Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa Detector

Dylan's first run-in with Santa came in the form of my Dad, who'd been cajoled into dressing in a fuzzy red suit, at daycare. Dylan was leary of sitting on the big guy's lap, and she didn't cry, but she didn't smile either.

What Dylan didn't know was that Santa almost didn't make it. I happened to be a little early to the daycare Christmas party and used the opportunity to drive on up the road to check out the snow that had been piling up all day. A little past Eileen's I spotted my dad's truck. I slowed and saw Dad, wearing the full Santa suit, trying to squeeze through the beer-can window of his truck. Most small children can't fit through a beer-can window, so all I saw was a big red-suited butt and black boots, flailing wildly as Dad tried to reach the keys he'd locked inside. I wish I'd had a camera.

We got the truck unlocked and made it to the party, but Santa had exerted himself breaking into his "sleigh," and Eileen had the fire roaring. Fortunately, the kids couldn't see the beads of sweat dripping beneath Santa's beard and thought he was out of breath because he just flew in from the North Pole.

Fast forward one year. Dylan vs. Santa was as epic as Ali vs. Frazier. At least Frazier took one from Ali. Dylan didn't stand a chance against Greg-Santa (horrifying!) or Callahan-Santa (new rule: anyone in a Santa suit must be over 30). So this year we strode into the holiday season carefully. Would there be tears? Fisticuffs? Arrests?

Dylan got an early dose of Santa at the Holiday Faire a few weeks ago. I had to admit, this was the best Santa I'd ever seen. He was the real deal and Dylan appreciated the effort this guy made to authenticate himself. She sat on his lap, with Grady, smiled, and told him she wanted a teddy-bear and a baby (of which she already has several hundred, apiece). We took lots of photos and high-fived: the Santa curse was over.

And then came Callahan. This year Santa was, at least, old enough to drive himself there. He was also big (check), jolly (check), and had a real white beard (check). But despite the promise of a stocking filled with toys, Dylan knew something was off. Maybe it was that the beard was really just a goatee, or that Santa had shoulder-length hair, or maybe it was the way he said, "Cool," when Dylan said she wanted a baby and a turtle. Whatever it was, Dylan went back to her skeptical ways. She didn't throw any punches, but she wouldn't sit on his lap, either.

Tomorrow, Dylan gets a final holiday shot at Santa. It'll be at Eileen's and Santa, this time, is Scott. We're hoping he's convincing because Dylan's Santa-impostor radar is going to be up. I've given Scott some tips to avoid detection: make sure you ask her name, don't call her by any of her nick-names, don't wear a long-haired wig or a goatee, don't say "dude," and, most importantly, bring a spare set of keys in case you lock yourself out of your truck.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pee Time in Portland

Along the infinite expanse that is Interstate 5, there is an overpass, somewhere north of Salem, Oregon, that is the perfect pull-over-and-pee stop. By "perfect" I don't mean a sparkling bathroom at the Eugene Marriott or a hidden and clean rest-stop. I mean it's a place to pull off onto the shoulder where you only feel marginally threatened by passing semi trucks and the hobos who probably sleep there.

The thing I've learned is that I have no idea which direction Dylan's pee will go, despite the fact that I take her to the potty several times a day. I should know, by now, the general direction the urine will fly, but girls don't have the "point and shoot" aim that boys have. My best bet is to get Dylan completely naked, then let her go on her own. Otherwise, things, i.e. pants, chonies, passing pets, me, low-flying birds, get soaked. Along I-5, getting buck naked isn't a safe option. So when Regina and Dylan got back into the car (while I kept a keen eye out for roaming hobos), Dylan was no longer wearing dry leggings and Regina had a great Rorschach ink blot test stain on her khakis.

Aside from multiple food, pee, and gas stops, we made the trip to Portland in eight easy hours (it normally takes six or less). Our friends, Marty and Jen, trekked down from Seattle with their two monkeys, Jasper and Skylar. Dylan and Jasper hit it off immediately and soon they were running amok in the lobby of our hotel and getting Christmas tree ornament glitter all over their faces. Four adults + four kids doesn't really allow for the usual shenanigans that Marty and I typically get into, but we were content taking our kids to the park and setting them loose on the the fat, lazy, city geese.

We hadn't met Jasper or Skylar yet, so it was fun to see them in person. Our kids are close to the same age and were basically on the same schedules and liked the same things. Dylan loved the Christmas DVDs Jasper brought, and Jasper loved the donuts we picked up at VooDoo. Grady just loves food and being tickled and Skylar loved milk. Watching Marty be gentle with a seven-week old baby girl is a lot like watching Lenny be gentle with rabbits. Jen would hand Skylar to Marty, he'd cradle her in his arms, usually knocking her head against his shoulder, she'd cry, and I would give Regina the, "See, I'm not the only one who does that" look.

One afternoon, while the kids napped, Marty and I decided to stroll around. He was looking for a specific store, so before we left, he asked the girl at the front desk if she knew where it was. "5th and Cooch," she told him. "Did you say, 'Cooch'?" he asked. She confirmed the address and we started walking, excited to find a street named Cooch. We were a little disappointed when we found the store, right on the corner of 5th and Couch.

Our Cooch adventure, the kids, and watching a fat man steal catsup from the breakfast bar gave us plenty of great things to laugh about. It's a good feeling when you have friends with kids who are the same age as your kids. It gives you a little hope that you'll still be able to hang with your old buddies and your kids will grow up at least knowing each other.

Sunday rolled around, Portland had an E. coli outbreak, and we had to go home. We made great time, despite the post-Thanksgiving traffic and fog. And when Dylan told us she had to go pee, I knew the perfect place on I-5 to pull over and watch as she soaked her leggings, chonies, and shoes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Loud Noises!

I woke up last night to the coolest sound. No, I didn't fart myself awake or hear St. Nick on the roof, but Grady woke us up with his singing. At first it didn't seem so cool. My first thought was that Dylan was hollering because she'd crashed out of bed. Then I thought one of the dogs was trying to pass the coyote he'd eaten off our front lawn earlier that day. Regina must have seen my perplexed look (and my 3:00 AM perplexed look is a real doozy), because she grumbled, "It's the boy," and fell back asleep; I got the impression she'd heard the little man do this before.

He's a pretty mellow kid, even his giggles are laid-back and dude-ish, so to hear him singing out like Pavarotti from his crib was like spotting a white buffalo or finding a manure-free truck on our ranch. I couldn't go back to sleep and I didn't really want to. Grady talked, whirred, cooed, and babbled and I just listened, his sleepy audience of one.

Dylan has been making a few odd noises lately, too. She'll growl at us, usually when she's about to get in trouble (so cute!) and she's learned this horribly obnoxious hacking noise that she spits out like a cat coughing up a giant hair ball. Her favorite place to make this tommy-gun noise is three inches from Grady's face. We holler, Grady smiles, and Dylan growls.

Dylan used to wake up, reliably, at 6:00 AM, every morning. I blame daylight savings, but now she won't get out of bed without an okay from us first. Not that she ever needed one before, but we get a repeated, "Hey! Hey!" like a drunk getting your attention. When that doesn't work, she yells, "I have to go pee-pee!" That gets our attention.

She's also starting to name things. Before, every doll was either Macy Grace (a baby from daycare), or, simply, Baby. Our bummer calf: Baby Calf. The puppy: Baby Puppy. You probably notice a pattern. Now, when we ask for a name she either A) makes up a word, like Kiddle-buuuu, or B) gives us a weird sequence of words. I asked her what was the name of the mole behind her ear (don't ask why). She didn't hesitate, "Baby White Out Aim," she told me.

