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.