Archive for December, 2010

Twelve new Christmas memories

December 31, 2010

Andrew Hicks

I’m gonna blame Christmas for making me lazy this past week. My family and I spent three days and two nights at my in-laws’ house for the holidays, and even after getting back, the combination of cheer and leftover seasonal junk food left me glued to the recliner.

Now there’s one day left in 2010, and I’m finally getting around to writing about Jesus’ golden birthday. That’s right, Our Lord turned 25 this year. Again. While 25 was a depressing birthday for me, it wasn’t for Jesus, because he knows he’s got the best seven years of his life still ahead. Dude loves the number seven, what can I say? Anyway, here are:

 

TWELVE NEW CHRISTMAS MEMORIES

1. It’s noon on Christmas Eve, and we’re driving down in a snow storm. It almost looked like we couldn’t be able to come at all, but skipping Thanksgiving proper and Christmas the same year would feel like a cardinal sin. Luckily, it’s warm enough that the snow is melting instantly as it hits the ground. We stop at a gas station, and Sarah and I head in to find a little junk to hold us until the in-laws’ roast is ready at 4 pm. I find some Dill Pickle Pringles, and Sarah’s full attention latches onto the impulse bin of Charm’s Blow Pops at foot level. I decide, what the heck, it’s Christmas, and I get her a Blue Raspberry sucker. When we get back to the car, I unwrap the Blow Pop, and Sarah is overjoyed as she holds it, takes a couple tentative licks then goes to town on it. Many productive minutes pass as Sarah enjoys the second lollipop of her young life, then we start to notice she’s putting it in her hair and all over her forehead. It’s a parental moment where you want to stop the problem behavior, but you can’t stop laughing, and your laughing only makes your giddy toddler go to further extremes. Sarah is most amused by the practice of jamming the sucker into the recesses of her neck. She is a streaky, sticky blue mess for the rest of the car ride.

2. Just before two, we decide to stop into a 24-hour Mom and Pop restaurant in our hometown that I’ve previously visited well over a hundred times, though this may be my first time visiting when not drunk or hung over. We still have that roast ahead of us, so we just order their amazing house salad — lettuce, red onion, pimento, bacon, provel, house cream dressing and homemade croutons — and potato skins. The skins are basically full-sized potato halves of the daunting Russet variety. Sarah has some fries and water, our waitress is tattooed and strange, and it’s just quick, fun family time.

3. Some might have received my proclamation that my family would start our holiday shopping on Christmas Eve as a joke, but this is what in fact happens. The snow is still swirling from the sky as we spend well over an hour stuffing a Wal-Mart cart with our entire haul of presents. We pick out a couple things that we want for ourselves under the guise of, “This is your Christmas present to me,” and we later get a big box of bargain Christmas cards from Walgreens. I used to have a cheat sheet listing which relatives received which bargain cards (“Grandpa = puppy in stocking, 2008,” “Tiffany’s sister = winking snowman, 2009,” etc.), but now I get to experience the rush of possibly giving the same relative the same card several years in a row. Will they call me out on it? They haven’t yet.

4. With the wife and kiddies asleep late on Christmas Eve, I go on an iTunes binge with some freshly purchased gift cards. I’ve kept a list of songs I want to get my hands on for months now, so the choosing is easy. The logging in is damn near impossible. I have three basic passwords I use, and none of them hits. I also somehow manage to mis-answer my security question three consecutive times, so my account is frozen for eight hours. I then create a new account and get locked out of it somehow. Bells are ringing. Silver, angry bells. But I get my music.

5. On Christmas Day, Tiffany and I each open a mound of presents for Sarah. I’ve just figured out where to put all the toys she already has, and now she’s doubled her plaything inventory. She gets an indoor princess tent, a bookcase with dozens of books to put in it, a stagecoach wagon loaded with Lego blocks, and three coats. The grandparents seem to have done the Toys ‘R’ Us equivalent of the old “Supermarket Sweep” TV show, and we love them for it. Days later, hanging out around the house, I’ll still be happening upon individual Christmas gifts given to Sarah. Thank you moms, aunt, uncles and dad.

