Monday, December 13, 2010

Hit me with your best shot

In four days, I'll be driving for 10+ hours by myself, and I need your help.

To keep the needle pegged and my foot on the floor, I need driving tunes.

10+ hours of driving tunes.

So, lay it on me--your top 10, top 20, hell, all of your driving tunes. Any genre. Any artist. Just no lullabies.

To allow me time to get it all loaded up for the trip, you have 48 hours...go!

What are you waiting for? Go!

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Goodbye never gets easier--I just get older

Mama and I practically started our relationship by saying goodbye. The image of her standing on the train station platform in Rabat, tears streaming down her cheeks, as my train pulled out and took me away is indelibly seared in my mind. The way she turned her face up to the sky and stood on the sides of her feet, her hands hanging straight down at her sides like anchor chains.

Since then, with our families on opposite coasts and her work taking her overseas, I long ago lost count of the times we've bid each other farewell, choosing instead to focus on the joyful reunions that follow. And I've tried to guide 3B toward that as well--how happy we'll be to see each other again, what game will we play when we're reunited?, who will he see while I'm gone?

He is, of course, far too smart for that.

I can't say that I'm nearly as smart as he, but in the inevitable constant shuffling of bodies through life, like stones in a riverbed, a place has worn smooth in my psyche where all the goodbyes have passed by: those I said when going to school, then off to college, then back home from college, then off to work, then out of Morocco, then away from my child for the first time, and then away from my dog for the last time, and then away from my next child for the first time.

They are not any easier to walk through, but by now I know where to put my feet, when to shake hands, how long to hug, what to say and when to turn around one last time to look. Sometimes I just have to go through the motions to get through it.

And sometimes someone adds something new that threatens the balance of the whole dance. At the other end of my journey from Morocco through Gibraltar to London and then home was Mom. She was waiting, as ever, at the airport, with her car keys in one hand, the other hand in her pocket and a smile from ear to ear. As I got closer, however, I saw tears well suddenly in her eyes. A look of surprise and perhaps embarrassment crossed her face and then, in a blink, those tears were gone.

Perhaps I think to highly of myself. OK, I almost certainly think to highly of myself, but a feeling flashed across my heart: She's glad to see me alive again. She's glad that I made it home.

In that moment, I held a tiny sliver of the love I would later feel for my children in my heart, although it was fleeting, like one brilliant white slice of light reflecting off the perfect diamond of love I hold now. And I started to cry too, but then, in a blink, that was gone.

But I had realized how glad I was to see Mom, to embrace her, to tell her my stories, to have her cut me off to tell me the latest local news and to be reunited as if I had just come home from a day at school.

Today, I don't know what it was, but I finally started to understand how perhaps Mom felt when she put me on that flight out to London months before I returned.

This isn't the first time that Mama and 3B--and now Mama, 3B and Jewel--have gone ahead of me on a vacation due to my lack of leave or scheduling conflicts. In the past, I'd take them to the airport, come home and work for a week, then pack up Barky and myself and drive to meet them at the farm. We've usually done this for the 4th of July and Christmas weeks, and this year is no different.

Except that it's all different.

I've gotten over losing Barky, but I'll never forget him. At times like this, I keep thinking of him, and then remembering that I don't need to remember to bring his bed, his leash, his collar and his food. I remember again that there won't be anybody in the backseat to talk to--even if he was always sleeping anyway.

And this time, perhaps because of their age, or because I'm more tired than I've been in years, or because of the way the rain was slanting across the runways and the naked skeletons of trees were standing starkly silhouetted against the slate sky at the horizon--this time was different.

Tangibly different.

I was aware of the rougher, slightly tangled texture of 3B's beautiful red hair as I kissed his head while he, for the first time at an airport, hugged me again and again and showered me with kisses. He told me that he'd miss me and that he loved me and blew me kisses.

I was aware of the silky, fine blond hair that veiled Jewel's eyes with a golden glow, and of her cheeks, porcelain doll smooth yet as soft as a pillow and as warm as a kiss. She looked back around the edge of the stroller as they entered the jetway--Mama, Jewel and 3B--and as 3B looked back one last time and blew one final kiss to me.

I was aware of the warmth of Mama's kiss on my lips as they all disappeared around the corner.

This scene plays out many mornings as I leave for work, although not at such a frenzied pace and all the surrounding hubbub of an airport that seemed at once to be overwhelming and nonexistent while I was so intently focused on my family. But something was different. Tangibly different.

And no matter how well rehearsed life has made me for this moment, I was wholly unprepared. I knew the steps, but I couldn't move my feet. I stood rooted to the spot and stared after them long after they were gone, long after it was time for one final look.

I realized that I had not talked with 3B about how happy we would be to see each other, nor had he said it to me as he will sometimes echo back at just the right time our words of comfort to him. Something was different. We couldn't talk about what was to come. We were too consumed, mesmerized and yet untouched by the luminescence of the moment we were in, as if wicks in candles, transfixed by the flames.

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Friday, December 10, 2010


Monday, as I walked up the hill to work, Fanfare for the Common Man came on.

The bitter cold wind was slicing through, chilling me. The sky was still dark. The pale dawn light was just starting to touch the tips of the buildings towering over me as I hunched my shoulders against the wind and jammed my hands into my coat pockets.

Today, this was the view...
...and as I sat down at my desk, this was the tune...
"There was a fanfare blowing / To the sun / That was floating on the breeze."

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Mackin' like the Maccabees

We're a family of mutts. On Mom's side, we know that we're Holland Dutch. Except we're really German Friesian. And that's just what one of us was when he landed back in the 1600's. Since he left New Amsterdam, however, some non-Friesians have joined the clan. On Dad's side, we came from south of Mason-Dixon, but somehow around the 1860's there's a dearth of records. Almost as if they were all lost or burned or something due to some upheaval in the South at that time.

We do know enough about Dad's side to surmise that there's both French and English in there, which is perhaps why my left hand not only doesn't know what my right hand is doing, it occasionally tries to cut it off. Fortunately, my right hand just surrenders and the fight is over.

On Mama's side, she's half English--to the point that they settled in New England and haven't left since. The other half is eastern European Jewish, but not on the side that counts. However, as Andy noted in Weeds, it does count in Reform Judaism, and those are the Jews you want to hang out with anyway.

