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.



Ten Month Birthday

Finally, a nice round number. This kid business really puts you to test on your calendar skills. If you ask me at any given point how old Ellison is, I go through a seemingly random and bizarre sequence of calculations that all happen within a split second where I round up, add a month for good measure, subtract six weeks, divide by the number of the day of the week and multiply by number of hours over 40 hours that I worked last week, then round down and then add another month just for good measure. Normally, it’s a guess at first just to buy myself enough time to seriously go through and calculate because I’m not accustomed to telling people how many months old someone is. I do years and still not even very good at doing that. And, in that case, Ellison’s still zero years old. That’s just much easier. That’s gonna be reply from now on. Hold old is she? Zero. She’s zero.

Or technically, she’s .83. Here she was at .33.

What did we learn this month? Well, I’ll start by saying that the lessons come fast and furious once she starts crawling at a leopard speed. That kinda mobility speeds up the schooling. It’s like moving over to the HOV lane and flooring it.

  • She likes chewing on all the things she probably shouldn’t. My favorite is keys. Nothing very safe about that, but if you take ’em away, get ready for a tantrum.
  • She throws a tantrum now. None very genuine and most can be quelled in just a few seconds, but you’ll know when it happens because her reaction is immediate and severe. It’s awesome. No, really. It’s awesome.
  • We’re off the breathing treatments until the fall. Good to not have to do that anymore. Keeping a close eye on her for any changes in her breathing. Only a week removed from being on them, she’s got some sort of sniffly nose. Great.
  • Poo really stinks now. I mean, really stinks. It takes on the quality of stink that’s left behind when an adult uses your crapper. Like whoa. By the way, will someone politely let me know when it’s no longer okay to talk about your child’s poo? Just wanna make sure I don’t overstep that point.
  • She’s a singer. At least, that’s what I believe. If you sing to her, she mocks the same noises back to you. She also likes screaming.
  • Still babbling, but babbling like mad. Only a matter of time before words are flowing out of that mouth of hers. Every word seems to rhyme with “mah.”
  • Beyond the singing and babbling, she’s a freaking encyclopedia of baby noises. She’s got a gargle, a rumble, a hiss, a grumble, a pop. She’s more versatile at this young age than Doug E. Fresh or Michael Winslow. Man, a Winslow reference? Google him. My brother’s gotta great Michael Winslow story.
  • The can crawl the size equivalent of about ten miles an hour, methinks. She’s fast. She went from army crawl to straight up crawl over a weekend. She’s taken a couple of steps, but not ready to call it “walking” yet. Mama’s prediction on the day she walks is 7/17. Daddy’s is 8/2. Not liking my chances right now. Think she’ll be way early than August.
Here’s our pictures this month. It’s getting harder and harder to keep her in one place for a picture. She’s like a monkey at the zoo. Just…stay…still. Here’s the best we could accomplish this month. Enjoy.

For My Grandma

Turns out my Grandma up in Idaho has become a little distressed and concerned by the last two posts. Grandma, I apologize for the darker content. Bad judgement blowing up those two posts in succession. To make it up to you, I’m willing to give you a couple of photos of your great granddaughter. It’s the best I can offer you. I’m sorry, Grandma. Hope to win you back here. When you’re un-friended by your grandma, you’re the very definition of loser.


9 Month Birthday

Nine months later. They say it goes fast. They say a lot of things. I can’t believe still that we survived colic without putting our head through a freaking wall. Even my dogs look road-tested now. Jax needed very little help in that department, but Tux looks like a bloated member of Poison and has this weird melancholy that hangs over him like he’s witnessed a handful of murders and had a five-year battle with chemical dependency. And he’s been working on hacking up a piece of rawhide that’s been logged somewhere behind his tongue and before his esophagus for well over two months now. As if I didn’t have enough annoyances in my life, the hourly sound of a beagle trying to dislodge something from his throat right smack in the middle of the living room is enough to fray every last nerve in your body. Keep your haz-mat suit handy because one of these days, he’s gonna give birth to that thing and it ain’t gonna be pretty. Jax just turns over one trash can and stands over it frozen in time with this miserable “I’ve been a bad boy” look in his eyes and you remember that Jax not only witnessed a handful of murders, but probably committed a few. My trust of that dog becomes less and less every hour. He’s staring at me as I type this. It’s creepy. He has the look of a killer. Like I owe him something. I thought beagles were lovable family pets. This dude’s a freaking sociopath.

