Thursday, December 31, 2009

Your New Year's resolution

I was fortunate this year to have your support, and the support of my five other loyal readers, for my ride to make brain tumors history. As I rode, it brought a smile to my face knowing that all of you were with me on that ride.

From your donation messages to me, however, it became apparent that while finding a cure for brain tumors is important to me, the problem is much larger. The problem is cancer itself.

In the same year in which we welcomed our new daughter, we also heard from friends who had lost family to cancer. We had friends who found cancer in their bodies and had to undergo treatment. These stories are in addition to the ones you already shared about loved ones you had lost in the past.

Perhaps it's because now it's my friends, people who are my age, people who I know, have known, and plan on knowing for the rest of a long lifetime...or perhaps it's because now that I have kids, I see the toll on people through a different lens, seeing the horror of a young child losing their parent...or perhaps it's because that list of stories just got too damn long and I finally snapped...

Whatever the cause, I'm doing something about it.

As I said, the problem is much larger, and so my response will be as well. That's why I've resolved to ride almost four times the length that I rode this year: 190 miles in the 2010 Pan Mass Challenge.

The ride contributes 100 percent of all donations directly to the cause of fighting cancer, and last year it raised over $30 million.

To complete the ride, I'll not only need to ride more, I'll need to raise more than I did last year. That's where your New Year's resolution comes in. If you can, I'd greatly appreciate your donation. If you can't, I'd greatly appreciate you helping me spread the word to others who might donate.

And if you can't afford it, think outside the wallet: you may not have or want to contribute money, but perhaps you want to help me design ads to distribute online--or maybe a jersey with donor names and faces of loved ones lost, or your kids want to send a picture along to encourage me, or you have some spare Clif bars lying around. I'll need dollars to ride, but there's also much more that goes into a ride than money, starting with love.

Registration opens on January 19, and I intend to be one of the first to put my name down for 2010.

Are you with me?

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Coming of age

Yesterday, 3B asked Mama, "When I'm five, will I still be me?"

If he didn't know before that he was the son of a philosophy major, he does now.

He followed that up with a discussion of death, asking Mama if she would die and later asking if he would die.

She answered in as matter-of-fact of a tone as she could muster while silently contemplating the horrible thoughts the conversation was rendering before her mind's eye that yes, they would both eventually die.

As she girded herself for the upcoming discussion of mortality, 3B turned to his stuffed animals and announced, "Mickey's in the circus! C'mon, Mommy!"

Mama told me all this as we had dinner with our friend, Aunt A, and discussed the weather, which is apparently about to turn frightful. As a bike commuter, I have a keen interest in meteorological happenings in my neighborhood, so after everyone had either gone home or to bed, I set about finding my warmer layers for tomorrow morning's ride.

It was something I had to do anyway, having discovered on Monday that the temperature at which my current layers cease to insulate me sufficiently is 30 degrees Fahrenheit. My heavier pants--fine, call them tights if you must--were easy to find in my winter bike wear drawer. My additional thermal layer and heavier coat are similarly easy to find in their places in the closet. However, my warmer gloves were more elusive.

Were they in the hat and glove basket in the closet by the front door? Which hat and glove basket in the closet by the front door? Perhaps in my personal items basket in the closet by the front door? Hm. No, the only gloves in there were my standard dog walking gloves, not used since last winter.

Which got me to thinking that I didn't commute by bike last winter, and those gloves are too heavy to wear to work on the bus or Metro. I would have only worn those gloves when we visited the farm and when it got cold enough here--and in both places only for walking Barky, which required being outside for long periods of time.

I opened the second hall closet, the one closer to the bathroom, and there, in the pockets of my down coat, were my warm gloves, faithfully waiting for me to return to them. They had stayed there since my last winter dog walk, when none of us knew how soon I would lose track of them, and none of us knew that before he turned nine, Barky would no longer be, and none of us believed that just because everyone dies sometime, that this year one among us would die before his time.

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Leading with his axe

As a parent of two, one of whom is only three months old, I'm usually too busy or tired to write about how it is to live this life.

Fortunately, my family picks up the slack.

My brother just posted this nice video of 3B leading a bluegrass jam session through Puff the Magic Dragon. 3B did much the same at a birthday party this weekend where he found an unused guitar behind a buffet (seriously...I'm too tired to make up a detail like that), picked it up, started picking it (yes, I travel with a pick, just in case), and soon had a rapt audience of three-year olds and their parents as he ripped through the greatest hits of Rocknoceros.

The parents asked me if he was taking lessons.

When I worked in theater, I frequently reminded my boss that he couldn't pay me enough for some of the work I did--particularly the parts after midnight and between 60 and 80 hours per week. It was my way of reminding him, and me, that I was there not only for the money, but also because I liked the job.

So, no, 3B doesn't take lessons...from an instructor other than himself. Nobody is a better or more unforgiving or more demanding instructor than desire. 3B's lessons consist of listening endlessly to his favorite tunes and to any new music he can find and playing along whenever he can--much as my friends in high school and college learned every note of hundreds of songs.

But sometimes, it does help to have someone adjust your guitar strap and show you a few licks. Fortunately, we found the right spot for that, because, as my brother wrote:

It's not everywhere a three-year-old can go and get an eight-piece band to play a tune just for him, but my nephew has just the right mix of charm and genuine interest.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Why we don't watch more TV

I admit that while I've been working through the evening, one of my greatest frustrations has been the storm outside--it's been so dense at times that it's prevented our dish from getting its signal from the satellite, meaning that I missed almost the entire Project Runway season finale runway show.

I know, I know, the pain I suffer, right?