This means that around the holidays we have a wide array to choose from. One of those German Friesians ran afoul of the (by then English) law when he celebrated Christmas on the day his tradition called for, which wasn't when the King called for it. So, we could pick the Friesian Christmas, the English Christmas or Hanukkah.

Being good mutts, er...Americans, we compromise and celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. For the latter, we go somewhere that's usually freezin', which is close enough to Friesian for me.

However, perhaps because we are jacks of all holidays, we are truly masters of none, which is how Hanukkah crept up on us yesterday. Mama called me at work to ask me to pick up a gift for 3B on my way home, since she was already on her way from work to pick him up at school. She was going to get candles for his menorah on the way home, and ended up getting a treat for him as well, which we decided would serve as his first night gift, since it duplicated the candy I got him.

Mama wasn't convinced that it was a traditional gift, but I assured her that it most certainly was. After all, wasn't it that most famous of all Maccabees, Marie Antoinette who declared, "Let zem eet zee pink polka dot cake!" Besides, it's what Mama's Grampa Doc would have served...even if it wasn't Hanukkah.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Letting go of heartbreak

I used to talk about the act of parenting ad nauseum, as if it were the latest sport admitted into the Olympics and I was going to be on the first U.S. team. But then I realized that I was just the latest yahoo to discover a sport that had been contested for several millenia by millions of people and decided that the numbers were against my being selected for the dream team or having any unique insight.

When 3B was brand new, he threw up for the first time. Mama and I debated--was it just a large burp? No, we were sure this would be defined as throwing up. But why had he done it? Was it something in her milk? Had he swallowed something? (As if he could have found or picked up anything to swallow, having been wrapped in a swaddle tighter than a boxer's hand tape for 99.8% of his life.)

This went on for about 20 minutes before we decided to use a lifeline and phone a friend, my Mom, since this was late at night and we didn't want to wake Grammy. Mom, being on the west coast, had no such shelter from our inquiries.

The conversation went about like this:

Us: 3B threw up.

Mom: Well, yes. Babies throw up a lot.

Eventually it sunk in that just because we were playing the parenting game didn't automatically make us experts on the sport. I also learned some other lessons along the way. They were the best kind of lessons--the kind I have to learn several times, in part because they're not obvious, so they sneak up on me, and in part because I don't want to have to learn them.

The first lesson is watch your knees. Parenting puts more strain on knees than a 200-yard game by an NFL running back. OK, so it doesn't involve planting a foot and getting your torso spun around your knee like a stripper on a brass pole by a 350-pound lineman, but all the up and down, squatting, crawling and eventually running does take its toll.

The other lesson is to let go. Of everything. They may belong to you, but you are no longer in control of them. This is immediately and most obvious when it comes to physical items, such as books, TVs, computers and money. It's less obvious when it comes to abstract items, such as time, sleep and the ability to complete a sentence without...

...sorry, what was I saying?

It's most difficult for me to let go when it comes to parenting, perhaps because of lingering hubris from my early days as a dad, when I thought that I was always going to be the one making the fingertip grab in the back of the end zone as time ran out to put us into the championship game. The reality is that parenting is much more pedestrian than that, and it involves more failures than successes.

In Chabon's book, Manhood for Amateurs, he talks about how parenting involves delivering a series of small disappointments to your children:

  • No, you can't have another cookie.
  • Yes, it's time to turn the TV off and go to bed.
  • I have to go to work now. Yes, I'll be there all day.

I don't mind the little things so much--hell, I need to eat fewer cookies and watch less TV too, buddy--but leaving in the dark, without seeing my children, and returning in the dark in just enough time to see them hop out of the bath and into bed...that breaks my heart. Every day.

But I have to let go of that heartbreak, which is harder than it sounds. I have to consciously, and sometimes out loud, remind myself that just because I'm not present for most of their waking lives doesn't make me a neglectful parent. Being absent doesn't mean being absentee.

And I remind myself that this lesson is a gift from my children, just like that random popping sound my knee makes when 3B uses me as a pommel horse. It's a lesson I've struggled to learn all of my life: when it's OK to let go.

In some ways, I'm still like Jewel--not understanding that just because I let go of something doesn't mean that it won't come back. But when I arrived home as Jewel and her brother were hopping out of the bath, she ran down the hall to me, then away, then back to me, then away, and then back to me again.

And I was just in time to pick her up, give her a warm bottle of milk, sing her my favorite lullaby and set her in her crib before giving her brother one last cookie, reading him a final story, talking to him about his day, giving him kisses and turning out the lights in his room.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Take your stinking paws off her, you damned dirty ape!

A bit of advice for any toddlers who are planning to grow up and woo my daughter: the road to her heart goes straight through her stomach.

Another bit of advice: Take your stinking paws off her, you damned dirty ape!

Jewel still has a lot to say but not many real words to use to express herself. This does not stop her, however, from expressing herself. With some simple gestures, a little hitting and scratching and the not-so occasional classic tantrum, she gets her points across.

The vocabulary she understands, however, is broad and deep, especially when she's motivated. What else do we expect, I suppose, from the sister of the brother who looked out the window at the clouds as we descended through them at sunset back into his home state and declared, "The view is magnificent."

Seriously, dude? You're four. You've got a few years before the SAT.

When I arrived home from work last night, 3B was sleeping off his jet lag on the couch and Mama was giving Jewel a bath. I got a quick snack and headed in to relieve Mama so she could finish the creamy, spicy asparagus potato soup she'd made us for dinner. Jewel, of course, dropped her toys, stood up, walked to the edge of the tub and started whining incessantly for my food.

I believe she may have learned this technique from Barky while she was still in utero.

Did I just compare my daughter to a dog? No, no I didn't. And even if I did, I'm her father, so it's OK. As for you, Take your stinking paws off her, you damned dirty ape!

I, of course, gave her bites from my snack--graham crackers with peanut butter, if you must know--although I broke off a piece of her heart, apparently, when I wouldn't let her hold the whole thing.

Mama had been trying to get Jewel out of the tub without a classic tantrum because it was time for Jewel to go sleep off her jet lag in her crib, but Jewel kept refusing, using her tested and true civil-disobedience-go-limp-while-wet-and-slippery-as-a-watermelon-seed technique. Seriously, where do babies learn this shit?

However, when Jewel had eaten my entire snack out of my hand, I simply looked at her and said, "Do you want more? There's another one of those in the kitchen for you." Jewel put her head down, lifted her leg over the edge of the tub and was out faster than you could say, "Jumping Jill Flash."