Dylan must think we make strange noises, also. Or, at least, she must think we mumble. On the trip up to the pediatrician's today, she saw a bird. "Look, a seagull," (it wasn't) she exclaimed. "Mommy, can you say, 'Seagull'?" "Seagull," Regina replied. "Good job, Mommy." Dylan quizzed me next, to see if I could pronounce Seagull correctly. I got it on the third try.

At the pediatrician's office, both kids got shots, so we were treated to some high decibel noises. But the crying ended quickly and soon Grady was back to cooing and Dylan was congratulating us on our correct pronunciation of Kiddle-buuuu.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Pink

When I met Regina in 1993, I was a sly Casanova who easily wooed her with tales of growing up in Scott Valley. She swooned when I whispered in her ear tales of rat-batting and jumping from bridges. But Regina was still unsure.
"Is he 'The One?'" she asked, accidently out loud.
"Who are you talking about?" I asked, then shrugged and continued, "You ever touch your friend's eye when he had pink eye, just so you'd get it too?"
"Marry me now," she replied.

Okay, it's amazing she married me. And, yes, pink eye was always the perfect excuse to get sent home from school. It's great; you're highly contagious and yet you feel fine. You aren't even allowed near a school and you can hang out with all of your friends who gave you pink eye in the first place.

The thought of dealing with her first case of pink eye freaked Regina out a little. So, when Dylan came home with gummy eyes last week, I wondered how she'd react. Like any good mother, she picked out the eye goobers, washed Dylan's face, and gave her eye drops. In a couple of days Dylan was back to being her usual bright-eyed self. Sort of ...

Dylan has a problem leaving our cats alone. She especially loves Alfonso, the fuzziest one. "Fonzie's" tolerance for being in a head-lock lasts a few seconds shorter than the other three cats', and he usually lets Dylan know by dropping the kitty hammer on her face. Last week Dylan had a perfect paw print, complete with claw punctures, on her left cheek. Then came the pink eye, then round 2 with Alfonso. Kitty: 2, Dylan: 0. He put a perfect puncture-constellation around her pinked-up right eye. She looked like the Big-Dipper landed on her face, or that she had a bad copy of Mike Tyson's face tattoo. The wound below her eye (the North Star in her constellation) was the worst one and even turned into a small bruise.

Dylan's brown eyes had turned pink, and then black. We woke up every morning giving ourselves eye-checks. Regina dreaded the possibility of pink eye. To her, it's one step above head lice. I worried about Grady -- but apparently a huge appetite and loud flatulence is the best defense against gooey eyes. And me, I still secretly wished I'd contracted it so I could stay home from work without really being sick.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bountiful Harvest

What's not to love about the Fall? You get woodsmoke, rain, candy corn, jerky, carmel apples, and baby calves. If I didn't have to rake leaves (worst yard job ever), if there were more snow (for snowboarding), and longer hours of sunshine (bikinis), it would be perfect.

The season officially begins around here with the opening day of buck season, which also usually coincides with my birthday. It's like having Christmas and Halloween on the same day. The wives of hunters call the time, "bachelorette season," and not because of the TV show. They form small, roving bands and meet in pubs to celebrate their six weeks of solitude.

Just to hammer out the point a little more, here are a couple examples of Fall's awsomeness: I went to my Callahan cousins' the other day to buck hunt and came home with apples, delicious wine they'd bottled, an amazing IPA homebrew, and some homemade goat cheese. Plus, they were brewing up some hard-cider, which I hope to try soon. Then, a couple of days later, I went to our neighbors' to see his day-old Blue Heeler puppies and get even more apples, which I used to make a killer pie. I mean, c'mon, puppies, pies, alcohol? How could you NOT like the Fall?

For Dylan, it was a little more difficult convincing her that she couldn't go to "Grandma Donna's" anymore to swim and that it's too cold for her little havaianas flip-flops. To help her with the seasonal transition, we ushered in her Fall with an early Halloween party.

Her day began with a little pre-nap, energy burning run around the backyard, just to warm up for the melee. It was still a little early, and the grass was wet, so she shed her leggings (yep, I've finally learned the difference between leggings and tights). Soon, her chonies were off, and somehow her shirt got lost in the fray. It was like Cabo Wabo during spring break. In her nudie, she chased the dogs, hurled acorns, and rolled around on the muddy grass until she was filthy and had grass stuck everywhere. During one of her tussles with Chowder, he popped her in the nose and it bled. Unfazed, she ran around the yard like a feral toddler, blood streaming down her face, laughing. I was impressed at how well she could take a punch and Regina was pleased that we wouldn't have to wash grass-blood-mud-acorn stains out of her clothes.
When the party began, she'd finally cleaned up and was transformed into a beautiful princess. Grady joined the party in his chicken suit, but he's such a sweaty boy that he overheated in the costume and we had to take it off. To make sure he didn't feel left out, I put a blonde afro wig on him. If you've never seen a baby in an afro wig, go buy 1) a wig, and 2) a baby. It's hilarious.

My favorite part of the party was when Dylan's friend, Ransom, found one of Chowder's newly-dead ground squirrels and mistook it for a stuffed toy. He proudly carried it to the backyard and parents scattered like he was holding a grenade. We got the varmint out of his grasp, loaded up all the kids on cupcakes and candy, then sent them home.

We finally had time to sit back and relax with our friends, Sean and Eden, and eat good lamb chops, enjoy some drinks, and have a few laughs. Sean and I made last minute adjustments to the hunt we had planned for the morning (the plans got more and more elaborate as the evening and drinks continued), while Regina and Eden just smiled, knowing they'd have us back soon to tackle all those chores we'd been neglecting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Schedule

When two Virgos meet, marry, and procreate you can pretty much guarantee that routines and schedules will be an integral part of familial happiness. You say "OCD," we say "organized." Even if those two Virgos have a little Taurus who wants to smash the schedule into shiny pieces that she can pick up and eat, the Virgos will hold their ground and remain calm; it's in their astrological makeup.

Dylan's schedule is pretty easy. She gets up early, naps everyday at 1:00, and goes to bed early. If one piece of that simple puzzle is messed with by, say, a chocolate fondue lunch or a sideways glance, then everyone suffers. Most days, we stay on track. Dylan's up by 6:00 whether we're hungover or not, drinks a glass of milk, pees, and watches Dora and Diego while we get ready.
Dora and Diego are slightly annoying children who live in jungles and rescue animals without being attacked and eaten by bigger, more aggressive animals. If Mogli, from "The Jungle Book," had a baby with a drill sergeant with a bad bowl haircut, the baby would be Dora. If Mogli then had an affair with a doe-eyed drag-queen, the baby would be Diego. Dylan doesn't seem to mind their constant high-pitched shouting, but I think I know why. There are no commercials during the shows, but one half-hour episode only lasts about twelve minutes (animal in peril, go through three obstacles, save animal), then the next eighteen minutes are devoted to commercials. And Dylan is infatuated. Damn the power of media.

Dylan sits, rapt, by commercials for toys and tampons (that's the early morning focus group). Regina and I hear, "I want that for my birthday," ten or fifteen times every morning. "What is it?" I'll ask, too sleepy or senile to guess what kind of product Nickelodeon is pushing. I'm not sure Dylan really knows either, but she makes some good guesses: baby? horsey? or, the honest, "I don't know."
Last week she told me she wanted a baby that pooped and peed. Trust me, you don't, I told her. "For my birthday," she pleaded. "First," I told her, "you already have a baby that does that. His name is Grady. Second, Mommy and Daddy aren't making you another one, so enjoy the one you got."

