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The boy is in first grade now (if you can believe that). That makes this his third year of going to school for five full days every week. From the beginning, he's been fine with it.

So it was very odd, this morning, when we dropped him off. We entered the building together, the three of us, said our goodbyes, and then he walked off towards the stairway to his classroom. I turned to go, but before I'd taken my first step, I felt a small person grab me from behind.

The boy was crying, saying that he'd miss me.

I sat on a nearby step and hugged him. I was able to console him, promising to be home tonight in time to read to him in bed and tomorrow night to get home in time for us to play some video games. And then he went his way, and I went mine.

It was moving—it is moving—and literally awesome to be that much to him. I still have trouble sometimes seeing myself as capable, not just of fathering a child, or even raising one, but of being his daddy, with all that implies.

There's another thing, though: parenthood means nothing if not worrying about stuff, and he's never done this before. So maybe he was just unusually tired, sad, or lonely this morning and needed a hug. But now I'm worried that something else may be wrong.
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Today has turned into an extended playdate for the boy and a friend, which is our attempt to deal with the rainy day. The friend, a former classmate, came over with his mother and two-year-old sister for breakfast. Their father was unavailable for the day, and Mrs. Lawnrrd had plans to go to a baby shower.

So, they got here at around 9:30, and I made waffles and bacon. Mrs. Lawnrrd supplied a fruit salad. Everything was delicious, in my unbiased opinion.

While I cleared the table, my wife started praising my domestic skills. "He cooks, he cleans, and he's handy," she said. This impressed the friend's mom, whose husband does and is none of those things. My face must have shown the thought that flashed through my mind, because my wife asked me, "what?"

I shook my head, but she wouldn't let it go. "He must be good in bed, right?" I said, "Something like that, but fairly crude." "What?" she asked.

I gave in. "His tongue is a foot long, and he can breathe through his ears." The friend's mom was thoroughly squicked, and I hope my wife has learned her lesson.

Mrs. Lawnrrd left for the shower first, and then the boy, his friend, and I started playing the junior edition of Monopoly. After a while, it was time for the little sister to nap, so their mom walked home with her, while the boy's friend stayed here and kept playing with us. After the game, which the boy won (for which he demanded a cash prize that was not to be forthcoming), we made popcorn and sat down to watch Ratatouille, which is one of our favorite movies.

I suppose I am domestic, after all.

After the movie, it was time for a snack. By then, the little sister had finished her nap, so the friend's mother came over and has taken them out for pizza. And now I have some time to myself, which may include a nap and maybe even some writing. Depending on Mrs. Lawnrrd's schedule, I may even make it to the gym.

And so it goes.
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This weekend we spent in Kent, Connecticut, which is near the western edge of the state, about halfway between the northern and southern borders. Friends of ours—parents of one of the boy's classmates—have a weekend place up there, and they invited us to join them for the weekend. We'd been there before, and it's beautiful up there.
Cut for length )
The festival did provide a moment of pure magic, though. We had wandered into a master class taught by Béla Fleck, and someone asked him about the classical music he had arranged for, and played on, nontraditional instruments. For about 90 seconds, I sat transfixed as he played Bach on the banjo.

Then we drove home and got stuck in traffic.
lawnrrd: (spot)
Everyone knows that raising a child is hard. No one talks about the biggest reason why.

As some of you know, Leo was born with a skin condition: a giant congenital melanocytic nevus with satellites. That is, he was born with a single bumpy, hairy, dark brown mole that covered about 80% of his back and about twenty-five other moles, roughly between a dime and a quarter in size, on the rest of his body. Although congenital nevi are merely uncommon, giant ones are rare, estimated to occur only once in every 500,000 births.

Most of the time, the consequences are mostly cosmetic. The condition is associated with a slightly elevated risk throughout his lifetime of melanoma. There can be some other concerns, since, among other things, nevi lack sweat glands, so kids with even larger nevi than Leo's are sometimes at risk for overheating. He still has the satellites, and, like most of us, he gets new, smaller moles from time to time, but the giant nevus was removed from his back in a series of seven operations, the last one on his second birthday. (Happy Birthday, Leo!)

There's a support group for people with nevi and their families. The rarity of the condition makes the group relatively small, and you get to know people. There's a conference in Dallas every two years, and the next one is coming up in July. We're going, and we're taking Leo.

