Saturday, February 24, 2007


Dear Vampboy-

About a week and a half before you were born, I was walking to a meeting when I fell on the ice and broke my pelvis. I remember sitting in the emergency room in stunned silence as the doctor told me -- while your mother, carrying you for the final lap, leaned back in the chair next to me. "How could this be?" I wondered. "First of all, I'm 34 and not 64 -- aren't I a little too young for my pelvis to break? Secondly, there's a baby on the way any moment. How am I supposed to be the dutiful husband on the big day when I can't even walk?"

Fortunately you waited until my healing had me only hobbling on one crutch, which allowed me to drive your mother to the hospital for the big event -- two years ago today. Your arrival was not an easy affair (what a surprise, I know) but I remember that through the difficulty of delivery, your heart beat never waivered. Through the heart monitor it sounded like a techno song, a "thumpa-thumpa" so powerful I can still hear it in my head to this day. It is the strength of that heart, I know now, that has brought you through to this moment. Turning two is a big affair for anyone, but in your case it is a quiet miracle that almost didn't happen. I have wandered through today with a mix of typical parental glee, great sadness for what you have endured, fear that this may be the last birthday, and yet joy at the opportunity to celebrate your big birthday at home with family and friends, rather than the hospital.

These days I find myself looking to you for strength. Here you are, after more than 6 months of hell -- needle sticks, blood transfusions, surgeries, drugs, radiation, tube feedings -- and you run about grinning ear to ear, wearing your birthday crown with the enthusiasm of any giddy toddler. Your youth gives you the ability to be present in any moment, allowing you to forget the sickness of yesterday and be present with the cake, strawberries, toys and family that is your today.

There is so much I have learned from you already. As I watch you run around with your new remote control car, laughing wildly as it spins on the ground, the only thing I can think is how desperately I want more birthdays with you, and how much more I'm sure you have to teach me. As you mark your transition from baby to toddler, I just want to throw out to the world how crazy I am about you. In spite of everything we've been through, I wouldn't trade your presence as my son for anything in the world. I'd gladly break my pelvis again, or bear any pain necessary, to see you laugh like I saw you laugh today.

Here's to many more laughs as father and son. I love you, kid. Happy birthday!


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Possibly Maybe

Like most parents, finding the time to do much of anything beyond breathing is a challenge. When you're trying to juggle work, marriage, kid and cancer, it gets a little more complicated -- after all, those chemo and nausea drugs are messy if they spill.

Here is my most recent list of things I'd do with my free time if I had any. Note I did not include drool, sleep, vegetate in front of the television, or rock back and forth in a corner -- as those items are automatics when fleeting free time arises.

1. Upload my cd's to Itunes. Note that this would require a lot of free time.
2. Write more. Not just on this blog, but perhaps join the ranks of those who pontificate on multiple sites around the web. Or, work on one of the many "great works of literary genius" I have swimming around in my head.
3. Yoga. I've been wanting to try Bikram Yoga for some time. This is the kind that involves the class being held in an oven. Since I'm not a fan of hot days nor am I at all in shape, I figured this would be the perfect way to push myself into health -- or perhaps into a coronary.
4. Estate Planning. I never said that everything I'd do would be fun -- and as the parent of a 2-year old, I hang my head in shame that this item hasn't been taken care of. At least avoiding my end-of-life work involves preventing my son's, though.
5. Read. It's taken me 6 months to read Eragon -- a kids book, for heaven's sake! Never mind the stack of Utne and Sun magazines that is piling on my nightstand.
6. Get Techno-savvy. Let's face it; I may know how to put a few words together, but I haven't the foggiest idea what I'm doing in cyberland. That's why there are no funky banners, no purchased domain names, no interactive do-dads here @ Vampdaddy.

There are certainly more - in fact. #7 should probably be "think of more things to do with the spare time you don't have". Nevertheless, they are all stark reminders of what "could have been", versus what is. Not that a having a healthy child gives you all the free time in the world, either -- but when your weekends that would normally be spent in "family outings" are instead spent in the hospital, it makes it all the more acute.

