Sunday, December 14, 2014

Nothing Says Christmas Like Rifle Fire

Part of the fun in having children is resurrecting Christmas traditions from your childhood.  Loading up the kids and driving random logging roads in search of a Christmas tree, NOT opening gifts until Christmas morning, mistletoe belt buckles, these are the traditions that Regina and I grew up with, or at least we agree on (okay, maybe I made up the belt buckle one, but it ought to be everyone's tradition).  Part of the fun of Christmas is creating new traditions with your kids.  After we had kids,  we started going to the Ft. Jones Christmas Parade and the Callahan Christmas, and they've become part of our Christmas routine.  Also, part of the fun of having children is you can blame your farts on them, but that's neither Christmas-y nor relevant.

A few years ago we started going to the Ft. Jones Christmas Parade because Dylan was in it.  I had no idea what a big deal it was.  People pack the sidewalks and lately I've heard stories about guys riding their horses into the bar after the parade and fistfights.  Ah, Christmas.  I've really only been to the elementary school's Halloween parade, which is fifteen minutes of cuteness, or the rodeo parade, which mainly is a lot of people on horseback.  The Christmas parade has everything.  From bagpipers to backcountry horsemen, from renaissance nerds to Harley badasses.

My favorite entry is the Mountain Men.  I think I include them every year in my Christmas blog, and they deserve the attention.  They seem to be a loosely formed group of men and women who dress in pelts and wear moccasins.  They pack black-powder rifles and fire them off as they walk down the parade route.  The gunfire gets pretty loud and all of the mounted entries have to follow them, or there would be a lot of runaway horses and general carnage.  It's hilarious (to me) and terrifying (to Grady).  For some reason, watching the kids flinch every four seconds when a rifle goes off has become my favorite Christmas tradition.

In the 90s, Mike Tyson hired a guy, Crocodile, as a hype-man.  He'd walk next to Mike and motivate him by yelling odd phrases like, "Guerrilla warfare!" and, "Bring the noise!"  Last night, at Callahan Christmas, I was Crocodile and Grady was Mike Tyson.  I wanted Grady to get over his Santa-terrors and so I talked up the big guy.  I started up the hype machine right after dinner.  "Santa's coming, buddy, are you ready?  Yeah, you're ready, he's nice.  He has presents.  Let's get ready to rumble."  Sometimes I say the wrong thing.  Grady's spent the last three Christmases looking at St. Nick like he was John Wayne Gacy in a Santa suit.  No way, no how was he going near that red-clad freak.  But this year, my Crocodile impression worked and pretty soon Grady was sitting on Santa's lap and shaking his hand like a gentleman.  We couldn't believe it.

So, while most kids have sugar-plum fairies dancing in their heads around Christmas time, ours hear the sharp crack of rifle fire and the soothing shouts of, "It's fight time!" in their ears and can only dream of Christmas.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Eastside Bellagio

Ahh, fall.  If it weren't for that smug look on Martha Stewart's face whenever she tries to get me to make pumpkin spiced ... everything, it'd be my favorite season.  The kids are back in school, baby calves are hitting the ground, and the layer of Halloween candy blubber I put on is easily disguised by a terrible beard and heavy vests.

As the daughter of two English majors, Dylan is following her nerdy parents' footsteps.  Along with baby calves and fuzzy cats, she loves reading and writing.  I've caught her, more than once, standing at her bedside, reading a dictionary.  She reads to her brother at night, and whenever I'm on the computer, she tries to read everything that pops up.  When I wanted to figure out what Elmer Fudd's daughter was trying to sing in "All About That Bass," she tried to read along.  "It's aww about dat bass, no tweble."  "What's it mean?" she asked.  Nobody knows.

And when Dylan's not reading, she loves to write essays about the cool things she's done, like cow feeding and buck hunting.  She was my official "meat package marker," for a buck that I processed.  I let her have free-rein on the butcher paper, so the packages are marked in second-grade phonics (Rost.  Meet), with drawings of flowers and rainbows.  It'll make dinner prep a lot more exciting.

Grady seems to be in school mostly for the social aspect.  Kindergarten has been awesome for him and every day is a big party.  This year was his first for soccer.  Somehow, the Tigers ended up with the fewest number of players, and since it's a team of four and five-year olds, those players are often drifting on and off the field during the match.  The games I saw looked like cute versions of the movie 300, with a small handful of kids in orange getting overwhelmed by hoards of opposing players.