Grady's routine is a little more simple. It involves power-eating and food-coma naps. All the regularly-scheduled eating is really bulking him up. He's already eating a little cereal and his thighs are starting to look like an offensive lineman's. His belly looks like a college freshman's and he even has, what I proudly call, "side-belly." He was rolling over at four-weeks old, but I don't think he can do that anymore, although Regina swears he can. He eats, craps, naps, and grins, all on schedule.

I have to give all the credit to Regina. I'm not sure, okay, I'm positive, I wouldn't have been able to do such an amazing job with getting the kids organized and on a routine that we all can be happy with. I worry (Virgos are worriers too!) about the day that Regina decides she needs a vacation with "just the girls." I can imagine her face when she comes back and sees that the house resembles the suite in the movie "The Hangover," Grady has a bowl of dry cereal on his lap, and Dylan and I are parked in front of the TV, trying to see who can say, "I want that for my birthday," first.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Pistols and Poop

When I was nine or ten, my cousin, Amy, and I made birthday wishes on just about any item we deemed "lucky." We'd blow dandelions in the wind and make a wish. First star of the night? Of course. We'd wish like crazy. Anything was fair game for wishing on, and sometimes we'd just close our eyes and wish without any prompts. My wish was always the same: a .22 pistol and chocolate cake.

A year or two later, I bought a pistol from my brother and cake was ... well, cake's what Amy always wished for, so I just added it to my wishes in case her wish didn't work. Nowadays, my wishes are a little less concrete. Health. Happiness. Pie. And, since I have those things, mostly, it's tough to answer people when they ask what I want for my birthday. This year I received two things I didn't even know I wanted: poop and and smile.

I know. Poop and a Smile sounds like a misguided ad campaign with Mean Joe Greene trading his sweat-stained jersey for a soda, or some poop. "Gee, thanks Mean Joe," I say as I snatch the jersey out of the air. "Thanks for the poop, kid," he says and walks through the stadium tunnel to the locker room. But I didn't get a cool Steelers jersey; Grady started smiling and Dylan spent some quality time on the toilet.

At our last pediatrician's appointment, the PA told us that she loves babies at two months because they're no longer parasites that just take, take, take. At two months they start to give back, usually starting with a smile. Grady has a terrific smile. It starts out a little crooked and goofy and blooms into a full mouthed beam. Even if you're looking at the back of his head, you know when he's grinning. Granted, his birthday gift came a little early, but I don't mind, he's terrible with dates and times right now.

Dylan, after seeing the smile from her brother, knew that she was going to have to come up big for her dad's birthday to top her bro. Her #2 time has been stagnant lately, which became even more problematic when she started wearing big-girl chonies. After threats, bribes, tears, and pleas, she finally decided that my birthday was the right time to unload her present (that's a pun, get it?). We cheered and loaded her with all the gifts we'd been promising so that, by the end of the day, she ended up with more presents than me.

If you hang out with parents of young children, you'll hear every possible scenario about feces that you could ever imagine. And, you'll hear these stories told by seemingly normal people who, apparently, have a passion for poop. I didn't want to be one of those parents, but being a parent and having serious scatalogical discussions is as unavoidable as beards at a folk-festival. At least Grady Jay's smile gave me something else to celebrate, but I think next year I'll go back to wishing for a .22 pistol and chocolate cake.

Monday, September 21, 2009


Whenever I see Willard Scott salute some hundred year-old grandpop, the next comment is invariably something about all of the wonderful inventions and advancements he's seen in his lifetime. Well, Mr. super-old guy, what about me? I've seen some pretty cool stuff in my day, without a Smuckers sendoff and a non-sequitur from Willard.

When I was just a wee-cowboy, computers were the size of Chevy vans (and not the new vans, no, the really cool vans with bubble windows and jacked-up rear tires and unicorn murals and disco balls twirling from the rear-view.), telephones were all tethered to their walls, the Raiders were great, and wooden spoons were strictly for spankings. Now, the vans are mini, the telephones have broken free from their binds, the Raiders are ... never mind, and the kids are all in timeout.

I remember when I first heard about the concept of timeout. I must have had some friend with new-age/hippie parents who put their rambunctious tyke in timeout. Awesome! I thought. You screw up, then get to go play somewhere other than the place you screwed up. The concept seemed so ridiculous that it was ridiculously great.

Spankings, it seems, have fallen out of fashion. Since Regina and I are on the cutting edge of fashion, we've taken to the timeout concept. We've tried different variations for Dylan: first, her room. Unfortunately, that turned out to be exactly how I envisioned timeout would be when I was ten. Dylan would be doing something awful and get sent to her room where she'd resume her awful behavior, now with immunity from more punishment. Obviously, that didn't work.

Our second attempt was the church pew on our font porch. That worked for a couple of weeks. The problem was that Dylan would rather be outside anyway, and learned that whenever she was sent to the bench, the dogs would come around and climb up to join the festivities. At first we thought the shrieks were ones of remorse. Nope. Just joy at getting licked by Chowder.

We're at a loss where the next timeout spot should be. The pasture with the bulls? A small cardboard box? I think Dylan would find something great about any option we try. I imagine when the temperature drops, the pew won't seem so fun. Now, when Dylan starts getting a little nutty, we go for diversion tactics. Hey! Do you need to potty? Could you take the mi-mi out of Grady's eye and put it away? Oh, look, a kitty! Anything. In the end, Regina and I have realized that the best timeout is the one imposed on each other. We send ourselves out of the room and Dylan watches, jealous of the kisses Chowder smothers us in.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fall Weaning

Big changes happen this time of year around the Valley: the kids are back in school, so our one-lane turns into a drag strip; the farmers are exhausted and can practically see that last bale of the season plopping out of their baler; the buck hunters start twitching whenever they drive by our house and see the bucks lazing in the shade, giving the camo-ed up drivers the finger; and the ranchers start weaning calves. Here on Hanna Bros. we are in category "E" (All of the Above). This means that our nights are spent wide awake, wishing the teenagers would stop knocking over the road signs (damn kids these days!), wondering why we live next to a feedlot, and listening to bawling calves.

Our days are blurs of activity. Regina's back at work, so Dylan and Grady are at Eileen's. Dylan is no longer the baby of the group and rolls with the big kids. She even made up a song about daycare today. I tried to have her sing it to a catchy Avett Brothers tune, but she got off track when she sang the chorus: "We're going to Eileen's and we're going to see Aiden, Shelby, Gavin, Abby, Jenna, and Maaaacy Grace." Granted, it needs work, but give her a break, Simon Cowell, she's only two. Grady just shook his head and went back to his nap.

We've also been chasing down yearling calves that have escaped the feedlot. They made a hole in the fence the size of a hoola-hoop and snuck out like Hogan's Heroes. We've found them six miles north, four miles south, and a couple miles west. The good news is that our eastern forces have been strengthened, just to keep the calves out of Nevada. You know, legal prostitution and gambling just wreaks havoc on impressionable young bovines.

Regina and I got into the spirit of the season and tried a little weaning of our own. No, we didn't leave a box of raisins and a gallon of milk on the floor and skip town, but we decided it was time to get rid of Dylan's mi-mi.

