Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Very Callahan Christmas

Aside from fugly sweater contests and eggnog shooters, the Callahan Grange Christmas Party is one of our favorite traditions.  The Boliver crew puts together a terrific evening that's heavy on Christmas cheer: great food, tons of desserts, and a visit from Santa.  The Santa visit is my favorite part, not because he lets me sit on his lap (Which he doesn't, anymore.), but because of the commotion he creates.  The older kids start buzzing around like smacked tuning forks as soon as someone mentions that he's on his way.  The mid-younger kids are the most fun, because they are the most confused.  Santa is still just a big freaky stranger to them, but he's also the dude who doles out gifts.  And the littlest kids really have no idea what's in store for them.  One minute they're chilling with a sippy cup, the next minute someone plops them on a stranger's lap and tells them to smile for the picture.  I'd be pissed, too, if that happened to me.

Because this is a Callahan event, we can always expect something unusual to happen.  One year Santa seemed to be a sixteen year old boy.  Jolly, yes, but chubby and hairy, no.  Another year I think Santa had braids.  But this year's Santa nailed it, right down to the genuine home-grown white beard and Mrs. Claus entourage.  Dylan was in awe.  Fortunately, she's quit asking Santa for random items (2009: a turtle), but now has a "go-to" toy whenever anyone puts her on the spot (2010, 2011: a dolly).

The fear of Santa torch was passed smoothly from Dylan to Grady and the boy did not disappoint.  He didn't necessarily cry when we plopped him on St. Nick's lap, but rather howled and looked like a man fighting for his life.  He squirmed, twisted, and fought like a cornered wolverine.  Santa maintained composure and said, "Ho, ho!  He's wiggly!" while he looked at me with eyes that begged, "Please help."

But, like I mentioned, it wouldn't be a Callahan Christmas without a twist, and we were treated to an extra-special one.  This year, we ate upstairs in a building that probably was around when Jesus was born.  Eating upstairs is a lot like getting stuck at the kids' table for Thanksgiving.  There were a handful of adults who were "supervising," and a whirlwind of kids, all running around at full speed.  I kept thinking, "Some kid's getting stitches tonight."  I would have been right, I'm sure, but just when the energy peaked, the power went out.  The room instantly turned dark as the inside of a cow (that's dark).  Kid's screamed, parents scrambled, and soon everyone was rounded up and hurried downstairs.

Luckily, what Callahan lacks in population, it makes up for it in ingenuity.  Candles, flashlights, and maybe even a flare, were lighted and the Grange transformed from a dark cave to a cozy Christmas.  We stayed and the soft lights and power outage made everyone a little giddy.  It felt like a real Christmas party; we didn't break into any spontaneous caroling or pause awkwardly under the mistletoe, but the kids got to visit with Santa and Regina and I got all the benefits of a great Christmas party without the nasty eggnog shooter hangover.  Win-win.  Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Let the Games Begin!

I came in from feeding cows last weekend and, as casually as a UC Davis campus cop pepper-spraying a crowd, Regina informed me: "It's begun."

I knew exactly what she meant.  It really could only mean one thing:  Potty Training.  The thing about starting is that there's no turning back.  It's a big commitment.  Your brain pushes out all thoughts except for pee and poo and you turn into a parenting parrot, chirping, "Want to go pee-pee?"  "Polly want a poo-poo?"  It's not that we are in love with changing diapers, but to be honest, we're used to them.  I don't gag anymore and sometimes changing a diaper can be cathartic.  Plus, it's a hell of a lot cleaner than teaching a boy to crap on a toilet.

So now Grady's trucking around in his sister's old pink pull-ups and wondering why we incessantly ask if he has to go poopy.  We started off with a grand-slam.  Day 1, 1st Toilet Sitting -- Grady pooped!  I acted excited and even gave him a few M&M's ("A Candy For A Dandy"), but I'd been burned too many times by Dylan when she was potty-training to really celebrate.  Sure enough, Day 1, 2nd Toilet Sitting -- Grady peed on the floor before I could get him seated, splashed around his piss puddle with his hands, sat on the toilet and did nothing, then, when I took him off, peed more on his clothes.  Sigh.

Potty-Training is Exhausting! 
Regina and I are learning that potty-training in cold weather is no picnic.  First, there's no peeing outside, which is what all country kids do.  Dylan had a pee (and sometimes poo) tree designated for said purpose.  You can spot it, it's the one with the vibrant green leaves and dead grass around its base.  We could send Grady out in the rain and tell him to use the pee-tree, but the gale-force winds would probably topple him.  Inside, when Grady stands tall, his weinus is still 6" lower than the rim of the toilet, so everything has to be done seated.  And when little boys are seated, their little junk doesn't "dangle" down.  When I sit in front of the little man and encourage him to push like we're in lamaze class, I feel like I'm staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.  If that thing goes off, I'll take a direct pee shot to the chest.

I made the mistake today of catching Grady mid-poo, taking off his pull-up, and putting him on the toilet.  No, no, no.  Bad idea.  His legs, butt, the toilet seat, and a 3' radius around the toilet were smeared in his doody.  All I could yell was, "Help!" as Regina ran in with a pack of wipes and a hazmat suit.

