Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Stuff

I really do enjoy that the kids are searching out their own interests and their own things. I'm really trying to show them the things that I love - the books, movies, and comics with which I grew up - but am consistently surprised by what they discover. The last several days, The Boy has been watching "Oggy and the Cockroaches" on YouTube. This is a cartoon originating in France, but - for whatever reason - he watches the Hindi translation on YouTube. Since the humor is 100% visual, it's not a big issue. It's just entertaining, listening to him roll over with laughter at this silly show.

Poking around YouTube & Netflix is what caused the boys to discover My Big, Big Friend and a few other shows. It's a neat thing - as long as we make sure he doesn't discover the stuff that is a little too adult for his viewing habits. Plenty of time for that later. (To my sons, later in life: 1) don't use my Macintosh; 2) don't use my PC; 3) clear your browser history.)

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What to get the kids when I travel next week? I'm not sure. Probably a comic book in French or two - maybe something familiar. Probably some candy, maybe a t-shirt each. They usually enjoy wearing matching t-shirts, although it's been a while since they've worn one that hasn't had Superman or Batman on it. French Superman? Maybe.

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The Baby has had a rough week, sleep-wise. He has slept really fitfully, which doesn't help any of us. He's been restless and need steady snuggling to get back to sleep. That doesn't bode particularly well for our trip next week, but we'll see.



The Wife has him significantly closer to being potty trained, mostly because he can't run as fast as he usually does. Broken leg as a potty training tool? I don't recommend it, but it might just help in this case. Hopefully, he's closer to 100% than 0% next week for the grandparents.

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Getting them started early / Tom Sawyer's trick: The boys helping with mowing the lawn last week. I have no issues with them being around our lawn mower, as it's a mechanical one and not a motorized one. Let's see if we can get that regularly. Too early, I know, but....


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Sunday, July 20, 2014

I Spy, With My Little Eye

We play this in the car. Here's how this usually goes:

The Baby: "I spy, with my little eye, something.... red!"

Me: "is it the red triangle?" (The hazard lights button)

"No." "Is it your cast?" "No." "Is it your buckle?" "No." "Give me a hint."

"Okay, daddy, I'll give you a hint. It's the red triangle."

"But I said that!" "Your turn, Dad."



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Today, I was wearing a purple polo shirt. I decided to mess with the kids and pick something that was a clearly wrong color. Me: "I spy, with my little eye, something brown."

The Baby: "Is it your shirt?"

Yes. Yes, it was.

I don't know what's more disconcerting: the fact that he nailed it on the first guess, or the fact that he tracked my thinking as to the color shift.


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Friday, July 18, 2014

Harry Potter and Star Wars

Last night, The Wife wasn't feeling very well, so after dinner, we sent her to bed, and I took care of The Boy, Little Bear, and Scooter.

I've decided that I'm going to try to make the nickname "Scooter" stick, because The Baby spend a lot of time scooting on his butt to get places. He's starting to adjust a bit to the cast - he still wants to climb, but he's not trying to walk. For his party, we moved the kitchen table in the middle of the room and the little person table to the middle of the living room. We'll probably keep it there, because it gives something for him to hold while he hops and scoots about.



So far, he's very good humored about the whole thing. We'll see how long it lasts.

The night went smoothly. Scooter sat by the play stuff and built with magnetic sticks. Little Bear pestered him for a little while, but ultimately stopped when he got kicked with the cast (alas, unintentionally). The Boy whined for my iPad for a little while, but when he realized I was serious about it, pestered Little Bear until he got punched (intentionally). "What were you doing to deserve that, The Boy?"

"Pestering him."

"Well, what did you expect him to do?"

He pondered that, then walked away and played fairly nicely with Scooter.

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At bedtime, we read the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I've decided that I'm going to use chapters - or parts - as bedtime reading for the indefinite future. I read Little Bear right to sleep, but The Boy was gripped fairly well. I did some editing of material; J.K. Rowling does tend to use a lot of language and describe some things that she doesn't need to describe. So, to shorten it a bit and keep it moving, I skipped over some descriptors. It's still pretty deep reading, but it'll be cool to spend a month or two working our way through the book together.



This leads me to think about how differently my children can enjoy and experience some things that are precious to me. Like, The Boy already knows that Anakin Skywalker is Darth Vader. Way back in 1981, before the Internet, I saw Empire Strikes Back. The revelation that Darth Vader was Luke's father absolutely changed my life. A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back is entirely different when viewed the prism that you already know who Luke is and who Darth Vader is.