Okay, the decision was made for us, about five months ago at Dylan's two-year check up. We were cruising through the appointment, and getting the esteem boosting nods and "good" replies as we answered the doctor's questions. Then he had to ask about a pacifier. We could tell by his tone that we shouldn't still be using one. I think the question was something like: You're not still using a pacifier, are you? We looked at each other, panicked, expecting the other to lie. Finally the truth came out and we received a stern, yet gentle, reminder that "they" like to see toddlers give up the pacifier at eighteen months. We nearly fell over from laughing.

Strangely, Chowder, our puppy, got into Dylan's bedroom, the truck, and the car, singled out Dylan's mi-mi's, and ate them. At least that's the story we're telling Dylan. I feel bad for Chowder. Dylan's going to resent him for something he actually didn't chew up. She's been, more or less, fine without her mi-mi, and doesn't even ask for it at bedtime anymore, but we've reinforced our eastern line, just in cast she breaks for Nevada.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fair Addiction

There is this place, turn right past the McDonald's and drive under I-5, where you can first see the tall oblong mast of the Zipper and the swinging cars on the Ferris Wheel. You catch your first whiff of corndog and steer manure and keg beer and know, undoubtedly, that it's fair time. I'd forgotten about it, or forgotten about the feeling that I used to get at that place, even though I've driven past this spot a thousand times, until last Thursday when I took Dylan to the fair.

It was love at first sight. I heard her squeal, and when I checked the mirror I saw her absolutely ecstatic expression. I'm sure she had no idea what she was seeing, exactly, that was so thrilling. After all, she'd never ridden the Zipper or the Ferris Wheel, but carnival rides are like mall Santas, they ooze hope, excitement, promise, and pleasure.

We spent the next three days trying to decide if we wanted to ride the carousel horses just one more time, or take a bold step and try out the Dizzy Dragons. The final count was carousel horses - 11, Dizzy Dragons - 1. We tried other rides, too. Pink Pig Airplane was a second place favorite, just ahead of Pink Car and Pink Truck. When I'd ask what she wanted to ride next, "Pink," was always the first reply until I could narrow it down.
When we reached a fever pitch with the carnival, and I feared that Dylan would force me to unbolt a carousel horse and kidnap a carnie so she'd have them with her forever and ever and ever, we'd stop for a healthy snack of cotton candy, corndogs, and mini-donuts. Fortunately, Dylan was enamored by more than just the bells and lights of the carnival. She also got to see all of her friends. She'd run off with them and I'd suddenly have a couple of minutes to dash over to the beer garden.

I took Dylan to the "Extremely Amped Motocross Show," which was guys on dirt bikes doing crazy X-Games style jumps and a band playing Journey covers with a lead singer who dressed like, as Dylan put it, Barbie. Honestly, I expected her to get bored and anticipated leaving five minutes into it. Not so. Dylan loved the whine of the bikes and after every jump (even if they were mili-seconds apart) she'd tap her cousin Roxy on the shoulder and yell, "That was soooo cool!"
Every evening, the only way we could get Dylan to leave without dragging her and leaving little claw ma rks down the midway, was to promise that we'd be back. But then Sunday rolled around. We rode rides to the point of exhaustion, missed her nap, and, sadly, had to break the news that we had to go. It was hot, we'd just spent our last twenty dollar bill on corndogs and Dippin' Dots, and needed to go home and get some rest. Dylan cried, real tears, all the way to the car. "I want Fair," she sobbed. "Next year," we promised as we pulled out of the parking lot and crossed over that place, just past the I-5 overpass where we couldn't see it anymore, not even the Ferris Wheel.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Say Cheese!

Grady just celebrated his big one-month birthday with a grande milk, a soy-formula fart, and a twenty-two hour nap. Man, that kid can party. During this first month, Regina worked tirelessly to get our little man on "the schedule." As far as I can tell, "the schedule" involves feeding, burping, diaper changes, and naps. It seems there are some subtleties to "the schedule" that I am missing. I sense the undercurrents of some sort of rigid plan, but I cannot figure out of what, exactly, the plan consists.

Whatever Regina's doing, she's doing it well, because Grady (usually) only wakes once during the night to be fed, can already roll over, and can down a big bottle of formula without barfing all over himself. I know this because my wife tracks his routines on a little notepad we keep by the microwave. It reads something like this: 9:45 PM, 6.5 oz. formula, stretches, change pee/poo. I add to it in my distinct penmanship to make it seem like I'm doing a lot to help out with "the schedule." I include things like: 2:00 AM, 32 oz. Mt. Dew, 75 push-ups, toilet trained. 4:30 PM, 1st shave, Japanese lessons,
rugby practice. 5:00 AM, finished training every unbroke horse on the ranch, ate a steak.

I'm probably a little subjective, but Grady's a pretty handsome little guy. He really resembled Dylan during his first few days, but now he's growing into something very different. He has finer features, lighter eyes, and a stronger chin. And while these features look beautiful in person, Grady isn't the most photogenic kid in the world. Sure, Regina has snapped some great shots of him, but we're used to Dylan, who, even on accident, always takes a great picture.

Grady is a pretty good sleeper. Even when he's awake, he looks like he just might drift off at any moment. It's a great quality, and a gift, especially with a sister who has an abundance of energy, but sleepiness doesn't always translate well to film (or pixels). With his eyes half-shut, Grady comes off looking like an extra on the Sopranos. He just needs a polyester track suit and a few gold chains. I expect every caption beneath his pictures to read, "Gimme the @!&% macaroni or I'll breaka your legs."

Case in point, our friend, Amber, who is a great photographer, came over and wanted to snap some shots of the the two of us. I'd just come in from work, so my dirty hands juxtaposed with the clean baby had the potential for some decent pictures. She took quite a few pictures and do you know how many turned out? One. And it was of Grady's feet. It seems that our little guy got at least one trait from his old man, the ability to wreck any photograph.

We're okay with it; he's a handsome devil and gets cuter by the day. We figure that he'll be as good looking in pictures as his sister soon enough (thank God for Regina's good genes). Until then, we'll keep snapping shots of our beautiful little Goomba who will be half-asleep, daydreaming about macaroni and milk.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Hanna, Party of Four

It's amazing what we've forgotten about baby-raising in just two years. "We?" Regina asks, one eyebrow raised. "Do you have a mouse in your pocket?" Okay, it's amazing what I'VE forgotten, but, still, it's pretty amazing. I consider myself a nearly-average dad, but I'm embarrassed at my baby ineptitude -- especially since I've already gone through the sleepless nights, streams of poo, bottle warming, milk barfs, impossible toy-assembly, navel swabs, weird rashes, the car seat weight, awkward comments from strangers, and all of the other little grunts and oddities that come with babies. You'd think Grady was our first child and I was a sixteen year old father.

Grady brings some new things, too. Pee fountains. Like the ol' pull my finger trick, they get me every time. Regina reminds me to put the little pee-pee tee-pee over his boy-parts to prevent golden showers, but I get lazy. I also get lazy about putting the new diaper beneath the old one I'm changing, but that's just an issue I'll have to work out on my own. And, yes, things get messy. We met a hippie couple who were doing the whole No-Diaper thing with their newborn. I guess when you live in the forest, toilet training takes on a whole new meaning, but the mother confided in us that it could get pretty gross. I probably shouldn't use them as the benchmark in bodily function cleanliness, but I bring them and their messy baby up when Regina asks why I'm cleaning off the changing table again.

