Thursday, May 31, 2007

Mom and Dad would be so proud . . .

. . . of what a good influence I am on 3B.

Although maybe not so happy that I told the world about it.

At least I didn't use my real name.

See, I'm learning.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

BTW, FWIW, 3B's LOL*

For those who were worried--or was that just us?--you can see for yourselves how unaffected and happy 3B was less than half an hour after getting burned by Mama's cousin's Harley. 3B clearly doesn't hold it against his cousin:


*Long-distance dedication: That subject line goes out to the 14-year-old Japanese girl who is MetroDad.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Off the junk for a day--a million little pieces of pollen

I wake up. The room is white. OK, the ceiling is white. The walls are yellow. The sheets are robin's egg blue. The carpets are deep red. Not really blood red, though. But dark. Like a Radio Flyer wagon. But darker. And a little different. Sort of more red than red.

I hear someone talking in the next room. Down the hall. Behind a door. Except he's just babbling. He's probably pissed in his pants while he slept. Maybe crapped. He wants out from behind the bars. I can let him out. But I'm just lying here. White ceiling. Yellow walls. Radio Flyer carpet.

I know him. He's only got eight teeth in his head. He only eats gruel and small pieces of food. He can't chew. No molars. He can't walk, except clutching desperately to a wagon. He never falls, but he'd rather crawl. That way, he can lay down wherever he is when he gets tired.

He hugs the floor. He plays with dolls. He laughs at himself in the mirror. He jumps up and down to the sound of music. He squeals in delight when he sees birds. He needs two naps a day. And he's got that burn on his leg. That burn that I'm responsible for. That burn from the Harley Davidson, now forever known as the Owwie Davidson.

I shuffle out, to the bottle, shake a pill into my palm. One more pill. One more day. One more day with allergies. With all this pollen, a million pieces of pollen--so many iridescent motes of dust that dance in the wind as if someone were writing about them.

I started reading A Million Little Pieces this weekend--could you tell? I know, it's fake. Or not. Maybe I would take it more seriously and get more caught up if I didn't know that, but honestly, it's all very Less-Than-Zero-in-Rehab, so I feel like I've read it before, but set in L.A.

On Sunday, when we went to see Rolling Thunder (video is on the way), I forgot to take my Claritin. By the end of the day, I wanted to rub my eyes and nose off my face. I got back on the junk the next morning, and everything seems right with the world again now.

Except 3B's burn. When we got home we were going to take some pictures of 3B on Mama's cousin's new Harley until 3B's leg hit something hot on the engine. We got no pictures, but 3B did get a fair-sized burn on the back of his leg, which we've been worrying over ever since.

Honestly, once the adrenaline left our systems, I think we realized that this is like a really bad sunburn and that he should be OK, but we're still keeping it covered with a gauze bandage, which we're changing twice a day, just to be sure. We're consulting with our pediatrician friend to make sure that there's nothing else we can do, but I think that the cure requires nothing more than cleanliness, time, and patience.

Every time I think of it, though, I clench my hands, curl my toes, and grimace. It must have hurt him so badly--although he's not been aware of it now, and hasn't been since about 15 minutes after it happened. And it was all for a picture. Agh.

I keep replaying it in my mind, trying to make it go differently this time. Hoping that when I get home, there will be no bandage on his leg, no burn. And then I try to remind myself that he'll heal. That he's not even aware of it, much less bothered by it. And then I try to remember to take full breaths. To get to sleep on Sunday night, I had to tell myself to lay still and breathe deeply as we do in yoga class--in through the nose until my ribs expand, out through the mouth until my chest sags--for five minutes. After that, I was finally still enough to go to sleep.

But I still woke up thinking about it.

He will get better. Right?

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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Memorial Day

3B prepares for Memorial Day . . .

Mmm. Hefeweizen.

And then asks, "What do you mean these aren't for me? Since when are bottles on the floor in this house for anyone but me?"

Really? You're having a cherry wheat beer, girly man?

Or maybe he's saying, "If you want a beer, go buy you your own case; Mama clearly bought this one for me."

Or something else, like perhaps, "You know that it's because of pictures like this that child protective services has you on speed-dial, right?"

While we put together the footage that we shot today of 3B's first swim, you can discuss amongst yourselves and send in your captions for these photos.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

In memory of those whom we cannot forget

One of 3B's favorite new tricks is breathing water. As he's learning to stand unassisted by couches, chairs, pant legs, or Barky's tail, 3B is practicing downward-facing dog every chance he gets, including in the tub.

From his perspective, that's got to be a perfect place for it--the traction is great, with the new sticky bathmat that Mama and Papa put down. There is, however, the small issue of the water on top of the bathmat. We think that he's pretty much figured out that water is not a breathable substance, but not without some gagging, hacking, and barfing.

We, of course, do our best to keep him from doing this, but he's a quick little otter in the tub. One minute he's trying to bite a chunk off of his foam letter or eat the soap dish, and the next he's popped up into his down-dog pose. As soon as we can, we grab our capsized baby and set him down, right side up, although he's usually managed to inhale half a gallon of bathwater through his nose by then. Now that he's finally figuring out how to deal with the water, it's actually a little funny to us, although it's still a little scary. And the first few times he did it, it was terrifying.

It's also terrifying to think that after all of our precautions to keep him safe and healthy--car seat, video monitor, outlet faceplates, sunscreen, hats, coats, and everything else--that 3B could ever come to any harm, later in life. And I don't think that most parents are any less cautious or loving than we are, or that their children are any less beautiful than 3B is--sweet, happy, loving, curious, ambitious, and overflowing with potential.

All of this is what makes me feel the heartbreaks that we recognize this weekend more keenly now that I'm a dad.

I cannot imagine 3B, or anyone's child, going into combat--going to face someone who is trying to kill them, or going to attempt to kill someone--or any of them suffering the ravages of combat. And yet, they continue to serve, each for their own reasons, but each one who stations himself or herself in harm's way protects the rest of us from harm, at the least. In some cases, they lead us to freedom.

In our family, there are veterans going all the way back to those who fought the British to help found this country . . .
. . . and coming all the way down to my uncles, who all served, and Dad, who served in both WWII and Korea. This weekend, Mama's cousin, a Marine who's completed two tours in Iraq, is coming to town to stay with us and ride in Rolling Thunder. Every time I think of him--a strong, smart, and big-hearted guy--over there in Iraq, I think of 3B. I particularly think of how much fun 3B will have playing with him as he grows up. Mama's cousin can take 3B for walks in the woods, take him fishing, show him how to drive a tractor--and pass on all of the fun, the knowledge, and the love that his parents gave him as a boy. But only if he's still here when 3B grows up.

So this weekend, we'll be enjoying our time with Mama's cousin. As he holds 3B in his bulky arms, we'll be keeping in mind all of our relatives, ancestors, and countrymen and women who have served and are serving in the armed forces. None of them are motherless or fatherless children, and all of them deserve the long lives, full of love, safe from harm, and full of peace, that their parents envisioned for them.

UPDATE: Per MrGrammar's comment.

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Who's chasing my son with a hatchet?

