheets on the bed. Still, it can be tough to settle down.

Stomachs were fine by the morning. Still not thrilled with the idea of the chocolate Seder, though I did love the ice cream I ate.


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Monday, March 23, 2015

You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown

Busy weekend:

Friday night, the preschool classes (and recent alumni) sang the first few songs at the Friday night Shabbat service. It was very cute. Little Bear escorted The Baby up to the bima (altar), and The Boy sat with his friend, M, and sang with her up in front. We kind of had a late, late dinner afterwards, but the post-services snacks, combined with the pre-service stuff they had for the kids, served as a meal.

Saturday morning, I took the boys to run at Minadeo for the Saturday marathon run. We had a bit of an issue: The Boy got mad when Little Bear didn't want to run right with him, so he wound up taking a time out for a couple of laps. After the run (mile 24), we went to Home Depot and the farmer's market before lunchtime. Little Bear went to a birthday party, and I took 1 & 3 to the library to play, read books, and play chess. On the way out, we saw an awesome thing: a poster for a free performance of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, at a local college. The rest of the day was spent working outside.






The show was perfectly pleasant: a small drama club at Chatham College, an all-women's college nearby. The cast was all-female except for Snoopy. Because the genders were switched, they had to make some musical choices that were a little questionable. They made it work, mostly. We were most interested in the three or four new songs that we hadn't heard or remembered!

The Baby fell asleep right before the show started and woke up in time for the last two songs. The other two were paying close attention for the most part, although Little Bear was a bit squirrelly.

The highlight of the show had to be the actor who played Sally. Poor thing just couldn't find the rhythm - she was trying so hard but just couldn't get there. Like, the rest of the cast was snapping on 2&4, but she was on 1&3 and missing that some times. We applauded the effort.

The boys said hello the the actors after the show, which was nice for them. The Boy, in particular, said nice things, individually, to each cast member he met.

We got home close to 9:30, which was very late. Sunday deserves its own entry, so that'll be for tomorrow.


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Friday, March 20, 2015

Stream of Consciousness





really do enjoy listening to my children play games together. When The Boy and Little Bear play Yugioh together, it's very cute. It's also very illuminating as to the nature of the game and their natures.

They play by the rules, somewhat modified to suit their mood at the time. Most of the time, they keep some sort of score - but they don't remember to take points off all the time. The math is correct - it's adding and subtracting two digit numbers (with two zeroes at the end - 2000 minus 1800, for instance, and take that bit and subtract it from the 8000 life points) - but the point isn't necessarily to reduce your brother's life points to zero. It's to crush the other person, to make it so they can't do anything except get their butt kicked by the opponents cards.

"Conan! What is best in life?"

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Tonight was a reunion of sorts for the boys: current students at the Rodef preschool and recent alumni students sang the first few songs at temple services. It was a neat event to get some people to come to a normal Friday night that don't normally come to Friday night, particularly since it came with cookies and fruit. The boys got dressed in their finest little suits and sang ferociously. It was very cute.

The Boy has been growing his hair out long, which is really kind of cool. It's at a shaggy length so far - not long like Austin from Home Free, more like a flamboyant conductor. With his glasses, it gives him a bit of a young John Lennon feel. I dig it.

At bedtime, the older two put themselves to bed, and The Boy made up a superhero story to tell his brother. That was kind of cool. I was proud of him.

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The Boy has decided that he wants to take a shower in the morning instead of a bath at night. I'm cool with that. It'll certainly make it easier to comb the anime out of his hair. This morning was the first morning he did, and I walked him through how to turn the water on, get the temperature right, then turn the shower on in his bathroom.

While it's great that he can start to do it by himself, I'm disappointed in losing the cute three men in a tub that we used to have.


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Monday, March 16, 2015

Beautiful Afternoon

This afternoon, the kids stayed in the park after getting off the bus in the afternoon. It was a beautiful day, starting at 36 degrees upon waking and getting to 67 degrees after lunch. The park was full after school hours, and we saw a few friends that we haven't seen since the winter drove everyone into their homes.

After dinner, the boys and I went for a jog around our neighborhood. I had plotted a course that was right around a mile, and we three ran our marathon mile together. It was really nice: not only was the temperature perfect for a run, but people were out on their porches and front yards. Even the local fire house was open, airing out a winter's worth of smells and letting the fire truck hang outside for a while.

Running outside, particularly in Pittsburgh, is much harder than running inside. Our neighborhood is really hilly, and Little Bear ran out of gas a little more than halfway through. He does a great job (particularly for a five year old) on the flat, and he just needs to get his sea legs under him. It's a lot more rewarding to run outside, particularly for curious little boys.

The Boy did a great job of practicing after the run, teaching himself some third position shifting on one of his songs. I'm really proud of him, as it's farther along than I ever got. He's turning into a great little musician.


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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Games Played

After being gone for a few days, things picked up as normal. I got to my in-laws' house at about 12:30, and we enjoyed a nice lunch with Uncle C, who was in town for a bit. The kids and I cleaned up a bit before leaving, which would be a nice habit for us to get into, and got home so that Mom could nap for an hour. I turned on Yu-Gi-Oh! and got a ten minute catnap.

Side note: I've become a little too caffeinated lately. I need to cut back. I'll work on it.

After watching two episodes, I bounced the kids from the house to go outside. The Boy made up stories while sitting on the porch. Little Bear rode his bike up and down our hill. The Baby ride his big wheel down and around the curve, where he found a big pile of icey snow. He, Little Bear, and I spent about fifteen minutes kicking the snow because it was fun.

The Wife was home around then, and she banished The Boy from the porch. He came down and all four of us played a rousing game of tag. It was a lot of fun because they played so nicely with The Baby; since everybody kind of wanted to be “It,” nobody ran too hard. Eventually, The Baby just decided that he was going to keep tagging everybody regardless of whether or not he was “It,” which was fine with us.