It would be worse for me if I hadn't already gotten my fill of entertainment tonight from 3B, who not only painted me beautiful pictures today, but amused us all with stories and songs throughout the night.

And now "all" includes his sister, Jewel. Today, she was listening to and smiling at his antics for the first time. He responded by asking her to tell him a story. He and Mama stared at Jewel for a little while until she randomly cooed or grunted, and then 3B said to his sister, "And then what happened?"

She reciprocated by following him around the room with her eyes and lighting up any time he spoke or played a song. The interactions between them are the cutest communication I've ever seen. And so, really, when the satellite signal goes out, I'm not at all upset.

I can still see, in my mind's eye, my family talking, dancing, singing and laughing together. That's all the entertainment I need.

But, just in case you need something more, I give you excerpts from this evening's concert:

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ansel Adams morality

This morning, Mama was driving 3B to school when she heard him gasp from the back seat.

"Mommy, I just saw a woman lighting a cigarette."

"Oh, really?"

"That's not good."

"No, that's not. It's bad for her body and it's bad for the air. It makes the air dirty."

"Why did she do that?"

"Well, we all make mistakes sometimes."


"So she's a sanner."


"A what?"

"A sanner."


"Oh, you mean a sinner. Well, no, she's not a sinner, she just made a mistake."
This is probably funnier for those of you who know how churched up we are at the Bradstein Household, which is not at all.

3B has absorbed his morality from the best of sources: folk music. Specifically his love affair with Alison Krauss and her version of Down in the Valley to Pray with Ricky Skaggs and Doc Watson, who both pronounce "sinner" as "sanner."

Several months back, when the video was on high rotation in our house, 3B asked all kinds of questions about it, including What's a sinner?

We explained that a sinner was someone who made a mistake. We also added that sinners apologize for their mistakes. That may not be entirely correct, but it helped us convince a certain child that apologies are the norm.

Apparently, these messages stick with him. Not only is he good about apologizing, but it's been months since we watched that video, and he still connected "mistake" with "sinner."

Now all we need to do is introduce him to a morality with shades of gray.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bad parents, no biscuit?

Email from Mama

No gold stars for us:
  1. There was school on Wednesday.
  2. Today was pajama day.
Crap. Oh well.

My reply
Two gold stars for us:
  1. He got to go to a sold out Rocknoceros show.
  2. He was the only kid not freezing his tuchus off at school today.

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Hail to the Chief

For the record, we haven't watched West Wing since 3B was born, but apparently we watched enough that it soaked into our DNA and was absorbed by him in utero.

Then again, this came after a full version of Puff the Magic Dragon and What Would You Do with a Drunken Sailor?

Probably better to have him singing Hail to the Chief than belting out "Make him sleep with the captain's daughter! Make him sleep with the captain's daughter!" while standing on top of the couch, strumming away at full volume.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Short note about a long day

For some reason, I've been getting up at 4 or 5 a.m. every morning this week. That means that by this time of day, I've been up for 18 hours or so, ridden 18 miles on my bike, worked a full day, and played as hard as I could until 3B went to bed.

Living this life is living a koan--simultaneously the easiest and most difficult task I've ever performed, confounding and beautiful.

As long, busy, difficult and confounding as the days may be, they're all worth it when they end as this one did, with my little jewel peacefully asleep on my chest.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rockin' out, BTMFB, fun for everyone

On past Veteran's Days, I've taken advantage of our proximity to Washington, D.C. to go to Arlington National Cemetery to hear the President speak. I started doing this because I needed something to do while Mama was working, and later, when she got a job that gave her the day off, we went together. I might not have agreed with the politics of the man, but he was the Commander in Chief and it was Veteran's Day.

Now that I do agree with more of the politics of the Commander in Chief, however, I also have two kids, who don't care so much about politics, commanding or standing around in the rain. This means that I spent my morning at Jammin' Java, rocking out to Rocknoceros' weekly Wednesday morning concert. Most weeks, 3B is in school during the concert, so this was a special treat for him: Papa had a "stay at home" rather than a "go to work" day, and he got to see his self-proclaimed favorite band. Plus, he took his "best buddy" Eeyore to his first Rockno show.

As he gets older, 3B enjoys the concerts in different ways. The first time we saw Rocknoceros, you'd have thought 3B was hypnotized, watching TV or bored out of his skull. He sat as still as a stone, thumb in mouth, staring at the stage. On the way home, of course, he recounted every detail of the concert and asked to see them again. And again. And again.

Today, 3B was offering up the songs he wanted to hear today before I even asked, off my lap and dancing in the aisles from the downbeat, and rushing the stage for a handstamp before the last notes had stopped reverberating through the hall. It's so much fun for me to watch him have fun.

After the show, we stopped by the hardware store next door, lured in by the fat honey crisp apples they had up front. We remembered that we needed a few things--when don't you need a few things at a hardware store?--and wandered the aisles for awhile, taking time to heft a 36" pipe wrench and give a skritch to the store dog, Rocky. I decided to push my luck and head to Babies R Us because we need a new window shade, more sippy cup valves and nipples--when don't you need more nipples?

We managed to make it out with our sanity, even getting through a ride on Bob the M'erF'in Builder's tractor in the entryway.

While we're on the topic of shit that drives parents crazy, let's talk about those m'erf'in rides in front of stores. I know they used to have the same effect on Mom, and I'm sure that I never got to ride on one. Then again, she had six kids in tow, so giving everyone a ride would have pretty much taken all week. Mama and I take the same approach, although this means that we have to go in through the BRU exit to avoid Bob the M'erF'in Builder and his tantrum-inspiring tractor. 3B, who is too damn smart for his own good, however, has figured us out and as soon as we turned into the BRU parking lot--before we could even see the store, mind you--he was yelling from the back seat, "I want to ride on Bob! I want to ride on Bob!"

