Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Two Strike Santa

A year ago, Santa was a pretty cool dude, or at least Dylan tolerated his constant chuckling and peppermint breath. He was big, fuzzy, didn't seem to mind a little milk spit-up, and gave out treats that usually weren't allowed at home.

A year later, the "n" in Santa has moved inexplicably to the end of his name (a word puzzler!). He's now frightening and hostile, and, despite the candy and gifts, (hell, despite being her Uncle Greg), he's just downright scary.

It would be easier to drop a cat into a water trough than to set Dylan on St. Nick's lap. What do you mean you've never tried to drop a cat into a water trough? Let me tell you, it doesn't work. That much I know. Just as cats have the cartoon-like ability to run horizontally in mid-air and reattach (painfully) to the object which just released it (which is you, the bad person who thought Mr. Mittens needed a bath), Dylan has the same ability. You start to set her down on that big, red, fuzzy lap, and as soon as you let go, she's right back in your arms like a human yo-yo.

We've trimmed Dylan's nails, but I think she files them to sharp points on her bed posts at night. And whenever she hears, "Ho, ho, ho," those claws come out and grab hold. I've lost a nice shirt because of Santa; Regina's nose may have a permanent scar.

Like good parents who are full of the season's warm spirit, we tried Santa at a Grange Christmas party in Callahan. Great food, fun company, and a very speedy exit as soon as Santa appeared.

We were smart on Dylan's next Santa appointment: we were out of town and left the task to cousin Julie and her daughters. I think Regina mentioned, as we were leaving, that a photo of Dylan on Santa's lap would be nice. From what we read in the police blotter, the results were worse than in Callahan. I'll give the girls credit, they really tried, but in the end, Dylan had a lopsided victory over Santa. Sorry Greg, I mean Santa.

Despite her fear and maiming, we still think Dylan's made the "nice" list. We just hope that she's sound asleep when Santa comes down our chimney this year.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The 5 Days of Christmas

Regina and I like to challenge people. No, not to arm wrestling or sudoku, but simply to be their best. For the holidays, we decided that the best gifts to give, besides an iPod Touch or jerky, would be to challenge those around us to make them better people. It's kind of like getting New Year's resolutions as gifts. You'll thank us later.

First of all, we decided that remodeling the house, again, and adding a couple of new rooms during the holidays would be a terrific challenge to our marriage. Remodeling is perfect for testing your patience. So far it has gone well, but next week the low temperature is expected to dip below double digits, I'll be in Las Vegas, and the construction crew will be tearing down an exterior wall. Hurray! We couldn't ask for a better challenge.

Also, I didn't want to make this project exciting only for us, so I decided to challenge the carpenters. I decided that our twelve foot Christmas tree, which is loaded with breakable ornaments, should be placed against the wall that will be removed. This way the crew can have the good feeling of Christmas as they try not to destroy our tree. I know these guys and I figured they'd appreciate a good challenge, especially in cold weather.

For my bride, I decided to hang the fun ornaments down low on the Christmas tree's branches. So the sock monkeys and rodeo Santas are all within reach of the surprisingly strong grasp of Dylan. We have bets on the condition of the tree and its decorations by the time Christmas rolls around. I figured, while I'm gone, playing "ornament saver" would be a fun challenge for her.

For my baby, I went with two challenges. She's at an important developmental stage and she can only benefit from the extra work. First, for a physical challenge, I brought home a Australian Shepherd/Border Collie puppy with very sharp teeth. While Dylan still can't outrun the pup, Floyd, she has learned that leg strength and staying upright during a puppy attack are critical.

Second, less a challenge than a plea, is for Dylan to stop calling me Mommy. I know she can say Daddy, she will if you ask her my name, but the rest of the time she looks up at me, stretches out her arms, and says, "Mommy!" It's a challenge for her to use the right words and a challenge for me to keep my self-esteem.

It wouldn't be fair to give these wonderful gifts without giving myself a challenge. I've decided that gagging less at poopy diapers and asking Regina, "Do these match?" every time I pick out an outfit for Dylan would be suitable self-improving challenges.

Oh yeah, I've also challenged myself to a Blackjack contest, this Sunday, in Vegas. I guess I'd better show up. If I don't do well, it may be a challenge just to get back home.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Dylan, Patrick Swayze, and Big Mexicans

I have never seen a real wolverine. But, we have the Discovery Channel, which regularly airs shows called "World's Wildest Animals," and "Wolverines Gone Wild." Also, I've seen Red Dawn five times (1984. Patrick Swayze leads a group of high school football players against a full scale Soviet invasion. Frequently yells, "Wolverines!"). It's safe to say that I'm kind of an expert on the ferocious little critters. So when I say that flying to Cabo on a crowded plane with Dylan on my lap is exactly the same as flying to Cabo with a wolverine on my lap is no exaggeration.

We're used to it by now because the same thing always happens when we fly the friendly skies: finally the plane lands, the passengers clap, the stranger seated in the seat next to us dries his tears and takes the stickers out his his hair (Dylan loves stickers), and then -- Shazam! -- the wolverine on my lap magically turns back into an active nineteen month old baby.

Cabo is, quite possibly, the best place on earth for babies. The locals like you, the tourists like you, and the sidewalks are so bad that every ride in a stroller feels like 4x4-ing on a backroad logging track. Dylan even got over her fear of two things on this trip. First, the ocean. This time she spent hours watching me fill a pail with sand, pack it tight, and turn it upsidedown to make a sand "cake." Then she'd immediately destroy it, laugh, and run into the Pacific. Second, large men. She'd dash to every big Mexican dude that she saw with her arms open wide for a big hug. Cabbies, bouncers, restaurant owners, drunks, whomever, she loved them all, as long as they were A) Mexican, and B) big.

We quickly settled into a routine: up at 6:00 AM, Dylan and daddy would get started caking on the SPF 4,000, and at the pool or the beach by 8:00. I'd order a "Dirty Monkey" at happy hour (10:00), Regina would roll her eyes, then lunch, nap, and finally a stroll downtown past the chicklet vendors, and dinner. Dylan would do something to cause us to apologize to our waiter, we'd leave, get an ice cream, and off-road it home so we could get Dylan to bed. Lights out at 7:00 PM. Kind of like camp, but with more booze and stricter rules. We pretty much stuck to this routine, except for Thanksgiving, when I ran downtown to a restaurant that I'm sure didn't want us back and got take-out so we could stuff ourselves with a traditional Thanksgiving meal (ribs, chicken mole, and churros).

The day we flew home was probably the first day ever that Dylan didn't nap. So when the baby-to-wolverine transformation occurred, at least it was expected. Like a roughneck bar-brawler who apologizes before he kicks someone's ass, we could only say sorry to the unfortunate travelers who -- luck of the airline lotto -- drew a seat next to us.

After layovers and airport closures in every airport between Cabo and Seattle, we finally caught our final plane home. I watched the guy in the backwards Oregon Ducks cap who was seated in front of us cringe as Dylan let out an especially loud Swayze-esq, "Wolverines!" She kicked the seat, spilled our drinks, and thrashed around until ... Christmas miracle! ... she fell asleep. Regina and I were so shocked that we sat motionless for the entire flight.

When we finally made it back to the house, we didn't even care that our bags were in Eugene. It's always a nice feeling to be home after a vacation, and I stayed up past 7:00 PM so I could watch "World's Wildest Wolverines," on the Discovery Channel.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Baby High, Baby Low

We've always known that our little Dylan can be a ham, but lately, she's taken it up a notch. Of course, she has to be feeling well, properly rested, and have an audience, but when that perfect storm hits, start the cameras. Her most recent act of super-ham-dom occurred at our friends', Mike and Erin, house.

Dylan rolled in looking tough in her #1 Halloween costume (there are 2), as a Bee. She was a little shy, until she spotted the bucks on the wall. They must have made her feel at home because she instantly pointed them out. "Buck," she said and stretched out the "k" for emphasis (or, because it's fun to say, "Buck" with a static-y K on the end). And from then on, all inhibitions were tossed aside.