The Boy eventually got a scooter with which to play, and the other boys and I played monkey in the middle using The Baby's bounce ball - you know, the thing with the handle that you sit on and bounce. It's bigger than a kickball. It was a lot of fun: I would bounce the ball off of the monkey's head, and we all did a good job of keeping the game competitive.

Before I knew it, about three hours had passed and it was about ready for dinner time. Little Bear and I dueled once, then we ate, and we dueled again. He's starting to figure out that he needs to be imaginative with how he plays his cards to succeed against me, which is the point.

He was very proud, earlier in the day, to explain his strategies to Uncle C, who is a game player. Hopefully they'll be kindred spirits like that.


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Saturday, March 14, 2015

Sleepy time

Today, I'm leaving for Greensburg for a few days for my chorus retreat. We're bringing in a friend of the chorus from Denver to work with us for three days and really kick off contest season with a bang.

This, of course, provides some difficulties for the family. Thankfully, we have a wonderful and supportive set of grandparents living nearby, and the boys are so comfortable with them that they can, relatively seamlessly, fit in their life for a weekend. It's still a lot of work, but as the kids get older, it gets easier. I mean, there aren't any more diapers to change, right?

However, being without half of the parental team for three days and two nights is challenging. Thankfully, my family is ready and able to support me.

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We've finished the first rehearsal, and it was wonderful. I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to sleep tonight, without little bodies draped all over the place. I mean, not getting kicked by little feet all night long... That's just weird, man.

Although, when little hands reach out for you in sleep, just to touch your arm; when little bodies snuggle into you, for warmth and protection; you can't help but to sigh a bit, settle yourself carefully and just sleep. It's comforting to me as an adult, much less to the little people.

I do miss them, and I think and talk about them regularly. Like, when I call for a pitch: "play a D, like The Boy." Soon enough.


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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Football




Our run this evening was cut short by Little Bear having a sudden attack of the bathroom jumpies, so we had to leave Minadeo (where we went to run, considering that it was 60 degrees out this evening). But, we did get to go outside to run, which was really nice. We were only 1/12 short of a mile, so it wasn't too bad.

The boys are still really cute, and they enjoy the physical affection that I like to show. When we run, The Boy is happiest when we can hold hands, which I think is just wonderful! I know it won't be too long until he's too "big" to hold hands with his daddy, and I have every intention of enjoying it until then. It's really kind of neat when LB is on one side and The Boy is on the other. Makes me really happy.

I was dueling Yu-Gi-Oh! with Little Bear, and our neighbor came by. She's a newly single mom, with a boy that is right around the same age as the older boys. We went outside and played football together - sort of. It was more of a "Calvinball" with loose football rules, but it was fun. Made up for the tenth mile we were missing, I think. The players on the teams ebbed and flowed, and players switched sides at random. The plays usually resulted in a touchdown, only because players kept switching sides and renegotiating the definition of a tackle. That's cool, because running them around was the important thing.

Little boys need to run around. It's genetic. Little girls do, too, for sure; but little boys like mine need lots of physical activity for their brains to keep functioning. I'm glad we had that this afternoon.

The other thing we did was to have a birthday cake in honor of Grandma's mother. It's a nice way to keep her memory alive and to tell some stories. I had to buy the cake... which meant getting to Giant Eagle and face timing with my wife so she could pick the cake out for us to eat.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Violin

The Boy has another awesome moment yesterday: he got to use the "grown-up now hold" for his violin! When you learn to play the violin, as a young child, your thumb goes on the bottom of the bow handle (the frog) instead of the middle. Moving your thumb to the middle requires more manual dexterity and some maturity - so the thumb doesn't start to bend backwards or stiffen up, making it hard to play.

He was so excited to have changed his bow hold that he was literally bouncing up and down!

One of the youth orchestras in town apparently started an elementary school orchestra this year. Another year - maybe two - and he'll be able to play with them. I'm looking forward to it, because I want him to be around other kids his age who play.

He's a lot like me: it drives him insane to be second best. Last year, if one of the kids in his class got ahead of him on the ST Math program, he wouldn't stop until he got back ahead of him. It's a great point of pride that he's farthest ahead in the "warm-ups" at the gifted center. So, being around other kids is the single best thing for him.

Little Bear is less motivated by that; he's confident that he's the smartest kid in the room, but he doesn't feel it necessary to display that to everyone in the same way The Boy and I do. Different personalities. The Wife is like Little Bear: quiet confidence, not my swaggering arrogance.

Should be fun either way.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Star Wars




Last night, we finished watching "Return of the Jedi," which was one of the transformative movies of my childhood. The entire Star Wars series have been huge influences on me as I've grown: one of the first comics I collected, one of the first book series I collected, and one of the first movies that I actually wore out on video.

It's interesting, watching it as a grownup. There are so many missteps that they took: poor choices in character behavior (Leia kissing her brother in each of the first two movies, and Ewoks), poor choices in redoing effects in later editions, and awkward dialogue. However, these movies actually set up a bunch of sci-fi tropes: the Han Solo type character, Lando's betrayed and subsequent redemption, Luke's hero's journey, the rise and fall and rise of Anakin Skywalker, and the middle movie which had the heroes surviving a series of massive defeats yet striving to fight again.

I can't call Star Wars one of the best movies I've seen, anymore. I think a number of recent movies have passed it, in terms of epic storytelling (Lord of the Rings but not The Hobbit), special effects (Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy), and action (The Matrix).

But, for a kid who loved space ships, whose first favorite book was "Have Spacesuit, Will Travel," and who worked to reenact every scene in Empire with his toys and the Hoth battle set his parents bought him.... it was the first and most influential. It was immensely satisfying to hear my kids laugh at the same jokes that I did, to watch them get scared and nervous at the same parts I did, to mourn the deaths of friends (Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Anakin) and to celebrate with them at the victories. Priceless memories for me.

The discussion afterwards with The Boy, where he figured out that the Rebels didn't win a single thing in Empire - that Vader and his minions beat them like a drum for the entire movie - was awesome. It got him to think differently about the movie, about how satisfying it was even though his heroes didn't win.

Next up: Superman III and Superman IV, the the latter two movies in the Indiana Jones series.


