Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Feverish badgers' health updates

Health updates...

I've gotten some queries about our various health issues, so I guess I left you all hanging about them. Suffice it to say that we survived, but here's some more detail:

Her broken, sprained, twisted, dislocated, all of the above leg seems to be fine. Although she appeared to be walking mostly normally by the time her follow up appointment came along, and despite the difficulties inherent in taking two tired badgers into a non-pediatrician doctor's office, Mama took Jewel in.

This was largely because when Jewel starts listing to starboard and walking in ever smaller circles as she goes through puberty and one of her legs fails to grow longer than 17 inches, neither Mama nor I wanted there to be any doubt that we did all that we could.

Yes, that's right, we weren't looking for a solution, just indemnity from future claims of ineptitude.

Of course, as soon as she was no longer lame, Jewel developed dual ear infections, which led to antibiotics and all of the fun that goes with those.

His pneumonia seems to have passed, and since it's been so long since that happened, I get to report that he has a whole new cough--although the new cough is the same as the old cough, as far as I can tell--and two (almost) ear infections to boot.

The nurse practitioner--we went to a CVC Minute Clinic since he developed these over the weekend when his Dr's office is closed, of course--said that they weren't quite infected yet, but that the diagnosis is somewhat subjective. However, Mama and I have been down this road, we know where it ends, and we're all going to be in the car for 12 hours this week, driving to the farm. So, I used a Jedi mind trick and got the nurse practitioner to prescribe antibiotics to head off what would have become, five seconds after we left her office, a raging ear infection that would have laid an elephant down.

Before you go all anti-antibiotic crazy on me--I know. I get it. I actually avoid them like the plague...or at least like the common cold. However, 3B just got over pneumonia, and I don't think he needed another two or three days sweating out a 104-degree fever while driving 600-miles to colder climes and celebrating Christmakwanzukkah.

Mama and I
Despite the repeated 3 a.m. "my tummy hurts" wake up calls, the 63 trips in one week to the doctor, and the general demeanor of the feverish badgers, we're fine. Thanks for asking.

p.s. Why is it always 3 a.m.? 10 extra Bradstein points for the best answer.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, December 19, 2011

Round and round with the rat

We just got back from a three-year-old's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's or, as I refer to it, the restaurant run by a rat. OK, a mouse, but there's no alliteration in that.

Walking out, across the parking lot
...my throat sore from yelling
...my ears ringing from the cacophony
...my pockets overflowing and clanking with tokens
...dragging two mylar balloons behind me
...a diaper bag jam-packed with sippy cups and hats and coats and jackets digging into my shoulder
...my joints and muscles aching from all the kneeling and squatting and chasing and steering wicked fast power boats while trying to corral 50 squirming pounds on my lap...
I said to Mama that I felt like I'd just survived a rock concert, and that it was time to collapse into bed.

It was 7:30 p.m.

Not a.m., like after rock concerts of yore, when I would be returned home missing garments and even shoes at times, slightly befuddled and utterly exhausted, dropped off by a friend. No, after this concert, I got to shoehorn all those goodies into the trunk, strap the two weasely badgers into the back seat and then get yelled at all the way home.

In hindsight, I probably should have turned off the headlights, swerved around and gotten pulled over. At least it would have been quiet sitting outside on the curb.

My friend replied on Facebook that she was glad to have a child over 20. I'd much rather spend an evening in a college bar, lining up shots with kids half my age, than do another tour in Chez Chuckie.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer, which will be easier than spending another 20 minutes in Chuck E. Cheese's house of pain. Please support his ride.

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Friday, November 18, 2011

I eat breakfast 3 yards from 4,000 worries that are trying to kill me

That which does not kill you is only a prelude to that which is far more likely to kill you.

That is the sum of the parenting medical knowledge I've accumulated in the last two weeks. We thought that Jewel's almost broken, or maybe dislocated, or maybe just twisted and she can walk it off leg would worry us to death. We studied her limp. We learned that a gallop is just a run with a wicked limp. We developed scoliosis from suddenly carrying her so much.

Then 3B got pneumonia.

It started as sniffles on Veterans Day, and neither that nor Giddyup Hotspurs' gallop stopped us from taking the kids to the playground by the nature park. 3B and I had an adventure in the great and  mysterious woods while Mama took Jewel to the playground to mostly swing. 3B and I spent the better part of an hour being Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Boba Fett, Darth Vader and sundry other characters before it was time to head home as the sun set.

I'm quite sure that while the time outside was good for all of us, it was great for 3B's pneumonia.

Our bedroom door swung open at 3something a.m. on Saturday and he announced, "My tummy doesn't feel good." I jumped out of bed and he and I hustled into the bathroom. Not much came up that time or the next time he puked, but it still took a lot out of him.

Although those two bouts of nausea Saturday morning were his only two, his fever started to climb and plateaued at 103.5 through the weekend, so we put him on ibuprofen, which brought it down to a much more reasonable...er...101. But it made all the difference. He went from sweaty rag doll who could only stay awake 2-3 hours at a time to regular little boy.

Regular little boy who wouldn't eat, that is...but at least he wasn't puking, either.

He was however, starting to develop what seemed like unusual breathing during his naps: shallow and rapid. I checked with the only doctor who still makes house calls--the interwebz--and it seemed that his breathing rate was normal for his age and size, but still, it looked funny to me. Not that I spend a lot of time watching 3B breathe while he sleeps, but enough that I knew this wasn't normal. Knowing by Sunday that he was bound for the doctor on Monday there was really nothing to do about that except, you know, get up every two hours in the night, sick with worry, and go in to check on him.

By Monday, with his fever stubbornly steady despite a weekend of nothing but rest, fluids and purell, we took him to the doctor, who diagnosed pneumonia and sent us home with a nebulizer, a prescription for an antibiotic and a whole new level of worry.

I had already scheduled to be off on Monday to see the dentist and get my annual physical, which is really on a more Olympic-style biannual schedule than truly annual, but nobody calls it an Olympic physical. Especially not when it comes to me. In fact, my doctor, in addition to the usual indignities, shaved patches of my chest and hooked me up to an EKG, which showed a minor heart murmur. So then I was sent down the hall to have my chest slimed so they could ultrasound my heart.

The good news is that my heart looks to be working fine. The bad news is that they're concerned enough that I'm going in for a stress test on Monday.

And did I mention the between-the-teeth filling that my dentist put in just before that? She's got an amazingly soft touch, does great work and is patient with me and my apparent inability to floss, but I can still feel the effects four days later of having my jaw seemingly pierced with a novocain needle and my teeth separated and drilled through. So, on Monday morning, lying on my side, shirt off, chest slimed up, feeling the ultrasound wand bouncing off my chest as my numb face drooled onto the paper sheet, I had only one thought:

How's 3B?