It was all I could do not to get all Ed Abbey on him and threaten to blow Bob and his habitat destroyer to bits.

On the way in, I could see that there was a kid on BTMFB, so we went through the entrance. For the 30 minutes we were in the store, 3B accepted that the kid was on BTMFB, so we were cool. On the way out, however, I let him run over and climb on. Why? Because if he doesn't ride, he melts down, and if he does sit on it--we never put money in--he melts down when we make him get off.

Clearly, whoever puts these things in front of stores doesn't give a damn about parents.

So, today I did what any good, compassionate parent would do. After lounging in one of the wheelchairs that are parked beside BTMFB for awhile, I announced to 3B that I was headed home and walked out to the car. I'm not sure how we'll ever get 3B to leave places when this trick stops working, but today it was a charmer and we made it home just in time for a nap, which 3B actually took today.

His naps are becoming more rare. Gone is the daily three-hour snooze, during which Mama could work, sleep, or fruit around on Facebook. Now, he takes two or three naps every week, usually going several days between them. We compensate by putting him down earlier, but he still does become a bit of a beast in the evenings on no-nap days.

His sister is following her brother's lead, staying awake longer during the day. Today, after waking up at about seven--sleeping in for her--she didn't take a nap until 2 p.m. Yikes, little girl. That's impressive, but you do need your rest. Then again, it's not like she's not growing and developing, plus she's kindly making up for it tonight by sleeping like a lamb. These days, when she's awake she loves being read to, sitting in her Pooh bouncy seat, or chillin' in someone's arms. She's also prone to tell us what she thinks about a variety of topics and will gladly smile or laugh with almost anyone about almost anything, when she's in the mood.

And it's not just me who has so much fun watching her have fun--our little jewel has captured everyone's heart; all of us love reading to her, watching her and holding her.

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pay for what you get

Last night our microwave died.

I'll wait while you finish gnashing your teeth, rending your garments and ululating over our loss.

Feel better now? Great--now pack up your microwave and ship it to us overnight.

I'm sure that we wouldn't be so frustrated if this wasn't the latest in a long line of failures from appliances we bought from Sears. None of them are more than six years old, and the microwave is only three years old.

In fact, when I called their help hotline last night they thanked me for being such a valuable and loyal customer. Now, I'm not in the customer service industry, but I'd like to provide a little insight to those who are--having a valuable and loyal customer to your help hotline does not mean that you are succeeding, it means that you are providing products in which failure is an inherent trait.

It started innocently enough when first, we discovered that the front loading washing machine from Sears, which we loved, grows enough mold in the rubber seal around the door to provide all of the developing world with penicillin for the next decade. The problem is so bad that a class action suit was filed. Unfortunately, we were too late to get on that gravy train, so we just keep a bottle of bleach at the ready, which is a nice complement to our perfume- and dye-free detergent.

Then the pump in the dishwasher from Sears ate it. Or didn't eat it. More specifically, it might have become overloaded, got a label from a jar stuck in it, or tired of digesting our leftovers. Whatever the case, it died.

Then the range from Sears died. Specifically, the oven igniter died. Of course, the first repairman didn't figure that out and replaced another part. On a fluke, the oven lit again while he was here, but that was just a flash in the pan. So we had to pay for yet another visit from Sears to fix the actual problem. Oh yeah, and for the parts that we actually needed, in addition to the other parts we had paid for that we certainly didn't need.

A little while after the second repairman claimed to have fixed the range from Sears, it developed a case of the whoomping cough. When we turned it on, rather than releasing a little gas before igniting, it would release a fair amount of gas before igniting it, causing quite a whoomp--enough to make you turn your head. This has evolved into a case of explosive flatulence as it now releases enough gas to pop the oven door open when it ignites, plus the sound is loud enough to make everyone in our zip code jump up and turn around to see what that was.

Of course, by the time we called, the warranty on the first--and second--range repair had expired.

Of course.

And now the microwave dies. This means that not a single appliance that we bought from Sears lasted longer than five years without needing a repair that cost almost as much or more than the appliance originally did. And Sears has even failed to make good on those repairs.

When I went to the Sears appliances website last night, I saw the banner across the top of the page: Appliance Questions? Call 1-800-MY-SEARS. And just below that was an ad for their 15% off sale on appliances.

So I asked if they were offering 15% off because they knew that they'd pick up that margin, plus a healthy profit on the repairs, within five years. If, perhaps, this was a shrewd business plan to make money on the sale up front, then guarantee returns throughout the lifetime of the appliance, sort of a corporate layaway plan, if you will? If perhaps, their repair plan was modeled after the 30-year mortgage finance plan for homes, with owners making payments in the form of repair bills?

I seem to have stumped them, so that's another thing from Sears that doesn't work.

There is however, one thing we've bought from Sears that does work: our vacuum. Of course it works--it's designed to suck.

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Monday, November 09, 2009

The first time

We all have those unique moments that we'll remember because they had never happened before. They are our firsts.

  • The first kiss.
  • The first time you made someone who you love laugh--uncontrollably until they couldn't breathe.
  • The first time you made someone who you love cry--gut-heaving sobs.
  • The first time you made it to the top.
  • The first time everyone was looking at you and you succeeded.
  • The first time you lost someone who you couldn't live without.
  • The first time you found someone who you couldn't live without.
  • The first time that you were first.
Many of the firsts we remember are events that come later in life, because so many of our actual firsts happen when we're too young to remember them, such as our first breath, our first meal and our first feeling of joy.