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Beaten Into Submission




Currently, I am watching sons 1 and 3 beating a pile of snow with baseball bats. I'm not sure why - maybe the snow owes them money, or maybe the snow was hitting on their girlfriend. Still, they've been at it for fifteen minutes or so. Whatever keeps them going, I suppose.

It's the Jersey in them - the need to occasionally beat somebody with a bat.

Little Bear has just put his bike away so he can get a bat and help them. Sigh.


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Multiple Children




I'm sitting in the playroom at the JCC, and I'm listening to some mothers talking about multiple children. I'm struck by the language that they're using to talk about it. "I'm pregnant with my second." "You SHOULD be scared about it."

What?

I mean, parenthood is, ultimately, about fear: the daily fear of being able to take care of your children; the monthly fear of being a supportive, kind parent that will fill your kids' emotional needs without causing too much therapy; the long term fear of school and education and bullies and girl/boy friends and what kind of world am I bringing kids into anyway?

That wasn't what they were referencing, though. As I'm considering it, my negative judgment might be retreating. What does a second child cause?

Loss of social life: with one kid, you can take turns being a parent and being an independent human being.

Difficulty of travel: You can travel easily and stay at any friend's house. One kid fits in a normal guest bed with parents. Two doesn't.

Sick time gets extended, as colds pass from one to the next and back again.

They never have sleepless nights at the same time.

They never nap at the same time.

They go from playing to brawling in a moment.

Bedtime takes an order of magnitude longer.

Meals are more complicated, and if one kid is a picky eater, the other???

On the other hand:

They will play with each other and look out for each other. There will be moments when they snuggle each other back to sleep, and they will provide significant comfort to the other (in between fights) as they grow up.

The travel time is more precious because it takes more effort and planning.

Your friends without multiple children, while they might never understand, are a source of vicarious living, occasional babysitting, and Christmas presents.

The sleepless nights, long term, are wonderful bonding moments for your baby and you, once your love affair with coffee is resumed.

Bedtime is a relaxing affair that will help you get to sleep as much as it helps them.

Having the team help prepare a meal, set the table, and clean up is a great thing.

Okay. My hackles are down. Not such a bad thing, to be afraid of baby number 2.


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Saturday, March 7, 2015

Star Wars again




Tonight was a much more successful viewing of the Star Wars trilogy.

The boys had a good day today. They spent the morning at the toy library, then they spent a chunk of the afternoon at Grandma's house while The Wife had a quartet job. I was at an all-day quartet coaching, so I was gone from 9-4.

My blessed wife gave me an hour's nap once I was done, thankfully. I'm still not over whatever it was that crushed me earlier in the week, so every bit of rest is good. I haven't exercised since Monday, and - although I'm feeling it a bit - I needed the rest.



The boys got home and played Kingdom Hearts together. I finished off a couple of novels I've been dancing around, one of which was a collection of John Constantine comics that I picked up on Black Friday. We had a light dinner, because I had a big lunch and the boys went out for a pizza lunch.

We watched the last half of Empire Strikes Back and had a great post-movie discussion. I think we blew The Boy's mind about the fact that, in that amazing movie, the good guys don't win. Not once. They get cut off and out-maneuvered every which way, and it's their own immense heart and skill that allowed them to get out, with the only casualties being Han, Luke's hand, Lando's city, and C3P0's General status. We watched the first bit of Jedi, through the gang outfoxing and destroying Jabba the Hutt, before the boys went to bed.

Their favorite parts: the light saber battle between Luke and Darth Vader; Luke's jump and escape from the Sarlac Pit; Leia strangling Jabba (this princess doesn't need a rescuer); and Luke's light saber fighting against Jabba's men.

My New Year's Resolution is to get the pictures on the iMac under control, and I started in December 2014 and am working backwards. I'm trying to delete about 6-7 thousand pictures off the hard drive, both for space's sake and for organization's sake. I'm now entering April 2014, so I've finished most of the year so far. I figure if I can knock off a month every week or two, then I'll be caught up by the end of the year. It's a long game. I did some pictures while watching "Better Call Saul," which was awesome.


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Friday, March 6, 2015

Stinkers




Rough night tonight.

Little Bear is in the throes of the potty mouth phase, and it's quickly getting on the nerves of the entire family. While I enjoy a good fart joke as much as the next guy, there's a difference, you know? He's constantly calling his brothers potty names, and his trash talking has gotten out of control.

The Wife had already disciplined him this morning, and we had spoken to him a half dozen times during dinner, and when he got in the bathtub, he started on his brother: I wish you had been born without arms (long story), you're stupid, you're a butt, you smell like poop, etc. We finally lost patience.

So, instead of watching The Empire Strikes Back with the rest of us, he went to bed immediately after his bath. He was dramatically unhappy about this, particularly since he wanted to watch this movie. It is one of the all-time greats. But, despite the crying and begging and name calling (which defeated the purpose of convincing us that he wasn't going to call names), he was banished upstairs.

The Baby was asleep before they were off Hoth, as expected. He had a long day. I dumped him in bed while Luke was convincing R2D2 to change course to Dagobah.

The Boy then decided to sit on my lap and fart on me. Which, actually, is pretty funny - except when you're on the receiving end. He's been told about this before, multiple times. On one hand, I like that I relax him enough that his body works well. On the other hand... it's cute when a baby farts on your lap. Not so much when the baby is seven and a half.

After the second time, he was given a final warning, the movie paused, and a bathroom break enforced. So, afterwards, he sat on my lap and farted again.

Off to bed, Lord Stinkbottom. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200. We didn't even get to see Han frozen in Carbonite.

Tomorrow night we'll try to finish the movie off.


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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reading

Today, the kids had another snow day. It was pretty miserable, and I didn't make it up the hill in the morning. Didn't help that one of the windshield wipers snapped in half while I was defrosting.

The Boy has developed the habit of reading for a half hour or so after bedtime. I'm really cool with that. Less cool with him passing out facedown on a book, but that's because I'm not so into drool damage. I love that he's reading and getting the joy out of it that I get. Tonight he read stories from a Marvel Super Heroes storybook that I bought him for Christmas.