OK, two: Is Jewel destined to gallop in circles for the rest of her life?

The good news from all those trips to medical professionals--followed up on Wednesday with return trips to the pediatrician and orthopedist...I'm telling you, our car is now a clinic shuttle bus--is that the antibiotics took effect almost immediately and wiped out 3B's fever. Although his cough is also mostly gone and his appetite is back, his pneumonia is still with us, according to the guy with the stethoscope, so our worries have eased.

Except that the same guy with the stethoscope said that Jewel likely has 3B's pneumonia and so to bring her in as soon as she starts wheezing, which appears to have been last night in the bath. You know, after she horked in her crib at 3 a.m. yesterday morning.

Third verse, same as the first, little bit louder, little bit worse.

As I said to begin, the worry that doesn't kill us is only a prelude.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Easier: a relative term that doesn't apply to my relatives

Living with a toddler is like living with mountain weather--if you don't like it, wait five minutes and it will be completely different.

Yesterday, Jewel got good news: her foot, heel, shin, whatever isn't broken. Apparently. And there's no soft tissue injury. Apparently. And her leg is now healed. Apparently.

The qualifiers are because two-year-olds are like dead men: they tell no tales. OK, OK, OK, Jewel does actually talk up a storm telling tales and giving orders to match the best pirate captains of yore, but good luck getting a direct answer to a question such as, Where does it hurt? Or, Does it still hurt anywhere? Or, shall we reef the topsail, then, cap'n?

But at least she doesn't limp anymore, which she took full advantage of yesterday evening, once again running the length of the living room to dive head first onto the couch in an attempt to flip upside down. Glad she's back to...er...normal.

And if you like that news, wait five minutes for the news of her other doctor visit. See, technically, it wasn't an appointment for her, it was a follow up for her brother for his pneumonia.

Mama had the doctor listen to Jewel's lungs anyway, however, since she's been developing quite the wet cough over the last few days and had developed a low-grade fever yesterday. The doc said that she's not got pneumonia yet, but that if she starts wheezing, it'll be time to bring her in to confirm what we'll already know by then.

To help us out, Jewel made the diagnosis easier by throwing up in her crib at 3.30 this morning. Yeah, "easier" is a relative term. Then again, if she is laid out by pneumonia like her brother was, maybe she won't be twisting her ankle, breaking her shin, or whatever it was she did while dancing.

Some consolation prize, right? Like leaving Wheel of Fortune with nothing more than a box of Rice-a-Roni and a set of Lee press-on nails. But when the weather changes as often as it does around here, the best we can do sometimes is set up barrels and hope to catch some of the silver lining as it falls from the clouds.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The shuttle to the doctor's office leaves from our house every hour on the hour

Shattered dreams. A twisted leg and a limping dancer. Pneumonia.

No, this isn't a Dancing with the Stars recap, this is the last week in the Bradstein Household.

It started last week when Jewel and 3B were dancing to Just Dance 3 as I was headed home from work. By the time I got home, she'd managed to fall with her foot trapped between the leg of a chair and the leg of a table, apparently twisting them, although we'll never know.

Mama and 3B were standing right there and saw her fall, but couldn't tell what happened that hurt her. What they could tell immediately was that she was in great pain. Mama said that Jewel's face turned bright red immediately and she started screaming and crying louder than Mama had ever heard. By the time I got home, they'd been rocking in the glider for 20 minutes and Jewel had settled down, but she was limping around the house like a peg-legged pirate.

Sort of cute, but a little sad and very worrying.

It didn't seem to bother her anymore, but her brother was sitting up and moving around the day after his abdominal surgery with only Tylenol to dull the pain, so we know that kids' perception of pain is a bit different than adults'. And the limping meant that even if she wasn't registering or attending to it, Jewel was feeling it at some level.

As the orthopedist said when we took her to see him a few days later--the delay was because our first visit was to her pediatrician--you can't train them to limp...as if we'd want to...although, wait a minute, it is sort of cute, now that you mention it.

No, seriously, he said the same thing we knew: she was minimizing time standing on that leg by limping, which means that it hurts. But, two sets of x-rays later, he couldn't tell why.

Based on Jewel's own reports, we first x-rayed her foot, ankle and partway up her shin. The radiologist reported a possible concern in her heel, although not a fracture. But maybe. But maybe not. The orthopedist, looking at the x-ray and the radiologist report, which listed a suspected dislocation of her heel, said that he'd lost all respect for that radiologist because in toddlers, there's supposed to be a lot of seemingly empty space in the heel--it's cartilage that forms into bone as they get older.

So, he ordered an x-ray of her leg up to and past the knee because he said the most common injury for kids her age falling like that was a spiral fracture of their tibia or fibula, which would truly make Jewel Mom's granddaughter, since that's the fracture Mom got skiiing back in the day before quick release bindings. However, they must not be that closely related, because he found no fracture.

But she was still limping.

He told us to wait a week, and if she was still limping to bring her back in. The next steps would be an MRI or other soft tissue scan, but that would require knocking her out, since she has to lie still for so long for those.

It's now been 10 days, and she's got an appointment today to go back in--the soonest we could get back in, and we booked it just in case we needed it. It's hard to tell if she's still limping. If she is, it's slight, but we'll probably take her back in just to be sure. She does seem to be running normally again--she had developed quite the gallop, which led me to calling her Giddyup Hotspurs, which was my uncle's nickname for Hopalong Cassidy, which apparently his brother was a big fan of.

Fortunately, she's too young to know that.

Good thing I never wrote it down anywhere.

As for the shattered dreams and the pneumonia...those will have to wait for another post.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Shopping cart surfing

Yesterday, the unthinkable happened when Mama left the children's care in my hands for the day. She hasn't lost her mind, though, just her health, and even that was a momentary lapse of the season.

Everyone seems to have survived, even Mama, who I put to bed last night with a bit of a hot toddy. It would have been a real hot toddy if I didn't live in a state that believes there's no need to update laws written on parchment with quills dipped in inkwells. Otherwise, why wouldn't they sell liquor at grocery stores? Or on Sundays?

Fortunately, we have enough of an emergency booze stash--strictly for medicinal purposes, I assure you--that I was able to pull something together. Imagine my relief.

The day started off slowly, since everyone was still tired from the candy orgy the night before. I let 3B sleep in until the last possible moment, so as soon as he got up, he was on the run to school. Jewel slept an hour or more past her usual waking hour, though she still woke up singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" and "Baa Baa Black Sheep," as she does every morning.

By then, 3B was off to school. He's found his groove and really gotten into it. He knows to eat enough breakfast so he won't get tired at school, to get ready quickly in hopes of watching some TV before he leaves, and we had a good time reading his homework book one more time in the lobby and chatting with neighbors before he marched up onto the bus. He was so busy greeting his friends, he didn't even wave goodbye. Perfect.

