Archive for the 'Dad on Autopilot' Category

Counterclockwise perpendicular

February 22, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: …aw, screw it.

When I take my babies to the doctor, I always end up feeling like a crappy parent when I fill out those baby-development questionaires. I don’t pay enough attention at home to answer “yes” or “no” to, “When your baby sees his reflection in the mirror, does he reach counterclockwise perpendicular toward the mirror baby’s right shoulder?”

Um, I think I’ve seen Silas look in the mirror before, and I think he reaches to touch his reflection. Should I just answer “yes,” or is “yes” the bad answer? Is clockwise parallel toward the mirror baby’s left shoulder actually the way a non-waterhead baby reaches to touch his reflection?

I’d tell the medical community exactly what they wanted to hear if I knew exactly what they wanted to hear.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas and his ornate Native American rattle shipped from Colorado by Grandpa Hicks.

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The baby name game

February 17, 2011

Andrew Hicks

Choosing baby names is tough. Luckily, I didn’t have to do it with either kid. Oh, I had my own name suggestions, but I ran into the same problem I always did when I looked through tattoo catalogs and stuff: There were ones I was fond of, ones I was ambivalent about and ones I knew I didn’t like, but none of them seemed good enough to commit to for life.

When we found out we were having a girl*, Tiffany came up with the name Sarah Grace. I was sold on Grace immediately — it’s an old name up Tiffany’s family tree, and it’s the name of the church and private school I grew up attending. And the name Sarah has always been a beautiful one to me. I thought it common but not too common, traditional but not too traditional.

Our only debate was whether to include the “H” on the end. I lobbied for Sara with no H, but in the end, we (“we” meaning Tiffany, in this case) decided to go with the classic spelling. And, almost immediately, I was glad we did. It seems weird to say, but even from a newborn, my Sarah was a Sarah with an “H,” not a Sara with no “H.”

Had Sarah been a boy, Tiffany wanted to name him Andrew Justin, after me, and call him A.J. (My mom tells me my grandpa tried to get everyone to call me A.J., but it never really caught on.) I wasn’t completely comfortable with the idea of having my own Junior. Naming a kid after yourself has always seemed to me like an obnoxious form of egomania. Besides, having two people in the house with the same name would just lead to confusion.

I think we were about six months into the second pregnancy when Tiffany gave up on the idea of naming the baby Andrew Justin. She came out of left field with the name Silas**. We watch the show “Weeds” together, and one of its main characters is named Silas. And I knew there was a Silas in the New Testament somewhere. Otherwise, I’d never met or heard of anyone with that name.

Each of our mothers initially thought it a poor name choice — I can’t remember if it was my mom or Tiffany’s mom who said the name Silas for her conjured up the mental image of a fat, leather-skinned, middle-aged dude sitting on a rusty chair in the gravel parking lot of a nowhere Southern gas station. One of my own friends, when I told her we were going with Silas for a name, asked, “Why? Is he from the Old Country?”

But when Tiffany and I mentioned the name Silas to the younger generation (my then-17-year-old stepson Josh and his friends, some high school kids I used to work with, et al), they pretty much universally agreed it was a cool name.

I wasn’t fully sold on Silas, but I had nothing better to counter with. I liked it, but I didn’t like it. It was a cool name, but it was a weird name. I had the thought in the back of my head that we would change his name at the very last second to something more mainstream. But they cut my wife open, pulled out that screaming male newborn, and we named him Silas. The second the name was in ink and official, I was sure it was the right name for my youngest child. And hindsight has only further 20/20’d that.

She’s a Sarah, he’s a Silas. I love them and their names.

* Actually, it was never a sure thing, because Sarah was always in very modest positions during the sonograms, but after getting the clearest view of the junk area that she could, one of our sonogram technicians told us she was 80 percent sure our baby was a girl.

** We had already decided the middle name would be David, which is my dad and my brother’s middle name. There was no existing tradition of that name being passed down the Hicks line — my mom says she thought of it for my brother completely independently of it being my dad’s middle name — but I guess there is now.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Sarah plays with crayons that were in much better shape before she got hold of them.

Airplane Cry

February 11, 2011

Andrew Hicks

After four days of being late with my posts, I’m finally caught up. I can write in first-person present tense again. Which is a comfy-cozy feeling.

