Monday, December 29, 2008

The New Lair

In Dracula, the aforementioned member of the undead decides to move to London -- and packs boxes of dirt from his home in Transylvania. Vampires can travel, but they can never really leave their first home behind.

With this in mind, I'm pleased to note that I'm on the move. While it's no Carfax Abby, it's a little roomier and gives me an overall glow of renewal that might be warranted in 2009.

So, pack your reading glasses, tissues and garlic and head over to my new lair.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Postus Ephemerus

Well, Facebook finally stopped carrying my blog feed since I haven't posted in 30 days, and VM called me on the carpet for falling off the blogging-map. Best get back on, I suppose.

The truth is I haven't felt like writing much of late. No particular reason for my ennui (10 points for using "ennui" in a sentence!), but the drive just can't seem to rise to the top of the work/home life/laundry pile. As life returns more "to normal", it seems that there's much to do! Then the holidays come and bring with them tidings of good cheer -- not to mention inches of snow, bitter cold and ice-covered roads.

So I add my seeming lack of commitment to regular online story-sharing to the Vampdaddy Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda List of 2008. In the meantime, my guilt is softened by the other reason behind my absence: Vampboy has exploded into the almost-4 year old with boundless energy (so much so that we actually wondered if his seizure medication was sending him off the hyper-active deep-end). As New England has been gripped with power outages over the past few weeks due to an ice storm, VB has monitored closely the status of the "wire guys", endlessly making predictions of when various buildings will get their lights back. It's like watching commentators during a sports half-time show -- or at least that's what I'm told, as "sports" and "half-time" aren't really part of my daily vocabulary. Our time together is filled with long, drawn-out answers to "how was school today" -- and the question posed back; "How was work today, Daddy?" It seems as though my energy is focused on continuing the momentum of the new normal where normal becomes the operative word.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of a 4 year-old cancer patient. H didn't have the same cancer as VB, but struggled just as long (longer, in fact) and just as hard, until finally her little body couldn't take any more. The service was an intense experience -- both embracing the joy and celebration that comes with childhood, and reaching into the unimaginable grief and anger at a child's life cut short. For VM and I, there was the added layer of staring into the possible future for ourselves. All in all, it was not an experience I'd recommend.

However, I was struck by something that H's mom said in her comments to those in attendance. As she talked about H's energy, spunk and tenacity, she noted the choice that lies before all of us who fight hardship -- be it cancer, care giving, loss. The choice to decide for ourselves how we will greet and manage each day. "We choose who we will be," she said.

I guess over the past month and a half I've tried to choose to embrace with gratitude the opportunity we've been given; one more day with our son, one more day to live in the world without fear or anxiety of what yesterday has caused or what tomorrow might bring. One more day to enjoy as if it was like any we experienced B.C.

I know it's safe to say that I haven't made this choice every day in the last year. Instead I've sometimes chosen to allow my anger and frustration get the best of me, or let my lack of sleep or lack of quiet "me time" turn me into a bear. While working through these states is all part of the recovery from our experience, it can be so easy to let it take over.

Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda.....

But no matter -- today is a new day. I'll probably continue to lay low on the blogosphere through the end of the year, as I try to take some things off of the aforementioned list (getting back into yoga, filing a year's worth of bills and receipts, finally getting around to the financial plan, re-organizing the CD collection). In the meantime, I wish you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season, from a dad who's getting happier and a son who remains healthy.

Happy Holidays,

VB with "Grandma B" and a ornament containing a picture taken while VB was in treatment. 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

VB 5, C 0

Once again the machines whirl, the heart stops, and the anxiety of everyday life (something about an election?) takes a back seat to questions of life or death.

Today the answer is LIFE, as VB flies through another MRI with a "Free of Disease" scan. This one marks a milestone of sorts, as VB is now over 2 years from diagnosis with no sign of recurrence. While in the end this particular form of cancer doesn't allow for taking solace in such benchmarks, it feels worth noting.

Of course, there is another major event happening today, and as I type the ending is unknown. Regardless of the outcome, I will sleep tonight and dream of a future that almost wasn't but

Friday, October 31, 2008

The 2008 Vampdaddy Halloween Post

Ah...Darkness descends, the Conquerer Worm turns in his coccoon, and the Goths get extra Gothey -- it's Halloween! I share with you now the true face of horror -- this year with multi-media...


Yes, here's VB in all his homemade canine glory. VM certainly outdid herself on this one -- replete with dog bone collar and wagging tail, VB was the cutest among the local trick-or-treat set.

Puppies and Natalie Portman! BWAHAHAHAHA

Never has impending Armageddon been so cute.

See more Natalie Portman videos at Funny or Die

No Puppies -- but bad 80's Vampire Euro-Disco Music! BWAHAHAHAHA!

This group apparently also has songs about aliens and Yeti. Truly Frightening.

As with my past posts on All-Hallows Eve, I'll share with you an interesting trivia fact: The actor to have played Dracula more often than any other was Christopher Lee.


Monday, October 20, 2008

When Staying in Bed is the Better Solution

Today I walked into a wall. It happened while I was escorting someone through my office lobby and into a conference room. Of course, this particular location has a 10-foot tall sculpture of the state hanging on it, which I assessed is made of metal after listening to it clunk against the wall, loud enough for everyone in the building to hear. Granted, this was better that what immediately went through my head: the proud monument to our community crashing onto the floor, maiming someone in the Communications Department.

The person I was meeting with was quite gracious as I peeled myself off the wall and suggested we start with some coffee, as I was clearly in need of a caffeine fix. Let's just say the subsequent coffee-clutch did not improve the rest of the day. While I avoided hitting other structures or further damaging the region, this was definitely a day that ends with a sense that the world would be better off if I stayed at a safe distance.

I'd type more, but I fear my propensity for run-on sentences would somehow set the fish tank on fire. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Walk-a, Walk-a

Yep, my feet hurt.

Yep, it was worth it.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Song to the Siren

It starts innocently enough -- you raise your child to be friendly and outgoing -- to develop bonds to others, while remembering always that you in your role as parent are the best thing since sliced bread. You revel in every hug, every kiss, every "I love you Daddy", with the wild abandon of a cat diving into a pool of catnip.

Then, just when you think you've mastered the parent/child bond, she comes along.

She, with the long flowing hair and sultry voice.

She with the size zero waste, the purple clam-shell bra, and long, slender fins.

I speak, of course, of Ariel.

Yes, after indoctrinating Vampboy into movie-watching with this undersea harpie and her collection of exotically-gilled friends, VM and I have watched our son descend from an independent little guy into a hopelessly obsessed boy, pining for the aquatic love that dare not speak its name.

After viewing the movie three times, it was time to break out the soundtrack. After listening to that about 1,000 times ("Poor Unfortunate Souls", indeed) it was time to buy the tie-in book -- which VB would take to bed and look through until his tired eyes closed and his sleepy arms dropped the book onto his face. In our continuing negotiations about the goal of moving beyond pull-ups into "big boy underwear", the only way we've made any progress is to assure him that we will supply "Little Mermaid underwear" -- even though that means VM will be putting her artistic talents to drawing her on toddler boy tighty-whiteys.

We tried to let him watch "Finding Nemo", but it only reminded him of other characters under the sea he'd rather spend time with. He did sit through "Cars", but he only seems to care about Lighting McQueen being on his pull-ups. I guess you can't fight toddler love.