Here's something I probably shouldn't tell you, but I will anyway.  We have a bidet.  No, not in the "fancy French separate appliance that's 60 feet from the toilet" way, but in the "attached to the toilet, utilitarian, Brasilian" way.  And here's why I'm telling you: 1) it's awesome, go get one.  It's better than sliding up the the jacuzzi jets at the Hilton's spa, and 2) it's not a toy.  Our kids know the latter well.  In fact, I've cranked it on when they've sat on our toilet (for laughs), and they hate it.  The look on their faces alone is worth getting one.  But say you have a few five-year old boys over at your house for a post-season soccer party.  That knob on the side of toilet?  Yeah, it's a fountain machine.  And, after our end-of-year soccer party, Regina came out of our bathroom with a horrified look on her face.  She told me that little boys are disgusting creatures and have terrible aim when they pee.  I investigated.  It wasn't a misdirected stream that soaked our tile floor, but a bidet that must have put on a water show that rivaled the Bellagio's in Vegas.

As long as Regina and I can raid the kids' Halloween bags and listen to the soothing sounds of a child reading a dictionary, we'll cozy up to the fire and enjoy the season.  And if you happen to swing by the Eastside, pause in front of our house, every fifteen minutes we have a spectacular water show.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

7-minute Summer

The raid on bin Laden's compound.  The Mars Exploration Rover mission.  Madonna's "Who's That Girl?" World Tour.  I used to think the man hours involved in planning those events was beyond anything I could imagine.  Since I've had kids, I think I could strap the boob cones on Madonna with one hand, operated the Rover remote with the other, and repel into Abbottabad by my feet, and still have plenty of free limbs for hay season and kid shuttling.  In other words, parenting sure makes you get your shit together.

Needless to say, we're no busier than any other family.  And the upside to our hectic schedule is that the kids have spent a lot of time working with me this summer.  Dylan, the animal lover, used to get bored quickly on the swather.  Now, she plays the "Let's Count Bugs" game.  It's exactly as it sounds.  Thousands of ladybugs, aphids, caterpillars, and spiders accumulate on the header of the swather and Dylan tries to inventory them all.  If it's a slow day, she'll keep track of the mice and squirrels I mow over.  If it's a really slow day, she'll start asking questions.  "Why are our legs longer than our arms?" was a fun one to answer.  When she stated, "I have all sorts of questions about my body," I replied, "Oh look, a ladybug!"

Grady's my tractor man.  Sure, he likes being horseback, and his asthma can withstand a few hours on the baler, but his absolute favorite thing to do is ride along on our oldest, most beat up county-auction rig: The Scoopmobile.  It's a big orange beast that's difficult to steer, the cab is full of contusion-causing edges, it's deafening, and it often dies in the middle of a job.  Basically, it's awesome.  He rides shotgun as we turn big piles of dirt into small piles.  Sometimes we do that for no reason other than it's manly and fun.

We can't breath, but the sunsets sure are pretty.
Sure, there were quite a few things that our schedule, or nature, wouldn't allow for this summer.  Our annual lake adventure got buried in smoke by the local wildfires.  I missed a trip to Pismo Beach with the gang because we were cutting our first crop.  And my goal of trying to stay fit was fulfilled by finishing the 7-minute workout exactly twice.  But we did some great things too.  We drove to lookouts, we made it to the Oregon coast, the kids had swimming and horseback riding lessons (although not at the same time), we rodeoed, and we started an evening tradition called "Grab a beer, load the kids and dogs, we're cruising the gulch in the Ranger." I know, the name needs work, but it's a fun outing.

Someone recently asked me how my summer was going.  I surprised myself when I replied, "Fun!"  It feels masochistic to stack a full load of kid activities on top of work, but the greatest thing about being a rancher (aside from the lavish lifestyle), is spending work time with Regina and the kids.  A few hours cutting hay with Grady and Dylan (and Buster and Scout), or a cattle drive up Miner's Creek with the family makes the long hours and hectic schedule all worthwhile, and feels better than that one hand on Madonna's boob cone.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Fuzzy Armadillos

Unless you've been avoiding all social media, or haven't seen the 30-minute Hanna-family infomercial I directed for OWN, the Oprah channel, you already know that the Eastside Gang had a pretty great Siskiyou Golden Fair.