It's easy for us, as parents, to tell when certain of these happen, but harder to tell when others do. It's a nice confirmation, then, to see an outward sign of one of the good ones, like a smile, or a coo.

Just last week, our little jewel started cooing and smiling at us. There was no way for me to capture her first of either, especially since both were likely done to Mama or Grammy, but since that very first one, we've all had our first time seeing her coo or smile. And we've all, including 3B, been busy trying to do whatever she needs to do it again.

And some of us have been filming some of those moments, both to share with you and to ensure that we never forget.

As if any of us could ever forget that first smile.

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Sunday, November 08, 2009

The best things in life are...mothers

While Grammy and Mama are in the belly of the IKEA beast with our little jewel, 3B and I played chase around the racetrack, then headed down the hill and around the block. On the way, we took a short break to have a snowball fight with the soap foam we found in the gutter. I'd forgotten how much fun it was to play in the gutter. After all, the best things in life are dirty (you really have to click through...where else will you see Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin sing a duet?)

I'm waiting for Mama to remind my how gross it also is, just like Mom did.

He got tired of riding for a little while, and started scavenging, during which time he collected a walking stick and a large ratty piece of tree bark.

Because I wasn't working hard enough carrying his trike, our water bottles and the balloons that the realtor gave us as we happened by when she was taking down her open house sign, 3B handed me the ratty piece of bark, because he wanted to give it to Mama.

I swear that my entire life as a father has been foretold by Bill Cosby (all you need to listen to is the preview).

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Saturday, November 07, 2009

Where do I find "hot date" in the card catalog?

Mama and I are about to walk out the door on a hot date, thanks to Grammy, who's looking after the kids while we're out.

We did finally remember what to wear on a hot date--anything that's not stained. And we remembered where to eat on a hot date--anything other than mac and cheese. But we're trying to remember where to go and what to do on a hot date.

Does going to the library to revel in the silence and take a nap count as a hot date?

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Friday, November 06, 2009

Handing over our jewel

It's always different for the second child, as my first roomie will gladly tell you.

  • 3B didn't know the TV turned on until he turned two, but his sister now has her favorites on Dancing with the Stars, Top Chef and Project Runway. (Also, after watching The Office, she's already planning a career as a field biologist.)
  • 3B stayed at home, comfy and cozy, until he and the weather were in the right mood for a walk through the park, but his sister has been dragged hither, thither and yon for school dropoffs and pickups, grocery shopping, playdates, and so forth.
  • 3B was cared for only by family members until he turned one, when Mama had to go back to work so we wouldn't have to raise him in a refrigerator box in a freeway underpass. Coincidentally, his separation anxiety kicked in full-force at exactly the same time...good times. His sister, on the other hand, will have a babysitter after Thanksgiving.
In fact, Mama has been working since baby girl was six weeks old, which has only been possible through the grace of Grammy, who has been with us since before baby girl was born. Grammy did have to return home for a few weeks because she does have, you know, a job, other grandchildren, and a life outside of Dixie.

While we're on the topic, a few words for all those who questioned Barack Obama for having his mother-in-law move into the White House: are you high? I don't work nearly the hours he does, nor do I have the travel schedule he does, nor does Mama have nearly the responsibilities that Michelle has, and still I'm not sure how we would make it through the day without Grammy.

There are the obvious mechanics that she helps with, like when we need to be in two places at one time, but more than that, it's the love she adds to the house. Let's face it, Mama and I aren't on top of our games right now--we're not getting enough sleep, and on top of that, we're both trying to work and raise our kids.

That means that sometimes we don't have the focus, attention span or patience that we'd love to possess always for our kids, and those are the times that Grammy helps out in the most meaningful way. When we're at a loss for a distraction to avert a tantrum, she comes up with one, and when we're mid-tantrum and holding a girl with poop from her diaper up to her neck, Grammy can either soothe the tantrum or change the girl while we soothe.

And beyond that, she finds the time to go grocery shopping and cook healthy, delicious meals. In preparation for Grammy's departure, I'm stockpiling those seaweed capsules that provide all the nutrition you need in one day. Not that I'll be able to find them after she goes, since without her picking up around the house, I'm sure we'll once again be overcome by the toy tsunami.

What's truly amazing about all of this is the grace with which Grammy does all of this. She never breaks a sweat, and is always ready with a smile while Mama and I whine, grimace and sigh.

So, while we could never replace Grammy, we are looking for a babysitter to fill in after Grammy leaves and at least bounce around the room with her granddaughter while Mama works (3B will be at school at the time). And when I say "we are looking," you understand that I mean, "Mama is looking hard while Papa slacks around the house," right?

I've been pleasantly surprised so far by the two candidates--only one of whom I was able to meet. Based on what Mama and Grammy said about the first candidate, they would both be good companions for our little jewel.

It's hard to put our baby into the hands of a non-family member, but it makes it somewhat easier to know that there are people out there who will care for her as well as these women seem to be capable of. And I tell myself that perhaps this means that when we do take our jewel to Mrs. K's, perhaps there won't be the histrionics that her brother went through, since she'll be somewhat used to strangers.

Hey, let a dad dream a little, OK?

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Thursday, November 05, 2009

Bouncing around the room

If you're wondering why I don't write more in the evenings, or haven't gotten back to your email about that thing, or why I consider riding my bike nine miles to work one of the easiest parts of my day, here's your answer...(note that I didn't add any music, so you could hear 3B's joke, but if you want some music, I suggest that at the same time you play the video below, you also start this video)

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Our baby Einstein

Last night I was bathing 3B and he was playing with his myriad bath toys when I heard him say, "First we need a hypothesis."

