Monday, February 28, 2011

Hey, old man!

This weekend we were all sitting around the dinner table, eating...

I'll pause to allow you to absorb the miracle that represents
When Jewel, who was babbling away as the rest of us talked, pointing out her "bro bro," her "mama," and asking for "mas mas," found she wasn't getting the attention she needed. At a lull in the conversation she said, loud and clear, "Hey, Daddy!"

I replied, "Yes, 3B?"

And then realized that it wasn't him, and that now I have two children who speak.

Papa Bradstein is going to hear voices in his head--in stereo now, apparently--as he rides 200 miles across Massachusetts.

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Put a face on the fight against cancer

Want to honor a cancer survivor? Memorialize a loved one? Put a face on the fight against cancer?

You can do all of these by adding a photo to the jersey that I'll wear across Massachusetts in the Pan-Mass Challenge, where it will be seen by thousands of people, all working to fight cancer. I'll also wear it on training rides throughout the year, bearing witness for those I carry with me, showing their faces and telling their stories.

And if you want to go one step further, you can get a jersey of your own--or to give to a cyclist you know--to spread the word further.

To place a photo on the jersey, simply donate $100 or more to my ride by March 30.

You can get your own jersey when you donate $250 or more by March 30--this is half the donation amount required last year.
I always carry with me the memories of all my family and friends affected by and sometimes lost to cancer. Struggling up hills, freezing through slicing icy winds and sweating through the sauna that is summer in DC, I think of you all, and those thoughts flatten the hills, warm my heart and fill my water bottle with an iced latte. OK...maybe not that last one, but seriously, although I'm carrying all of you with me, it's you who carry me forward.

And I'd love to be able to show all of you to my fellow riders as well.

Please join me on my ride, or send a friend or loved one along with me--donate today.

Papa Bradstein is going to make like Superman and wear his jersey under his suit every day.

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Two shiny things! More keyboards! Headbangers' ball!

I know, I know...I promised exciting news about my ride today, but then I realized that nobody reads blogs on a Sunday. Well, except you, that is.

No, I wasn't calling you a nobody...oh man...let me start over...

Look! A shiny thing! Two shiny things! (And exciting news tomorrow when more curious monkeys are looking this way.)

Papa Bradstein is going to post a stack of 8 x 10 glossy photos as updates on his ride.

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cured, like ham

Typically, there is greater variation within a population than there is between populations.

This great variation is true within our house, even when it comes to illness. Mama and the kids have spent two weeks or so struggling through this coughing, sneezing, sometimes queasy bug. There were days when Mama fell into bed immediately after the kids, and days when the kids wandered around in a fog. And most of those were days when I was in Boston for training or at work.

So, I had some immunity or good luck or something and managed to avoid getting sick for several days after my return. But then, of course, the hammer dropped.

On me.

As I wrote, on Friday morning I got up feeling like I'd been pulled...not quite apart, but pulled quite hard in every direction. I didn't have the coughing, sneezing or queasy, but I was rather not in the mood to eat either. But I still was able to ride into work and get through the day, even if I wasn't quite feeling it. Not too unusual for a Friday of a short week, since short weeks don't mean less work, just less time to get it done.

By the end of the day I was feeling like someone had gone after me with a carpet beater and then hoovered the energy from my blood and bones, so I fueled up in the best fashion of all athletes--with 20 ounces of steaming hot coffee, cut with just so much milk. Because I only drink half-caf, I figured this would be enough to get me home, which is about all it did.

I went through all of my routines for packing up, leaving the office, changing into my bike clothes, getting to my bike and assembling my computer, lights and so forth, and thank goodness I could do most of that by muscle memory. Despite that, however, I did leave the shoulder strap that I use to carry my panniers hanging down next to my rear wheel, where it spent the next hour somehow not swinging over, tangling in the spokes and throwing me to the ground.

And I spent my next hour and 20 minutes getting blasted by a 45 mph wind. Fortunately, was as accurate as ever and for the first portion of the ride, I was being blasted from behind. For the last third or so, however, it was like riding into a gale, which is, in fact, what I was doing. And which, in fact, sapped the last bit of strength from me.

I did manage to make it through until Jewel's bedtime, thanks to Mama's vegetable chowder and some rice with butter and salt, and progressive layers of clothes, so that I went to bed and curled up in the fetal position under a down comforter wearing two shirts, fleece pants, heavy wool socks and a fleece hat pulled down just about to my collarbone.

And three hours later I woke up, cured.