We kicked off fair-season a day early and Dylan and I went over for the officially-unofficial heifer, steer, goat, and lamb weigh in.  This is the day when all the livestock exhibitors bring in their animals and get a sense of how many marshmallows they'll need to feed Daisy that night so it'll make weight the next day.  It's a lot like a MMA weigh-in, with fewer men in chonies and more fights.  Dylan got the job of reading off the digital scales to the contestants (or, usually, their mothers).  It was great watching her be a part of the fair machine.  I shoved, tugged, and begged the livestock into the scales and Dylan (with the help from another board member) quietly read off the weights.  Emphasis on quietly.  There was a lot of 1 ... 3 ... 2 ... ... ... 2?  And a lot of, "What did she say?"

The evening shows are what our kids love because they get to stay out past their bedtime and they get shaved ice for dinner.  Grady got a one-day stomach flu and had to miss the rodeo (more on that later), but was there for his favorite events: Tractor Pulls and the Destruction Derby.  The Tractor Pulls were new this year and are exactly as they sound.  Tractors and trucks pull a lot of weight across the arena.  Some make it all the way, most don't, and some break down somewhere in between.  To make this event, um, more exciting, there are motorcycles doing stunts.  Grady's mind was blown at the first flip and he didn't stop grinning until we had to leave to avoid suffering permanent hearing damage.

Regina took the monkeys over early on one day to see the sights and let the kids go nuts in the carnival.  We somehow talked Dylan into not playing the goldfish game by reminding her of the pile of dead goldfish the last 3 fairs have yielded.  Besides, her Sea Monkeys are alive and growing, and pet-competition would be unhealthy.  When I showed up that afternoon the kids, and Regina, were very excited about the Exotic Animal Petting Zoo.  They even got to pet a fuzzy armadillo.  I questioned Regina and she just shrugged, "That's what the lady said it was."  I had to see this, so we went back.  Of course, there was no fuzzy armadillo to be found.  There was a real one, you know, with a hard shell, but nothing else.  Did it escape? I asked.  We pondered this as we checked out the monkeys, snakes, lizards, and, oddly, a possum. (In an exotic petting zoo?  Welcome to county fairs.) Regina started laughing.  There it was: the fuzzy armadillo.  Someone, maybe she didn't even work there, or maybe she was bored, convinced my family that a common possum was an exotic fuzzy armadillo.  I love that person.

The highlight was, of course, that Dylan won the Siskiyou County Mutton Busting Championship!  You can get the entire 3-hour story if you happen to wander within earshot of me.  I've been boring everyone with it, but I can't help it.  We were so proud.  The short version is that Dylan qualified as an alternate, got the chance to ride, stuck to her mutton, and came home with a buckle and a black eye.  The eye has healed and she wears her buckle proudly, even with outfits that don't have belt loops.  We'd been listening to Tanya Tucker's, "Rodeo Girls Don't Cry," in the truck all summer and afterward, as she was trying hard to wave to her grandparents in the grandstands and to not cry, she told me, "I just kept thinking, rodeo girls don't cry, dad."  So badass.

Our local fair is a great one and this year it gave us so much: a new appreciation of possums, a champion rodeo buckle, and even a second-hand high in the Winema Hall men's room.  We'll hang this one up as great and will cherish the memories, unless we wander back into that men's room, then we won't remember a thing.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Etna Spring

Place Your Bets
Summer's almost here and it can only mean one thing: dog vs chicken races.  You're thinking, A) Judd, tell me something I don't know, and B) Easy, dog wins every time.  Nope.  Not at Casa de Hanna.  We eat our dinners outside and our kids (read: me) spill -- pie, steak fat -- and the first animal to the food wins.  Our dogs may be fast, but don't bet against the chickens, that's my only advice.

As you can tell from our new gambling passion, our summer plans are pretty much booked solid.  What did we do before this new family hobby?  Who can remember?  I'll try.