Sometimes, though, this rare condition has an even rarer complication called neurocutaneous melanosis (NCM). In this condition, pigment cells, sometimes cancerous (that is, melanoma), grow on the spinal cord, brain, or both. Symptoms can include seizures, hydrocephalus, and other things. Symptomatic NCM is a bad sign, although it is no longer regarded as an automatic death sentence. If NCM progresses, though, it is inevitably fatal, whether the pigment cells are technically melanoma or not.

Leo had an MRI as soon as he was old enough to tolerate general anesthesia, and it showed no signs of NCM. But not all kids and parents are that lucky. Riley died this afternoon at home, just a few days after his ninth birthday.

I had followed Riley's story, sometimes in tears. I hurt for his parents. The pain is just a little keener, though, because, clean MRI or no, we can't be completely sure that won't happen to Leo, and that we won't be the parents who have to find a way to live during and afterwards.

But then, really, who can?
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As promised, pictures of the amazing flying Leo:



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I'm pretty sure that Leo has already played more games of catch with his father than I ever played with mine. That should help to explain something, although I'd be pressed to explain precisely what.

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As of today, I am the father of a three year old boy. And with each passing day, one thing becomes increasingly clear to me:

You people are so screwed.
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I gave Leo a chunk of a Carr's Table Water Cracker because he said he wanted to taste it. Once he had the chunk, he looked at it for a moment, and then he dropped it into my glass of water, looked up at me, and exclaimed "goldfish!"
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Leo is home. The operation yesterday went well, although Leo lost a little more blood than the surgeon would have liked. For a while, we weren't sure if he'd have to stay overnight in the hospital for observation, but the blood test came back with a good enough result that they released him.

We took him back to the surgeon today for removal of the surgical drain and the dressing. Leo screamed bloody murder during the removal, although he was happy to go up and down on the elevator. His back looks great, too: the giant mole is all gone. He will of course have big scars from the incisions, but there's no way to tell now just how bad they will be.

He's uncomfortable. We have Tylenol with codeine syrup, as before, but it tastes really foul, and we can't get it into him. The one time we were able to, we had to pour a dose over a slice of leftover birthday cake and, in addition, put an M&M on each forkful.

Lauren and I are really getting on each others' nerves.
lawnrrd: (Default)

Note to self: The next time Lauren asks if we should have a combination neighborhood block party/Halloween party/birthday party for Leo, the answer is:

"NO! NO! NO!"

Cut for length and for pictures. )
lawnrrd: (spot)
Leo had surgery yesterday, inserting set of tissue expanders in his back. He's sleeping at the moment, but he's certainly been in more pain this time than after some of the prior operations. Lauren and I are very tired.
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Me: There are a couple of things I want to tell you.
L: OK.
Me: You see this child? This child, here, the one that I was the sole caregiver for the last twenty-four hours?
L: Yes?
Me: I would like you to note how he conspicuously has not been eaten by dingoes.
L: Uh . . .
Me: Indeed, I would like to point out that he doesn't even have any bite marks.
L: Well, whose fault is that?
Me: *doesn't get it*

*decides to move on to the next topic*

Oh, there's some lobster salad left in the fridge if you want it. I bought it at Fairway yesterday morning. I wanted a lobster roll for lunch.
L: Yum. Did we have rolls?
Me: No, I bought those, too.
L: Could you make one for me?
Me: Sure, after I get the rest of your stuff out of the car. Oh, by the way, I learned something yesterday.
L: What?
Me: Leo is not deathly allergic to shellfish. Ask me how I found that out.
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I am going to write a book about my son, and I am going to call it Toddlers Who Love (Cheese) Too Much.
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Leo has learned to say "no." In moments of reflection, I recognize that this is a key event in his development as an individual, but it's hard to get much reflecting done when he won't leave the stereo alone.
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This morning, I cut Leo's fingernails. I restricted my cutting to the nails, succeeding in not cutting the underlying fingers, but you wouldn't have known it from the fuss Leo made. Honestly, he screamed less when we had him circumcised.


Apparently, Lauren got a phone call from the descendants of Leo Gordon, who want to buy the leogordon.com domain name from me. I am currently inclined to hand it over for free, as long as I can register leosolomongordon.com.

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