But more cured like a ham than cured like all better and feeling fine. While I felt miraculously refreshed and no was no longer aching, I couldn't get back to sleep for several hours. But considering what Mama and the kids had been through for two weeks, I knew I had gotten off lucky. Eventually, I went back to bed, fell asleep and then stumbled through today, thanks to a one-hour nap and a trip to Pupatella for dinner.

And tomorrow, I'll have some exciting news to share with you about my ride.

Papa Bradstein is going to ride 200 miles curled up in the fetal position, wrapped up in a down comforter.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

The last thing I want to do

I'm tired. Bone weary.
My stomach is on the verge of queasy.
My muscles ache, even those I'm pretty sure I haven't used in 30 years or more.
3B just woke up to dry heave.
That's probably just the antibiotics talking--you know the ones he's taking for his ear infection.
It's raining.
It's dark.
It's below 50 degrees (for my California readers, this isn't subfreezing, but it feels that way to you).
Winds will be 30 mph, gusting to 50, which is enough to stop a cyclist like me in his tracks.

For all these reasons, the last thing I want to do right now is squeeze my fat ass into some spandex, which is nothing but cheesecloth you can wash, swing my leg over my bike and then pedal for an hour to get to, of all places, work. (Not that I don't love my job. I do.)

But I'm pretty sure that, when he was less than two, Declan didn't want to go through a year and a half of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation treatment. I'm pretty sure that he had bad days too. Days when he was tired. Days when he was queasy. Dark days. Hard days. Long days.

But Declan didn't have a choice.

He did, however, have a chance. A chance that he seized and made the most of with the help of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

And if more kids like Declan are to have a chance, I have to get on my bike and ride. And ride some more...all the way until August. But to get to August and to give those kids a chance, I need your support.

Because, really, the last thing I want to do is leave those kids without a chance.

Papa Bradstein is going to post a stack of 8 x 10 glossy photos as updates on his ride.

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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Possibly the best email I've ever received

Papa Bradstein is going to stop and send 3B a video from every Panera along his 200-mile ride.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Slurpee in the face

It was 30 degrees and I was riding into a 10 mph headwind. I was simultaneously freezing and sweltering.

As I was reminded this morning, when my toes feel cold when I start, then they don't feel cold, they didn't get warm, they got numb. The same goes for my forehead, cheeks and nose.

However, working to get through that wind raises my heart rate, which raises my core temperature, causing me to parboil inside my windproof layers.

As I was enjoying this ambiance and sprinting behind a line of cars at about 25 mph into this wind, something cold and wet hit my face, as if the driver in front of me had just tossed a Slurpee out his window.

Seriously, dude?

Oh, wait. Snow. That's snow.

That's so much better, of course.

At least I wasn't sweltering anymore.

Papa Bradstein believes that at this rate it will probably snow on his August ride, but that won't stop him.

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I'm not quick, but I'm slow too

Jewel still has all of her teeth, no thanks to her brother.

On Friday, I was at work, waiting to hear from Mama that she and the kids had departed home to come meet me at what 3B calls the Potanic Gardens--you try to correct him, then. Trust me, we've tried.

Instead I got a call from Mama at a coffee shop with the kids, where they'd stopped because events had conspired against her. She calmly explained where they were, why they were there, how soon they would be at my office and we exchanged a few other words. Then she started talking in a shaky voice and said, "It was so scary."

I'm not quick, but I'm slow too, so it took a few seconds for this unexpected sentence to sink in, percolate down to my adrenal glands and squeeze them like a wet rag, accelerating my heart from zero to palpitation in three seconds.

"What? What was so scary?"

I've learned that at times like this, the best thing to do is stand back and let Mama talk. She never gets rattled or weepy, so she must be under tremendous pressure for this to happen. Or there must have been blood. In this case, there were both.

But my nature, when confronted with a situation like this, is to dive in headfirst and start trying to fix. I ask a lot of questions. I demand answers. I suggest changes. This is all good if you're a mechanic in the boiler room of the Titanic, but a husband trying to find out what happened to your wife or kids or both and WAS THERE BLOOD? ...not such a good tactic.

Mama, being smarter than me, however, has learned to ignore me at times like this and went ahead with her story.

She had been at the counter, ordering or paying or I wasn't really listening to this part of the story, waiting for the punch line, hoping it didn't involve actual punches. She had parked the kids--Jewel in the stroller and 3B standing next to it--a few feet behind her. Mama had set the brakes on the stroller. As she turned around, she saw 3B was tipping the stroller from side to side in a rocking motion...tip, tip, tip, which, because she has an older brother, wasn't bothering Jewel.