Am I a crummy dad if I said that the last months felt like two years? Maybe it’s because, for a while, I was logging every dirty diaper on Raising Elle or maybe it was the marathon that I thought was a good idea training for while Ellison was on the come up. Not sure. One thing is true, though: Ellison’s growing up like a weed.

Remember the second month? Well, let me remind you.

That baby could pack a freaking punch. If you didn’t watch your throat, in a colicky fit, she could jab you in the jugular and have you seeing stars. I’ve never seen a ten-pound sack of flour move and fight like she did. She was a prize fighter even back at that tender age. Mama and I were reminiscing to that two-month mark the other day. Frightening days. If you’re here now with your kiddo, lemme go ahead and take this moment to assure you that it does go away. Go here for encouragement.

Then, she started turning into a little doll. One that we could dress up without her dissolving into some sort of furious rage. You could pose her and get her to smile on queue. She started packing on some of that awesome baby fat that made her so pinchable. This is our five-month snapshot.

Four months later, now, Ellison’s intent, quick-footed, sticky-fingered, lively and, best of all, precious as a lady bug. New problem is getting her to stay put long enough to get a picture. Here was the best we could scrap together this month.So what did we learn this month about nine month-old Ellison?

Let’s first look at where she should be developmentally:

Gets into a sitting position…The pediatrician did a test of Ellison’s ability to nail this during our Friday visit. She put Ellison on her belly. Ellison curled her legs and arms under her and she started tearing away in a crawl that would’ve made Earnhardt proud. The answer is, yes, she can get into a sitting position.

Pays attention to speech…Yeah. She doesn’t speak it yet, but she hears it and, in fact, sometimes responds to “stop” and “no.”

Explores objects…You don’t know the half. Will put it this way, anything not nailed down or glued down with some sort of high-strength adhesive is game for becoming a chew toy or missile.

Is shy with strangers…and family that she hasn’t seen in a while. Don’t be offended. When I shave she’s a little shy with me too until I start making farting noises…or just start farting.

Crawls forward on belly…We graduated from belly to hands and knees over one Nana visit. I think there was some coaching going on. More on crawling later.

Bangs two cubes together…This instead of clapping which she’s supposed to have down by now. She’ll bang anything together. One day I’m gonna sub in cymbals so we can get started on that music career.

Finds hidden objects easily…Depends on what you’re hiding and where. I asked her what happened to Lebron in the 4th quarter and she stared at me blankly.

Hands-and-knees position…Now preferred. And mobile in this position.

Let’s objects go voluntarily…We’re now playing the “thank you” in exchange for toys game. Not sure if that’s voluntarily since we’re rewarding her vocally, but she’ll hand you her favorite toy in the pile. Good sign.

Uses simple gestures…Hi, bye, up and keep the funk alive.Thought I saw “get off my back bumper” the other day, but turns out it was an accidental finger flick.

Finger-feeds herself…You betcha. And not always food.

Starts to walk…Been here for about a month now. She pulls up on anything that feels semi-sturdy. We’ve hand to put cinder blocks and rocks in a few things just to weigh them down. Her walk looks like my friend who sometimes has too much to drink and walks like he’s always in a perpetual state of falling down.

Says “dada” or “mama”…Pretty convinced that we’re hearing “mama.” No “dada” yet.

Fearful in some situations…Rarely. I mean, she’s almost fearless. There’s times where she has some uneasiness, but not really fearful yet.

Helps you dress her…More undress. A little disconcerting. You want your girl to be excited more about putting on her clothes rather than taking them off. She does a “naked dance” when getting ready for a bath. It’s cute, but that’s the only naked dance I want Ellison doing in her lifetime. She’ll put her arms through the sleeves, but still kicks so wildly that it’s difficult to get pants on sometimes. She’s cooperative with getting her diaper changed, but then again, who wouldn’t be? I mean, it’s either cooperate or where a pillow topped with feces against your butt for another two hours.