Mama and I shuddered as we read Amalah's recent guest post from her six-year-old neighbor and realized what we had to look forward to, especially since we know that 3B's Daddy was a Chatty Cathy even before he could make words, so much so that the nurse commented on it at one of my first doctor's visits and Mom noted it in her little blue book.

But we're too busy with the here and now to worry for too long about what's coming. Just today, I got this message from Mama:

Today your son perfected the horror-movie-scream. There is no other way to describe it. He is not the least bit upset when he does it--he's just messing around--but OMG it sounds like someone is after him with a hatchet in a black mask. Really, it probably means something like "this magnet is cool."
Holy crap, Mama makes me laugh.


P.S. Happy birthday, Bob. Thanks for all the songs.

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Why do I bother?

I have always had good intentions for this blog, but I'm consistently too slow, too disorganized, or too damn lazy to fulfill them. But the good news is that there are plenty of other daddy bloggers out there who are more than capable of fulfilling my intentions:

  • Ever since I read Greg's post about the vegan parents who let their infant starve to death, I've wanted to post something about it. Kaz over at I Hate Snaps! beat me to it, writing what I wanted to say, only better and with fewer words.
  • There have been plenty of other things I wanted to say along the way in this parenting adventure--little observations of the way things are, how they used to be, how we've changed and grown. Again, someone beat me to it. This time it's L.A. Daddy. (And all this time, I thought I was the only one who used Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as a bedtime story.)
  • And then there are all the fun things that come through the tubes of the innernets that I really mean to share with all of you, but I figure there's no need for me to bother when you could go read King Potty Mouth, aka the Zero Boss, who tips you off to blogs full of pictures of passive aggressive notes from around the world, among other fun sites.
  • Speaking of pictures, Raul, over at Heading East, makes me wonder why I bother posting my pictures, or taking pictures, or owning a camera . . . probably because I can't afford to have him living here, ready and waiting to capture images of 3B as they appear to him. Not only are his images and those he brings to his blog beautiful, his writing is sublime.
  • Even the nondaddy bloggers do a better job at this thing than I do, with Brother #2 posting a fine picture of what was a beautiful celestial surprise that I got to see the other night when I was out walking Barky--an event which Sister #1 describes better than I ever have. (And since when did our family become the Blogging Wallendas?)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Why aren't there murders in children's books?


Can anyone explain to me why, when most Americans no longer live on or even near farms, the books we use to teach kids about their world are full of agrarian animals and scenes. It's not just the older books--Boynton's books are full of cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens.

One of 3B's favorite books is her Barnyard Dance, but when the hell will 3B ever see a barnyard? OK, that's actually a trick question, since Grammy lives on a dairy farm in Vermont, so 3B gets to see a barnyard a few times a year. But a barnyard dance? How the hell is he supposed to know what that is?

Why not a book about a breakdancing contest? Fashions being as cyclical as they are, that's more likely to be a part of his daily routine than a hoedown.

And, as for those animals, he'd be better served if his books were full of squirrels, feral cats, dogs--mostly mutts and rescued greyhounds, thank you very much--and those little black birds that are everywhere--including in our stroller--and pigeons, seagulls, chickadees, and murders of crows.

I'm not kidding about the crows. Several times a year, they descend in concentrations of massive numbers throughout the area. One afternoon, they roosted in the trees of the nature preserve across from our office, giving everyone the heeby-jeebies, squawking all afternoon long, as if taunting us: "Try to get to your car! Caw! Caw! Caw! It's a long way to the garage! Caw! Caw! Caw!" No wonder a group of them is called a murder.

But seriously, back to the cows, pigs, sheep, and chickens--anyone know why we can't shake our agrarian roots? Is it because books about where most of us work these days--the veal-fattening pens in cube farms--would be too grim? Hey, maybe we could liven the place up and hold a barnyard dance in the copier room . . . anybody? Anybody?

If you know the answer, please share. This isn't a trick question. I honestly can't figure it out.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Dangerous pie crusts

Sometimes I feel like I grew up on another planet, especially when I read about something like the Dangerous Book for Boys.

I don't get the title--first off, marbles aren't dangerous. What's dangerous is playing war by tearing up weeds by the roots in a vacant lot and winging them at each other as grenades. Especially if, as my uncle suggested to me, you press a good rock into the dirt around the roots, to give it that extra oomph. Second, the book doesn't make much sense to me because I grew up in a house where the girls knew at least as much about tying knots and fixing cars and playing sports as the boys did. If I wanted to learn any of these things, I could ask my sisters or my brothers--or Mom or Dad.

We didn't know how to play marbles or stickball--that was Mom's generation--but damned if we didn't play wiffle ball, four square, seven up, red light/green light, and any number of other unorganized games. You might think that with six kids, I always had someone to play with, but we all had different interests, as we do now, so I was often playing with neighbors or friends from around the neighborhood.

This was, in no small part because I wasn't allowed to watch TV during the day, and our parents didn't get videogames for us, even when they were available. Sure, we did eventually get an Atari, but our interest waned pretty fast since we only had a few cartridges, so it was back out to the street, where if we were bored with all the games that we knew, we'd just make something up. Of course, technology did come to the street from time to time, like when I got a Green Machine. As I recall, Green Machines came out when I was a few pounds too big for them, but I was determined to get one, having never gotten a Big Wheel, like all the other cool kids.

So I did my best impression of the youngest child, complete with incessant whining (pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease!), empty promises (I'll keep my room clean until I'm, like, 100), and lists of benefits (it's fast, it's green, it's cool). As soon as I got it, I let all the other kids ride it around for awhile, until they tired of it. Magnanimous? No, pragmatic--I knew that once they were done, it was all mine. I tore up and down our cul de sac, tugging and pushing on the levers to pitch myself into high speed turns, until I finally felt like it was time to test out the Green Machine's killer app: skids.

I took it all the way to the open end of our cul de sac and launched myself, pedals flying furiously, toward the circle at the other end of our street, where I would throw the levers as hard as I could in opposite directions, spinning me into a glorious, fast, dangerous, and loud skid. I knew it would work because I had seen it on TV, and TV never lies.

The thing is, physics is a subtle and tricky science. As well as a dangerous one.

This was my realization somewhere between being launched off the Green Machine midskid and scraping on my right side along the asphalt for several feet. I do have to give Mom credit where it's due. When I limped into the house, picking small stones out of my arm and leg, she looked at me and said, "Oh, that looks like it hurts. So, was it fun?"

Of course it was fun. As was playing hide and seek, war, tag, football, or other random activities like climbing in trees--even the one I fell out of, opening a six-stitch gash in my chin, giving myself a concussion, and biting off a piece of my tongue in the process. And that's why I plan to teach 3B all of these games--or at least let him discover them himself.

But it has nothing to do with the fact that he's a boy. It has to do with my complete ineptitude at videogames and the fact that those are the only games I know for kids. I'd teach the same games to a girl if we had one. But the reality is that if 3B--or a daughter, if we have one--wants to learn fun things like tying knots and changing a tire he'd likely be better off learning them from one of my sisters, or Mom, if she were still alive.