Somewhere Walt Disney is laughing in his cryogenic storage tank, counting off one more convert to be added to the growing drone army that will be unleashed when the alien invasion arrives. (Note: This reminds me -- I'll have to explain my "Disney conspiracy" another day.)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Stand Up to Cancer -- You Too, Kid!

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. This Saturday, September 13th, is Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Of course, for me, every second of the last 2+ years has been Childhood Cancer Awareness Moment.

But it's not about me. In fact, it's about:

- 12,500: That's the number of children newly diagnosed with cancer every year in the US, according to Curesearch . That's 34 families a day that receive the worst news you could ever imagine (an I should know).

- 1 in 250: By 2010, that's the number of adults that will be survivors of a pediatric cancer.

-The leading cause of death in youth under the age of 15: Brain Tumors.

Of course, although these numbers are tragic and heartbreaking, they do not match the number of adults that receive a cancer diagnosis in a given year. For that reason, many of the major "cancer advocacy" groups often talk about childhood cancer as an after-thought.

Well, it shouldn't be. For kids who develop cancer, their survival often comes with a lifetime of future hardships and challenges that are unique. Childhood cancers impact patients and families in ways different than adult cancers. There are educational challenges that are yet to be fully understood -- there are health insurance challenges that will plague childhood cancer survivors for years (or until the United States gets it together and decides to treat access to affordable, quality health care as the right of every American and not a luxury). These are just two examples, but there are more.

So, here are a few things to think about, know and do in recognition of this month/day/moment. Let your heart be your guide....

1. VOTE. Let this serve as my one comment on the current election season. Don't vote for anyone who would not increase funding for cancer research -- and make sure they include pediatric cancers specifically. Do vote for anyone what would ensure that every child with a cancer diagnosis has access to the best treatment possible, at a cost that will not bankrupt the family -- or saddle a young child with a lifetime of debt they will inherit from their parents some day in the future.

2. GIVE. Whether it's your local Children's Hospital, Pediatric Cancer Clinic or Research and Advocacy Organization, they all need your help. Or, the next time your local news runs a "human interest story" about some family going through pediatric cancer, write down the fund address that usually pops up at the end and send them a check -- even $5 means a lot. Tell them Vampdaddy sent you.

3. Remember. Lately it has become quite "sexy" to talk about cancer. Between Lance Armstrong returning to cycling (ride on!) or this month's Stand Up to Cancer event, the disease has become a media darling. Make sure that the glitz of the next Cancer Cause that gets tossed at you includes some conversation about kids with cancer. If it doesn't, move on.

4. Eat at Chili's on September 29th. I am the last person to advocate for fast food -- and have not opted to use my blog as a venue to advertize. However, Chili's restaurants is donating all of the profits they make on that day to the St. Jude Research Hospital. As it's the only place around that not only provides treatment, but housing for families -- all FREE OF CHARGE -- they deserve some love. They are also treating patient's with VB's Cancer. My advice is to try the Blue Cheese Burger (with the Black Bean Burger substitute, for all you vegetarians out there).

5. By groceries at Stop and Shop. Of course, both #4 and #5 only apply if you live in an area where they exist -- but Stop and Shop grocery stores provide huge amounts of funding to the Jimmy Fund Clinic at Dana Farber in Boston -- specifically their Brain Tumor Clinic Program. It also helps that they actually have a decently affordable line of organic goods. Yummy.

6. Vote. Yes, it's so important that I said it twice.

Be back next week with something more amusing and less cancer-related...Promise...

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Our Cancer

Leroy Sievers is gone.

Those of us who have been reading his "My Cancer" blog over the past couple of years new this day was coming. Recently, it was clearly nearer than ever. Yet the shock of reading that he passed away suddenly this weekend still reverberates.

For those who live in "C World", Leroy's blog became more than just another person's account of their cancer journey. For many, it became a community -- where comments were left and exchanged that brought together many who were experiencing their own battle. Leroy was someone who clearly read people's comments, as he'd often be inspired for his daily post by something someone else commented on the day before. When a long-time reader lost her battle, he wrote the next day not about his own experience, but her -- and the impact she had clearly had on so many in the "My Cancer" community.

A few weeks ago Leroy appeared on NPR's "Talk of the Nation", and followed his appearance with a live podcast. I think I asked some stupid question regarding how Leroy had dealt with health insurance issues (I must have been knee deep in fighting over some bill or another that day), but the other questions were shockingly forward: Was Leroy prepared to die, how did he want to spend his final days, did he have a "Do Not Resusitate" order, etc. Leroy never flinched, never waivered in giving an answer as direct and honest as the original question.

There are plenty of times that I feel like I don't want to write about VB's cancer any longer. When something happens that becomes a part of who you are against your will, there are times you'd just like to put it aside and forget that it ever happened. In those moments, however, I've often thought about Leroy, and his decision to get up every day and write something, anything, that would bear witness to his experience and the experiences of so many that did not have the platform for expression that he did as a reporter. Leroy's expample inspired me to open up my computer and follow his lead.

We who live and fight and struggle against cancer have lost a great voice, one who dared to put out to the world the unfliching reality of this experience. May all of us who choose to tell our stories, in whatever way, continue to carry Leroy with us.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

VB 4, C 0

"Code Blue".

We all know what that means -- at least, those of us who have kept at least one medically-related show in our viewing repertoire since the dawn of television. When you're sitting in the lobby of Chez Healing, eating a bagel sandwich while your son sleeps two floors above you in an MRI machine, your mind goes places when you hear those words over the intercom.

Somewhere nearby a life is possibly ending. Did anyone see it coming? Is this how they expected it to turn out? What hopes and dreams are suddenly being placed into the "never mind" pile? Are the parents there, watching this unfold?

Will George Clooney or Noah Wyle show up in time to save them?

I'm going to hell, I think to myself as I move beyond my shallow curiosities and focus on the breakfast food before me. Of course, I understand that this belittling of what is most certainly a nightmare for someone is my own emotional defense, designed to keep myself from going down the road of envisioning, feeling, preparing...

But there is no need to fear the worst today. Once again VB returned from his MRI a little groggy from the anesthesia, but still "free of disease".

A day without our own Code Blue -- a good day indeed.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Thank you, Thank you

1. Thank you to members of the "Stem Cell Cyclists" team, who as of last weekend had raised over $100,000 while participating in the Pan Mass Challenge with VB as their "pedal partner"! Since last year's ride took place while he was in the hospital, it was a great treat to be able to hang out at one of the water stops this year and cheer the team on!

2. Thanks to everyone at my "old job" for the send-off. I miss you all already.

Yes, I have an "old job" because....

3. Thanks to everyone at my "new job" for making me feel welcome! I know I've yet to speak of it here, but I was offered a great chance to expand my horizons and take on an ambitious project covering the whole "vamp state". There's a lot to learn, but I'm a week and a half in an loving every minute of it!

4. Sadly, NO thanks to the seizure gnomes that took it upon themselves to once again dance around in VB's head -- not once, but twice in the last week. It appears that our little man is growing up fast, and while his weight has not gone up, his little "I think I can" metabolism decided to ramp-up a bit and drop the effectiveness of his medication dose. So we've upped it yet again, and hope that the gnomes go back into hibernation...Forever.

5. Thanks to Chez Healing and VB's treatment team -- who are willing to address our concerns regarding the "other" potential reason for #4. They've moved up VB's next MRI date to this coming Tuesday, August 12th (it was supposed to be later in the month). So we only have to wait a week to put to bed any fears that the gnomes are the least of our worries.