Another lesson for you would-be suitors of Jewel: it's not what you ask, it's how you ask.

And, again...

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stealth reader

Two weeks ago Mama and I were each feeling like a weight had been lifted from our backs as the switch finally flipped and 3B was fully potty trained in a few days. Sure, a few days after three years of work that probably took six years off our lives.

And then the next day, as I ran into our local bike shop to pick up a new tire, 3B, who was sitting in the car with Mama and Jewel, looking out his window at the florist, said, "Boo. That ballon says, 'Boo.'"

Mama looked over at the florist's display and asked, "What do the other balloons say?"

"Boo. Happy birthday..." and the third one escapes me now, but he read it too.

The next day, Mama was playing a card game with 3B and wrote the colors of the cards on a sheet of paper without telling him what she was doing. Then, while they were playing, she would point to one of the words and ask, "Can you find all of these cards?"

Without a pause, 3B would say, "OK, all the blue [or green, red, purple] cards."

Yes, just like everything else he's mastered from clapping to crapping, 3B has learned to read on his own in private. And like with the rest of his skills, he can't be bothered to apply the skill until he's good and damned well ready, thank you very much.

Now, if only he could silently master sleeping past 6 a.m.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Sunday, October 03, 2010

The first rule of Poop Club...

The first rule of Poop Club is, "You do not talk about Poop Club."

The second rule of Poop Club is, "You do not talk about Poop Club."

The third rule of Poop Club is, "You do not talk about Poop Club."

3B and I actually got all the way up to rule seven like this tonight, amidst much giggling.

So, let me back up to this morning, when we were having an epic showdown at the O Crap Corral...

We were already extremely late, even for us, to brunch with friends who live far enough away that every time we drive out there I start humming "Country Roads," so it was going to take awhile to get there too. To be fair, it wasn't 3B's fault we were late--we were waiting for his sister to wake up to avoid a meltdown over muffins.

That's a long story too, but let's just say that Mama, Jewel and I haven't shared a full night's sleep since we got back from Grammy's house. So Jewel's nap conveniently gave us plenty of time to get 3B ready and finally have the throwdown that had been looming ever since we took away his diapers last Friday.

Since then, 3B has been timing his poops to fall whenever he knew we would have to put a diaper on him, which means quiet time (aka, sometimes-but-almost-never-naptime) and bedtime. This morning, however, he declared that he had to do his "privacy."

Don't ask how these names come up. Do what we do: nod your head and smile.

So I laid down the law: you can either poop here or at our friends' house, knowing that he'd never poop outside of our house. 3B rebutted: no, I'm pooping in a diaper. As I attempted to clean up and pack up, 3B and I fought this running battle...

Here or at our friends' house.

In a diaper.
Here or at our friends' house.

In a diaper.
Rinse, repeat.

Finally he offered: No, I'm not pooping in the potty. I'll poop in a bag.

Don't ask how these ideas come up. Do what I do: take advantage of the opportunity as if you were Gordon Gekko negotiating with a Girl Scout over a box of cookies.

My rebuttal: sure. You can poop in a bag. C'mon with me to the bathroom.

He hesitated for a moment, but realized that he'd lost this particular phase of the negotiation and headed for the bathroom. I grabbed the nearest plastic shopping bag and followed him in. I spread the bag out flat on the floor, pulled the bowl out of his Baby Bjorn potty, put the bowl in the bag and told him to go ahead and poop in the potty in the bag.

Because a negotiation never ends, it just changes phases, 3B threw down his terms: OK, but you have to leave the room, you can't come in until I come out, and you can't say anything about this. But I was ready for him, since these were the terms we agreed to when we were getting him to pee in the potty (or shampoo bottle).

My reply: OK. See you when you're done.

After closing the door, of course, I dropped to my belly in the hallway and peered under the door. Not much that I could see--fortunately, in a sense--so I retreated to the living room to trumpet my victory to Mama and prepare the Superfund site cleanup materials, not knowing how the whole pooping, wiping, dumping, flushing thing would work out.

Turns out it's nice to raise a retentive child.

When I went into the bathroom after he came out--saying nothing, of course...I am a man of my word--there was nary a sign that he'd been in there, aside from the smell. As a precaution, I wiped out the potty bowl...oh, and I put down the seat, of course.

By then, Jewel was awake so we got in the car and drove out to a delicious and fun brunch on a beautiful fall day. Mama and I realized that we were still redonkulously late, but we were in great spirits.

Not that we could talk about it, of course.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

But it's OK

I've had eight hours of sleep in the last two days. But it's OK.

Jewel was up all last night with a stuffy nose and possible fever. But it's OK.

I had to take a sick day to watch Jewel and take 3B to school while Mama went into work for meetings with existential ramifications. But it's OK.

Jewel developed white sores inside her mouth and a diaper rash today. But it's OK.

I nearly fell asleep in the rocking chair on the balcony, watching 3B play in his sand and water table. But it's OK.

Jewel threw her pacifier off the balcony at 6 a.m. this morning, when the sky was still black, with rainclouds scuttling across it. But it's OK.

After suffering on Friday and Monday morning, I encountered a rare moment of near-silence during my ride and heard that my back brakes had been rubbing. But it's OK. (And not just because once I fixed that, it felt like I had two extra gears.)

On Monday, 3B spent more time in time out than the 49ers will spend in the cellar this season. But it's OK.

On my last commute my bike pump fell off. Twice. But it's OK.

It's all OK because on Monday, 3B started peeing in the potty, and he hasn't stopped since. OK, technically he pees in an old shampoo bottle half of the time...but he's on the potty when he does.

The bottle came about when...well, there was the...oh, never mind. Too long and boring a story in writing.

Back to the potty...this came about because we'd decided--and by "we," I know you know that I mean "the brains of the outfit," a.k.a. "Mama"--to get rid of diapers on Friday to force the issue. To start the week, Mama was having 3B sit on the potty every half hour and forcing him to wear underwear. He was fine with all that, but still wouldn't pee in the potty.

Until some point in the afternoon when he wanted to pee in the bath, which he was sharing with his sister. Mama told him he couldn't, that he'd have to get out and use the potty. His compromise was using the empty shampoo bottle--oh, look, I told you the story anyway--in the shower, which he did.

Then he was frustrated when he couldn't pee again right away. Mama explained to him how liquids become pee and he spent the rest of the day guzzling whatever he could get his hands on and peed a half-dozen times in the potty before I got home.

