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!