Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Helicopters and Scraped Faces

Helicopters are cool.

In “Apocalypse Now, in one of the most awesome scenes in cinema history, a group of Army helicopters roars over the Vietnamese countryside in a raid on a beach village. The lead copter blares “The Ride of the Valkryies” as the squadron rushes into battle. In the midst of the chaos, Robert Duval as Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore growls, “I love smell of napalm in the morning.” With the explosions and the rousing score, this was manly stuff way beyond all the horrifying Old Spice commercials that haunt every bloomin’ channel on the television now. Don’t even get me started on the Russian gunships in Rambo and Red Dawn.

When I was a little kid, my friend Clint and I would ride our bicycles around the old Plano neighborhood. Clint, on his Huffy, assumed the role of uber-car KIT from Knight Rider. My Schwinn became the derivative helicopter version, Air Wolf. My handlebars bristled with gatling guns and ferocious missile launchers. It sounds silly now, but I had a great time pedaling around pretending to be a goofy sentient attack helicopter.

Fast forward about 25 years. There’s a new helicopter in town, and this one doesn’t have machine guns, napalm, or a rousing score. This helicopter prowls the edges of playscapes vigilantly watching for signs of danger. This helicopter doesn’t strafe enemy positions or drop commando teams. It prevents wood-chip face plants, the ingesting of disgusting things, and attacks from rowdy children. I have become Helicopter Parent, the least cool helicopter in the world.

I hover over Michael to help him play without getting hurt. His ambition outweighs his balance and judgment at 16 months old. Yet I always swore that I would not become one of those overprotective hovering parents. In the cozy world of theoretical parenting, my child would be free to play rough, take risks, trick or treat, walk to school by himself, and *gasp* maybe even ride a bicycle without wearing a full suit of Kevlar body armor! Now that the actual baby is here, it's really tough.

How do I not become the hovering helicopter after witnessing face-first falls into a piles of woodchips? The tears and the little bruised and scraped face can throw the best-laid plans of the theoretical parent right out the window. Maybe my new philosophy can be the unobtrusive just-in-case copter. Sort of like a news channel chopper.

If you see us on the playground, I’ll be the dad who is hovering nearby, but not too close. Little Mikey will climb his ladders, slide down slides, explore gravity, test limits, and, yes, occasionally fall. I’ll try to be near enough to mitigate the worst faceplants without suppressing the best of his experiences. This is why I’m getting some gray hair. This is why going to the Central Market playground, where I can get a glass of soothing red wine while he plays seems so essential. Now I understand so much. Mom and Dad, I am really sorry for all the emergency room visits when I was growing up.

This semi-cheesy coming of age parenting posting was brought to you by our sponsors Neosporin, Aetna Insurance, and Band-Aids.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What did you just say?

I think the 80/20 rule applies to baby speech. 20 percent of Mikey's words make up at least 80 percent of his talking. Those words are: nana, dada, bella, mama, yeah, and no. He generally just repeats the word he is thinking about until he has a fresh banana in his little mitts or some other desired outcome.

That's why what happened Saturday morning surprised us. I'm still not sure I heard what I did.

Chris Floyd stopped by in the morning so we could play a round of disc golf at Brushy Creek. While I was getting my discs and shoes together to leave, he was playing with Mikey. Chris asked Mikey, "Where's your ball?" The little guy immediately swiveled and headed over to the fireplace where his toys are stowed. He spotted his quarry, the goofy rubber ball with a puppy photo screened on to it.

"I wanna see the ball," said Mikey as he reached for it.

Jaws hit the floor. Was that what we thought it was? How could a complete sentence just come out like that? Surely it was a perfectly random confluence of basic sounds which, combined with our preconceived notions and context, sounded like a by golly sentence. 

