Saturday, August 25, 2012

Everett at 18 Months

Dear Everett,

There’s this thing where parents post their thoughts about their children in the form of a letter directly to the child. It is indulgent, and it is annoying to everyone who reads it. Fortunately, you can’t read, so it won’t hurt our reputation with you.

Yesterday you turned 18 months old. You are becoming so much fun right now. For the past couple months, your ability to understand new things and your curiosity have grown by leaps and bounds.

Here are some of your words:
Diddy (kitty): You don’t say this one much anymore, but it was your first word back in December of 2011.
Tuw-tuw (turtle): You first said this in reference to a green turtle puzzle piece, and I assumed that you would start calling all puzzle pieces “turtle.” But like your mommy said, you figured out really quickly what a turtle is, and you call them out wherever you see them, on your mommy’s necklace, in a picture, or in live form.
Da (dog): You’ve taken a liking to dogs—when a big dog licks you, you cover your face and freak out for a bit, but then you reveal that you really like it. You point them out whenever they’re on TV.
Boo (“book” without the “k”): You bring us books to read all the time when we’re sitting in the living room, one after another. Your favorites usually have tabs and flaps, but pictures of babies and familiar objects are good, too.
Buh (bird): I was walking you around outside St. Catherine when you started going crazy about a bird that was on the lawn.
Bye-bye: You’re very good at saying goodbye—sometimes you wave and say goodbye to everyone in a restaurant when we’re leaving.
Bee-bee (baby): We were in the doctor’s office when you heard a baby crying in the hallway. You started frantically saying, “Baby, baby!” and needed to go out there to see what was going on.
Buh-buh: This can be either blueberry or belly button, depending on the situation. You love pulling up your shirt and showing your belly button.
Bah-bah (backpack): You say this one when we’re picking you up in the afternoon—you go to your cubby hole and point up at your backpack.
Ba (ball): You enjoy throwing balls, and when you’re in the garage you’re usually asking for all the balls (basketballs, soccer ball, and volleyball) to come down from their holder.
Na-na (banana): This has become mama in recent months for some reason.
A-poo (apple)
Tee (keys, or teeth (when you’re getting your teeth brushed))
Chee (cheese)
Wuh-wa (water): You love swimming in the water, and you’re pretty good during bath time, too.
Bye-puh (diaper): You say lots of D words, but you refuse to start this one with the right sound. I think it’s because you used to have a kid in your class named Viphav (sounds more like bye-pawv), and you would walk around saying his name all the time.
Pee pee: Urination is endlessly fascinating, naturally.
Doo (shoes)
Chi-che (chicken): You started with a wire chicken figure on the fridge, and you know it also refers to the food, though you’re not a big fan of it right now.
Eye: You’re not averse to sticking your fingers in other people’s eyes when you’re telling them about it.
Ah-dee (again): Whenever I’m tossing you around in a way you enjoy, you say, “Again, again!”
Choo-choo: This is your new favorite. You have lots of Thomas the Train stuff, including pajamas and books, where you constantly point out the choo choo. And you have to say “bye choo choo” whenever one is going away.
Evwe (Everett): This one is very new, in the last couple days.

You also do animal sounds for cow, pig, horse, dog (panting), cat, duck, sheep, and frog. Your still have a little bit of a waddle to your walk, and when you walk quickly one arm stays pretty still while the other one swings wildly.

Mealtime has gotten to be a little more of a challenge, as you push aside lots of foods that you used to love, like carrots and chicken. You’ve gotten better about not throwing food and cups on the floor, but that behavior does still make an appearance every now and again.

People tell us that you’re a very happy child, and we have to agree. You always smile and laugh when you’re running toward us, and being chased around the house is always fun. You still have your three big go-to faces, Monster Face, Sweetie Face, and Fish Face. You enjoy dancing to music, and you always nod your head to a good beat.

You love the water, whether it’s swimming in a pool or wading in the Gulf of Mexico. You don’t seem to mind bath time too much, either. One of our favorite things to see when the light turns on as you learn something new. You’ve started repeating after us (or giving your best attempt) when we name objects. You are getting pretty good at solving simple puzzles, stacking blocks, and placing shapes into corresponding holes. You also throw pretty well.

We love watching you (usually from the window of the daycare) when you don't know we're watching you--we're trying to figure out what kind of boy you're turning out to be.  And we couldn't be happier. 