Jewel had found her groove the night before, trick or treating, but hadn't figured out that she could eat her loot as she got it, so she woke up ravenous, although that's not an entirely novel event for our little pumpkin. She ate three bowls of Cheerios, helped me get her dressed and then we headed out while Mama slept on through her cold.

After trying to determine which playground Jewel wanted to go to, which isn't as easy as it sounds, given her coded, cryptic descriptions, lack of hard R's, and the fat pacifier that's always in her mouth, I did what I do best: the same thing we always do. The regular playground turned out to be just fine, if a bit nippy early in the morning. She spent most of our hour there in one swing or another, which was easy, since for most of the time we were there, nobody else was.

We left there and headed to the grocery store, where we loaded up on milk, cookies and other staples, which sounds easy, but you weren't wrestling a headstrong two-year-old who would rather stand up in the shopping cart seat and call out "Stokaboka!" than stay seated. (Thanks for that, you-know-who-you-are.) But seriously, she's a great shopping companion, who always has something to say, helps look for things and is amusing.

After that, we headed home for lunch and a nap--the former for both of us, the latter just for Jewel. Mama woke up when I put Jewel down, and appeared to be doing somewhat better. At least she was ambulatory. The rest of the day was pretty mellow, since 3B came home exhausted from school and still recovering from Halloween.

Today we appear to be back to what passes for normal around here, although we're entering my season of crazy swing shifts, so we'll see how long normal lasts.

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Halloween is Independence Day, and our girl must make her way on Independence Day

Last night was, of course, Halloween. It was a night when, in Mama's words, Jewel "really came into her own."

Except, of course, she's been into her own for some time now. Who made our kids so independent and strong-willed anyway?


3B had a blast, as always, with one of his best friends from preschool, who he's known since birth. 3B calls his friend's mom Auntie and his friend calls Mama the same. Mama and I had a blast, as always, with 3B's friend's parents, even though our conversations were constantly cut off and unfinished as we tried to keep our herd of cats together.

3B's friend has a younger brother, but he's older than Jewel, so she was really on her own, but that didn't bother her a whit. It was as if she'd been rehearsing what we told her about Halloween for weeks when she marched up to the first house--through the animated graveyard, under the swinging ghost--held out her plastic pumpkin and said, "Trick or treat!"

And at every house along the way after that.

She was such a pro that by the time we were leaving, her pumpkin was heavier than 3B's--although that was due, in part, to the fact that Jewel wasn't making a withdrawal for every deposit, as her brother was. It was so heavy that it threatened to capsize her as she walked up driveways and steps to front doors, and I kept asking if I could carry it for her.

"No. I got it."

Of course you do, sweetie.

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Monday, October 31, 2011

I'm not running backward; you're facing the wrong way

My life is running in reverse. The weekend started with matzo ball soup and ended with me feeling like I was getting a cold.

Months ago, you made me shave my beard, and I finally gave it the 10 days we were at Grammy's to return. When it did, my sister kindly pointed out that it appeared lighter than before, as in not-red-at-all. As in gray. Yes, my beard has gone from rust to steel.

(As it came in, it went through all the uncomfortable phases from Nick Nolte mug shot to Brett Favre return to the NFL. Not sure if that's forward, reverse or lateral progress.)

On Sunday, when I got up with the kids to let Mama sleep in, Jewel decided her new word of the day was "actually," as in "I don't want that story, actually. I do want 'Planes,' actually. No, I don't want bagel for breakfast, actually." Or, as her brother observed, using his former word of the day, "Her word of the day is 'actually,' apparently." We'll be here all week, people; don't forget to tip your waitress.

We also had fire and ice this weekend. Friday night, a neighbor below us fell asleep with candles burning in her bathroom. They burned "some papers," according to her, but by the time we got to her place, there was "no fire," again, according to her. No idea how accurate her account is, however, since she wasn't even aware that she had a fire burning in her bathroom and seemed stunned when we opened the door. Stunned as in unsteady on her feet, rubbing her eyes, just woke up in a dark apartment--at 7.30 at night.

We knew--I was knocking on her door with the woman who lives below us and the woman who lives next door to her, which is directly above Smokey Jill's place--because our places were so full of smoke that we almost had to leave them. We were trying to discover the source, because as our downstairs neighbor said, "It's too cold to go stand outside while the fire department does the same thing." When we woke Smokey Jill, there was no smell of smoke that we could discern from the hallway, although the darkness of her place was impenetrable, so we couldn't see if there was any.

As we were on our way back to the elevator, however, she came running after us and explained about her bathroom. By the time we all got back to our houses, someone else had called the fire department, which arrived at full force--at least 10 vehicles, including our local hook-and-ladder, engine, ambulance and reinforcements from the neighboring county.

So we all went and stood outside in the cold anyway.

We probably didn't need to, but we used it as a fire drill for 3B, which would have worked a bit better if I were more relaxed as we were heading out. As it was, he burst into tears as soon as we said we were walking out, but that only lasted for five seconds, then he was back in fire drill mode and we had a fun time all the way down the stairs and outside.

Plus, we learned that our local fire station will be giving out candy tonight...so, bonus for us.

On Saturday, we had snow. Unlike in farther north, none of ours stuck, but it was snow. Big, fat, wet, gloppy snow. The day started with rain, progressed to sleet, then to snow for several hours. We, of course, took the kids out in it to catch it on their tongues and because...snow!

On Sunday, the skies were clear enough for a long bike ride with the kids. 3B pedaled the whole way and Jewel pedaled her trike--her other new trick this week--about half of the way. We were out for a couple of hours at least, which wiped the kids out. Jewel slept for at least three hours when we got home and 3B spent half of the afternoon lying on the living room carpet with his lovie. Next time, we'll get them coffee with their donuts at our rest stop along the route.

I wish that I could end this by saying we continue to move in reverse and this week we'll be back to late summer temperatures, but now, as I type this just before getting on my bike to ride to work, the temperature is barely at the freezing mark. It's not supposed to get over 55 all day, so at least the seasons continue to progress in the correct order. Winter is here.

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Friday, October 28, 2011

Communism, capitalism and candy apples

Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.

Tonight we'll carve the pumpkins we picked last weekend with our neighbors. It was a fun trip that started with snacks in the car--you can see the chocolate on Jewel's face from her granola bar in the slideshow. It ended with gravity defying stunts in the bouncie house, and in between was filled with fun.

There was a corn maze, the old road grader, the goats to pet and feed, the chickens to look at and the greens and root vegetables to pick after our picnic at the top of the hill.

3B and Jewel couldn't quite understand why they couldn't drive the new tractor next to the old road grader, since this was a farm, just like the family farm in Vermont...right? So why can't I jump up in the cab and take it for a turn around the fields?