6. This is my fourth Christmas at the in-laws’, and it’s the first time my brother Matt has met Tiffany’s side of the family. While eating roasted pork sandwiches and a cornucopia of hors d oeuvres (thanks for having my back, Dictionary.com), I get to hear Matt and my father-in-law talk excitedly about classical music and opera. One of my simpler joys in life is watching people from different corners of my social and family sphere interact with each other. This is no Christmas miracle, but it’s pretty unique in its own right.

7. After my mom and brother leave, our family Christmas moves downstairs, and the younger generation takes turns playing Just Dance 2 on the Wii. I beg out of participating — the broken ankle excuse will hold me for at least three more months, and I will use it when applicable — but Tiffany and her older sister tear up some Rihanna and such. The highlight of all this is watching my mother-in-law hold her own by dancing along to the Ike and Tina version of “Proud Mary.”

8. I spend several hours on Christmas night hanging out at Harrah’s Casino with two of my best friends and partners in crime from my single days. They rack up a huge bar tab in a restaurant just outside the casino while I binge-drink Diet Pepsi and Mountain Dew and smoke cigarettes like I’m one of Marge Simpson’s wheezy sisters. Inside, we gamble. I bet small and play for hours on the same money. I turn my last three bucks back into $25 then make my friends go to the roulette table with me. They’re drunk by now, and the slowest, rudest dealer in history presides over our table. The time between spins is at least 15 minutes. None of the other roulette players at the table speaks any English — there was an Asian Concert* event earlier tonight — so my friends kill time and crack me up by loudly complaining about how much the dealer sucks and how much roulette sucks and how much it sucks that no one at the table speaks English. I win $40 on the next spin and am kept waiting another 15 minutes to cash in my chips.

9. Apparently, when you drink a dozen plastic cups of soda really late at night, you have a hard time falling asleep. The magic of Christmas does nothing to change this immutable law. I slide into bed around 3 am and am kept in an exhausted state of alertness until after the sun comes up. So it is to my great relief that my in-laws are enthusiastic about taking infant Silas upstairs and watching him while Tiffany and I sleep and lounge in bed until noon. It’s a great slow wakeup, lying there and talking and watching an episode of “Monk” on Netflix Instant.

10. One of Sarah’s gifts was a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse instrument set. It had a drum, drumsticks, maracas, plastic finger cymbals, nonfunctioning harmonica (thank you for the broken harmonica, Disney, seriously) and a recorder. You know, like the kind they give you in third grade band class if you don’t appear to have any other inborn musical talent. Sarah keeps putting her mouth around the recorder and making trumpet fart noises into it, while I’m demonstrating and telling her to just blow into it. Finally, her grandma tells her to blow it out like her birthday candles, and something clicks. It’s beyond cute to watch that little girl’s eyes light up when she realizes she just accomplished what she’d been trying to accomplish.

11. The day after Christmas, I talk to my dad on the phone for the first time since September. Our relationship the past couple decades has been sporadic to nonexistent, but we jump-started our communication this year and got to know each other as adults. Which was a great gift. We talk for a half-hour, and it’s great to hear the excitement in his voice as he describes his Christmas dinner spent with two Harvard PhD’s and how he’s been eating nothing but natural health food the past few months and feels better than ever.

12. Sarah’s gift motherlode included a full snowsuit and an orange plastic sled, and when we get back home, I take her outside in the snow. There’s a small hill at the end of our driveway that leads down into the backyard. I put her in the sled, have her count to three, then I send her on her way. Her reaction is one of sheer delight, and she joyously demands to go, “Again! Again!” until her out-of-shape dad is wishing he hadn’t chainsmoked all those cigarettes on Christmas night.

*Asian Concert was the official name of the event. No actual performers were billed. I assume when you live in the Midwest, and you are Asian, you’ll show up to an Asian Concert regardless of who appears because there really aren’t any Asian Concerts booked in the first damn place.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Advertisements

Week With No Facebook

December 22, 2010

If you missed reading my two parenthetical updates to the last blog post — although I don’t know why you’d miss it; you compulsively check this site twice an hour for updates — the Post-Dispatch article on me hasn’t run yet. As of December 18th, it was scheduled to run on December 19th. As of December 19th, it was scheduled to run on December 26th. As of now, it’s scheduled to run on January 2nd.