6. Lastly, thanks to everyone who has donated so far to my Jimmy Fund Walk effort (see the link on the left of the page if you'd like more info on this shameless plug). Truth be told I've yet to pound the pavement in preparation -- as the new job/gnome battle has kept me quite busy. However, mentally I'm already walking, and isn't half the battle psyching oneself up? I guess we'll find out after they carry my over the finish line in September.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I Will See You In Far Off Places

There we were, enjoying the naive innocence of "tub time", when VB mentioned that he'd like to go to the hospital to visit Baby M. This it where it begins -- the time when questions are asked no child should need to have answered.

You see, "Baby M" is the young co-cancer-fighter who died back in the fall.

VM calls me upstairs to explain who VB has said he will visit. We look at one another with sad eyes. Of course, we knew this day would come. I suppose that every parent has to deal with the "death" issue at some point, but if you're lucky it involves the death of a turtle, sock puppet, or something else benign. Not another human being -- and certainly not someone who died of the same thing that could still spell the end for the inquisitive child as well.

I respond that Baby M is not at the hospital any more. VB disagrees, clearly looking for something more satisfying in a response. VM starts to explain. "VB, do you remember when you were sick? Well, Baby M was very sick -- very, very sick."

"Yeah," VB replied, with his shoulders shrugged and his hands raised in an "I don't know why" position. "She's sick. She needs medicine real fast."

"Well," VM said tentatively, "the medicine didn't work. She was too sick."

"So she's gone," I tack on.

VB thinks for a moment. "Yeah, she moved to a new house."

"Well....Sort of." VM shoots me a look as I give this reply. Technically it was a fair answer -- depending on your view of the afterlife. "He's only 3" I whisper quickly, "there isn't much of this he's going to understand."

Many years ago I used to run summer leadership camps for high school students. As camps go it was a rather emotionally intensive affair, complete with intense bonding and "warm fuzzy" sharing amongst participants. Towards the end of the program, when we were working with the youth to help them prepare to say goodbye to the experience and head home, myself or a camp counselor would read The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. We'd of course lighten the discussion of death that is at the core of the story, and instead use it as a metaphor for endings in general.

Never in a million years would I ever have conceived I'd find myself running around my house one day, searching for my copy, so I could help my son understand why his little friend is gone; that the same thing that took her away almost took him as well...And still might some day.

Yet, there I was.

However, by the time I found it, I returned to VB's bedroom to find him curled up in bed with a far better book. With a mix of relief, and the nagging existential angst that keeps me drinking way too much coffee, I put death aside for another day...And hopefully many, many more.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

While Waiting for the Real Fireworks to Start

VB seems back on track, so we made the obligatory trip to the fireworks display in the next town over -- which is the town I grew up in.

VD: You see that building right there, son? That's where your daddy went to high school.

VB: Oh.

VD: Actually, not that part of the building. That wing didn't exist at the time. I went to that part.

VB: Oh. I go to school.

VD: (thinking) Hmmmm...That sculpture wasn't there either. And it seems they aren't letting people on the football field. That's odd -- that's where we used to sit. I guess we'll sit here, at the same spot we started our short-lived Croquet club; complete with finger sandwiches and rousing versions of "que sera, sera". How very Heathers it all was.

That was so long ago...Damn, I'm getting old!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

We are Fireworks

It would be easier if VB's seizure's were the more typical variety that people expect when they hear the word -- some wild arm flailing or flopping about that's clearly visible from a mile away.

If only...Instead, the electrical haywire happens subtly -- slow cognitive leak versus a volcano erupting. The active boy goes quiet, his response to your questions takes longer. He seems "out of it" -- even more than the average 3 year old. Yet, to move to a place where you realize something might not be quite right, moments pass -- and the fog roles in.

Then comes the synaptic firing of the parents, each 5-10 minutes away with their "work caps" on. The phone rings, the voice says "come now", and the parent brain begins to shout.

Shut off the computer pack the bag tell the staff maybe you'll be back maybe not get the car will I be back probably not thank God I have sick time to use I can pick up where I left off on Monday I KNEW he looked off this morning why didn't we keep him home today isn't this appropriate that he has his first seizure since February the first week his mother returns to work he's gained weight so of course his medication dosage is no longer enough WHY IS THIS PERSON SITTING AT A GREEN LIGHT GET OUT OF MY WAY I wonder if I can speed perhaps that cop will just follow me to the school and take pity as I rush in well maybe not I'll slow down I CAN'T HEAR YOU HONEY THE PHONE IS BREAKING UP WHY DON'T I JUST GET THERE I hope this doesn't require a trip to the hospital this had better be just a breakthrough seizure and not a sign of relapse relapse relapse the BIG R that we won't think about because I don't have the energy there's the turn almost there where can I park with the dogs in the car it's a billion degrees out F@##% it I'll just leave the car running with the air conditioner on we live in a decent town my car should be fine now how do I get to the room he's in I know the sign says "please do not go down this hall follow detour" but it's quicker so screw it no one is watching anyway I'll just keep running run run run run run I'M HERE I'M HERE IT'S OKAY I'M HERE......

The explosions stop. The fog clears. Suddenly the boy snaps to normal, while VM takes a call from the doctor for an update and the teachers fill me in on the proceedings of the morning. We head home for an unplanned afternoon. VB takes a two and a half hour nap while I lay at his side, feeling his warmth and begging the universe to stop kidding around.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The North Atlantic Sand

The beach cottage is 600 square feet, but its design seems to keep that a secret. Tall ceilings with quiet fans that spin lazily in the warm summer air give you a feeling of vast, open space. With central air, elegant paint and furnishings representative of a Pottery Barn summer catalogue spread, this is far from the "family summer cabin" days I spent as a kid. Back then, the summer cottage was a log cabin in Minnesota with no running water and sleeping quarters in a tiny attic space. But now, thanks to the generosity of friends, the idea takes on a whole new (and far more luxurious) meaning.

The weather is perfect -- warm but not stifling. The rain and thunder rolls in surprisingly on our schedule, giving us the ability to be outdoors as we wish, and making the perfect moment arrive for VB's fist film experience -- complete with a darkened living room and "The Little Mermaid" on DVD. Vast amounts of popcorn is consumed as the rain does what it needs to outside, leaving just in time for our next outdoor adventure.

What adventures the outdoors bring -- a zoo alive with baby bears and kangaroos that give VB plenty to talk about. Mini-golf that gives VB a taste of his grandfather's favorite past time.

And the beach -- gone is the vision of the crowded, muggy, sun-screen smelling environment I despise. Instead the vast ocean greets us with minimal company but the seagulls and waves. Decked out in sun-proof swimwear and with our sun-proof tent for shadowy afternoon naps, I am free to listen to the waves and stand on the rocks staring at the horizon, which shows itself in my favorite shade of blue. VM frolics in the ocean, while VB smiles and digs and laughs and plays.

The moments are perfect, like a string of rare jewels.

Now I know what vacation feels like.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

2 AD

BC = Before Cancer

AD= After Diagnosis

Here we are -- two years later. Granted, the anniversary if VB's first seizure that began our cancer journey is the 18th -- but when a life-altering event takes place on a holiday, it's easy to assign value to the day, not the date.