We took a minute a diagrammed for them the differences between communism and capitalism on the back of a corn shuck, after which they broke into discussion groups to discuss the disparities and promise of each model. Then we went and found some rotting pumpkins full of goo to step into.

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Into the blue again, into the silent water

Mama and I have somehow created a family, it seems, although I'm not quite sure how.

Sitting at the table last night, watching Jewel, Mama and 3B eat dinner, I was amused to realize that five years ago, I wouldn't have known how to pull together a family dinner, get 3B through his homework, entertain Jewel and get everyone through bath and books and into bed by 7.30.

Five years ago, I was lucky to get to bed before midnight, and I still left half-finished projects around the house to stumble over in the morning. Now, I complete 10 times the number of tasks in one quarter of the time--and then go on to finish my work after the kids are in bed.

OK, often my work consists of lying on the couch tweeting snark during Dancing with the Stars, but still...OK, and to be fair, in that earlier paragraph, I'm not sure that I could pull together a family dinner, since Mama works all that magic while I'm still on my way home...

Mom always said that when people have more to do, they get more done--wisdom that I'll never share with my boss, but it's true nonetheless. And so it is with the kids, although it took me awhile to figure out how to do this:

Let go.

3B and Jewel have taught me nothing more important than to let go. Of everything. Forever. It's such an important lesson, and I'm such an old dog, that they teach me this trick every day. Getting through dinner, bath, books and into bed requires letting go. Of everything.

Answering the phone. Tweeting. Facebook. What happened to me at work today. That call I needed to make. The email I just remembered I needed to reply to. Blogging. Posting that one cute photo. Taking pictures of the kids.

When we're eating dinner, I need to just eat dinner. When it's bath time, I need to just give the kids a bath. When it's time to read stories, I need to just read stories.

In short, I need to focus.

I need discipline.

I need clarity.

"If one's life is simple, contentment has to come. Simplicity is extremely important for happiness. Having few desires, feeling satisfied with what you have, is very vital: satisfaction with just enough food, clothing, and shelter to protect yourself from the elements. And finally, there is an intense delight in abandoning faulty states of mind and in cultivating helpful ones in meditation." -H.H.D.L.

My children are the masters. I am the student.

Except maybe when it comes to long division.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I'm nuts just like Mom

Mama and I motivated for a date night yesterday at Curry Mantra, a restaurant new to us, thanks to a Groupon that was due to expire this week.

OK, that sounds wrong, as if it was some huge effort for us to spend two hours alone together. Well, it was a huge effort, but not for lack of desire, but because of all the mechanics involved in arranging it. We're lucky to have friends who we swap babysitting with, so we had free babysitting, but that also means that we're more mindful of when we go out.

Ideally, we don't go out on school nights, but the expiring Groupon, our recent trip to Grammy's and our trip to the most sincere pumpkin patch in Virginia all conspired against us this time. And yes, I know that I owe you pictures from pumpkin picking, but I've been a bit busy going on dates with my wife.

And so, back to that...well, there's actually not much to tell. We talked. We laughed. I ate a Mt. Everest of vegetarian biryani.

Whenever we order Indian in, I get saag paneer and Mama gets malai kofta, but last night we both got something different and loved it. We started by not getting samosas for appetizers, then ordered different entrees. For dessert, we did split gulab jamun, which is our standard, and a bowl of pistachio ice cream bigger than Jewel's head...ok, nothing's really that big, but still, it was large.

The pistachio ice cream had real pistachios in it. Whole pistachios.

As I ate it, I thought of Mom, who loved pistachio ice cream, but before ordering would always ask if it was made with real pistachios and contained them, since often it's made with artificial flavoring and includes other cheaper nuts...walnuts, I think, but I only ever 1/2 paid attention as she was going through this ritual, because she did it every time. Every. Time.

And you know what? Mom was a smart woman. One of the smartest people I'll ever know in so many ways, and so she was right to ask. I've had the fake stuff, and it's not worth the time it takes for it to melt in your mouth. Hers wasn't a foolish consistency.

In fact, because almost all pistachio ice cream is fake or of unknown provenance, she almost always had to select another flavor, so she almost never got the same flavor twice. Her consistency created an inconsistency that added new tastes to her flavor palette. Her apparent caution caused thoughtlessness. Not a capricious and careless thoughtlessness, but one without prejudice.

Reflecting on how Mama and I had stepped outside our patterned dance steps--dinner and a night at home with the kids--into a new restaurant and new flavors, I savored the smooth consistency of the ice cream.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Layin' in the cut

For various reasons, such as our trip to Grammy's, I took a month off the bike, which ended yesterday. The rides to and from work were enjoyable and this morning I feel fine, but, of course, any aches and pains usually take two days to appear, so time will tell.

The weather is cool, and when I ride in it's dark enough that I could gaze at the dark side of the moon. But not for too long, since my front wheel got out of true while I wasn't riding and is quite the wobbly goblin now. It's fine with my hands on the handlebars, but I can't ride hands-free for more than a few feet before the shakes set in.

We're all settling back into our routines after our return from Grammy's. 3B's back in the swing of school, getting on the bus every morning. Yesterday, Mama took the kids down to the school to play on the playground and she said that when they arrived, kids from 3B's class burst out of the afterschool program in the building to hug him and play with him. She said it was like he was famous...which I'm sure made our little rock star feel good.

Jewel continues to teach herself to use the potty. Sometimes. Or not. She is as headstrong as her brother. Or father. Or mother. But unlike her brother, who only started using the potty after what one might call a concerted effort by Mama--or what Mama might call an epic one-day battle royale--Jewel is determined to learn to use the potty. Also unlike her brother, Jewel will accept some help and the presence of people while she's using the potty. Sometimes. Or not.

Seriously, how did these kids get to be so stubborn? Can't they just do things my way?

Ah, yes, we're all back in the groove.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Pride and the fall. My dad and Steve Jobs.

It was a quiet fall day in Palo Alto and a father lay dying before his family.

Cancer stole his health, his humor and eventually his life. His body, like a dried corn stalk, a brittle sketch of what it had been alive and whole, full of laughter, wit and passion. His hair had been black. He had worn glasses. He had driven a Mercedes-Benz.

His family gathered around for his final breath, all standing nearly as still as the man who lay before them.

The day was in November 1984. Or October of this year. The man was 57. Or 56. The man was my Dad. Or Steve Jobs. The result was the same: children without a father, a wife bereft of her best friend.

The cause was cancer.

The similarities fade after that. Jobs, of course, wore black turtlenecks and blue jeans everywhere. Dad wore three-piece suits to work, and t-shirts and shorts at home. Jobs drove a Mercedes without a license plate. Dad had long since given his up in favor of a station wagon--more practical for traveling with his six children. And, of course, Jobs changed the world through his relentless innovation, which resulted in products such as the one I'm writing this on now.

Dad, of course, didn't invent the personal computer, the iPod or the iPhone.