He hasn't spoken like that since, but those of us in the room know what we heard. Our little Mikey is all grows up. I can't wait till he's telling me all about dinosaurs and asking crazy questions about the world.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Just look at this little face; the rosy cheeks, the big eyes, the pure innocence.
Looks can be quite deceiving. Take a closer look.
The stare is piercing and unwavering. The eyes are unblinking. His jaw is set defiantly.
Mikey can string together a few words, typically covering his favorite subject matter topics: the dog or food. In this case, however, no words are necessary.
"So, you want me to sleep in my crib tonight, eh? I thought we had a good thing going with the little I sleep in the bed with you guys arrangement. I fall asleep quickly, and I don't kick you too much. I'll admit that I do go all Professional Wrestling on you when I wake up, but I'm just happy to see you."
"Let me warn you that I can make things very difficult should you try to keep me in my crib. Let's just say that you won't need a baby monitor to hear what I'll have to say. Did you know that anything above 85 decibels can cause damage to hearing? You ever heard a jumbo jet take your house? The captain has turned on the seat belt light, because it's going to be a bumpy ride. In the unlikely event of a water landing, your pillow can be used as a flotation device. I'll be right there with you, floating on a pillow and screaming bloody murder till you give in."
"Got anything important planned for work tomorrow? It would be a shame if you had to wake up every hour, and the sleep deprivation began to affect your job performance. I hear there have been a lot of layoffs in this economy. What would happen to me if you lost your jobs, and we lost our house? Velcro sure can't survive on the streets. He would last 2 hours out there. All that over something so trivial as where I sleep."
"I see where you're coming from. You want to make a stand and be the parents. This ain't Cesar Milan, and no amount of whispering is going to make me sleep stay in that crib. I'm sure you'll see things reasonably and do the right thing."
"I'm glad we had this little imaginary talk. My, look at the time! Is it 7:45 already? Let's go take care of this diaper and get my moose pajamas on. I'll see you guys upstairs in the bed. The one without rails and bars. Right?"

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy V-Day

It's V-day. Not the day of cheesy lizard alien invading dopplegangers. It's Valentine's Day,the day of love, chocolate, and hastily shopped-for greeting cards and plants. It's never been a huge day for me, as I guess I'm a pretty lousy romantic. I always envision big romantic ideals like a hot air balloon, champagne, and some delicious lobster. Unfortunately, my practical side kicks in. I rationalize that a balloon would be a horrifying waste of money and that going out to a fine dinner would be a total cluster on Valentine's Day. The day usually turns out a bit blah.

Now that the Mad Dog has arrived, our romantic dinner capabilities are seriously limited. We did have a recent 'fancy' dinner at Jasper's in the Domain (special thanks to Grampy and Nana). And, last night we enjoyed bleu cheese burgers with grilled garlic and rosemary potatoes. All was prepared on my shiny new Weber Spirit e-210 grill.

There we go again with the unromantic stuff.

Anyway, this posting is dedicated to my lovely wife Shannon. Today might have been a pretty regular day. Homeslice Pizza with the baby was pretty great, but it was no ride in a hot air balloon.So, I want to use this blog to share my love. Please read this next section in the baritone voice of Barry White, for the correct effect.

When we swore our vows on the shore of Ladybird Lake, we agreed to always keep our passion for adventures, and I think we've done great. Every day, whether it is reading Mikey's farting book, playing Super Mario together, or hosting a cooking challenge has been better than the last. I can't ever remember being happier. I love you!

How much you might ask? How about a series of similes?
Like Velcro loves cat food and like Bella loves Velcro's cat food and Meditterranean chicken pizza.
Like Keith Olbermann loves his thesaurus, and like Grampy loves Sarah Palin
Like Mikey loves his 'nanas and his Nana.

That literary device ran out of steam, so I'll just say I love my sweet wife! I'm looking forward to growing old with you, and I'm excited that we've already made so much progress at it so far :). Thanks for putting up with me and my fast walking, cranky, unreasonable ways :D In the next year, I promise to walk slower, not make us late to everything, and always hang your car keys on the hook.

Have a wonderful day, and sorry you didn't get lobster this year :). Love, Christopher

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I’m a bad parent. I’m here to beg forgiveness. I would like to thank the Academy for this honor, my induction into the 2010 Parent Hall of Shame (hat tip to Sarah).

Every morning when we arrive at day care, Mikey’s hair is horrible. Oh, it's still cute, but he has bed-head. The back sticks up like a demented cockatoo or like David Beckham on a really bad day. He also has chunks of dried banana caked in his hair. Why he insists on rubbing banana slices on his head during breakfast, I’ll never know. Let’s just assume that banana slime nourishes his hair, making it shiny and full of body.

Then there’s the nose. Snot-nosed kid is not an insult, it’s a daily reality. I can barely get myself ready for work in the sluggish, groggy early weekday mornings. It’s still dark outside, and Mikey looks a-ok to my bleary eyes. Then we arrive at day care, and I truly see his face up close in the light of day. His nose is a horrifying dried green snotscape. It’s like a topographical map of the Hill country drawn in green. So, here I am with a banana-crusted, bedhead, booger-enameled pitiful child specimen. Please don’t turn me in to CPS.