We've been able to prove that peeing directly in the potty is faster and easier than using the bottle half the time--especially when you have to bring the bottle to school in his backpack and tell his teacher about it, and so he's using direct deposit more regularly now.

And now Mama and I are walking around here with an extra spring in our steps, almost giddy. It's as if the wind shifted from head to tail; as if the grade is just as steep, but now downhill instead of up; or as if our brakes had been rubbing for four long years and now we know what it feels like to be free of that drag.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Monday, September 13, 2010

My daughter broke my heart

Every day of the week that I was at Grammy's, I was the one to wake up with Jewel at 5 in the morning--or 4:30 on one day--and get her out of bed, fed and outside to swing, climb the ladder to the clubhouse and walk around until the rest of the house awakened.

When we returned home, I was still the one to get up with her for a few days because she would get up just a few minutes before I needed to get up to go to work. We would go out to the kitchen where I would make coffee for Mama and I, then some eggs and toast or waffles, which I would share with Jewel.

Yes, I really do get up that early every day for work. Now you know why I don't return your calls late at night. Or even early at night.

But one morning, Jewel slept in--if you can call sleeping past 5 a.m. sleeping in--and I snuck out of the room, which is no mean feat, since her crib is on my side of the bed, to make coffee and breakfast and start getting ready. A half-hour later, when Mama carried Jewel out, both squinting at the bright kitchen light, Mama explained that Jewel had sat up in her crib, looked around, pulled out her pacifier and said "Da da? Da da? Da da?"

And that's when my tiny, cold, dark heart broke.

So, if you're ever wondering how my day is going, remember that I started it with a broken heart because I broke my daughter's heart. That should give you some idea.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Where I was

Nine years and one day ago, I woke up in the hotel in which Mohammed Atta would spend the next night before waking up and flying a plane into the World Trade Center.

I had just finished a bike ride from Montreal to Portland, Maine, to raise money for research into an AIDS vaccine that had not just renewed my faith in humanity, but raised it to a level higher than it had been at for a long time. Thousands of people set aside a week of their life to come together for the ride, having already spent months training and raising funds--all to help others.

The mood at the end of the ride was euphoric. We had all completed what seemed prior to that week an impossible feat to raise money for what was--and still is--and impossible feat. And we had done it together--cheering for each other, setting up each other's tents, encouraging each other through tough times and loaning each other shoulders to cry on when needed.

Along the way we were cheered by every community we rode through, and sometimes by folks standing in groups of two or three out by their houses. In one memorable case, an entire schoolhouse turned out, which was about 30 kids of all ages from grades K-6. Their school was in the middle of farm country, surrounded by fields, so they were the only people we saw for miles along the road, and there they stood, all day long, cheering each rider, waving their signs for hours.

I stopped to chat to them and was greeted like a hero. A sweaty, tired, sore-assed hero to me, but they didn't care about that.

And when we finished, I was greeted by (my then fiancee) Mama and her mom, who treated us to a delicious dinner and wonderful night in Portland. The next morning, as Mohammed Atta was picking up a co-conspirator and driving toward Portland, Mama and I got into our car with a fellow rider from DC. We drove all day to get back to DC, going by New York City at night, during a thunderstorm. Our car didn't have taillights, so my memories of the drive back are vivid, since I was gripped, especially through that storm.

I will never forget saying, "If it weren't for this storm, we could see New York across the river over there." I think my next sentence was something about the twin towers, but that memory isn't as clear, and I won't claim it because the events of the next day may well have placed it in my head.

After dropping off our passenger, Mama and I got back to our tiny basement apartment late at night. It might have even been past midnight, but we knew we could sleep through the next day to recover, after which I would return to my job on the back side of Capitol Hill and Mama would start her new job at HUD headquarters.

And sleep we did, having driven for over 12 hours after riding over 500 miles in under a week. However, our morning slumber was repeatedly interrupted by messages from Mom on our answering machine, and one from my sister. I couldn't quite hear what they were saying since the answering machine was in the living room, but I could hear references to New York and the World Trade Center.

I kept thinking, you know we live in DC, why are you calling about New York? After the third call from Mom, I got up and started listening to the messages. I didn't get through half of the first one before I was turning on the TV and picking up the phone to try calling Mom--but of course all the lines were tied up by then. And by then both towers had already fallen.

Yes, we slept through the whole thing.

And in the instant we saw those towers fall, all the faith in humanity and hope for the future that had built up inside me with each dollar donated, each pedal stroke, and each cheer from the roadside, disappeared.

What followed here in the DC area--the anthrax and sniper attacks--didn't help restore it any sooner. However, both 3B and Jewel have helped restore it. Watching them become themselves, I realize every day that we all start with such great potential for love, kindness, laughter and compassion that there's no reason to despair, only to work harder to uncover that potential in each of us.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleep fast

In the few minutes I have before I have to get to sleep--and I'm already late for that at 10 p.m.--another first for Jewel and some other scatterbrained notes from the last few days for those of you keeping score at home or, like Mama, in India.

Today, Jewel started running. Hey, once you've been walking for all of two weeks, you might as well test these legs out, see what they've got in them. Turns out, they've got quite a turn of speed in them.

For about five steps.

After that, stability control appears to fail, the differential locks up, tires blow, shocks sag...who knows, but it results in a return to a 4 x 4 state of affairs. Not in a bad way. So far.

Those seven folds down the back of her legs weren't just hiding yesterday's cookies, it turns out.

As you've seen by the pictures of her, Jewel also has been loving climbing ladders, stairs and anything else that she can get her hands on and leg over. She also, like her brother before her, only wants to walk down stairs. On two feet. Facing forward. And you thought the Leaning Tower of Pisa looked perilous. This is like watching someone try to pogo stick through a room full of golf balls. Handcuffed. Blindfolded.

She also loves the cat here, who should be sainted by the time we leave. Fortunately for all, Mickey is patient. And declawed. But mostly patient.

As for 3B, he's really in the swing of 1-2-3 Magic--all thanks go to Mama for that, I'm just continuing her good work--which makes hanging out with him a joy. The KISS concert in the basement, his love of Pink Panther cartoons, his expanding vocabulary--often through the addition of words he makes up himself, and our many expeditions as archeologists uncovering Cleopatra's tomb in the sandbox under the clubhouse also make my time spent with him fly by.