Yours truly, known procrastinator, jumped the gun on promoing the article. I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t even talk about the article. It might get bumped again. It might get bumped two more times. It might never run. Print might die before then. Jesus might come back before then. (“I heard there was supposed to be a really good article in the Post-Dispatch today about some writer fella, so I came down to check it out. What, you bumped it again? Fine, I’ll be back in two thousand MORE years. Get your stuff together, human race!”)

We’re in the homestretch of the holiday season now. I’m at the point where I can’t hope to send out Christmas cards to relatives more than one state over and have the cards arrive before Christmas. I’ll have to scour the Hallmark store for the Merry Belated Christmas/Happy New Year/I Know You’re Not Surprised This Card Is Late But It’s Better Than Nothing section, preferably some cute card with Ziggy on the front. You gotta love that pathetic, bald loser Ziggy. You know, I might send out Christmas cards late, but at least I have a full head of hair. Though I almost certainly lose maturity points for trying to compare myself favorably to fictional characters from the funny pages.

My timeline’s all screwy right now. Christmas is three days away, Hannukah has been over for two weeks, and I think they moved Kwaanza to March this year. Today is Wednesday, my body thinks it’s Friday, and to figure out today’s date, I had to summon the brain cells that are usually only used once every ten years to determine which Dakota capital is Bismark and which one’s Fargo. (NOTE: That debate got a heckuva lot easier when the movie Fargo came out, and I could simply visualize North Dakota as being Almost Canada.)

Even screwier, I’ve followed my newfound buddy and comedy partner Chris “Woo” Trader into a social networking experiment known as Week With No Facebook. Keep in mind, I didn’t sign up for Facebook until July, on the day Silas came home from the hospital. In the time since, Silas has more than doubled his body weight, and I’ve probably quadrupled my time spent idly on the Internet, both on my laptop and on my mobile. If I’m outside watching the kids, and I get even a millisecond’s stab of boredom, I check Facebook. If I’m inside putting the dishes away, and I think of something even marginally clever to tell a specific someone or just whoever on Facebook might read it, I pull out my phone and type away.

My comedy and writing output is at a quality and quantity level not seen in almost a decade, but Facebook time eats at Real People time. I’ve found myself pretending I wasn’t just typing on my phone when I hear my wife’s footsteps approaching. That’s cause enough to take a week away from the Facebook machine, and in that time, I’ve finally gotten some good work done on a book editing assignment I’ve been procrastinating on.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be keeping some kind of diary about my time away from Facebook, but I haven’t. Typical for me. The vast majority of this hypothetical diary would read:

    3:15 pm: Kids sleeping. Wanted to go on Facebook. Went on Twitter instead. Nothing of interest. 

    11:45 pm: Took a break from book editing. Wanted to go on Facebook. Checked email instead. Nothing of interest. Went to The Onion A.V. Club instead. Killed a half-hour.

    1:30 am: Maybe if I just check and see how many notifications I have on Facebook, it will sate my curiosity and won’t be cheating. No, it’s definitely cheating. Can’t I claim my Week With No Facebook was actually just a work week? It’s been five days already. Enough is enough.

I logged off Facebook at midnight on Friday. You’d better believe I’ll be right back on Facebook at the stroke of midnight tomorrow. I might even do what I’ve done on more boring New Year’s Eves and celebrate the midnight changeover in other time zones first. (“Hooray, my WWNF is over in London! Let’s read some status updates… Hooray, my WWNF is over in New York! Let’s post some pictures from 4 years ago.”)

I think my weeklong Facebook blackout will help me appreciate and maximize my time on and off Facebook, and now that I’m reminded you can email status updates without even logging on, I might start doing one day on/one day off or just have set times of the day when I go on Facebook.