She ran around their house like an escaped circus monkey. She climbed on the couches, the chairs, the coffee table, and the curtains. She made strange noises, feigned interest in books, then tried to tear them up. When dinner was served we sat her next to us at the table and fed her bites of ribs until Regina finally just handed her a rib bone. Dylan gnawed on it for a while until she thought it served better as a Flintstone phone. She held it up to her little ear. "Hello," she said into the rib.

She got such a laugh out of the rib-phone gag that she tried out other pieces of dinner. The avocado-phone was a close second for originality and creativity.

The rest of the evening was spent in her diaper, an hour past her bedtime, running around the living room. She was so entertaining that our friends offered to watch her any time we wanted to stay out late. We tried to take them up on their offer immediately, but everything on a Sunday night in Yreka closes at 9:00 PM, so we really had nowhere to go.

We just wish that our pediatrician's office resembled Mike and Erin's living room. No deer heads on the wall, no fun couches to scale, nothing but four walls, a table, and the smell of a thousand tears. Dylan recognized it the instant we set foot in the room.

The length and intensity of her scream-cry was truly amazing. I actually remember thinking, "Wow, this is truly amazing," and, "She's got to pass out soon," as her volume hit eleven on the dial. At first, we were confused about what she wanted. She kept pointing at the door, which had a "Don't Smoke When You're Pregnant" poster on it with a picture of a baby's crib full of cigarettes. I thought she liked the poster. No. She wanted me to open the door.

The room became so unbearably hot from Dylan's energy output that the nurse tried to crack the door open and let some air in. "Jailbreak," thought Dylan, as she dashed for freedom. No luck. We caught her and let her resume her screaming, crying, punching, and kicking until the nurses could inspect and jab needles into her. Our PA assured us that Dylan's terror was a sign of her intelligence. I couldn't hear the reasons why over Dylan's wails; I just nodded dumbly as Regina bear-hugged Dylan to avoid another left-hook to the chin. We couldn't leave fast enough.

By the time we got to the car, her tears had dried. She cracked a smile when we hit I-5 South, and when we crossed the Siskiyous, she put her shoe to her ear. "Hello?" she said and smiled.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Yard Invasion

This Fall, our yard has turned into a sanctuary for deer. You'd think the antlers hanging in the woodshed and the smell of venison coming off the grill would deter our four legged friends from encroaching on our yard, but the macabre reminders of their fallen brothers only bolsters their confidence. Like bad house guests, they lie around all day, eat whenever they feel like it, and poop on the grass.

There are some benefits to this invasion, though. First, the four legal bucks (Deer season is now open) that hang out. Small, yes, but well-fed and will be tasty. Second, Dylan says, "Deer," like a Mexican soccer announcer yells, "Goal!!!" She stands at the back door, points, and yells, "Deeeeeeeeer!" I love it because it always makes me laugh and the yard-rats flee in terror, for a few minutes, at least.

Dylan is pretty thrilled about our wildlife preserve. Aside from the deer, we have horses, cattle, squirrels, cats, dogs, and raccoons, all within rock throwing distance. In fact, rock throwing is one way we keep the critters at bay. The cats are Dylan's favorite because they (well, one of the four) let her ride them. Dylan hops on like she's getting on a rodeo bull and Sergio (the tolerant one) lies flat while Dylan bounces up and down. "Kitty Rodeo" is a great warm-up before she begins Mutton Busting in a few years, and it burns off a little energy before bed time.

But let me get back to my point. It's about the deer and their refusal to leave. We've gone as far as borrowing a BB gun from Henry, our nephew. Which brings me to the third cool thing about having deer in our yard: Watching Regina wield a firearm. I'd tried to convince her to practice shooting before, but she never even wanted to touch the guns. Now she pops off shots like Annie Oakley. Dylan and I are her spotters and we cheer at every BB that finds its mark (on a doe's ass, mostly).

I guess that when we run out of BBs we'll have to resort to the fourth and final fun thing about our yard-deer, and that's watching Dylan chase them. She's not as agile as a Border Collie, but she's equally as persistant. Maybe she's trying to graduate from "Kitty Rodeo," to "Doe Rodeo."

Soon, the snow will start to fall and I expect that the deer will leave. We'll give the BB gun back to Henry and Dylan will have to settle on riding the cats. She'll stand at the door and quietly ask, "Deer?" while I take another bite of delicious buck steak.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Baby Einstein

It has been a nightly ritual that, after I give Dylan her bath and towel her dry, I let her run naked around the house until Regina, disapproving, diapers and pajamas her. This has gone swimmingly until, about a week ago, Dylan added "pee on the rug" as part of her path from tub to Mommy.

At first I was bothered, mostly because I got the "I told you so" look from Regina and also because I had to clean it up. But then I realized that peeing like an old tom cat around our home is a fine example of the genius of our daughter.

Really? you ask. Yes, I shout. Why are you shouting? you ask. I don't remember, I say. What were we talking about? Oh yeah, how a urine soaked carpet equates to intellectual prowess. Here's the theory: Dylan is choosing to NOT soil her bathing/drinking water (we'll address drinking bath water later). Most kids pee in the tub. I did. You certainly did. But super-genius children pee on the rug, outside the tub.

Okay, I see you're still skeptical. Let me give you another example. Dylan can count. Well, we say, "One!" and she says, "Two," and then we say, "Three!" then Dylan says, "TWO!" Maybe I shouldn't brag about her counting, but she knows that two follows one. I'm not sure Stephen Hawking knew that at her age.

Here's my favorite example of her genius. Dylan pretends a metal banana is a phone. "Hello, Ju-ju," she says, cradling the phone, I mean banana, between her shoulder and ear. I'm not going to explain why we have a metal banana, but Dylan's sense of humor (the banana-phone is far more comically advanced than the "pull-finger-fart" trick) is clearly a sign of advanced critical thinking skills.

We tried to convince our neighbor, Jim, that we were living with a Super-Genius. We even showed him the counting thing. He wasn't convinced. And then he told us we didn't want a Super-Genius child. Because three's a crowd? I offered. No. How about social awkwardness, depression, obsession with Dungeons and Dragons, crushes on Carl Sagan, and wedgies? And that's just junior high.

Tonight, Dylan took her bath, drank the bath water, and held out her arms when she was ready to get out. Just before I pulled her from the tub, she peed. Not on the floor, but in the water, once her bath was done. Brilliant! No clean up for me, no slipping in a puddle of pee for her. She might be proving Jim wrong. "Good skills," I told Dylan. "Two!" she replied.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Poops and Boobs

Lately, we've let Dylan run around in her nudie. She digs the sunshine and it beats changing diapers. But, without a diaper on, sometimes we get little stinky surprises. I came home from work last week and Regina told me, "Dylan pooped on the 4-wheeler," which, I thought, meant that Dylan pooped in her diaper while going for a Polaris ride. It actually meant that Dylan pooped on the 4-wheeler. We hosed it off before Greg needed it for irrigating.

The last "incident" involved our cat, Jesse. He walked a little to close to our baby-fountain and got a nice pee-bath on his head. The cat hated it, but the rest of us thought it was pretty funny.

Today we made sure Dylan's diaper was snug and went for a drive on a Siskiyou County backroad. We crossed over the Trinities and into Shasta Valley and ended up at Stewart Springs. It's a little enclave for hippies who want to swim in warm sulfur water, sleep in a tee-pee, and meditate, naked, next to a creek. Why it's so special, I have no idea.

We stopped there to let Dylan out of her carseat and give the dogs a pee break. Even though my wife and daughter were with me, I was excited at the prospect of seeing nude women. I had "Sirens" pictured in my mind (the movie where Elle Macpherson is naked in every scene). My heart raced as I caught a glimpse of naked flesh as we pulled in, but to be honest, I couldn't tell the men from the women. I pointed at one attractive specimen who sat in the lotus position on a large rock and asked Regina, "Is that a chick or a dude?" "Shhh," she said.