There's no turning back and we look forward to the day of skid-marked chonies rather than poop-filled diapers.  With a little patience, and a whole lot of 409, we'll make it through this alive.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mia Hamm-Bone

Dylan's just completed her first ever organized sport: pee-wee soccer.  Unlike t-ball, which is slow and painful to watch, pee-wee soccer is a fast-paced, nail-biting, painful sport to watch.  At one point during the season, I thought wagering on the games would spice up the action.  Apparently, it's frowned on as we "don't keep score" and doesn't promote "good sportsmanship."  I had to be a little stealth about it, but I managed to offer Dylan five candy bars of her choosing if she scored a goal.  Sure, some would call that "bad parenting," but you should have seen her hustle.  One of the other dads heard my motivational strategy and doubled the offer for his son if he would, for once, "Just kick the damn ball."  Both kids burned off a lot of energy trying, and both dads never had to pay up, so win-win.

This season, the league had seven teams.  It seems like a lot, but consider there are only five players to a team.  Pee-wee soccer often looks like a rugby scrum, with every single player, goalies included, roiling around a ball that no one seems to be looking for.  Limit the number of players and you limit the size of the scrum -- it's good logic.  The fun thing about our league is that if you have an extra kid, say, one that's too young to play yet, no one cares if the younger sibling throws on a jersey and plays for a while. We tried to keep a short leash on Grady, but he often wandered out onto the pitch, much like a streaker or lost cat, and disrupted the games a few times.

We started the season with just one practice.  It began with no one listening to the coach's instructions and ended with everyone using the sideline cones as hats.  Christina, the coach, has the patience of a saint.  After that practice, she asked if we should try another before our first game.  "Would it matter?" I asked.  It wouldn't, so we didn't.  What the Pacific Power Blue Jets lacked in talent and skill, they made up for it in lack of concentration and goofiness.  We knew we were in for it when, upon arriving to our first game, I spied the other team running passing drills and stressing "teamwork." It was like playing against a German olympic squad.  "Klaus, why are you not running?  Stop crying!  Teamwork!"  "Nine, Dietra, stay in your zone."  Needless to say, they kicked our butts.  The Blue Jets spent the entire game picking the ball out of the back of our goal.  That team soon became known around the league as The Team That No One Liked.

The Blue Jets only could get better from there, and they did.  Dylan, as a forward, is a good player.  She's aggressive, likes to run, and got to where she could dribble and run (for a while).  The next game she even scored a goal (this was pre-candy bribe).  But, when Dylan played anywhere but forward, her attention to the game fell apart.  As a defender, she's indifferent and as a goalie, she's distracted.  "What's going on over on that other field?" seems to be her only thought.  I couldn't even offer a candy bar bribe that she'd buy into as a goalie, that's how little she liked the position.

The Blue Jets improved significantly as the season progressed.  If our games were two, instead of four, quarters long, we'd of had a winning record.  But, while other teams replenished electrolytes and talked game strategy at the breaks, our team took the cones and chased each other around the field, pretending they were unicorns.  They were so exhausted by the third quarter that no one wanted to run anymore.

The last game ended with cupcakes, candy, and trophies.  Dylan was awarded "Most Enthusiastic," which is coach-speak for The Kid Who Won't Stop Running.  Dylan still sleeps with her trophy and talks about the goal she made, so the experience was a good one.  The Blue Jets could care less what the final scores were or how they played.  They had fun, they spazzed out, and now they're ready to hone their skills in the off-season so they can collect on those candy-bar bribes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Routine

The calves are weaned, the hay is (nearly) in the barn, and our back porch smells like baby chicks (sounds cute, smells awful) ... it must be fall.  It also means that the kids are back on The Routine.  No more of this sleeping in until 6:30 -- no sir-ee.  We are on the clock these days.

And by on the clock, I mean this:  I try to to sleep in as long as possible, Regina wakes up at some horrible hour to run, and, usually when I just hit REM sleep, Grady starts yelling for milk.  And The Routine begins.  Grady gets his milk-fix, a banana, and a clean diaper (usually not in that order), then he's off on his own to go roll cigarettes or whittle.  It doesn't matter, my attention is now on the girl.  Dylan is pretty good at getting up, but pretty bad at getting going.  She tells us she's going pee, then will spend ten minutes making faces in the mirror.  All the while we just think she's constipated until Regina goes and checks on her.  Then I have get to pick out her outfit for the day.  I usually choose a skirt, then grab fourteen shirts that I think have the possibility of matching and show them to Regina while she's showering.  Next, I do her hair.

My brothers used to have illustrated diagrams of the four hair styles they could pull off.  Their girls would point at one (pig tails, pony tail, side pony, or top pony) and they'd oblige.  I don't have a cool cheat-sheet, so every morning is a new adventure in hair styling.  I try to get away with the easiest, the pony tail, but end up getting conned into something elaborate (for me) like a braid.  Dylan keeps asking for a side pony, but I feel like I have to draw the line somewhere.  I know, the 80s are cool again, but there are just a few styles that should have stayed there.

Dylan, now, is an old hand at pre-school.  Her dad, however, isn't.  She'll remind me for a week that show and tell is on Friday.  Usually by Tuesday we'll put something she can share in her backpack.  Then, come Friday, I have a trip to the bakery on my brain and the backpack gets left in the car.  Dylan's been carrying around a shed lizard skin for three weeks now, just waiting for her time to shine.