It gets worse. One of my other responsibilities in the morning is putting clothes on this child. This is nearly impossible. Children grow so darn fast that at least 90% of the clothing we have is too small. The stuff that fits must still be boxed up somewhere, because I ain't seeing it. My objective is simply to find clothes that fit and get them on the baby as efficiently as possible. Details such as style and matching colors are secondary. I see the other kids at daycare (mainly the girls) wearing their cute-as-a-button matching outfits with everything from hair bow to frilly socks in perfect harmony. Then, Mikey comes strutting in looking like a nightmare version of a Bill Cosby sweater. Oh well. If there's ever an open casting call for extra street Ragamuffins for an Oliver Twist show, then we're golden.

On other mornings, Mikey gets to be Shoeless Joe Baby. I beg for forgiveness here. I also beg for forgiveness when I don’t bring him wearing a jacket on a cold day. See also the laundry passage above.

How could I possibly forget the animal hair? We have a gigantic tabby and a corgidor that can shed enough white hairs daily to reconstitute an entire new dog or maybe a Betty White. Pet hair is omnipresent. Shannon goes through several cases of those fly-paper lint rollers trying to stay presentable. No matter how diligent our efforts, there are some mornings that Mikey shows up at daycare looking like he’s wearing a Mohair sweater. Our banana-crusted, snot-nosed, mismatched, shoeless, jacketless little Dickensian street urchin baby also appears to live in a filthy animal barn.

Please forgive me. I promise to do better. I’m sure Mikey will be fine too, after a few years of therapy.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Corgidor Photos

About 2 years ago, we rescued a scraggly young Corgi / Yellow Lab mix from the Waco Humane Society animal shelter. She's become an indispensable, maddening part of our growing family.

A funny thing has happened with her on this blog. A single post I made way back when has steadily risen in the google search results for "Corgidor." To honor our intrepid Corgidor-seekers from all over the planet, here are some more Corgidor photos.

Monday, February 08, 2010

My Favorite Super Bowl Commercial

Bella, the yellow lab / corgi mix, teaches us that dogs will go to great lengths to get food. Despite the fact that her dish was completely full of expensive dog food (with fancy shredded chicken bits), she still went counter surfing this weekend. Poor Sherman and Paula walked into the kitchen to find Bella standing on the counter on top of their freshy cooked Mediterranean chicken pizza chowing down.

While it is impressive that this stumpy Corgidor can jump up on the kitchen counter, this was an appalling move by the dog. At least she didn't do this:

Thursday, February 04, 2010

On Diapers

In the carefree days before little Mikey actually arrived, when I tried to conjure up a mental picture of the toil and struggle of parenting, it would always be diapers. I would see the America's Funniest Video's clip of the hapless dad, clad futilely in a goofy bandanna, trying to change a dirty diaper. He is overcome by the abject nastiness of the dirty diaper and succumbs to pitiful uncontrollable gagging. In my mind, dirty diapers were the worst that parenting had to offer. Boy was I wrong. But, let me give them their due. Diapers do suck in their own special way.

It all starts with the very first diaper. For me the first diaper came mere minutes after the absolutely mind blowing experience of watching the birth of my son. Suddenly I was a fish in an aquarium in the newborn nursery at the hospital. A crowd of family and friends were on the other side of the glass, bristling with cameras and holding little mylar balloons tied to teddy bears. I was on stage, so every motion and gesture became cinematic and awkward. Was I looking doting enough? Should I sigh? My little Mikey, hot off the presses and still covered in Poltergeist goo, lay before me under the warmers wearing naught but his ill-fitting Huggies diaper.

My spiritual guide was the wizened hospital nurse. When the time came, she said, "Are you ready for your first diaper?" Here it was. I was going to reap what I had sown. I undid the little psuedo-velcro tabs and grimaced in anticipation of the horrors that I would behold. I won't explicitly describe what I saw, as I believe that parents talk too much about poop as it is, but it wasn't pretty. We wiped and scrubbed and fought against the vile ichor until all was ready for a clean diaper. The nurse handed me a neatly folder clean diaper and simply stared.