Let me tell you this, we are fortunate to even have dogs and chickens (and a son and daughter) after Dylan's Brave-themed birthday party.  It might as well been a Hunger Games or Full Metal Jacket-themed party.  We sent invitations with BYOB (Bring Your Own Bow) and had a target shooting contest.  I was, absolutely, in over my head and when one of Dylan's friends (we'll call her "Ted Nugent") showed up with a compound bow, I knew things would end badly.  By the grace of God, no one was punctured.  At one point, I looked over and one girl was holding the target, like Vanna White presenting a vowel, while little Nugent was drawing back on her bow with her tiny trembling arm, ready to fire.  We probably should have just gone with the ubiquitous Frozen theme, but the threat of losing an eye sounded better than hearing "Let it Go" sung by 1st-graders.

Grady, from past experience, knows where to stand when the arrows are flying.  He holed up by the hot dogs and cupcakes and avoided trouble.

The very next weekend was the May Rodeo.  We shined up our boots and went to town.  Dylan is still hell-bent on being a Mutton-Buster, so she donned her kitty cat helmet and Wranglers and gave it a shot.  She had the grit, unfortunately, her lamb didn't.  It ran out of the chute and rolled over.  Kind of like what happens when you try piggy back riding on your drunk friend's shoulders.  Dylan was smothered in soft and smelly lanolin fuzz, and got up grinning and planning her July rodeo ride.

What else?  Dylan and Grady both have new bikes that they're rocking.  It's a Hanna tradition to be unable to ride a bike until A) you are mocked by your classmates, or B) Grandma bribes you to learn.  We're bucking tradition and Grady cruises behind my mountain bike on a tow behind while Dylan rolls on a princess bike.  Grady's supposed to pedal along, but he's figured out it's more fun to watch his fat old man struggle than to actually help out.  Dylan's legs and elbows bear the marks of a kid learning to ride a bike on loose gravel.  Regina and I sit in the backyard, sipping wine, and listen to the soft sounds of a bike skidding out in the dirt, punctuated by the immediate, "I'm okay."

So, come visit us this summer.  We'll fling a few arrows, shoot a few squirrels, and place a few bucks on the crafty speckled hen.  It'll be a hoot.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Snitches Get Stitches

Last week I brought Dylan to the corrals while we were giving one herd of cattle their spring vaccinations.  At one point in the day, she and Greg were helping me as I was bringing a few mother cows from the back and running them up to the chute.  Greg started laughing at something Dylan told him and he asked me, "Snitches get stitches? Where in the hell did she get that?"  I cringed.  In my defense, it seemed like really good advice when I told her that (boy, was I waxing philosophical) about a year ago.  Also, in my defense, I can be a really shitty parent.  Want more examples?  Yeah, I thought so.

Holidays:  Regina and I, for whatever reason, have a very loose grasp on how holidays are supposed to work for children.  She blames it on growing up overseas.  I have no excuse.  I grew up with all the traditions and rituals that Easter, Christmas, Arbor Day, Yom Kippur, or whatever, offer.  We really thought we had Christmas nailed down.  We have a tree-cutting day, we hang stockings, we wrap presents, we are merry.  But, two years ago we forgot to wrap any presents from Santa.  Regina asked me, "Does Santa bring presents?" and all I could come up with was, "Maybe?"  We're back on a Santa-gift routine, and thought it was smooth sailing, until the evils of the internet introduced us to Elf on a Shelf.  The Hell?  I hate everything about it.  I'm genuinely freaked out by horror films that feature A) dolls (see: Chucky), or B) leprechauns (see: Leprechaun I - VII), and that freaky little Christmas elf looks like those two movies made a baby.  So, no mischievous elves.  And, for that matter, no mischievous leprechauns on St. Patricks Day.  When did the tradition of trashing your house and blaming a silly leprechaun start?  The last thing Regina and I want to do is create a bigger mess in our house, especially on a day dedicated to day-drinking and poor choices.  
Mommy, who brought these baskets?

And, finally, there's Easter.  Ah, Easter, it's a piece of cake, right?  On Easter-eve, I was up baking a tart while Regina started putting the kids' baskets together when she innocently asked, "Are the baskets from the Easter Bunny or from us?"  We finally settled on: Let's just leave them out and let the kids decide who brought them.  Same goes for egg hunts.  We've always done an egg hunt wherever we go for Easter supper, then I had a revelation on Easter night that I used to wake up to hidden eggs all around the house.  How had I forgotten that tradition?  How do I even remember how to tie my own shoes anymore?  It's a good thing I wear cowboy boots.