She's also learning jokes, and so we've been perfecting her stand-up routine.  Right now she has a solid fifteen minutes, but it falls flat after that.  Well, right now she has a lot of "conceptual comedy."  This means she understands the cadence of the set up, but doesn't think the joke clear through to the punchline.  I get lots of: "Knock-knock." "Who's there?" "Giraffe." "Giraffe who?"  Long pause, then laughter, "Giraffe carrying a monkey!"  It isn't Richard Pryor, but I laugh anyway.

I'm learning things at pre-school, too.  No, I'm pretty good with my colors (just not matching them), but I learn things that most parents never need to know.  For example, last week the teacher told me that we had a dead calf in one of our pastures and it was starting to stink.  Sure enough, I went down and checked and she was right.  Pre-school: it's good for everyone.

Grady is back at the Greatest Place on Earth (daycare) and is loving the constant attention and hot toddler babes.  The kids come home either energized or completely wiped out.  If they want to party, Regina turns them loose with the chicks.  Grady's gentle, but so was Lenny in Of Mice and Men.  Regina now calls him King Kong because he wants to hold those cute little chick soooooo badly, but his grip goes from 0-10 without much in between.  And while Grady tries to squeeze them, Dylan tries to keep them all bunched together, like Mick, Greg's Border Collie.  If they're too exhausted, Grady gets a knife and a hunk of wood and Dylan works out a few Knock-Knock punchlines.  By then, we're all exhausted and we go to bed, ready to try it all again in the morning.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

3 Lake Challenge

A few years ago, Regina and I decided that we'd go to a different lake in either the Trinity, Russian, or Marble Mountain Wilderness areas each summer.  By the middle of August we hadn't done so much as a drive over Shasta Lake, and we knew we had to act quickly or we'd be hiking through snow drifts.

We have a few limitations: Despite my large ears and great ass, I'm not a mule and won't carry all the gear required to spend the night, so the lake has to be a day hike.  I'm fat, so long hikes are out.  We could ride horses in, but of the fourteen or so horses mooching off the Bench H gravy-train, I'm not sure we have three or four that could make it up a mountain trail.  So we hike.

Lake 1:
After yet another failed attempt at getting to Paradise Lake, we quickly decided on Campbell Lake.  I don't know if hiking makes Dylan nervous or excited, but something about it makes her chatty.  Weird-chatty.  She talked the ENTIRE hike.  She talked to Regina and me, she talked to herself, she talked to her dolly (of course she brought a dolly), she talked to the few people we passed.  It was over eight miles to the lake and back of this:  "You want to hear a song? Here are your choices: alphabet, monkey in a tree, or butterfly."
"How about the monkey one," I'd say.
"I don't know that one.  Here's the alphabet song.  Sings...  You know how to say alphabet in Spanish?  It's Butterfly."
"I don't think that's right," I'd say between deep breaths.
"You know how to say butterfly in Spanish?  It's Cabootyloo.  Want to hear another song ..."
And on, and on.  Regina finally snapped.  "QUIET! You hear that?  It's just the wind in the trees!  Isn't that nice?  And peaceful?  Listen, just listen.  Please!"
"Want to hear a song about trees?"

Lake 2:
This one doesn't really count because we go to Lake Siskiyou every year, but the following weekend we loaded up the nieces and nephew, and the kids, and went to Mt. Shasta.  There's no hiking required to get there, and there are giant bouncy toys in the water that some old fat guy tried to bounce around on and instead looked like a bad audition tape for "Wipeout."  And, man, it really wore me him out.

Lake 3:

Paradise Lake has been our golden ring -- only because every time we decide to go there, there's road construction blocking the road in.  So we slipped past the loaders and backhoes and made it to the trailhead.  It's half the distance to get to as Campbell, but twice as steep.  So much so that Dylan was quiet the first mile in.  Then her little legs warmed up and the rambling started.  I packed Grady and he spent most of the hike removing my hat or dropping his in the trail behind us.  As if the hike up weren't tough enough, hat-retrieving leg-bends with an iron weight on my back about did me in.  Paradise Lake was aptly named -- at least I felt like I was in paradise when I took Grady out of his pack and scarfed down two burritos.

So there you have it, two new lakes, one summer.  I'm not sure if that makes us exempt from hiking in 2012, but you can bet that we'll be gunning for a new lake anyway.  Regina will study her maps and find something only lost PCT hikers have ever seen.  I'll be in the round pen, trying to get a horse or two ready enough to ride.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Five Days of Fair

The carnies have snubbed out their last cigarettes, the corndog grease has been carefully preserved for next year, and the chicken poop has been hosed out of the poultry barn -- the fair must be over.  Fair time is always a little bittersweet: kids never want it to end, but, like holiday weekends in Amsterdam, if it lasted just one more day they'd probably end up in a gutter.  On Saturday, I explained to Dylan that there was only one more day left of the fair.  I should have kept my trap shut because it led to a twenty minute conversation on why we can't go to the fair every day of the year.  The Amsterdam analogy didn't work so well on her either.