I stepped outside to take the trash out this morning and noticed it was a pretty decent, sunny day. Right now, 34 feels terrific, because it’s thirty more degrees than 4. So I stood out there for a minute and heard, over my shoulder, a crazy, demonic baby shriek. It was the craziest thing for a second, until I figured out it was just the noise of an airplane flying overhead. Good thing, too. I don’t think I’m ready to deal with Silas bursting into an Airplane Cry.

One of the grandparents gave Sarah a heavy hardcover book (it has not been dropped on any of my toes — yet) with classic, public-domain children’s stories in it. Most of which I’ve never heard of. Sarah always brings it over and acts excited for me to read it, but in seconds she’s bored to tears.

One story hinged on a character drinking some Irish coffee, and I was reading to Sarah while she was watching Baby Beethoven. So after she said, “What’s that?” and I noticed she was asking about a watermelon on the screen, I quickly realized I could explain the ins and outs of an Irish coffee to my kid but couldn’t accurately state just how a watermelon grows and ripens.

To sum up: Watermelon = research necessary. Irish coffee = no research necessary.

I just pigged out on cottage cheese, applesauce and grapes. What am I, five?

CORRECTION

Our post on January 30 (“Penguin’s balls“) incorrectly stated the number of balls inside the inflated plastic penguin as 4. (Two pair.) There are actually only 3 balls inside the penguin, as the picture next to the blog text clearly shows. (One-and-a-half pair.) Dad’s Daytime Diary regrets the error.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Dirty looks from Indians

February 8, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew is apparently spending this entire week in Editor’s Note purgatory. It’s Thursday afternoon, and he’s just now writing Tuesday’s blog. Worse, he’s listening to Mr. Mister’s Welcome to the Real World album on cassette in the background. And he’s trying to come up with some obvious joke about how these days, for the Mr. Mister guys, it’s less “Welcome to the Real World” and more “Welcome to Wal-Mart.”

Andrew’s trying to think back to Tuesday right now, and all he remembers is going with his wife on her lunch break to take Silas to the doctor. Silas was about a month late to his six-month checkup — which, in the scheme of things, is probably a greater transgression than being two days late with a 500-word blog post. What prompted Baby Silas’s parents to get him to the doctor was noticing a couple circular dry patches of skin of Silas’s leg. Which they speculated might be some kind of infant ringworm infestation, and which their educated doctor quickly informed them was in fact just dry skin. Baby needs more lotion and salve**.

Tiffany took Silas back to see the doctor, while Andrew stayed in the enormous waiting area with Sarah. Who was having fun jumping on the painted hopscotch boards on the carpet but perhaps suffered from the fact that all the waiting room toys had been removed due to flu-spread concerns. She quickly found the only toys in the place, some elaborate wooden blocks that belonged to a little kid named Corbin with an ugly but nice mom who let Sarah play with them then hurried them back into her bag when Sarah got distracted and wandered further down the waiting area.

Andrew received one of his first “I’m disgusted at what a bad parent you are” looks from an Indian*** family who were waiting with their infant. Andrew guesses it was because he was unable to talon-claw his child’s shoulder before she went exploring in the restricted area behind the flu shot reception desk. He coaxed his kid back out and picked her up, but that wasn’t enough for the judgmental Indian family, who also didn’t look too happy that the reception desk lady rewarded Sarah for her transgression with a fragrant peach sucker.

Silas is about to cross the 20-pound weight mark, which to Andrew is exciting, but not as exciting as when Silas crossed the 16-pound mark and went from Not As Heavy As A Bowling Ball to In Fact Heavier Than A Bowling Ball. Ask one of the Mr. Mister guys where you can find a bowling ball, and he’ll tell you, “Kyrie Eleison… I mean, Aisle 12.”

* “You can find that gallon of paint in the hardware department and a $5 CD copy of my greatest hits in the electronics department. I had two hits. Both equally great.”

** Which, the Mr. Mister guys would tell you, you’d think lotion and salve for babies would be located in the baby section of Wal-Mart but actually are located with the adult personal beauty items. The Mr. Mister guys know their Wal-Mart layout. They’re proud of their greeter jobs.

*** 7-Eleven Indian, not Native American.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Super Bowl kids

February 6, 2011

Andrew Hicks

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andrew once again dashed his daily productivity goal and did not have this blog posted before midnight. The culprit this time? Super Bowl XLV. Now, don’t assume for a second that Andrew cared a thing about the game. He had to double check which teams were playing before the game started so he wouldn’t look like a moron at the party. Andrew never watches football and, in fact, spent most of his high school years at a Christian school whose homecoming game took place on the soccer field against schools with names like Because He Died For Us Central.