Fortunately we are on a hospital-free weekend at the moment, and outings abound. However, with a hospital stay looming for next weekend most likely, I'll forgo accomplishing any of the above, and focus on the sleeping and drooling.

It's all about priorities.

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Hipster in Me

So, the parent-blogging world is a-twitter with an article released by Time last week that basically suggests a rather negative impression of "parents today", particularly of the Doc Martin-wearing, alternative music-listening (when "alternative music" was a phrase that actually meant something), blogging type. Many of my counterparts in the parent-blogging world have weighed in a response...Do I dare miss my chance to be counted?

While my blog may have taken a detour into medical drama, my initial intention was simply to have a place to share my experience as a parent, and perhaps dialogue with others entering into the foray of momma and dadda-hood. My current circumstance has added another layer to the purpose of my words here...But it has never had anything to do with stroking my ego or keeping me at the "cool table" (truth be told, I've never sat there -- are the seats heated?).

Yet, James Poniewozik writes in the article:

This is not to say the hipster writers are bad parents--or writers; their work can be wise and moving. But the generation that as children was told by TV that "the most important person in the whole wide world is you" is finding it hard to pass that torch.

All parents face the moment where their life to a point takes a back seat to the child in front of you -- and the reality is, the parents I've connected with through blogging have happily embraced that developmental milestone -- even those who can successfully lip-sync a Cocteau Twins song (an that takes work).

Maybe we should all apologize. I guess I didn't realize that parenting was about secrecy - that it as wrong to openly discuss my experience becoming a parent (and a pretty good one at that). In an age when most people don't even know their neighbor, I had the audacity to enter into a community of people who are in the midst of new parenting and talk openly about it. I guess I figured I'd learn something, or at least think I'm not alone when my little one does something strange (like eat Cheddar Bunnies dipped in sour cream). I guess I was wrong -- after all, secrecy has done wonders for families (see: divorce, abuse, neglect). My god, it's a wonder any of us talk about our families at all.

And forgive me if I take pleasure in watching Vampboy dance around the house to Eurtyhmics. I believe that good parenting includes allowing your child to get to know you -- what makes you who you are, what you're likes and interests are. How on earth are they expected to rebel as teens if they don't know that stuff? And my attempts to connect my son with who I am has nothing to do with trying to "remain hip". It's about who I am, which last time I checked I can't really change unless placed in a witness protection program.

Am I a hipster parent? Well, the survey I took tells me that I'm a little bit hipster -- if I lived in Park Slope, I'd apparently be a more so. But to me, being a good parent, who treats their kids like gold and shares their experiences with the world is hip. So you won't hear any apologies from me.

Of course, this James fellow only needs to read a few entries on my blog to see that there are parents out there who give up parts of themselves no parent should have to in order to do what's right for their kid, and being a "hipster" has nothing to do with it.

Blog on, fellow parents. I'm off to help Vampboy load up his ipod for the next chemo round, and get him fitted for his own steel-toed boots and leather jacket. For the non-bloggers reading this, I encourage you to continue to check out the other blog sites I have linked on the right of my page. These are good people (and parents) who have something to say.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

God is a Bullet...

...A bullet dodged, apparently. Testing an much examination of Vampboy's nether regions have shown that it is indeed not chicken pox that's going on...What it is we're not sure yet, but it's manageable enough that they let us come home last night. So, we're enjoying a weekend that was almost spent in quarantine.

So this is what it's like to have a work furlough from prison!

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Pox on our House

One of the tough decisions parents need to work through is the myriad of vaccinations that young tykes are given. There are so many questions -- are they worth it? Do they work? Could they harm my little one? Most choose to follow the advice of doctors, and proceed with the hopes that the "immunity armor" will pay off.

A recent addition to the army of vaccines is one for varicella -- that fantastic virus that causes chicken pox. Vampboy had it, as did many of this friends. As, perhaps, your young one did as well.

Given my day today, let me share with you some little known facts about the chicken pox vaccine. Whereas the polio vaccine prevents people from getting polio, the chicken pox vaccine does not -- in many kids, the vaccine simply prevents the severity of a chicken pox outbreak.
Remembering my own experience (I think I swam in a tub full of calamine lotion for about a week), I would normally be quite pleased at the concept ofVampboy not facing the "terrible itch".