This year, we were fair-heros, at least to Dylan and Grady.  We took them every day.  We learned that Grady loves sprint cars, but hates the earplugs we made him wear.  This made for him being happy-sad-happy-sad at fifteen second intervals.  The cars would scream past us and he'd smile, but when they hit the back stretch he couldn't see them so he'd yank his ear plugs off and start to cry until they zoomed past again.  Smile, cry, smile, fuss.  Over and over.  It was even exhausting for the strangers who sat near us.

Dylan got to sit front and center for the rodeo and, we thought, had the time of her life.  Then Lefty the Rodeo Clown didn't throw her a trick rope and she missed her chance at getting a free t-shirt and suddenly the rodeo wasn't fun anymore.  She told my sister the reasons as she counted them off on her fingers.  "One, I didn't get a yellow rope.  Two, I didn't get to throw the ball.  Three, I didn't get a t-shirt, and, four, I didn't get a blue rope."  She changed her tune when grandma gave her five bucks to buy the clown's "special trick rope" (four feet of cheap rope with a bead on the end), and now she wants to be a rodeo queen again.  Although, she still won't Mutton Bust (to my relief).  We asked her if she'd like to ride a sheep.  "No," she replied, "I'll just ride a bus."  Good enough.

Grady's at the awkward age and height where he can't go on too many carnival rides.  By "too many" I mean he can't go on anything but the little train.  While it was the only ride he could go on, it was the only ride I couldn't (too many corndogs in my belly), so we had to recruit friends, family, or random passersby to escort him.  Dylan went on all sortsakinda rides (her words), and couldn't get enough of the Fun House, until she fell on her butt and had to be carried out.  I was pleased that our spin on the Dizzy Dragons didn't make her as nauseous as it made me.

On the fair's last day, we packed in as many rides, fried foods, walks through the livestock barns, Smokey Bear hugs, and shaved ices as we could.  And it worked.  Grady fell asleep in his stroller (which he never does), and Dylan didn't protest at all when we told her it was time to go.  We have spent the last two days getting the fair out of their systems.  Fried fair food is fun to eat, and even more fun when it's released as a gas.  Dylan and Grady's farts would knock a buzzard off a meat wagon.  But, if that's the worst result from five days of debauchery, then we're doing alright.  It's sure cheaper then sending them to Amsterdam for the weekend.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Nearly Home Alone

Regina's plans were to take the kids to the Bay Area for the weekend.  My plans were to stay home, cut hay, put hygiene on hold, and eat hot dogs.  We'd both been planning for months.  Regina packed, I Googled "hot dogs + bourbon" and found several dinner ideas. I put Red Dawn and Uncommon Valor on my Netflix queue.  It was going to be a spectacular manly weekend.  But sometimes life gets in the way and Regina, instead, went to Bakersfield and left me with the kids.

As she was walking toward the car, getting ready to leave, I started to panic.  The stupid questions started flowing: Does Grady eat food?  What if Dylan starts the chainsaw?  Where are the hot dogs?  "You can figure it out. You're a big boy," she told me.  Exactly, I thought, the key word there being boy.  Who leaves their kids with a boy?

We are fortunate to live near family, and even more fortunate to live near family members who still like our kids.  So, while I worked, the monkeys spent time with their cousins, aunts, and grandparents.  My only directions were to make Grady walk as much as possible and to never, ever feed Dylan after midnight.

Our first day without Regina started rough.  Grady pooped his way through a pack of diapers and Dylan got in a MMA fight with a cat.  I thought, "You're a big boy, you can handle it," as I changed the ump-teenth diaper and cleaned up Dylan's wounds.  Luckily, it got better.  Each evening, I'd hustle home from work, pick up the kids, and get them ready for dinner and bed.  Grady would get his fraternity-shower (I'd rub a wet wash-cloth over him) and I'd put him down for bed.  Then I'd spend the next 2 or 3 hours listening to him reflecting on the highlights of the day.  Ah, hugging Nacho -- is there anything more fun?  Man, those cookies Julie made are going to go straight to my hips! and, I wonder if Gramma even knows I snagged her Lego-man?  He hollers, coos, sings, and yells until the party ends and he passes out.

I did the right thing and put the hot dogs back in the refrigerator and fed Dylan healthier dinners.  While we ate, she'd regale me with accounts of her day.  I usually didn't really understand who or what she was talking about and it took me until the fourth day to realize that she was telling me about episodes of cartoons that she watched that day.  She'd spend fifteen minutes watching "Olivia" somewhere, then spend the rest of the day playing outside, and all she wanted to talk about was Olivia's little brother who rode in a hot air balloon.

Currently, Regina is on a train heading north, and we can't wait to see her.  "I miss Mommy," Dylan keeps telling me.  And, instead of asking, "Really?" (which is what Regina said to me when I told her what Dylan said) I tell her that I miss her too.  Grady has some cool new walking moves that he's excited to show off, Dylan is going to recreate all the Shark Week episodes we watched together, and me -- I'm just proud that the house stayed reasonably clean, I didn't leave anyone in the truck, and there are still hot dogs in the fridge, just waiting for my next bachelor weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


As you may know, Grady spent last year in a funk.  No, he wasn't touring with George Clinton, he just wasn't himself.  Call it the winter-blues, or dark-times, but he wasn't too healthy (read: active).  Consequently, the hold button on his development didn't click "off" until last fall.  Since then, he's been progressing like a wild man and now, finally (big announcement music): he's walking.

