Daily Operation, The Byford Files

RaisingElle Moving…Don’t Cry…Dry Your Eyes

Sometimes it’s easier to make a decision without thinking much and this one needed very little thought. Lemme put it to you this way…

Once Ellison was crawling, she was walking. Once she was walking, she was running. Once she was running, she was finding the quickest route to trouble and heading in with her forehead first. I’m writing this behind one half-empty (half-full) bottle of pale ale at 11:00pm on a Friday night which is precisely the first opportunity I’ve had to write all week. Once Ellison got up on her hind legs, the writing game changed forever.

I started in the blogging game back in over six years ago at The Root Down. It became a daily outlet for misdirected creative energy that would find light like a fart you tried your darndest to suppress. Eventually, it’s just gotta find it’s way out. That was The Root Down. It became a five year fart that ended with me attempting to countdown the greatest hip hop recordings ever. Never made it to number one on that list. Not because I didn’t know what number one was, but because my lovely wife got pregnant and we changed the format. Over the last year plus, I’ve been operating two blogs…Raising Elle, which you’re currently reading and IKnowYouGotSole which was originally intended to log my marathon training runs. Turned out that IKnowYouGotSole became The Root Down 2.0. The dual lives, however have become simply too much to handle and perform as a dad. And the last thing that I want this writing thing to be is a job or anything that resembles such. I already got a job and one that takes a ton of energy and, frankly, the last thing I wanna do at the end of a long day is to sit down and disappear into another computer at another desk instead of getting to know my sweet Ellison. Raising Elle, by it’s very design, was intended as an all-week, all-day, all-hour account of Ellison’s come-up like some sort of blogform of The Truman Show.

Ellison Jayne’s getting older and this fatherhood thing is getting better everyday…and more involved. I’m never short of material, but the “blog” format was just too long-form for a dad on the run. You need to be able to post-up in five minutes and be on your merry way. Like a good graffiti artist…do your damage, pack up, take a picture and be out before the law comes around. Blogs are great for people writing about astrology, literature, how to remove warts at home, but for a dad who only has two cups of coffee to write, the blog is way too involved. And my cups of coffee go down quick. I would consider blogs for the leisurely reader. It’s for people like the Keatons and the Seavers that go to work at like 10:00am after you get the kids to school, get a nice breakfast, maybe go to the supermarket and post office. That ain’t real life.

Real life is filled with diapers, light sockets, puking beagles, flat tires, cold coffee, crying co-workers and unresolved expense reports. The expectation that I could sit down and write 1000 words a morning is not only unrealistic, it’s downright ludicrous.

So we’re moving on. Raising Elle will still be open for business, but just no new business. Also, IKnowYouGotSole is no more. I’ve taken it down and in its place I’ve created a Tumblr site named NoSleepTillWolflin. This will be the location for all activity moving forward. Call it a “much needed, much anticipated downsizing.” The intent is to marry both the Ellison Jayne element of my waking life and, well, everything else. And a little tip for my mother and others who could care less about everything else, just save this link: http://nosleeptillwolflin.tumblr.com/tagged/Ellison_Jayne and that’ll take you directly to only the Ellison-related content.

We needed a site that was easier for quick posting. We need new posts to be somewhere between a tweet and a blog entry. We needed a site that was easier to read on mobile devices. We needed a site that was easier to post up on from mobile devices. We needed a site that had better mixed media functionality. Again, all for the dad on the go. These are things that Tumblr offers much better than WordPress. The new site, I believe, better positions us for future expansion too.

So why not RaisingElle.tumblr? What is this NoSleepTillWolflin crap? Change in direction, I suppose. I wanted to liberate the concept a little. I’ll put it this way, if you had 200 channels on your satellite offering, but I told you could you only watch the History Channel, I would imagine the amount of time you spent watching television would dramatically decrease. It’s not that don’t like the History Channel, but to be restricted to watching just one channel all of the time is ultimately going to result to less television. That’s what was happening at RaisingElle. I felt it was necessary to not deviate from one central concept. Problem was, I wasn’t always in the mood to write about Ellison. And I rarely had the time and energy to write at great length about Ellison. So, instead, I wrote less.

