Monday, February 27, 2012

Sneezing, coughing, giving you the shirt off my back

In the week or so since my last installment here, although my brother had an idea that changes everything, not much has changed--3B and I have been sneezing, sniffling and coughing our way through our days. We've been getting as much rest as possible, which I've achieved by staying home on sick days--at first to nurse 3B while Mama worked, and then to nap and nurse myself...also while Mama worked.

By the time I was sick, however, 3B had been to the doctor, who diagnosed a cold with looming ear infections. Given that his fever was already climbing over two days, which has always led to raging ear infections in the next day or two, Mama and I opted to give him antibiotics to avert the same outcome this time.

He has bounced right back. Sort of. Slowly. The infection symptoms--fever and lethargy--went away quickly, but the cold has lingered, as has mine. I've spent as much time resting as I could in our phone booth sized house with a two-year-old and a five-year-old running around. Some of that time I spent catching up on thank you notes to my PMC donors, who've given over $1,300 so far.

I let them know of my brother's idea, which is that not everybody wants to show their support for fighting cancer by strutting around in a skintight spandex shirt with three pockets across the back. As a cyclist, I can't imagine why that is, but I'll take his word for it, and so I'm now offering to anyone who gives $125 a Team Bradstein t-shirt, which will also be designed by my brilliant cousin.

I sprung this offer on her as she was walking down the jet bridge to board a flight to Holland, so she really couldn't say no. This also means that we haven't quite sorted out what the shirt will look like yet, but she's a professional artist, so I'm pretty sure it won't look like a two-year-old attacked it with 64 offense to my beautiful Jewel...which is what it would look like if I were to design it.

As soon as I have an idea of the design, I'll post it here, but in the meantime, you can now
honor anyone affected by cancer and get a t-shirt for a $125 donation, 100 percent of which goes directly to cancer research and patient care. Donate today.
Every donation I get makes me feel better than a shot of Robitussin, and that's saying a lot.

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

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Kick out the junk, motherfunker

In another age, when people had blogs and other people read them (or so we liked to tell ourselves), Zygote Daddy tagged me with a meme (google it for yourselves, whippersnappers), from which I discovered that I'm not the only one who's a bit OCD about his sheets and blankets.

Now, it turns out, I'm not the only one in Casa Bradstein who's so fastidious. In fact, I'm not the most fastidious at all.

Mama always accuses me of being neat and tidy, which she can only do because she didn't know me when I was a boy. As a boy, I was more tornado than tidy, but at some point I got sick of wasting time looking for things like keys, my wallet, books (this was before iDevices, kids), so I came up with a system to keep track of them: always put them away.

Not revolutionary...unless you knew me as a boy.

OK, OK, OK, I might also have strong opinions about how other things should be put away or organized or how tasks should be performed--this much you'll know if you know me now. This combination is what leads Mama to refer to me as neat and tidy.

When 3B came along, he clearly demonstrated from an early age that he was more tornado than tidy. We figured this just came with the dinner--he's a kid, clutter doesn't bother him, he need to be taught to put things away, etc.

But then we had Jewel.

As soon as she could play with toys, she would put them away when she was done with them--even if they had been out when she started playing with them, she knew to put them away and where they went. Mama and I literally stopped in our tracks and did a speechless double-take when we saw this. Had she been switched in the nursery? Was she secretly 37 years old? What was her deal?

Then Mama looked at me and said, "That's clearly your side of the family."

I suppose if I'm going to give Mama's DNA credit for 3B's need to be surrounded by clutter--OK, OK, OK, multiple items of high value to him, and dubious value to others, piled high on and around him...the Bradstein euphemism for this is "nesting"--I'm willing to take credit for Jewel's fastidiousness.

But it is a bit spooky when, before she lies down on our bed for one of us to read her stories, she insists on having "her" pillow behind her; having it arranged properly, which she often must do herself; and having the sheets and blankets aligned just so. Of course, when she gets into her crib, this entire process repeats itself. During stories, she also must have her toothbrush aligned on the bedside table just so and her bottle placed properly on a coaster there as well.

Last night was the capper, however, when she first aligned the square coaster with the corner edges of the bedside table, leaving a perfect one centimeter margin between the edges of the coaster and the bedside table.

We were again dumbfounded.

All my life, I've been wondering if anyone could ever get my affairs in order, clean house, kick the junk out of my trunk. Turns out that someone can. She's two and she's the Jewel of my heart.

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

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

I challenge you to embarrass me...again

That's me on the left below... and I will wear this picture of myself across Massachusetts and on my training rides...

...but only if I raise $500 in the next week.