Some of this sounds feasible, and some of it sounds like the old alcohol justification arguments I used to pull on myself: “I’ll only drink vodka, because I handle myself better, and the hangover’s not as bad… I’ll only drink beer, because it’s not strong, and I know exactly how buzzed I’ll get with each beer… I’ll only drink two nights a week… I’ll only bring 10 bucks to the bar with me… I won’t drink before the kids are asleep.” Lots of experimentation and justification there, but I’m going on three months sober, so obviously anything’s possible.

Right now, though, maybe I should just keep my new goals simple. Like, for instance, how about getting the cards out before Christmas next year?

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah's first Christmas

Old glories, new publicity

December 18, 2010

Andrew Hicks

[AUTHOR’S NOTE <added 12/19>: The St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on me that’s mentioned below for 12/19 now is scheduled to run on Sunday, 12/26. I’ll likely repost this entry then, but for now, I don’t have anything else written, so I’m leaving it up.]

[AUTHOR’S NOTE <added 12/20>: I got an email from Jim Cook, author of the above-mentioned piece for the Post-Dispatch. The article has been re-rescheduled for Sunday, 1/2. If nothing interesting happens between now and then, you may get to read about me.]

On my eighteenth birthday, I found out my website won first place in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s “Best of the St. Louis Web” contest. I’d just gotten to college six months prior and found out students could create their own sites for free. I met up in the computer lab with a slender, thirtyish techie-dork stereotype who introduced himself only as Spiff. A couple hours of simple HTML code later, The Andrew Hicks World Wide Web Extravaganza was born.

I had a backlog of movie reviews, original stories based on the 1960s “Batman” TV show and a completed comedy diary called “A Year in the Life of a Nerd.” I’d started a second yearlong nerd diary upon arriving at college.

The Internet was so young then that the Yahoo! directory had to create its “Diaries” category specifically for my site. This was years before the term “blog” existed. Competition for original comedy writing online was a lot scarcer than it is today, when the words you’re reading right now might as well be hosted on TheTumbleweedBloweth.com.

I bring this up because now, 14 years later, Jim Cook — the fellow who wrote the original “Best of the St. Louis Web” article in the Post — has put together a new contest for STL-area sites. As a companion piece, he’s written some kind of Where Are They Now?-type piece that profiles me. It’s scheduled to run tomorrow, in the local section of their Sunday paper.

I’m hoping the new exposure will result in expanded readership. Just a few more people reading and laughing is all I’m hoping for. I’m not expecting anything so dramatic as the orgiastic run on goods that happens when some mom-and-pop operation suddenly gets vaulted into Oprah’s Favorite Things status.

No matter the end result, it’ll be nice to have a few people reading my words other than my family and circle of Facebook friends. Or people who stumble on my blog by searching random terms like “broken ankle pink cast” and “good looking man self taken photo hick.” Both actual search terms that added a single hit apiece to my traffic tally.

If you’re one of those people who found this site courtesy of the Post-Dispatch or Stltoday.com, welcome. Look around. Bookmark it. Catch up on the old stuff. Come back for the new stuff. Tell your friends. Pay me to write or edit for you. Book me a high-paying stand-up comedy gig. Mail me your winning lottery ticket. And have a great Christmas.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Okay, so it's not a baby pic, but I was only 20 when this was taken. Which kind of seems like Baby Andrew when I look back now.

Slackluster holidays

December 15, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The Christmas season is upon us. Only ten days left before I do all my holiday shopping at Walgreens really late at night on Christmas Eve.

Batman's inconspicuous skyflier.Christmas was never a big deal in my house. The peak of our family Christmas celebrations came when I was 11. Logs crackling in the fireplace, mounds of presents and full stockings of goodies. I remember my younger brother got the Batwing from the first Tim Burton Batman movie and the elusive April O’Neil action figure, the rarest in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles line of 1989 play products. I got turtles Leonardo and Rafael, if I remember right, and a shrink-wrapped cassette copy of Petra Praise: The Rock Cries Out. Which, 21 years later, is still a great album. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about Batman and TMNT these days, incidentally.

My family put up the same fake Christmas tree every year, and it was always a fun night of hanging branches and lights and digging through what was a pretty decent collection of ornaments. The unpacking of the ornament box always included a quick memorial for whatever old ornaments had ended up shattering just before or after the 11-month offseason the ornaments spent in the basement.