There were nudies meditating around the creek like sunbathing seals. Dylan ran and screamed and laughed and when I sneaked a peak back toward the creek (maybe this time I could distinguish between the vegan-men and the macro-biotic women) they'd scattered like a Great White shark had spawned upstream. I guess Dylan's whoops and hollers spooked them. I just shrugged as Boo and Scout marked the tires on every Prius around us.

As we drove away, I took one last hopeful look back. Bad move. All I saw was a very male nude body. I focused back on the road in front of me, Regina laughed, and I think Dylan wondered if the dude in his nudie was going to poop on the rocks.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back to the Bay

At nearly sixteen months old, we decided that Dylan was finally emotionally ready for a visit to her homeland. No, we didn't go to Ireland or Brasil, rather, we took her to Oakland to see the Raider Nation. And even though we didn't get her on the "Got a little Raider in you?" billboards, nor did Al Davis come through on his lunch meeting with her, I bravely scouted out McAfee Coliseum (okay, I went to an A's game with Maddock), for safe places to hide during a Raiders brawl, I mean game.

This was just a quick Bay trip, and we tried our best to see as many friends as we could in a few days. One of the highlights for Dylan was dinner out at our friends', Perry and Lisa, home. We turned their quiet neighborhood into a block party when I sent out an "all invited" email to everyone in my address book. Fortunately, the Monroes are too kind to turn away starving guests and the welcomed (and fed) a whole passel of our friends.

Every couple that came to dinner had a kid, none older than 2 1/2, with Dylan being the youngest. I got to really demonstrate my kick-ass father skills when I let my attention drift (oooh, pretty colors) and let Dylan roll down a flight of stairs. They were a short, carpeted flight of stairs, and my friend Matt assured me that, "babies are extremely limber and enjoy rolling down stairs," although I don't think Regina bought it.

When I wasn't diligently watching my daughter, I sat back and watched my friends, guys who used to have trouble remembering to wear underwear inside their pants, change poopy diapers with one hand and eat a cheeseburger with the other. I was impressed.

Our little monkeys played together extremely well. Maybe it was the spirit of the Olympics that overcame them, or maybe the Benadryl that we put in their ice cream, but no one got socked, shoved, or sent to the hospital. It's probably because we're all amazing people and we've instilled noble values into our children. Or luck.

We ended our trip with some friends who have two small boys. Dylan, of course, thought she was back in Scott Valley with her daycare homies and had a blast. Instead of going out for drinks and a nice meal (probably in that order), we had take out and hot chocolate and watched the Olympics.

The trip was over before we knew it. Dylan waved "bye-bye" to Malcom, Lauren, Jonah, Spencer, and Danny. We promised our friends that we'd come down more often and Dylan promised her new little buddies that she'd host the next North State Raider Nation BBQ and Stair Rolling Competition.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Fair Time, Fun Time

My father served on the local fair board for thirteen decades, and, naturally, I grew up as a fair kid. As a director's son, I received all the perks. My VIP wristband let me into a world seen by few children. I knew the carnies by name (and prison number), I could select the finest corndog stand by smell alone, I'd pick the Grand Champion pen of rabbits then go backstage with Waylon Jennings and tell fair stories. All this before I turned twelve. I walked on air (or cotton candy clouds) during fair-time.

But, once those five days in August were through, I was back to being just another ranch kid and the VIP bracelet I still clung to was worn and faded and had usually given me a rash.

This year, Dylan got to experience the joy of being a director's daughter. We strapped on her VIP bracelet and ran to the first ride we could find. We laughed and waved from our circling carousel horses and were living the dream. Until the unimaginable happened -- the ride stopped. She held up her little arm and showed the carnie her red VIP band, but it was no use. We had to dismount our plastic steeds and go. That didn't go over well.

Once her tears dried, we gave the FFA barns a shot. "Cows?" Dylan asked, looking at me like I was stupid. "Please, I see cows every day. Ooh, Mooo. Give me a break."

The petting zoo was fun, but mostly because there was sawdust on the floor (and little round goat poops) and we could roll around like hamsters. The animals (goats and deer) were old hat. Same goes for the Budweiser Clydesdales. Regina and I were in awe of the massive horses; Dylan was just mad that her wristband didn't give her access to the inside of their stalls.

The only two things that held Dylan's attention were the sandbox in Kids' Town and the slightly freaky juggling, unicycling guy. She was really into his corny jokes and beanbag tossing skills, but I felt weird and awkward watching him, so we ran back to Kids' Town.

After two days of fair time, Dylan told us that while baby goats are very cute and corndogs are delicious, it was time to move on. She handed in her VIP bracelet and threw her dusty and snowcone stained clothes into the hamper. On the other hand, I can't let go. My bracelet is still on, but my wrist is really starting to itch.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Baywatch Baby

The Eastside Gang just returned from their longest road trip, with baby, yet. After our last journey out of Scott Valley (six hours, constant screaming), we were, frankly, a little spooked about leaving. So, like Bill Murray in "What About Bob?", we travelled south in baby steps. Three days later, we arrived at Pismo Beach, intact and unscathed.

Speaking, or rather, writing, for Dylan, the highlight of the trip was, hands-down, the ocean. We spent one morning checking out downtown Pismo (the pier, Moondoggies) and when it really started to warm up, we took off Dylan's shoes and turned her loose on the beach. Pismo Beach is loaded with people BBQ-ing, kids playing, and dogs catching frisbees; Dylan thought she was at the best playground in the world. She beelined for the water, shedding her clothes faster than Pamela Anderson on "Baywatch."

Did I tell you that the Pacific Ocean, even in Southern California, is cold? It is. Very. Dylan hit the water, paused, weighed the fun vs. cold scales in her mind (fun is a rock, cold is a feather) and kept on going. I think she planned on pushing a few of the icebergs out of the way to tell the surfers in their 20mm wetsuits that, hey guys, careful, the water's cold. And awesome.

By the time I put her in a pretty dress and took her to the wedding, sitting in the sun and watching people stand in front of a preacher seemed like a big letdown, even if Mommy was one of those up there. So, like all weddings I go to now, I stood far enough away to let Dylan play on the grass, run wild, and splash in puddles. I chased her around until I sweated through my only nice shirt and had to take her up to the room for a deodorant re-application. The only thing that held her attention was a blue Tootsie Pop -- I know, bad idea. It turned her tongue, face, and dress bright blue, but got her to sit still long enough for my Mother-in-Law to scoop her up and take her to bed. I didn't even want to imagine the mayhem in our room once the sugar high kicked in.

We all survived and felt so good on Sunday that we tackled the drive home with vigor. Dylan, still blue, came off her sugar buzz and slept for nearly an hour (a record) in her car seat. And when we pulled into our home on Sunday evening, the ocean was just a memory as Dylan neighed and mooed at the horses and cows on the Hanna ranch, the best playground in the world.

Monday, July 14, 2008


This weekend, Regina went to Las Vegas for a "bachelorette party." I put that in quotes because I think she used the girls weekend as a guise to play in the World Series of Poker, under the pseudonym "Brasilian Ice." Regardless, she didn't have to hitchhike home or get a weird Sammy Davis Jr. tribute tattoo, so I think her weekend was a good one.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Dylan and Daddy were partying hard. Okay, I was working, but Aunty Ju-Ju got two new kitties, and Dylan went bonkers over them. She learned that the pain threshold of cats is pretty high and they don't seem to mind being carried by their necks. She also learned that, in contrast, her pain threshold is much lower and that cats sometimes do mind being carried by their necks.

On Sunday, Dylan and I loaded the truck and went to Medford to pick up Mommy from the airport. I figured Dylan would take her afternoon nap on the drive up and be cute and refreshed when Regina flew in. Stupid Daddy. Of course she didn't nap.

Our first stop was Big R -- ranching supply headquarters. Dylan sat in the cart and waved at all the employees, who all waved back. She earned "good baby" points, so when I released her from the shopping cart -- just to stretch her legs -- no one got too upset when she ran around the women's clothing section (camo, John Deere), ripping off every tag she could get her hands on.