Mamma and Dada

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Curious Case of the Giant Baby

So Everett has passed a number of milestones in his rapid development, but there's been very little on this blog to chronicle all of his progress. Here's an entry I started after he turned four months old:
Everett's four month birthday has come and gone, and he continues to grow like crazy. Shortly after his birth, he was a little below average on height, but now he's at the 90th percentile, at 26 inches. Assuming his adult height will be at least twice his infant height, this puts him on pace to be no shorter than four feet four inches.
Everett remains a joy between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and a terror at night. He averages two or three decent nights of sleep a week, so we're definitely looking forward to more than three or four hours at a time from our restless son.
The sleep got better very quickly--in June Everett was starting to sleep through the night with a little coddling by his dad when he awoke instead of nursing like he had done every night since his birth. In August we moved him up to his bedroom, where he now spends the hours of 9:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., babbling himself to sleep and only occasionally getting fussy enough that we need to intervene with a pacifier and a pat on the back.

Everett started eating solid foods a little after his five-month birthday. On June 24 we were eating at Santa Rita down the street, talking about Everett's doctor's advice that we start him on solid foods a few weeks before six months. Brandi was saying that we didn't need to abide by that schedule, and somehow that turned into us feeding him the guacamole that was a few inches from his carrier. Here's the video we shot a few days later. Now Everett usually eats three (sometimes two) times a day. He doesn't show much of a preference--whether it's rice or oatmeal cereal, vegetables, or fruit, he takes big bites and grunts impatiently while you're preparing another spoonful.

Everett started rolling over right around five months as well. Here's a video of one of his first rolls from back to belly. Now he's established a comfort level with being on his belly, sort of. He started sleeping on his belly (really on his knees) and on his side in addition to on his back, but he often gets frustrated when he's on his tummy. He was doing fine on his tummy, pushing up on his arms and looking around, but once he got a taste of the vantage point he can get from sitting up he gets a little frustrated with being on the ground. Sitting up, which he's been doing since he was 6 1/2 months, he likes to reach for his favorite toys, his drum set, his squeaky giraffe Sophie, and his crazy ticklish chicken from his Mimi.

There hasn't been a first word yet, but there's a good chance it will be "mama" or "dada." Everett often says, "ma ma ma..." when he is hungry, and he says, "da da da..." when he is getting his diaper changed or just sitting around. He still babbles and spits some, but a lot of what he does is a high-pitched, squeaky laugh when he gets excited. He also laughs his regular laugh a lot--when he gets tickled on his neck, when Brandi or I runs and jumps up close to his face, when we play peek-a-boo, when we lift him in the air, or when we bounce him on the bed. He smiles a lot--we now have a mirror in the car that sits right in front of him, and he smiles and laughs at his reflection all the time. He has also started smiling for pictures. You used to have to catch him in a smile, but in the last couple weeks he has held a smile when there's a camera in his face as though he knows what he is supposed to do.

Story time has become an integral part of his sleep/nap routine and anytime he needs a little calming. It's great to watch how interested he has become in his books and in listening to us read to him. Many evenings when you say "the end" he eagerly grabs for the next book. We have a lot of books that we are looking forward to sharing with him in these coming days.

We continue to be amazed with each milestone by EW. I'm sure crawling is not too far away, however we are in no hurry for that to happen at the moment. Over the past several weeks, we are watching our small helpless baby turn into a strong, inquisitive boy. As much as we, especially his mom, have been ready for the exhausting parts of the first six months to be over, we also want to cherish these days of his little life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Remembering 9/11

On this day ten years ago, I was getting ready for work at 7:15am and for some reason I turned on the TV in the morning which was more than unusual for me. Not too long after, Good Morning America deviated from its regular programming to talk about the first plane that hit. I didn't hesitate for a second, and I called my dad who was working that morning at the store. I called many people that day to share our fears and express how important they each were to me. But my daddy was first.