Also making the time fly by is the sheer fatigue that sets in after a daily 5 a.m. wake-up call, followed by 14 hours of playing, refereeing, feeding, watering, cleaning, dressing, undressing, changing of diapers and so forth. And yet, after they're down, there's still so much to do, although I truly feel that I should be going down with them. That leaves me up at this hour, remembering what Mom and Dad used to wish each other instead of sweet dreams: Sleep fast.

And so it is that after this brief update, I'm off to bed. More later.

If I can remember any of it.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Friday, August 20, 2010

I miss the cats with thumbs

I admit it--the kids sometimes drive me crazy with the clutter. I feel like the Grinch for saying this, but seriously, the drums, guitars, flutes, ukulele, wagons, trikes, tractors, bikes, chain saw, swords, dresses, paint, Play-Doh, spatulas, knives, chopsticks and the books, books, books...there's no end in sight.

One morning Mama called me at work and said that she felt like she should just wake up, upend all of the toy bins, pick them all up, upend them again, and then pick them up again because that's what's going to happen anyway.

Even growing up as a Californian, which involved living through major earthquakes, didn't prepare me for this. Probably because my Mom twisted my DNA around so that it's genetically impossible for me to leave a room without closing all the cabinet and closet doors, just in case the big one strikes while I'm taking a leak.

The problem is compounded by the fact that our house is as big as a phone booth, and the kids and their toys aren't getting any smaller. Jewel sleeps in our room, which means that almost any time I'm home, I can't get into my own room, unless I'm slinking in to sleep. Over the last week, I didn't even do that, because I had a nagging cough. So, I was out on the couch, replacing Mama, who'd been out there for two weeks before that because Jewel can smell milk-laden boobs like zombies can smell brains, which meant that when she would roll over at night, she would instantly awaken, stand at the edge of her crib and start in with the caterwauling of the undead.

All of that couch surfing meant that not only was our room--which has been taken over by the Sta-Puft Mini Marshmallow Girl--a disaster zone of clean, dirty and somewhat nebulous laundry, drifts of papers to be filed or mailed or who knows what at this point, precarious stacks of CDs, DVDs, photos and books on parenting...but also our living room was in a similar state, because it was becoming our bedroom.

And it was already the playroom, concert hall, keirin track (google it your own lazy self), fort, cave, bouncy house and so forth.

Just as babysitting is a surefire means of birth control, picking up toys is a surefire means of curbing conspicuous consumption. Because even if it's not their toys, it's whatever they can get their busy little hands on. It's like living with cokehead cats with thumbs.

What's this?

What's that?

Where did I leave that?

Who cares?

What's this?

What's that?

Let me amend that: cokehead cats with thumbs...and diapers.

But I digress.

The point is that last weekend I spend about 12 straight hours picking up, organizing and trying to finish some big projects. I felt great. I filled countless bags of recycling and trash and overheated our shredder innumerable times getting rid of old files and junk mail.

And all of that got me through just about half of our bedroom. Only four and a half more rooms to go.

But I also got everything picked up enough that our cleaning lady was able to get most of the house clean, rather than just dusting the precarious stacks of CDs yet again. Yes, cleaning lady. You want to talk about that, find me on Facebook, or wait for another post about that.

So the house now is livable. I know that there are closets I shouldn't open, and the stacks of debris atop our bedroom dressers give me hives, but it's livable.

Except that I can't stand being here.

Just a few minutes ago, I was marveling that the same towel I'd gotten out of the closet and hung up on the bathroom towel rack on Sunday was the same one I was using tonight, that it was still on the same rack, that it was still folded neatly, even though I had refolded and rehung it over 12 hours ago.

And then I realized that's because there was nobody here all day to take it down and throw it in the tub full of water, use it for a bathmat or smear their paint-covered hands on it. This is the same reason why I can leave the TV remote on the arm of the couch in the morning and know that it will be there when I come home at the end of the day, and that it won't be lost among the drums, guitars, flutes, ukulele, wagons, trikes, tractors, bikes, chain saw, swords, dresses, paint, Play-Doh, spatulas, knives, chopsticks and the books, books, books.

And then I remembered how much I miss opening the front door at the end of a day and hearing 3B sing out, "It's the man of the hour!" (Mama has him well trained, no?) And watching Jewel turn, grin, drop what she's chewing on, and truck on over to me as fast as she can crawl. And seeing Mama, and watching her relief that finally there's someone to help her out (forgive her forgetfulness...every day she mistakes me for a competent parent before she remembers).

And yes, I admit it. I miss the craziness.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

The miracle you made

One week ago, I met a miracle. A miracle that wasn't made easily, and that wouldn't have been made at all if it weren't for you. That miracle is Vampboy, the boy on the bike in the picture above. You can read all about him on his dad's blog.

Briefly, however, VB was 16 months old when diagnosed with ATRT, a type of brain tumor that occurs almost exclusively in children, and was almost always fatal. Both of these characteristics mean that it's not profitable for pharmaceutical companies to research treatments for ATRT.

Fortunately for VB, he was able to get treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which counts its profits in lives saved, and he is now a happy, active five-year-old. VB is one of the main reasons I rode the Pan-Mass Challenge this year, and I was lucky to meet him at one of the rest stops on the first day.

The entire Vampfamily was a joy to meet: Vampdaddy, Vampmommy and Vamppuppy were all in attendance, waiting to thank each of the riders on the team that partnered with Vampboy this year. Having read about them for so long, it was nice to finally see them in the flesh. It never ceases to amaze me how much in common I have with people who I've only known through this blog over the years.

The ways that VDaddy and VMommy talk with VB were so similar to the way Mama and I talk with 3B and Jewel that it was like a slice of home hearing them all. And, of course, the way that VB responded, although he's a year older than 3B, just made me laugh because of the similarities in their personalities: sweet, strong and self-assured.

Of course, the purple bike, much like 3B's pink ride, was fun to hear about--how nobody thought VB would be able to ride a bike for awhile due to some lingering weakness he has, but how he pulled it right off the rack, rode it around the shop, rolled up to VD and said, "I want this one."

As VD said, what can you say to that, but "OK"?

Having lost my father to a brain tumor, watching this pint-sized pistol of a survivor ride his bike around was like watching a miracle on wheels. But this miracle didn't come easily. It was made through tremendously difficult work--VB's 50 weeks of chemotherapy with 12 drugs at adult dosages, then six weeks of radiation, coupled with another six weeks of chemo, and all the attendant care that treatment requires. The work continues now, with regular scans to check for recurrence or new cancers as well as speech therapy, physical therapy and other services to help VB recover from the cancer and treatments. All of that work was made possible by people like you, all giving a little to make something greater than the sum of your gifts possible.