Then again, I could argue as others have, that Jobs didn't invent those either--he innovated them. Jobs made better what someone else had created from whole cloth. Some would say that he made them worse by closing the systems they run on, maintaining too much control, not innovating fast enough, and so forth.

Reality is always more subtle than arguments, of course. Every Android user who downloads an app can thank Jobs for the ability to do that, since before the iPhone was released, mobile providers didn't allow phone users to download apps. Of course, Jobs only allowed users to download apps he approved.

Both sides are right.

Similarly, one could say that Dad didn't invent me from whole cloth either, since his genes came from his parents and it was Mom who bore me while I developed. Not that she controlled the process either. In a sense, I invented myself by interpreting my parents' histories anew. But he did make me better. And worse.

I distinctly recall few conversations with Dad, but one that I do so recall occurred in our kitchen. He was talking to me about how to work. Since I was still in elementary school it was less about putting a suit on, getting on the train and sitting behind a desk than about general guidelines for completing tasks. As he talked, he was cleaning the kitchen, and while much of what he said is lost to me now, I recall him scrubbing in and around the sink.

He picked up the soapy sponge, wrung it out and brought it up to the spigot. As he drew it along the underside of the spigot, he said, "I wash under here, even though nobody will see it, because I know that it's clean. Nobody will ever look there, but I'll know it. I do it because I'm proud of my work." He then wiped back and forth a few more times to ensure that the underside of the spigot was spotless and moved on.

But that lesson stuck with me.

Of course, this is the same man who taught me that pride goeth before a fall, an irony that alternately vexed and amused me as I got older. Of course, both sides are right.

Similarly, Jobs was famous for railing against ugly chips buried inside computers that most end users would never see--especially if Jobs got his way. It may have been this same pride and desire to keep his own casing sealed that caused Jobs to eschew surgical intervention for his ailments, finally relenting when no other course was viable. So, perhaps pride preceded his fall. Or perhaps nothing would have stopped Jobs' death at such a young age.

Despite being a lifelong Christian Scientist and the most quietly pious man I've known, Dad didn't equivocate when it came to medical intervention. "I love your mother and this is what she wanted me to do, so I'll do it," he told me in a long conversation we had, both slumped on the smooth wooden stairs of our house.

Of course, both sides are right: pride presses us all forward, and sometimes pushes us off the precipice.

With the many similarities between Dad's and Jobs' death, the one the touches me most deeply is one that's rarely mentioned--I'm hoping out of respect rather than oversight--the children Jobs left behind. While I can't know how they feel, I know that I felt half-orphaned, as if I'd been rent asunder, with one half of myself feeling as if it had been cast into hell, the other into an eternal void.

Both were right.

And both stitched themselves back together as I reinvented myself. I won't lie to you; it sucked. But it got better. Imperceptibly at first, like the sun moving slightly north on the horizon at dawn on the day after the winter solstice, but then gathering momentum until one day I looked around and saw that it was spring. But these things take time.

And right now, in a quiet neighborhood in Palo Alto, on a leafy street, there are children living in a house with a hole in it. It doesn't let the rain in. They can't even see it. But they can feel it. Which is why, across the gossamer strands that connect us, I send them one thought every day: it will get better.

They will never see that thought, but I'll know that I sent it.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

This two shall pass...it had goddamn well better pass

We're back home after our vacation at Grammy's. Even though it was only two weeks (for Mama and the kids) and one week (for me) away, much has changed.

Jewel is in the full throes of her twoness, yelling a whiny "No!" at anything that's said within earshot of her. I'm getting better at ignoring her. 3B still has a long row to hoe in this regard, but if he grows up to be a patient man, he can thank his sister.

Speaking of patience, I'm trying to find more of it in myself without crossing that line into being a doormat. It's not an easy balance for me to strike, since I've always seen myself as impatient and therefore given myself license to be so. I'm thinking now that might not have been the best strategy for raising patient kids. Or for dealing with kids.

Although, to be fair to myself, I've had to deal with Jewel much less of late since her other new favorite phrase is, "I got it." She uses this in response to questions like
  • Do you want help going up those stairs?
  • Do you want help going up that ladder and swingin on the monkey bars, which are eight feet off the ground?
  • I see that you're about to pick up two torches and a machete to juggle, would you like me to light the torches for you?
Her other new favorite phrase of late? "I don't think so."

While I know that we're not supposed to compare our kids, Mama and I just can't recall 3B ever busting out the "No!" so blatantly and tirelessly. Maybe that's our sleep-deprivation-caused memory loss talking, but I don't think so. The good news is that Mama's instinct--ignore it--is an effective tool against it...but still...oi.

Because I was travelling by myself to catch up to Mama and the kids at Grammy's I took the opportunity to do some reading as I waited the two hours...then three hours...then four days it seemed before my plane arrived. I've been trying to do more conspicuous reading, not just for my own edification, but also so that the kids will see me reading and know that it's a lifelong joy.

It's not as if they don't both like reading, but anything I can do to keep that going...OK, and I love to read, so it is a bit selfish.

I finished Flags of Our Fathers during the week at Grammy's, and found it an enlightening read. It was not nearly as gory as it could have been, considering the topic. I found it quite restrained in that regard, actually. That makes sense, since the focus is on the men and their trajectories through life, including their friendships. Recounting all of those friendships and then describing how many of them were torn asunder in that heavy black sand and across that hard, harsh landscape made for more difficult reading and brought home the horror of war than a book full of spilled guts would have.

Of course, for me, the hardest part was reading about the author's father's death. Sometimes I can just pass right through those descriptions as if through a torn veil. At other times, they entrap me like a straitjacket, seeming to tighten with every struggle I make against them, suffocating me. This one, although bearing more brevity than details, was closer to the latter.

I keep thinking that this grief over my Dad's death, too, shall pass. And perhaps it will after I have learned from it everything it has to offer. Which might be the same as saying neither will this pass, nor should it.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Friday, October 07, 2011

What's going down up north

While Mama and the kids are at Grammy's, Jewel has once again achieved a first out of my sight. And, in this case, out of my smell.

A year or so ago, when they were at Grammy's, Jewel took her first steps on her own. By the time I arrived, she was off to the races, practically running everywhere she could, and hasn't stopped since. This time around, she pooped in the potty for the first time. Twice in one day.

Where was she when we needed a role model for 3B?

Prior to this trip, she had been increasingly interested in using the potty, mostly to be like her brother and sort of to be like mommy and daddy. We were nudging her along, commenting every time that she pooped that she could soon do this in the potty. We also noted every time we changed her diaper, a process that she usually wasn't too fond of, that when she started pooping in the potty, we wouldn't have to do that anymore. And, of course, she could see her brother doing it, and what brother has, she wants.