Recently, things have happened that are too good to be true. First -- and most important -- Vampmommy got a job! As some of you many know, her gainful employment was one of the sacrifices we accepted to be able to engage in the needed battle. However, with the battle behind us, VM overcame the current state of the economy and landed what should be considered the perfect gig -- that of a Patient Navigator for our local branch of the American Cancer Society. Who better to help cancer patients and families navigate the system then someone who did it as well as she did?

The second moment of wonder came this morning. The day VB had his seizure, the plan for the morning was originally for myself, my dad and my brother to have breakfast at a local Irish Pub. It didn't happen obviously -- and Father's Day last year was spent largely in the hospital. But today, with the Pogues playing in the background, we gathered at the very spot we had intended to two years ago, and had the breakfast I had been waiting for.

There is more -- on the actual date-anniversary of VB's diagnosis, we will be frolicking on the beach in our first vacation as a family ever. There are also other things "afoot" that can't be spoken of yet, but promise to push us closer to a stability that has seemed foreign to us.

All of this is leading to something I'm no longer used to thinking about -- the future. Do we dare dream again? Do we finally take our eyes off what's right in front of us, and look instead to the horizon?

Here's to leaving behind, looking ahead, and dreaming once again. Happy Father's Day to my fellow Daddy-Bloggers!

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hairdresser on Fire

Vampboy's first haircut. Ever.


(Thanks to Vampmommy for the video....And Brenda for the cut!)

Friday, May 23, 2008

Extractions, Part 2

The "port" is as much a part of the cancer experience as breathing is to the whole "being alive" thing. Ports are the devices that provide easy access to the blood stream for both the intake of medications and chemotherapy, as well as to get blood samples for the daily grind of "platelet counts" and other medical tests I am more than happy to forget about these days.

As they are implanted in the chest with direct access to the heart, it is easy to develop a sense of security with your port -- or, in my case, my son's. While ports can stay in for years, even decades in adults, in young children they tend to become infected or no longer fit the growing body. So, for most kids who complete treatment, the last step is having their port removed.

This is what Vampboy did this week. After a brief visit to the OR, he was eating his usual post-anesthesia feast of graham crackers, while I considered the deeper meaning.

That's it...We're DONE.

VB now gets to join the ranks of his toddler counterparts who wail and thrash as they get needle sticks in the arm for shots and the like. We have begun explaining to him, in a loving way, that the days of emla-induced pain-free pokes are over, but at the moment he just responds "oh, they'll put a port in my arm." Sure, honey...If that makes you feel okay about it.

This momentous occasion also does marvels to re-constitute fear and panic in VM and I. As our lives have been filled historically with "other shoes dropping", it is easy to think that the "Evil C" is just waiting for us to remove his port before it starts tap dancing in his little brain again. Of course, new ports are just as easy to put in as this one was to take out, but that doesn't sway your mind from the paranoia similar to that which drives pro-sports enthusiasts to wear the same pair of undies every time their team has a home game -- without washing them in between.

Maybe we should have left the port in to be safe....

Maybe I should pull out my lucky bowling shirt from high school and wear it for the next 10 years...

My mind wanders through these thoughts and concerns as we make our way out of Chez Healing that afternoon, stopping in the lobby to buy a Mickey Mouse balloon and a fake fish tank that lights up for our little trooper patient. While VM makes the purchase, VB runs over to the giant glass case in the middle of the entrance, holding within it a complex roller-coaster that wooden balls travel through. In between the rhythmic clanging and dinging as the balls hit against bells and metal plates, VB wraps his arms around my leg and leans in for a hug. Instinctively I lower my left hand, and realize to my astonishment that he's grown tall enough that I can rest my hand on his shoulder without having to bend down. Amazing.

There will always be worry -- but not this moment. This is a space and time where cancer no longer lives.

In this moment, we win.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Way back before my blog entries covered fun issues like cancer, death and heartache, I had mused about the ongoing battle with Vampboy to get him to sleep through the night, in his own bed. This week, we reached a profound milestone in that quest when -- for the first time in almost two years -- VB went to sleep in his very own room. It's a work in progress, with the padding of little feet making their way back to us in the middle of the night, but so far we've had one full night of successful "sleeping like a big boy".

I thought, when it came, that this joyous turn of events would leave me sound asleep, sprawled out across the vast ample space of a childless bed. However, much to my surprise, the week has left me completely tired, having not slept through a single night. I think the reasons are two-fold. First, I'm so excited about not having to curl up in a corner and protect my face, stomach and "lower area" from midnight kicks, that I don't know what to do with myself.

The second reason is more of a surprise to me -- I actually miss him. In the haze of our attempts to sleep last night, Vampmommy said the same thing. For over a year and a half we've slept in our protective cocoon, always having the warmth of him right next to us. The reasons were totally practical -- given all of the tubes, IV's and overnight fevers and vomiting that came with treatment, there was no safe way to have him anywhere else. Of course, there was also the unspoken need to know at a moment's notice that our son was still alive and fighting. While on many mornings I may have awoken bleary-eyed from interrupted sleep, or bruised from a foot in the stomach, I grew to value the comfort that came from being within arms reach at all times.

As I make the transition to having our sleeping quarters released from the jaws of cancer, I have also lain awake this week thinking that this adjustment could have been very different. Not to long ago we were faced with him not only leaving our bed, but our lives entirely. Feeling that open space next to me at night has connected me to those fears again -- and to the relief that this transition only puts him down the hall.

We will never share the ignorant luxury of most parents -- that our child will have a life free of disease and pain -- but as we continue to celebrate the simple gifts of normal life that come our way, VM and I have decided that now is the time to do a little giving back of our own. To this end, we've decided to put on sneakers (which, for a person who has word nothing but Dr. Martens for the last 18 years, is something major) and participate in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk.

There are so many people -- many of you -- that I credit for keeping us going through the ordeal that is still a part of our every day life. But VB is alive, laughing and running and dressing up like David Bowie, because of the treatment he received at Dana Farber Cancer Institute's Jimmy Fund Clinic. While at times it seems like there will be no way I can repay anyone for the grace and gifts that were given, participating in this "little" stroll through the marathon route seems like a place to start.

Should you feel so inclined as to support me in my quest to walk farther than one should normally, you can visit my page here and make a donation, or click the new link I've added on the right of this page. We've set up a small team of wacky-walkers, so through my page you can also visit the team page and make a donation that will be split among all of the members. Each member of the team is asked to raise a minimum of $250 -- of course my goal is higher! Raise more than $1,000 and you get a special shirt. Raise more than $5,000, and I think you get carried on the route in a litter held aloft by Madonna's hunky backup dancers, while toddlers dressed a cherubs sprinkle rose pedals along the sidewalk.

Regardless, every little bit counts. The money raised ensures that VB and others diagnosed with AT/RT or other pediatric cancers will continue to have access to the best support the world has to offer.

Now, I'm off to begin accumulating kick-free sleep. Looks like I'll need it!

Friday, May 09, 2008

VB 3, C 0

Another clear, cancer-free day! Excuse me while I go enjoy it.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Vampdaddy in the City

A few weeks ago, Vampmommy decided to force me into a hiatus from reality in order to reduce my stress and give me a bit of a break. This past weekend I followed her orders, packed my trunk and made my way to the "Big Apple" for a few days of tomfoolery with my good friend "The Manny". There was good food (in particular a reunion with friends over the largest pork chop I have ever seen) and some damn good art. The photo above was taken of me at the Colors Exhibit at MoMA, after I briefly shared an escalator with Martina Navratilova. She seemed lost -- but aren't we all when confronted with gigantic paint swatches and Andy Warhol?