But watching VB ride around and laugh and hanging out with his parents, my newest old friends, made all of that fade away. My long training rides alone down empty roads, away from my children and wife, through the darkness of morning, into the dense, hot, humid tangle of Southern woods--it all faded away. Here, the sun was warm, the breeze was cool, and there was nothing to do but help Vampboy open his packet of goldfish crackers, watch his dad steal one--of course--and watch Vampmommy walk a frolicking Vamppuppy across the grass.

VB is doing better than anyone expected, but he still has a long road before him. However, he doesn't walk alone. He carries with him, and is carried by, the hopes of everyone like you who supports Dana-Farber.

Thanks to all of you who made this miracle possible.

The more of us who work together, the more likely we are to make miracles happen, so if you haven't already, donate today.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Saturday, August 14, 2010

What she said

The Pan-Mass Challenge, by it's very nature, is a public event, but there are portions of it that you can't easily see.

We ride on open roads, through hundreds of cities, towns and villages, past thousands of homes and people. If you want to see what's happening, you just have to show up and look. Or, if you're in New England, tune into NECN to watch us.

However, you can't be everywhere along the route, and if you're not a rider, you can't get into certain areas, like our camp at the Mass. Maritime Academy or our finish area at the Provincetown Inn--the ride's gotten too big to accommodate anybody but riders in those places. And, even if you watched the official opening ceremonies on NECN, you missed the preshow.

You didn't see the more informal gathering before that, which was not as scripted or polished. It was, however, just as powerful a reminder of why we ride. Thanks to NECN, you can watch for yourself what this was like. If you have half an hour, it might be worth your time, but to get to the heart of it, skip ahead to about 15.40, and listen to what Carrie has to say.

Sturbridge Exclusive Kickoff 2010 from David Hellman on Vimeo.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Waiting on angels

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I'm no angel.

But you, my six loyal readers, are angels. You donated over $6,000, one hundred percent of which went to the Jimmy Fund to support the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.

The doctors at Dana Farber used the money you donated to continue working to save lives once thought surely over due to a cancer diagnosis. Lives like those of Declan, who I met on the ride, and Julia, whose father I met while riding.

Both of them offered me thanks for riding several times, as did Declan's parents. For once, I was polite and accepted their thanks, but I was really accepting it on behalf of you. You donated the money, you made it possible for Dana Farber's work to I just sat on my ass spinning my wheels for a few hours, which is about all I'm good for most days.

So, from them, and all the others whose lives you saved, many of whom lined the route, thanks.

And, because you couldn't come along, here are some photos of the ride along with some of those among us affected by cancer, many of whom are living proof that cancer research is working, it is worth what we pay for it, it is letting more people live longer lives.

For that and all of the other support you gave me, you all are truly the angels the patients at Dana Farber have been waiting on.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Signs of hope

This weekend, after raising over $6,000 with your help, I rode 192 miles to fight cancer. I owe great debts of gratitude to all of you who donated to the ride. Those of you who haven't yet donated, there's still some time to make your donation.

The long journey to get to this weekend almost made the rides seem short.


The first day was 111 miles and the second was 81, and among 5,200 riders and 3,100 volunteers, there were more stories in each day than I'll ever have the time to tell, but I'll spend the next few days sharing a few that will give you a feel for what the ride is like. Some stories are big and some, like this first, are about the smaller details.

Over such long courses as these, there are many signs along the way, some directional, many inspirational, and a few puzzling ones. Before we even turned our pedals once, there was a sign of...well...I'm not quite sure what, when we heard that, for perhaps the first time ever, Senator Brown (MA-R) might actually say to Senator Kerry (MA-D), "On your left."

Then there were the road signs, most of which I didn't stop to take pictures of, but some of which I puzzled over for miles after passing them. This one was more straightforward and I stopped to take this shot mostly as a tribute to my longtime companion. He didn't die of cancer. Or perhaps he did. I'll never know, although I choose to believe that his seemingly ceaseless supply of cussedness ran out.
Then there were the puzzlers...and I admit that I'm not from New England, so there is a language barrier to contend with, which might explain some of my confusion.

The first puzzler was

Thickly settled
To which my first reaction was, I know that I've put on some weight, but who are you calling fat, buddy? But then I saw the second sign, attached to that one. Together they read
Thickly settled horse crossing
I guess it's a good thing that horses can't read, because I'm pretty sure you'd get a kick in the head if that horse could read that sign.

The next puzzler was
Slow nursing home ahead
I sat down for over an hour for that one...and damned if that nursing home didn't move an inch in that whole time. I guess they were right--it really does move slowly.

The next one was confusing because I finally felt like I understood the local lingo when I came across it, and I couldn't believe the misspelling in it. We were coming off one sharp turn down a hill, all moving pretty fast when we whipped past this sign
Wicked hard right
I was so proud of myself as a Californian for being able to translate that on the fly, while banking around a gravel-filled turn in heavy bike traffic at over 20 miles an hour. I think I did see one rider shoot straight ahead into the crowd of supporters while trying to pull their New England Berlitz phrase book out of their jersey pocket.

But what confused me was that second word...there's no "r" in there. Everyone knows damn well that it's spelled "hahd," as in...
It was wicked hahd to not cry seeing all the signs lining the road for all the kids who were saved with the money you donated, and wicked hahd to not cry when I met this dad in the last few miles of the ride and talked with him about his daughter:

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Thursday, August 05, 2010

You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd

I'm leaving my family for four days, and as I'm walking out the door, 3B is sobbing in his bed, still asleep, wrapped up in night terrors. Mama is in there, lying next to him, but it still takes all of the strength I have to not go in and lie alongside him...or to not weep as I walk down the hall to the elevator.

At times like this, all that pablum about carrying loved ones in my heart is as useful as a paper cocktail umbrella in a hurricane.

I'm a literal guy, so unless I can see them, hear them, smell them (yes, even the poopy smells), kiss their little bellies, or spread my hands across their warm backs, I am lost. Not lost like I made a wrong turn or two and the GPS will recalculate and get me there five minutes late, but lost like Moses leaving Egypt, thinking the Red Sea thing was pretty cool and then...hey...waitaminnit, didn't we pass that tumbleweed yesterday? Or thirty years ago?