Grady also has Metatarsus Adductus. If you just met him, you'd think that was latin for extraordinarily handsome, wickedly smart, and well-hung. And while these attributes may be true, it's not what Metatarsus Adductus means. Simply put, he has little bean feet, probably from cozying them together in a tight womb. They will straighten on their own, but we help the process along with little stretches. Our doctor told us he'll probably grow up with a foot fetish (he told us twice, so we're taking it seriously). We're thinking the slight turn-in on his feet will make him a fast runner and there will, finally, be a fast Hanna.

Grady may have the foot-structure advantage, but Dylan will probably claim the Fastest Hanna title first. She can not walk. You're thinking, she's two, right? Shouldn't she? And, yes, she should, but Dylan thinks walking is for the old and infirm. Dylan runs. Everywhere. Barefooted, in flip-flops, cowboy boots, irrigation boots, sneakers, it doesn't matter; she is Charlie-Hustle around the yard. It's fun, and a scary, to watch because Chowder, her puppy, is usually running around -- or through -- her legs.

Very quickly we are learning that two young children can cause an energy vacuum, but, amazingly, with all of the craziness, we've also figured out that the little boogers also revive us. So, we'll keep watching Dylan do laps around the yard, training Grady to be World's Fastest Hanna, and he'll keep peeing on me (Doh! Not again!), and Regina will remain the voice of reason throughout it all, and the Eastside Gang will just keep on truckin'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Like Father, Like Son

Doctors often refer to my father as the "bionic man." It's an apt definition; he has more plastic, titanium, swine parts, silicone, alloys, and granite in his body than Lee Majors and Pamela Anderson combined. The surgeries he's undergone are, really, an extension of both his personality and his profession.

Despite the fact that we're both ranchers, I'd always thought that I was just a tiny-sliver more cautious than Dad. Dad hops on any horse, trained or not, and rides the buck out of him. I work with young horses for hours on the ground before I'm confident enough to climb aboard. Dad balances precariously on the back of a moving hay truck, one hand clinging to a little piece of twine that could snap at any second, the other hand pulling off hay for the cattle; I gingerly climb to the top and kick the hay off from the center of the load. Every nut Dad tries to loosen is a probable self-inflicted wound with a wrench; I spray WD-40 on rusted bolts until they shine like they've just been purchased at the hardware store.

But it's catching up with me, as the hazards of this job often do. When Regina was seven months pregnant with Dylan I took a horse to Anderson for surgery. On the way home I rolled the ranch truck on I-5. Fortunately Grant, who was with me, wasn't hurt, and we'd left the horse at the vet's, but my right ear was nearly torn off and for a few weeks it stuck straight out. Regina called me Shrek. I preferred "White Barack."

I'd made it eight and a half months through this pregnancy without incident. Then I decided enough of this stupid caution and got on a horse I'd been training. Apparently, this horse only likes people on the ground, admiring his towering beauty and feeding him grain. On his back, he thought, people weren't so cool. It wasn't getting bucked off that hurt (although it did), it was the little tap-dance he did on
my face that inflicted the most pain. If you can take your eyes off our beautiful baby boy's photos in Regina's Facebook account, you'll see that the white-legged goiter-necked freak holding Grady is not some deformed cousin from Chernobyl, but me, at the peak of swelling.
This, I realize, is no way to introduce you to our new baby (but you already knew we had a boy, right?), and it certainly isn't giving Grady Jay, or Regina, the props they deserve ... but more will come later. I promise.
It's what I think about, though: raising a son who will, most likely, be a little like me, whether he embraces it or not. And, despite the crooked shoulders, giant ear, and asymmetrical face, I keep telling myself, being a little like your old man, that's not really a bad thing.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Final Countdown

We can count the days until the baby comes on one hand, that is, if it's a five-fingered hand.  If you've lost a digit in a terrible lawnmower accident, you can start counting down the days tomorrow.  Regina is, of course, tired of the heat, tired of bumping her belly into everything, and tired of being tired (not that another baby is really going to help the latter).  I'm frightened and thrilled, like most expectant fathers, and am really looking forward to our hospital stay (room service! chair-beds! mini-vacation!).

Dylan, for her part, is blissfully indifferent.  She will acknowledge that, yes, Mommy is having a baby and that she will be a big sister soon, but any inquiries beyond, "Are you going to be a good big sister?" get ignored.  When we ask Dylan the baby's name she responds, "Sister" (Hint: that's not his name).  

Recently, we cleaned out Dylan's old room and made way for the baby.  Dylan thought we were reincarnating all her old toys and reverted to playing with rattles and breast pump cups.  It was hard explaining that her toys are no longer her toys.  I'm sure that rationale will get easier to comprehend as the baby gets old enough to physically take her toys on his own.  It'll be a hard lesson in sharing, that's for sure.

As we did when Regina was pregnant with Dylan, we are keeping the baby's name a secret.  I'm not exactly sure why, except we've noticed that people -- friends, family, total strangers -- tend to have no qualms about offering opinions about the names you've chosen.  If we were to say, "We're trying to decide between Adolph or Hiroshima.  (Hint: we've chosen neither)  We really like both and can't decide," the correct response is, "They're both great (or interesting, or fun, or ... names)."  It's not a poll or an opportunity to tell us about the dog named Hiro that bit you when you were three.  It's also not an appropriate time to make a face and say, "Yuk."  Our theory is that once the baby is born, it's hard to say to his face that you had a classmate in jr. high with the same name who ate his boogers and couldn't operate his pants' zipper on his own.  If you do, the baby can retaliate (vomit, poo throwing, hair pulling).

Our friends have told us that having two kids isn't twice as time consuming as one kid.  It seems that there is some universally weird mathematical formula that adding one more child causes the hours in a day to shrink by 2/3s.  We'll see.  We're as ready as we can be, though.  We have the baby's room set up, I have a fresh bottle of Bulleit Bourbon, and Dylan has hidden and put her name on all her toys. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

How To: Potty Training

In February we received the news ... Dylan had used the toilet! Regina and I high-fived, went home and threw away all our diapers. Easy-breezy! Piece of cake! All those whiney parents who complain that potty-training is hard and takes a lot of work and persistence obviously didn't have our natural parenting talents. All it takes, we reminded ourselves as we toasted our celebratory Crystal champagne, is positive thinking (as in, "Hey, Dylan, don't you think it'd be cool if you started using the big girl potty?") and Eileen, Dylan's daycare provider.

It's June, if you haven't checked your calendar or noticed all the farmers cutting hay, and Dylan is in, what I would call, the potty-training minor league system. Our dreams that Dylan would love using the toilet so much that she'd never soil another diaper have vanished. She'd be up the the big leagues now, but we aren't as disciplined as Eileen. At daycare, Dylan uses the toilet every 1/2 hour. At home, every other hour we ask, "You want to use the potty?" "No." "Okay."

To be fair, it's not entirely our fault that progress has been slow. Dylan likes a potty-party when she uses the toilet. The daycare kids have a parade every time one of the "trainees" needs to go. Here at home, Dylan's lucky to get Mom and Dad to watch. The first time Dylan used the potty here was when her grandparents came to visit and we crammed all five of us into the bathroom. Dylan loved it and went pee -- no problem.

There are signs of progress, though. Dylan frequently pees on the lawn (and sometimes poops), and -- if she's at Eileen's -- often uses the same pull-up all day long. Of course, Dylan's packing seven pounds of urine in it and it's disintegrating around her thighs, but, still, it's the OP (Original Pull-up). Okay, that's not true ... unless I'm watching her. When Dad's in charge, pull-up changes are like trains in Italy -- they come at infrequent intervals.