I recall Mom telling me about changing a tire on her station wagon alongside a highway on one trip when she was well into her 60s. "Mom, you have AAA. Why didn't you just call them?" (Funny how roles reverse later in life, right?) Her reply: "Oh, they take too long to get there, and I should know how to do it anyway. It's not that hard. Wouldn't you change your own tire?" I sputtered, "Yes, but . . . never mind."

But my family lives all the way over on the Left Coast, so visits are short and infrequent. But, I'm still all for our kids knowing essential skills that they can use when caring for their elderly parents, like baking a flaky pie crust, driving a manual transmission car (so they won't ruin the Aston Martin they buy me when they take me to the home), and the basics of sewing and seaming, which is why I'm all for Moxie writing her proposed book.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Zebras are reactionaries

We went to the zoo this weekend. It was on too much of a whim to call Steve to see if he and Larry and Corey--who are FONZies--could join us. Next time we'll plan further ahead. Maybe far enough ahead to remember to pack either camera--our digital or the sweet video camera that the King gave us.

D'oh!

I'm claiming parent brain caused me to forget them, and yes, I'm sticking with that story . . . especially given that my other choices are ignorance, stupidity, and premature senility.

Being on a whim, as we were, we didn't check the Metro website to discover that there were half hour delays due to track work and single-tracking along our route. That meant that leaving after 3B's afternoon nap got us to the zoo at about his dinner time. Fortunately, even though the buildings close at 6, the grounds are open until 8, so we walked the Asia trail where we got to see sloth bears, a leopard, red pandas, and otters. After a quick snack for 3B and for us, we headed out, stopping by to see a cheetah on our way.

Cool thing at the cheetah enclosure: a scale where you can weigh yourself and see what kind of prey you compare to. Turns out that I'm a young wildebeest. That's the first time someone's called me young in years--and a wildebeest, too!

Dude, I love the zoo!

Unfortunately, since I didn't have either camera, I was using my phone for pictures and video, so I couldn't get anything good of the animals or 3B close to them. However, 3B did manage to put together what I got and tell his tale of the day, although I think his expectations were set a bit high by our recent visit to the opening of our friends' beautiful new pediatrics practice:



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Friday, May 18, 2007

Put this in your Prius and smoke it

Today, or yesterday, if you live on the Left Coast, which is constantly ahead of the rest of the country, to hear L.A. Daddy tell it, is Bike-to-Work-Day. It's a day of political grandstanding, smug self-righteousness, and declarations that by next year, we'll all be pedaling to work, to home, to the park, to the moon! But for me, I always hope that there will be enough bikers and enough of a reduction in traffic that drivers will see that, rather than being a nuisance, every biker is one less car in their way, and then maybe they would stop trying to kill us all.

Brother #2 asked if I would make an ironic statement by driving to work on BTWDay. No, I don't want to drown out the ironic statements that come so naturally to all the knucklehead politicians who participate in BTWDay:

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, in a black track suit, survived the ruts on Valencia Street on his loaner mountain bike and made it to City Hall, where he was joined by a half-dozen supervisors on bikes.

"You should see the potholes in this town,'' the mayor said.

from SFGate

Er . . . you've never seen the potholes in the town that you're the mayor of? Where, exactly do you live? In San Francisco? On the Yellow Brick Road? And you get to work how? Clicking your heels together? (And you've got to love Steve Rubenstein for his writing. In lesser hands, that quote would have been dropped into the article like a cactus in a fish tank, rather than having its barb deftly set by Rubenstein's nimble fingers.)

And of course, the home of all those single-passenger commuter cars, L.A., got in on the action with bikes from a sweet lowrider to a beautiful--freakin' beautiful--de Bernardi fixte with cards in the wheel (WTF?!) for a ride through a tunnel to city hall. Of course there's video of their ride--this is L.A., where nothing is real unless it's on film. Or video. Or DVD. Or . . . oh hell, you get the point. Despite having to ride through L.A., I will say that the L.A. riders do score bonus points for ending up at Philippe's, home of the (still!) 10-cent cuppa joe.

Then, as always, there's news about cars and drivers--two deadly items that, much like matches and gasoline, become more deadly in combination with one another, and that, as a result, should never come into contact with one another:

Let's face it: We are rude, self-important, cellphone-yapping, road-raging, stressed-out monsters behind the wheel.

Motorists across the United States recently confessed their sins to pollsters, who listed the Washington region as having the fifth-rudest drivers in the United States.

from WaPo
Those pollsters could have saved a pile of cash and achieved the same results by just trying to ride a bike around those cities. I'm sure they could have devised a formula based on the number of times
  • a motorist cursed at them
  • they cursed at a motorist
  • a motorist hurled polysyllabic curses at them
  • they had to hold their water bottle in their teeth to flip both birds at a motorist
  • a motorist hurled an object at them
  • they picked up said object, chased down the motorist, and deposited it into the motorist's car through the sunroof
  • a motorist tried to kill them
  • they reported a license plate number to the police while still riding
So, when you see a bike commuter, or a herd of them, tomorrow, put down the phone, the coffee, the cruller, the lipstick, and the sippy cup that you're handing into the backseat, and try to drive in a straight line for a few seconds. And maybe you could try it the day after that, and the day after that, and . . . and perhaps you'll sleep a little easier knowing that the life you saved today might have been mine.

Let's all be careful out there--and not just for one day, OK?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Milliarium

Although one of my original intentions for this blog was to record the happenings of 3B's life, I've missed a few notable events, like his first freckle, which showed up the Saturday before his six-month checkup. But I want to ensure that tonight's milestone doesn't drift into the past in the same way.


As I mentioned recently, "hands up high" is one of 3B's latest favorite games, and tonight, as he crawled around the living room floor, busily investigating all of his toys, he was frequently distracted by his hands. Mama has noticed that he typically starts out by suddenly noticing one hand, grabbing it with the other, then hoisting both of them, still clasped, as high as he can, which currently means that he gets them up to about his forehead. That's high enough that he can see out under his arms and let loose a beaming grin and a little chortle at his accomplishment as he looks to us for our reaction. We, of course, cheer, laugh, and raise our hands over our heads, singing "Hands up high! Hands up high!"

Ours is a house of elevated discourse.

Tonight, 3B went through this process as he squatted next to his Old McDonald blocks barn that he had just tipped onto its face. That was probably just fair revenge--over the weekend, after he put a block into the barn, 3B leaned on it and it snapped forward, splitting his upper lip. Ugh. It looked so painful, but I was inches away and there was nothing I could do to stop it, it was so fast. But still, I felt like I had a Bad Daddy medal pinned to me until his lip healed over.

But back to tonight, with 3B squatting next to his barn, finding his hands, clutching them together and raising them up as high as he could. He got so caught up in raising his hands up that 3B followed his hands up as high as they could go, standing straight up in the middle of the living room without any assistance or balancing hand on any object around him.

For the record, he didn't topple over or otherwise crack his noggin; he simply sat straight back down and went on playing.


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Hey, Baby.

Dearest 3B,
Roughly in the spirit of some other bloggers who have written recently to their toddler or who use the discipline, planning, and free time (who am I kidding? what parent has that?) that they have, and which I lack, to write monthly letters to their children, I offer this brief missive in response to recent developments.