Sometime during my teen years, we kind of disbanded the formal Christmas celebration. Around Thanksgiving, my mom would ask me what I wanted, and I’d usually cash in for one big-ticket item that was bought and put into circulation way ahead of December 25th. No surprises, no waiting, no wrapping even.

Our holiday dinners were always spent with our maternal grandparents at Old Country Buffet, the college dining hall of the elderly. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, I could count on waiting in line with the non-cooking masses and pigging out on mashed potatoes, gravy and dried-out chocolate cake with vanilla soft-serve on top.

After my grandparents passed, we went back to small-scale holiday family dinners at home, but I don’t think that Christmas tree ever went back up. I don’t think it survived the move when my mom traded up from my childhood house to a nicer home in a nicer neighborhood. The most I would observe Christmas, aside from the family dinner, would be to send out a round of holiday cards with smart-aleck writing inside.

There was one Christmas I had a girlfriend and came to her with the bright idea to not exchange presents and instead do something nice on New Year’s. After, unbenownst to me, she’d already bought me a nice watch*. She had to take that back, then on Christmas, I actually surprised her with a small present. She was not surprised and in fact had come prepared with a small counterpresent, a hardcover copy of the SNL book Live From New York. Which, 8 years later, is the only enduring thing to come out of that relationship.

Now that I’m married with kids, Christmas can’t help but mean something again. We have a larger built-in family that gathers for all the major holidays. My wife Tiffany, as I stated a couple posts ago, has problems with procrastination and organization just like I do. Our Christmas gift efforts to our parents and in-laws have been less than stellar the first three years, and I can’t be sure we won’t repeat the mistake this year.

But I can make the following pair of predictions for this Christmas – there will be lots of love and absolutely no Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures.

*Which I had mentioned I wanted before I finally caved and got my first cell phone. What do I need a watch for when I’m carrying a phone? For the sophisticated look of wearing a watch? If you’ve ever met me, you know fashion sophistication and I don’t coexist unless I have to go rent something to wear in a wedding. The only remotely classy thing I have is a silk handkerchief monogrammed with my initials. My real initials: SBJ. At least I tell people those are my real initials when they ask me why I’m sporting a handkerchief with the initials SBJ.

Enter Kipper, exit Elmo

December 12, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Every now and then, when cynicism strikes me, I ponder the possibility that love by nature is fleeting. Two of the couples who were married at the last three weddings I attended have already gotten divorced. They didn’t even hang in there long enough to celebrate the exchange of fine leather in traditional observance of the third wedding anniversary.

I guess not everyone’s priorities and life goals match up, but I know I’m digging in my heels and holding on tight at least until I get the traditional fruits and flowers that are the spoils of celebrating a whopping four years of marriage. I never thought I’d outlast some of my peers just by staying married for a fifth of a fifth of a century, but actually, when I put it that way, it kinda seems like a long time.

Within the last few weeks, I’ve witnessed a love I thought was pure and eternal disintegrate right in front of my eyes. This is a love I could’ve sworn would last forever. I’m speaking of my 2-year-old daughter Sarah’s torrid, abiding passion for Elmo. Once, he was all she would talk about. She would awake in breathless anticipation of his headwide smile and way-too-frequent, self-conscious giggle. Now, it’s like Elmo never existed, and I’m wondering if he pissed her off. I saw her rip the crap out of his picture in a book last week.

Elmo is sooooooo May 2009 through November 2010. The reign of Kipper is now upon us. We’ve taken the nine-dollar monthly plunge into the world of Netflix Instant streaming through the Wii. I think it’s incredible, and I’m wondering where it’s been all my TV- and movie-overwatching life.

My Netflix strategy is to search for the obscure, diverse stuff that’s eluded me on video store shelves all these years. Sarah, on the other hand, has taken a vow of complete Netflix monogamy to this dude Kipper, who I’d never heard of until late last month. Kipper slipped in under my radar, and he sure hasn’t come around to introduce himself as, “like, you know, the guy who’s seeing your daughter.”

