Friday was my thirty-first birthday.  I was reminded of this on Friday morning when Elise woke me up by kissing me on the cheek and saying, “Happy birthday!”

It was a regular work day and at 2:51 I found myself on the phone with a client in a conference room.  2:51 was when I was born.

January 26th is a very important day as it the birthday of many other very important people.  For example, Frankie Rayder, apparently a faithful patriot, also turned 31 on Friday.  Film critic Gene Siskel was born on this day.  Bob Uecker and Paul Newman share the day with me.  Ellen DeGeneres, pro-arm wrestler and primary reason why laundry doesn’t get done in our house was also born on the 26th.  And my favorite, Eddie Van Halen.  Since I was ten-years-old I’ve made it a tradition to listen to Van Halen on my birthday.

I hurried home from work on Friday evening.  Mom had come up to spend the weekend with us and she and Elise were making dinner in the kitchen.  After dinner Elise and I drove downtown to see Dave Barry at the Paramount Theater. Dave was funny enough to keep a smile on my face for an hour and a half but Elise and I both left with a feeling that there was something to be desired.

We drove home while listening to Van Halen on the iPod.  When we got home, I opened presents.  Mom got me a Magic Bullet blender that I’m hoping I won’t destroy the first time I use it.  Elise got me Hudson on the Bend’s second cookbook, “Fired Up”, which, I’m hoping, will inspire me to cook again.

After presents we engaged ourselves in one of my favorite conversation pieces: religion.  I’m pretty sure I did a fantastic job of portraying myself as Marilyn Manson to my Mom and wife and I’m almost certain I heard Maly wake up and from her room snicker and say, “Dude, you’re sooo going to hell.”

On Saturday Elise textured our bathroom walls.  Earlier this month we experienced to great joys of stripping wall paper.  If you’re ever in the position where you have to either strip wall paper or play Russian Roulette with a guy named Twitch, choose the latter.

Saturday night we had dinner with our friends at what used to be the Y Bar and Grill in Oak Hill which is now Nunzia’s at the Y which we will probably NEVER patronize again.  We used to love going to the Y which became Nunzia’s, to our dismay on Friday.  Albeit our party was twelve-top but I don’t like 3-hour dinners.  Service was sub par.  They ran out of a wine we all liked.  After we ordered entrees it was brought to our attention that they’d run out of swordfish.  Ten minutes later we were told they’d ran out of halibut.  We were at the restaurant at 6 p.m. and one of the first tables there for dinner service.  The chefs should have a) taken inventory and stocked accordingly for Saturday dinner and b) informed the waitstaff of said inventory.  When we did finally eat, nobody mentioned their meal.  I wanted my friends and family to enjoy our time together but I really wanted them to enjoy their meals.  Nunzia’s didn’t pull it together for me.   I had a great time with everyone last night but I’m pissed at the restaurant.  I want to fire people.

We came home after dinner and put Maly to sleep.  Victor came over for a nightcap and helped me figure out the I-Cat that Jack gave me for my birthday.

After an hour or so Victor left, we all went to bed and I resolved to the fact that I’m now a thirty-something.

The tongue depressor

I was in the elevator this afternoon with two coworkers. The other two, both bachelors, were having a conversation about their friends who are parents. The gist of the conversation was, “Once you become a parent, you live, eat and breathe your children.” They went on to reflect on their respective social lives and how children have dramatically effected their friends. My understanding of the conversation was that neither of them were ready to contemplate having children. It was then that I chimed in and said, “I have a nine-month-old daughter.” One stated, “So, you know what it’s like!” To which I responded, “Yep.” And then went on to say something that I heard from Janeen years ago. “…And I couldn’t imagine life otherwise.”

On Saturday Elise went to brunch with her girlfriends and they all worked on baby books. Maly and I hung out most of the day. I did something to make Maly laugh and I saw what looked like a tooth poking out from her lower front gums. I put my finger in her mouth and, sure enough, she had cut her first tooth. I picked her up and we ran around the house while I gleefully celebrated a tooth. I was so proud at that moment and Maly giggled as I ran and her hair blew back. Even though she’s not consciously responsible for this milestone, I was so proud of her. A tooth meant that she can start eating real solid food. During lunch I started having visions of my daughter wanting to help me cook. The wheel starting turning and I smiled as I thought about my baby growing up.

This morning we took Maly for her nine month check-up. She passed with flying colors and I was really proud of that as I hadn’t been to a Maly check-up in six months. I was so proud that I took the tongue depressor that the physician’s assistant used with Maly. I kept it in my pocket today and clutched with my left hand while in the elevator this afternoon as I listened to my coworkers’ conversation.