Well, we got our 199 other channels back now. Doesn’t mean we’ll watch all 200 channels and, trust me, we’ll still watch tons of the History Channel. And I ask you to trust me. I’ll be your guide through the entire transition. So, now, I present to you:

And, to welcome you for making the trek over, there’s an exclusive video of Ellison…and a doggy door. Enjoy.
Daily Operation

Parental Annoyance: When Parents Talk For Their Babies

You’ve heard it, however, you might not notice it. It’s prevalent. Everywhere.

I first noticed it by watching pet owners talk for their pets and now notice that it happens with babies too. And maybe more often.

Take this example:

Acquaintance is holding her baby daughter and I approach to greet both of them. I lean in to the baby cautiously with a big smile and say, “Hey there, sweetie! You’re getting so big!” The baby scowls at me nervously. The mother then says in an attempt to be humorous, “She’s like, ‘I don’t know you so step off!'”

Wait, the baby didn’t say that. Why did the mother say that she said that. Or is the “she’s like” part her saying, “If she could speak, she would say this.” Yeah, but she can’t speak so she didn’t say that. She’s a baby. Can’t she just have a natural reaction to a stimulus without someone attempting to speak for her?

I was speaking to a friend of mine one day while Ellison made her way around the room and probably twelve to fifteen times during our conversation, as he watched Ellison wander around from corner to corner taking in the room, he broke our conversation to speak for Ellison like some outtake of Look Who’s Talking. “She’s like, ‘Hey, this is cool!'” “She’s like, ‘I love light plugs.'” She’s like, ‘Where’s daddy?'” “She’s like, ‘Man, that guy’s shoes are cool.'”

Every time I hear him do this, I felt like asking him to stop. It’s incredibly annoying. And, what’s worse, is I’ve found myself doing the same thing. I try to catch myself when I do it, but sometimes, it’s unpreventable. Maybe it’s a nervous tick. For instance, when you’re talking with someone and you run out of words, but there’s still moments left in your conversation so you just fill it up with really bad comedic material. Stupid, lazy comedic material that includes trying to speak for babies and be funny about it.

What I love about babies is that they can’t talk. Their wonderment in the world is in their eyes, their expressions. Their grunts, screams, laughs. While they can’t speak in clear sentences, they do so with every other part of their face and voice. It doesn’t have to be a running joke for parents to write the punchlines. We don’t have to play the “what if dogs could talk” game with our babies.

And now, for my mother, a photo of Ellison.

Daily Operation

Just Like Daddy Drinks

Finally happy to report that we’re moving on to greener (er whiter) pastures on the milk front with successfully moving to whole milk…just like daddy drinks.

Yep, it’s been a long road and tolling financially (thanks, insurance, for being there when we need you…hint of sarcasm…okay, heaping portions of sarcasm…I haven’t used you, insurance, but probably five or six times in the last ten years and this is how you treat me?), but she’s healthy, happy and can chug it down like her daddy and uncle. So, let’s look back at our lactosian journey.

BOOBY: Rejected.

SIMILAC: Rejected. Irritability. Took a swing at daddy.

SIMILAC SPECIAL: Rejected. Same symptoms. Daddy decided to not press charges for the punch to the throat citing “colicky fits.” Cheap, you can buy it at Wal-Mart or at Sam’s by the case. Come in little bottles. Looks like milk. Tastes like river water. Words like “Allimentum” become conversational in the household.

SOME WEIRD GREEN CAN OF POWDER: Provided by the pharmacy on a test run. We’ve hit rock bottom. Our pharmacy is giving us sample cans of powder for milk. It doesn’t even look like something you’d feed a baby. More like something you dilute with water and kill weeds with. Doesn’t smell like milk, doesn’t look like milk and doesn’t work with Ellison either. Irritability and rashes appear. Next please.