Some of your new games really are fun, like "hands up high," when you demonstrate that you understand what we're saying, can imitate what we're doing, and could only reach the top of your head if you had six-inch long fingernails. It's a blast, and I could play it 1,000 times, or until I tear my rotator cuff, whichever comes first. So is watching you push the wagon and bike/walker that you got from Grammy around the house. Especially the part where you accidentally ring the bike bell, which makes Barky freak out, hyperventilate, and have to go out on the balcony to get away, but that part's only funny because Daddy's sense of humor is sick like that, so stop ringing the bell so much.

OK, just one more time.

And your urge to toilet train is a great development, but we're sort of hoping that you'll stop mistaking any body of water in a white container in the bathroom, like the bathtub, for the toilet. Really, dropping two floaters in one week is quite enough for all of us. Although, to be fair, we did start you on black beans this week. What can I say? You're a vegetarian like us, so this comes with the dinner, so to speak.

Speaking of squishy things, I know that you're happy to have your squishy bits all in place now, but that doesn't give you license to destroy others' squishy bits. That game you play where you stand in Daddy's lap and stomp his testicles flat with your heels--those games aren't so fun. Especially when you add in teething on Daddy's clavicle, clamping your eight shiny, sharp teeth down on that nerve that runs up the side of his neck, which sends a shooting pain like liquid fire up into his head behind his ear and makes him walk around for three days with his head crinked over to the side, his ear touching his shoulder.

And then there are these moments . . .
. . . these make me forget everything else that you do, or that anyone does, or anything else that's happening in the world, or that there is a world at all beyond the two of us.

Thank you for these moments, 3B.

Love,
Papa

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Excuse me, I've lost my marbles*

I forgot to mention a few things about Mother's Day, like talking to all of my sisters in one day, which was a great treat. All of them live out on the left side of the country (looking up from Mexico--for you Canadians, who are looking down on us, they're off to your right), so I don't get to see them much, only when I travel out there. Two are mothers, and the third had stopped by Mom's grave today with flowers--she's the only one of us who lives close enough to do that.

I did mention that Mama, 3B, and I went out early for lattes and pastries, but I forgot to mention what happened at our lovely local coffeehouse. Since we'd been there last, they'd done some remodeling. It looked like maybe a new espresso machine, and there was some redecoration--or maybe it's been so long, we forgot what the place looked like. But the big surprises came just after we ordered our lattes.

First, the guy behind the counter who wasn't pulling our shots handed over a blue box to Mama, saying, "Happy Mother's Day, from AOL!"

I'm sorry, what now?

OK, thanks for the free mug that advertises the world's largest continuously disintegrating ISP. Full disclosure: thanks to Brother #2, I was one of AOL's first customers, and revelled in the ability to communicate almost for free with Brother #2. That is, until AOL got enough money to market themselves without having enough money to buy bandwidth for all of those people who believed the ads. That was back in the days of, "Thanks for calling AOL. If you're having trouble connecting, try going to our home page . . ." My love-hate relationship with them has never ended. And no, I'm not with them anymore. We're with Verizon now, the phone company that not only still oversells its bandwidth as though it were a dotcom boom darling, but also has hung up on Mama more times than we can count, due to incompetence, bad connections, or apathy.

But back to the cafe . . . after getting a free (and probably phthalate-laden) ad for AOL to carry around, we went to get sleeves for our lattes, which are now sponsored by Sprint, as it turns out.

I'm sorry, what now?

What the hell happened to our locally-owned coffehouse while we weren't looking? Is there no establishment that won't whore itself out to corporations? Is there nowhere that a company won't try to stick its logo? Probably not, I suppose. But still, nothing ruins the smooth taste of a cafe con leche like the bitter stink of conspicuous commercialism and its bastard child, overconsumption.

And to think that we intentionally bypassed Starbucks to go to our local java shack. At least Starbucks has svelte, buoyant waterfowl on some of their coffee cups.


*oh yeah, about that title. . .

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Man-on-Man Mother's Day Madness!

These are from Sister #1 to Mama--are my siblings the best, or what?
(But man, do they make me look bad.)

This was my first time around on Mother's Day being the Dad, and I have to say, it's not as easy as it looks. A large part of that is due to circumstances--I ride my bike to work, and my office is located in the great suburban wasteland of Northern Virginia, which means that there's no convenient way for me to shop for Mama, unless I want to get her a gift card at CVS, Subway, or McDonalds.

I know, I know, there's the innernets, right? What's this whole system of tubes for, if not to be filled with trucks bearing presents for Mother's Day? But this is Mama's first Mother's Day, and I wanted to hand pick what 3B and I were giving her. Plus, I totally slacked on the easiest parts of my gifts until the last minute, which is how I got to witness the man-on-man madness that is shopping on the night before Mother's Day.

Mine was the perspective of an interested observer who somehow got caught up in the fray for a moment, like the guy you see in his hat and coat--tie flapping behind him, wingtips slapping the cobblestones--in the pictures of the running of the bulls--that one guy who got swept up into the chase from his cafe table alongside the street. My needs were simple. Our budget these days is rather limited, now that we're working with half the salary we used to, and Mama kept insisting that she didn't want anything expensive, and she's keeping track of our books, so she'll know if I lie about that. Besides, I had long ago picked out the most precious part of the gift when we were in Chicago--although I hadn't wanted to give it to Mama when I got it.

Although I don't plan ahead well for birthdays or holidays, I did finally learn one of my Mom's tricks, which is to shop year 'round. Unfortunately, I only learned to apply it to Mom, but that's why, when we were in Chicago, I picked up a special gift for Mom. Ever since I flew to Chicago to meet Mama on her roadtrip when she was moving out to live with me in Colorado, Mom had been telling me stories about how her Mom, Grandmother to me, had gone to Chicago on shopping trips from the college that she attended, and how GM had stopped in at Marshall Field's on those trips.

Mom and I mused about whether or not GM got Frango mints--of course she did--and what little things she would have afforded for herself on these trips. I, of course, picked up a box of Frango mints and a few other Marshall Field's-specific items for Mom and gave them to Mom for Christmas the year that Mama moved to Colorado. When Mama and I were last in Chicago, we both talked with Mom about Marshall Field's some more and while we were there, Mama and I again headed to the great store to have a nosh at the top of the atrium and do a little shopping.

This time around, I decided to get Mom a few more things--a mug emblazoned with an early slogan: "Give the lady what she wants!" that I gave Mom for her last birthday--including a Marshall Field's clock charm for her charm bracelet that I planned to give Mom for Christmas last year. I don't know exactly when Mom decided to pull all of her charms together and put them on a bracelet, but I knew that she had piles of charms from throughout her life on this one chain. In spite of all the charms Mom already had, I figured that there would be room on the chain for a charm from the store that her Mom had shopped at, that she had shopped at, and that Mama and I had sent her gifts from as we started the second half of our adventure through life together.

After Mom died, I thought for a long time about what to do with this charm, when it came to me, it was suddenly, and so clearly that I felt thick for not thinking of it before. And so it was that I passed on to Mama the charm that has a lineage stretching back through two generations of mothers in my family--three if you want to stretch it back to GM's mom, who sent her off in 1918 to college in Indiana from her home in Laramie.

