Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ranch Diagnosis

We, like most ranchers, try hard to keep our cattle in the best health possible.  They're fed well, have clean water, are given salt and minerals to make up for anything lacking in their diet, and are vaccinated and dewormed regularly to prevent sickness.  If one happens to get sick, we try our best to treat it as quickly as possible.  There are some rare occasions when a cow or calf is sick and doesn't respond to treatments, or when one is unhealthy and we (or the vet) cannot determine the cause.  My uncle has two catch-all diagnoses for these animals.  If it's a calf, it must be an unclaimed twin.  If it's a cow, she's swallowed a wire.  Whether these two options are probable or not usually require further investigating, but at least they offer some kind of answer.

Grady has "swallowed a wire," or, in the non-cow diagnosis, he's teething.  Or so we thought.  He's been teething now for two months with no sign of a single tooth.  He started in December.  First, he broke his sleep-through-the-night rule, then he started drooling like a Labrador looking at a duck.  A tooth! we thought.  We ran our fingers across his gums every day, awaiting its arrival.  And we waited.  The drool piled up, our fingers got sore from Grady trying to eat them, and nothing.  It's nearly February and he's still as toothless as a crack-head.

We took him in for his six-month check-up yesterday.  You know those Test Your Strength: Swing the Huge Mallet as Hard as You Can and See How High the Ball Rises games at the fair?  That's like weighing Grady.  "How high do those scales go?" I finally asked.  Turns out, they go high enough, but Grady's a weight-savant.  97% in weight (and that's as high as our doctor's chart went).  If he were twice his age, he'd still be average weight.

No one at the pediatrician's office seemed concerned about his chubby-toothlessness, but Grady must have developed a little complex from all of the fat-jokes.  He spent most of the night, and morning, throwing-up like an actress getting ready for the award season.  Poor little buckaroo.  He's resting now, but it sucks to see your kids sick.  Unless, of course, barfing is symptomatic of teething.  If that's the case, welcome chompers!  Probably, though, he's just swallowed a wire.

Monday, January 18, 2010


When my cousin, Scott, first moved to the ranch we gave him Lucky, his first horse. Like many Appaloosa horses, Lucky was night-blind. Unfortunately, he was also a little day-blind too. He had little cow-sense but was broke, sound, and willing to go. He turned out to be a good horse for Scott and a decent metaphor for the "new guy"; neither knew a lot about cows but both were willing to try.

Once, we were gathering cattle out of one of the alfalfa fields and a young cow bolted. Scott turned Lucky loose and the Appy, amazingly, spotted the cow and followed in hot pursuit. Greg and Grant trailed behind and when the cow ducked under a wheelline pipe, they eased up. Not Lucky. He pinned his ears back, leaped, and cleared the wheelline like he was in steeplechase. My brothers were shamed into spurring their horses on to do the same. When they all had landed safely on the other side and had the cow pointed back to the herd, my brothers looked at Scott like he was nuts. He didn't know that most eighteen-year old, blind Appys can't leap over small sticks, let alone a wheelline, and Lucky didn't know that Scott wasn't some old top-hand from the Rio Grande. The joke around the ranch was the neither knew any better. Scott was Lucky; Lucky was Scott.

Grady is the same way. He thinks that his big sister is the coolest thing since pee-pee tee-pees. We think it's because he doesn't know any better. Dylan pokes, smothers, head-butts, and smacks the little man around, but from the look on his face, you'd think she'd just offered a tub of applesauce and a warm bottle.

I was "in charge" of the rug-rats one day while Regina was out and turned my attention away for only a few minutes (I swear). When I turned back around, Dylan had stacked several large books on Grady's face, a giant, smothering pillow on top of that, and a blanket, which covered Grady's entire body, topped it off. My heart raced faster with each layer I pulled off. When I finally cleared the last, and largest, book from Grady's face, he was grinning ear to ear. Attention from my sister, his look told me, I love it!

This morning, Regina set Grady in his bouncy chair. Dylan was keeping him entertained and things were going well until Regina caught Dylan pulling the bouncy chair all the way to the floor, then boooiiiing, letting loose and using Grady as a human catapult. Fortunately, he's too heavy to really fly and he thought what his big sis was doing was the funniest thing in the world.

This mauling will continue, I'm sure, until he's old enough to retaliate. As long as he's happy with it, though, it's hard to get too angry with Dylan. She gets occupied with entertaining her brother, Grady's happy at being knocked around, and we get a few minutes of uninterrupted time to do things like use the bathroom or cook dinner. Besides, Dylan hasn't hurt him, yet. Maybe Grady is just lucky. Or, Lucky is Grady.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stinky Pork Chops

As if naming your children isn't difficult enough, we've discovered the process of nicknaming to be equally as difficult. We've tried the shotgun approach, where we have them shoot a shotgun, then record the first word that comes out of their mouths when the recoil hits. Grady's was "Whaaaa," and so was Dylan's. No, wait, that's the wrong shotgun approach; what we've done is just try out a whole bunch of nicknames on our kids, and see which one sticks.

Dylan's nicknames started before she was born. We were in Mexico, Regina was pregnant, and the thing in her belly wouldn't stop flipping, jumping, and bouncing around. "Like a little jumping bean," I said, and viola, Dylan's first nickname, Bean, was born.