He started playing Kingdom Hearts again today. His last game got destroyed along with our last PS3, so he hasn't been in a rush to start again.


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Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Purim Redux




Took a sick day today from work - well, the type of sick day I like to take. I worked four hours in the morning then spent the rest of the day in bed, asleep. One of the benefits of having the ability to work at home (and a manager who is compassionate about letting me do it) is that I don't have to miss an entire work day because I need significant extra rest. I'm fairly sure this isn't a flu thing, but I'm tired enough to be concerned. Might do the same thing tomorrow. We'll see.



Tonight, though, is Purim, and The Wife's choir is performing. This means that I'm bringing the boys to temple, pretty much regardless of how I'm feeling. They're doing brinner tonight (breakfast for dinner), and everyone is wearing costumes, just like on Sunday. They're going to read the whole Megillah (pun intended) tonight, and then I'll go home and crash. Sigh.

It would be better if everything didn't hurt.

The boys are cute. It took them a while to decide on exactly which costumes to wear, which was funny. It makes me interested to see what'll happen when they're preparing to go out on a date.

The Boy had a big moment during his violin yesterday. He had a little extra time because the person following him was late, so they decided to play the Lully piece on which he was working. He said he felt like complaining, but he decided against it because playing the piece would end it faster than complaining about it. That's a big moment for him.

Here's a rare photo of Little Bear allowing someone else to wear the Superman outfit:


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Monday, March 2, 2015

Purim Bags




Tonight, the boys and The Wife stuffed Purim bags for their school friends. Basically, you're supposed to bring friends and neighbors small bags or baskets of treats on Purim as a celebration. We have some hamantaschen and some other tasty bits. We got to eat the leftover cookies, which I'm cool with doing.

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The boys and I are just shy of twenty miles run for the Steel Kids Marathon. Considering they're supposed to do 25 before the April marathon, I think we're in good shape. I think we have an outside shot at having 40 miles done before the marathon.

Yes, I'm an overachiever.



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Fighting a cold today and yesterday, as is The Wife. Might take tomorrow from exercising, which doesn't make me happy at all. We'll see. Maybe I won't lift; maybe I'll just do a nice, easy walk and jog. I hate taking time off because I sit at a computer all day and don't have many opportunities to move around.


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Sunday, March 1, 2015

Purim play




Today was the Purim play and Purim carnival at Rodef Shalom. Purim is a fun holiday in the Jewish calendar: it tells the story about how Queen Esther convinced King Ahashaverach to NOT kill the Jews and to take care of his advisor, Haman, who was trying to exterminate them. They read the play, and cheer when Esther speaks, and boo when Haman speaks, and it's a good day. The Boy played the king, and Little Bear played Mordechai, Esther's uncle. Everyone else is supposed to dress up in fun costumes.



The carnival has games and tickets and prizes to earn. There was a neat bouncy climbing slide thing, and a camp theme, and a bake sale, and hot dogs and popcorn and Sno-cones. The boys spent a few hours sprinting around, playing games, and eating treats. I wore my Flash costume, and The Baby wore an Iron Man costume.



This is one of my favorite days of the year. I love the carnival, and I love how happy it makes the boys.

The actual holiday is Wednesday night, and they're doing a family Magillah reading - that's the Purim story. They're also doing brinner - breakfast for dinner - beforehand, which is pretty awesome. The Wife's choir will be singing, and I'm looking forward to hearing that.


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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Super Why







In a lot of ways, I consider myself extremely fortunate. I have an amazing wife, three great kids, a chorus of wonderful individuals, a quartet of my three best friends here in Pittsburgh, and a supportive family. My job is filled with good people, and they think highly of me and give me responsibilities that have challenge and merit.

One of the biggest ones? My children have never developed the "I'm too big for this" crap. I've never had to convince any of them to play with whatever toys are available, and any play area - even when meant for little littles - is fun for all three boys (with careful supervision and instruction that they are to be with their baby brother at all times).






This morning, the characters from the Super Why TV show showed up at the Mall at Robinson, about forty minutes west of us. We drove down, waited for a half hour in line, and took a nice picture of the boys with them. It was worth it, and all had fun.

Right now, we're playing in the small kids play area. 1 and 2 are following 3 around, and they d manufactured a super hero rescue story to keep themselves entertained. I've only had to step in twice: once when a couple of twelve year old boys knocked over a couple of babies while roughousing, and once when the boys started to fight.

I'm just thinking of how difficult it would have been to do this, if 1 and/or 2 had decided that they were too old or big to meet Super Why or to play together.






I'm lucky.


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Friday, February 27, 2015

Back to School, for a day




Today, I had the unbelievable honor of speaking for an audience of music educators on behalf of the Barbershop Harmony Society. I gave a mini lecture on the benefits of singing barbershop in their classrooms and a listing of the resources available to music teachers from both the Barbershop Harmony Society and Sweet Adelines International. It was wonderful!

It was a bit of a hike: about two hours north of town, so I got a nice, early start. I arrived at around 9:30 and took some time to set up. As the people there are techies also, I wound up using their Apple TV to play the video and audio clips that were part of my presentation.

Kay Seymour, the director of the Pride of Toledo chorus, was my co-presenter, and we worked fabulously well together. She spoke on the history of SAI and what barbershop was and what the function of the four parts was. She spoke about the educational opportunities available from SAI.

I spoke about the BHS and what they could do, starting with singing a tag (Kay was thinking about teaching a tag and, in a case of "great minds think alike," we both picked the same one), and continued with playing a video from the BHS about how great barbershop is. This video included footage from the midwinter convention last month, which was literally hot off the presses. I then skipped my stuff that echoed Kay and told about the various places to go to get free music and support for their programs.

Many, many sincere thanks to Steve Luxbacher for 1) inviting us up to speak; 2) making it so easy to present; and 3) having cookies and coffee available.