Not to be overwhelmed by the grandeur of high-class entertainment, the Manny helped me "keep it real" with some particularly stunning screenings of television and film greatness. I laughed, I cried, and I learned -- namely, that John Travolta and Lily Tomlin are a creepy couple, Captain and Tennille's Variety Show holds a spot in my subconscious memories of youth (I actually remembered a skit from the show when we watched it), and Pia Zadora is far, far from lonely.

Oh, and according to the Wii Fitness Challenge, I have the athletic prowess of a 67 year old. I didn't realize the close connection between declining health and my ability to suck at Wii Baseball, but there you go.

All in all it was a great time away, made only better by the exciting moment of having Vampboy run up to me at the bus station with a smile that could outshine a nuclear blast. Borrowing the tradition from my dad, who always brought home a small gift when returning from a business trip, I was sure to return with prize in hand -- a shirt from the Natural History Museum which he wore proudly to school the next day.

Of course, the timing for the getaway couldn't have been better. This week is a big one for us, as Friday brings the next MRI. As I know many of you will spend some time Friday morning sending some energy our way, I ask that you take a moment now and send some love to Princess. Our dear friend and co-treatment warrior had an MRI today that shows what is most likely a relapse, having finished treatment with a "radio-static surgical procedure" two months ago. There is more testing in the coming days to confirm the diagnosis before "Attack Plan B" goes into effect, but our hearts sank with the news that her journey through treatment may not be over.

For those keeping score, out of the four children (including Vampboy) who were in treatment around the same time (not including our new friend "5", who is at the beginning of her treatment) -- one has died, and two have relapsed and continue to fight.

And Vampboy? I'll let you know Friday night....

Monday, April 21, 2008

-4, +5

A beautiful day for a marathon! Of course, before you think I did any of the running, think again -- I'm lucky if I can run to the mailbox. But lots of other people did -- including Arnie, who ran to raise money for Children's Hospital with Vampboy as his patient partner. He certainly made it look easy, and Vampboy enjoyed screaming "Run, Arnie, Run!" to everyone who passed by.

The other runner we watched out for and cheered on was Othergirl's mom -- and it dawns on me that I hadn't updated my readers with how she's doing after her relapse. I am happy to share that, after a grueling round of outrageously intense chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant, Othergirl is home and cancer-free. Also doing well is Princess, who is awaiting the results of a radiostatic surgery to hopefully confirm "free of disease" status.

That leaves "4" - the young girl we met towards the end of our treatment time. We sadly discovered this weekend that she passed away a little over a week ago. Her situation was far more challenging at the start than the rest of us, but it doesn't make the news any easier to hear. Our hearts and minds are with her parents and family these days.

In other news, to quote Yoda who said "there is another", we met "5" this past weekend. We heard about them a couple of weeks ago through Eliza, and while we were in Boston for a pre-marathon party we decided to stop by the hospital and introduce ourselves. The new patient is 15 months old (Vampboy's age when he was diagnosed). Her parents are friendly and outgoing and, like any other family on the planet, they don't deserve this. But, they are ready to fight and glad to know they can lean on someone who's been there.

It's like the first day you called in sick to elementary school, and were shocked to learn that the day went on without you. Now that we're not in treatment, it feels as though that should be the end of anyone having to go through it. Sadly, life doesn't work like that -- and neither does cancer.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes from the Observation Deck

Here, for your pleasure, is a smattering of the thoughts in my head these days. And note they all exist free of any substance use!

1. Robert Smith is dating my Ipod. As my days at work of late have been spent hunkered down at the computer writing the perfect grant, I've enjoyed ample time with my Ipod on "shuffle" mode. After awhile you can't help but notice some eerie and potentially conspiracy-laden patterns. For instance, why the hell does my Ipod randomly play more songs by The Cure than anybody else? I know there's a lot of Cure on there, but I've got more Tori Amos or Bjork, and I don't hear them very often -- or the other artists who make up the 8,000+ songs on there at the moment. Perhaps Steve Jobs has a special deal with Smith. I'll have to look into it in my spare time. Oh, look -- it's "Lovesong" again!

2. I Give Good Facebook. Yes, I took the plunge and put myself on Facebook. Admittedly I've reconnected with some folks from my college days, including my roommate for the latter half of my undergraduate experience, who is taking the 'net by storm in her role as a sword-wielding Elf in the Zelda Trailer. But I think I still prefer socializing with friends in person. (That said, though -- if you're on there, find me!)

3. Registration Begins at 10am. My dear friend Mumma Boo tagged me for thoughts on the course selections I wished schools made available. As I am embarking on a new role as an "adjunct professor" and a local college this fall, my thoughts are on this very issue. I wonder what the Dean of the department I'll be teaching in would say if I suggested that we scrap my course and go with one of these:

Self-Reflective Rhetorical Theory. This course will examine the answer to why bad things always happen to you. Students will examine their own shortcomings and misery to arrive at their thesis. Course grades will be determined based on final "pity-party" presentation.

M.O. Theory and Practice. Alphabetical by artist -- chronological by release date -- this course will examine prevailing concepts behind Music Organization Theory. Evidence-based practice in storage of vinyl, tape or compact disc collections to be highlighted. This course is a prerequisite course for M.O. Theory and Practice II: Zune Sucks.

The Ant in Cinema. Course will look at the ant as a cinematic archetype. Various horror movies in addition to recent computer-animated children's films will be screened. Students will be asked to synthesize cultural contexts and modern themes to better understand the insect race that will one day dominate the planet.

Playing the Role. Most people have no idea what they're talking about. This course will provide students the opportunity to learn methods of illusion with an eye towards career advancement. Famous idiots in positions of wealth and power will be examined.

The Complete Baking Soda Inventory. Is there any problem that can't be solved with Baking Soda? This course will provide students with an opportunity to delve into the many understandings and uses of the "white stuff". Final project to consist of students' achieving world peace, setting up a post-apocalyptic society, or curing Ebola with nothing more than a half-pound box of Arm & Hammer.

4. Wacky Wednesday! In an attempt at "preschool spirit week", VB's classroom had a "wear wacky clothes day" today. VB opted to pay homage to the glam rockers of the late 70's with his ensemble. David Bowie would be proud.

"He was a young American...."

5. Blogiversary.
I've been so busy observing the world that I didn't even notice that the Vampdaddy blog has turned two! Who would have thought (and I mean that on so many levels). Thanks for sticking around!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A True Sign We're in a Recession

Today we were in the car after visiting my father, who is recovering from a collapsed lung at the local hospital. Serious, yes -- but all seems to be on the mend, and as we pointed out the day he was admitted -- "Hey, it's not a brain tumor."

Anyway, as we were leaving the hospital for the evening, Vampboy asked is we could go out to "lunch" before going home.

"No, son," I reply. "First off, it's time for dinner and not lunch. But anyway, we can't go out to eat, as mommy and I are poor."

Vampboy thinks for a minute. "Daddy -- don't you have your wallet?"

At this point, Vampmommy is trying to hide her laughter. I answer straight away. "I do, but there's no money in it. Sorry."

"Oh." Another pause, then: "Mommy, do you have YOUR wallet?"