But while I can't have Mama and the kids with me, I will have with me other family and friends. In fact, on Sunday, they'll be wrapped around me as I ride, reminding me why I sweat and ache and strain, reminding me that my suffering pales in comparison to what they've been through.

Mothers, daughters, granddaughters, grandfather, sister in law, aunt, niece, nephew, brother, Dad, son, uncle, father, brother...they all have many labels and names, but they all share one history. They've all been touched by cancer. In some cases, directly, in other cases through those who they love, live with, share blood with. It's been difficult, sad, and for those who survived, life-changing.

And in some cases, it's been fuzzy.

And all of them have helped me along on my journey. It's not been easy, going out with nobody but my bike for company for four, five, six, even eight hours at a time. That comes to an end this weekend, when I'll ride with 5,000 of my closest friends across Massachusetts, but I will only be able to do that because I've had all of you along for the ride during all those lonely training rides at five in the morning--and yes, one at three in the morning.

Together, we will make cancer history. No, cancer isn't going away quickly--certainly not this weekend, and probably not even next year, but day by day, dollar by dollar, we're able to chip away at it, and eventually we will overcome it.

We will overcome because we won't stop working. We will do it together. We will do it for as long as it takes. We will do it for those who went before us and can no longer be with us.

No matter how lonely it may seem, we take this journey together. I know that I could not have succeeded without all of you, and I pledge my support to you in your journey, wherever it takes you, and I wish you all the best. In the well-worn words of this blessing.

May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be ever at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face and the rain fall softly on your fields. And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

But remember, wherever the wind is coming from, you can't roller skate in a buffalo herd.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Always and forever

Eight years ago at about this time, Mama and I were sleeping peacefully on the morning of our wedding day.

At least, I imagine it was peaceful. I was asleep at the time, so I couldn't tell you for sure, but we had certainly sorted out all of the final details of our wedding:

  • I had recovered my ring after Mom had, in jest, dropped it as if losing it, only to see it roll down into a grate in the floor.
  • Mama's brother--who, along with Grammy, had acted as our wedding planner--had found our lost wedding license after we had all spent a day driving from place to place around the farm looking for where we left it.
  • Mama and I had sat down at Great Grammy's table at just before midnight the night before our wedding and drafted our vows. We had recently settled on the idea that we'd base them at least loosely on lyrics from a Dylan song to reflect our shared love of his music and to echo our first conversation, when I was informally interviewing Mama for a job and started off with, "So, what's your favorite Dylan song?"
We've celebrated the fact that we did sort out all of these details and did get legally married by our friend, the Right Reverend R___, in many ways. So far this year, we've celebrated by spending from 2 to 3 a.m. trying to get Jewel back to sleep, which is almost as fun as some of our past celebrations.

Perhaps tonight it will get more rowdy, since Mama got two bottles of Spanish wine last time she was at the store, to remind us of our first date in Madrid, when we saw Aida in Italian with Spanish supertitles...a bit like Sweeney Todd with American supertitles, no? What better portent for lifelong love than watching two doomed lovers be buried alive under the Egyptian desert?

But we'll enjoy that wine--you know, the first two sips before it puts us to sleep. And I'll enjoy it even more knowing that she bought me wine, not boots of Spanish leather, because wherever she goes, no matter how far apart we may be--and she is decamping for India later this month--I will always love Mama. Always and forever.

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Shot through the heart

I've never seen someone walk out of a doctor's appointment until last night, when my four-year-old son did it.

He was cool with everything right up until the doctor walked in. In fact, he was such a Chatty Cathy with the nurse, telling her about how he was going to the moon, which is 44 miles away, and where his rocket ship is and how his Crocs were big boots that he was wearing on the moon...that it must have taken half an hour just to get him on the scale.

I finally told him that it was a moon rock and that if he got on it, we'd see how much he weighed on the moon. He looked at me, considered it for a moment, then stepped on.

And kept right on talking.

For the record, we need to cut back a bit on the yogurt drinks. He's in the 95th percentile for weight, but only the 90th for height. They're not concerned, but used it as a reminder that we should avoid sugary drinks, which in 3B's case is yogurt drinks, since he hates anything fizzy and hardly gets any juice. But I guess we shouldn't have been feeding him a pop-tart while you were explaining this to us...hey, at least it was an organic one.

And once the nurse was done with that explanation, 3B was still cool, waiting in the exam room. He even gave Jewel an exam up on the table, checking her throat, ears and eyes.

But when the doctor came in through the door, 3B didn't waste any time going out through the door. He stood right outside the door in the hallway, arms crossed, glowering back into the room, insisting that he wasn't coming back in.

The doctor didn't seem to know how to handle it, and the chaos wasn't decreased by Jewel's constant and loud chatter. So, I went out, picked him up, hugged him, and finally promised him Burger King after the appointment to get him back in the room.

After a moment or two, he was pretty much like Fonzie for the rest of the appointment, until he realized he was getting shots, which is when the tears started. It didn't help that he was hungry, despite the pop-tart, and tired from a long, fun day with his babysitter and Mama. Somehow we managed to survive--thankfully the nurse returned to give the shots, and so didn't mind that he had wrapped his lovie around his arm to protect himself. I don't care how many times it happens, or how normal it becomes, every time I see my kids upset like that, it makes my heart ache.

He recovered pretty quickly, however, especially when they gave him an Iron Man sticker on the way out..."I'm Tony Stark, and there was an explosion, and I got a piece of metal in my chest, and then I made a suit of armor..."

Back to normal.

The milkshake at BK didn't hurt either.

Hey, at least it wasn't a yogurt drink.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

While you were out

To paraphrase Air Supply, even bloggers need some time away. Perhaps a month is too long, but here at Casa Bradstein it's been on like Donkey F@(^ing Kong. It seems that as soon as we recover from one event, another is upon us. Here, in no particular order, is what's been keeping me from you.

Jewel got two top teeth during one doctor's visit for one of her many ear infections.

We all went to a wedding in King of Prussia. There were no kings and no Prussians, but we still had a great time, especially at Valley Forge.

Jewel had many ear infections.

We all went to Vermont, which also didn't have any kings or Prussians, but did have a sawmill, several barns, a 4x4 to ride, and Aunt D, Grammy and Cousin Z.

Jewel got more teeth, this time on the bottom.

3B threw down many concerts and dance parties. More than you can imagine. It doesn't matter how many you can imagine--more than that.