Let’s not forget, though, Super Bowl is one of the major party days every year, and until just a few months ago, Andrew was a major partier. Super Bowl is only partially about the game. It’s also about gathering, eating a ton of food and talking over the game. Andrew estimates that this Super Bowl, the first since he quit drinking, he paid less attention to the game than when he was matching Anheuser Busch ads one beer per commercial.

The domestic takeover of Andrew’s life, though, was ever-apparent at this year’s Super Bowl party. He went with his wife and kids to the next-door neighbor’s house. Andrew’s two kids plus the neighbor’s four kids plus the neighbor’s best friend’s two kids plus another neighbor’s kid outnumbered the adults in attendance. Seven adults, nine children, and it was a completely new experience for Andrew to have his child playing in another area of another person’s house with other kids.

He had to frequently quit watching the game — no major sacrifice, but still — to go upstairs and check on his 2 year old, who was perfectly safe the entire time. Oh, and when one kid climbed up on Andrew’s shoulders during one of these visits and begged Andrew to take him for a ride, Andrew obliged him, not realizing that all the other young kids were going to see this, think it was awesome and each want their own turns. Then beg for second turns directly after completing their first turns.

Andrew quickly felt every bit of how out of shape he was, which he supposes is some kind of basic irony, considering Super Bowl is supposed to be the ultimate show of the atheletic strength and agility of the few contrasted with the passive, indulgent consumption of the many.

Oh, and Andrew wants to add that he was tired of people talking about Christina Aguilera messing up the national anthem immediately — partially because he couldn’t come up with an easy, decent joke about it. He is grateful, however, that the Aguilera incident caused entertainment gossip shows to dig up a hilarious 2003 clip of Michael Bolton having to check the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” that he wrote on his palm. Funniest part was, people were still asking Michael Bolton to sing the national anthem at major events in 2003.

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Baby Silas, ready for transport.

Toddler with flowers

February 5, 2011

Andrew Hicks

When you up your blog productivity to once a day from two or three times per week or just whenever you feel like writing it, you start using little tricks you wouldn’t have considered before. List-oriented posts, writing heavy on back story, and now the photo essay. Ah yes, the photo essay, the easiest way to fill a bunch of space, especially when you’ve got a cute little kid playing with flowers.

My mom ordered a huge, beautiful bouquet delivered to our house for Tiffany’s birthday. It came in the early evening, Tiffany fawned over it and primped it up just the way she wanted it (while, I think, I was off changing a diaper or something) then went to bed early. An hour or so later, Sarah managed to sneak up to the flowers and pluck out a red rose and that yellow daisy or daffodil or delphinium or whatever that is.

And, instead of getting the flowers away from her, I pulled out the camera. Below are Figures 1.1-1.4. Missing are Figure 1.5, in which Sarah spits out the rose petals, and Figures 1.6-3.1, in which Tiffany awakens in the middle of the night, tries to get a peek at her beautiful floral birthday bouquet, finds out there are flowers missing, and expresses her displeasure with yours truly.

Figure 1.1 -- Here, Sarah is already done sniffing the yellow flower and is enjoying the texture of the petals on her lower lip.

Fig 1.2 -- Sarah introduces the rose to her nasal palette.

Fig 1.3 -- Sarah shoves rose petals into her mouth.

Fig 1.4 -- Gleeful, enthusiastic rose-chewing.

Snowpacalypto

February 2, 2011

Andrew Hicks

The groundhog couldn’t show up to perform his annual ritual today because his ’89 Mercury Sable was stuck in the back corner of a cul de sac. Famous or not, you can’t afford a very good car when you only work one day out of the year. Unless your last name is Claus.

There’s almost a foot of snow on the ground right now. I don’t know exactly how much — I know the drifts came halfway up to my knees at 2:30 am when I took the recycling to the curb. Now, at 3:12 pm, the recycling still sits, snow covering broken-down cardboard and crushed cans of Diet Mountain Dew. The recycle-truck driver wins this round in the common sense battle.

Since then, though, I’ve followed a strict regimen of staying indoors and looking out the window. I’ve seen the cars stuck with tires spinning, the kids coming outside to play with no coats, hats or gloves on and — my favorite — the snow plows kicking feet of snow onto cars parked on the street, effectively burying them. That never gets old to watch.