VM contains her laughter and responds as I did. Vampboy thinks long and hard.

"I don't HAVE a wallet. I should go buy one with Mommy."

Yes, if only he had a wallet. That would solve everything!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Extractions, Part 1

Take a good look at freedom, folks -- this is the MIC-KEY button that we removed from VB this past weekend.

For the first time since late 2006, I can hug my son and not feel a tube or other object poking out of his abdomen. I can't quite explain how good that feels.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Vamp O'Daddy 2008

Happy St. Patty's day to one and all! Sorry it's been quiet around these parts, but things have been -- well, they have been.

VB continues to do well, and has adjusted nicely to attending 2 different "schools" -- one his normal daycare, and the other the special education program at our local school district. What we felt was a gargantuan transition, full of unknown and anxiety, has of course proven to be the highlight of his week -- because he gets to take a bus between the programs. While the idea originally filled us with dread, Vampmommy's keen ability to stalk the bus gave us the assurance we needed to know he'd be safe and taken care of -- particularly when the bus driver reported being followed by someone with a camera to the school.

Meanwhile, VM continues her quest for a new job. There have been a couple of leads and a promising interview, but for now we wait with fingers crossed -- while anxious Sundays pass without a whole slew of new opportunities appearing in the paper. All I can say is, thank goodness for family -- and being able to deduct medical expenses from one's taxes. These have kept a roof over our heads for the moment.

I, however, have a job -- and I think it is taking me to the brink of insanity. Finding your "life's calling" is a gift, and I count myself lucky that I am not in some mind-numbing quest to line the pockets of "the man". However, the trade-off is that my work requires insane hours, with long periods of begging people for money to continue doing the work -- periods where I could actually be doing "said work" if I wasn't having to strategize about the next grant or fundraising scheme. Thankfully I have a great staff and colleagues that keep the fire's roaring, but still...

I have had some respite from the madness in the form of The Manny, who came to stay for a few days in what turned out to be a fest of music-listening, Candlepin Bowling and a tour of the region's finest Asian cuisine. However, while I think I can go a few months without anything containing MSG or duck sauce, a few hours back at work left me already longing for more time away.

When I was in graduate school, my thesis professor would live at a monastery for two weeks out of the year so she could reflect, read her students final products and do her own writing. While monastic life doesn't immediately attract me, the idea of the quiet and solitude does. I think that was what I was hoping for during my December, before VB's seizure's got in the way. Given the level of chaos we've been through in the past year and a half, and the normal state of chaos that comes with life, an afternoon of eating teriyaki beef sticks while listening to A Taste of Honey just isn't doing the trick -- no matter how enchanting.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


Happy Birthday, VB -- Daddy loves you.

"Happy Birthday" by The Innocence Mission

Friday, February 15, 2008

VB 2, C 0

Today's MRI was an "all clear" - this marks 6 months of post-treatment cancer free-ness. Party on, VB!

Monday, February 11, 2008


Joining the world of pediatric cancer means many things -- most of them horribly negative. Thankfully, there are those who believe that kids who've been handed the raw-est of deals get to cut to first place in the "dream line". This is the case for VB, who had an opportunity through Make-A-Wish to ask for his heart's desire. When VM and I first decided to take advantage of the perk now (rather than wait for an unknown future) we weren't exactly sure what he would ask for. As VB doesn't watch TV, the typical answer of "A trip to Disney" wasn't in the cards. But we never would have guessed what his response would be on that fateful morning when we decided to ask:

VAMPMOMMY: "VB, if you could have anything in the world, anything at all, what would it be?"

VAMPBOY: (immediately and without pause) "A puppy."

VAMPMOMMY: "Uh, but son, you already have a puppy." (VD gestures lovingly to elder statemen Vampdoggy, who is presently licking his nether regions in a corner).

VAMPBOY: (with fingers in a "V" shape for emphasis) "No, mommy -- I want TWO puppies."

With that, the Wish team set out to make it so. VM and I did at least have the ability to choose the breed, so we went with a Portuguese Water Dog (PWD for those of you hooked to the grandest of games that gets underwey tonight!). We went for the wavy coated version -- well behaved, but not poodle-like.

Weeks ensued for the grand search. One breeder's pups were bread to be hunting dogs and a little more energetic than we'd like; another would only give her dogs to homes that fed their pooch a very specific, all-natural diet (it might have event involved the fresh slaying of chickens, I'm not sure). Finally, we stumbled on a breeder who seemed to have the right dog, but they had already decided to keep him themselves.

Then they called back.

Turns out that our little friend was growing into a bit of a third wheel -- not really bonding with either his mother, or the brother the breeders had also decided to keep. Knowing that they wanted their little four-legged friend to be happy and accepted into a loving home, they called the Wish Team and opened their home and heart to us.

Vampuppy is a perfect fit in any number of odd, cosmic weighs. He was stuck in the birth canal during delivery (so was VB) so he came out not breathing and had to be recusitated. While he was the biggest at birth, he has turned into the smalled of the litter, but despite his shortcomings flops around without a care in the world. His attitude and personality are so much like VB it's eerie, and the two of them have already become fast friends -- with Vamppuppy following VB around in scheer fascination, while VB instructs him in a high-pitched voice about the layout of the house and how not to chew his toys.

VP was brought home yesterday in the style, with a limo supplied by Make-A-Wish. VB is still talking ahout the "big car". There was a dinner party complete with puppy toys and puppy-themed party favores, and when it was all said and done the entire family crashed for a good nights sleep.

I'm sure the magic will wear off somewhat ("what -- what do you mean puppies have to go out to pee in the middle of the night!"), but our newest addition couldn't have been more well timed or more perfect. VB's wish wasn't the only one granted, and at a times like we live in those moments are perfection.

One last thing -- while I'm not one to use "real world" names on my blog, I do want to tell you Vamppuppy's name (that we chose): Noden . Check out why and I think you'll understand.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

8 of 8

Well, we've reached the end of the 8's. Let's pass the pain along.

8 People who should do this meme and not complain:

1. Fez . Now, most of you won't be able to enjoy her take on this, as my dear friend keeps her blog closed to the general public to allow her free reign to comment on things as a public figure of sorts. But it will at least entertain myself and those of us in the "coven".

2. Michael James. You haven't blogged since November. Time to get back in the game!

3. Meg. Trust me, hon -- this is a great way to inspire the new blogger!

4. Steve. He's probably one of the many I'll offer this to who has done it before, but it's worth a try!

5. Denver Dad. See number 4.

6. Francesca. Because she inspires me.

7. Lawyer Mama. See number 4.

8. The Manny. Okay, he doesn't have a blog -- but he should. It would be HOT.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

7 of 8

First off -- Vampboy's MRI this week has been postponed until the 15th -- as the hospital lost our scheduling paperwork. They probably lost it 3 months ago, but thankfully we found out before depriving VB of food for 8 hours and driving to the city well before sunrise tomorrow. The fun never stops, does it?

Speaking of which.....

8 Songs I could listen to over and over again.

Rather than explain my nuanced admiration for these little numbers, I'll challenge you to go listen and judge for yourself. Enjoy.

1. Wolf in the Breast by Cocteau Twins

2. Beethoven's 9th Symphony

3. Pity by the Creatures

4. Downside Up by Peter Gabriel

5. Mercy of the Fallen by Dar Williams

6. Lovecats by The Cure

7. It's not Up to You by Bjork

8. Vanilla by Cybill Shepherd

Just seeing if you were paying attention on that last one....