I can see!
Health:  We've been watching Grady stand 4" in front of the television for about a year now.  We thought that he was really into his shows.  Dylan thought he was in the way.  The school, after they ran an eye-test, thought he needed a professional to take a closer look.  Yep, Grady's getting eye glasses next week because he can't see things that are far away.  You know, things like a TV.  We've spent the last two years hollering at him to sit down while he's just been trying to figure out what Doc McStuffins looks like.

Dylan, fortunately, has her father's teeth.  That's sarcasm.  Basically it means that she's doomed to have cavities until she's 40.  Her dentist found 6 cavities last fall and decided to break up the filling appointments in thirds.  By round 3, Dylan had a firm distrust of modern dentistry.  I took her to her last appointment and, like I do with any doctor's appointment, I brought a book and settled in in the waiting room while she went to the back.  An hour and a half later she came out crying and I realized that I'd made a terrible mistake.  Why I didn't go back there with her and hold her hand while she got her teeth drilled out, I have no idea.  I'm still trying to figure out a way to divert my guilt and bad-parenting into blame on the "scary" dentist, but I realize that my plan will probably backfire when Dylan has to go back, probably in the near future, for another filling.

On good days, I think Regina and I are doing alright as parents.  My dad told me story that when he was very young, after reading the story of William Tell shooting an apple off someone's head with an arrow, he tried to shoot an apple off his brother's head.  With a .45 pistol.  After hearing that, I feel pretty good about our petty mistakes in parenting.  Our giant poster that reads "Dylan has gone ____ days without detention," now sports double-digit numbers, and we're 90% successful on what gluten-free foods to feed Grady.  We've accepted that we'll ignore holiday traditions that involve nightmarish creatures, we'll try a little harder to be in tune with the health of our kids, and I'll quit trying to impart words of wisdom that I've learned in Spike Lee movies.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Buzkashi and Your Anus

One thing about raising little critters on the ranch is the general perception that country kids are tough.  And, really, a lot of them are.  A friend of Dylan's recently was kicked by a horse.  When I told Dylan about it she was A) very concerned, then, B) shrugged it off and said, "Oh, he's tough, he'll be okay."  I like that.  I like the idea that others will perceive my kids as tough without them actually having to do anything particularly macho.  No alligator rasslin' or unfiltered cigarettes, no backyard bare knuckle bouts or that dead-goat polo game they play in Mongolia necessary.

The Wild Bunch
And really, our kids are pretty gritty.  I've seen them shake off hits and falls that would have put me in the cry-corner.  This winter Dylan slammed her finger in the car door as we were going into the Masonic Hall for breakfast.  She cried a little, then wrapped her bloody finger in a napkin and dug into her pancakes and bacon.  And last fall, when Grady and I went in for flu shots, I really expected the worst.  Instead, when the nurse jabbed him with a needle, he scowled at her like she'd just told him Christmas was cancelled.

Despite all this, both kids can also be pretty dramatic.  I used to think Dylan was tougher than an old boot, and then she started school.  She started coming home every day with a new bandaid covering some phantom injury.  We told her that bandaids over scratches were useless and she was wasting the school secretary's time.  When the bandaids stopped, Dylan started opting for ice-packs to cool off those gruesome wounds.  We tried to dissuade her with "The Boy Who Cried Wolf"-esq tales, but she didn't listen.  We finally had to put a hard stop to all of it when Mrs. Jenna, the secretary, told me that Dylan came in during one recess and requested an ice-pack for her heart.