I should say "walking."  Grady A) is the most cautious baby ever, and B) knows how to manipulate his parents.  We've received texts from daycare and family proclaiming, "Grady just walked across the living room!!!" "Grady's skipping rope!" and, "Grady just beat me in a foot race!" but when we get him home, he half-heartedly recreates his earlier feats.  Maybe he's worn out from all his showing-off, but I suspect he realizes if he fake-cries for long enough Mom and Dad will either leave him alone or pick him up.  We've caught him doing his Frankenbaby walk across our kitchen, but as soon as we acknowledge it, he drops to one knee.  Walking?  Me?  Nope.  Please hold me.  I may have pooped myself.

Last week, at Julie's, we were eating our cowboy lunch and Grady was playing in the other room.  As we were finishing up, we looked up from gorging ourselves and in strolled Grady.  He was turning corners like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and walking like a man on a mission.  Of course, we erupted in cheers and when he spotted me, a proud grin on his face, he tripped over a chair and took a header.  We hoorayed and whistled and someone at the table threw their chonies.  And from over the din, I heard one little voice -- Dylan's.  She was just as excited as the rest of us and in her exuberance she quoted one of today's wisest and most thoughtful poets: Ke$ha.  "Throw some glitter, make it rain," Dylan screamed.

I was so proud of them both.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Stretch Marks & Raisin Bran

I sometimes forget that, for Dylan, literally everything is new.  Child psychologists have compared young children to empty vessels who are waiting to be filled with knowledge; sponges, that absorb all that is around them; or, drunk, homeless men who shout at you for no reason.  Okay, that last one's mine, I admit.  But Dylan soaks up quite a bit.  Dylan has been interested in (her words) "all sortsakinda things" lately.  Here are a few examples:

Bones/dead things/the cemetery:
I have to blame my cousin Julie on this one, although it's not really her fault; she just happened to be in the car with Dylan when they drove past a cemetery.  Dylan asked about it and, in the explanation Julie told her that we'll all die someday.  "Julie?" Dylan asked, worried, "I kind of have a cold right now."  "I think you'll be alright," Julie reassured her.  Questions about dead people lead to questions about bones, and if you've ever been around a four-year old on a hot questioning streak, you'll understand that bone questions can last foreverrrrrrrrrrrrr.  "Daddy, what's this bone?" "Uh, tibia? no, fibula.  Maybe."  "And this one?" "Skull."  "This?" "Still skull." "How about this?"  "Uh.  Finger bone.  And that's your eyeball bone.  Go ask your mother."

For a few weeks, every morning Dylan would tell me about her dreams.  You think dream stories are boring?  Try made-up dream stories.  Most of Dylan's involved princesses, snakes, rock slides, deer, horses, and me, killing one or all of the above with a sword.  I'd get a full, detailed report on two or three of these dreams every morning.  They really made no sense -- like real dreams -- and it took me a while to realize they were a cross between the bedtime story we'd read the night before and the latest Dora episode.  So, for example, Ferdinand the bull might get covered by a rock slide and I'd have to come in -- with a sword, and maybe a princess -- to kill a deer that was trying to ... you get the picture.

Raisin Bran:
Every night, just after we read Dylan a story and say "I love you," Dylan wants to share a secret.  I usually forget the secret portion of the ritual, so she has to get out of bed and come find me.  The secret? It's always the same.  "I want Raisin Bram in the morning," she whispers.  Raisin Bram?  Not the most exciting of secrets, or cereals, for that matter, but if she needs a little bran in her diet we'll gladly give it to her.  She used to only eat Raisin Bread, and now I think she might be changing her cereal allegiance to strawberry mini-wheats.  Whatever it is, it's a secret.

Stretch Marks:    (*Names have been changed to protect the mothers)
Dylan came home from pre-school last week and announced, "Guess what, Peggy-Sue* has stretch marks.  Her mommy does, too.  Daddy, I wish I had stretch marks."  How in the hell do I respond to that?  Obviously, my first question was how does a kid in pre-school get stretch marks, and secondly, how does a kid in pre-school know about stretch marks?  Then, the very next morning, over cartoons and secret cereal, right after a Barbie commercial, an ad for stretch mark removing cream came on the television.  "Oh, I wish I had stretch marks," Dylan cried.  Let the child psychologists sponge that up, I say.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Five Steps of Grady Teething

Have you ever been stuck at a railroad crossing as the world's longest train went by?  First come the engines, about seventeen of them, then the box cars, the flat cars, the graffitied cars, the hobo cars, the circus cars, more engines, and, finally, the caboose.  Done?  No.  After ten minutes of nothing except clanging warning bells and flashing lights, along comes the Bugs Bunny manual locomotion thing with the teeter totter handle.  Get the picture?  That's Grady teething.

Like most things Grady does, teething is a slow, multi-stepped process.  So far, it's served him well.  He has beautiful, straight, and nicely spaced teeth.  His molars are the size of Chicklets.  His eye teeth make Twilight fans jealous.  He has a terrific smile.  But, it's come at a price.