I learned my lesson and kept her in the cart at Costco. I did forget to bring in the ever-so important snack bag, and panicked until I remembered, duh, this is Costco: food sample capitol of the world. We dutifully lined in behind the old and crazy who think Costco is a Home Town Buffet and I filled Dylan up on little bites of taquitos, push-ups, salmon patties, and dried apples. A pretty balanced meal. She topped it off by eating the grocery list. I know this because a nervous looking woman approached me and said, "She has paper in her mouth." I smiled. She eats a lot of paper.

We had a little time to kill, so into Barnes and Noble we ventured. There are no shopping carts in bookstores, and that should have been enough to send us packing. Instead, I let Dylan run free. She bolted like a feral cat and I could only keep track of her by the trail of books and stuffed "Harry Potter" dolls she left in her wake. I put everything back in its rightful place (it's the OCD in me) while Dylan laughed and bothered the creepy readers in the magazine section. I finally caught up to her in the "quiet" section and scooped her up. She wailed and screamed and fought and you'd of thought I'd just ripped a huge fart at a funeral from the looks I got. Look, dorks, you're reading on a smelly couch in a chain bookstore, not a library. Go read at home.

We left before we were asked to leave and spent the last half hour parked at a bank, making sure the bookstore police didn't follow us. I was out of ideas, and Dylan was out of patience, so we both sat in silence, praying for a tailwind to push Regina's flight ahead of schedule.

When Dylan saw Mommy step out of Medford International, she was ecstatic. Sure, her Daddy time was cool, but, man, sometimes he's clueless.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Baby Hercules

I started this entry yesterday, and was a page into it when I realized that it was all about weenies and boobies (those are technical terms). I got nervous that my blog might get "flagged," although I don't really know what "flagging" means; it very well could be a good thing. "Hey, dude, what'd you do last weekend?" "Man, I got flagged." "Sweet. That's flagging awesome."

So, for those of you who are dying to know what a weenie and booby blog would be about, I'll give you the Cliff Notes version: Dylan saw a ding-dong (mine) and thought it was a light switch chain. Dylan saw boobs (not mine) and her dad felt awkward. The end. No flagging necessary.

Now, on to the clean and mundane.

Lately, Dylan has been exhibiting super-strength. It started with breaking sticks in the yard. She'd pick up a fallen stick from our oaks (her favorite toy, by the way. It makes gift giving really easy.), then break it in half. If the stick was too big, her little arms would tremble and her eyes would bug out a little. I'd hold my breath in anticipation until the stick would snap.

Since the number of our backyard sticks has doubled (remember, she broke them all in half. It's math.), and are too small to break, she's moved on to toy-lifting. Dylan chooses the largest and most cumbersome, like the entire Old McDonald's Farm set, picks it up and carries it from room to room. She looks like an athlete on The World's Strongest Man competition who is trying to toss his ninth VW Bug over a wall. She staggers under the weight and Regina and I cheer her on like there is some imaginary finish line in our kitchen. It's fun to watch and has made the "toy corner" of our home obsolete. Now, we have toys in every room, like a FAO Schwarz.

I've got to say, with all this stick training and heavy lifting, Dylan is looking pretty ripped. And if anyone tries to flag this, I'll send over our little body-builder to settle the score.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wild Bachelor Weekend!

Last week, Regina asked me what I wanted to do for Fathers' Day. "Recover from a hangover," I replied. I was serious, and it seemed, at the time, like a practical idea.

You see, Momma and Baby Bear were going to Hell-A for a few days and Papa Bear was left alone. Sure, I had ranch work to do, but I wasn't intimidated. I had big plans: Thursday night at the pub (cancelled), Friday night at a The Devil Makes Three concert (two beers and home by midnight), and Saturday night ... well, Saturday night I had no plans, which I thought meant I could go anywhere on a whim and without a care. Instead, I stayed home and watched a Netflix movie.

I really have no excuse. The parties I imagined myself going to seemed terrific when they were a week away, but come game-time, my old, creaky bones just couldn't muster the strength to go out. Plus, I used to pride myself on being the only guy in Corrigan's bar with a full set of teeth, but I couldn't even be that cool anymore. I had to get a tooth pulled (a pipe meets chin injury) on the day before Regina and Dylan flew down south.

So, as a reward for being a weekend home-body, last Tuesday Regina and I dropped Dylan off with her grandparents and went to see Snoop Dogg in Medford. I could probably say we saw Elvis at the gym or Elton John on a tractor and that would sound more plausible. But it's true. Snoop-a-loop came to Medford. Regina and I were the second-oldest couple there. We stood next to the oldest couple -- two hardcore Raiders' fans who fought the entire time -- to make us look younger. It was a decidedly Southern Oregon crowd (white, drunk), but Snoop was unfazeable (so please don't try to faze me).

A few mamas at the show had their babies in little Bjorns and we wondered for a brief second if we should have brought Dylan to this cultural phenomenon ... until we choked on the stinky cannabis haze that lingered above the crowd like a coastal fog.

I did my part and drank all those beers that I'd skipped the previous weekend. Regina rolled her eyes and drove me home. I suffered through work on Wednesday, all the while piecing together every Snoop-a-licious moment so I could tell Dylan about the time the Dogg Father came to Medford.

Sunday, June 8, 2008


On Friday, we had a niece and a cousin graduate from high school (Go Lions!), and I couldn't help but think that in seventeen short years Dylan will be doing the same. Regina and I will be on our hover-walkers, because we'll be too old to stand, and Dylan will be listening to (or giving) a cliched valedictorian's speech on the same football field where I, as a 140 pound offensive lineman, cheered on the mighty Lions from next to the Gatorade cooler.

It'll be the year 2025 (hence the hover-walker), so the theme will be "A Quarter-Century of Memories," and the key-note speaker will be someone who both understands the new technologies (x-ray vision goggles and rocket shoes!), but will remind the graduates that, cool as it is to fly around and see through clothes, they should never forget the friends they've made and always believe in their drea ... blahblahblah.

One of my more unusual habits (according to me) always percolates this time of year. Every May, while I'm out irrigating, I compose a graduation speech. It's usually very clever and meaningful and is one that will be remembered for years to come. It'll be much like 1991's commencement speaker, who wore a purple suit and sang, "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" over and over, but without singing or crazy clothes.

Each evening, as I move swing-pipes around risers and roll wheellines sixty feet, I add a little more to my speech. In a week or two I have a full five minute presentation, complete with music and lasers. By the following week, usually a day or two before graduation, I've completely forgotten the inspiring wisdom I'd intended to impart.

Although a psychologist would probably argue otherwise, I absolutely do NOT want to give a speech at graduation. Ever. I do NOT have fantasies about replacing a laryngitis-struck speaker because graduation cannot proceed without an awesome speech from a pillar of the community. I make up speeches out of boredom and for the same reasons I think I can learn to play the harmonica or why I spend more time thinking about palindromes (my favorite: a slut nixes sex in Tulsa) than hay prices.

Whoever speaks at Dylan's graduation had better start thinking of an original and great speech now, and he or she better do a good job, because I'll be there, in my shiny silver space outfit, wearing x-ray goggles, hanging on every word.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ivan the Entertaining

We're at a funny stage right now with Dylan (usually funny-weird, sometimes funny ha-ha). She's walking, true, but changes in terrain, footwear, or climate drastically effect her mobility. On laminate flooring with bare feet, she's a whirling dervish. Sometimes she even breaks into a run. But throw some sandals on her or put out a throw rug and she becomes, literally, physical comedy.

Dylan is also expanding her vocabulary. That's not entirely true; she hasn't picked up any new words lately, but she makes some nice stabs at repeating what we say. It always comes out as gibberish, and she sounds remarkably like the Swedish Chef, which is really funny. She's also learned that loud grunts and squeals are a great way to give direction. If we turn the pages to Go, Dog, Go too slowly (e.g. in time to read every page), she'll let us know by grunting. If we skip pages or breeze through the book too quickly, she'll scream.

Aside from trying to mimic what we say, she also tries to copy what we do. I put up a swing for her and she immediately learned to climb to the first step on our foot stool. She loves grabbing the wheel if we're taking a short trip in the truck (no farther than Medford), and running the blinkers ... and the wiper fluid, and the wipers, and the radio .... She's also getting good at using a fork. By "good," I mean she holds a fork with one hand and feeds herself with the other.