At dinner, if Grady isn't very hungry, I'll often try my feeble attempt at reverse psychology and tell him, "Okay, if you aren't going to eat, then you can go to bed."  Ha, I think, now he'll eat.  Instead, his bottom lip curls down and quivers.  He climbs out of his chair and Charlie Brown-walks to his bedroom.  I watch as the door slowly shuts behind him.  My plan, of course, has completely backfired, and I spend the rest of dinner coaxing him out of his room with sweets like I'm befriending a stray dog.
Mucho Macho

It's easy to forget how sensitive the kids can be.  When Dylan came home from school this week and proudly announced that she was doing her first real school report on, wait for it, Uranus, my eyes lit up like a pinball machine.  Jokes!  Regina, fortunately, can read my very simple mind and shot me a "Don't you dare," look.  But Uranus!  It's right up there with Lake Titicaca, Titmouse, and pianist jokes.  I stopped, took a breath, and bit my tongue.  I knew that I'd take the jokes too far and would, undoubtedly, squelch her excitement for science and probably hurt her feelings.  Instead, like a proper father, I checked my jokes at the door, took a deep breath, and said, "Awesome.  Tell me all about Uranus."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mi Car-o es Blanco

When the temperatures here dipped to -8 and our days were spent thinking of creative ways to thaw pipes, my brain took an early vacation to Baja.  I had a mental Cabo Advent Calendar, and each day I opened up a little flap to reveal either a Pacifico or a shrimp taco.  So when I sat in my chonies on our patio in Cabo, with Regina on one side and a michelada on the other, I felt, for the first time in a long time, completely thawed.  I thought I may never leave.

We took our annual trip to Mexico this Christmas and the kids, of course, had a blast.  We spent a week in Cabo and three days in Todo Santos, and most of our time was spent on pristine beaches, or at the pool, which overlooked the pristine beach, or eating shrimp tacos, near some lousy pristine beach.  Give Dylan and Grady a set of arm floaties and a beach bucket and they practically babysit themselves.  At least that's what I told all the glaring parents.  Grady was perfectly content building, then demolishing, sand castles all day long.  We'd slather on a layer of sunblock and turn them loose.  Dylan has a Rainman-esq affinity for numbers, and between playing in the waves and building sand-cities, I'm pretty sure she got an accurate count on the grains of sand on each and every stretch of beach we visited.

If Dylan wasn't counting things, like pom-pom trees (her name for palm trees), or buzzards, or Mexicans, then she was asking about numbers.  A typical conversation went like this: "Dylan, look!  I just saw a whale with a kitten on its back."  "What's the number 7-0-0-1?"  If her numbers infatuation keeps up, I'm teaching her to count cards.  Our non-sequiter conversations won't be half as frustrating if we're stacking chips in Vegas.

Our only misadventures came at my expense.  One day we decided to drive to downtown Cabo and walk around.  After searching for parking, I found a great spot in front of a coffee shop.  Sure, the curb was painted red, but the entire block was lined with parked cars.   I concluded that a red curb means, "Come on over, whitey, park here."  When we returned from our stroll, we stopped in for a coffee.  Just as we were served we watched two traffic cops pull up on their motorcycles.  Since I'm 1-0 in getting out of traffic tickets in Mexico, Regina sent me out to investigate.  I stood near them in an awkward silence as they eyeballed my rental.  They'd look up at me and glare, then resume writing.  Finally, I thought I'd better throw down some espanol.  "Uh, mi car-o," I said confidently, "es un problemo?"  "Ticket," they replied.  Crap.  Luckily, Regina sensed my dilemma and figured I was probably going to say something accidentally offensive (like "car-o") and came to the rescue.  No ticket, and I'm 2-0 on blundering my way out of traffic fines in Mexico!

The second flub came in Todo Santos at a seafood restaurant.  I thought I'd go rogue and not order shrimp tacos.  I went, for no reason, with camerones aguachili.  It translates to "translucent-grey raw shrimp, with little or no seasoning save lime."  Regina laughed when it came to our table, mostly because of the pile of raw shrimp on my plate.  I'd also ordered shrimp ceviche, so doubling up raised a few flags in my brain.  Unfortunately, the cook was standing near our table, and I'm a people-pleaser, so I ate it all.  You ever get sick from too much Jose Cuervo, then try a shot of it the next day?  That clench in your gut?  That's how I felt the entire meal.

The weather, when we returned, was above 0, and the kids had a few days to acclimate before school started up again.  My only hint of Mexico, a red belly, is slowly turning back to raw-fish white.  Regina, somehow, will stay beautifully tanned until April, just in time to start catching sunshine here.  After bringing home a little bit of Baja in their bellies (Dylan announced, loudly, in an In-N-Out in Redding that she had diarrhea), the kids are back to their old routines.  And we've already started planning our next Baja adventure.