NUTRAMIGEN AA: The Cadillac of baby formula. Or Rolls Royce. Smells like rotten bread. Looks grey in color. Priced like high-grade cocaine. Not that I would necessarily know. We move from buying from a pharmacy to the online “Nutramigen Chase” on Ebay. Like buying formula in dark alleys, off the back of a truck at a rest stop. We even visit a woman locally who sells us this crap out of her front door for cash in hand. Thanks again, Insurance. You’re real clutch. Doing so saves us about 40% in the cost of a can. It still ain’t cheap running about $25-$30 a can. Can lasts three days. Ellison takes to it though and that’s all that matters in the end. Just remember that if you hear the word “Nutramigen” followed with a battery size, start lining up a supply like Freeway Rick.

SOY MILK: Ah. Finally we’re purchasing milk at a safe, well-lit grocery store. Actually shopping in the milk section of the store! It’s actually happening. Took about a year to get here. Soy milk’s not really milk, but as least we’re buying it in liquid form. It’s readily available, cheap, looks like milk and has a generous expiration date. We still look for the best deal, but you’re not having to save $20 a purchase anymore. We’re saving $.50 here or there. Checking account appreciates the help. No longer complaining about insurance. Our formula is now on the grocery list.

STRAIGHT-UP WHOLE MILK: Took about a week or two on soy just to make sure she’s handling it alright and then began transitioning into whole milk. You look for rashes. Irritability. Violent outbursts of energy. Assault. None of the above. We’ve been battling some sleeplessness, but seems to be more attributed to travel throwing her off schedule. Yep. She and I can actually toast now to the wonders of $3.00 gallons of milk. A gallon of Nutramigen AA, I calculate, would probably cost you around $70, just to put it in perspective.

Sorry for the sporadic posting lately. Toddler life is a gauntlet. Ellison’s starting to run. There’s direct correlation of when your toddler moves from crawling to walking then walking to running and decreasing free time, I believe. Your head has to be on a swivel because if that girl’s getting into trouble now, she’s doing it fast. It no longer takes her a minute and a half to walk over to the outlet or floor lamp. Nope. It takes precisely five seconds.

Ya’ll be good. Stay up. Love your neighbor. It’s a daily operation.

Daily Operation

Choo-Choo Soul and the Dancing Daddy

Choo Choo Soul is a children’s entertainment act composed of singer Genevieve Goings as a hip-hop train conductor and her partner, Constantine “DC” Abramson, a dancer and beatboxer dressed as a railroad engineer.–Wikipedia

Does any of that make any sense to you?

Watching the Disney Channel the other day (new regiment) with Ellison and we’re dusting off another episode of “Mickey Mouse Club House,” out of breath from doing the Hot Dog Dance, if you know what I mean. And when I say “we’re,” I mean “I’m.” Ellison begins walking away (which is how she lets you know you’re fun, just not that fun). I turn to follow her when, over my shoulder, I hear this faint echoing sound that actually resembles the genre formerly known as hip hop. It has the rhythmic quality, spoken vocals. I swear I heard someone beatboxing (spit-drumming). I look back toward the television to see kids dancing like their being tased, some dude hovering his hands above two circular devices that look somewhat like turntables, but they’re not (we’d call that “working the ‘ones’ and ‘twos'” back in the day) and some girl in this sort of goofy flight attendant uniform urging the kids to dance, jump, do the robot. Get down.

I’m perplexed. Struck. A little bummed.

“Choo Choo Soul,” at face value, is a harmless, fun, two-and-a-half-minute-dance-like-a-monkey green-screen extravaganza. If you blinked, you might miss it. It’s filler for a hugely successful Disney Channel who has little missteps and that, I’ve found, sticks to a fairly proven format of programming. Non-offensive, kid-tested, mommy-approved, educational, G-rated.