I sat up and watched what he was doing: balancing a shampoo bottle upside down on the edge of the tub.

As he set it up, he asked, "Do you think it will fall--yes or no?"

After the bottle toppled into the tub, I asked him if his hypothesis was proved true or false. "True--the bottle fell down."

All the credit for his smarts go, of course, to Mama, who's not only the brains of this outfit, but the one who's at home with him all day.

I couldn't be more proud or happy. At this rate, next spring he'll not only be able to calculate and file our taxes for us, but also work out our mortgage refinance.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

You had me at snot rocket

I've noticed over the last several years of riding to work that we aren't the most friendly group on the road or on the trail. I understand about on the road--we're all too busy trying not to get killed for small pleasantries. That don't-fuck-with-me face is sometimes the best defense we have against the cars, trucks and buses swarming around us, especially given that spandex is as effective at protecting us against motor vehicles as a kleenex is at stopping a 9mm bullet.

But on the bike trail during commute hours, it's just us and the occasional jogger. It wouldn't kill you to crack a smile. In fact, it's gotten so irritating how serious some of you are that for the past several months, I've made a point of greeting each of you with "good morning" or "good evening," and I've got a few notes for you...

The first note is that you are not on Team Radio Shack or Garmin-Slipstream or Rabobank or whatever team you bought the clothes for, so lighten up. If you were that good, you wouldn't have been riding on this suburban bike trail with me in July, you'd have been in the Alps, Pyrenees and on the Champs Elysee.

The second note is that it's not like we're strangers. I've seen you every morning and evening for the past several months.

The next note is that, although I'm not as prissy as Emily Post, when someone looks you in the eye and says "good morning," the appropriate response is not to

  • look down
  • look away
  • look away and spit
  • look away and fire a snot rocket
  • grimace and pedal harder (see above note about how good you aren't)
The appropriate response is "good morning."

You're welcome. There's no charge for that little bike etiquette lesson.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

Welcome to paradise

One day while shuffling through tunes on our way home from preschool, 3B and I happened upon LSJUMB's version of Welcome to Paradise, which we had to listen to about 128 times in the half-hour drive home.

Since then, 3B has been asking for "The Stanford Band" as he believes the song is called regularly. Hey, could be worse...he could be asking for WPOD. (Google it yourselves, you knobs.)

So, of course, we've also been serenaded by the littlest red jacket in the house with his versions, which include the only line he knows...perhaps because it's the only line he understands. Anyway, it's pretty fun for all of us to watch, including his sister, even if she doesn't always define her brother's drum solos as the gateways to paradise.

Note: At something like 30 frames per second, the footage of baby sister here includes something like 6.7 million photos of said sister, which should satisfy my niece who has been not so subtly pestering me through her mother for more pictures of the little cutie. So there. And if you want more pictures of here, come back and babysit, cook and clean while we all take a week to catch up on our sleep enough to operate a camera.

As for Froggie Went A-Courtin', I'm only sorry that I couldn't capture a version with 3B's wicked accurate Dylan impersonation. This will have to do for now.

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No, Team Radio Shack--*you* get ready for this.

On Sunday 3B, as he is wont to do, declared, "I am Lance Armstrong."

Recently, he's had a greater propensity to channel Levi Leipheimer, or as he says Levi Leiptheimer, but today he opted for Mellow Johnny.

That got me to thinking about how Lance is so fashion forward, and how he doesn't have a uniform designed yet for his new team.

So long as Lance's designers can figure a way to keep the bell bottoms out of the bike chains, I think we may have saved them a load of work by allowing them to steal the look 3B came up with for Team Radio Shack.

You can thank me later, Lance, after the Bradsteins are done toasting your victory on the Champs Elysee.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

A rockin good Halloween

As noted by Zygote Daddy on Facebook--because really, who blogs anymore? that's so, like, 2007--going to a flu clinic on Halloween is sort of like going to Rocky Horror. Except, you know, the toddlers, the startling sobriety and the daylight.

Ours actually didn't have much daylight since it was drizzling rain the whole time we were waiting outside. When we were inside, it cleared up a little, of course.

And when we were inside is when the show converted from the Rocky Horror show to the horror show. Don't let 3B's smile here fool you...

In like Flynn...
...most of the time we spent in line was punctuated with 3B's cries, "I don't wanna flu shot!" When he wasn't coughing, that is. We did everything to distract him, but after awhile we'd I Spied every object in the zip code, so we just set our watches every five minutes when he cried out. Once we got into the gym, however, the volume and frequency went up, peaking with a wicked crying jag during the shot that not even a bag of Skittles could quell.

Then they told us that he'd have to get a booster shot, while he was still on my lap. You didn't think he was going to understand what you said?

But we all survived to trick or treat another day...or night. We took our little Typhoid Harry down to cough his way around the nice neighborhood next to ours. Judging by the crowds, we weren't the only candy poachers.

It was like a block party on several blocks--people standing in the streets, houses decorated, folks sitting on their stoops or in their driveways with cauldrons of candy.

Meeting the King, baby.

And they were handing out the good stuff too--3B scored mostly chocolate, although the first candy he wanted when we got home was the Sweet Tarts.

Perhaps we were blinded by the good candy, or just forgot that our big pirate and witch hats blocked the rain, but eventually Mama and I noticed that it was actually raining pretty hard, so we bundled up our little rock star and headed home.

One advantage of Halloween with a toddler is that after an hour, he's satisfied. Although Mama and I were tempted to go back and score some more chocolate...