Kipper, Pig and Popsicle

But he’s alright. Kipper is a super-low key British cartoon dog from the late ’90s who talks in dry, ambivalent stoner speech while doing mundane things like fishing and asking his cartoon pig friend named Pig to bring him a Popsicle. Kipper is the king of Sarah’s television universe right now, and Barney has become the goofy deputy king that makes you wish the real king didn’t have the day off. I should add, before my wife makes me add it, that Sarah still finds Barney indispensable for the songs alone. She likes to dance, jump and spin. Kipper does none of those things. Kipper is too baked to move.

Here you’ll have to imagine an ending that brings everything full circle by cleverly mentioning Kipper, Elmo, love, marriage, divorce, fine leather, fruits and flowers.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah, when she was a baby, loved hanging out in her swing.

Semisolids are forthcoming

December 10, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Procrastination is my forte. I’ll explain more later.

Okay, fine. I’ll explain more now. Silas, who turned five months last week, has been fed cereal once and baby food zero times. He’s old enough for both, I just constantly finding myself taking forever to implement any kind of change. I’m like Barack Obama without the change you can believe in… what? Oh, make that simply, “I’m like Barack Obama.”

Silas lost his appetite when he was sick last week, but he’s back sucking down formula bottles at full tilt. And it’s time to sit his big-headed infant body up in the highchair and start getting him messy with semisolids. Sarah was a good cereal and baby food eater. I think the only baby food she didn’t like was peaches, but she was down with other Snooki-colored foods like squash and sweet potatoes.

Speaking of Sarah while we’re speaking of procrastination, I finally converted the second crib into a toddler bed today. Me vs. Any Kind Of Handyman Activity is usually a long, drawn-out battle – first, to get me to attempt to fix or assemble something, and second, to actually get it assembled correctly. I use the assembly instructions as a crutch, but I never seem to read them thoroughly enough to get it completely right on the first try.

On the other hand, I’m not one of those dudes that refuses to ask for directions. I’ll ask for directions to the same place ten times from ten different people. If I can’t immediately find something around the house, I ask Tiffany if she knows where it is before I even look in a second spot. Which drives her crazy.

Tiffany also has problems with procrastination, which makes a lot of little things take forever to get accomplished and a lot of big things just keep looming in the distance. Considering how long it takes us to do things, getting married after knowing each other for three months was probably the most out-of-character thing either of us ever did. Our wedding, by the way, cost $148 and lasted less than a half-hour. I’ve spent more getting my oil changed. Which is an entirely separate personal issue.

In the case of Sarah and the toddler bed, I likely could’ve procrastinated right up until the hypothetical day Sarah climbed out of her crib and landed on her head. A broken water main ended up coming to our rescue – Tiffany got yesterday and today off work because the main burst right under the ground floor at her job. Thousands of gallons of gushing water were let loose in the vicinity of the company’s computer servers, necessitating evacuation and cleanup. And I thought I sucked for spilling an ounce of formula into my laptop keyboard a couple months back… and then waiting a month to fix the problem.

We put Sarah down for her nap in the toddler bed about 90 minutes ago. Tucked her in with her favorite pink fleece blankie, her Lily singing frog doll and a bottle*. Kissed her goodnight. Walked out of her room and closed the door. Ten seconds later, Sarah was beating on the closed door with her palm. Went back in, laid her back down, explained to her that she had to stay in bed because it was night-night time.

Ignored her tapping on the door more and calling for daddy and mommy. Eventually heard her rustling the plastic shopping bag that was in the trash and realized we hadn’t fully baby-proofed the new room she was sleeping in. Walked in and saw Sarah had found a pen and drawn on her white sheets and grabbed and strewn a bunch of my photos. Put her back in the original crib in the original bedroom. That was 15 minutes ago, and now the familiar sounds of nap-silence are emanating from her closed bedroom door. We’ll put her in the toddler bed later.

*Sarah does still drink from a bottle when she’s lying down for her nap or for the night. Procrastination here too? Probably, but we have broken her of her once-rabid binkie habit. Now Sarah goes without a bink unless one of Silas’s binks is within her reach. Then she does an instant stealth Yoink! followed by an immediate “I’m trying to get away with something I know I shouldn’t” glance toward mom and/or dad. Sarah always seems entertained by the two-step process of me first reminding her that’s her brother’s binkie then her handing it back to me.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

“Who’s this?” “Iola.”