“Choo Choo Soul,” to an old hip hop head, represents something else. It’s like taking hip hop and diluting it, adding heaping cups of sugar, dressing it up in funny costumes and Wal-Marting the content to ensure that there’s nothing objectionable, nothing real about the end product. Let’s say that hip hop didn’t start in the seedy streets of Queens or the Bronx. No, let’s say that hip hop was born in romper rooms and pre-school classrooms. It erases 30 years of recorded history and just act like hip hop fell out of the sky overnight and got shoehorned into Disney Channel programming like a long-form commercial. See also Boogiemporium’s review of “School Bus Rap.”

But is it really necessary to be so possessive of hip hop? Like I’m the “realness police” that has to qualify everything on its level of authenticity. I mean does it really need to represent a realness? Should I shame them for misrepresentin’?  Does Mickey misrepresent mice? Does Jiminy misrepresent bugs? Does Simba misrepresent lions? Who cares, really? That’s what you do with the world, I suppose. You edit your own speech around kiddos. Does that mean you’re misrepresenting yourself?

So that brings us back to “Choo-Choo Soul” on the Disney Channel, where graffiti is apparently permissible, trains dance and where you don’t call it “rap,” you call it “hip hop” mainly because we never called it “gangsta hip hop,” it was “gangsta rap” and, since then, “rap” is bad and “hip hop” is conscious. As in, it’s not “Christian rap”, it’s “Christian hip hop” which probably why “School Bus Rap” didn’t succeed. Had L.Hood called it “School Bus Hip Hop,” he’d be happily retired now. What’s in a name? Everything. In fact, just call it “soul” because “hip hop” is still a little edgy for kids and toddlers. “Soul” implies wholesomeness, goodness and avoids completely that weird grey matter we call “hip hop.” Choo-Choo Soul. 

I was annoyed, a little irritated by what I saw at first. Probably the same thing foreigners go through at Epcot Center. Genevieve bounces around popping collars and dusting shoulders off while laughing moronically. She’s like if Tinkerbell and Fergie were one. That’s nightmarish. And Constantine, the chiseled grinning conductor of the train, achieves new levels of uncomfortable fake DJ where he fake-scratches on fake-tables with no crossfader while beatboxing like Justin Timberlake, who practically patented the “smiling beatbox.” See if you’re not completely hypnotized by this.

As I spent a week, waking up Ellison, getting her dressed, making our way to the living room for a little Mickey Mouse Club House followed by Choo-Choo Soul and spent four days on the Choo-Choo Soultrain everyday before heading off to work, I found there to be some endearing qualities to the show. Genevieve became less annoying and even slightly entertaining. I’d find myself audibly responding to her with things like, “Well, good morning, Genevieve!” or “Yeah, let’s dance!” Even if, at times, a little sarcastic and superficial, my dialogue would increase throughout the week. Constantine “DC,” however, became like some ninja, samurai, sorcerer or warlock that I couldn’t keep my eyes off of. That dude puts in two and a half minutes of absolute dynamite into ever episode. He’s the new hardest working man in show biz. His skills are freaking impeccable. I would marvel at him as he’d beatbox, backspin and then break out into some hawdcore pop-and-lock action seamlessly from one move to the next and never leaving that million dollar smile behind. His accomplishments in each field of hip hop studies are impressive. It’s obvious he’s put in work. Don’t believe me? Check out this nastiness. Dude puts in work.

The transformation that has taken place over this week within me is quite remarkable. I think, like little Ellison, I’m a little standoffish (which apparently is a word because spellcheck ignored it) at first, but it doesn’t take long to open yourself up to the experience. For me, Choo-Choo Soul is an unfortunate rule of the game. Toys are annoying. Shows are annoying. Lullabies are annoying. You even feel like punching Mickey somedays. But once you choose to accept that this is what you’re given to play with, it’s not that bad. And once you learn to dance to it, you can enjoy it. I could sit around and continue to evaluate all children’s programming on my unfair grading scale which holds all hip hop derivatives to a gold standard of Public Enemy, De La Soul and EPMD or I could just learn to appreciate them for what they are…fun for Ellison and daddy.