So, on the night of man-on-man madness, I was looking for a simple, but beautiful charm bracelet to hang this charm on. I was done with my purchase in a few minutes, but I did stand back and marvel at all of the chaos that was desperate men pawing through chains, baubles, and earrings, looking for that one shiny thing that would say all that they had in their hearts. We likely came together for similar reasons--any dad is a busy dad--but I was glad that my needs were more simple, and that I could slip easily away from the fray.

After giving Mama her gifts on Sunday morning--the chain from 3B, the charm from me, my Mom, and my GM--we went out for coffee and pastries and a quick romp at the dog park for Barky. There's no sleeping in when you have a nine-month old almost toddler--especially one who's up at 6:00 every morning. (I swear, he's so punctual, he must be hiding an alarm clock in his mattress.) After a nap for all four of us, I made Mama a brunch of sourdough waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. The sourdough starter that I use is split off from my Mom's, and goes back to before my time, back to when she and Dad were first married, before they moved back to New Jersey for four years (and three kids), but it tastes as fresh now as it did every Sunday growing up, when Mom and Dad would use it to make waffles.

After brunch, we spent the day how Mama wanted--together and outside. We drove down to the Potomac, walked out to an old lighthouse, where 3B ate a dandelion, up to Olde Towne, where Mama and I ate some ice cream cones, and then back to the car. We were all tired by the end of the day, but satisfied. Looking back on it, it wasn't as hard as I thought it was going to be, or as hard as it was fun. I don't know why I expected any different--after all, it was a perfect day for me too, hanging out with my two best friends. However, I've already decided to start shopping now for next year's gifts.

Any suggestions?

No, seriously. Whaddya got?

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Way to go, Spicoli

After reading this post from the LATimes blog on the fire on Catalina Island, a coworker said, "This is why Northeasterners, like myself, look down our noses at Californians."

I don't understand why he said that. Spicoli here doesn't even mention his ferret.

Moving back

Josh Olsen, 23, a fourth-generation Avalon resident with bleached, spiked hair, had his work cut out for him this morning lugging back home "the important stuff I saved last night: two skateboards and three guitars including a vintage '70s Rickenbacker, once owned by Warren Zevon," a rock musician and songwriter who was known for his dark and sometimes humorous songs.

Still missing was his albino corn snake "which I think is loose in the house somewhere." Looking back, he shook his head and said, "It was kind of a trip, man. Awesome."

-Louis Sahagun in Avalon

Other possible titles for this post:

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Yikes!

"You can smell the pine wood burnin'
You can hear the school bell ring"

--Bob Dylan


California often has big fires--it's a big state with lots of country that's ripe for burning, so that's no surprise. But some of them seem to hit closer to home for some reason. The most obvious example was the small fire that burned in the foothills above Palo Alto when I was growing up, threatening the homes of several friends, and taking the homes and outbuildings of some of their neighbors.

I didn't grow up in Southern California, although I would spend a month there every summer, in a beach house with the whole family, not too far down the coast from where Brother #2 now lives. That means that when we looked out to sea, which we were constantly doing, we could easily see Catalina Island when the sky was clear, and most every night as the sun set behind it.

We didn't get out to it too many times, although there was the time that our uncles took us out there in their second offshore raceboat. It was a Cigarette hull with an open passenger area down in the back, behind where they stood steering and navigating, as they did in the races that we would watch them run off of San Francisco and out of the Long Beach harbor. It was a windy and sometimes wet ride skipping across the ocean, but it is still one of the most exhilirating experiences of my life.

On our way back to the boat, after sliding down grassy hillsides on the sides of cardboard boxes, Mom took a magical picture of the group of us in silhouette, walking under overhanging eucalyptus trees that perfectly captured the feelings that linger with me from that day, although I was so young that I can't remember the specific events of the day at all.

Perhaps it's those memories, or all the time staring out to Catalina on the western verge of my childhood world that made the news, which I got first from Brother #2, about Catalina burning feel like a shot to my heart. The picture gallery, which shows harried parents arriving at shelters with children, strollers, diaper bags, suitcases, and so forth hanging from and dragging behind them made me feel all the worse about it.

This is enough of an emergency that Brother #2 reports

As I type here tonight, I hear the sound of choppers overhead, carrying firefighters and equipment out to the island. The Marines down at Camp Pendleton have activated a fleet of hovercraft to ferry out heavy trucks and firefighting equipment. Avalon is the only settlement on the island, about 3,200 people in about a square mile (640 acres), and from the TV news tonight it looked as if most of them were going to wait and watch. Some were evacuating on the Catalina Island ferries that normally shuttle residents and tourists back and forth from Avalon to San Pedro, to Long Beach, to Newport Beach. The ferries have announced they’ll be running all night. Each boat can carry 400 people.
I suppose that people go to Catalina for the day, which makes it a tourist destination, but I've never viewed it as a resort island, which is how the media keeps referring to it. Most of the island is untamed wilderness, complete with its own buffalo herd--imported from the mainland, of course. And perhaps it's just because they're frantically fleeing a fire that is threatening to burn them down into the sea, but looking at the evacuees, I have a hard time believing that they view it as a resort. I believe that they view it as home, which makes the news of the fire all the worse. A resort is a place that's designed to be left behind, but we never expect to be forced from our homes.

As Brother #2 points out in his post, you can keep up-to-date on the fire through the LA Times site and blog, until other news overtakes it.


UPDATES from the LATimes blog as today dawned on Catalina: Air Support Is Back but "It Could Have Been a Lot Worse".


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Papa gets grounded

Mama and 3B were out of town for a week a little while back--if you were reading carefully, you noticed and cared; if you didn't, don't worry, I've already taken you off 3B's 1st birthday party guest list--and I took advantage of their time away to do some long neglected chores, like trying to burn down our house.

My first chore was painting over the flaking paint on the windowsill in 3B's room that he stands at, bangs his hands on, and picks up paint chips from like they were Pringles. No, we didn't let him keep doing that; we draped a towel over the lead buffet so he couldn't touch it. And when the towel fell off, we told him to just take it easy on the paint chips, we didn't want him to ruin his appetite for dinner.

Painting, of course, is never as easy as smearing a solution of pigments in a volatile chemical brew on a surface. This job involved sanding down the old paint--which I'm pretty sure was made by dropping one white crayon in a bucket of molten lead--and sanding involved creating lots of lead dust, although our newest roommate made cleaning that up much easier. This job also involved about 13 miles of masking tape. Have you ever taped off a window frame? Are you done yet? Because I still don't think that I'm done. Could there be any more surfaces and narrow edges in a small space? And what a great time to learn that as I get older and start to grow hair in unfortunate places, my fingers are getting fat and shaky too--although maybe that's just a side effect of huffing paint fumes for a week.

Maybe it was my frustration at all that nitpicky painting prep work--listen to me, an editor complaining about nitpicky work--or perhaps it was my frustration at the electrician who put in our new breaker panel awhile back but never labeled it, or perhaps it was just my inherent laziness coupled with my inherent impatience that let me to dive into my next project--swapping out outlet faceplates for child-safe ones--without turning off a breaker. See, without them being labeled, how could I know which one to turn off? And, if I went through all of them to label them, I'd have to switch each one off, walk around to see what was affected, write it down, turn it back on, reset all the clocks, blah, blah, de freaking blah, right?