Dylan's also very curious about other people using the toilet. I assure you, it's uncomfortable to have your daughter stand in front of you and and hand over tiny pieces of toilet paper like a little, aggressive bathroom attendant. I just want a few minutes alone in the bathroom without someone checking in to make sure everything is working properly.

Our goal of having one out of diapers before the next one is in them probably won't happen (unless Dylan makes some big strides in four weeks. Yeah, four weeks. Wow!), but it'll be close. Dylan's progressing nicely. And, as long as I re-stock the pull-up supply, don't eat all her potty treats, and remember to have a potty parade every 1/2 hour, she should be diaper-free in no time. You won't believe how well fertilized our lawn will be.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

I Love You. You Love Me.

This morning, on our way to daycare, I tried to get Dylan pumped about her soon-to-be big sister status.
"Dylan, do you know Mommy has a baby in her tummy?"
"Mmm-hm," came the reply from the back seat.
"Is it a baby boy or baby girl?"
"Are you going to be a good big sister?"
"I love ..."
Dylan paused. I tightened my grip on the steering wheel. Finally! Dylan was officially excited about having a little brother. Until now, her reaction has been, at best, dismissive.
"Yes?" I asked.
"I love Barney."
Barney? Really? That stupid I-love-everyone dinosaur isn't even on TV anymore. Fortunately for Dylan, Grandma has a VCR and a pile of old movies.

For our part, we've been busy surrounding Dylan with babies and boys, just to get her prepped for July. Malcolm, her Oakland homey, visited last weekend and helped transition her to a house that's equal parts estrogen and testosterone, like a well-mixed Manhattan. For a much better recap of the weekend, check out: www.bigdaddypaulblog.blogspot.com. Malcolm's dad has better recall than I do and has awesome photos from their visit.

Malcolm, too, is an only child, and two of those playing together is usually more heated then Israeli-Palestine peace talks. Not this trip. The two got along terrifically and their toy-tug-of-wars always ended with hugs rather than slugs. Dylan even appropriately ignored the boy when he ran around the yard in his nudie and put on a little burlesque show with his mom's hat.
Last night, we took her to Derek and Shelly's wedding. It was a huge valley party and you couldn't walk ten feet without stepping on a small child. Parents don't like it when you step on their small children, but I say put lights on them and I'll see them. Anyway, it was another great opportunity for Dylan to meet babies -- maybe even baby boys -- and take another step toward acclimation. It turned out to be a great opportunity squandered. Dylan ran around the dance floor, pushed anyone off who tried to join her, and got shushed by old ladies. Regina and I pretended we didn't see her as we ate as quickly as we could. As we finished our meal, we realized that sharing the dance floor was as likely as sharing her toys with her brother, and we knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. We finally caught her when she blew out her flip-flop and were able to load her in the truck.

While Dylan pretends that Mommy's pregnant tummy is hiding either puppies or kittens, we are getting excited. We've decided amicably on a name (hint: it rhymes with "silver angst") without resorting to a rock-paper-scissors tournament or Indian leg-wrestling. We've set up the crib, again, and even picked up a pack of diapers (one ought to do it, right? I've heard that boys to all their business outside).

I think we're ready. And who knows, maybe by the time Bilver Pangst (hint: not his real name) is old enough to be seduced by television, the big purple dinosaur will be back in fashion, and he and his big sister will snuggle up on the couch together and sing along with every song.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


It was rodeo-time here in the Valley, unfortunately for Dylan, it was also nap time. So, after watching a few brave (or forced) mutton busters, she took off her pink cowgirl hat and decided she'd had enough. The rodeo puttered along without a hitch; it went so smoothly, in fact, that by the time Dylan and Mommy made it back in, the Lions' Club was discounting their Lion burgers and the performance was over.

As per customary rodeo tradition, we hung around with people whose coolers weren't quite empty and watched Dylan play in the dirt. She and her buddy Aiden found a pile of wheat (you know it's a good place for a rodeo when it's easy to find piles of wheat) and played the "pour wheat in your hair" game.

At one point, Dylan and I had to walk to our truck (our "friends" let their coolers get empty). As we passed behind the roping chutes she pointed to a pile and said, "Horsey poopy." It was a courteous gesture to warn her old man and I was impressed that she could differentiate between horse and "other" poop. But, what do you expect from a horse-crazy girl?

Yep, it's official: Dylan's crazy about horses. It's a lot better than being crazy about Saving You Money at Crazy Eddie's Furniture Gallery, or just, you know, plain ol' crazy. It helps that we have a new foal in our front yard (we've named her Sugar) and that the rest of the cavvy is in our back yard. We go on horse watching expeditions nearly every day and Dylan's new favorite word is "Penny," because that's the last horse she rode on a cattle drive.

I have a few horses here to start training, and I think Dylan will like having little rodeos right here at the house every night. Who knows, if the horses don't like me, I'll send in Dylan ... they'll surely like a horse-crazy girl with wheat in her hair.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Dylan Hanna & Parliament Funkadelic

In 1994 Regina and I, along with a few friends, went to Lollapalooza. We left before the headliner, the Smashing Pumpkins, played because, well, it was the Smashing Pumpkins. But we did see A Tribe Called Quest, the Breeders, and the Beastie Boys. We also saw people who shouldn't have been topless and a fistfight in a bathroom. Between the Beasties and the Breeders was George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic. I hadn't heard much about ol' George and for the first hour of his set I thought he was a roadie on stage setting up mics for the Beasties. When I realized the jamming/singing/growling coming through the speakers wasn't mood music or a sound test, and was, in fact, an actual guy singing, I thought, "Who in the hell is this big dude with rainbow dreads and giant sunglasses? And why is he freaking me out so much?"

Dylan's second birthday was last weekend and Regina and I had a Lollapalooza flashback, or a lolla-back, as the professionals call it. Dylan was pretty pumped up about her big day and when the first guests arrived, she grabbed a pink pair of sunglasses that were attached to her gift. When the next guests arrived, she swiped the curly-q ribbons off their gift and put them in her hair. She added a princess crown, platinum necklace (genuine Chinese plastic), and a ring that looked like something Run DMC wore in 1988. "Our little Funkadelic George," Regina said to me. "Yikes," I think I replied.

The party was pretty fun for Dylan. Last year she opened one gift, cried, then quit the party entirely. This year, she opened each gift carefully (sort of), added more ribbon to her birthday dreads, and gave appropriate ooohs and aaahs at every unwrapping.

Dylan is getting pretty good with forming sentences, but there are long sentences, even multi-syllabic words, that tongue-tie her a little. "Bicycle" comes out as "Factory yo-yo." "Greg" has three syllables. And the Gettysburg Address starts out great but gets off track ... "Four score and a blee-blooo dobbie do da."

It must have been right between roping cats and polishing off her fourth cupcake when Dylan's words failed her and she resorted to toddler-scatting. The babbling reminded us even more of George Clinton, and we knew our best bet would be to put her to bed. It took a while to come off the sugar-high, but she finally fell asleep, sunglasses askew and ribbon strewn around her room. Regina and I finally sat down, relaxed, and, since our little George had finished her set, waited for the Beastie Boys to come on stage.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Montezuma's Last Stand

What a difference five months makes. That's how long it's been since Dylan's last visit to Mexico and our little chrysalis is now a Mexican butterfly. Can you believe that in November Dylan couldn't even order tequila con limon (she always said "con carne") or buy cheap Vicodin at the pharmacia? Amazing.