You can see where it’d be hard to fall into “I’m absolutely annoyed with all this stupid sing-and-dance crap, I’m tired, I’m pissed, I had a bad day and just leave me alone” routine. Disney Channel is always at level ten. There’s no Disney after hours. They’re always dancing like idiots. It’s a change of pace for a 34 year old who had enjoyed things his way (or, well, his wife’s way) for the last ten or so years. You want so badly to impose your taste on your child, but you quickly learn that your music is not as entertaining as Mickey’s.

Daddy dancing is a gas, though.

Daily Operation

Leftovers Fail

Not that I don’t applaud my lovely wife for saving leftovers, but when I opened the fridge this morning, I saw this message written on the lid of pictured container. Being that I thought we were done with adding things into her bottle at bed time, I opened the container to examine the contents.

Fettucini alfredo.

That’s one rich bedtime bottle. Spirited Toddler Quiz, Part 3 right around the corner. Good Wednesday to you.



Daily Operation, Snapshots

Partying With Toddlers and Tykes

After enduring RSV, colic, milk allergies, blood clots in my lovely wife’s lungs and crappy lullaby music for a year, I say it’s time to party. The other day, we took Ellison to the doc over a slight rash only to find that it was viral…wait…or fungal. Uh. Viral and fungal. Can it be both? Anyhow, it’s not contagious unless she’s cracking a fever which she hasn’t. It’s a little unsightly, but altogether harmless. Whatever.

Anyhow, the nurse practitioner replies to us menitoning that Ellison was turning one year old on Friday, “Oh, ya’ll are having a ‘princess party’!” Like, she didn’t ask if we were having a “princess party,” she said we were having a princess party. She must not read the blog.

We’re not “princess people.” We’ve resisted the notion that our daughter is a princess, queen, duchess, diva, prima donna, etc. She’s our daughter. A beautiful child of God. Unique, wonderful, extraordinarily gifted and blessed, but I’m no king, my lovely wife’s no queen, there’s no jewels in her shoes and no moat around this house. And if there was, the historic drought would’ve taken care of that. It’s not that we take everything that literally, it’s just personal preferences. We don’t want her to grow up thinking she’s a princess and we don’t want others to see her grow up under the belief she views herself as a princess or that we treat her as so. My lovely wife and I both shook our heads, turned to the nurse and in an nearly rehearsed Clint Eastwood sneer we replied coldly, “No. Ladybug.”

Ladybug. Why? Because she had a small toy growing up that we called “Lucy the Ladybug” that divert or distract her out of her colicky fits. My lovely wife started rolling with it and found that a ladybug theme was fairly common and there were plenty of resources for throwing a ladybug birthday party. Of course, these days, everything seems common because of Google. Google’s autofill function let’s you know you are not alone in this world. Online shopping blows the party planning game wide open.

If you wanted to do a pink pterodactyl theme, you can online. If you wanted to do a three-toed sloth party, you can do that online. If you wanted to do Barry Manilow breathing fire, yes, you can do that online as well. It’s pretty limitless these days. The ladybug theme, then, was a cinch and easier to explain in the future than a fire-breathing Barry Manilow. Plus, red and black resemble something true about our family and that is that Mommy and Daddy both graduated from Texas Tech. Not that it necessarily had anything to do with the decision, but it’s always nice when the theme of the party revolve around the color of your alma mater. Especially when your alternatives include five different shades of pink. So, ladybug it is. Lima provided the cake. Her skills are not to be taken lightly.I was rocking my antennae and my red and black Nikes. And a smile. You’re powerless to the influence of a one year old in a ladybug outfit. Put on your freaking antennae, homie, and get down.It was madness preparing for this event. My biggest concern was the backyard and making sure it was poop-free zone. You gotta comb that back yard with shovel, rake and afro pick. You have to ensure it’s absolutely turdless. If it’s not, you might risk an embarrassing moment, a broken friendship, lawsuit and/or never seeing your nephews again. We spent close to three hours in that back yard leaving nothing but grass, dirt (alot more dirt than grass) and some ladybug bean bags for the kiddos.