See the children run as the sun goes down

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

That's your side of the family

Mama is the Philosopher Queen of our house, so it's appropriate that she had this dialogue with our little zen master:

Mama: Is Eeyore in your room or out in the living room?
3B: [with appropriate gestures à la Vanna White displaying prizes] Whether he is up or down or in or out, it is the same activity.
Unfortunately, I don't bring any toys that are nearly so scintillating to the genetic pool. After all, I was the kid who would go to look up something in the encyclopedia and end up following all the See... and See also... references until I had a half-dozen or more volumes of the encyclopedia open in front of me.

So, yes, the internet, with every See... reference just a click away is my crack.

However, I think that particular kink in my double-helix might have been passed along. Just tonight, 3B was enthralled by one of his bedtime books, which was a nonfiction account of how cranberries are grown, harvested and processed.

Gripping, right?

Actually, I don't know. But I'm telling you, if I can pry that book out of his fingers, I'll let you know.

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Lost in the laundry

  • Ticket stub to that concert--you left feeling like you could fly, and swearing that the friends with you would be with you forever.
  • That one tiny screw that you found by stepping on it. You weren't sure what it connected, and the day you figured it out, you realized that you had pocketed it and it was gone.
  • Your phone.
  • That one piece of food that could have been a cookie, a Clif bar or the crust of a PB&J that your child handed you. You'll never know exactly what it was, but you're sure it had something sticky and red in it.
  • All of your spare time.
  • A business card. The one from that guy who said he had a position for you that you were sure paid double what you're making now for half the work.
  • That piece of gum.
  • Your old shopping list and the receipt from that shopping trip. Good thing you wrote it on a fluorescent pink post-it because that makes it much easier to pick the shreds of it out of that load of darks.
  • The tail from your ass--but hey, at least it's fluffy now:

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Love never dies

This afternoon, after 3B got up from his (not) nap and I got up from my (too short) nap, I asked him if he'd had any dreams.


"Do you remember them?"


"What happened in your dream?"

"I went to visit Barky in the stars."

"You did?"

"I flew in my rocket ship up to see him in the stars."

"What did you do with him?"

"I played with him and I tickled him."

"I'm sure he liked that."

"Someday we can all fly up in a rocket ship and see him in the stars."

"Would you like that?"

"I love Barky and I miss him."

"Yes, sweetie, we all do."

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Some days you're the diaper, some days you're the pail

Mama: Why did you move the diaper pail into our room?

Papa: You don't like it there?

Mama: There's pros and cons. Why did you move it?

Papa: Well, the pros are that baby girl's changing table is in there, and she goes through approximately 1,200 diapers a day, so it's closest to the action. After changing her, we don't have to leave her on the changing table while we drop the diaper in the pail. In the middle of the night we don't have to open our door, which is right next to 3B's door, and make the dropoff in the old diaper pail location, which was also outside 3B's door, so we're less likely to wake him. Overall, it makes diaper changes faster because, really, who wants them to take any longer?

Mama: Those are all good reasons.

Papa: So what's the con?

Mama: It smells like shit.

Papa: Well, there is that.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Eats, poops, sleeps

Last Tuesday was my first day back at work after almost five weeks off following baby girl's birth. Almost is the operative word there, since a few things came up in the middle of those weeks that required me to do some work.

That wasn't what I had in mind, but it's an indication of how flexible my work is--I can work from home and at off hours--which is a good thing now that I'm going back to a full time work schedule.

However, after that work interlude, I took the following two weeks off of everything, including blogging, except play time, baby bouncing, school dropoffs and pickups, Mama support, and napping...oh, and Facebook, of course. That's a lot of ground to cover in a blow-by-blow account, but don't worry--I can't remember most of what happened during those weeks anyway.

So here's the vaguest impression of how brilliant life has been with baby girl--as if you'd draped a cloth over the last few weeks and their radiance had burned an image onto it. A time capsule Shroud of Turin, if you will.

However, this shroud went through the washing machine with a load of blue jeans that all happened to have pockets full of pennies, so all that's left of it are some scattered tatters that you'll have to piece together yourself.

The wedding in Illinois was beautiful. 3B was a rock star ring bearer, in large part thanks to his comrade-in-arms, DJ, the son of the best man. Also thanks to his willingness to follow the flower girls anywhere. Our little boy crushes hard and fast.

While his baby sister was enjoying her first trip to the salon on the day of the wedding, 3B and I hiked through the woods to a playground where he promptly dumped the flower girls for Megan--a girl who ran up and introduced herself: I'm Megan. I'm 8. I'm so small because I was a preemie.

Well, hello, Megan.

Sorry to report, Megan, that as soon as 3B saw the flower girls that night, you were moved to the bottom of his dance card. However, your status seems to have leveled out--he does still speak to you now that we're back home.

Yes, our son speaks to people who aren't there. And stuffed animals that aren't there. And stuffed animals that are. And strollers. And trees. And buses. Even the stones themselves sing out to him. Yes, we've got an animist on our hands. It's all fine by us, except he expects everything to talk back to him, so we have to come up with a unique voice for each item.

In addition to frequently getting dissed for my Eeyore voice ("Mommy Eeyore has a better Eeyore voice, Daddy.") I'm often corrected--"No, the chair has a high voice...No, Daddy, the tree has a low voice."

Look, kiddo, even Frank Oz had only basically two or three voices.

As for getting to the wedding and back, both kids were perfect on the flights, even when one plane was damaged, forcing us to gather our effects, disembark, walk down 10 gates and board a different plane. While his baby sister slept and occasionally ate during the flights, 3B read--mostly the emergency information card. If you ever need to get off a plane in a hurry, you want to be with 3B. He's got that thing memorized.
"What emergency is this?"

"Do planes ever land on rocks?"