Step One:  Giant Poop.  A nurse finally told us that no one really knows why kids get the runs when they teethe, but one theory is that teething causes drooling, and when kids swallow drool, it gives 'em the looseys.  Grady must drink drool by the bucket-load because phase 1 has us doing several loads of stinky laundry every day.  Last fall, when Grady really started teething in earnest, we couldn't figure out the cause of his diaper-bursting bombs.  We asked allergists, nurses, strangers at the supermarket, pediatricians, and veterinarians and no one could figure it out.  We took him off dairy without any results and finally had a stool sample taken to test for Giardia.  The results were, of course, negative.  With hundreds of dollars invested into the poop-investigation, he mysteriously got better.  And a week later he popped out two teeth.

Step Two:  Drool.  Grady drools like a Saint Bernard when he's teething.  The upside is that Grady is also a flirt who likes to give kisses.  Nothing funnier that watching people ask for a kiss, then try to back out when they see the drool coming.  You're a bad person if you turn down kisses from a one-year old, even if they are disgusting drool-smooches.

Step Three:  Rash.  Constant drooling gives our G-man a rash around his lips.  It makes him look like a gas-huffer.  A small, baby huffer.  I'm surprised his chest doesn't break out as well as much as it gets drool soaked.

Step Four:  Fussy, Fussy, Fussy.  Grady turns into a bear, doubled by the fact that we've taken away his pacifier.  His angry yell is that of a drunk Yankees fan after Jeter gets called out on a close strike three.

And, Step Five:  Teeth!  Last fall and winter they came like animals on the ark: in twos.  He was popping out rows of teeth weekly.  We were on pace to have a full set by Valentines' Day.  But, things slowed and now these last few remaining stragglers, late to the party, come in one at a time.  The caboose is in sight as, by our best guess, he only has between one and five left to come (we'd make terrible dentists).  It's been a slow and painful process *puts on sunglasses* kind of like pulling teeth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mazatlan Mayhem

We went to Mazatlan last week and decided that renting a car would be a terrific way to scoot around.  We even lugged Grady's car-seat throne with us.  When I saw our rental, freshly washed, waiting for our arrival, the scratched bumper and smashed fender should have been an omen.  I should have read it as a glowing beacon screaming, "Don't drive, gringo.  Don't drive."  But, my Spanish sucks and I thought it said, "Cool, you look local," and burned off toward the city.

The first thing wrong was the map.  It was the standard freebie from the rental agency, and was drawn with all the accuracy and proportion of Columbus's map of the new world, if that map were drawn by a seven-year old.  I expected to find only an arrow pointing north from the airport with the warning, "There Be Dragons."  Our friendly agent penned in our route and drew in helpful landmarks that we'd pass along our way to the resort.  His stoplights, bridges, cemetery crosses, statues, and supermarkets all looked exactly alike.  "Do we go through three stoplights and turn left, or do we pass two cemeteries and loop around the third statue?" I asked my navigator.  We were also turned around by road construction, so we winged it, and amazingly, found our way.  The tally so far: one quick drive on a wrong way street ("Why is that car driving at me?" I think I asked just before Regina screamed), two drivers cut off (sorry, amigo), and one near side-swipe.  My motto was: when lost, drive fast.  It made no sense, but it got us there safely.

The next driving tour wasn't as fun.  Last week was semana santa (which, in Spanish, means, "All citizens of Mexico, please go to Mazatlan now).  We passed pickups with entire families --including first and second cousins -- crammed in the back.  We passed 4-wheelers carrying a dozen teenagers.  I passed one guy who was drinking a beer AND texting while he drove.  So why I got pulled over, I cannot say.  I was over my nervous speed-driving from the day before, and was obeying every law I understood.  The cop wasn't as intimidating as the roving assault-trucks full of shotgun and machine-gun toting, black mask wearing, federales, but still, any Mexican cop is intimidating.  He spoke to me so rapidly that halfway through his scolding, I stopped trying to concentrate on what he was saying and started thinking that he must be trying to show off on how awesome he is at really fast talking.  I shrugged and looked at Regina.  She got most of what he said and told him, sort-of politely, that we were going the speed limit.  I "played" dumb, and pretty soon, after this went back and forth a few times, he gave up, told us to watch our speed, and sent us on our way.  No bribe necessary.

I returned the car that day.  Goodbye blanco caballo.  The rest of our vacation was perfect (Except for the food poisoning I got.  That was perfect chaos.).  We did all the things we wanted to do ... walks on the beach (Dylan's officially terrified of crabs and Grady gets mesmerized by waves), yummy seafood (best shrimp taco ever at "El Fish Market."  Bad name, great food), mornings at the pool, and evenings listening to the crashing waves.  We took a taxi to the airport, thinking we'd shaken off our car demons.  "I guess we should have taken the bus," came to mind as we watched our luggage sail off the taxi's roof rack and crash onto a straight stretch of Mexico hard top.  We came home just in time for Dylan's birthday, and Easter, but that's another blog.  Regina's a little tanner, Dylan's a little crazier, Grady's a little chubbier (beans, mmmm), and my confidence is finally back and I'm ready to get behind the wheel again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Mother Truckers

[Note: I'm only certain this blog has two readers: my mom and a high school sophomore, so I'll keep this as PG as possible.]  It's no secret that I love to swear.  Some argue that people swear because they can't think of any other, and possibly better, word to use, so they resort to blue-language.  Screw them.  I say that my background in English and my job as a rancher give me both the license and venue in which to curse.  But, of course, there is a drawback and I knew my day would come:  Dylan swearing.