I could feel the eyes from the other side of the glass watching expectantly. I could also feel the panic building inside. What the velcro do I do with this thing? Which freaking side is the front? Which is the back? How does it buckle? Where are the buckles? I knew I would fail at parenting. I should have just had cats. They use a litter box.

The nurse finally stepped in and showed me that the tabs always go at the back. For any of you single guys or expectant dads out there: there might come a day when you are changing your first diaper. Just remember, the tabs go at the back, under the baby. When your moment comes, take this knowledge and diaper that baby like a hero.

Since that day, I have changed hundreds, if not thousands of diapers. The vast majority are the extremely harmless wet diapers. These are identified by checking the feel of the diaper. Modern diapers feature dryness technology, so they turn jelly-like when they are wet. The only problem this variety of diaper causes is the horrific clogging of landfills.

The parent's real enemy is the euphemistically-named "dirty diaper." Oh, these diapers are dirty in the same degree that Niagara Falls is "wet." We parents have many words and phrases for this ever-present threat: swamp butt, dropped a deuce, got a problem, might have something going on in the diaper region, ridin' dirty, Oh gross, or here, honey, you take him.

In the early days, the diapers are more an oddity, a carnival of strange colors and textures. These lull you into a false sense of security. I began to wonder just what that guy in the video clip was making all the fuss about. Then came solid food. Do you have any idea what happens after a baby eats a pound of edamame? Pray that you never find out.

The funny thing is that diapers really are not that bad. The thing that I dreaded turned out to be one of the easiest things about parenting. Sure, they are a ridiculous money sink and the occasional source of pure disgust and fear, but most diapers are harmless (until it is time to clean out the diaper genie, that is).

The real enemies turned out to be subtle things: sleep deprivation, rhinoviruses, head bonks on the floor, and baby shoes that are hard to put on. Those are a tale for another posting.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

More Dancing Moves

We will be compiling the dancing video soon, but here's a teaser...


I hear horror stories from other parents about how their toddler won’t eat anything. These picky eaters end up hovering around the bottom percentiles of the growth charts. They receive ominous “projected adult height” prognostications that would imply a future of standing in the front row of pictures and having plenty of leg room in coach.

Let’s just say that we don’t have that problem with Mikey. He enjoys foods of all types, and he is moving up the growth charts nicely.

Here are some favorites of our 26 pound gourmand:
1. Banana: This oblong yellow fruit is much loved by primates everywhere. Clad in its very own wrapper, and shockingly inexpensive ($.41 / lb..what what!), this food is a parent’s dream. Our little monster goes all Chris Floyd on these things, consuming a whole banana in mere seconds. What Mikey calls it: “Nana”.

2. Edamame: These green steamed baby soybeans feature a rich meaty flavor and great nutritional value. These small beans are a perfect baby food: finger-sized, minimal choke risk factor, and no gunk or sticky juice. Michael eats these by the bushel while sharing liberally with Bella. We are thrilled that he is loving a green vegetable. What Mikey calls it: “ ___”.

3. Cuties aka Clementines: This variant of mandarin orange peels easily and features no baby-choking seeds. They have a delicious mild orange taste that Mikey enjoys. He also enjoys crushing clementine segments in his meaty little fists. I like to imagine that he has just threatened a rival and that he is crushing the orange to send a menacing message. He likes to rub the juice and pulp in his hair and on his clean outfit for the day. I take him to day care like that. What Mikey calls it: “Aaaa-puhl”, aka apple.

4. Whole Milk: It was a joyful day when we switched from powdered gold, ie formula, to good old whole milk. Michael has also transitioned to sippy cups. Michael’s favorite thing about sippy cups is that they can be inverted and shaken violently to send a flood of milk splattering everywhere. Fortunately, we have a dog that likes to drink milk. What Mikey calls it: “Ba-ba”.

5. Lemon Wedges: This is a rare treat, mainly enjoyed while dining out. There’s a love-hate dynamic here. I want to eat you, but you are so sour! Why can’t I stop!

6. Cantaloupe: When Michael eats cantaloupe, he enters a melon-lust frenzy. He yells for more while frantically making the ‘more’ hand sign. Cantalopes are a bit unwieldy to cut up, and they score very poorly on the mess-o-meter. What Mikey calls it: “Aaaa-puhl”. Any round fruit is apparently an apple.

Other Objects Eaten, For Better or For Worse:
1. A nice shiny quarter.
2. Purina Pro Plan Dog Food with Shredded Chicken Bits
3. A fistful of wasabi