This walking, babbling, curious stage reminds Regina and me of one thing: drunk people. Or, more precisely, living with Dylan is like having and old, Russian, drunk for a roommate. Cute and cuddly one minute (like all drunk Russians), belligerent and ornery the next. Dylan stumbles around, demands things by pointing and screaming (food, toys, books), and makes us guess what she wants, falls into joyful dance when we get it right, then farts and passes out in blissful slumber.

I guess the fun part is that her behavior reminds us of our college days, except when Dylan falls asleep, we don't write "smelly" across her forehead. Yet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Baby Bonds

When a nurse hands you a prescription for your baby's croup, and offhandedly mentions that, "The steroids might make her a little moody," take that to heart.

To be fair, it might not have entirely been the steroids that turned Dylan from a wild thing to an uber-wild thing. First, she is often outrageous in public settings. Attention in from strangers is her caffeine. Attention from waitresses in Thai restaurants is her Red Bull. Second, she may have been rejoicing the fact that she received a clean bill of health (minus the croup) for her ear infection. Or, third, she may have been a little giddy, having just been in her first automobile accident. Yeah, some dillweed pulled out in front of Regina and turned his Toyota pickup into a hood ornament for the Pilot. No one was hurt, thankfully, but the crash may have left Dylan feeling invincible.

But I think it was the 'roids.

I'm not trying to give steroids a bad rap. They're great for lots of things: hitting the long ball, sprinting faster than Big Brown, creating a mass between your head and shoulders that does not resemble a neck, or, shrinking those pesky giant testicles. And, they're also great for getting rid of the croup.

Dylan laughed and giggled and made her presence known to everyone at Ali's Thai Kitchen. At one point, I looked up from our chicken curry and asked, "Where's Dylan?" Then we heard the shrieks of delight from the kitchen and figured everything was okay. "Pass the Tom Yum," Regina said.

We only had to give three doses of the "juice," and, by the following day, Baby Godzilla had calmed down (relatively) and now is just a boogery, wild, ex-steroid user. Like Jose Canseco or Barry Bonds, but with less whining.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Hodeo Dodeo

Did you know that the name of the rodeo grounds in Etna is the "Pleasure Park"? It's an unusual name, for sure, and I like to think that when the old rodeo arena drifted away in the big flood, the Board of Directors opened up the naming of the new facility to the local schools. And, after tallying up the votes, "Pleasure Park" narrowly beat out "Dirt Field," and "Rodeo Rotunda."

Kids always come up with the best names. When I was a director on the rodeo board, we'd hold an annual contest at the local elementary schools to name the rodeo parade's theme. My favorites: "Hodeo Dodeo, Let's Have A Rodeo," and, "Strawberry Dirt." I voted for them both, and they lost by a margin of 8:1.

This is just a long way of telling you that this last weekend was full of rodeos for the Eastside Gang. Lacy was in her final high school rodeo and the May Rodeo was on Sunday. We took Dylan to both. Remember, Dylan is no rodeo rookie; in fact, she spent a majority of her weekends last summer snuggled inside a Baby Bjorn, watching bucking bulls and fast horses. That did little to prepare us for the '08 rodeo season.

Now that Dylan is both mobile and in love with animals, the rodeo grounds were like a giant amusement park for her. We had to pry her tiny, but unusually strong, fingers from the fencing around the bucking horses. I think if we walked away, gone to the Lion's Club booth for a Lion Burger and a Coors, she still would have been clinging to the top rail of the fence, saying, "Hor-seee," when we returned. The bull pen was a little more problematic because once she saw the bulls -- "Mooooo," -- she wanted to crawl in there with them. Luckily, Donny, the bullfighter, brought his dog and that gave her something else to maul.

Between bulls, horses, dogs, a shiny crown on the queen, daycare buddies, and lots of dropped food to nibble on, Dylan was in Seventh Heaven at the Pleasure Park. She went to bed early on Sunday night and was asleep as soon as her head hit the crib, immediately dreaming of eight second rides and strawberry dirt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Keeping Up With the Hannas

Tonight, as I write this, Dylan is in her crib, wearily mumbling, "Hiiii Ah-ki," (translation: Hi, horse) too exhausted to sleep. It's been a whirlwind couple of weeks for our baby, starting with her first steps, followed by, but not related to, her first black eye, then her first birthday (and party), visits from grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and finally, today, her baptism (and party).

Needless to say, the Eastside gang are all a little rummy. In the past few days, I've tentatively stepped into Corrigan's for the first time in a year, stayed up past my bedtime on three consecutive nights, neglected my work on the ranch, been sunburned, learned that Bruce Jenner is the dad on "Keeping Up With the Kardashians," and have stuffed myself with Brazilian food and light beer.

While her parents are a little frayed around the edges, Dylan has handled it all with grace. She actually smiled when the baptism water hit her head (and stuck out her tongue to catch a falling drop). She then waved to the congregation like a prom queen. She buttered up her grandparents with over the top cuteness, and opened all her gifts with just the right amounts of glee, appreciation, and surprise. And she still found the time to prepare for the 4 Meter Walk in Beijing this summer.

And now, finally, we've turned out the lights and the party's over. If I stay up another fifteen minutes, it'll make four late nights in a row (unheard of since my college days). Dylan is quiet in her bed now, getting her beauty rest and, most likely, fully expecting another huge family gathering in her honor by tomorrow afternoon. We'll keep working on pronouncing "horse," and will keep practicing walking. And if Bruce Jenner wants to leave trash-TV and make an Olympic comeback, Dylan will be there, in China, ready to beat his ass.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Portland Tour Guide

Last weekend, the Eastside Gang packed up and took a trip to Portland. How nice, you might be thinking, Portland's lovely this time of year. And you'd be right: it is. But this weren't no Forced Family Fun -- this was business. Okay, Regina was in a bachelorette party, but that's business, right?

It was Daddy-n-me time for Dylan and we did it right. Sort of. I took her to the zoo and Dylan got a nice look at the parking lot as we passed the hoards of people lined into the street. So we skipped the zoo and went downtown. I figured, I love Powell's Bookstore, Dylan might too. At least she could have fun pulling books from the shelves. So we parked behind the store and I waited while Dylan napped. And I waited, and waited, until finally I just felt like a bookstore stalker and left. So I decided to take Dylan swimming ... one of Bean's favorite activities. The sign read, "Pool Closed," but I didn't really believe it. We played on the the top step until we were informed that, yes, the pool really was closed because it had been shocked with a massive dose of chlorine. We left and took a nice clean water bath as I checked Dylan for chemical burns.

What does a good father do when everything he's tried has failed? I'll be sure to ask one when I meet him; instead, I took my daughter to Hooters.

I'll tell you this: bringing a baby to Hooters draws more attention than a puppy at the park. And the place was hopping -- hula hoops, loud music, wall to wall televisions, balloons, and maybe even a waitress or two. Dylan was in sensory heaven. The waitresses ogled over Dylan and passed me more napkins as I gorged myself on hot wings and Guiness. "She's a cutie," one hot-pantsed waitress exclaimed, "Where's her mommy?" Sensing an opportunity for some free hot wings, I wiped the bleu cheese from my chin and choked out, "There was a terrible fire ..."

Okay, I didn't say it, and the only thing any waitress said to me, aside from,"Here's another napkin," was, "Maybe she'll be a Hooters' girl someday." I looked at the sheer joy on Dylan's face as she tried to eat her balloon. Yes, girl who wrote her name on my napkin for no apparent reason, maybe she will.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Bo and Che

Sometime during my fifth or sixth year of high school, I took a course called "CHE II." To this day, I have no idea what "CHE" means. Maybe I was in my revolutionary phase and mistakingly thought it was a course on Che Guevara, or maybe I thought the school secretary misspelled PE II, but for whatever reason, I took it. Obviously I'd passed CHE I and felt I needed a little more CHE-ing.