I think this is why she no longer sits in her booster seat, although she still needs to sit on a low stool in a regular dining room table chair to be able to reach her food. She doesn't care that it's precarious and perilous, so long as it's like what brother is doing.

And it can't be that perilous since she stands and jumps on the stool. Except it still is.

And so, like sitting on a chair like brother's, she started sitting on the potty like brother. She had been following people into the bathroom and sitting on her little potty while they used the big one, and then one day she announced that she had to poop and was going to sit on the potty. Mama and I were a bit surprised, since, based on our experience with 3B, we didn't know that kids could potty train without a fight and before they applied for college.

Off she ran, down the hall, closed the door behind her, and sat on the potty. Yes, wearing her diaper, but one thing at a time. Speaking of which, I went down to check on her and asked if she'd like the lights on. "Yes. Thank you."

And she's already more polite than people five times her age...what more do you want?

This went on all week before Mama and the kids went to Grammy's, and appears to have continued at Grammy's. Thanks to her brother, Jewel also already prefers to poop behind closed doors and not be bothered until she's completely done. When I arrive at Grammy's, I'll have to see how well that's working now that she's pooping with out the Pampers safety net. 3B was old enough when he started doing it that he was fully capable of wiping and washing his hands before emerging.

Jewel...eh, not so much. Yet. But who knows what she'll have learned by the time I arrive? Perhaps she will have mastered Capa Ferro by then.

If her Uncle Zappa (no, of course that's not Mama's brother's real name, just his nom de blog) plays swords with her, she certainly will have mastered it, and possibly Agrippa as well, since she apparently lives and dies by his word. Mama says it's very amusing how taken Jewel is with Uncle Zappa: "Look at me, Uncle Zappa. Look at my eye, Uncle Zappa. Look at my knees, Uncle Zappa. Look at my mouth, Uncle Zappa."

Mama says that Jewel spends the day showing off for her Uncle Zappa, which makes my heart ache with happiness for both of them.

But before they practice their swordplay, they might have to build a snow fort to defend themselves. Yes, snow fort. OK, no, there's not enough snow for that, but Mama said that they did get a skiff of snow yesterday, just a few momentary whirls of white, but still...snow.

Of course, Grammy's house is north of the Arctic Circle (OK, not really...but yes...but not really...but yes...), so your mileage may vary, but winter is coming down...and up at Grammy's in a tangible, if fleeting, way.

Jewel has stopped needing outdoor diaper changes just in time.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Home alone in the Thunderdome

I've been home alone for four days now, going on five, and despite my circumstances, it's been a lot less Macaulay Culkin and a lot more Mrs. Doubtfire...except without the dressing up as a woman and speaking in falsetto.

OK, maybe it's been a little more Clean House than anything else.

In the first two days, I took a trunkful of donations to Goodwill, dropped half a dozen nearly overflowing trash sacks down the chute and carried out an equal number of loads of recycling. I still have two bags of clothes to deliver to friends for their kids, and I haven't even gone through our hall closets yet.

The happy surprise under all of this is that our house was actually pretty well organized under the veneer of clutter. Of course, since that veneer was more a coat of armor than a delicate facade, it didn't matter that we were organized, since we could never get to that level. It was nice to get down to that point and be able to stop.

Of course, it helps that my standards have changed in the last, oh, I don't know, five years. Before having kids, I liked by CDs--remember those?--lined up alphabetically by artist, my books grouped by genre and alphabetically sorted by author and my clothes in neat stacks. Now I'm happy just to know that there are no books on the floor. Mostly. And that they're all on a shelf. Mostly. As for CDs--what are those?--I'm just glad that my kids let me play with my iPhone. Sometimes. And that they let me play my music on it. Sometimes.

As for my clothes, they're in fairly neat stacks...in the front hall closet. About a year ago, I gave up on keeping them in what I used to refer to as Mama and Papa's room, which is now the Room Formerly Known as Mama and Papa's Room--or, as I like to call it, Prince. Or Princess, really, since it's been taken over by Jewel.

I can't fault her, though, since she truly has no room of her own in our two-bedroom place. 3B has squatter's rights on his room and until recently their schedules were so different that it wasn't possible to contemplate moving Jewel into his room. Now that we could, everyone's so established in their routine, Mama and I don't want to go to through the Herculean effort required to move everyone.

However, Jewel's schedule doesn't coincide with mine--she sleeps far more than I do, which meant that I had to ninja in and out of our room every time I wanted a sock. Seriously, she's such a light sleeper that when a butterfly flaps its wings in China it wakes her up. This, of course, would wake up Mama. The resulting hullabaloo would often wake 3B and suddenly our house would go from the sterile silence of 2001: A Space Odyssey to Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

So I conceded defeat at the hands of a then drooling, giggling opponent and moved out of our room. Mama has recently done the same, and the upside has been that in shuffling items about, we've also been cleaning out unnecessary items. And for Jewel the upside is that she now has three dressers all to herself.

And if you don't think she has the clothes to fill them, then you've never had a baby girl.

People send 3B one camo shirt and think he's set for the year, but believe that Jewel needs more outfits than the Malibu Barbie set that comes with Heidi Klum and Imelda Marcos dolls. People, let me explain: 3B is Tim Gunn, Jewel is Ty Pennington. She will build the closet to hold all of his clothes.

Maybe when she's done with that, she can figure out how we can add a bedroom...seven stories off the ground.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Just kidding

Whenever Mama and I see a trait like this in our kids, we say, "We're in trouble."

We know that these traits can only become magnified as they get older. Here's hoping they use their powers for good, not evil.

Jewel's most recently manifesting power is deceptive jokes. This morning, she woke up after 3B had been picked up by the school bus, and had this conversation with Mama:
Jewel: Where's 3B?
Mama: He's at school. The bus already came and picked him up.
Jewel: No. He's at the playground.
Mama: No. He's at school right now.
Jewel: No. He's at the playground.
Mama: No. The bus picked him up.
Jewel: No. He's at the playground.
Mama: No. He went to school.
Jewel: Just kidding.
Let's just hope that when she calls to say she crashed the car, she ends the conversation the same way...unlike her old man when he was 16.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Sleeping peacefully, waking up peckish

According to Baby Center

Lispingstuttering, and mispronouncing certain sounds are common speech issues for 5-year-olds. Most are absolutely normal for now and are usually outgrown over the next few years. If you have any concerns, it's a good idea to point out speech problems to your child's doctor. Most of these blips sort themselves out on their own, but sometimes speech therapy can help.
Stuttering doesn't seem to be a problem here. I'm surprised, in fact, that neither kid has asked me, "Did I stutter?" after one of their commands.

Not to make light of lisping or stuttering or any other of the speech issues...we've had some. My favorite was when 3B would stutter whole phrases. A sentence might come out as, "The fire engine...the fire engine...the fire engine...the fire engine...is going to help people."