Many, many sincere thanks to Kay Seymour, for being so incredibly easy with whom to work and for being a great mentor and friend.


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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sleepover!




So, we've been having some issues with our garage door punchcode thing: sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, and I haven't had any time to look at it. Normally, it's not an issue.

Tuesday nights, I have chorus rehearsal and The Wife has orchestra rehearsal. That's Grandma and Grandpa Night for the boys: after violin lessons, they go to G&G's house for yummy treats and fun and games and playing. Grandpa piles them into the car, and they come home, use the punchcode to enter the garage, and eventually get into bed. Last night, that came to a screeching halt before the final step when the garage wouldn't open.

So, Grandpa took the boys back to his house and tucked them into bed. I found out about this at the end of rehearsal (not that I could have done anything about it, being an hour away and the director of the chorus and therefore in charge of the rehearsal). The Wife had I had a brief consultation, and she decided to pack bags for the kids and just spend the night there. While I love my in-laws, I much prefer to spend the night at my house.

So, I stopped over and kissed the sleeping boys before heading home, crossing paths with The Wife about halfway, talking on the phone with her for the duration of the trip. I got home to an empty, dark house, did my nighttime ablutions, and went to sleep: a dark, dream-filled, completely uninterrupted seven hours of sleep. Best part, even moreso than the sleeping: I got to put my car in the garage!!!

I got up this morning, had a nice, leisurely breakfast and shower, and hopped into a warm-ish garage, started my car right up, and went to work. It was glorious.

Don't get me wrong: I love my family and missed them. But, for a night, it was wonderful.


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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Do You Want To Build a Snowman?




This winter has been a crappy one for playing outside in the snow.

When it's snowed, it has generally been immediately followed by several 0 degree days, which are too cold for little people to go outside. Or, the snow has turned into rain, and it's taken juuuuuuust enough of the snow off the ground so that they can't play well. So, we have only been outside in the snow two or three times.

Yesterday was a "cold" day. It was around -6 degrees when I got up in the morning, and I never even tried to go to work. I just worked at home instead. It steadily warned during the day, and it reached around 25 degrees by the end of the day. It was supposed to snow last night.

We stayed at grandma's house last night to make it easier. The Wife had work, and the boys and I went to a Pittsburgh Symphony kid's concert. More on that later. It started snowing somewhere around 5am, and by the time we got through the concert and got settled back home, it was warm enough to play outside.



Today was not a sleigh riding day, apparently. All we did was make snowmen: big snowman, little snowmen, tiny snowmen, and huge snowmen. We had snowball fights as well. This snow was damp and packed incredibly well.

The Wife took The Baby home, and we stayed an additional 45 minutes before coming home. All were happy and not too uncomfortable, even though it turned to rain about midway through our outing.

Best part? No tears. No fights. No anger. Just fun and companionship.



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Friday, February 20, 2015

Pitch Perfect




Wednesday night, I had quartet rehearsal at my house. The Boy was sitting in the lounge chair in the living room, listening a bit but mostly playing on The Wife's iPad. We were singing songs in Bb and Ab, which relevant to this story.

We were shifting from an Ab to a B song, and I remembered a story TheWife had told me. I said, "The Boy, sing your A string." He thought about it and did. I said, "Now go up to first finger B and sing that." He did. I blew the pitch pipe, and he was dead accurate with the pitch.

Go figure that the kid with hearing damage is the kid who inherits The Wife's perfect pitch.

At this point, we're pretty convinced he has it. Blessing and a curse, child.

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He's also reading music quite well. He's working his way through some of the string books we have lying around the house. This child is fearsomely intelligent.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out!




For Christmas, The Wife bought me soft, comfy pajama pants that were "A Christmas Story" based: they have the kid's face (glasses & parted hair) with the phrase "You'll shoot your eye out!" They're cute and extremely cozy, so they're a favorite now, when Pittsburgh is living like Anchorage. Yesterday morning, The Baby looked at them, thought about it, and said, "Daddy, is that Clark Kent on your pants?"

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The boys had no school today, and school was already called off for tomorrow because of the cold. Districts like Pittsburgh - which are predominantly bussing districts - don't do this extreme cold well. Nobody wants kids standing outside in this kind of weather, waiting for a bus. I feel worse for The Wife, who needs to juggle three children stuck in the house because of the weather all day. I guess it could be worse - we're not supposed to get any more snow, so she can go to the Toy Library or the JCC or the library or all three.

Maybe I'll work at home tomorrow.

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The Boy is really into the first book in the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series. I'm pretty happy about that. They're cute, and have comic-like drawings. We read five to seven "days" at night. It's a chapter book, but a different format. Once this is done, I hope they let me finish the Bone books with them - there's only 20 issues left that they haven't read.

Yesterday, The Wife declared screen time to be over and ordered everybody to read a book. The Boy found one of the Calvin & Hobbes collections on our shelves and enjoyed that for quite some time. I'm cool with that.

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The only positive of yesterday's weather was that, because The Wife's choir rehearsal got cancelled, I didn't have to juggle a quartet rehearsal AND a handful of small children. It makes life that much easier.

Tonight is Flash night. I'll take the boys running at the JCC, then we'll come back and watch Flash after bath time.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dueling Children

Yesterday, the boys had no school because of the weather. The temperature didn't hit the teens until late afternoon, when it started to snow. Ironically, it was worse today: slightly higher (5-6 degrees) with snow and ice falling, but there was no delay or anything. Consistency, thy name is not school. But, I digress.

We stayed inside all day, not the least reason was because our hill was nigh-impassable. I took a nap mid afternoon, but other than that, we watched tv, wrestled, played card games and board games, and read. I played a great game of superheroes with the younger two, and we vanquished Batman's and Flash's entire rogues gallery with minimal casualties.

The highlight of the day for me was playing Yu-Gi-Oh! with Little Bear. I dueled him earlier in the day and beat him quite soundly, using his deck (while he used The Boy's). After dinner, we had the most epic duel of his playing career to date.