My niece was 8 when the first Harry Potter book came out, The first book uses simple language (a lot of it, yes, but it's not complicated). The characters are well-developed, the plot is easy to follow, and the bad guys are evil without being too frightening. It's perfect for an 8 or 9 year old to read. Ms. Rowling's writing style changes and matures as the characters in the series do; the books came out one per year, as my niece matured, and the plots and characters became more adult as she did. Her experience reading the novels was very unique, and it will always be a special part of her childhood. The Boy, on the other hand, has access to all 8 movies and all 7 books right now. It's kind of up to him to experience it at the tempo and pace that he can, and he'll probably read it earlier than he can actually understand the material.

We don't watch live television, so the boys don't really have experience watching commercials. They're used to watching shows on Netflix and On Demand (at Grandma's house), which means the episodes state and end when they want, they have their choice of episodes, and they can crash through the better part of a season if allowed. That's very different from when I grew up, when we had the three major networks and a dozen or so cable channels, which expanded into 24 channels with some occasional extra stuff. If we missed the show, we missed it. VCRs weren't widely used until later, and tapes were initially expensive enough that they were used sparingly. Feels like a different country, doesn't it?

I honestly don't know how they'll interact with new content. I don't know what shows will grab them, and what book series will captivate them. This is truly a golden age of content: more awesome movies, books, comics, and shows are being produced than ever. There are so many amazing choices! I just hope that they will enjoy some of the same things that I have; I'd love to have the pleasure of taking them to a comic book movie, or a James Bond movie, when they're older.

Cute bit: The Boy got lonely sleeping on the top bed and snuggled his brother to sleep. May they stay close and loving for the rest of their lives.


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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Birthday Party

Last night, we had the third birthday party for The Baby. We had his bestie from preschool come over; when I ask The Baby about with whom he played at preschool, he'd answer this kid's name first. We had R bring over C & A from the next street over - we've played with these boys since we moved to Pittsburgh. They're wonderfully crazy little boys and a good influence on my kids. (Anyone who encourages my kids to take training wheels off, and anyone who encourages my kids to run around and climb is okay with me.) Grandma and Grandpa were there, of course.



It was perfect. We had pizza bagels, and fruit, and tuna salad. The pizza bagels had mushrooms on them, which are The Baby's favorites. We had juice boxes and water bottles, and we had party buckets with candies and shovels and sidewalk chalk. (Told you sidewalk chalk would be involved.) The bigger kids spent a big chunk of time riding their bikes around, highlighted by A (our neighborhood friend) taking his balance bike down our driveway, across the street (we grownups were sitting in the street, so cars were not an issue), up my neighbor's driveway, then through their bushes and onto their front yard.

Sigh. Our neighbors hate us enough as it is.

The Baby had a bit of a rough time for some of the party, when he was realizing that the cast wasn't letting him ride bikes or run around. Z's dad ported him and Z around in the wagon. The Baby also spent a nice chunk of time in the house with the grownups while the other kids were running around outside. As I said yesterday, there will be a period of adjustment while he gets used to his new reality.

We might have seen that before.

Highlight of the night: watching him blow out his candles from about four feet away from the cake. Nice lung power on that boy.



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We've made a real effort to give the kids small, freely-moving parties for birthdays and such. Aside from the fact that I'm broke, we've tried to shy away from "event" parties, because they don't really fit our parenting style. We have tried to make a big deal out of little things, out of experiences and companionship and family. I understand that going to a baseball game with my son is going to create a long-lasting memory and feeling. It doesn't matter if it's in a luxury suite, six rows behind the dugout, or the last row of the upper deck. Sitting with the boys, talking with them, BEING with them, is what's important. Presents aren't an issue; they come when they come, and they're special treats regardless of whether it's a big video game or a dollar store juice box.

As one of my friends (KHM, who threatened to beat me up again, if I didn't mention her - or worse, she would no longer give me some of the incredibly delectable baked goods that she prepares and brings to work regularly) sent me a quote earlier today: "Children need their freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." When we've done parties for the kids, we've tried to block off free time, block off as large an area as we can, throw a few toys, games, and crafts, and let them go do what they want to do. Watching them explore and exploring with them is a true joy. I know there will be a time for movie parties, show parties, and such that are based around EVENTS; I also know that I don't want to rush into that, if I can avoid it.



Our friend R, whose two boys were at the party, has done it exactly right, as far as I'm concerned. The first couple of birthday parties that she threw (that we attended, anyway) were in a large multipurpose room in a community center. They had some mats out, some toys on the mats, some face painting or something, and the kids played and climbed and fell and jumped and that sort of thing. This year, they're having a puppet show. That'll be cool - a nice, little event - my image is a 15-20 minute show in the middle of the party. A nice focusing agent, to which my kids might or might not sit still to watch.

That's not counting on the fact that a puppet show scared Little Bear half to death a few months ago. If he's forgotten or gotten over that, then we're good. Otherwise, he'll be outside playing.