This morning on September 11, 2011, like so many Americans, we watched the service and the opening of the 9/11 memorial for the ten year anniversary. It is tough to watch even after ten years. The stories from all the siblings, spouses and parents that lost their loved ones touched my heart in a place that didn't exist for me on September 11, 2001. At the end of one of the segments, Diane Sawyer was talking to the children of pregnant women who lost their husbands on 9/11. And she said to a young boy, "You need only look inside yourself to find your dad." My heart goes out to everyone who lost a family member or friend that fateful day. And to all of us still on this earth, let this day always serve as a reminder about coming together and reaching out to those we love and letting them know how much we love them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Texas A&M to the SEC, Take Two

[There are, dear reader, at least six reasons that you should discount my opinion on the whole A&M/SEC situation:

1) I came to Texas A&M from out of state.
2) I like college basketball more than college football.
3) Having moved to SEC territory in middle school with established sports ties, I don't particularly care for the SEC.
4) I would heartily support the creation of a functioning football minor league for football players who are not interested in being college students, even if it would significantly erode the quality of the talent pool in college football.
5) I hate superconferences. For the SEC, moving from 12 teams to 14 teams will make it 16.67% worse. And a 12-team conference is already 50% worse than an 8-team conference, which is the Platonic ideal for sports conferences.
6) I've been accused of liking too many teams. I suppose part of this comes from having lived in seven different states. About a decade ago I made a list of my 50 favorite college sports teams, and every single Big 12 team was represented. (As an amendment to #3 above, Tennessee, Arkansas, LSU, Mississippi St., and Vanderbilt came in at #24, 25, 34, 35, and 40, respectively.) I realize that I'm breaking a rule here. But since the rule involves, essentially, the requisite amount of animus you should have toward teams that play against your favorite team, you would think that breaking it would not offend people. But it does.]

A couple weeks ago, I was at my sister's wedding, and I was sitting at a table with several former family friends. One couple was from Fayetteville, Arkansas. One was originally from Florida, but I knew them in Memphis. Someone else I knew from both Memphis and Fayetteville, and currently lives in Florida. In other words, SEC country was well represented. Still, I had no problem announcing that I "despise" the SEC. I feel fine saying that, partially because I respect the heck out of everyone at that table--I've lived in two different SEC towns, and I like the people there a lot. If Texas A&M goes to the SEC, I will be very, very disappointed, but I'll get over it. I get the feeling that something different is going on between Texas A&M and Texas.

Since moving to the SEC involves potentially cutting ties with almost 300 years worth of Texas-based rivals, you would expect there to be, at the very least, some bittersweet feeling about making this kind of move. Instead, the overwhelming feeling I get from the Aggie community is unrestrained glee. I wouldn't expect a whole lot of tears to be shed over Baylor and Tech, but it disappoints me the extent to which people are willing to discard our rivalry with Texas.

There seems to be a lot of very real-world negative emotion directed at Texas considering that sports is, all things considered, not exactly the most consequential thing in the world. Coming to Texas A&M from out of state, I was not at all surprised at the bad blood that existed between the schools on the playing field. But I was a little bit disappointed at how much of that spilled over into everyday life. I thought that these Aggies had lots of high school friends who went to Texas and that many Aggies were considering going to Texas. Up to a point that's true, but there are a lot of Aggies who genuinely hate UT. I don't know how it compares to other big rivalries (especially ones that have a power imbalance), but I know it's too many people who feel this way.

Rivalries exist on a sort of delicate balance--too much animosity and you get incidents like the one between the Giants and Dodgers fans on opening day; too little and you get things like Brett Favre lying down for Michael Strahan. The Texas/Texas A&M rivalry, at its best, has intense moments on the field and moments of unity off, like the 1999 Bonfire game. At its worst, it devolves into two very different fan communities: one is cocky and willing to alienate rivals as long as they get theirs; the other is bitter and so eager to prove it's not the little brother that it's willing to blow up the rivalry. Kind of a shame, really.

Some people view college football as a way to unwind from a world that has too many pressing issues. These people will probably be happy wherever Texas A&M ends up playing. But this process has highlighted a number of people who really seem to believe that the University of Texas is not just holding back the fortunes of their favorite football team or even their favorite university; it's holding them back. Reading the message boards and listening to the people driving public (Aggie) perception on this, I get the distinct impression that lots of people think that moving to the SEC will solve something for them. These people are likely to be very disappointed--this whole time they thought their problem was Texas; they're about to learn that their problem is living vicariously through sports teams.