Just ask Dylan, and she'll give you the complete run-down on who-calls-her-what. "Mommy calls me Boo Boo or Stinky (I'm really hoping the latter one doesn't stick), Daddy calls me Sis, Eileen calls me Beanie-Weenie, Grandma calls me Dilly, and Julie calls me Bean." Whew. It's a lot to remember, and now Dylan's become so inundated with nicknames that she answers to just about anything.

The Hannas are notorious nickname givers. As is the case with most made up names, the nicknames we make up aren't always the recipient's first choice. I have friends who are hesitant to join us for our "cowboy lunch" because they don't want to learn what name we've given them. Like scientists naming new species of bacteria, we try to fair, clear, and concise. No one will confuse Spooky with Doodle or Andre with Mouse.

Grady, at six months, has already earned a few nicknames. Like Dylan, he received his first while he was still in the oven and we were in Mexico. Unlike is sister, who used the womb as her personal trampoline, Grady was a little more subdued (hell, cornered wolverines are more subdued), and, because of his easy nature and because Regina's belly was so perfectly round, we started calling him Turtle.

It was a cute pre-birth name, but hasn't really held. Now, he gets called Snorkel, Bubby, Pork Chop, Baby Brother, or Beef Cake. I don't really think any of those will stick, unless he never grows out of his baby fat, then Pork Chop might last.

I grew up being called Buzzard because I'd misheard the lyrics to a song and thought "Well, Mister," was "Well, Buzzard." An easy mistake, and I didn't mind the name. When you're seven, Buzzards are pretty cool. I was also called Juddy, which isn't really a nickname; almost every boy gets the "y" added on to his name, then he outgrows it. I outgrew Juddy in high school, then I turned thirty and it came back like a bad case of athlete's foot. Now, to most people in the Valley, I'm Juddy. Regina changed it Jubby when she saw how I wrote my name when I was five. I'll take Jubby any day, and I'm just glad that as I get older and fatter Pork Chop and Stinky are already taken.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Fat Babies

I hate to generalize, as all generalizations are stupid (Oh God, the English dork humor, make it stop), but it's true: Mexicans love babies. You can walk down any street in Any Town, Mexico, and everyone, especially the timeshare hawkers, will tell you how bonita or guapo your kids are. But what we learned last week is the only thing Mexicans love more than babies is fat babies. Hence, Grady loves Mexico. He spent last week getting pinched, adored, and squeezed by every tourist and local in Mazatlan.

Dylan, too, loves Mexico. Iguanas! Frijoles! Sand Snowmen! We stayed at a place that had loads of kids her age and we learned that children have secret signals they give each other. It took some super-decoding, but here's what we came up with: 1 cautious wave means "Can you ditch you parents and play?" 2 little waves means "Meet me at the kiddie pool in half an hour," and a shy look from between your father's legs means "Hey, you're not a child, you're a midget. I ain't fooled."

Dylan, through secret waves and bribery, made a few friends around the pool, despite only knowing Dora-Spanish. She'd ask, in Spanish, if they knew of any animals that needed rescuing, or if they had a backpack that turned into a kayak, receive blank looks, then jump on their backs for horsey rides. If only meeting adults were that easy. Then again, that's how I met Regina.

Our vacation wasn't spent, entirely, eating and swimming. Mazatlan is famous for its Pulmonias, which are just convertible taxis that look like a VW Thing and a Bumper Car had an illegitimate child. We took one downtown and cruised the Malecon like teenagers on a Saturday night (even if it was a Tuesday morning). We then pushed the stroller over bumpy sidewalks and down three foot curbs around the Old Town. There's an open air market there that's been around forever. The thing about open air markets is they are, literally, out in the open air. This means that the pinatas, sugar cane candy, pirated DVDs, and serapes are all out there. And so is the meat. Hog heads, livers, chicken feet, fish eyes ... sure, they're all on ice, but they attract the open air flies. We have a corner on the ranch where we drag all of our dead animals; even in July, it doesn't smell as bad as that market. We hightailed it home and made it back to the pool in time for the end of happy hour.

We were there for New Year's, which, if you have two children, means absolutely nothing. The best part was getting little wistful over breakfast on New Year's Day as we watched the vomit-stained party-goers make their walks-of-shame back to their hotels. To be young! we thought. As we were eating, a young, attractive couple came in and sat down. They'd obviously been out all night, but really didn't look any worse for wear. The guy asked Regina if we were just getting in from a night of partying as well. His girlfriend looked at him like he'd asked us if our children were for sale. She pointed at Grady in his car seat, "They have babies," she told him. Nevertheless, we chose to take it as a compliment that young people still look at us and think, "They might be able to go out and party all night," and not as an insult that we looked so disheveled people assumed we'd just been on an all night bender with our kids.

Life, or at least our week, in Mazatlan was great. Dylan and Grady got in plenty of swimming and telenovelas, and Regina and I got complimented on our ability to make "big babies." We ate like the apocalypse was coming, napped like we were retired, swam like the polar ice caps had all melted, and spent evenings in our underwear, watching the tangerine sun drop into the ocean. We're definitely going back, and if Grady continues his mashed-foods intake, he'll be the most loved baby in all of Mexico.