Point being, particularly at this age, I don't think structure and events are the way to go for a party. Just give the kids somewhere to play and let them go. Gather them for cake and food and potty, and make sure that a grownup is close enough to supervise the really weird stuff. That's also acknowledging that it's a heck of a lot easier to do that kind of party in the summer, when parks are ample and outside is an easy option. Our friends with birthdays in January and February have more challenges.


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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Birthdays And Broken Leg

Last night, in the first night with The Baby's cast, I actually managed to go the entire night without getting the cast in the nuts. Got kicked with it a half dozen times but not in sensitive areas. He did spend the night with us, but that was mostly because The Wife and I were at chorus rehearsal together, and he decided to stay up and wait for us.



It's going to be interesting to manage. He's been a very active boy since he was born, and we've encouraged them to run around and play a LOT: running around, and wrestling, and hitting baseballs, and riding bikes, and climbing, and doing stuff that little kids like to do. All of a sudden, that is going to come to a screeching halt, as there IS no running around. There's scooting on his butt, and there's hopping. He's going to be very, very good at hopping soon enough. We're all going to need to learn how to manage a reduced mobility as a family; when it's the kids and one grownup, suddenly Sandcastle and the Family Park are off the table.

I also don't want to think about changing diapers with a cast. Ugh.

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I didn't get a chance to talk to Little Bear yet, about his second (now his third) day at camp. I'm wondering if the swimming stuff is going to make his camp experience better. I think it will, but it's hard to say. In the first couple of weeks of school last year, The Boy hit wall when it came to the full-day thing. His response, "I don't want to go to school any more. It's too long. I want to go back to Rodef Shalom." Little Bear is facing the same struggle right now. He's not used to being away from home for such a long time, and - being Mr. Sensitive - is struggling with it.



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Yesterday morning, The Boy was playing my Lego Batman game on my phone. I'm a completionist when it comes to my games: I want to unlock everything, collect all the items, and everything like that. He's getting there, but he's learning how to do that. So, part of the game is collecting Lego Minikits - these little things that, when you get one, lets you unlock a particular character. There are five in each level, except for the last level, where there are three. I'm missing three of the 60 or so, in two different levels. He took my phone, started playing one of the levels in which I was still hunting, and promptly found one of the three minikits I couldn't find. To make matters more annoying (than being bested by a six year old), he spent 300,000 of my coins on a character that I had no intention of unlocking. I was saving for a special ability to find minikits.

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Tonight, we're having a birthday party for The Baby. We've invited over a dozen families or so, give or take. We're having it from 6-8 tonight, and we're serving pizza bagels and tuna salad and fruit and cake. I don't think we have anything else planned, although we have lots of toys and lots of costumes and a half-dozen plastic baseballs with some bats. Plus a street that is good for riding bikes. It should be fun, albeit unconventional: how often does one have a birthday party without planned activities?



I mean, I'm sure there are going to be coloring books and stickers and sidewalk chalk (even though we don't have a sidewalk). I'm sure my wife has done some groundwork to have stuff prepared for the night; large groups of children without something to do are dangerous.



Hard to believe that it's already been three years. I remember our first trip to the hospital, on July 15 (his actual due date), at around midnight. They examined her and sent us home around 1 or 2AM, if memory serves. (No, I'm not going to back to review the blog. That's not as much fun.) What I remember clearly is stopping at Ritters Diner and eating pancakes on the way home. Those were really good pancakes. I also remember that The Baby was born about 45 minutes after we got to the hospital a few hours later; calling Grandma, "Are you guys settled in, yet?" "No, the baby was already born. Just squirted out, no fuss, no muss."

The Baby was not expected. He was, absolutely, a surprise (as was his older - not oldest - brother, to be honest). As has been proven over the last three years, it was a blessing and a magical, wonderful thing that has happened. The Baby looked and acted exactly like The Boy as an infant, but without the cancer and with blessed health. Watching him grow up has been a constant source of joy and pleasure and gives us a clue to the alternate universe, where the Wilms Tumor cells turned into kidney instead of cancer, and The Boy grew up cancer-free.



I wanted a big family, and we have one. I love the fact that, where ever I go, my kids have someone with which to play. They'll travel together through school and, hopefully, into life. They're going to be smart, talented, and brilliant young men.


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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Broken Leg

So, The Baby turns out to have a small fracture in one of his leg bones. Sigh. Poor kid. Also, poor us - we're going to be porting around a kid in a cast everywhere for the next couple of weeks. No pool, no Sandcastle, no sprinklers..... best part of the whole thing is that we're heading to France for the last week of the month. Sigh. It's not going to be easy, but we'll figure out a way to get it done.



It's not cancer, right? At the risk of offending karma, we've already had the crappy end of the stick, so I'm fairly confident that we can handle whatever is thrown at us.

The over/under for the number of times, at night, that the cast violently kicks me in the nuts: 2.5.



What do you think: Spider-Man webs on the cast?

