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.