Okay, she still can't ... as far as we know, and we did clear customs, but her traveling skills (aka patience) have improved greatly. We no longer have to restrain her on the plane like it's Con Air. I'm actually writing this on the plane and Dylan is sitting quietly on her mother's ever-shrinking lap, watching Curious George. And while Dylan is being as good as possible, Regina's on the verge of vomiting because our seat-neighbor just put on patchouli lotion and now our row smells like the BO from a hundred burning-man hippies. Unfortunately, Dylan has filled every available barf-bag with her snack and toys, so I guess the next option is my lap. Dylan's bored, despite the monkey on the portable DVD, and wants to read (aka "tear apart") our foul smelling neighbor's book. She hasn't yet, and we're proud, but if the patchouli comes out again I'm turning her loose.

Aside from Dylan becoming a better traveler, Regina and I have become much better parents. We've learned the power of candy. Dylan, like her old man, has a complete row of sweet teeth and we take full advantage of it through bribery. Can't stand another second on a cramped bus? Try candy. Need to be quiet before we're asked to leave the restaurant? Candy. I know, the Baby Whisperer might call it bad parenting, but we say bully to her. Besides, they're just baby teeth, if they rot, she'll get new ones.

Puerto Vallarta was a great new city for us. Dylan was excited that our resort had feral cats, but didn't think too highly of the iguanas. We swam, walked the marina, and took little adventures on the butt-breaking local buses into town. Poolside, there were plenty of little Mexican boys for Dylan to oogle at, and I found a place nearby that made killer fish tacos, so everyone was content.

In the end, the trip was just a great, relaxing getaway. No crazy drug-gang shootouts (although the twice daily canon fire from the "pirate" ship kept us on our toes), no blistering sunburns (I always remembered to pass out beneath an umbrella), and no Montezuma's Revenge.

So Puerto Vallarta, keep your fish taco frying, your beer cold, and your pharmaceutical regulations loose, because the Eastside Gang will be coming back.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The (Eastside) Road

If you've read Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," you'll recall that it is about a father and son trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world and find "the good guys," all the while pushing a shopping cart full of their belongings. If you haven't read it, thank you for choosing my blog over, quite possibly, America's greatest writer.

We're reading it for class right now, so it's on my mind. The book says a lot about a father's love, cannibalism, and the best way to carry all your stuff in a cart. The familial love part is nice and meaningful, but Dylan, probably by listening to me yammer on about the novel, has learned how to fit her belongings not in a cumbersome shopping cart with a wonky wheel, but in her arms. She'd kick ass in post-apocalyptic America. Or in a McCarthy novel.

Trips in the car, walks around the yard, even moving from one room to another, all require a transfer of supplies that resemble a US military exit strategy. We call it "Operation Toy Grab." A ride in the truck requires, minimum, one pacifier (mi-mi), one small blanket (night-night), and often a book, pencil, small Diego toy, Diego's puma, and anything that resembles a kitty. Around the house, Dylan usually packs a small piano, her Leap Frog caterpillar, a recorder, and anything else that will fit into her arms.

Regina's started calling her the Bag Lady. I'd call her something from "The Road," but none of the characters are named. Dylan's greatest achievement in supply-carrying comes at bedtime. To sleep properly, we must have mi-mi, night-night, a stuffed cat she got in a trade with Malcolm, a dolly, Hello Kitty pillow, and in the tight grip of her hands, a Baby Barbie and a Hello Kitty ring. It's exhausting to even remember what she needs, but if I've forgotten just one item, I can't get to to the door without her calling out, "Daddy. Ring? Ring?"

Oh sure, you're wondering why we allow it, right? Or are you still wondering if we read Cormac McCarthy novels to Dylan before bedtime? We don't, yet. And to answer the first question, we've tried to "forget" some of her swag on road trips, and the hell unleashed from the back seat made us turn around for whatever trinket we'd left behind.

I hate pushing Dylan into growing up too quickly, but I won't miss having to run a mental checklist of everything required to travel/sleep/walk. I've gotten so good at remembering exactly what situation requires which toy that I usually forget A) my necessities (wallet), or B) Dylan's real necessities (diapers). And heck, when she's just a little taller I'm going down to the WalMart parking lot and swiping her a real cart of her own.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Little Dylan the Wrangler

Last week, Regina and I went to a wine tasting party. I learned that I am very good at tasting lots of wines, yet horrible at determining the difference between, say, two-buck chuck and the host's wedding wine.

I also learned that I wrangle. Granted, I live on a ranch (wranch?), I wear Wranglers, and I know the words to the old western song, "Little Joe the Wrangler," but I'd always reserved the terms "wrangler" (as an occupation) and "wrangle" (as a verb) for summer-camps and dude ranches. But then I had this conversation with a wined-up party-goer:
SHE: What do you do?
ME: I'm a rancher.
SHE: Oh my God!
ME: (flinching) Yep.
SHE: What time do you wrangle?
ME: (confused) Um. Five?
SHE: Can I help wrangle? I'm .. blah ... horses ... wrangle ... blah ... horse ... blah ...
ME: Yep. We can wrangle.
REGINA: Stop calling it that!

A couple of weeks ago, Dylan and I did a little wrangling. A couple of weeks ago, I just called it "moving cattle," or, "a cattle drive," but now I have a cool word for it.

Dylan was, to my relief and joy, very excited about getting on a horse. She's only sat on a few of the older "kids'-horses" (okay, and a horse no one had yet ridden, but he is very gentle. I swear.), so when I put her on my saddle-horse and we took off after the cattle, I expected shrieks of terror and a quick return to mommy. Instead, she laughed at the uncomfortable trotting and yelled at the cows. "Move! Cow!"

I was impressed. Once the cows lined out and slowed down a little, and we no longer needed Sparky, my horse, to trot, bite, or push, Dylan finally got bored and wanted down. I thought about giving her the "cowgirls don't quit on the herd," lecture, but I thought better. Besides, Dylan had made it nearly three miles, sitting or bouncing on a saddle horn. I'd have called it quits long before that. The pain in her butt couldn't compare to her sheer unbridled (mind the pun) joy.

So now I have these two things: a daughter who loves horses and my very own little wrangler. I need to go to more wine tasting parties. It's amazing what I learn.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Photocopied Finger

Regina and I went to the doctor's last week for our second sonogram (which is just the technical term for an ultrasound -- we asked -- and is not to be confused with a Sonicare or a mammogram, unless the technician is extra-thorough). After they dumped half a bottle of green slime on Regina's belly, the technician measured just about everything on our squirmy baby. (We remembered that Dylan, too, was a wiggly baby. I think Regina and I are in for it.)

The coolest thing about our tech was her "working voice." While she looked and clicked and measured, she told us exactly what she was doing in a lilting voice that was like a soft, pleasant song, like something from Sara McLachlan or The Cranberries. "Now I'm measuring baby's kidneys," she'd sing. "Encore!" Regina and would shout as we waved our arms and held up our lighters.

As we neared the end of our concert, I mean appointment, the technician asked if we still wanted to know the gender of our baby. Regina and I aren't into surprises, and we'd already made up our minds that we wanted to know as much as possible about the new roommate we were getting. I looked up at the monitor to see if I could tell before she told us. Every image she'd captured up until then looked nothing like a baby to me. "See the baby's nose," she'd point. "There?" "No, that's MY nose, but nice try," she'd reply. Other, more plausible, options that I saw on the ultrasound's screen were 1) the surface of the moon, or 2) leftover casserole. But a baby? No.