Tiffany and Josh spent a half-hour digging out the car just now while I was watching the babies. Well, more accurately, the babies and I were inside, watching them struggle. “Look, Mommy’s spinning tires are burning rubber, Silas,” I said in cutesy voice. “Whoa Sarah, Josh looks like his back really hurts from all that shoveling. Big owie!” Mature hunter/gatherer, alpha male-type behavior from cozy, dry me.

The huge mass of snow is causing problems and inconveniences, but it could have been much worse. At least the power stayed on. I did make minor preparations in the event of disaster. My stockpile of ice cream, chips and frozen pizzas ran dry last night, but I still have all eight gallons of survival water I bought on Monday. Thinking of throwing a hydration party this weekend. Invite some people over and get to drinking.

MY SNOW-RELATED FACEBOOK STATUSES

Reverend Al Sharpton is organizing a protest of The Weather Channel because he heard them tell viewers to “be especially careful around dangerous, slippery black guys.” I was watching too, Al. Pretty sure they said “black ICE.” You do this every winter, Al.

NPR keeps warning of a blizzard with a macabre, opium-addicted side… EDGAR ALLAN SNOW.

Revelation 6:1 (KJV): “And I saw, and behold a white horse; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth precipitating with heavy wind and freezing rain. Behold, the first horseman of the Snowpacalypse!”

Who else is watching the Playa News Network’s nonstop coverage of Pimps Up, Snow’s Down?

Computer catapult games

January 23, 2011

Andrew Hicks

I got back into the habit of typing “2010” in as I write new blog entries, so on the 20th, I went back to get an updated tally of how many January days I’ve mislabeled in 2011. It was a dead heat after the first 20 days — 10 posts labeled “2010,” and 10 labeled “2011.” Now that I’ve devoted this time and space to analyze the issue twice, I think I’ve broken myself of the habit. The last three days’ worth of blogs have managed to correctly identify the year in which they were written.

This habit has caused me problems in the past. I was in the DMV one January afternoon, titling a car I’d just bought, and when I went to sign my part of the title, I wrote down the wrong year, the earlier year. Oops. They had to get the seller on the phone — I’d bought it from a friend, but it was still in her mother’s name, and her mother lived in Louisiana — and fax the title over to some Shreveport Office Max or something. She showed up there, and I guess initialed her approval of the scribbled-on date change, then she faxed it back.

I think she was working out when her daughter called her, so I appreciate her getting her sweaty ass over to the nearest Office Max fax machine. I got every penny of my money’s worth out of that car, too.

Sarah seems to have already graduated from wanting to sit on my lap and watch Mickey Mouse shorts on YouTube to wanting to play paint coloring games on the computer. Well, she doesn’t play really, but she watches me color in the different elements of the “No Square Wheels” sign on Jungle Junction‘s website. It’s a little tedious for me to color in endless simple cartoon drawings, but it’s made me more mindful of the color palette in general. I no longer wear pink and green in conjunction with diagonal stripes. Not after Labor Day, anyway.

I found out Sarah stays entertained watching me play computer games, too. Though I am and have always been a huge nerd, the peak of my “gaming” life was probably at the age of 12 or so. I was a huge childhood fan of Atari and the original Nintendo Entertainment System; anything more sophisticated than that I’ve only played sporadically or not at all. And I don’t sit around and play games online, either. All of a sudden, I have to build a repertoire. That should be fun.

On one of the paint sites, I found a game where you launch a brave little guy off a catapult, setting the strength and trajectory angles by pushing the space bar at a certain time. The first eight or so times I played it, I didn’t know what else you were supposed to do, so the guy kept having graphic, brutal ground landings. Sarah was saying, “Owww!” and “Are you okay?” Later, I found out you could get jumping powers by sailing through pink clouds, and that the little guy came equipped with parachute.

The instructions and all the game buttons were in German, so it took me a minute. Thank God for the occasional obvious visual aid or English word. “Die menschen zu fliegen durch die luft UP ARROW. Ddie rosa wolke durch drücken SPACE BAR.” I was a German Translator Tool to the preceding sentence. Then I wrote this sentence in English and translated to English, then translated it back to English.*

*Original text: “I used a German translator tool to provide the preceding sentence. Then I wrote this sentence in English, translated it to German, then translated it back to English.”

FAMILY PICTURE OF THE DAY

At a Cardinals game with Tiffany on Easter, 2009.

Stay out of the sewer

October 13, 2010

Andrew Hicks

The weather has been beautiful for almost a week straight. Sarah and I play outside, and I’m mobile enough on crutches that I can “walk” (though it is comical enough to watch that it deserves the quote marks and these parentheses and some italics) the perimeter and go up and down the hill with her.