I guess what I'm saying is that a little perspective is in order. Sports is great, but since the start of the BCS, we've spent billions of person hours discussing something that is, by my count, three levels removed from sports*. And if A&M goes to the SEC, everything will get ramped up to a level we've never seen. We'll likely form four 16-team superconferences, devise a playoff system designed around platitudes like "Settle it on the field**", and get state legislatures involved in college sports conference alignment when they're having trouble funding basic services.

Serenity now.

*Watching sports is one level removed from participating in sports. Talking about sporting events is two levels removed, and discussing the organization of sports leagues and the determination of a champion is three levels removed.

**Every kind of championship includes objective elements and subjective elements. There is no perfect way to determine a champion.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Greatest Sporting Event I Ever Witnessed

This post is inspired by the inimitable Chuck Klosterman, who, on the recently launched sports and pop culture site, told the story of the greatest sporting event he has witnessed in person. The most endearing quality of the piece is that it is a game that, if it were not recounted by Klosterman, would be entirely forgotten. And while my story does not involve an undersized Native American basketball team holding off a superior junior college team with only three players, it is a story that needs to be told. The world must know what happened in Austin, Texas in 2004 when the ice hockey teams of The University of Texas and Texas A&M University faced off.

[Finding scores and recaps from the 2003-2004 hockey season is about like finding information on my 2nd grade tee ball team, so from here on out I'm relying on my own faulty memory. (I thought I got close for a minute, but then I realized I happened upon the intercollegiate roller hockey league, which of course has records dating back to the beginning of time.) Edit--I was able to find scores from A&M's 03-04 hockey season.]

I started business school at Texas in the fall of 2003, and I happened to have two classmates who played on Texas's club hockey team. The team played Baylor at the spacious Travis County Expo Center, home of the now-defunct Austin Ice Bats, and won 12-2. A Texas hockey fan described the collegiate hockey scene as follows: "Texas is winning 12-2 today, but when they go and play Oklahoma, they lose 12-2. And Oklahoma would lose 12-2 to a team like Michigan." Texas A&M, it was explained, was more on the level of Baylor than of Texas. (Looking at recent results, there is now almost complete parity among Texas hockey programs.)

Texas defeated A&M twice during the regular season by a combined score of 11-1, and the two teams met again in the playoffs at Austin's Chaparral Ice, a place where you might host your child's birthday party if you weren't fast enough to book Chuck E. Cheese. The match was witnessed by 50 or so people.

The game started predictably enough, as Texas secured a two-goal lead behind a superior front line that completely outmaneuvered the Aggies' defense. Early in the second period, Texas had a 4-1 advantage. The game seemed over, save for one fact: what the Aggies lacked in talent, experience, size, speed, quickness, and strategy, they made up for with grit, determination, pluck, moxie, and overall "underdogness." A&M closed the second period with two goals to bring the score to 4-3. Seven years later, it's difficult to find the words to describe how they managed to push the puck through the net twice so quickly. There's something about hockey and its (ideally) fluid motion that accentuates the differences between competitors of varying talent levels. Also, Texas kept running out fresh bodies, while A&M had fewer players on their bench, most of whom just sat there, conspicuously. I would have expected this difference in manpower to have borne fruit for the Longhorns by the end of the second, but instead A&M took a few chances on defense and, with the help of a well-placed shot and a fortuitous rebound, found themselves in a game at the beginning of the third period.

The final period began with great hope for both Aggie fans in attendance. And the goal that Texas scored toward the start of the third did not immediately seem to be an impediment to a comeback. But then it happened. The team that had, up to this point, directed all of their focus and energy toward the task at hand directed it toward the opposing team. I don't think the Aggies went two minutes the rest of the game without committing a penalty. Not content to commit garden variety fouls, they elevated loss of composure to an art form. The smallest amount of contact would have them trying to take the heads off their opponents. A player who lost the puck on a breakaway decided, rather than going after the puck or getting back on defense, to plow, full speed, into the goalie. He was among several players ejected.

With the A&M squad decimated from disqualifications, I thought they had made a mockery of what was, just a few minutes earlier, quite a compelling game. But then I saw the players coming off the Aggie bench, and I realized why they had sat for the entire game. You see, in fielding a roster of about 15 players, Texas A&M had managed to pick up about 10 who could actually skate. The crown jewel of the Aggie bench was a 6'5", 300-pound behemoth who was the last man off the bench. The only thing shakier than him on skates was the skates underneath him. He was so unsure of himself on skates that obviously were not intended for someone of his size that you started to wonder how he intended to skate at all, until you realized that he had no intention of skating. His first move was to collide immediately with the nearest Longhorn (in fairness, he may have just been looking for the closest object to cushion his inevitable fall). All that remains of this game, the final score (10-3), leaves no indication of how close it nearly was and how crazy it got.