But this time, when she asked the gender question, I glanced up at the screen and saw something that looked like a photocopied finger. I'm no doctor, but I was pretty certain Baby Turtle was a boy. I was right.

With Dylan, we had decided on a boy's name (or, rather, a different name for a boy, since, let's face it, Dylan is kind of a boy's name), but were uncertain about a girl's names. For Turtle, the opposite is true. This means either giving our son a girl's name or that we have only four months to come up with a boy's name. The name negotiations will probably take longer than California budget negotiations, and ours involve thumb wrestling and Google searches.

Dylan, we think, will be happy to have a little brother. After all, there aren't too many girls who are her age around here, so she's used to boys. And, as Maddock pointed out, a little brother will come in handy for deterring young grinders when high school dances roll around (and I won't have to chaperone).

Until then, we'll keep our image of the photocopied finger on the refrigerator and try to convince Dylan that Mommy doesn't have a full tummy, rather, she's having a boieeeee.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dancing: A Cautionary Tale

A friend of mine recently chaperoned Etna High's homecoming dance. He was only slightly disturbed by the grinding on the dance floor, but was generally unimpressed. That is, until he noticed his daughter dancing, a recipient of the aforementioned grinding.

I've seen this guy completely dismantle men in fist fights, and, I suppose, his first reaction was to do the same to the young grinder. Instead, he calmly told the boy that if he danced like that with his daughter again, he'd break his arms off.

The story is both a cautionary tale (be careful with whom you choose to grind) and a beautiful story for fathers of daughters. I know I'll hang on to it for a long time and will retell it to Dylan before her first school dance.

But really, what it makes me think about is how soon that first dance will be. No, Dylan's daycare isn't holding a Spring Formal (good thing, the girls outnumber the boys 3:1), but, as the old cliche goes, she's growing up too fast.

It seems like yesterday Dylan was sticking her fingers up my nose and asking, "Booger?" Okay, maybe that was yesterday, but it'll be sooner rather than later when picking her father's nose, or even her father picking his own nose, in public will embarrass her.

It feels like overnight Dylan has gone from coo-ing and drooling to a little monkey who can climb into her dinner chair, answer questions (How old are you? "ONE!" Did you poop? "Mmmm-Hmm."), and count to ten (one. THREE! nine. TEN!). Time seems only speeds up exponentially. This is only good during the NBA season and bouts of the stomach flu, but it's too fast for parenting.

As the old joke goes: when boys start showing up like tom cats at our door, I only have to shoot the first one and word will get around. I know that only a father of a daughter could have written that, and soon I'll probably start seriously considering if that's a viable option. I'll know that it won't be, but the break-off-the-arms-thing, that just might work.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Super Baby

We broke in the new addition last weekend with a Superbowl party. Dylan thinks any gathering of three or more people is a party for her, and she's usually right. And why wouldn't she be? People brought snack foods (her favorite) and most of the kids who came were boys (her other favorite -- until I teach her that boys are icky).

We had a table loaded with awesome treats: smoked salmon dip, chips, nacho cheese, smoked cheese, stuffed mushrooms, little smokies ... it was a dangerous gastronomical cocktail which gave me a food induced hangover. Well, that and the beer. But Dylan loved it; she parked herself next to the table like a stray dog begging for table scraps. "Chip?" she'd ask anyone who approached. Most thought that Dylan was a kind and thoughtful hostess, offering her guests chips.

We know better. "Chip?" as a question simply means For the Love of God, Give Me a Chip. Now. Once everyone caught on to her chip gathering scheme and her tummy was full of pressed corn goodness, she ventured outside to play with the boys.

She still says "boy" like Flavor Flav says it ... stretching out the Y at the end of boy, like it's a long i-eeeee. Flavor Flav isn't the best role model, he's not even good for language lessons, so we won't be getting her the giant clock medallion or a creepy show on VH1 any time soon. Although we would let her duet with Chuck D if he wanted to do a Public Enemy reunion tour (80s rap joke alert!).

Outside, Dylan accosted anyone who came out to the cooler for a beer. "Swing?" she'd ask the party guests who, by now, were a few beers in. They'd politely tell the persistent little urchin who was guarding the cooler that, no thank you, they'd rather not swing on a full stomach, and besides, halftime was about over, but thanks for asking. Little did they know that "Swing?" is neither a question nor an option -- it's a command. Much like "Chip?" is a demand.

Those unfortunate enough to deny Dylan her swing time found out the hard way that a five minute session pushing Dylan on the swing was a prerequisite for getting a beer from the cooler. Most of the guys started bringing in four or five beers at a time.

As the afternoon faded into evening, everyone came inside. Like a little Martha Stewart, Dylan roamed the party and made sure the guests were happy and didn't have any unwanted chips on their plates.

When bedtime finally rolled around, Dylan was hesitant to leave her party, but her snuggly jammies and warm milk trumped etiquette, so, with a wave and a loud, "Night-night" to everyone, and after several escapes from bed -- just to make sure everyone still missed her -- the queen of the party finally fell asleep.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chickens in the Outfield

Last spring, I was driving to my English class in Yreka and, as I passed the ball park in Ft. Jones, I saw that the JV baseball team was practicing. As I frequently do, I shifted my attention from the road for a while because something caught my eye. The boys has stopped practicing because there were chickens in the outfield. One poor kid, probably a freshman, was in charge of herding the chickens off the field. Herding chickens is akin to herding cats or small children and this guy was having a rough go at it.

I almost pulled over to watch. All I could do was think, "That's so country."

Regina points out the extra-country things that we witness in Siskiyou County and that I usually take for granted or think are perfectly normal. I can tell when her internal country-alarm sounds because it causes one eyebrow to raise and is followed by short, incredulous questions. Rat batting? Really? or, You need another gun ... because? or, A sleeveless Motley Crue shirt, and you're in the wedding?

When I think about Dylan growing up, I realize it'll be here, in this valley. Her childhood will be a lot like mine: she'll think that taking a trip "to town" means going to Etna, and that "the city" is any town, village, or actual city that is larger than Etna (pop. 781). She'll also think that every town outside of Siskiyou County is like Kingpin or Witness, where poor country folks get taken advantage of in big cities.

My latest "country" incident happened in the barber shop. Mind you, "The Palace" has deer, elk, and caribou mounts on the walls and is in itself pretty country. I was in the chair and Richard was working on my hair when a woman and her young son came in. They were familiar with both barbers and chatted about guns, ammunition, shooting guns, and Obama taking their guns. The woman wasn't young, but had a tiny diamond nose stud, which made her a little more attractive, or at least a little more unusual for Yreka.

The woman in the barber shop chatting about hunting didn't really strike me as out of the ordinary. What really struck me was the fact that this woman came to town for her son's haircut dressed head to toe in camo. Not even hunting camo, but a camo sweatsuit. One you'd lounge around the cabin in. Here was a modern woman with a nose stud, fully prepared to hide in a forested area, sitting in a barber shop and talking about the best places to buy ammo.

"That's pretty country," I thought.

As of now, Dylan only owns one item of camo clothing. Regina has some sort of one article of camo clothing per growth spurt rule. That's now, but the country is as much a part of Dylan as it is me. It's even sneaking into Regina, too. I can just imagine Dylan in a few years, dressed in her camo sweats, chasing the chickens off the field so soccer practice can start.