"Look, a slide!"
In the car was a different story. Baby girl often likes riding in the car as much as her big brother did (read: not at all) at this age and expresses herself as clearly as he did (read: screams bloody murder). 3B doesn't think this turnabout is fair play, and I suppose it's bad parenting to say, "See what it's like, mister?"

I'm sure he doesn't remember that drive to Boston while he was teething during which he screamed nonstop for about six and a half weeks at volumes and in pitches that caused dogs up and down the eastern seaboard to howl in protest.

Other wedding notes:
  • Filling two plates at a buffet while holding a baby in one arm is totally possible, especially if one plate is filled with nothing but mac and cheese.
  • If you're a waitress at the buffet and offer to hold my baby while I fill my plates, please take no look nice, and I'm sure you are a grandmother, as you say, but this is my baby.
  • If there is no band and you have none of your instruments, you can still have a band and play instruments, so long as you brought along your imagination.
  • Any walk through the woods requires a gun (read: stick) to shoot at trees, otherwise, why walk?
  • When you are staying in a cabin with a gas fireplace, it should always be on, even if it converts the room to a dry sauna in seven seconds.
  • If you are away from home, you are away from PBS and your DVR, which means that if you are to watch age appropriate TV and you are three years old, you will discover Tom and Jerry, which appears to be the zenith of modern comedy and Scooby Doo, which you enjoy, but aren't quite old enough to get.
  • What is it about dressing kids up in adult clothing that makes them so cute? I don't know, but it's almost the cutest thing ever. Almost? Well, then, what is the cutest thing ever? Until we can video 3B or his sister again, it's this.

Now that we're back home and back into our groove: eat, poop, sleep.

For those of us who are more than four weeks old, there are usually some other activities, but recently, we've been reminded how having a newborn really focuses your priorities. Notice, for example, some of the items that list is missing:
  • shower
  • cook
  • shop
  • leave the house
It's not that baby girl is overly fussy--Mama and I are having a running debate over whether 3B was this fussy at this age, but neither of us can remember, thanks to the post-birth amnesia that allows parents to keep having kids. Baby girl does appear, however, to be more refluxy than 3B, which means that we have to keep her upright most of the time.

Is it so wrong that we put her in coveralls, run a bungee cord through her shoulder straps and hang her from the planter hook in the ceiling? She's upright, plus she gets good sunlight there and we water her regularly.

But seriously, we are very happy to have learned about the magic soothing abilities of bouncing with her on the yoga ball because doing that while shushing in her ear is one of the only things that consistently soothes her. No matter that I'm well on my way to rupturing all the disks in my lumbar region--who else gets to play hoppity horse all day?

The bouncing is fun--more fun than the crying, at least--and it keeps us awake, but it also means that there's no way to multitask and read or surf the innernetz. To keep myself awake, I've taken to watching TV. I've gone through almost everything on our DVR, so if you want to know what's on any channel at 2 a.m., I'm your man.

If, however, you want to know who wins the Stanford-UCLA game, I can't help you, since I'm still making my way through it. This is because although I'm on the ball often, I'm not always on for long periods of time thanks to hunger, poop and crankiness.

Baby girl also gets hungry, poops and gets cranky, so between the two of us, it's hard to get on a roll and complete a show.

Regardless of whether she's more fussy than her brother at this age, baby girl is a newborn, which means that she's demanding and consuming in ways that only newborns can be--just as her brother was. She, however, enjoys an unfair advantage over 3B: parents who know that this too shall pass and who are therefore more chilled out about everything, like the fact that our daughter doesn't know how to poop without waking everyone in the room.

At least she's mastered farting in her sleep even if it means she dutch ovens herself in her swaddler.

We do have some questions about the body stiffening, back arching and twisting of the head off to one side, but I think we've decided that's a reaction to the reflux, not signs of developmental delays or seizures. (Nevertheless, I did knock on wood while typing that...can't be too safe.) It is really spectacular. I think you could hold her by her ankles and she would stick straight out like a dowsing rod.

Not that I would ever try that.

In fact, thanks to her need to keep her head in line with her spine and twisted to the side, even when she's hanging over our shoulders, she's been able to hold her head up pretty well for several days now, if not a week. It looks awkward, but it does give us the chance to gaze into her beautiful blue eyes, which we're suspecting will stay blue, unlike her brother's, which, like leaves on a tree in autumn, slowly passed through many shades and settled into a beautiful brown.

We're seeing her peepers more often now that she's staying awake longer and figuring out how to poop without so many grunts, screams and tears. Although her body is almost always shrouded in pajamas, cute little Mary Jane socks, a receiving blanket, swaddler, or some combination of those, those shrouds can't obscure her brilliance and beauty.

However, if we're lucky, those shrouds will be strong enough to secure us a full night's sleep someday, and perhaps a quieter car ride.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

I'm gonna get you, sukkah

As all you members of the tribe know, it's Sukkot. All you gentiles, like me, you can Google this to understand what it means. You should know, after all, it all relates back to the first half of your book. Muslims too, since it relates to the first third of your book. Buddhists...well, you're off the hook here.

No really, go ahead and Google it. I'll wait here. (While I'm waiting, a question for the members of the tribe: have you ever wanted to have a get together with the Mormons so you would know what it feels like to be gentiles for a change?)

OK, you understand Sukkot now? Good.

We were going to go to a Sukkot Under the Stars dinner at 3B's school, which was unfortunately canceled due to low registration, so we've been studying up. We've also been studying just to keep up with 3B, who has been learning all about Sukkot and school and even built a sukkah with his classmates--OK, a piece of gauze littered with sticks, leaves and acorns strung over their Shabbat table in class, but still.

Turns out that's not all he's learning in school.