Enjoy the weekend -- and the real super bowl!

Monday, January 28, 2008

6 of 8

I'm on a roll!

8 books you really should read.

1. Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore. A story of two teen boys finding their way in the world -- one being Biff, and one being none other than Jesus H. Christ (and yes -- the "H" is actually the first letter of his middle name). The chapter about their first meeting is priceless, with a middle-school aged Biff running into a boy in the market who keeps bringing a frog back to life after his brother whacks it over the head with a rock.

2. The House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. A drug addict stumbles into his dead neighbor's apartment, where he finds the manuscript of a non-fiction book detailing the case of a family that moved into a house that was bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. If you can make sense of the first few chapters, I promise the book will give you nightmares.

3. The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall. A man wakes up without any memory of who he is. That's what happens when you're eaten by a "thought shark".

4. Into Thin Air by John Krackauer. The true story of a team of Mount Everest climbers who meet their fate in a fit of ego-driven lunacy. Like a Greek tragedy, you know how it's going to end -- but you still find yourself yelling "turn back, morons!"

5. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. It's Harry Potter for adults -- a lush tale of two competing magicians in Victorian England, where magic is commonly accepted but not commonly practiced.

6. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Vampire....Brutal murderer....Bibliophile? Brilliantly told and written, this tale of Dracula through the ages is sure to keep you gripped to the end -- and you'll no doubt look over your shoulder a few times when out in public after reading it.

7. Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp. Any dog lover would appreciate this memoir about a woman and her dog. Caroline Knapp died of cancer several years ago, but this stands as a great testament to a life well lived with a canine companion.

8. I Like it When by Mary Murphy. Vampboy is a bit young for 1-7, but this is one of his present favorites for me to read him at bed time. Every time I read it, I'm reminded that it's great to be a dad.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

5 of 8

Wow...This whole "8" thing is taking FOREVER. Hopefully I can pick up the pace!

8 Things you* don't know about me.

(*= Blog-only relations. Some friends and family readers may know some of this...Shows how little I can really hide!)

1. When I was two years old I was playing in a wheelbarrow when it flipped over on top of me. There's a half-moon scar on my left hand in remembrance of the event.

2. I can't stand Andie MacDowell. I have no idea why -- she's never done anything to me, but watching her act makes me want to hurt people. It's a shame, really, because other than her presence I thought 4 Weddings and a Funeral was a good film.

3. I've never been to L.A.

4. I hate spiders. Actually, it's a combination of hate and fear, but nevertheless when they come around, it's my wife's problem.

5. In an effort to show my complex layers -- even though #4 is true, one of my favorite stories as a child was "Be Nice to Spiders". In fact, I loved it so much that I memorized it -- and my mom would pimp me out to the neighborhood kids who would pay a quarter to watch in amazement as I recited the whole story.

6. As a theatre performer, I have played:
*The Lindbergh Baby
*An insane teenager in a French mental institution
*A rape victim in a performance art piece
*A rock
*Tom Sawyer
*A Flagellant (someone who believes that salvation can only be found through self-mutilation)
*Charlie (you know, the one who got the Chocolate Factory)

7. I think I can sing. Whether others agree is up for interpretation.

8. There are more than 8 things you don't know about me.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

4 of 8

Half-way there....

8 Updates on Vampboy

1. The seizures seem to be under control, as he hasn't had one in over a week. He's also sleeping better, so we're hoping that the increase in his medication dosage has done the trick. There's lots of wiggle room (he's not even getting half the allowable dosage), but a little seems to go a long, long way.

2. This past week he had an LP (Lumbar Puncture). The purpose was to "close the book" on the seizure-related drama we had in December when we thought it might be a cancer relapse. The LP came back negative, so we're still in the cancer-clear. However, his next MRI is February 1st, so we'll panic again in about two weeks.


4. Last night he enjoyed a dinner party with some friends from school -- followed by a sleep-over! I know I speak for many when I note that VB is a favorite amongst ladies in the 2-3 year range (and beyond). While it was amusing to hear him running about excitedly talking about how he and he friend J were "going to go to bed together", they did end up sleeping in separate rooms. My script for "the talk" just isn't ready yet.

5. One of the most profound therapeutic interventions we received towards the end of VB's treatment wasn't chemo or an anti-biotic -- it was a sticker chart. During our final stay in the hospital one of the "child life specialists" popped by at the opportune moment to see something people outside of my wife and I rarely witness: the Vampboy Meltdown. This is most often caused by the trauma of changing a diaper or getting dressed -- a toddler's version of water boarding, I suppose. The specialist asked if we had tried a sticker chart to reward him for compliance, and quickly whipped up a grid on blue construction paper. I am happy to report that, after a month of use, Vampboy this weekend got to pick out a new train at the local toy store for filling his sticker chart to the brim. Today he excitedly made a new one, and the process begins again. Believe me, spending $20 on a new Thomas train is worth it if it means not getting kicked in the mouth again by a screaming child.

6. We have begun the road towards "independence from foreign diapers". We figured we'd wait awhile before engaging in any further dramas, but VB has taken the lead of his peers and started to ask to "use the potty" without us mentioning it. It'll be a long journey filled with reading books on body functions, but I can't wait for the day we don't have to spend $30 on a box of nappies.

7. It is remarkable to see photos of the little guy even from a month ago. Not only has his hair returned, but his chubby cheeks and tummy are back with a vengeance, thanks to a solid appetite. In addition, he's wowed us by trying some things we never thought he'd try -- including sweets, which he used to ignore completely.

8. VB will be 3 years old next month -- a miracle by any standard that should be celebrated. However, how we recognize the event is up for grabs. He's at the age now where you can transition from adult-oriented parties, where the child is on display covered in chocolate, to kid-friendly fair, where parents hide in the corner while screaming little ones cover themselves (and your most expensive duvet) in chocolate. Vampboy has made his intentions clear, stating that his birthday will take place at the "Moose Restaurant", complete with animatronic hunting victims and a puppet moose head that sings "Happy Birthday" to unsuspecting patrons. I don't know if that can symbolize the momentous event, but it reminds me that VB is not really a cancer survivor, caught in the "miracle of life" glow -- he's just a kid who likes his mac and cheese while some Buffalo head makes a joke about not having a body.

Monday, January 14, 2008

3 of 8

8 things I'd like to say 8 people right now.

1. "Don't ever do that again -- I eat people like you for breakfast."

2. "Are you kidding me?"

3. "Peuggers."

4. "What do you care more about -- your bottom line or the people you' re supposed to be helping?"

5. "Sounds to me like a serious case of ennui."

6. "#1 goes for you as well, moron."

7. "This was a complete waste -- I demand you give me back the last two hours of my life!"

8. "No, I will not tell you who these 8 people are. Maddening, isn't it?"

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

2 of 8

Today sucked.

First, Vampboy decided to get an early start to the day at 4:30am. Once that cute little voice says "daddy change my dieyyyyaper", there is really nothing else to do but get up and do his bidding. However, the fresh nappy didn't translate into a fresh attitude, so the next few hours were spent listening to the high pitched-voice that had the neighborhood dogs running for cover.

This translated into being late to work during one of the ever-increasing times I call "hell month". In the non-profit world, January is often the first in a series of these, due to every foundation and government agency deciding to make all your funding dreams come true -- that is, provided you submit a 75 page thesis on everything you stand for and the reason why anyone should give a damn.