Then, as Mama watched, 3B tipped the stroller over, pitching Jewel face first onto the tile floor of the coffee shop.

At times like this in stories, I tend to get tunnel hearing. I can hear a word or two at a time while I hold my breath, check to ensure my heart is beating, and wait for it...wait for it...wait for it... So, what I got was: scary...OK.

With that last word, I resumed breathing. Then, Mama added, "I think."


This just in: Leading cause of heart attacks: four-year-old boys.

But I also figured that if it were really bad, Mama would be on the phone with 911. Mama said again, "It was just so scary."

I asked if she still wanted to come in and meet me. She said yes, and so, 20 minutes after that, I was bent over Jewel in her car seat, trying to get her to open her mouth so that I could see her teeth.

Nothing doing, Dad, was her cheerful reply.

Eventually we decided that since she wasn't screaming all was roughly OK. But...just to be sure, we booked an appointment with the dentist. Mama, who doesn't deal well with blood or injury at all, asked me to go. Our pediatric dentist is amazing. 3B loves going there because it's so much fun, despite his natural trepidation toward anything new.

Jewel has no such fear, since she's never been and doesn't associate the dentist with an entire volleyball team putting their hands in your mouth along with a hoover hose, a pike pole and the side view mirror from a Dodge dualie. And she did great. We got there half an hour early and ended up having to wait an hour and a half, right through what could have been Jewel's nap time.

The waiting room has fun distractions: three PlayStations, bead wire mazes, wooden shapes stuck all over the walls, all of which Jewel enjoyed playing with. Most of the reason she did well, however, was that she, like her brother before her, is blessed with a cheerful personality and enjoyed hanging out with Daddy, eating some snacks and watching everybody and what they were doing.

She was so good that she earned a tiara for her patience. And they didn't even take it back when she screamed at them for sticking their fingers in her mouth and poking at all those new teeth coming in.

For my troubles, Jewel let me wear the tiara home, which I hope amused folks in rush hour on the Beltway. And she also let me in on a secret: if I make a kissing sound, she'll smile and lean her soft little cheek right over to my lips to get a kiss. Learning that was almost better than learning that all of her teeth were solidly in place.

OK, maybe a little better.

Papa Bradstein is going to stick two hands, a hoover hose and a bumbershoot in your mouth and then ask, So, how's your day going?

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

My 4-year-old is a better strategic planner than you

My bike commute is a great way to get in shape, a faster way to get to work than WMATA, and a form of moving meditation that generally clears my mind by the time I arrive at my destination.

In that clear space, I see thoughts more clearly, connect them and work through problems--mostly in my subconscious, as my conscious mind is dealing with survival issues. Last night for example, I was trying to solve this problem:

How do I fit this into 140 characters... Drivers: When your way is clear, it is not acceptable to stop abruptly in the middle of your lane to LOL, look up an address in your GPS or dig for that particularly complex booger that you've been chasing all day. Pull the %^& over--after checking your blind spot. And when your way is blocked, say, by a bicyclist, it is not acceptable to proceed.

While the portion of my lizard brain dedicated to crafting tweets worked that out, a conversation I'd had at lunch with a colleague came back to me. We were swapping war stories about our kids--her daughter is eight, so it's good to know that we've got at least four more years of this coming--and I was explaining 3B's bedtime routines when it dawned on me that he's a better strategic planner than most people I've ever worked with.

And if you're a former colleague reading this...of course I don't mean you. No. Of course not.

3B's strategic goal is to stay up as late as possible. He begins implementation of his plan well before bedtime. Some of his tactics don't have a 100% success rate, but he either abandons them or keeps retooling them until they have a higher success rate or at least lower downside risk.

One example of these is asking to watch a movie either just before dinner or just after, either of which would push his bedtime later. This has a 50-50 chance, but he works to increase his odds by ginning up as much chaos as he can prior to asking, during what Mama and I already refer to as the witching hour, increasing the likelihood that we'll give in out of exasperation.

He knows his goal--stay up later--and starts combining tactics--chaos, movie--to achieve it.

However, 3B has a surefire tactical combination that goes into action at dinner time. It starts with his not eating all of his dinner while drinking plenty of milk. We could feed him chocolate candy covered in chocolate sauce and a mountain of whipped cream as tall as he is and he still would leave half on the plate. His goal is not to sate his hunger. He ends every meal the same way, "I'm done, but save it."