It was momentous in its scope. It swung from me winning to him winning, to me, to him, until I finally pulled it off: on my very, very last card that I could have pulled before I would have run out (and therefore lost the duel). I got my strongest monster on the field; he pulled a tricky maneuver and banished it from the game. His strongest came onto the field; I strategically removed it from the game. Everything I tried, he countered. Everything he tried, I countered. Until the last move, when he had no defense remaining.

I am so proud of him. It's not every five year old that can play such a thrilling game. He studies his cards and has memorized their attacks and defenses and effects, and he dreams about combinations to use his cards.

I also hope not every duel turns out like this. He'll wind up winning just because of endurance.


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Monday, February 16, 2015

Too Cold to Move




From Little Bear: "The Baby's socks smell like peanut butter!"

Never heard that one before.

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Stuck inside the house today because of the weather: currently nine degrees by the widget in my journal program. I've been under the weather all day, which has fit with the general household hibernation feeling.

The Boy was up at 1am with awful belly issues, and The Wife stayed right along with him. I didn't notice, having a small snuggle buddy to keep me asleep. He was stationed on my chair all day today. We did go to Eat'n'Park with Uncle C this morning, but all of us ordered easy stuff instead of the usual crap.

We filled the day with a Yu-GI-Oh! marathon and some board games, some card duels, and some super heroes and bad guys. I got some work done on my presentation, which is the end of next week and coming quickly. Next trick: finding four or five short videos to play for the assembled educators.

The boys were supposed to have school today. Not really sure why they have school on President's Day, but whatever. The cold cancelled everything - by 9:00, the temperature still hadn't reached as high as 0 degrees F. Little Bear took a nap, curled up half on the couch.

It is currently snowing, meaning tomorrow will be interesting.


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Sunday, February 15, 2015

Lazy Day




Today was a "cold" day: we stayed inside and didn't move much from the couch for the day. We tried around 1 to get to Grandma's house, but we could not make it up on top of the hill. I took multiple naps, which goes right along with the sore throat I've developed. Blech.

Last night, we watched the end of Star Wars, and 2 & 3 fell asleep. So, since The Boy was awake, we watched Guardians of the Galaxy together. He really enjoyed it, and he had been bugging me for a couple of months to watch it. The language was a little more colorful than we would prefer, but that's fine. We'll deal with that when we need to: like when he yelled, "G-d damn it!" when Little Bear made a good move in a card game today.

We did eventually make it to Grandma's house, which was great because Uncle C is in town. The picture is Little Bear snuggling with me while we watched Yu-Gi-Oh! earlier today.


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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Space Movies

Watched "Star Wars" with the boys. 2 & 3 fell asleep. So, we decided to do something a little special: Guardians of the Galaxy, which is the most grown up movie he's watched. His response: "I'm so excited I farted!"

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We're snowed in right now. I tried to make it to the JCC to run, but we got halfway there before turning around and going home. Too much ice.

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There is something wonderful and beautiful about my little bear, sleeping on my lap. What a snuggle man.


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Friday, February 13, 2015

Talent Show and Birds and the Bees

Tonight, The Boy and Little Bear are playing in their school talent show. Last year, I missed the talent show because of an early chorus retreat. I'm excited about the whole thing: The Boy is playing "Go The Distance" on his violin, and Little Bear is playing a song from the Suzuki cello book. The Wife is accompanying them on piano. I'm in charge of The Baby and videotaping, both of which I can handle. From what the wife says, this should be a very cute evening: there are kids who sing, who dance, who play different instruments, and a few Stupid Human Tricks, to quote the old David Letterman sketch.

(No, I'm not saying your kid's trick is stupid. It was a bit on a late-night talk show. Look it up. Some of the stuff was pretty cool.)

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Last night's Flash episode was the weakest of the season, and none of the kids made it through the entire episode without falling asleep. The most uncomfortable part was the date between Barry and Linda Park (who was dating Wally West - Barry's nephew and Kid Flash - in the comic, which is weird enough), which ended with him shirtless and popping up from behind a couch. Little more kissing than I really wanted to watch with my children - I don't want to have the discussion about the birds and the bees with a 7, 5, and 3 year old.

Not that I'm against having that discussion - I just would prefer to have it a little later. And one at a time. And not while I'm trying to watch one of my favorite current shows. And not when I'm planning on going to bed soon after the show. Give me a little time to breathe and for the discussion to happen naturally.

I wonder how the discussion will go. I honestly don't know what general viewpoint I'll espouse - other than, don't get her pregnant, and don't play snugglebunnies just for the sake of playing snugglebunnies. I don't think the "wait until marriage" thing is particularly relevant in modern American society. I mean, if you can, and if it's important to you both, then more power to you. Ms. Right is more important than Ms. Right Now, I guess, and you can really make memories that you'll regret if you settle for the wrong person. Then again, we've all done that, and we all have our embarrassing, squeemish memories that we'll take to our graves.

Granted, most of THAT won't come up until later. Most likely, any questions will be the generic clinical, "Where do babies come from?" questions, which has an easy answer. "Amazon.com."


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Superheroes

Superheroes were played, and villains were vanquished. I fought as Green Lantern, with Batman (The Baby), Superman (guess), and "Cars-man" (The Boy wearing Cars movie pajamas), then I fought against them as the Red Skull. It was pretty awesome.

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The boys ran a solid 12-minute mile at the JCC tonight. That's a pretty darn good pace. Considering that I tend to run 10 minute miles on flat ground, they're not far off of my pace. Sigh. I knew I was going to be passed by my kids, but I thought I'd have a few years first.

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Flash night tonight. Not the most exciting episode, so all boys were asleep before the end of the show. I'm not going to move them for a minute, because snuggling small boys is what I do.


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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Games




Monday night I was met at the door by Batman (The Baby) and Superman (Little Bear), who really wanted me to play superheroes and bad guys with them. Specifically, they wanted me to put on the Red Skull mask & outfit and be vanquished by the World's Finest. As much as I hated to do so, I declined; I had about twenty minutes from the time I walked in the door to eat, clean up, and leave for quartet rehearsal. Yesterday was chorus rehearsal, which means that I'm not home until 10:30PM or so, so I won't actually see them. Tonight I'll make a special effort to play with them before we go to the JCC to run.