I'm surprised Dylan swearing didn't come sooner, but, in my defense, I tried, sort of, not to swear in front of her.  Like a Mormon, or Cate Blanchett in Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, who used "F" instead of, well, you know what it's instead of, I tried creative ways to avoid swear words.  It didn't work so well.  I can't get my head around using "fudge," or "frick," or even "frig," but I have adopted plain old "F" (thanks, Cate), or "Mother Trucker" when things really get out of hand.

But those are all substitutes for just one word.  What about the others?  I tried the Scottish "shite," but that's not a very good cover.  And "darn" or "shoot"?  Boo, I say.  And there's really no way to hide my go to swear when I'm super-pissed off.  It rhymes with "pit trucker," but using that really decreases its punch.  For now, Dylan's swearing has been very tame and limited to "dammit."  Pretty innocuous, I know.  But dammit is a gateway swear word.  It leads to "crap," and from there, it's open the flood-gates and before you know it she's talking like an Alaskan logger.

I really would rather she learned where and when it's appropriate to swear.  School = No, Feeding Cows = Yes.  I have to give her credit, she's used "dammit" in the correct situation every time she's used it.  But this is also a three-year old with poor impulse control who still uses fifty squares of toilet paper to wipe with after she pees and only two squares after she poops, so learning proper swear-venues isn't something that's going to come naturally.

I know, in a couple of years I'll be having the same talks with Grady, and I'm hoping his big sister will be there by my side, helping me with that lecture.  Until then, if you see me out and about and are confused about my tame language, just remember, today is brought to you by the letter "F" and my mother is a trucker.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Sacramento Highlights

Last weekend, Regina had a conference in Sacramento and, like any good sugar-mama would do, she let her hillbilly hubby and rugrats tag along.  Aside from feeding Grady chicken satay (peanut sauce -- he's allergic) and letting Dylan hang out with panhandlers, I'd say I did an alright job of guiding a couple of country-kids around the capital.  The weekend was a blast, but each one of us had his or her own personal highlight.

We spent Saturday night with some friends in Folsom.  Martin and Anna have two kids approximately our kids' age, so our suffering is nearly equal, and it gave us plenty to drink talk about.  If I had been kidnapped by Russians (you know, when they were cool and kicked ass) and sent to the same facility where Ivan Drago trained in Rocky IV, I would, today, look a lot more like Martin.  He's the Uber-Judd, and Grady fell in love.  Grady would flee from my arms to go hang out with his BFF, Martin.  Better looking?  Check.  More fun?  Check.  Grady learned that having two dads was waaaay better than one, and Martin seemed to really like Grady.  Plus, they had a great bar, so neither of us wanted to leave.  I was content sipping Guiness and Grady just wanted to drool on his new dad.

For Dylan, the highlights never ended.  Just the fact that we got to stay in a "hotel-house" was pretty fun, but it also had an indoor pool.  Yes! and Yes!  Also, we stayed in Old Sac, which, in about three square blocks contains nothing but restaurants, tattoo parlors, and candy shops.  Dylan learned quickly that, because of the intense competition between "Candy Heaven," "Sugar High," and "Hey Kid, Want Some Candy?", the shopkeepers were pretty liberal with their free samples.  I retaliated every sample by leaving both kids unattended in their candy-packed stores until their highs wore off.

And Regina?  She kind of geeks-out at conferences, so I'd say that sitting in a convention center with other like-minded educators was, for her, loads of fun.  But, seeing friends and family, eating awesome Pho, and having a never-ending supply of dirty martinis made her weekend a long string of highlights.  And I think the rest of us were just good enough to get to tag along for her next conference.  Fallon, NV, look out 'cause here we come!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

An Open Letter To February

Dear February:

I don't understand you.  We'll talk about the stupid way you spell your name and your measly twenty-eight days in a bit.  But the mind games you play, the ups and the downs, let me address those now.  You began beautifully.  Sure, snow would have been nice, but you brought the sunshine.  If I didn't know you so well I'd of thought you were March (or April.  Meeeow!).  You're blushing, but it's true.  Blue skies, crisp mornings, sunny days, it was glorious.  We hustled to our tractors and farmed like it was late spring.  And we got a lot done, so thanks.

Then you had to go and hand out a round of RSV to both kids and a sinus/ear infection to Grady.  And having Grady cut both eye-teeth at the same time?  Come on!  I'm sending you a bill for the chair legs he chewed up trying to ease the pain.  Still, you let the monkeys off easier than last year (you were a real prick in '10), and we appreciate it, really.  Grady's even named you "Kitty," and that's an honor only a step below "Mama."

But, I've got to admit, you sucker-punched us with our first school Valentine's Day party.  Who knew candy was the new expression of love and friendship?  Okay, I knew, but I didn't think that knowledge was mainstream yet.  Dylan's still not over her sugar-high -- here she is at her worst:

Just when I thought you might be cool and we could hang out, you hit me with the never-ending flu.  And you mocked me with it.  You took all my sense of taste the day before Regina and I went to our favorite restaurant, then gave it back, for one night only, during dinner.  You let me recover just enough to see Ryan Bingham in concert, then kicked me to the curb when I started bragging how much better I was feeling.