December 7, 2010

Andrew Hicks

2-year-old Sarah has reached the point where, if I name every character and object on the inside flap of her Sesame Street books, she can point it out from the lineup. It’s like a 20-person Hollywood Squares amalgam of the usual PBS Muppets – Cookie Monster, Bert, Big Bird – plus A-listers of the toddler vocabulary like book, shoes, truck, flower, etc. Sarah has it down pat. There’s nowhere to go but up for this girl. Tomorrow we start studying my framed print of the cast of “Mama’s Family” from the 1989-90 season. Which was a very good year for Mama and the family.

ME: Who’s this?
SARAH: Vinton
ME: And who’s this?
SARAH: Iola.
ME: And who’s this?
SARAH: Naomi. Trashy.
ME: Where’d you learn that word?

She’s getting really good at naming and pointing to parts of the face and upper body, too. Hair, teeth, eyebrows, forehead. She counted ten noses on me this morning. This little girl thinks way-y-y-y outside the box. As my Facebook buddy Open Mike remarked, “To quote the over-quoted old lady from the diner scene in When Harry Met Sally, ‘I’ll have what she’s having.'”

Sarah’s speech patterns are progressing at an ever-quicker rate, too. She’s stringing together short sentences and listening a lot better to what her mom and I tell her. We’re at a ratio now of probably three real words to every gibberish word. Sometimes what’s what is a kind of toss-up.

Like, either I was having problems understanding her earlier today, or my 2 year old’s new favorite person to talk about is Sanjay Gupta. I tried to put her reference in context: “You mean Sanjay Gupta the renowned neurosurgeon and CNN correspondent who writes those delightful but insightful medical features in Parade magazine?”

She said, “Kipper? More Kipper? More Kipper? Kipper, daddy?”

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah pauses before opening birthday presents earlier this month.

Teething fever

December 4, 2010

Andrew Hicks

Silas – who will be 5 months old tomorrow – has had a rough three days, but it’s getting better. He hasn’t cut through any teeth yet, but he’s screaming like he’s got four jagged baby incisors ready to burst through his infant gums simultaneously. And, to up the pain ante even more, Silas got his four-month battery of vaccinations from the doctor on Thursday morning.

The nurse stuck Silas on each side of his Stay-Puft Marshmallow babythighs with inoculations that left him acting more or less normal during the day but staying up through most of the night with a fever and then a weird cold sweat. The symptoms would come and go, and he’d end up sleeping for up to a half-hour before waking back up. He’d finally sleep a couple good four-hour chunks during the morning hours.

A fever during a teething session is a bad situation for baby and dad. Baby’s in pain. Dad doesn’t want baby in pain. Dad does everything he can think of to help make baby feel better. Baby still doesn’t feel better. Dad starts running low on patience. Baby still doesn’t feel better. Dad feels bad about running low on patience, resolves to muster inner reserves, ends up begging an outside source to provide patience. Baby starts feeling better. Dad focuses all his concentration getting baby comfortable and resting. Baby falls asleep. Baby then stays asleep for one minute, ten minutes, maybe 30, and the cycle begins anew.

I’ve looked over the literature handed to us on our way out of the doctor’s, and the fever is normal. The crying is said to be a moderate risk if it’s non-stop for more than three hours. Silas has gone maybe a half-hour at most in serious cry mode, then it calms down for awhile, then it comes back. But his fever’s not that high, and the cold sweat thing only happened once, and briefly.

Baby Silas seems like he’s starting to steadily feel better. Tonight, he fell asleep at 11:30, which is an improvement over 4:30. I like to have my children in bed before the morning farm report airs.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas smiles. And, is that an optical illusion, or is the binkie half the size of his head?

Family welfare

December 3, 2010

Andrew Hicks

At the time of The Event, I had health insurance for my entire nuclear family through my job as restaurant server, bartender and hourly manager. All I had to average was 25 hours a week, and they took a nice fat chunk out of each check. It was my first time being health-insured since just after my college graduation, and the Hicks clan quickly racked up a few high-ticket items. There were two live births, Sarah’s hospitalization for RSV* and the bizarre incision and drainage of an abscessed cyst in my right armpit. Which, if you like grossness, is a pretty interesting story for another time.