Fast forward to a lunch meeting when, in the midst of my chicken salad sandwich, my phone vibrates with "home" on the caller ID. Since the new normal requires constant connection in case of "the worst", I charge out of the room to take the call. Turns out our little guy had a break-through seizure today. Think of it as "seizure light" -- it lasted less than 5 minutes, and after a period of staring into space he snapped back to reality as if a light switch was suddenly turned back on. He was with Vampmommy at the time, docs have been consulted with, and all is once again well...However, you try to get a "don't panic but I want you to know" call about your child, then go back to work without losing focus.

However, I wrap up the work day with some modicum of focus, then it's off to renew my commitment to Bikram Yoga. After a day of having my patience and emotions kicked around, why not end the day by kicking my physical self a bit?

I get home, still sweating from class (and that's after a shower) and inhale a salad and tall glass of water to prevent my passing out. VB and VM arrive home form errands, and seconds after they enter the house an avalanche of snow slides off our condo roof, landing right where Vampboy had been standing seconds before. Okay, breathe......

So, rather than continue down the dark path, I thought I'd end my day with an upbeat list of 8. I think I'm veering from the rules somewhat in making up my own list topics, but I feel the appropriate amount of slack has been cut on my behalf. Take this, lousy day!

8 Things that make me happy

1. Grande Soy With Whip Mocha.
While I agree that Starbucks is growing into the evil Wal-Mart of coffee, I can't help but feel the nostalgia for sweet days gone by every time I take a gulp. I close my eyes, and for a moment I'm back in college, slinging lattes with the best of them.

2. Amy Winehouse. All right, I know this woman is a complete mess, between her rampant drug use and dysfunctional marriage. But I have spend many a night in the past year mixing VB's medications while blasting "Back to Black" on the trusty Ipod.

3. Dark Chocolate Peanut M&M's. I think they started making these as a promotion during the last Star Wars release, but they were wise to keep them around. Yummy.

4. Law and Order. As reliable as the rising of the sun -- not a moment goes by where you couldn't turn on the tube and find a station ringing out the familiar "doink doink" of the gavel between scenes. While I'm not a huge fan of "Criminal Intent", the original or "SVU" keep me entertained.

5. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert. Islands of sanity in a sea of American psychosis.

6. The smell of a new CD. ITunes might be convenient, but there's nothing like the smell of a CD booklet the first time you take off the plastic (and that damn label strip) and open the case. Happiness also increases with respect to the quality of the music located within.

7. Demotivators. My sense of humor is rather dark -- as it should be. These digs at cheesy corporate leadership prints are laugh-out-loud brilliant.

8. Clue - The Movie. I've seen this so many times I think I can enact the entire film myself, playing every role. Perhaps that will be what catapults me back onto the stage after years away.

Now I'm all smiles!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

1 of 8

Oh, Papa Bradstein -- how you torment me.

During one of my last fellow-blogger check-ins before my self-imposed exile, I discovered that this blog-hound tagged me with an "8 days a week meme". Not one who completely understands the concept, I did enough digging to figure out that it would have to wait until my return. This also provided me something to fret over during my time away -- as if I needed anything more (as you will discover shortly). However, now that I'm ready to put hand to keyboard once again, this seems like the perfect way to get you all caught up and to share my vast knowledge about several things that are completely mundane.

So, over the next 8 posts, I will introduce you to The Truth. Mind you, it is indeed "out there".

8 Things I did during my "vacation"

1. Bent myself into a pretzel, and cooked until golden brown.

Yes, I finally made the plunge and became a practitioner of Bikram Yoga. For those not in the know, this is the yoga done while you sweat away your very soul in a room heated to a toasty 105 degrees. The first time I did it I thought I was going to die. The second time, I needed to lie still for the second half of the 90 minute class, but the end of my existence didn't loom as large on the horizon. Over the next few times I got the hand of it, and by now I think I can get through the entire class without passing out. I say "I think" because....

2. Enjoyed a return to Chez Healing!
Yes, Vampboy asked for a pony for Christmas -- and Santa responded by giving him a lifetime seizure disorder. This is one of the many things that fall into the category of "latent effects" brought on by brain tumors and their subsequent treatment. We spent the entire week before Christmas at Chez Healing in two separate residencies -- each brought on by a seizure he had at home. The first was rather small, but the second was rather large. Vampboy doesn't have the type of seizures where he flails about like a fish out of water; rather, he has "partial complex seizures," where he slowly blanks out until something just short of a catatonic state comes over him. Initial tests gave the chilling possibility that the cause was a relapse in his cancer -- giving us about 48 hours of sheer terror and panic -- until further tests concluded that was not the case. I'll tell you, though; it's really a sad state of affairs when you're actually glad that your child has a seizure disorder -- but the other option was far, FAR worse. At present VB is doing well and seizure-free, thanks to a medication he may be on forever. Plus, the whole affair put a huge crimp in my overall plans for a restful month, not to mention taking me away from my "sweaty stretching class".

3. Power-shopped.
The other challenge wrought by the above activity was the delay in getting the holiday shopping done. Although abject poverty reduced our ability to be generous with many of our loved ones, a little help from some kind sources gave us at least the ability to buy tokens for our family. So, with Vampboy off with relatives, I did a mad dash to the stores the weekend before to contribute what I could to the December economic figures. What I found most amusing is that I was surrounded by what I've come to understand is the typical profile of the last-minute Christmas shopper: Male, and carrying at least one bag from Victoria's Secret. Guys, really -- can't you think of something that she might actually enjoy, not just you?

4. Organized the "War Chest".
It had been a year since I'd done any filing of our various papers -- bills, receipts, etc. Add to that what I estimate to be over 600 "Summary of Benefits" forms from Vampboy's insurance carrier, and I ended up spending a huge chunk of my waking time sifting through a pile almost bigger than me. Everything is now filed in it's proper place, with all things medical in a large, highly organized storage bin. Here's hoping that we never have to add to it.

5. Watched the first 3 seasons of "The X-Files" on DVD.
What else was I to do while engaging in #4? There are two things this taught me: first, I still think Gillian Anderson is hot. Second, I'm glad they got rid of that damn brown brief case she seemed to carry in every scene of the first season. And the shoulder pads - good Lord, she looked like a tiny football-playing office worker!

6. Celebrated a couple of holidays -- maybe you've heard of them?
Both Christmas and New Years were peaceful and without drama. Santa did make up for the seizure thing by getting the one present VB had talked about for months - a red plastic cup with a straw. Strange, but it's better than him asking for a Playstation 3.

7. Went All-Natural.
No, this was not my attempt at living as a nudist. As a family thinking about moving into "survivor mode", one of the things we decided to do was look at how we could eliminate things from our environment that increase the risk for cancer. Our main plunge was to switch all of our cleaning products to stuff that's entirely natural. We're lucky to have a local shop that specializes in that very thing, so our house is now clean as a whistle and smelling of Lavender (which, as it turns out, is a natural anti-bacterial).

8. Itune, Youtune, we all scream for...
While I didn't get to my entire collection (not even close, in fact) I did follow through on some uploading of my current CD catalogue onto Itunes. However, it leads me to believe that I might need to acquire my own Mac to finish the job, for fear the one we have might explode under the musical weight.

One down, seven to go. Watch out, Bradstein --- revenge will be mine!