At the same time you embarrass me, you'll honor my uncle, who is standing next to me in that photo. He died far too young of cancer--mesothelioma--but with your support he can still ride with me.

You'll also do his daughter, my brilliant cousin, the honor of being able to again put her father onto my jersey, which she designs pro bono each year.

But wait, there's, seriously, there's something in it for you. The more you give, the more you get...

Get your own jersey to forever mock me with if you contribute $250 or more.
Or, put your face--or a loved one's--on my jersey if you contribute $100 or more.

It's a real win-win for you: embarrass me and fund a cure for cancer.

And, you know, many thanks to my brother for unearthing this image.

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

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Put a face on the fight against cancer

Update: Deadline extended to May 21.

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 May 21.

You can get your own jersey when you donate $250 or more by March 30 May 21.

100% of your donations go directly to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a premier cancer research center and hospital.

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

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Potty like a rockstar

We have only one only child in our house, although now we have two potty-trained children in our house.

3B is the only one among us who, as the oldest child, was an only child for any period of his life. Mama is a younger sister, I'm the youngest of six and, of course, Jewel is a younger sister too.

It's not that Mama and I weren't loved, it's just that we never had the undivided attention of our parents. I had a simulation of it when I was older, after my siblings had moved out. And back in. And out again. And back in again. And when I wasn't at college when they were out again.

And the timing couldn't have been better: just as I was becoming a teenager and wanted (almost) nothing to do with my parents to assert my independence, I got to be alone with them. Although, in my case, it wasn't them, it was just Mom, since Dad had already died. And her attention was divided, even when we were the only ones in the house, since she still had five other children to pay attention to, worry about, and so forth, even if they weren't there.

And I always had them to learn from, even if they weren't always around. I remember them gathering in the bathroom to teach me to brush my teeth, I remember my brother teaching me how to do laundry, and I'm still learning from them...for example, my sisters constantly help me be a better parent.

Similarly, Jewel has 3B to look up to, and boy, does she. She copies everything he does, even when she has no idea what it means. When he replays a scene from a Scooby Doo movie, yelling, "Fall back!" as he shoots his grappling hook at the ceiling and jumps off the couch, she does the same. When he shows off his dance moves from his p.e. class, she follows right along. She knows her alphabet--and aleph bet--how to count--and how to count by 10s--and so much more just from aping him. And now she's using the potty, just like him.

I'm actually not sure if the motivation came from watching him or not, but it's a fair guess that it did, and he was helpful at times with her potty training, so I'll give him credit. Of course, Mama gets the bulk of the credit for recognizing Jewel was ready, hurrying/carrying her to the potty so many times to help her be successful, and cleaning up her accidents.

Even with all of that help, it's really amazing that in just a few weeks, we've gone from changing diapers to having a potty-trained daughter. She still needs help in the bathroom, but she now gets there pretty much on time every time. Even Mama has said that she was just helping her out, that Jewel figured it all out for herself--with, of course, role models to follow.

Have I mentioned how much I like second children?

Jewel does still wear diapers to nap and sleep through the night, but that's only fair, since she's still in a crib and so can't climb out to get to the potty, even if she did wake up to do so. Since she's still sleeping in our room, since we only have two bedrooms in our house, and since there's not room in our room for another bed, she probably won't be fully potty trained until we move into a new house.

In the houses we're looking at, she'll not just have her own bed, but also her own room. While it will be nice to be able to once again read in bed, keep my clothes in my room instead of in the hall closet and to not have to sneak out like a ninja in the mornings to avoid waking her, I will miss her.

Training, I suppose, for when she and 3B move out, and Mama and I become only parents.

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

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Pacifier, pacifier! Where art thou, pacifier?

It's amazing how much Jewel talks now, and it's fun to see her try out new words as she learns them. I will admit, however, that it's a bit more fun when it happens a bit later than 6 a.m. on a weekend day.

On Saturday, we had to get up early to get to 3B's swim lesson, but not quite as early as Jewel rose from her bed. She started off slowly, if not quietly, singing "Down to the Valley to Pray," but as soon as she saw Mama rousting to pluck her out of her crib, Jewel started with the soliloquy.

"I dropped two of my pacies. They fell on the floor. I couldn't reach them. They are down there. Where are they? I can't see them."

And so forth, all the way out the door and down the hall.

The reason Mama was peeling herself off her pillow to extract Jewel was to allow me to sleep in what little I could before swim lessons, since I'm up at 5 every weekday. As for what Jewel was doing? What does she care? Doesn't everybody take a midday nap?