Then it's time for bath, toy pickup, bed and stories. Bath time encompasses a myriad of tactics, but many are easily thwarted. Then we get to story time. We read three stories every night, brushing his teeth after the second story, just before the last one--if we can, that is.

Because that's exactly when 3B closes the trap he set at dinner time by saying, "I'm hungry. I want a snack." He knows full well that we won't let him go to bed hungry, and that we know he's hungry because he made such a show of not eating most of his dinner and asking us to save the rest. Further, because he says this after we brush his teeth, he knows that we'll have to do that again as well.

So, we do all that, get him settled, talk to him about his day, talk to him about Tinkerbell, then leave the room, exhausted.

Thirty seconds later, his bedroom door opens and we hear, "I need to go to the bathroom, just so you know." Every night, the exact same line. And we can't say no because we know the kid drank a tanker truck full of milk while he wasn't eating his dinner, because he made a big show out of being out and asking for more.

Add together the amount of time this pushes back his bedtime and we'd have to start putting him down immediately after lunch to get him into bed at a decent hour, all because he's got a better strategy than we do. Fortunately for us, age and treachery always overcome youth and skill.

How will we beat our curious little insomniac monkey? By out-strategizing him. And I know just the person to develop a great strategic plan for me.
"Say, 3B, I have a little problem that I'm wondering if you can figure out for me...I can never get Eeyore to bed on time..."

Papa Bradstein is going to have 3B develop a strategic plan to build a jet-powered bike.

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Friday, February 04, 2011

Let it burn

What does it take to ride 200 miles?

Many people ask me what it takes to ride my bike 200 miles in 2 days.

  • A hard ass?
  • Strong legs?
  • Carbo loading?
  • Are you high?
OK, that last one isn't really about what it takes, but why I do it. I've covered that before.

Not to downplay how hard the ride itself is, but to put it in some perspective, the ride's the easiest part of this journey. After all, by the time I get to the ride, I will have ridden over 2,300 miles in training--and that's just my bike commute. It doesn't include longer rides I'll have to do close to the event. I will have raised $4,300 during our country's biggest recession since the Great Depression. I will have written hundreds, if not thousands, of e-mails, tweets and blog posts.

And I will have stayed up until midnight almost every Thursday to appear on Kevin's show in Portland, Oregon, leaving me about four hours to sleep before I have to get up and get ready for work the next day. Despite the fatigue this creates, it's worth it. Over the last year, I feel like I've gotten to know Kevin through our weekly chats and regular contact on Twitter. Honestly, I speak to him face-to-face, as it were, more often than I do with my best friends, and through that we've developed a friendship.

I keep up as best I can with his daughter, and he grills me about my diet and the spare tire I grow around my waist over the winter...hey, waitaminnit...

And there will be the friends, some long-lost, some already in close contact, who step forward to make donations and share their stories of how cancer has affected them. And while that's hard--lord, it's always hard for me to hear these stories--it's fuel for my engine. I lay my sadness, my hurt, my anger on the fire and let it burn.

And that's all it takes.

Papa Bradstein's legs are going to burn for 200 miles--we won't even talk about how his ass will feel. Ease his pain with a shot or a rock or a bottle.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

All I really needed to know about parenting I learned from ninja movies

I have trained my body to wake at 5 a.m., so I don't need an alarm to sound. Sadly, my bladder has shifted to daylight saving time early and wakes at 4.

I slide off the foot of our bed, flat on my belly, crawl across the floor and out our bedroom door.

I have learned to lift up on the knob when swinging the door closed, then to pull hard on the knob when turning it to latch the door to avoid squeaking from the hinges or clicking from the knob.

I can whip eggs to scramble in a ceramic bowl without the fork ever touching the bowl, lest it ring out.

This is how I live out my mornings, all because our house is too small. And it appears to have been designed to function as a tuning fork, with every tiny sound amplified throughout every room.

Jewel still sleeps in our room--in her own crib, you attachment parenting haters, so stand down--because the only other room we could put her in is 3B's. Jewel goes to bed at 7, 3B goes to bed at 8. Or 8.30. Or 9, if he's had a long nap.

But then he doesn't go to sleep until he's gotten up three or twelve times to go to the bathroom. Every night it's the same: two minutes after Mama or I walk out of his room after reading stories, he opens his door, stands in the hallway, announces, "I have to go to the bathroom, just to let you know," then does his thing and returns to bed. For about five minutes before repeating the process.