It was usually amusing and always a good reminder to be patient, since the payoff was always worth the wait. Grammy explained at the time that his mouth and brain were just out of sync and that the stuttering was the equivalent of idling his engine while the gears in his speech transmission got synced up.

Jewel hasn't gotten to this stage yet, if she will, but she is speaking in full sentences, as well as regularly using "please" and "thank you." And yes, we all know that's because she hangs around Mama all day.

While it's nice to know that all of her gears are turning at the appropriate speed, I sometimes wish that she could be a regular two-year-old and just say "no" all the time rather than reciting essays about why she doesn't particularly want to, at this precise moment, do exactly what we want her to. Of course, she is still two, so when the essay doesn't work, she does bust out a pretty mean tantrum.

Too bad for her that she's the second child, which means tantrums don't really faze us. Or slow us down. Or cause us to change course.

Oh, we're so mean.

Despite that, Jewel's finally warming up to me a bit, after going through quite the mommy-only phase. Last night at bedtime she gave me about seven (but who's counting?) bedtime kisses. Nothing could make me sleep more peacefully than that.

Except perhaps knowing that I didn't have to get up for a 4 a.m. meeting today. When I got home from that, 3B was already up, which portends a long day, in every sense of that phrase, for everyone. But we had fun cozying on the couch together, looking through my work. (fwiw, he likes the site redesign I'm overseeing)

After awhile though, it was time for breakfast number two...or is that lunch, since I'd already been up four hours?

"I'm getting a little hungry," I said. "Would you like some breakfast too, 3B?"

"Me too. I'm feeling a little peckish."

Other facts that make me sleep peacefully: my five-year-old has a better daily vocabulary than I do.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Breathing through my ear

Even if you had tried to explain to me, you couldn't have succeeded. Or perhaps it's that I couldn't have understood.

I've got a fat lip and my nose is sore and feels closer to my left eye than ever before. I feel a fatigue that makes it seem as if my bones will liquefy, my limbs will flop and I will end up on the floor like a wet mop.

Last night, while reading stories to Jewel, she cracked me right in the lip with the spine of one of her favorite books ("Baby Food," if you must know), but that was nothing compared to the blow 3B landed on me the night before.

It was my fault, really.

Well, sort of.

We were having a tickle fight, launching gootchy goo attacks on each other, in the confines of his bed, which is the lower bunk. Never a good idea to have an MMA match in a cave. OK, sure, in a wire cage at the center of an arena--but not on a lower bunk with a merciless weasel. Actually, he's not at all merciless since he's always laughing too hard, but he is a squirming weasel, which is why he almost broke my nose.

Or did.

But I don't think so.

But after the back of his head hit my nose sideways, I felt like I was breathing out of my left ear for about five minutes. The crack was something like a musket shot and both of us froze like we were frozen in carbonite. And, to be fair, his head was still sore the next morning.

On top of the injuries, we had two--count them: two--playdates last night. One neighbor came over and we went over to another neighbors, so at least they were all in the building, but still. Is there anything so tiring as weasel wrangling?


There isn't.

Especially when you have to breathe through your ear.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good day with some swordplay

Yesterday was a good day, even if it did involve some swordplay with our neighbor.

Even though it was a crazy busy day at work, I was able to leave on time, which meant that I got home while the sun was still up, surprising everyone. That meant that there was plenty of time to help with dinner, baths, books, bedtime and homework.

All of which went well since there was plenty of time to get through them without rushing. 3B was excited to tell me about music class--Monday's special class is music--during which they got to play maracas, triangles and...my memory fails me here, but a couple of other percussion instruments.

"Do you know why the triangle is an important instrument?"


"Because one little triangle can wake you up."

That would be a nice change from the cacophony of drums, guitars, melodica, and tambourines that usually awaken me on weekends.

After dinner, our next-door neighbor stopped by to visit Jewel. He also plays with 3B, which is a sword with two edges, both of which are razor sharp. Fortunately, the swords that they play with aren't so deadly, although 3B did club our neighbor hard enough with his wooden sword from the Ren Faire that his knee was still hurting today.

Fortunately for our neighbor, we have an array of blades to choose from. Last night was the cutlass vs. the katana. They fought to a draw, both having been dismembered and died several times--definitely a happy ending for all.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Rolling joy

It's been awhile, but this year's Pan-Mass Challenge was better than I can describe here. My video and the others you can find give some idea, but it really is hard to explain or show the totality of the experience.

As we ride, I am constantly calling out "Thank you!" to people lining the route with signs, many of whom stand for hours, cheering on riders, handing out food and water that they personally purchased. When I'm not shouting out my thanks, I'm giving a "Woo hoo!" as we flash by.

One woman I was riding with as part of team Phat Tuesday said that I was "joyful" and asked me why. I stumbled through many words looking for an answer.

What came immediately to mind was how beautiful the day was and how liberating it felt to roll through it on my bike, across roads that, while technically open to all traffic, were dominated PMC riders. But even if it had been pouring rain, as many had feared, it would have been as beautiful a day.

As I reflected, between "thank you" and "woo hoo" shout outs, I heard again what everyone lining the route was saying, I thought again of all my supporters and I remembered all of those faces on my jersey, the ones I look in the eye every time I ride, the ones watching out over the route as I rolled through it. And that reminded me why it was such a beautiful day and why I felt such joy. It's all about the people.

We are all there together, and we bring with us all of our supporters and others who can't make it, and we are all moving forward not just across the land but also across time into the future, and all of us are working to make that future better than the present. Despite having suffered grievous and devastating losses, we are all still hopeful.

That hope is what you hear me shouting out as I spin by. That hope is what keeps me warm in the rain and keeps me pushing into the wind. That transcendent shared hope is what brings me joy.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Friday, August 05, 2011

I'm taking your money for a ride...here's where it will go

Tomorrow Lance Armstrong and I will ride across Massachusetts with 5,500 of our closest friends who together have raised millions to fight cancer. On that first day I will wear the 2011 PMC jersey like every other rider, but on the second day, I will wear the Team Bradstein jersey that you all created with your donations and your photos.

Your images will embrace me as I ride to the very end of Cape Cod to complete 200 miles of riding in two days, and in every mile, I will keep you and your loved ones in my thoughts and in my heart.

And for those who we've lost who I carry with me, young and old, I'll see for them with my eyes, all the while wondering what they would think of the sight of the surging, joyful mass of riders at the pre-dawn start on day one; the crowds lining every street, lane and bike path we ride along; sunrise over the bridge as we head out on day two; the vast expanse of the Atlantic spreading around us as we ride out Cape Cod to land's end; and the hero's welcome we receive on our ferry's return to Boston, with the harbor fireboat coming out to greet us with a full ceremonial water cannon salute and crowds lining the dock, cheering and waving.