The only problem with Jewel's logic is that she's starting to skip her nap some days, which is fine until about 4 p.m., when she develops a China Syndrome: total nuclear meltdown. All her beautiful words escape her, and she can't understand that she's hungry, tired and cranky, so anything we do to comfort her fails.

She often badgers us for her bottle until we eventually relent, since it's really more for the comfort than for the milk. Sometimes singing will work, although woe be to the parent who picks the wrong song, which might just be the song that worked so well yesterday at the same time. But, fortunately, she will talk enough to say which song she does want...and, of course, which specific pacie she wants if you bring her the wrong one from her quiver of 163 pacies.

All of this, of course, leads us to put her down to sleep earlier, which leads her to wake earlier, which leads us back to the start of this story.

Yes, my whole life has become an "If You Give a Cat a Cupcake" story, which is, like, totally Shakespearean, except not.

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


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Thursday, February 02, 2012

Get under the blankets or on the bike?

All I really wanted to do was curl up and take a nap yesterday when it was time to leave work. It's my first week back riding my bike to work every day since mid-December. I, of course, also made it my first week back to getting home earlier to help Mama through the witching hour with the kids. That, of course, means that it's my first week back to getting up at 5 a.m.

If you knew me back when--say, in high school--you'd know that I'm not so much of a morning person. And if you knew me in college, you'd know that I am most definitely a nap person. But, yesterday as I was thinking that I'd much rather crawl under the blankets than climb onto my bike, I thought of my high school friend who just lost her mother to breast cancer while she herself is fighting it.

In a message to me, she talked about how tired she was, how hard it was to keep it all together for her young kids, and how she couldn't decide about her mom's service...hat or wig? hat or wig?

Somehow, through it all, she's kept her sparkling wit, demonstrating her true courage through grace under pressure. I'm not terribly surprised, however, since she was one of the steady hands that guided me through high school when I was not only being torn apart by my father's death from cancer, but also heavily under the influence of adolescence the whole time.

Sure, none of us knew what we were talking about, but in a time when everything around me seemed to be flying around me as if the parts of my life were shattered and raging around me in a tornado, she was there. She was always there. She wasn't the only one, but she was one among a very few. Turns out that's all I really needed: people who were always there.

Now, when she's looking up through the funnel cloud, I'm 3,000 miles away. But I'm doing what I can to be there for her, just as I did two years ago for my other high school friend who successfully fought breast cancer. And for my college friend who fought cancer. And my coworker.

I got on my bike and rode home, enjoying every moment. Enjoying the surprising spring weather in the midst of winter, enjoying the sun shining down, the sparkle of every leaf of grass, the wind--yes, even the headwind--and the motion of my body, powering myself home to my wife and kids.

And, quite honestly, I was doing it for all of our kids. Everyone I named who fought cancer--friends from high school, college, work--has kids. And while we will receive some of the rewards of the research my bike riding funds, our kids will receive the bulk of the bounty. I won't speak for my friends, but if they're anything like me, they'd say that's as they wish. As a parent, I'll do whatever it takes to ensure the happiness of my children.

Whatever it takes, I'll be there.

Papa Bradstein will be there...and there, and there, and there...riding 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Of mice and birds

Because I know you all care deeply about how our house smells, I'm glad to report that the abattoir aroma is gone.

Or not.

Yesterday it was back in full force, to the point that Mama lost her appetite for dinner. So, I dug into the best I could. I climbed into our laundry closet and from atop our dryer, peered down the duct into the dryer and cleaned out as best I could the duct from the dryer to the outside.

That seemed to have no effect and I couldn't smell anything emanating from the duct. I did, however, pull out some lint that appeared to perhaps have some bird poop attached to it. This isn't surprising, since the end of every duct in our building is only covered with a light metal damper, which is supposed to lift when the fan behind it is turned on.

It also lifts when a clever bird perches below it and goes into the duct behind it to build a nest. We're not quite a rookery, but in some areas of our building this is prevalent. It also appeared that there might be some droppings at the dryer end of the duct, but it was hard to tell from my position.

So today we're having someone come to pull the washer and dryer--they're stacked--out of the laundry closet and open up the dryer to ensure that it's not doubling as a mausoleum. We don't think it's a home for anybody, since we don't hear anything moving in it or through the ducts.

I then went on to work on the kitchen exhaust fan, where I found nothing. However, while I was working on that, the smell got worse. I had thought the only way for it to get worse would be for the dead thing to drop through our ceiling onto our floor, but that didn't happen. So...where is the smell coming from?

Stay tuned. As soon as we know, you'll know.

Until then, I'm left to wonder if I'm Robert DeNiro or Bob Hoskins...

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

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