The hockey game unfolded like a three-act play, with each act offering something entirely different. Aggie fans saw a tragedy, and Longhorn fans saw a comedy. I'm not sure what I saw. I've been to plenty of meaningful, suspenseful, and entertaining games, but this was the only game that I feel broke the rules of athletic competition. It was two periods of a great hockey game and one period of pure train wreck. Part of what makes the craziness of this game so interesting, though, is that it was authentic. Seeing how Aggies and Longhorns treat each other when nobody's watching, it turns out, makes for very compelling viewing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Everett at Three Months

We just crossed the three month threshold with Everett, and there definitely is something to be said for three months being a point where you exhale and begin to see the fun of parenting. For his first month, Everett was content to stare at walls, scratch his face, and generally hang out. That was at his best. He also, of course, screamed a lot and generally required us to be doing something to him (feed, bathe, change) every minute of the day. The baby books and the internet tell you that infants will feed 8 to 12 times per day for the first month, but Everett so liked the milk he was getting that he fed 12 times a day for the first eight weeks! He was especially cranky during evenings, to the point that Brandi often suggested that he had colic. We had a cavalcade of visitors to help us weather the storm of screams. I had some success with swaddling and turning him on his side, and I would occasionally put him on one of the stairs (closely monitored) to calm him down. I set a record of getting peed on three times in the span of 12 hours that still stands to this day.

Month two was filled with a lot of exasperation with the fact that Everett was still being a baby. Here are some of the things he could have done in month two that would have helped us out: space out his feedings (which, to his credit, he did toward the end of the month) and maybe smile or make sustained eye contact or give us just a little something in exchange for all the time we were investing in him. Everett added smiling to his repertoire, but whenever he smiled it seemed like an accident. And he'd look at people, sort of. More like look past them.

Month three brought additional, purposeful smiles, plus more activity and something that almost resembled interaction--he was looking more at people and giving them some sustained attention. This month was filled with travel, as I spent 19 days away from home and did not spend a single Friday night in my own bed. Brandi was a champ, getting Everett to sleep longer and then going back to work. We tried reading and toys and other things with little luck and varying consistency, but mostly we just marveled at a little boy adjusting to the world around him. Sometime in month three we determined that Everett is a pretty chill little kid--it's been a while since he cried for any sustained time. He's chunked up over the last several weeks, moving from below average to above average in weight.

Now that he's three months old, Everett smiles on a regular basis, and he even mixes in the occasional giggle. His favorite place to be is definitely the changing table, where he always smiles and laughs. He also will smile if he's not ready to go to bed--okay, mostly he cries and squirms, but if he's been having a good time, he will test you with a playful smile to see if you want to pick him back up. He babbles to himself, especially when he's sitting in his carseat. He's generally a calm baby, but he'll kick up a storm in no time.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Palindrome Poems

When I was living in Bedford, I had a lot of free time on my hands. How much free time? Well, I wrote two of the longest and most complex palindrome poems that have ever been created. They got deleted when I closed my old website, so here they are for posterity.

I saw suine go try tramp art,
laid arena, crania, gyms,
awe lupine poem,
now straw or cotton.
Wolf robbed evil itself
for a wade in edifices
(animal’s raw nit ego, temper).
Prevent it.
Never prep me to get in war,
slam in a sec if I denied a war off,
lest I lived ebb or flow.
Not to crow, arts won me.
Open, I pule:
was my gain arcane,
radial trap, martyr to genius?
Was I?

I made ill a sane, rare tale of wonder.
A dewy myth gimps as I ran,
I’m esodic,
I nap tons, rent rapture, damn a metal.
Otiose was I, lived a broke embargo.
Two new, as I won in a test.
One rewield, I defer,
saw names rap satire.
Monotone? No.
To no merit, a sparse man was refed.
Idle, I were not set.
An “I” now is a “we.”
Now, to grab meek or bad evil is awe,
so I to late, manmade rut.
Partners not panic, I do;
seminar is asp mighty.
My, we dared now foe, later arenas.
Allied am I.