It would be much faster to just pop off the old face plates and slap the new ones on, as I had already successfully done on several outlets. (Of course, nothing is ever so easy--these have been painted onto the wall over the last 40 years, with the last painters not even bothering to tape off the outlets, so there's actually paint in the sockets. All this requires laboriously cutting through layers of paint just to free the old faceplates and a few other tedious steps that you don't really care about.)

It would be much faster if I didn't make contact and ground out an entire circuit, which is exactly what happened about 30 seconds into this second project. That meant that I did have to map all the circuits, plus call the electrician, because the breaker didn't trip, which I figured meant that two of the ancient wires in our wall had fused themselves together when I grounded the circuit. Leaving the circuit on could cause heat to build up at the point where they had fused, so I turned off the circuit, just to be sure that I didn't burn our house (and building) down. Turns out that the electrician couldn't come out until after Mama and 3B got back, which meant that they came back to a few orange extension cords attached to essential appliances like the refrigerator and the Dish DVR box.

The best part--besides not defibrillating my heart when I blackened the screwdriver tip--was when the electrician, who had been here all of 20 minutes called me at work and asked, "Have you ever heard of GFI circuits?"

"Yeah, that's the type of outlet that switches off if there's a ground fault in the circuit."

"Good. You know what they are. You might want to know that you have one on this circuit. I found it and pushed the reset button on the outlet. You're all set."

Long silence as I calculate how many hours I'll have to work to cover his minimum fee. "Well, that was easy."

"Yep. I love jobs like this."

"They pay the same by the hour, don't they?"

"I never thought of it like that, but yes, they do."

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Elimination day!

Papa now I know the things you wanted that you could not say
But won't you just say goodbye it's Elimination Day
--The Boss of Our House

Yesterday we were woken at 0' dark-thirty by some tiny bird on our balcony reprising an aria from La Boheme in an octave so piercing that it not only woke us up, but also caused hearing damage in eight dogs on our block and shattered three of our wine glasses. Mama rolled over, muttering something about "kicking his little tweety ass," as I stumbled out to the living room to close the sliding glass door, thinking this is another reason why I don't keep a gun in the house.

We were both trying to be as quiet as possible in our protests because 3B was sleeping in our room for the night. No, he's not suffering separation anxiety like Barky did--OK, like Barky does. Rather, 3B's room looks like it was visited by Christo since our building has finally gotten around to fixing the holes that I had to drill in our ceiling. Not only are they fixing the holes, but they're taking out any of the stained or water-damaged drywall board from the ceiling, which means that they took out almost the entire hallway ceiling, and are resurfacing the rest of it. This means that they had to remove the shiny gold wallpaper patchwork that a previous owner had put up there and that we painted over as soon as we moved in. No, I'm not kidding. It's all gone now, but the effect was something like this, only with the patches overlapping:

We decided that it would be safer for 3B to sleep in his Pack 'N' Play in our room rather than like the boy in the bubble or the baby with the babbling heart or Christo's bastard child in his room, which is why he--3B, not Christo--was in our room in the morning. And after his afternoon nap, 3B was also in our room, trying to tear around as Mama changed his diaper, which was a bit challenging since all of our changing supplies are in the Pont Neuf suite, formerly known as 3B's room, and all of our breakable, valuable knick-knacks from the living room bookshelves are on the floor in our room.

All of that explains why, midchange, Mama had to set 3B in his Pack 'N' Play to run into the Pont Neuf suite. When she came back, 3B was staring intently at the wet spot on the sheet in the P'N'P, apparently wondering where it came from. Yeah, it was no mystery to Mama, naked boy.

Because he knows how much I miss him during the day, and how much I long to be a part of his daily life and experience everything that Mama does, 3B accommodated me last night during his bath by first screaming bloody murder for no apparent reason and climbing up out of the bath and using me as a combination jungle gym and face towel. That got me good and soaked and covered with baby snot, but that was just prelude. Not a minute later, as he stood staring at the faucets, 3B gave a little grunt. Yes, that kind of grunt. But it was just one, and it didn't last long, so I thought maybe he was just farting. As I had decided that 3B wasn't dropping the kids off at the pool, the floater bobbed into view from behind him. I snatched him up out of the tub, got him ready for bed, then handed him off to Mama, who nurses him to sleep, and set about sanitizing the tub, the toys, and the bathmat.

I'm well aware that Mother's Day is coming up, and I'm aware that Memorial Day is approaching, but I had no idea that yesterday was Elimination Day. I can't tell you how happy I am that I was woken at 0' dark-thirty by the flippin' bluebird of happiness announcing it, and that 3B had celebrations planned all day, just so we wouldn't forget to celebrate.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The lights of my life

I like Doonesbury too much to violate copyright to share this, so all I can do is plead with you to go look at Sunday's strip.

Tell me that's not the truth. Our desk is in our bedroom, laden with our computer, printer, USB hub, external hard drives (yes, two of them), and sundry other digital tchotchkes--all of which have at least one LED, and all of which are fed by power strips, which each have LEDs of their own.

No wonder our bedroom is the brightest room in the house after we turn the lights out.

Yeah, that's what I call progress.


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Doin' the Roomba

A few weeks back, we got a large package from Brother #2 that included a bunch of gifts that I wish we'd never gotten because I wish that their intended recipient had been around to receive them. But there were also some cool Dylan shirts from EMP, and a brand new Roomba, which--even though ours has already suffered a minor self-inflicted wound--is something that I would give to every parent in the world, if I could.

As my brother said when he upgraded to the Scooba, the Roomba is no rug beater, so we do have to go over the carpets once a month or so to get the deep-down dirt out of them. But that's nothing compared to having to drag the tank around the whole house once a week, which is what we used to have to do. Now, however, we set the Roomba down in the middle of a room--after picking up all the toys, natch--and let it do its thing. It works best in 3B's room, conveniently for us. That's because his room has the fewest odd obstacles--there's just the crib, futon couch, and dresser/changing table on the floor. Usually there are toy boxes and other detritus, but we set that on the futon couch before releasing the Roomba, so it's got very little to maneuver around in there.

But, even in our open floor plan with the adjoining living room-dining room-kitchen-foyer, with end tables, a glider rocker, and lots of dining room chairs and carpet tassles, the Roomba does a good job, especially on our hard floors. Even on the carpets, however, it is great at getting up dog hair and most of the daily dirt. Going over carpet tassles, however, is not so great. On some carpets, the Roomba is fine, but in our bedroom, we have to set up the handy false walls--an infrared beam that the Roomba won't cross--to block it from the tassles because that's where the Roomba lost a digit. It has this little double-ended sweeper brush that swishes dust into the path of the main brush, and that got tangled up in the tassles. The Roomba pulled so hard to free itself that it snapped one of the ends off. That's why it's called artificial intelligence.

But the beauty of the Roomba is not only that vacuuming is so easy that we do it several times a week, but also that we are now so productive while we're vacuuming. I've been able to write blog posts, do dishes, walk the dog, and any number of other things while the Roomba has been chasing down dust bunny herds in the next room. Mother Nature may abhor a vacuuum, but Papa Bradstein loves this little vacuum, which sucks up so much dirt without sucking up so much time.