Weirdly enough, due to an event at the temple, tomorrow night is a whole-family-is-home night, once The Boy is done with his chorus rehearsal.
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The boys have started making their own Yu-Gi-Oh! cards. It's really cute. They're drawing pictures and trying to come up with effects and levels and things like that. Of course, everything is grossly overpowered. Considering that the average attack strength of a card is around 1700 or 1800, Little Bear's warrior card with a 60,000 attack is not the most reasonable card. When they find out the programs and websites that will let you print out your own cards - using "official" templates - I think their brains will explode.

It's still cute. Little Bear sits with his deck while he's watching television, drawing cards and playing a phantom game against an opponent. His dreams - that he tells me about in the morning - have changed. This morning, I was dueling him inside the television show. Yesterday, he and The Boy were dueling together, fighting two bad guys. The fact that this is catching their imagination really catches mine!

The amazing thing about children: their new discoveries of something sheds a fresh new light on it. Their enjoyment of the game allows me to enjoy it vicariously. This morning, they decided to duel each other before breakfast. It promotes critical thinking, strategic thinking, reading, talking, spending time together.... it's all a positive.


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Monday, February 9, 2015

Bear Hunting

Yesterday, I got home to find The Boy doing fairly well. Best guess was that he ate something that disagreed with him at the birthday party, and since his digestive system is a bit of a mystery.... GI issues. Voila! Grandma and Grandpa (well, Grandpa because Grandma still has that broken leg thing) cooked us a nice lunch, and we went home to enjoy the day

Since it was pushing 60 degrees, we pumped up the bike tires and sent them to riding. After about fifteen minutes, Little Bear disappeared in the house. Five minutes later, he hadn't reappeared, so I went bear hunting.



Same stomach issues as The Boy. Except for him, it was twice in about an hour, both times resulting in baths. Sigh.

Still, once that initial spurt resolved itself (pun intended), he was fine. At least it motivates me to thoroughly clean the downstairs bathroom.

We watched Jurassic Park with the rest of the afternoon. All boys were in bed around 8, and I followed soon after. This morning, I woke to find three boys in our bed.


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Sunday, February 8, 2015

Leaving Ohio Too Quickly

Last night, The Boy woke up at 11:30 and sprinted for the bathroom - and didn't quite make it in time. Poor thing had an awful stomach incident.

Everybody has belly issues like this one, but - if you've been reading my blog - you know that his tend to be special. I guess, as a cancer survivor, we're always to go respond a little differently and a little more thoroughly than we do for the others. Not that we're lax with 2 and 3; just that a belly issue is regarded as an annoyance instead of an issue of concern.

Flashback, 2013: belly issues lead to a four day hospitalization, which happened right around the contest weekend for my chorus. That was no fun at all.

The Wife let me know via text message. While it was an item of concern, she didn't feel it was important enough that I needed to get home at 3:30am. But, this morning, instead of watching a Dale Syverson coaching session, I went home to care for The Boy.

Fortunately, it seems to have been a one-off thing so far: just the result, maybe, of too many sweets at a birthday party. Still, we'll watch him carefully for a few days.


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Saturday, February 7, 2015

Yu-Gi-Oh!

Little Bear has taken to Yu-Gi-Oh! duel monsters card game like a fish to water. He studies his deck, and he has memorized the attack and defense stats and the exact card effect card verbiage. It's quite impressive, really. The Boy enjoys it as well, and the two of them have huge, epic duels, just like in the anime show. They keep score sometimes, and sometimes they don't. Other times they keep score in the middle. Doesn't matter.

I've got three different "decks" that I've put together, from the couple years that I played regularly. They like playing my decks, even though I usually beat them handily. Except, Little Bear whipped me in the first game I ever played him.

I downloaded a card list for our devices, and Little Bear has started reading about other cards. Won't be long before they're designing their own decks.

I like playing real games with them. They're smart kids with a quick wit, and the time we spend is nice bonding time. We're only a couple years (The Baby reading) before we have Family Game Night!!!


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Running

Yesterday, I took the boys to the JCC for another mile towards their Minadeo marathon. The hard thing about having boys so close together is the sibling rivalry is fierce. The good thing is that the sibling rivalry keeps them going when they'd like to stop.

They're good runners: they've figured out how to keep a nice, even pace, and we finish a mile in about 11 minutes or so - which is really not bad for a 5-year old and a 7-year old. If I could cut down on the crying for whichever kid isn't running well that day and gets passed by his brother....

The Baby doesn't want to run. He watches, cheers on, and plays with whatever toy he brings. I'm cool with that.


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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Running in Circles

This week, twice, I have had the pleasure of an exquisite experience: running laps with my oldest son.



The Boy and Little Bear are taking part in the Steel Kids Marathon, which is a Pittsburgh schools thing. Basically, they have to run 25 miles between January 1 and the Pittsburgh marathon in April. They run the last 1.2 miles the day of the marathon, and everybody makes a big fuss at the end. There are t-shots, prizes, and games and such. It's a wonderful, positive experience.

Last year was not the most positive experience. It was supposed to be a Mom and The Boy bonding thing, where they would go to the JCC to run or to the Saturday morning thing to run together, just the two of them. But, she then got hired on as a cantorial soloist for her temple, which meant that Saturday mornings were out. She would occasionally take him during the week, but it took a crash sequence of running at the end of March to catch him up enough to finish the entire marathon.

Plus, the day of the marathon, he had a complete and epic meltdown. He was screaming and crying all the way through to the end of the run. Combine that with bringing Little Bear along with, and it wasn't a great experience.

This year, we resolved for it to be different. Since multiple children are now in school, multiple children participated. We talked about how to run distances: take a medium speed and hold yourself back. That way, you can run for much, much longer than just setting off and running as fast as you can.