The two assignments I remember from the semester both reflect poorly on my parenting skills. The first was "Baby Egg." Modern high school students pack around realistic looking infants which can be programmed to be anything from colicky to constipated. In the late 80s, baby technology was still in its infancy and, for our parenting unit, we were supposed to care for a raw egg as if it were our own baby. I put mine in my jacket pocket and immediately broke it.

The second assignment was a letter to our first child, and mom kept this until the birth of Dylan. The outside of the coffee-stained envelope reads: "To my first child -- Bo Rowdy Hanna." It was written at the time when Bo Jackson was kicking-ass as a Raider, so I thought the name to be perfect. Obviously, I was expecting a boy.

I have the letter in front of me now and I'll share some pearls of wisdom from a seventeen year old. First, under no circumstances would I be strict. I decided that letting "you make your decisions on your own" would be wise and that I'd be around, somewhere, for support if little Bo needed it. Secondly, I wrote that I wouldn't set any expectations for Bo Rowdy. Even as a high school senior with a mushy brain, I saw the flaw in this thinking, so I changed it to, "I'm not going to set many expectations," because, I didn't want to "interfere a lot."

I think I'd envisioned fatherhood much like raising a kitten. Set out a little food, a dish of water, and a litter box, and next thing you know, little Bo is graduating from high school and we're all so proud. I ended the masterpiece with, "I better jam. See ya in a few years."

Fortunately, a few years turned into eighteen. Barely enough time to correct some of my flaws in fathering logic, but my ideas about a hands-off approach seem pretty stupid now. Although, I do still like the name "Bo-Rowdy."

Well, I'd better jam.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mama Don't Let Your Cowgirl Grow Up To Be Winehouse

Dylan's first Easter has come and gone and on the Parent Preparedness Scale, Regina and I scored about a 4. This means, basically, that we didn't do much more than put Dylan in a pretty dress and take her to the Pynes' Easter party. Once there Dylan entertained herself by playing in the plastic egg rubble left over from older kids breaking them open, pulling out cash or candy, and tossing them aside. Dylan loved the resulting mayhem and we loved that plastic eggs are too large to be ingested.

Dylan met a few more of her cousins and got a first-hand look at a large and chaotic Hanna family holiday party. We've talked her out of putting herself up for adoption, promising that we'll all be better behaved at the next function. The remainder of the day was spent crawling back and forth, back and forth on a step leading from the living to the family room. Great entertainment and now a step has been added to our remodel plans.

Since Easter, Dylan has discovered the music of Amy Winehouse. Regina picked up the CD recently and Dylan digs it. I don't know if it's the nod to 60s soul, or just songs about drinking and the effects thereafter that she likes, but every time Amy shuffles around on the hi-fi, Dylan goes into a little stand and crouch dance, and she waves her hands like she just don't care. We've dubbed her Baby Winehouse, despite the fact that she doesn't have the hair volume for a full beehive 'do -- yet. Frankly, I'd hoped she'd be more into Waylon Jennings or Willie Nelson. Man, the stuff kids listen to these days; I just don't get it. I blame Regina for singing Dylan to sleep to pop songs like "Umbrella," or "Rehab." Maybe I'll croon a little "Good Hearted Woman" during bath time to help expand her musical tastes. Until then, we'll just keep bobbing up and down in our goofy dance.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Yoplait and Rum, On the Rocks

When Regina was pregnant, veteran parents warned us about the slew of bizarre and inappropriate questions we would be asked. We were thrilled. We made a game of who could come up with the best reply to a ridiculous inquiry. There is nothing worse than being caught off-guard when is stupid question is thrown your way. Like when some turd-bucket cuts you off in traffic, flips you the bird, and yells, "What are you, stupid?" and all you can say in your defense is, "No, you are." It's important to plan for such events.

One of our favorite questions that we were never asked was, upon seeing Dylan with a bottle and a cans of formula in our grocery cart, "Why aren't you breast feeding?" Regina won a round in our imagined scenario game when she came up with, "Because I have no nipples."

Another question we'd prepared for like we were collegiate debate team competitors came to us from a friend as an actual event. When she was very pregant, one day in the grocery store, she was chastised by a stranger for having a case of diet soda in her cart. Diet soda. I mean, come on. Regina would have rubbed her giant belly and shrugged, "Baby needs a little splash in her bourbon." We liked this one so much that we roamed around aimlessly in Raley's, meeting the eyes of anyone who looked our way, just hoping they'd comment on the forty-seven cases of RC Cola in our cart.

The one scenario we thought we'd be ready for, but really weren't, was the name game. We've had people, upon hearing Dylan's name and gender, insist that we must be mistaken. Maybe it's the Carhartt coveralls, but they can't get it straight that Dylan is a girl. "Really?" they ask. "We're pretty sure," we reply as we peek into her diaper. We still haven't come up with a snappy reply, but the tough cashier at the local market helped us out the last time we were scrutinized. "You think they'd dress a boy in that much pink?" she snapped at the nosey idiot in line behind us. Regina and I just nodded our approval.

The most recent account of nosey-ness has come in the form of a tongue-lashing for feeding Dylan yogurt. Not yogurt n' hot dogs; not yogurt and Skittles; just fruity Yoplait, neat. Apparently, one ingredient in the Devil's food is a type of dye made from crushed beetle wings, or something like that. "You wouldn't feed your baby bugs, would you?" Lady, Regina thought, you should see half the crap Dylan puts in her mouth. "And then there's the corn syrup," the ugly hag spewed. Fortunately for the wanna-be nutritionist, we were in a church. Regina smiled and walked away and told me we were leaving, now, before some Shrek-lady got a Brazilian beat down.

We drove home, thinking of the perfect response to the yogurt-haters and watched Dylan in the rearview, gumming on something she no doubt found stuck to the bottom of her car seat.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Steppin' Ahead

One of the ancillary benefits of parenthood is the the mailbox jamming flow of catalogues we now receive. BD (Before-Dylan), it was a thrill and a joy to walk out to get the mail and find the Fall edition of Cabelas or, in Regina's case, this month's "Pretty Glamorous Wine House" magazine. Now we receive an avalanche of Baby! Baby! Baby! magazines and catalogues.

My favorite catalogue (now) is called "One Step Ahead" and generally features a fit guy on the cover who looks like he won best dressed in the psych ward. Our Spring Preview 2008 edition is loaded with gems and it reads, surprisingly, a lot like the Sky Mall you'll find in airplanes.

Along with cool gadgets like toddler-leashes and battery operated booger suckers, this season's issue has a few standouts. For example, the "Instant (cushy) Travel Crib." Sounds handy -- until you see that it's little more than mosquito netting over a frame that you place on top of your baby, like trapping a bug under a (breathable) jar. Great for trapping babies in the wild, but a little freaky in your own backyard.

Another favorite is, for $30, the "Baby B'Air," which connects your baby, through a vest and harness system, to your lap belt on an airplane. It claims to "hold baby safely on your lap during flight," but is, "not approved for taxi, takeoff, and landing." So, instead of just, you know, actually holding your baby with your arms during flight, you can strap your kid to your lap. This is useful for either people with no arms or for those who see air travel as their private cocktail hour and cannot be distracted from their gin and tonic.

My personal favorite, found on page 17, is the Wee Block. The heading reads, "Put a Lid on Li'l Squirts!" and is a product which looks like a colorful and miniature version of a catchers' cup. You place the block over your baby boy's weiner during diaper changes to prevent any kind of golden shower. It comes in "Li'l Squirt" or "Wee Wee Man," but I don't know the difference between the two styles. I assume it's a color difference, not an endowed difference.

Of course, all of you parents of boys might just be asking, "Where can I find the Wee Block?" As a father to a girl, pee-facials is one parenting joy I don't have to endure. And yes, I know, I've got it coming to me in about 12 years, but for now, I'm happy not getting peed on and I'm seriously checking out the "Spoon on a Spring" self feeder on page 35.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Internet Hero

I recently read that the ratio of internet users to bloggers is roughly 1:1. Of course, once that happens, people look to other forms of entertaining themselves (monkeys!, knitting!) and the novelty wears off. I knew the end was near when I started this one, way back in '07, so I gave myself a little direction: never use the word "blog," don't make the focus me, and keep it about Dylan and the ranch. By doing those small things, I thought I could singlehandedly topple Facebook and MySpace and bring blogging back to its rightful place at the top of internet supremecy. And here I am, breaking all the rules.