Then again,"normally" is a word that has been stricken from my vocabulary. See, having a vaccine that doesn't prevent chicken pox entirely isn't very comforting when you are the parent of animmuno-compromised cancer patient. Which, I am.

And, you're little one gets chicken pox. Which mine might have.

I say "might" because the doctor's aren't actually sure that's what's going on. Granted, one of his dear friends he got a chance to hang out with during the "chemo vacation" came down with a mild case about a week ago, but the timing of the play date leading to exposure and outbreak doesn't totally add up. Even so, whenVampmommy noticed the rash on Vampboy's backside this morning, she quickly took the reigns and had him shuttled into quarantine at the clinic -- which turned into our first admission to the hospital since well before Thanksgiving.

Testing that detects chicken pox came back "inconclusive". To complicate matters further, the typical sores seen with "CP" look different in kids that are vaccinated -- and even more so for kids undergoing chemotherapy. So, on top of spending a night away from home for the first time in awhile, our little one has had the distinct pleasure of having about a dozen doctors, nurses and specialists staring at his bottom for the better part of the day.

Tomorrow will arrive with more bum-looking, and depending on whether things progress or improve they will hopefully arrive at a conclusion as to what's going on. Until then, we wait and pray that it's just a rash. Feel free to google the impact of chicken pox on kids undergoing
chemotherapy if you wish -- but trust me when I say it can potentially make my anti-itch bath time look like a relaxing wash of Jean Nate Bath Splash.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Shock and "Awwwwwww"

Well, one week into radiation therapy and Vampboy is doing shockingly well. Our surprise at this comes less with the fact of his radiation therapy (as there are little short-term side effects from that), but instead from the fact that he also had a rather intensive chemo round. Even so, he is running about, continuing to eat all of the pasta and cream cheese that he can, and overall in a great mood! This is not at all what we expected, and we are painfully aware that it probably won't last -- but we'll take it when we can get it.

So, let us turn our attention to last night's main event. I am, of course, not talking about the Super Bowl. Given that my favorite sport to watch is Westminster Kennel Club (to play...Candlepin Bowling), it should come as no surprise that I speak of the most brilliant piece of counter-culture television on the planet.

I speak of Puppy Bowl III.

Most stations understand that they're hosed pretty much regardless of what they put on while the Super Bowl airs. However, while surfing for a distraction three years ago, my wife and I stumbled across this brilliant effort on the part of Animal Planet to embrace this fact, throw their production arms in the air and say, "screw it".

Yes, there is nothing like 3 hours of puppies flopping around a mock-football field to ease the soul. Over the last couple of years they've added a few elements for pizazz:

Bowl Cam. This element has been there from the beginning, offering dizzying shots of dogs tongues as they lap up water in the bowl. Of course, most of the dogs are also obsessed with the light coming from underneath the bowl's glass bottom, so they spend their time pawing the water trying to get at it.

Human Ref. The first year there was never any sign of humans -- with the exception of the occasional hand that could be seen pushing the puppies down the chute and into the field. The last two years have included a referee, who calls time out to refill the water dish. Thrilling.

Kitty Half-Time Show. Forget Prince -- or any concern for a "wardrobe malfunction". Kitten's frolicking on a mock-stage to techno music takes the cake. The excitement of watching cats lounge underneath a disco ball is of course heightened by the fake cheers that emanate from the thousands of fans painted on the walls.

Tail Gate Party Shorts. What's a game without shots of the fans watching with baited breath? These dogs clearly know how to party, and this addition to the broadcast gave the audience a chance to connect with the "average snoopy".

Instant Replay. Didn't catch Spike falling on top of Lucy? Missed Fido tossing that ball in the air and hitting Pudge on the face? No worries -- here it is again in slo-mo, with cheese-cloth effects to make the scene look dreamy!

Vampboy does not watch TV yet -- but I think we may indoctrinate him with Puppy Bowl IV.