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Friday, May 04, 2007

Near, Far

This is where I used to work:



This is where I work now:



Stupid Flickr--that first photo is from the Glacier National Park pool--thanks for making me wander through the veal-fattening pens and mutter to myself like an 83-year-old indigent pushing a shopping cart, asking, "Where the hell did I go wrong?"

Oh, and a happy weekend to all?

OK, to make up for that truly dismal, self-absorbed post, here's something to get your weekend off on the good foot:


But if you really prefer the dismal and self-absorbed, especially from a glorified sock puppet singing NIN--hey, nobody ever said it would be easy being green--here you go.

Man, I'm just not capable of ending on a happy note am I? OK, here's my best effort--we're going to a Cuatro de Mayo party tonight with TresB.


Hope it doesn't suck.


. . . damn, did it again.


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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Orchiopexy update--Recovery, diaper changes, and other answers to unasked questions

"There is an amazing array of things people do to botch a study," says Rebecca Maynard of the University of Pennsylvania.

For instance, 153 out of 167 government-funded studies of bisphenol-A, a chemical used to make plastic, find toxic effects in animals, such as low sperm counts. No industry-funded studies find any problem. It's not that the taxpayer-funded scientists are hallucinating, or that the industry scientists are blind. But here's a clue: many industry studies tested this estrogenlike chemical on a strain of rat that is insensitive to estrogen. That's like trying to measure how stress affects lactation ... using males.
This quote is from a Newsweek article that is not about bisphenol-A or phthalates, two of my least favorite chemicals for painful, personal reasons like they may have caused my six-month old son to get his squishy bits cut open. However, the article is about a related topic: all the bad science that the religious right has used to justify wasting taxpayer money on abstinence-only sex education programs, which are about as effective at stopping people from having sex as giving free beer to alcoholics is at getting them to stop drinking.

But this post is about 3B's orchiopexy, which was the result of his cryptorchidism, and I'm offering it as a public service to all those people who have been finding this blog with their searches for "diaper change after orchiopexy," "orchiopexy recovery," "undescended testicle," and the like. I'm sure that they're just as nervous as we were going into surgery, and I sincerely wish for them the same luck that we had with surgery. If there are questions that aren't answered in my account of the surgery or in this post, please let me know.

A few notes and caveats--I assume that the surgical procedure that 3B underwent was standard, he was six months old at the time of surgery (having been diagnosed at birth), he was in good health at the time of surgery, surgery was successful (they located his missing testicle and sutured it in place), and there were no anomalies or complications following surgery. If your situation is different--or even if it's not--your mileage may vary. Also, in case this is your first time reading this blog, I'm no doctor, a fact that my six loyal readers can surely attest to, based on any of my other posts.

Starting with the asked questions: diaper changes after surgery were just about the same as before. Both incisions--one was made to go get the testicle, the other was made to stitch it in place--were covered in a waterproof dressing that dissolves over about a week. That protected them from the contents of 3B's diapers until the incisions had sufficiently healed. We did, however, have a small concern about 24 hours after the surgery, when one of 3B's incisions bled just a little as we wiped around it. We figured that the slight pressure of wiping had caused it, but the surgeon had told us that he wanted us to call if there was "any bleeding." So we did, even though it was a weekend night. He called right back and said that, from our description, he wasn't too worried, but to keep an eye on it and let him know if it continued. It didn't continue, and 3B's recovery continued as the surgeon had described.

Orchiopexy recovery was, for us, as advertised. We were able to keep 3B comfortable with regular--every four hours--doses of Infant Tylenol for the first 24 hours. In the next 24 hours, we let the doses slide out to about every six hours, and he still seemed comfortable. After the first 48 post-operation hours had passed, we could see no signs that 3B had undergone surgery, other than his incisions. He was just as active, hungry, and happy as he had been before. His mobility and flexibility were unaltered as far as we could see, and continue to be to this day. As a man who had basically one of the same incisions that 3B did when I was 22 to repair an inguinal hernia, I couldn't have been more impressed by 3B's rapid recovery. As a 22-year-old, I think it took me two days before I could breathe without pain, much less engage in the wild gymnastics that 3B did just 48 hours after his surgery--and I had Vicodin helping me out.

As for the success of the surgery itself--that's, of course, something that I can't predict for you. Our surgery was as successful as we could hope for. 3B's second testicle is healthy and normal, although smaller than his other one. Because the surgeon was careful not to put strain on the recovered testicle's connecting tissue, he sutured it in slightly higher than the other one. However, as he observed, no man's testicles are perfectly symmetrical. The incisions are small and slightly faded even now. By the time anyone other than doctors or family will be looking at 3B's testicles, the incisions should be invisible.

As for predicting success, our surgeon expressed great confidence in finding a whole, functioning second testicle during our first pre-op visit, but then didn't seem so sure that he would find anything at all during our second pre-op visit, which was days before the surgery. I don't know if that was his way of managing our expectations, but it definitely put us in the mindset that this surgery might be successful from a survival-recovery standpoint, but not succeed at the ultimate goal of locating 3B's second testicle. According to our surgeon, and corroborated by our experience, the only way to be sure if there's a second testicle is to perform the surgery and see firsthand. He did, however, offer his reasons for believing strongly, in the first visit, that there was a second testicle:
  • The descended testicle was a normal size. Often, if there's no second testicle, the single testicle is twice as large as expected because it is attempting to make up for the function of the missing testicle.
  • 3B's scrotum was fully formed on both sides, as if a testicle had been present, or was ready to descent. Often, if there's no second testicle, that half of the scrotum is not well formed.
  • 3B's penis, scrotum, and descended testicle were all normal in appearance, meaning that they didn't have any obvious abnormalities, which might be a sign that the second testicle didn't exist.
That said--and remember, I'm no doctor--he was still adamant that there was no way to tell without doing the surgery.

And we clung to that knowledge in the face of every doctor and nurse having a unique opinion:
  • It looks like a testicle is waiting to descend. (This is about as useful as someone declaring that it's "earthquake weather" today. For the record, there can be unseasonable weather, and it can look like it's going to rain, but there's not "earthquake weather," and you can't see my son's testicle through his abdominal wall and the intervening interstitial goop in his gut.)
  • I'm sure he has no testicle. (Based on hard facts like the fact that you've never seen my son before and have now spend approximately 12 seconds in his presence? You must be a seer as well as a doctor.)
  • I believe I can feel it if I press down right here. (Hey, buddy, why don't you stop banging on my son's testicle like it's the "Fire" button in Space Invaders? Or do you want me to slam this medical encyclopedia shut on your nuts?)
Although it's about as futile as asking a jury to strike an answer from their memories, we tried to ignore these opinions and just wait for the surgery. But, of course, we couldn't ignore them entirely, and subsequently went on a roller coaster ride of hopes and emotions. I suggest doing your best to ignore the varied opinions you get, but preparing yourself for the emotional roller coaster ride.