Thus, my wonderful moment: going for a nice run with my son. We just ran. We'd race each other for a bit, every once in a while. We'd talk a little bit, but we mostly just ran for the mile. It was very blissful for me.

I've tried to run with Little Bear, but he's tough. He's competitive. He wants to beat you. He'll run with me for short distances, then he remembers who he is and has to be ahead of me.

It's caused some issues when we all run. If I let the two start the mile at the same time, inevitably one breaks down crying by lap three, which means twelve laps of me pushing and prodding them to finish. Usually, that's Little Bear. The Boy is two years older than he is, which is a lot of development and muscle time.

Now, I send one of the kids to get about three quarters of a lap ahead before I send the other one. That way, they're both equally unhappy, when they're not the one ahead. Whatever.

They're at 9.91 miles right now. The odd number is because the indoor track at the JCC requires 15 laps per mile, which means some weird things if they decide to do 16 laps or something like that. They'll cross the ten mile barrier tomorrow, which will be celebrate by donuts.

It's nice to be able to run with my sons. I enjoy it.


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Monday, January 19, 2015

Collision of Galaxies




Tonight, I showed The Boy a cool little story (on a photographic story application called Storehouse) about the Andromeda Galaxy. It had recent pictures from the Hubble showing the millions of stars. It also had a scientist's hypothesis that, in four billion years, the Andromeda Galaxy and our Galaxy would pass through each other. I figured that he had been into space stuff lately and would think this cool.

Instead, it triggered an episode of existential angst. He came to the conclusion that, in four billion years, he would be dead and not able to see that stuff of which I spoke. I had a hard time dealing with that one, mostly because the time span of four billion years is a little bit outside of our comprehension. Four billion years ago, the earth wasn't a thing, and life wasn't life. In four billion years, we won't exist as a species - or, if we do, we'll be so changed and evolved that we won't recognize ourselves.

In an hour, it worked its way through his psyche and emerged as a more common "I don't want to die, someone might shoot me," set of fears. That, I can help. I gave reassurances and reminders that I've been so far successful in keeping him safe, and I reminded him that Daddy rules in all things, including protection. I gave a few extra snuggles, and he drifted off to sleep. I hope he was comforted.

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Grandma fell while she was cleaning her room last week, leading to a minor fracture of a leg bone. I mean, as minor as a fracture can actually be. The important bit is, she will be okay and this should have no lasting damage. But, she's on crutches and in a brace.



On Friday, at temple, we were waiting in the preschool room for services to start. The Baby used some toys to make some "metal legs" for himself, so he could be just like Grandma. It was very cute.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Remembering Michael

Obituary of Michael Whitcombe

He was the right teacher, in the right place, at the right time, when I most needed somebody to guide me and to support me. Literally, everything important in my life exists because I met this man and studied saxophone with him for two glorious, wonderful years. My teacher and my mentor passed away, and I'm mourning for him. Michael Whitcombe taught me saxophone - and so much more - from September 1995 until June 1997, at Rutgers University. That was my senior year and my fifth year at college.

To say that I had had a rough time in my first three years would be an understatement. I was studying a discipline - classical saxophone - that was basically unknown at Rutgers at the time, with only one other person in that major before me. I was directionless; worse, I did not know what questions I needed to ask. My teacher before Michael was not the right personality for what I needed. I had been put on artistic probation twice, thrown out of the performance program, and was struggling with my direction in life in general. I was on my last legs as a music education student, and I was searching for any kind of answers or guidance.

When Michael was hired to teach the saxophone students (classical, not the jazz guys), my life instantly changed direction. He helped me find focus and guided me towards the answers I was seeking. He showed me that there was an amazing world of music out there, once you left the shadow of central New Jersey, and he showed me how to access it.

He helped fix my sound. He taught me how to practice. He showed me where to find saxophone recordings. This was before the internet was The Internet, and you had to know where to search. I found out about the record stores in New York City that carried classical saxophone, and the music stores in New York City and Iowa City (don't ask) that carried classical saxophone music, and about great saxophone quartets (like the PRISM Quartet), and about modern music (post-1980), and about the wondrous Mecca of saxophone called the University of Michigan, with Donald J. Sinta, the master, presiding.

I had a Purpose. I was practicing 10-12 hours per day, and I was happier than I had ever been.

I'm fairly sure (but was never able to confirm) that the biggest reason I made it into the University of Michigan as a graduate student was because he called Mr. Sinta and told him about my drive and my desire to play - a diamond in the (very) rough. But, a year and a half after I met Michael, I was accepted into the University of Michigan School of Music to study saxophone performance.

Without Michael, I don't go to Michigan. I don't learn about music and life from Don Sinta and Marianne Ploger. I don't meet my wife, get married, and have these three wonderful boys and beautiful house in Pittsburgh. I don't learn the musical lessons I need to learn to become the barbershopper, director, and teacher that I've become.

Even my social interactions are influenced by him: his email address was "michaelsax(at)aol.com," and I have used that formula of email address ever since. My Facebook page address, my YouTube channel, all have my first name and "sax" afterwards. To show his influence, even my wife's email address is her initials and "bass" at the end, in the same formula.

I've been blessed through my life with wonderful, wonderful teachers. When Paul Larsen passes, or Michael Tomczak, or Donald Sinta, or Marianne Ploger, or William Berz, or James Tapia, or any one of a few dozen teachers that I could name, I'm sure I'm mourn similarly. But, Michael, unlike any of them, was exactly the right person at exactly the right time in exactly the right place. My life is utterly and completely altered because of him.

The worst part about this whole thing was that he passed away two years ago, in February of 2013, and that makes my mourning somewhat more difficult. Not that I would have been able to attend his funeral, but I could possibly have gotten a nice note to his partner about how much Michael has meant to my life. I owe him more than he likely knows.

I haven't seen or spoken to him in more than ten years. I had exchanged a few emails with him over the years, but he was never a very communicative person, digitally. I guess, like always, I figured that I'd be able to reestablish contact with him eventually.

Thank you, Michael. I hope you're proud of me and what I've accomplished. My life is richer and happier for having known you.