Potty training is our Achilles heel, and he knows it. What are we going to say--no, you have to pee in your pull-up?

Also, if his sister was sleeping in his room, 3B would try to climb into her crib to play with her, just for fun, to get a rise out of us, and for 1,000 other reasons that I'll never understand. But he's not that gentle, our little giant, so he'd probably step on her head, hand, belly, or some other body part, then Jewel would swat him and start crying , then 3B would say he hates her for crying, and then Mama and I would be up all night, building a Berlin wall through their room.

Or Jewel would randomly wake up screaming and crying in the night, as she is wont to do. This is fine in our room--OK, not fine...far from fine, in fact, but for the sake of argument, let's just say it's fine--but in 3B's room, random screaming would be further from fine. Who knows what causes this? Lingering reflux? Bad dreams? Her ability, inherited from Mama, to have her sleep disturbed by a moth farting a quarter mile away?

It's that last one, Jewel's remarkable sensitivity to sound while sleeping, that has me slithering like a snake out of our bed every morning.

Good thing I was a fan of ninja movies as a boy. Still working on cracking an egg with a shuriken, though.

Papa Bradstein is dress all in black, strap a sword to his back, and silently ride 200 miles on his bike to attack cancer.

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Living with a toddler is like surviving a flood

Living with a toddler is like surviving a flood: don't put anything valuable near the floor.

That's easier said than done, of course, since living with a toddler requires spending a great deal of time on the floor. And getting up and down from the floor. All of which is not as much fun as an adult as I recall it being as a child.

Perhaps that's because the distance I have to travel in each trip is longer now, or because I've made the trip so many times now the scenery has become a bit boring, or because each time reminds me of the question a masseuse once asked me, "When did you injure your sciatic nerve? It must have been a huge injury."

Uh. What now?

For Jewel and 3B, however, it's fun to jump up, fall down, climb atop the couch, jump down off the couch, and run simply for the sake of running.

I remember those days, those long summer evenings, when the pavement is still warm from the sun, but a cool breeze is stirring. After the sun had set, but when it was still bright enough that the streetlights hadn't come on yet. I would set up running races, modeled after what I had seen of the Olympics, around the cul-de-sac, using the two sides of the sidewalk as lanes, lamposts and trees as start and finish lines.

And we would run. First one lap, then five, then ten, then maybe seven. We would just run.

In those glowing twilight hours, that was all that mattered to us.

Papa Bradstein is too old to run; he only exercises sitting down.

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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Four-part harmony





And last night, Jewel looked me in the eye from the bathtub and said slowly and clearly, "Daddy. Daddy. Daddy."

I looked straight back at her and said, "I love you too, sweetie."

Every day seems to bring new words to her lips. "Daddy" only sort of qualifies as new, since she's been saying "Dada" for so long. Either her speaking muscles finally developed to the point she can add the "e" sound on the end, or she's finally decided that I'm not an anarchist artist ridiculing the meaninglessness of the world, I'm just moderately disorganized.

According to Mama, Jewel's vocabulary extends to 3,600 words and includes synchrotron, succotash and sesquipedalian. OK, maybe not those last three, but Mama hears and can identify far more words than I can, since she's with Jewel for many more hours every day than I am. I'd say her vocabulary is about 20 words.

Jewel's, not Mama's, you knob.

Jewel's speech comprehension far outstrips her speech production, of course. I'm still delighted when she responds to what I'm saying, from simple questions such as, "Can you lie down on the changing pad?" to more complex requests such as, "Please go over to the door and get your boots and bring them back to me so we can put them on."

Having a four-year-old in the house, I'm actually delighted to know that my voice is still audible. For months now, based on 3B's reactions, or lack thereof, to simple requests like these, I've figured that I've been struck mute. Perhaps he just has a temporary hearing impairment that starts when I say, "Could you please..." and ends when I stop talking.

3B had better keep an eye over his shoulder, however, if he doesn't want to be overtaken by his little sister. Just this weekend, she was able to understand and respond appropriately to my request to "Please go to the 7-11 and get some beer. Something good. None of that schwaggy American-with-a-faux-German-name crap that's nothing but cold piss with bubbles. Oh, and bring me my change--don't buy any candy with it. That stuff's not good for you. Thanks."

She took my money, looked me right in the eye and said, "Yo, bro-lio. No prob."

Uh...what did she just call me?

So he can continue to understand what his children say, Papa Bradstein is going to be reading a dictionary as he rides his bike 200 miles.

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