Ellison weighs 20 pounds and measured in at 28 inches which is good for about 75th percentile on both. I noticed that the pediatrician said the head was around 50-75th percentile and it dawned on me that she was rounding off to quarters and I thought that a 25% margin was a little generous. Could she not tell me if we were around 73% or 52%? Seems like she’s proportionate, though. I’m calling her a shooting guard right now.

Nine down. Approximately 891 to go.





A Tuesday PhotoDump

She woke me up at 4:30 this morning. And 4:45. As well as 4:55. Figured I’d honor her fighting spirit with a cup of coffee and these images. You didn’t feel like reading this morning anyway. Me neither. Tired. Here’s our beauty doing her best hypnotically doe-eyed gaze. Special guests include cousin Peyton and panties on the head.


Eight-Month Birthday

Sorry for the break in transmissions. I was out in LA for a week. Nice to be back and have my baby in my arms. Feels like she’s grown another inch or two. Mommy and Ellison came to the airport to greet me at baggage claim. It was quite the treat until I tried to hold Ellison at which point she threw an absolute tantrum, began kicking and punching me and lunged for mommy’s arms. Oh well, so much for Hallmark homecomings. Seems that I went from daddy to stranger in the course of about six days which this is about the right time for that to happen. We thought that her stranger anxiety had subsided earlier, but now we’ve noticed a bit of a flare-up of it again. Took us a few hours to get familiar with each other again.

And, yeah, because I’m an awesome absentee father, I missed her eight-month birthday which was Monday. Hence the frustrated scowl in her birthday photo.

She’s probably starting to wonder why in the world we keep making her pose with that stupid dog. That last photo reeks of “act like you love each other.” Hat provided by the wonderful auntie Sarah. I’m coming around to all the floral accents. I’m not much of a flower guy, but I can get with it. Ellison can rock it with the best of ’em.

So what did we learn about our boundless and beautiful baby girl this last month?

  • Girl can pack a wallop. After having a run-in with her at the airport, I’m convinced that in a street fight, she’s taking kids down. She’s scrappy in the late rounds and, when she gets tired, step away from the girl or else she’s coming for the jugular.
  • Crawling is no problem. In one month, she’s moved from the “inch-worm” to an remarkably-improved “army crawl.” Her mobility can take her from the rug into the kitchen with relative ease. Reporting for active duty.
  • Still working on a “clap.” She enjoys watching me do it, that’s for sure. Her clap comes accidentally on the tail end of her horizontal jumping jacks where her hands just happen to strike each other.
  • She loves her mommy. When mommy leaves, she moans and cries. When mommy walks in the room, Ellison begins swimming towards her.
  • Her bottle-eating has become a lot more sporadic and unpredictable, but she can wipe out solids.
  • She has a new friend. A big freaking monkey that Bryan got her. I named him this morning. His name is “Bootsy.”
  • She doesn’t like grass. We tried putting her in the grass last weekend in Lubbock (yeah, there’s still grass in Lubbock) and her feet pogo’d back upward.
  • She can walk with our assistance. You hold her hands and watch her waddle and sway trying to put her feet in front of each other. I’d say that’s pretty damn good for an eight-month old.
  • Two teeth have broken through. I’m really freaked out by the teeth thing. Something that really grosses me out about teeth coming in. Losing them, too, gave me the willies when I was a kid. Maybe I’m dealing with residual emotional stress from my last root canal or wisdom tooth removal.
  • Diapers are becoming much more of an adventure. Gone are the days of the predictably smeary and loose stools. Now they come in all different shades of brown and green as we keep introducing more foods into her belly. And they reek too. The old poos smelled like dried doggie doo on the bottom of a shoe. The new poos smell like a sun-bathed day-old carcass. Brother J says, “yyyyyyuk.” And on that sweet note, I’m gonna get some breakfast. Happy birthday, Ellison.