 

I get worn out easily and retreat to the deck chairs, and that’s when Sarah turns to her props. She’s fond of a giant blue exercise ball that’s almost as big as she is. She also likes to wheel the four-wheel pink horse thing up the hill, then ride it down while laughing. Taking Sarah sledding will be fun when the time comes. Let’s just be sure to fully heal from the last mishap before inviting a new one.

Sarah occasionally likes to venture past her allowed boundaries. She loves to bang on other people’s sliding glass doors. And she loves to play on the concrete storm sewer platform. I’ve seen the TV movie of Stephen King’s It. I know you keep your kids away from those yawning, rectangular sewer openings where the evil clowns live.

As a rookie parent with very little history of authority in the real world, I’m still working out how to make Sarah listen and obey. I won’t be one of those “screaming and hitting,” abusive, low-rent parents you see at Dollar Tree when you’re just trying to reach for the Kraft Thousand Island With Bacon dressing. Which tastes like crap, by the way. I want my dollar back, and I’ll scream and hit to get it.

On crutches, I’ve lost my #1 Dad on Autopilot trick, which is to scoop Sarah up and remove her from the scene rather than achieving the desired behavior from her. Probably a good thing, because now we have to talk it out. I’m trying to weed out my #2 Dad on Autopilot trick, which is to bribe the crap out of the little munchkin. If, “You’re not supposed to play on the evil clown sewer, let’s go play with your ball,” doesn’t work, I’m tempted to ask if she wants to watch Elmo or see pictures on my phone or eat a mound of Doritos instead of being abducted by a sewer-dwelling Tim Curry in white greasepaint.

My toddler diva all of a sudden can’t get enough of the video clips on my phone she’s the star of. “Watch movie?” doesn’t mean “Let’s check out Citizen Kane, I hear it has some of the most inventive mise-en-scenes in cinematic history.” It means, “Let’s watch me splash in puddles at the park on a one-minute permaloop.”

“Look pictures,” means, “Let’s look at all 90 pictures in dad’s phone for the eighth time today.” That I don’t mind so much, because Sarah continues to surprise me with her one-word descriptions of each picture. She’ll usually start by saying who’s in the picture, then the next time through it’s more about what’s in the picture. “Bike, park, bathtub, akeem, car, sleeping…” I’m just softhearted enough to be touched and amazed by it.

This girl is absorbing words left and right, which I found out the hard way when I said “shit” under my breath then so did Sarah, from across the room. I told Tiffany about the transgression after the fact, and she said, “Oops,” followed immediately by, “Was it cute?” It was cute, shit, I can’t lie. But no more accidental cussing around the toddler. Easily said, I know.

Sarah and I keep having to come inside early due to swarms of mosquitoes. It’s the downside of our week-long Indian summer. They’re probably humping like bunnies down in that storm sewer (i.e. the mosquitoes, not the Indians), and if Sting’s tantric ass has taught us anything, it’s that marathon sex creates an insatiable thirst for human blood. And tepid adult-contemporary hits. I have bites all over me, and so does Sarah. She’s got a big bite on her cheek, and even that looks cute, like she has an adorable case of acne-onset.

Poor Silas, my 3 month old, has had newborn acne almost since Day One. Does they make ProActiv in his age group? Silas’s little face bumps are making him self-conscious around the girl babies.

My social life at the moment, outside of immediate family, consists of maybe one friend visit per week, the dully addictive world of Facebook, and the occasional chain-smoking retiree sitting on her outside patio. I ran into one such yellow-haired, yellow-fingered nicotine repository yesterday afternoon. She intoned through gravelly throat phlegm that my daughter was beautiful and that I should enjoy my kids while I can.

“When they’re 18 and 20,” she wheezed, “they won’t come around much anymore.” I wanted to offer some kind of consolatory protest, then I thought of myself at the late-teen age. I had awesome parents and grandparents and lots of less-than-awesome excuses not to see them on a more regular basis.

Liggett Lady was right. I have to cherish the everydayness of parenting. It seems like ages since Sarah was Silas’s size, taking naps on my chest and sucking down 4-ounce bottles. Now she’s describing photos to me, in mostly clean language. Soon Silas will be her age and she’ll be in preschool. I’ll be in my mid-thirties. And Liggett Lady will have smoked another hundred or so cartons. Time marches on.

BABY PICTURE OF THE DAY

Silas celebrates St. Patrick's Day--er, goes for a walk.