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The first day of camp was a day of rain, so the boys had significantly reduced outside time and no swimming time. This was disappointing to them, as you can imagine. The Boy had a great time; he's really pretty adaptable. They did a project about an invisible, metaphorical bucket (side note: he understood what I meant when I asked if it was a metaphorical bucket, and that's strange for a 6 year old to know): you could be a "bucket filler" (someone who does good deeds and helps other people) or a "bucket dipper" (someone who takes energy and life from other buckets) in your every day activities. That's a neat thing, and he and I spoke about it for quite a long time yesterday. He's a smart kid and able to discuss philosophy like that, if you can keep the discussion inside of his developmental limitations.

Little Bear had a fun time, but he's really nervous still about camp. He doesn't like that it's all day; he's used to going home at 12:30, but this goes until 4 o'clock or so. Some of his friends from preschool are in his camp group, which is nice, but he had another meltdown at bedtime because he didn't want to go. I think he'll get over it, but it's going to take time.

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Birthday dinner last night at Yokoso, the Hibachi restaurant. I ate everything, as did The Boy. Little Bear picked at his plate but didn't eat that much beyond the soup and a little bit off of my wife's plate. The Baby ate all of his vegetables and a little of his rice, but none of the meat. So, I had lunch today. The Baby was terrified of the "onion volcano" that the cook makes, although the other boys loved it. The younger two ate birthday cheesecake, but The Boy didn't. I understand that. Cheesecake is good and all, but it's not high on my list of dessert.



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Monday, July 14, 2014

Birthday

For The Wife's birthday this year, I took the three boys to Dollar Tree. We walked all the way through the store and looked in every aisle: "What present could you pick for Mommy that SHE would like or use?" So, I talked them out of things like water guns (not her style), Justice League cotton candy (....maybe she actually would have liked that), a wiffle bat and ball, and a set of 48 crayons, and I tried to get them to think like her for a minute. Eventually, they settled on a pink sunglasses case (from The Boy), an outside thermometer (from Little Bear), and some pink and white fake flowers (from The Baby). We went home, I wrapped the presents, and they all made birthday cards for her.



Plans for her birthday wound up being a lot more flexible than I expected. I expected that we'd go to a nice family breakfast, then I'd work around the house while she took the boys to the Sunday concert at the park, we'd have a nice lunch together, then I'd go to rehearsal while she stayed with the boys. We'd have a relaxed family dinner at home, then early-ish to bed because the kids start camp the next day (today). I figured we'd bring the presents to breakfast to give to her.

Nope.

Everyone slept late in the morning, and by the time I finished my exercise, everyone was still asleep at 8AM. We had a nice breakfast at home, and The Wife did, indeed, take the kids to the concert and let me start working on her car: specifically, the 1,500 paint chips that have come off the car this past winter. We went out to lunch after the concert at a nice Mexican place in Monroeville, then we all went up to my rehearsal. On the way home, Grandma and Grandpa (who had just returned from spending the weekend in Maryland) offered to take the kids and let us go out for a drink or something on her birthday, so we went directly to their house to cook dinner. There, we discovered that we had left the iPads under the pavilion at the church, where the kids were playing with them.


Two hours later, I was back home with the iPads. I'd love to be mad at the kids - they were playing with them, they has responsibility for them. However, who was the idiot that left his iPad in the care of small children? That would be me. So, considering that I didn't get back to dinner until around 7, and considering that 2 and 3 were melting down in front of us because of exhaustion, we decided discretion was the better part of valor and took the kids home to bed.

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Little Bear had an emotional meltdown last night, triggered by 1) his perception that The Boy got more snuggles than he did at bedtime and 2) his nervousness about attending camp for the first time. I wasn't able to help him - and The Baby was irritating The Wife - so we swapped and things were good. I honestly don't know much about the camp that they're attending, other than having some knowledge of the campgrounds (at the Family Park). The Wife knew a bit about their daily schedule and the other kids in his camp group, which helped a lot. He works himself up into a frenzy over things like this; he's the most emo and excitable of the children. On one hand, I'm glad he's sensitive. On the other hand, I'm concerned about depression later in life - G-d knows it runs in the family.


The Baby, meanwhile, wanted to read Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, by Bob Barner; and Don't Wake Up The Bear, by Marjorie Murray. Don't Wake Up The Bear is a cute story about various woodland animals cuddling up with a soft, warm, hibernating bear to stave off winter's chill.... only to run in panic when a mouse's sneeze wakes up the grumpy bear. It's very cute and has an oft-repeated line, "....and DON'T WAKE UP THE BEAR," which The Baby whispers along with me. He snuggled himself to sleep soon after, while I read myself a book.

His knee is coming along. He's able to limp along for short distances, and he's trying to run as much as he can. We're still glad that he's getting examined tomorrow at Children's, but it's nice to see him improving much, much faster than we ever could.


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