I can't tell if the ride would have been easier to take if 3B had been older at the time of surgery--he was six months old--but I suspect that it wouldn't have been. Regardless of our feelings, we were grateful that our surgeon wanted to do the surgery as soon as possible because that's what all of the research we did recommended. It's well documented that the longer an undescended testicle is allowed to remain in the abdomen, the greater the likelihood of testicular cancer. Estimates varied, but they all were in the 10-20 times more likely range.

Our surgeon was glad that we brought 3B in when he was so young not only because he recommends recovering the missing testicle as soon as possible to lower the risk of later cancer, but also because he believes the best time for the surgery is at six months when, according to him, the body is old enough to withstand the effects of general anesthetic. Before that, babies are too young, and after that, we have an ever-diminishing ability to recover from general anesthetic. However, I work with someone whose son had successful surgery when he was six years old, which was, according to his doctor, the best time for him. It's best to educate yourself about the benefits and risks so you can decide from an educated position if your surgeon's recommendations fit your situation. Don't be surprised, however, if they recommend surgery on your tiny infant. In fact, it might be easier on you to have it done when he's younger, because it will likely make recovery faster.

And again, I can't emphasize this enough--don't listen to the peanut gallery when they're diagnosing your son, and giving you odds on his possession of a pair rather than an ace. I was in the room when they did the ultrasound to try to locate 3B's second testicle the day after he was born. It took the ultrasound tech a full fifteen minutes to find the testicle that was in his scrotum--and that's a testicle that she could feel, see with her eyes, and that was confined to a space about the size of a thimble (no offense, 3B, if you're reading this later--you were much smaller overall when you were born). So when she went shopping around in his abdomen, which is full of all kinds of other things and stuff that can easily block a view of a tiny item like a testicle (again, 3B, you were much smaller then), I fully expected her conclusion, which was that there's no second testicle. That diagnosis hit Mama, who wasn't in the room for the ultrasound, much harder than me because she assumed that those results were conclusive. As far as we can tell, based on the wildly varying diagnoses we got before surgery, the only conclusive results come from surgery.

And although we may sound like we're in the peanut gallery when we say it now, I suggest that future and expectant parents pay closer attention to their exposure to bisphenol-A, phthalates, and other chemicals with similar effects on people to help avoid cryptorchidism altogether. It's also probably a good idea to keep your kids from them because I suspect that, even though we sound like we're in the peanut gallery now, when the chemical capitalists are done botching studies, the truth about those chemicals, and their effects on all of us, young and old, will be revealed.


Papa Bradstein is going to ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. If you found this post helpful, please consider supporting his ride.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kids just don't understand

Recently, I've been working out why I believe in god and just what god is, as I've promised several times to do, but it's been straining my walnut-sized brain, so I thought I'd try something easier, like attempted infanticide through negligence. It turns out that I'm not the only one who might be guilty of that this week. In fact, it seems that Target is getting in on the act, upping the ante, attempting to kill thousands of kids through corporate negligence. And, of course, by negligence, I mean "a parent who doesn't watch their baby for every nanosecond of his life," a violation of parenting regulations that I'm clearly guilty of since 3B's now sleeping in his crib in the next room, and I don't even have the video monitor on.

My first slip up this week wasn't even my own slip up--it was 3B's slip down--in the bathtub. 3B was in his three-point stance, one hand mashing a plastic toy into his mouth so he could gnaw it into submission, his other hand and knees firmly planted on the floor of the tub (and, yes, we have a rubber bathmat). Because this is a boy who, as his great-Grammy says, "crawls like a shot," and has been stable on his hands and knees for months now--who is, in fact, starting to walk on his own behind push toys--I was watching him, but not hovering with my hands at his sides. Which is, I'm sure, precisely why his one hand that was on the tub started to slip.

3B turned to look at that hand, lost his balance, splashed down face first, rolled over, and came up spitting and screaming--all in the time it took me to move my hands from the edge of the tub, where I was kneeling, into the tub to scoop him up and cradle his soaking, sobbing body against my chest and try to comfort him. I know that it took less than two seconds for all of that to happen, from his hand slipping to my holding him, but it seemed like I was moving through cold molasses. I just couldn't get to him fast enough and get him up out of the water fast enough.

I clearly recall thinking, "Oh my god, he's going to drown in the bathtub." It was terrifying, and yet, at the same time, I was perfectly calm because I knew that he would be OK. 3B was more startled than injured. I'm sure that he sucked more water out of Barky's bowl earlier this week when he got to it faster than we could than he sucked down when he took his tumble in the tub. . . . Oh yeah, there was the whole drinking-from-the-dog-bowl situation earlier this week, which I wasn't going to include here because it wasn't life threatening, but there you go. Bonus parental screw up in this post. The good news? His breath didn't become as fetid as Barky's from just a few sips.

Today, not content to let Target corner the market on sharp choking hazards, I somehow let 3B get a pushpin into his mouth. We were at work, and I was holding him, sitting next to a bulletin board, and talking with 3B and a coworker as Mama set up his booster seat--Mama and 3B have been coming by once a week for lunch for the last few months. I checked out the board and saw that there were pushpins, but none within reach, so I kept an eye on 3B, but didn't expect that there was any danger. Apparently, 3B is either a young Stretch Armstrong or had already beaten me to the board by the time I checked for pins because when I was lowering him into his booster seat, I saw something yellow floating through his mouth. I swept my finger through--just to make sure he hadn't grabbed some paper somewhere, or chewed off the corner of a book--and I fished out a bright yellow, shiny, sharp pushpin. Yeah, that gave me pause. Hard to believe how fast he is, or how slow I am, and how lucky we both are.

The third incident wasn't technically on my watch, although I was in the room. Tonight, Mama was attending to 3B in the bath when he again did his Jacques Cousteau impression, sans scuba gear, to which Mama observed, "We've got to get a better bathmat for him." Again, 3B was more startled than anything and, in fact, went straight back into the bath to continue playing. Nothing comes between baby and his bath.

Perhaps god was trying to get me to empathize with 3B and sent those two drivers to try and kill me on my ride home today. The coincidences were suspicious--they were both in cars, I was on my bike; they were both attempting illegal left-hand turns, I was on my bike; they were both about as observant as rocks, I was on my bike; they both seemed startled not only to see me, but that I was upset at having to swerve to avoid getting run over by them, I was on my bike. Depending on how strict your interpretation of scripture is, I suppose that I'm no better than they are, having asked through their open windows just what the fuck they thought they were doing, but I'm hoping that god believes that my dropping the f-bomb at a time of mortal peril is a slightly lesser offense than those drivers nearly killing me because they were late to soccer practice or happy hour or their nasal depilation appointment.

So now that we've all survived the week thus far, I'll spend the weekend trying to finish up that post on god, and the one on the firefighters who gave one of us a shiny gift, and the one about the wonderful gift from Brother #2 that's saving us hours every week . . . oh, and waiting for child protective services to come knock on our door. But, before they frog-march me down to the bad-daddy hoosegow, I wanted to let you other parents out there know that you're not the only ones guilty of averting your gaze for a nanosecond, or of having kids who don't quite grok how dangerous life is. So, to all you parents all across the land, take it from me, kids just don't understand the survival of the fittest.

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