I've taken to counting in Spanish with him, mostly since I get bored with all the counting to ten we've been doing for everything. I know, bad dad, no biscuit, but hey, at least he can count from uno to diez now, right? The other day, 3B was showing off his Sukkot knowledge and we were counting something and I thought to ask him "How do you count in school?"

Mama helped him get started--I'm surrounded by smarty pants--but then 3B counted to 10 on his own in Hebrew. Great, so the kid is trilingual and I sometimes struggle with the one language I know...and I'm not getting smarter from day to day like he is.

If I'm going to stay ahead of him, we might have to take him out of school before the end of the year.

But seriously, I'm so happy because I've always known that my children would teach me more than I'd ever teach them. At last, he's teaching me something I can use when I take a vacation to Israel. Now he just needs to start making that money he's going to use to pay for my trip.

C'mon kid, ante up, nobody gets a free ride.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Desperate househusband

It's been four hours, and I miss my little girl.

Yesterday, I got a call from work--a colleague needed assistance on an urgent project--that led me to check my work email. When I did, I saw an email that needed immediate attention, so I have been temporarily sucked back in.

So it was that this morning, after dropping 3B off at preschool, I went to work, by which I mean that I went down the street to Starbucks.

I've been here four hours now, which has been productive time, in part because I'm working frantically since somewhere in my lizard brain I feel like if I work faster, I'll get to see Mama and baby girl sooner. But the reality is that now there's no time to go home before I pick up 3B, so it will be some time yet before I see them.

It makes me wonder how soon Obama can get us to that socialist utopia in which none of us have to work, and can spend all day playing with our children.

I'm fairly sure that I inherited my outlook from Dad--about spending all day playing with my kids, not about socialism--who loved his time with us. And he had a lot of time with us, since he got up--switched on like a light bulb is how Mom put it--at 6 a.m. every morning.

Apparently that's something that 3B has inherited from Dad, since he was up at 6 a.m. this morning. I went in and tried to get him to snuggle back down, but 3B sat bolt upright in bed. I asked if he'd had a bad dream or needed anything. He said, "No. I don't want to be asleep."

What's a dad to do?

Head out to the living room and turn on the TV, that's what. For the record, it was an episode of Curious George and one of Sesame Street, plus one reading of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. By the end of those, we were both awake, fed and mostly dressed without even a meltdown.

But of course there was a meltdown--complete with screaming and banging right outside of the door to our room, where Mama was trying to sleep with baby girl. If you think that didn't set me off, you've clearly confused me with another dad...perhaps one without a gene for red hair.

After a time out for 3B and me, we were back on track and out the door on time for school, which is the first time I've managed that, so I suppose it's a good thing he was up at 6. Sort of.

Then it was back to work for me...sort of. One of the parts of the day that I'll miss after I go back to work for real will be the opportunity to be a mom. After I dropped off 3B, I sat in the lobby with a couple of other moms chatting about kids, their behavior, and life in general. I could talk with parents about kids all day. It's got to be my favorite topic.

Mom did say I'd make a good house husband.

Speaking of which, my meter has expired and it's time to get back to leave, get back to school, and get back to my family.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ballad of a thin dad

The older I get, the less I know.

Recently, some things have happened. Not necessarily in the order I describe them. Also, some things that have happened recently are not included in this list. Their omission is not the fault of those things, nor does it imply anything about the quality of those things; rather, it's a reflection of my memory, or lack thereof.

One week before his baby sister was born, 3B got his first two freckles--one on his arm and one on his leg. Since then, I think I've seen a cluster of very light freckles on the back of one of his hands. As a fish-belly-whiteskinned blondie myself, all I can say is welcome to that, 3B.

One week after she was born, 3B's little sister rolled over from her front to her back. She's supposed to do this at about 4-6 months. Yes, I'm proud and all, but really? Can we not get a break around here? For, like, 5 minutes?

Grammy left Tuesday morning and is already sorely missed. She did so much with so little effort, it's still hard to comprehend. If you can spare a thought for the kids during this month that she's gone, consider helping them return to the level of care she provided by sending some freshly cooked meals, clean clothes and exciting books to read. If you're close enough, you could even stop by to play fun games, have a sleepover with 3B and snuggle with him in the morning, and keep Mama and I updated on what's happening in the world outside this condo.

3B comes home every day with a report on his day at preschool. On today's, in the Notes section, was this: Such nice manners! Yes, I'm proud, but where did those manners go tonight when, after rejecting his nap, he hit and spit at me?

Baby girl had her two-week appointment today, and passed all of her tests with flying colors: her umbilical cord fell off a few days ago and she's half a pound heavier than she was at birth, which is half a pound more than they are looking for, so she's not having any trouble nursing. She does have an umbilical hernia and a likely blocked tear duct, both of which should clear up soon. To celebrate, we gave her her second bath in the sink (as opposed to a sponge bath over the sink). To celebrate, she crapped in the bathwater in the sink.

3B found the keyboard today that we were going to give him as a new-big-brother gift, but then stalled on and were going to give him for Christmakwanzukkah. "What in the world is this," he asked when he found it. Then, as he set it down in the living room to open it, he said, "Wowie zowie!" I do love this kid. And the concert at the dinner table made it all worthwhile.

[Update: How is it that 3B came out this morning and after walking out of the room last night while I was demoing all the sounds of the keyboard for him, sat down and went through them one by one: 1 is music box, 2 is mandolin (but I call it banjo), 3 is organ, 4 is piano, and so forth? Also, how is it that last night, when the demo tunes were playing, he started humming along with the Ode to Joy immediately? Is Beethoven part of our collective unconscious?]

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