Then came the compound ankle fracture. Ambulance, emergency room, surgery, hospitalization and physical therapy with a lady who told me I’d be out of work “for at least a week, maybe even two.” I’m closing in on three months missing work, and the simple fact is, when you don’t work, you don’t automatically get your health insurance money withheld from your check. You also aren’t making the money you usually make at work. Money got scarce fast, we racked up a balance with the insurance company and got dropped halfway through last month.

Now, remember, I work an hourly job with a bunch of restaurant folks. Some of them are kids who live at home and may or may not roll out of bed by 2 pm; others are my age and have multiple kids. The whole way through, there were people telling me I could get free health insurance through the state if I qualified on an income-based level. I consider my lifestyle to be lower-middle class, and I figured if we did qualify for state medical cards, it would be just barely. And I also figured, I had earned the right to have health insurance as a benefit, so I might as well get it and pay for it. Responsible, right? Maybe even noble?

The nobility, real or imagined, fades a bit after you can’t work, and your existing bills – which you were not quite in full control of even before the accident – start backing up while brand-new accident-related bills start pouring in. Long story short, just before becoming uninsured, Tiffany and I applied for public aid. We got a notice almost immediately that the babies were covered, which brought peace of mind. Then, probably a week later, the rest of the results came back. Insurance for the whole family, free of charge. With all the media-bitching about Obamacare rules and regulations, this seems like some good old-fashioned welfare that FDR could cozy up to. Or wheel up to. Whichever.

Also, now there’s state-provided grocery money on a debit card each month. Gone, at least temporarily, are the days when I’d drop into the supermarket for a couple quick items, figure out by the crowds that it was the first of the month, get stuck in the checkout behind the family with the two full carts of stock-up goods, and then send out texts like, “Where’s the aisle for people who are buying items with cash they earned themselves?” to everyone I could think of while I was waiting to buy my white wine, bread and milk.

I’m still not yet earning money working, post-accident, but the money we’re saving now on health insurance, groceries and babysitting bills (you’re reading the words of a modern-day Mr. Mom) amounts to more than two grand per month. And you know, if you’d talked to me just before I popped out my ankle, I would have told you $250 a week for childcare for two children was a ripoff. Now that I’ve been home alone with Sarah and Silas for more than a month, it seems like an absolute bargain.

*I’d never heard of RSV, but it’s a pretty widespread respiratory virus among the very young. Sarah wasn’t even 2 months when she got it, most likely from a baby at the daycare she’d just started going to. It just seemed like she had a cold at first, but the virus took a quick progression on her infant body. One Sunday afternoon, when I left for work, Sarah was short of breath, and Tiffany and I made plans to take her to the urgent care first thing in the morning. Midway through my shift at work, I got a call from Tiffany, from the emergency room. Sarah had turned blue. Tiffany had called 911. Paramedics had come to the house and taken my 13-pound baby out on a stretcher**. Baby Sarah was in a room in the ICU for three days, hooked up to monitors and a baby IV. The first night, when the nurses wouldn’t let us feed her, was the hardest, but Sarah responded to treatment immediately and got better. Aside from a few chronic earaches in her early months, Sarah’s been a really healthy baby.

**Which, when you think about the heavy-lifting side of it, has to be a jackpot situation for paramedics. They don’t know whether they’re going to show up to hoist a 600-pound dude who just suffered a McRib-induced coronary blowout or a tiny, blue-faced infant. Morbid as it is, the sight of the blue baby has to at least be a physical relief as far as back pain goes. Kind of like when you’re helping a friend move, and the other guys always end up having to grab something heavy on the Next To Go list, while on your turn, the closest thing to grab is the box of pillows. Then again, my eyeballs probably zero in on the box of pillows and the box of paper towels and the box of toilet paper. I’m an out-of-work welfare recipient, after all.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Sarah in the days she could be contained in a colorful bouncer.