I left my old job, which means I left my old computer at my old office too, leaving me innernetz free.

From his cousin, 3B learned to say that things are poopy or poopyheaded. Really, it's just convenient to blame his cousin--it was going to happen someday anyway.

I got a custom jersey design from my brilliant cousin, who then departed for a week on a lake in a kayak and a week in Russia on a boat, neither of which had such great innernetz connections.

We ordered a new Mac for Mama's work, since the PC that they provided her was hopelessly outdated and borked.

Also from his cousin, 3B also learned to jump into water, which he previously wouldn't do without being able to hold the hands of whoever was catching him as he jumped. He still doesn't want his face to go under water, but he'll now fling himself four feet off the edge into anyone's hands who will catch him. He spent blissful hours at the lake in Vermont doing this off the dock at Uncle T's camp, and has continued the practice at our pool here at home.

I sent my brilliant cousin's jersey design to the vendor, who didn't respond, then who did respond that they couldn't use it, then didn't respond, then responded that they could open it but not use it, then didn't respond, then asked me to send it again, then forgot twice that my brilliant cousin was waterbound for two weeks, then didn't respond, then recreated my brilliant cousin's whole design just as she was returning and could have sent new versions of the file herself, then didn't respond, then billed me and sent me a new jersey.

I went to work at my new job. It's in an old building, but I'm cool with that.

We gave Mama's computer back to her work so they could install the VM PC on it, which has us both a little nervous and a little frustrated being back to 20-minute startup times and dropped wifi connections.

3B and Jewel went with us on Uncle P and Aunt J's pontoon boat down to locks at Whitehall from the Lake Champlain landing near the farm.

I delivered a new jersey to the one donor who gave $500 in June--no, not a battleship, a new cycling jersey. She'll give it to her brother. Good thing I got it in his size.

My friend's scan came back negative for cancer.

3B went on several canoe trips in Lake Champlain with his cousin, paddled by myself and others.

I was on TV, live from the farm. Well...innernetz TV for all of you who are outside of Portland, Oregon.

Mama and I went on a date, although we missed the first 10 minutes of the movie. I don't think we missed much, though.

For his birthday, 3B partied with a giant rat.

For her birthday, Mama got an hour-long massage, which I wanted to get for her last year, but they don't make massage tables with a cutout for a pregnant belly.

On his actual birthday, 3B had a small party at home with his babysitter and her brother and mom, who made 3B a beautiful and delicious pink cake. Mmm. Cake.

I bought three suits because there's no such thing as casual day at my new job, even if I work under a crypt and next to an empty grave.

We picked a new school for 3B.

I rode countless times to the gravesite of the man who was going to be buried next to my new office, usually leaving home before the sun had broken the horizon and watching it rise over the Potomac as I rode through a tunnel of trees.

Jewel started standing by herself for several seconds at a time last Thursday. Actually, she might have been doing this for a few days with her babysitter by then, but Thursday was the first time we saw it.

I rode through the mobs on the Capitol Crescent Trail to Bethesda a few times as well, which has reminded me why I hate traffic so much--cars, bikes, people, dogs...all of it. Oi.

Jewel took a few unsupported steps last week--the first one to the side, the next one forward.

I rode in my living room at high speed for longer than I care to on days when there was no time to get outside and ride.

3B got addicted to Rock Lobster. You're welcome for the earworm.

Jewel has been saying things like "papapapapapapa" and "mamamamamamama" and "nananananananana" for a few months now. Around the time we were in Vermont, or just before, she started pointedly saying "papa" around me, "mama" around Mama, "nana" around her babysitter (which would make sense if you knew our babysitter's real name) and "baba" around her brother.

3B memorized the lyrics of Rock Lobster after hearing it once.

3B has added many phrases to his repertoire, such as "once again." On the night before his birthday, I told him about how, four years ago, Mama and I were getting ready to go to the hospital to meet him for the first time and how excited we were. He asked if he was born with a diaper on. I told him that he was born naked, to which he replied, "Once again, you had to put a diaper on me."

3B continued to memorize entire books after hearing them once.

Jewel has taken to crawling over to the door whenever I arrive home...OK, whenever anyone arrives. It's adorable to see her face light up, watch her drop what she's holding, and see tip her face up with a huge grin and scoot over as fast as she can to where I am.

I took to using 3B as my reminder system: When we're going to the pool, remind me to bring towels. Dude, he's better than a Post-It or an iPhone.

Oh yeah, 3B's still in diapers. Nope, he's not potty trained. Yes, he's four.

I reserved a rental car for the trip to the Pan-Mass Challenge, reserved a room share with another rider, bought more Gatorade and Endurox than one man should drink in a year then consumed it within the month, bought boxes of Clif bars, bought new gears and a new chain for my bike, bought new socks, bought new gloves, bought a headband that I actually use and like--much to my horror but whattayagonnado?, bought new water bottles, and moved my favorite bike seat from my commuter to my road bike.

I think we might need to send diapers with 3B to kindergarten. Or college. He went from saying he won't wear underwear until he was 5 to until he was 6 to until he was 20. Why did I want a child who thinks for himself?

Jewel now understands when people are leaving, and will chase them to the door, then cry in protest when they depart, which is audible down the hallway. When she does this in the morning as I leave for work, it breaks my heart. Every day.

I enjoyed my new, lower, gears on hills.

Jewel has started sleeping for longer stretches on some nights, up to six hours at a time. However, those stretches are usually punctuated once or twice by two minute screaming fits--just enough to ensure that Mama and I still don't ever sleep through the night, 11 months later.

I realized that I'm not getting any younger.

Mama and I are making a concerted effort to get Jewel to sleep through the night by having Mama sleep on the couch, so neither of us will be tempted to have Jewel nurse back to sleep in the middle of the night. Apparently, however, breast milk is a hard habit to break.

Jewel is still napping and sleeping in our room, which we expect to continue for sometime. This means that Mama and I have almost zero access to our computer, clothes, file cabinet, books, and so forth, because when we can really do something with them is when Jewel is sleeping, but when she's sleeping, we can't get to them. So, uh, sorry if we haven't gotten back to you...or if we don't even know that we haven't.

I reached my fundraising goal--$6,000--for my ride to make cancer history, thanks to a large, last-minute generous donation from my Aunt S...and to everyone else who donated. (You can still support my ride until October. Donate today.)

I'm working to make cancer history. Will you help me?

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