I’m here to tell you, there’s no joking about entertaining toddlers and young kiddos for two or three hours. It started with my nephew Dylan who I squared up with on a game of bean bag toss. He quickly mastered it, became bored and begun chunking them at me. Then asked, “What else do you have to play?” That was at about the ten minute mark. Okay, one hundred and ten minutes to go. To save an all-out dirt clod war, I diverted him to kickball. Some more kids showed up.

Before you knew it, we rousing game of kickball going out there complete with twice as many ghost runners as you’d ever need. Dylan cheated. That’s to be expected. I cheated a lot at that age. You can’t bunt in kickball, ghost runners only advance on a force (needed to really help some of the kids with “ghost runner” rules…think one kiddo quit because I said we were playing with ghost runners and he thought it had something to do with the occult) and you can’t go from first to third because someone walked off with second base (which was Ellison…rather Ellison walked off with second base not Ellison was second base). That’s like when I got kicked out of Arby’s for getting soda in a water cup arguing that I couldn’t “find the water.” I was in high school. Cut me some slack.

For kids not of kickball age, we had a table set up with coloring and activity sheets. I think Dylan went over there and illustrated his disappointment by this aggressive and unsettling piece. We sent it to his counselor. It was the right thing to do.We also ate cake. Everyone except for Dylan who made a point to mention to me, “I think this is the only birthday party that I’ve gone to that I’m not planning on eating cake.” He said it was because he already had a donut this morning on the way up here and he didn’t feel like it. Hmm. Well, Ellison felt like it. She made pretty quick sport of the cupcake from the top of the cake, leaving parts of it on her, on the tray and on the floor which is precisely the way that our two beagles pay their rent.After cake, we shoehorned everyone into our living room for presents. My lovely wife asked if I could be the one to open gifts because she doesn’t like being the center of attention. Gladly. Let me tell you right now, that’s a lot harder than it seems. Especially when everyone was so very generous. Ellison got so many wonderful gifts. Don’t worry everyone, personalized thank you notes are coming. I found that, by far, the most difficult part of opening the gifts is reading the cards. You got thirty-plus people watching you, two toddlers fighting in front of you, Ellison who keeps rolling off of your knee and wants to just crawl away and you open a six-panel folding card that has no less than 70 words printed on it and a handwritten message that you have no idea what it says until you read it. You don’t want to read it out loud because you don’t want to embarrass that person (I always thought you write for the reader, not for the audience so I’m never expecting for someone to read out my card to everyone in the room), but then there’s this dead air and people just stand there half-smiling while you read the card and then you, smile, maybe dramatically exhale and break the awkward silence by saying, “Thank you, Greg. That’s so sweet,” leaving everyone in the room totally in the dark as to what was so sweet that it was worthy of a remark. Gifts are easy. Cards are tricky.

One thing you don’t really plan for during the course of the party is dirty diapers and nap time. This is my first one year old party so I’m not used to being sensitive to that except for outings with my brother. You’re on a timeline and if Ellison goes past nap time, the party quickly disintegrates into a recovery mission. At this point, we had our eyes close on Ellison for the warning signs. She put up a pretty good fight for the most part. By the time, we finished opening gifts and guests started to leave, Ellison gave us one eye rub and we made our way back to the crib for some shut-eye. I couldn’t believe she made it that long. Quite the party animal.Guests started to leave and family remained. The kickball was now flat in the back yard and so we moved on to a rambunctious game of wiffle ball baseball. My brother clotheslined his son Parker, Dylan hit a line shot that nearly took out my father-in-law, few players sustained grass stains which made happy because there’s was actually enough moisture in my grass to stain jeans and even my mother and father got in the action. Last time I saw my mother play baseball, it was at a parent-child picnic. She was playing catcher and I was batting. I swung the bat and demolished her outreaching hand, breaking her wrist. Premiered the movie Ellison Jayne’s First Year, Nana started crying in the first minute of the 85-minute movie. That’s Nana, though. She’s a big fan. I’m gonna start working on a way of hosting it out on YouTube for those are that are inclined to watch some of it.Just heard a traffic report for Amarillo at 6:15am. I gotta think that’s not really a safe job. First off, there’s no traffic in Amarillo. Just ask anyone from Dallas, Houston or Austin. And, if you think there’s ever a traffic event, just move over a lane and accelerate and it’s over.