I wish you all could be there to see all of this with me too, since they're not cheering for me, they're cheering for you. It's your money that will pay for the research that will result in a new, more effective treatment for cancer or for a doctor's time as they deliver that treatment or for a patient to live a little after facing down their own mortality. And when I say "your money," I mean 100% of your donation goes to the Jimmy Fund, including the Jimmy Fund clinic, a place where children with cancer and their families can find hope, thanks to the corporate sponsors who underwrite all the administrative and logistics costs of the ride.

They include New Balance, the Boston Red Sox, BMW, WCVB and MFS as well as in-kind donations from scores of smaller companies.

If you want to know more specifics about where your money goes, visit the Jimmy Fund site, or my friend Vampdaddy's blog. Donations like yours saved his son's life. And if you want to know more specifics about where I'm going this weekend, follow me on Twitter, where I'll post regular updates, and if I can work it out, a live map, tracking me along the route.

Thanks again for your generous support. Working together, we will make cancer history.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Lance Armstrong, I will beat you in this race or you can have the jersey off my back

Yesterday I was watching Billy Starr, founder of the Pan-Mass Challenge, announce that Lance Armstrong was going to join me and 5,500 of my closest friends on the first day of the PMC.

Although I'm a little concerned about Lance's fitness, since he's already announced that he's going to abandon the PMC after the first day, what struck me was when Billy said that Lance registered like everybody else and has to do fund-raising like every other rider.

Seriously? Can you imagine being his neighbor and having him ring your doorbell and ask you for $5 for his ride? And you wouldn't even get a box of cookies for your donation.

It occurred to me that this is one race in which I'm already beating Lance Armstrong like a dusty rug--thanks to all of my generous donors. I've raised over my $6,500 goal (two checks haven't processed to show up in my online total yet) while Lance hasn't even started yet.

But I know that Lance is just a little competitive, so I'm wondering if he'll take me up on my challenge--no, not on the bike. I don't want to embarrass the man publicly. My challenge is monetary:
I will raise another $5,000 before Lance raises his first $5,000.
But for this to be a real challenge, each of us has to have something at stake, so I propose this...if you're willing to stand up to this challenge, Lance:
  • If you raise $5,000 before I do, you get one of my beautiful jerseys, covered with photos of people affected by cancer who are near and dear to me and my supporters.
  • If I raise $5,000 before you do, I get an autographed jersey from you that I will give away to one of the people who donates to my ride as part of this effort.
Now, this isn't an entirely fair fight, since you could just ask folks like your buddy Senator John Kerry to chip in huge donations and almost everyone I know and some folks I don't know at all have already given all they can to my ride.

To level the playing field:
  • The only donations that count for you are those that are $5 or less.
  • The only donations that count for me are those that are over $25.
I know that you're busy trying to get in some last-minute training before Saturday, so I'll summarize:
  • I will raise another $5,000 in donations to the PMC before you raise your first $5,000.
  • If you raise $5,000 (in donations of $5 or less) before I do, you get one of my beautiful jerseys, covered with photos of people affected by cancer who are near and dear to me and my supporters.
  • If I raise $5,000 (in donations over $25) before you do, I get an autographed jersey from you that I will give away to one of the people who donates to my ride as part of this effort.
And, of course, there has to be a finish line: the end of the ride Saturday.

This way, you can give me your jersey before you abandon depart the PMC. If neither of us has raised the $5,000 by then, no jerseys change hands.

Let me know if you're up to the challenge, Lance, and I'll spread the word.

Papa Bradstein might have to ride 90 miles on the second day without a jersey unless you support his ride.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011


Yesterday, Mama took the kids to a splash park just north of us to check it out for 3B's birthday party. OK, spoiler alert...if you're coming to 3B's birthday party, we're going to a splash park.

Also, if you're coming to his party, that means you're, like, five years old...so what are you doing reading my blog?

According to Mama, everyone had fun. 3B ran all over the place and made a new friend. When I asked him what his new friend's name was, he said, "It occurred to me that I should tell him my name."

I swear that sometimes my son believes he's paid by the word when he speaks. Otherwise, why "occurred to me"? Why not "I realized"? Or even simply, "I didn't tell him my name"? Wherever does this wordiness come from?


While we're on the topic of words, one of his favorite tricks is to use "apparently" for comedic effect, often when something unexpected happens, such as, "And then that toy will fall off the bed and make a loud bang, apparently." He's not even five and his deadpan rivals Steven Wright's.

At the rate Jewel's speech is progressing, I'm sure she'll be at that point before she's two. Every day is a cornucopia of new constructions and conjugations. Just yesterday afternoon, we were sitting on the couch and it occurred to me that I was having a conversation with my daughter. The depth of what that means almost left me speechless, but then she asked a question and we moved on.

No matter how many times they happen, there are parts of parenting that will always be magic to me, like hearing my kids thoughts. So, spoiler alert, kids...I will be that parent at college graduation marveling at how far you've come and how I can remember when you couldn't even talk and wondering where you got that wordiness.


And then I will remind you how cute you are. So cute, in fact, that when you came home from a splash park and filled my bed with the sand you were covered with, I still loved you, and not just because it made me feel like we were still on our beach vacation.

Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Me too

We're back from our 10 days in California, and my body is wondering what, exactly, I think I'm doing, forcing it to be vertical at hours of the day that defy credibility.

It might be easier to take such a rude awakening if I were only being awakened by Jewel to get donuts and hippo cookies and take a walk around the island to see the big boats. Yes, she's not only speaking in sentences, but stringing them together and adding vocabulary every day.

It started about the time Mama was leaving for Ethiopia with the sentence, "Baby Bella go home," as a neighbor who had come over for a play date was leaving. Since then, we were awakened almost every day in California with a cascade of requests:
Mommy wake up.
Daddy wake up.
Brubie wake up.
Go get donuts.
Go get hippo.
Go get cookie.
Go see big boats.
Her big words recently have been "too" and "come back." We stood watching the ferry traverse the harbor between the island and the peninsula one morning, and every time one went away, she said, "Want big boat come back." That was easy enough to accommodate since its twin was already on its way over from the peninsula. She also kept saying, "Want get on big boat," which was because we had taken the ferry a few days before to get dinner at Ruby's.

And just about everything that Brubie--that's Brother, or 3B to you--gets, Jewel wants too. And since she now knows what "me" means, and uses it all the time along with her name, we end up with lots of requests for "Jewel too" after Brubie asks for something, or "Jewel want too," or even simply "me too."

Of course, Mama and I may have only ourselves to blame for that, since our frequent reply to Jewel's hands grabbing our toes from her Pack N Play at the foot of our bed and saying "Want go get donuts" was often "Me too...I want you to go get them and bring them right back to me here in bed."

Somehow, Jewel never got that last part down.

Papa Bradstein eat one donut for each of the 200 miles he will ride across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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