There are worse things than struggling to come up with a fresh idea to write about. For example, toxic mushroom ingestion, bloody noses, and overflowing diapers -- all topics that can fill pages, but not exactly what one hopes to write about. This week, I've waited for an event ... a new tooth, first steps, an original musical score. Nothing. And it would be easy to assume that, in looking for the forest, I'm missing the trees. But trees here at casa de Eastside are spread pretty thin and I've realized that's what this "assignment" has provided: a chance to notice what I might otherwise have overlooked.

These last two weeks have been dull by Dylan's standards. No ER visits, no hallelujah moments. But they have been full of hungry Hulk growls and pee-you diaper giggles, three second hugs (a record!), and small snuggles. I've dwelled on these moments and tried to memorize them. Moments worth sharing? Hardly. They're pretty much standard fare in the canon of fatherhood, but they are the moments that matter and what make being a dad, even a clueless one, so cool.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Sunshine and Suck Soup

I've mentioned lately, dear reader (that's you, Mom. Thanks.), that Dylan is now mobile. She crawls like she's being chased and if this were August, I'd put good money on her to win the diaper-derby at the fair. But, it's not fair-time and all of her crawling has been indoors. Until today.

Today we changed her training routine and thought it would be fun to see how she did on grass. Kind of like running an American Thoroughbred on a European track. It was the first sunny day we've had in weeks and not having to worry about Dylan crawling too close to the wood stove or eating hibernating flies seemed like a great idea. Outside was gorgeous: no clouds, the snow was nearly melted off the lawn, and even my sick wife crawled out of bed to soak up some sun. Perfect. Right up until we watched, but could not stop, as Dylan put a big piece of the weird mushroom that grows on our lawn into her mouth.

We cleared out what we could and I rinsed her mouth with enough water to violate a few treaties of the Geneva Conventions. When Poison Control told me that I should drive, just not too fast, to the hospital, I started to worry. And for the next five hours, all Regina and I could do was worry.

I'd hoped this entry would be about the dinner we had at an Italian restaurant last Friday. Dylan, even with a cold, was on her game. She brought the word, "Hi," back to her vocabulary from a two week hiatus and used it on anyone who looked our way. She commanded attention like a kind and cute Tony Soprano. Waiters and waitresses smiled and waved and Dylan smiled and waved back. She even earned us a free dessert. Awesome doesn't describe it.

Instead of contemplating how I'd write about our perfect dinner out, I listened to a doctor tell us he wanted to put a big syringe full of liquid charcoal (suck-soup, we named it) up Dylan's nose and into her stomach. Dylan, we learned, doesn't like things shoved up her nose and into her stomach. Who'd of thought? Even after two shots of animal tranquilizer (Regina recognized the name from her vet-office days), the tube would not go in. Dylan, we learned next, likes getting an IV in her hand less than a tube up her nose. But that was the only option left and we watched, pale and terrified, as our baby had a needle stuck into a vein and a big dose of sedative was administered. Then she got her beloved nose tube and a tummy full of liquid charcoal.

I know there is something to be learned here, more than, "don't let baby eat weird mushrooms," but this wound is still too fresh to contemplate. So, for now, I'll check in on her and make sure she's sleeping soundly. Tomorrow, I'll see what I can do to rid the yard of fungi and hopefully we'll avoid another serving of suck-soup.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The spawn of Ted Kennedy and Bob Burnquist

I'm always amazed at the callousness in which veteran parents react to their children's bumps and scrapes. I once saw a child with some bleeding injury show her father the wound and the father, who happened to be a medical doctor, replied, "Maybe you should see a doctor." The child stormed off and the dad just shrugged and took another sip of his beer.

New parents don't have that thick skin yet and so when Dylan got her first scrape (and bloody nose) this week from doing a header off a bed, I think most expected our reaction to fall between a Drivers' Education instructor in Thanksgiving traffic and a Baptist in Amsterdam on the shocked scale.

Surprisingly, Regina and I were unfazed by the news. Probably because we're both still in disbelief that we actually have a real baby. "Is she okay?" we both asked. Yes, was the reply, she is now.
"Okay? She could have been really hurt."
"She's tough," I said. "But she wasn't hurt," said Regina (the better and more appropriate response I later learned).

At first, Dylan's nose looked a little like Ted Kennedy's: red and swollen. Currently, she's lost that alcoholic Senator's glow and looks like a typical fourth place finisher in any X-Games competition. It's just a nice scab and is healing well. She's also quickly learning not to pick scabs and how to say, "Owww."

Dylan came home today with a fresh wound on her head. Did I mention that she's standing? And falling? Hence the head wound. The word today was that she didn't even cry over this one. "She's tough," I beamed, just before Regina cuffed me on the back of the head.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Giant Baby

Dylan just had her nine month check-up and was signed off with a clean bill of health. 75th percentile in weight, 95th percentile in height, and, like any poll or statistic, we've manipulated the numbers to mean much more than necessary. She's tall! and strong! She'll crush her foes (prospective boyfriends who are undeterred by her father's gun collection) and rule planet Earth someday!

But, while the appointments are all fine and good for our baby (except for the shots, of course), I always feel like I'm going in for a very important oral exam for which I have not studied. I don't mean to imply that our pediatrician's office is intimidating, in fact, it's quite the opposite. Our doctor is knowledgeable and athletic; the nurses are all kind and attractive. It's like a TV show doctor's office. (Our doctor's name: Don Johnson. Really.) I just know that if I'm screwing up as a father, they're going to call me on it. I quietly pray as Dylan is placed on the digital scale that she's gained the appropriate amount of weight and is not over or under-nourished. I cross my fingers as Dylan gets inspected, worried that they'll catch some "flaw" that is a direct result of something I did, or did not, do properly.

In college, my friend Matt and I took a "Film Appreciation" course from a quirky and brilliant professor. Dr. Diane Borden could analyze and dissect anything. We learned that the same archetypal symbols found in films are also in dreams, hence, she could, and often did, discuss what student's dreams meant. Matt vowed he'd never offer up a dream of his for analysis because, no matter what the dream was about (hunting, making out with chicks, splitting wood), he feared Dr. Borden would look up at him in the last row of the auditorium, scratch her chin, and say, "Well, you're gay."

I feel the same trepidation Matt felt. I'm offering up my baby for analysis and I'm terrified of the response. I keep expecting the nurse to look at me, scratch her chin, and say, "We'll keep her for a while until you get better at this." I keep looking for the hidden hotline button that will have CPS kicking down the door to the waiting room in under five minutes.

So far, things have gone well -- except for the pee-fountain that Dylan poured out on our first visit which sent Regina and I into helpless hysterics. Sharon, the nurse, calmly placed her hand over the geyser until it subsided (I didn't even know girls could pee in that direction) and cleaned off the walls with a handful of baby wipes. I thought I saw her marking something on her clipboard, and I'm sure I lost some valuable "father points."

Luckily, we've been able to keep Dylan after each check-up. When Dr. Johnson hands her over and tells us all the nice things people say about babies (she's beautiful, she's happy, she looks like her mother ...) and says he'll see us in three months, I quietly exhale a sigh of relief and run as fast as I can to the truck before CPS arrives.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What I've Learned

Spring semester has started and my class is hard at work on their first essay, a narrative loosely based on Esquire magazine's "What I've Learned" feature. I've decided to lead the way for my fearless students and write my own "What I've Learned: The First Nine Months." Here goes:

1. To all those who told me that I won't mind the smell of baby shit after the first few hundred diapers -- you were 100% wrong. I do mind the smell; it gags me.

2. Babies can reach out and grab like little lightning fast ninjas. Dylan can give a titty-twister as hard as any full grown man. Not that I've had a full grown man twist my nipples lately, but the point is, they still hurt like a mother.