Nobody likes a complainer, so I'll be positive.  You taught me a few things that I'll always carry with me.  Things like: I can successfully blame fever-sweats on a faulty heating system in my classroom, or codine + Nyquil = crazy dreams, and most importantly, don't cough and pee at the same time.

So, goodbye, jerkface.  And here's a little advice for next year.  First, bring some snow, it's winter, remember?  Next, buy a couple of extra days to fill the calendar like a real month and, finally, drop that stupid silent "r," it makes you seem pretentious.  You just might fit in after all.


The Eastside Gang

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Book of Dylan

While the chances of Dylan joining the priesthood, or a nunnery, or holding any mid-level non-secular job seem as unlikely as the Seahawks making it to the playoffs Superbowl, she has been, lately, infatuated with Baby Jesus and God.  I think the trifecta of Grady's baptism, Christmas, and a steady dose of religion from Grandma have piqued her interest.

Has Dylan reached a level of holiness that we cannot fathom?  Is she the Golden Child?  No.  She still beats our pets with sticks and regularly throws tantrums that make the neighbors lock their doors.  But, once she puts down her weapons and dries her eyes (and we unlock the door), she'll ask questions like, "Where's God?"  If we respond with "Everywhere," she starts listing.  "Our house?" "Yes." "The barn?" "Yes." "Julie's house?" and on, and on, and on.

Last weekend I took Dylan snowboarding.  Since I usually go on Sundays, going to the mountain is often my church, and maybe that feeling rubbed off on Dylan.  On the way there, she asked if Baby Jesus would be on Mt. Shasta.  I told her that He would, but He'd probably be spending most of his time boarding the backcountry.  He's hardcore like that.

Questions about God or Jesus come up all the time.  For now, we can give her pretty much any answer and she's happy.  But if she gets a little more biblical knowledge, Regina and I will have to brush up on our religion.  Here's an example of a typical theological conversation between Regina and myself:  So ... Moses.  He's the guy with the whale, right?  Maybe.  Wasn't he the baby, floating down the river?  And then a whale ate him?  Yes?  And that reminds me, we need to pump up our inner tubes so we can float the Scott River this weekend.  Awesome.

Somewhere (Grandma's) Dylan learned that we shouldn't take the Lord's name in vain.  When she's around, we can't say: Jesus Christ, Jesus H. Christ, Jesus, Jeeze, Young Jeezy, Cheese Whiz, or Chimichunga.  If we utter any one of those, she'll reprimand us.  I love it when our Catholic cousins slip with a "Gee."  Dylan's right on top of it and scolds them.  "It's not nice to say 'Jesus.'"  It's like catching a Mormon saying "crap."  A rare and treasured gift.

Dylan still gets time-out on the pew on our front porch for all sorts of bad behavior, so I'm pretty sure she isn't ready for the convent, yet.  I'm trying to clean up my potty mouth and hopefully we'll strike a balance.  And in the meantime?  Go Seahawks.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Like A Cheese Stick

When I asked Regina what she wanted for Christmas, just behind a Jaguar XJ and Dance Dance Revolution was, simply, a date.  "What about our weekend in Portland?" I asked.  I got The Look.  "That was with Grady at OHSU."  Okayyyy.  "We just went went to Medford," I offered.  I should have quit while I was only in a shallow hole.  "Both kids, and, again, at a hospital."  I knew I had to act.

It wasn't fancy, but we took New Year's Eve Day (the official holiday for parents of young children) and went to Ashland.  After lunch we went ice skating in the park.  That sounds romantic, right?  It may be, but I'm a 200 pound gorilla flailing around on hockey skates, not Brian Boitano.  Apparently, the only adult males who skate at this rink are all professionals.  Except for me, of course.  After an hour there, my New Year's Resolution was to do one of those cool ice-spray stops that hockey players do.  I got as far as a slow stop, wall grab, and slip.  We finally had to hang up our skates when Regina got taken out by a toddler pushing around a "learning aid" (read: walker).

We limped around town, enjoyed some wine and cheese, and watched True Grit.  Our date may have continued indefinitely, but our parental responsibilities (read: guilt) kicked in and we came home to gather the kids, watch Dick Clark, and down some old champagne to welcome in 2011 (EST, of course).

For an encore, that Sunday we decided on a Family Date Day and took the monkeys sledding.  Watching Dylan rip down an icy slope is as fun as watching old people dance: there's a chance for a wreck at any moment.  Grady's not ready for high speed sledding, so he basically sat in the snow and cried.

On the way home, Grady fell asleep and I turned on the radio for some noise other than Dylan's requests for more hot chocolate.  The Far East Movement's song "Like a G6" came on and, to my surprise, Dylan started singing along.  I thought it was funny that she knew the lyrics to something other than the Avett Brothers' "I & Love & You," or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" until I really listened closely.  For a three-year old, her rendition was perfect.  "Now I'm feeling so fly like a Cheese Stick, like a Cheese Stick."  What a great ending to my date-weekend.  I felt so fly.  Like a Cheese Stick.