Thanks to everyone who helped with the birthday party and who came to celebrate Ellison Jayne’s first birthday. It was a great party. My lovely wife deserves tremendous acclaim. That girl can put together some kinda party. With all the tension, anxiety, traffic control, logistics that go into planning such a day, she pulled it off with ease. Lucky to have such a wonderful mama in this house and such an incredible wife. Happy birthday, Ellison Jayne.


Daily Operation

1 Year Birthday

You know, I think as new parents, you really want to be able to say things like, “Ah, it feels just like yesterday!” or “My, how time flies!” (even though I rarely start exclamatory statements with “my” or “ah”). I think you want to because it’s just been an absolute delight raising your little baby. We were watching the movie last night (you know, the movie…the one I’ve been tirelessly been working on for the last three months or so that I’ll be presenting at the birthday party tomorrow) and I see myself in the videos and I see Ellison and I kept thinking, “Man, what year is this?” It’s feels like three years ago.

I’m not gonna lie to you (to which you should thank me because in this relationship, it’d be really easy to lie): this year has been the longest year of my entire life. And, I would say, it’s largely because of the nights. Sleepless nights make days seem like weeks. Not that I haven’t enjoyed much of it along the way because I certainly have. It just seems like a total fabrication to say this year has flown by because I was having so much freaking fun. That it was like being at Six Flags everyday eating hot dogs and riding the Judge Roy Scream.

It’s hard work. It’s a full time job. A job that leaves you confused. Bewildered. It’s like that dream you’d have of showing up to the first day of school only to find out it’s not the first day of school but it’s a month away from finals and you don’t know the combination to your locker so you can’t get to your text books. Raising a child drives a nail of doubt and worry into your very core. It shakes you. You question every move. You become paranoid. You become hypersensitive. You cry without warning. Sometimes at commercials. You laugh hysterically. Sometimes at funerals. Delirium. The virtual land of confusion.

But make no mistake, I love this girl.

I have the privilege to come home everyday to the two greatest women in the world…my lovely wife and Ellison and there’s not much that tops that.

And, as we change gears now and high-tail it into the second year, undoubtedly, we’ll have more questions. More mysterious rashes. More sleepless nights. More cuts, scrapes and bruises that we can’t explain. We’ll cry. We’ll laugh. We’ll rejoice.

But we can’t proceed until we discuss what we learned this last month. So what did we learn?

  • We’re walking. Officially stepping into “toddler” phase. Everything needs to be four feet or taller.
  • She’d climb anything and everything if you would just turn your back long enough.
  • Pacifier life become thing of the past.
  • Bottle out. Sippy cup in. Independent feeding has commenced.
  • Swift and severe “no’s” are usually a fine deterrent, but get ready for a screaming fit with tears.
  • Coffee is still dad’s best friend. A cold beer is his second best friend.
  • Ellison’s inside voice is more suitable for large inside spaces.
  • No cuddling for this girl. If you ever had an opportunity, those days are long gone. Attempting to cuddle will be get either the “ironing board” or “death roll.” Choose your poison.
  • We’ve moved from describing size in “percentiles” to endearing adjectives.
  • If the training wheels weren’t off yet, they are now.

That’s it. Big ol’ birthday celebration tomorrow complete with lady bugs. Not real ones. The historical drought here in Tejas pretty much leveled the population of all bugs and insects. Doctor asked us the other day if we were doing a “princess birthday party.” Guess that’s customary for little girls. Glad we’re not the “princess” and “pink” type around here. I’ve seen more pink in the last twelve months than I’ve seen in my entire life. Honestly, a little tired of pink. Red and black is a nice change. And it comes just in time for the start of Texas Tech football. Fitting.