3. All the gross things parents do that I swore I'd never do? I do them all and actually enjoy snacking on mushy crackers that Dylan has used as teething rings. I use my spit-finger to clean off her boogers, then wipe said boogers on my own clean clothes. And I love getting baby kisses, even if they are from an open-mouthed, drooling, food-stained daughter.

4. Nothing is louder than the sound of your own child crying in a nice restaurant. Or really, any restaurant.

5. Any piece of clothing with at least three miniscule baby-buttons will be worn only when necessary. Jumpsuits with buttons than run from neck to toe will remain in the closet until they are too small to be worn. Conversely, clothing with snaps will be worn well past the recommended age limit, making Dylan look like an overstuffed sausage. Velcro would be ideal.

6. If I drop anything on the floor smaller than a quarter, Dylan will find it and eat it.

7. Don't make a baby laugh when she has a mouth full of chicken-vegetable-blueberry goulash. Also, don't tickle a baby as she's pulling herself up on a step-stool. She'll fall and you'll feel like a heel.

8. Sometimes, just putting pillows on the floor for landing pads as Dylan plays on the couch constitutes good parenting. As long as other parents don't catch you. Or Regina.

9. Babies bring out the songwriter in us all. Granted, it's usually the same song, with different verses to match the current activity. As of now, I have thirty different versions of the "We're Going To Eileen's" song, but they all begin the same way. You guessed it (sing along): "We're going to Eileen-y's, we're going to Eileen-y's." It's catchy and I can dance to it.

And, finally: 10. No matter what, a smile from Dylan always makes me feel like the best Dad in the world. Even if it's followed by a big, smelly poop.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Grizzly Girl

It must have been a few weeks ago, but I have this vague recollection that I offered up some lame wisdom ... something about learning something new each day from your child. I think I'd just polished off an article in "Parenting" magazine and was feeling pretty cocky about my dad-ness abilities.

Well, now I've learned that I may have jumped the gun in offering up solid advice. I think (get out your pen and paper) that what I'm learning about myself and my daughter is trumped tenfold by what Dylan is learning about her parents. For example, just last weekend Dylan learned that screaming, loudly, every six or seven seconds while we are driving to Medford, will drive her parents into hysterics. She gets to watch her mother repeat, "I don't know what you want," over and over until she finally unbuckles her seatbelt, and crawls into the backseat of the the truck. And she gets to watch her father stare blankly ahead at Interstate 5 and wonder, out loud, about meaningless things passing by. "That car has a dent in it. Hello to you, family of four in your mini-van. Hey, a buzzard. Nice driving, motorcycle, ride on."

To carry her experiment one step further, Dylan tried to see if her screaming would product the same result in a store. The store in question was Big R -- our country-supply store. What she didn't know was that once inside Big R, her father runs around like a Meerkat on meth. Guns! Boots! Equine tranquilizers! Camo! So, while her experiment failed with her father, she learned that it's the enclosed confines of the truck that amplifies her shouts and have full effect on her mother. The acoustics aren't as good inside a warehouse store and Regina was able to put together some sentences. The most sensible was, I swear to God, "Can you believe they don't have rawhide dog treats? I tried to find one for Dylan to chew on, but they're out." I just shrugged and said, "I gotta find some rope."

The scream-experiment also failed because it gave her position away, so I could either hide in the saddle section, or retreat back to the stroller, depending on the time. Dylan continued the experiment in the Sportsman's Warehouse, Target, Barnes and Noble, and a Japanese Restaurant. It was in the restaurant that we learned something that was so profound, so mind-blowing, that we wrote it down on a legal pad and sent it in to "Parenting" magazine. It's revolutionary and will make "The Baby Whisperer," weep that she hadn't realized it first. We are fully expecting a "Parents of the Year Award" for this one.

Are you ready? Again, please have your pen and paper ready because I'll only say this once: While screaming may seem like an obvious way for your bored child to get attention, it may also mean that she's hungry. Yes, hungry. Feed her right away. So there, Dr. Spock, there's a new sheriff in town, and he's feeling pretty cocky.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Mouth Sweep

By now, Dylan has excellent crawling skills (she's approved to crawl in most states), and, since nothing comes without a hitch, she's also broken her first tooth. So, instead of cutely crawling across the floor to get from toy A to toy B, she now feels compelled to put anything smaller than her head into her mouth. And so, when I write that this week Dylan really got a taste of what it's like to be a country girl, I, of course, mean that literally. Wood chips, snow, slow spiders, cat hair, something from the bottom of my boot, even Swedish Fish (I know, not too "country," but they are her dad's favorite food) have all found their way into her mouth. Last week, Regina found hay in her poop (Hay! I don't remember eating hay!).

I guess this is what all the cool babies are doing, but this stage makes us pang for the days of the toothless, stationary-baby (which was, I guess, just last Saturday). Now, along with bath, jammies, and bedtime book as nightly rituals, we've added "mouth sweep," and "diaper check." So far we've found a nearly cord of wood and a set of false teeth.

Just when we thought we couldn't be more vigilant, we've learned that the microscopic spec of a gnat's leg that we'd overlooked and the vacuum didn't suck up is fodder for Dylan. Her vision, especially at floor-level, must be 20/10 because she can spot a spec of dust from ten yards away, scamper over to it, and put it in her mouth before we can snatch an ankle and drag her back to her play toys. She'll also pick at dents in the flooring, mistaking the indentations for bits of dropped food. Our only solution for that is to cover the damaged spots with a throw rug.

I also learned, the hard way, that snow to Dylan is like the ocean or Santa Claus -- great for other kids, but suspicious as hell to her. Dylan wasn't too terrified when we put her on the snow disc and slid her around the backyard, and she didn't howl when I yanked it out from under her, and she didn't even squeal at three G's as I spun her in circles, but it was obvious that cold and snow are going to have to be an acquired taste. We'll wait until next year to unwrap that snowboard.

For now we'll keep scattering blueberries across the floor and hope that Dylan spots them before she finds the nest of spiders beneath the refrigerator or the pin I dropped but cannot find and remember to soak in every day, every moment, we have with our little bug.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Leon Spinx and Crocs

For a couple of months now, Dylan has been on the verge of two things: teething and crawling. We've attributed any fussy behavior and drooling to teething. This has been since September, and still, no teeth. Regina and I have finally conceded that Dylan just may be a toothless, drooling person, much like Leon Spinx.

The crawling thing tricked us a little as well. Like the teeth that we looked for every day, Dylan duped us into thinking that, yes, any second now I will begin crawling. Watch for it. We'd hold our breath as Dylan got up on her hands and knees, would do a little booty dance, and then, just at the moment we expected forward progress, she'd plop down on her belly and wiggle her arms and legs like a baby skydiver.

We figured that Dylan would skip the crawling stage of her development altogether, but last weekend she took her first tentative step forward (forward is important here, as she's been scooting backward on the hardwood floors for a few weeks, which doesn't count as crawling, even for us). It was beautiful. An honest-to-God left hand, right foot step. She immediately plopped down to her belly and resumed skydiving. We squealed. Dylan screamed. She repeated this all evening until she put together two or three steps in a row. Dylan could now literally crawl YARDS without rolling or scooting backwards.

One thing we've learned, and promptly forgotten, is that with kids, every day is something new. Crawling was no exception. Day two of crawling was a nice progression from day one, much like we expected our little Mensa star to do. The crawl evolved into a step, dive, roll combination that made her look like a wounded animal. The step was ugly, yet functional, much like turtlenecks or Crocs.

Dylan broke out her A game for day three and abandoned the whole hands and knees aspect of crawling. She's now gone from the crawl position, then up to hands and tippy-toes, then gives a big dive forward, much like a breakdancer doing "the worm." She can put three or four of these together and cover the length of the living-room in 4.5 seconds flat.

The first night she crawled, I told Regina that it was the beginning of the end. No more propping Dylan in front of the window to look at the kitties while we run into town for a few grocery items. No more stationary baby, we now have a traveller. On the bright side, we may have America's first breakdancing baby. That's got to be worth something on YouTube. Look out Leon Spinx, Dylan's coming.