And it’s so very true… I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t imagine life otherwise. Maly means the world to me.

And I’m keeping that tongue depressor.

Long weekend and real Winter weather

On Friday Elise, Maly and I went out for fried catfish at the Manchaca Fire Hall Kitchen. The atmosphere was a lot of fun and Maly was able to watch a live Bluegrass band. The food: good but not as good as the catfish at Crossroads in Cat Spring, but still a fun family place we might find ourselves at on Friday nights in the future.

On Saturday Elise went to our neighbors house to work on Maly’s baby book. Maly and I we able to spend some quality time together. One of those quality moments involved her falling and whacking her cheek on the corner of my filing cabinet. That rendered a lot of tears and a nice purple bruise on her cheek. Later in the day she decided to try a backflip off of my office chair. That rendered me pacing about the house while clutching my daughter in my arms and repeating, “I’m sorry, baby. Daddy didn’t meant to drop you on your head.” Luckily both incidents were very minor.

On Sunday we finally bought chairs for our kitchen table. For three years we had been using Elise’s old director chairs from her college days and two lawn chairs. It was one of my goals after I found gainful employment to buy chairs for our kitchen table as sort of a way to honor my Dad. Our kitchen table was my Dad’s before he and Mom met. So the table is going on 40 years old and I obviously wanted to keep it and hopefully pass it down.

Monday was MLK Day and we did just what the late Reverend would have wanted us to do: we went to Home Depot. The weather started getting bad outside. Many roads and bridges were iced over and the temperature was dropping. While at the HoPot we picked out tile for Maly’s bathroom and shopped light fixtures for the breakfast nook. We drove across the street to World Market for wine, kitchen seat cushions and those really friggin’ good rosemary, olive oil and sea salt potato chips.

This morning we woke up to freezing temperatures outside, frozen roads and sleet. And then there was a thud. And then there was crying. I learned something very interesting this morning. My wife can run REALLY fast.

Maly fell out of her crib. It was a heartbreaking moment. The silver lining: she was sitting up on the floor when Elise ran in to pick her up. Proportionately speaking, I would venture to guess that Maly falling out of her crib would be like me toppling from 12 feet. We don’t know how or on what she landed, but she was sitting when we got to her room. She cried a very distinct “I’m really hurt” cry – one that we’d never heard before. We were really scared but, again, she was okay.

So we all watched to news to see what was happening with the weather and if I could go to work. The weather became worse as they day progress. Freezing temperatures, rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow!

I’m really thankful to have had the extra time to spend with Maly.  We’ve had a lot of fun (sans all of the head injuries).

The weather is still nasty outside so we’ll just stay in and play.

Monthly Maly Letter: Month nine

Dear Maly,

You turned nine-months-old today. Nine months is a huge number in my mind. Nine months is how long you lived inside of your Mom. Nine months of pure bliss in learning about pregnancy, labor and delivery and your Mom and me bonding even closer than than the day that we swore among family and friends that we would be together forever. Prior to that, the concept of “my daughter” and who you’ve actually turned out to be is beyond comprehension. If someone where to ask me, “Explain what it’s like to be a Dad.” I would answer that question with a question and ask, “Have you met my baby?” And you would do the rest of the talking. You would point and give a huge smile with your toothless grin which would fill the room happiness and immediately make everyone realize that life really is good. You’re just that kind of person.

Our favorite thing to do now is play after I’ve given you a bath. I set you down on the bed with your towel still wrapped around you and our game begins. After you’re mostly dry, I throw whatever part of the towel that isn’t wrapped around your body over your head and then I sneak my head up behind yours and whisper, “Where’s Maly? Where’s Maly?” And you start giggling and try to start crawling away with the towel still covering your face. I keep my head next to yours and keep whispering into your ear, “Where’s Maly?” You always give in and lie on your stomach and pull your face under your arm and giggle, all the while knowing that I’ll always be there, right behind you.

We’ve also created a new game this month that I like to call the “Suicide Game”. After you’ve dried off, I take towel off and let your crawl around the bed. It’s then that I start saying, “I’m gonna get you!!” You start laughing and crawling to the opposite side of the bed. I crawl on the floor beside the bed in the direction in which you’re heading. You laugh uncontrollably as you crawl while watch my head traveling to the same side of the bed as you. The bad habit we’ve established is that you don’t stop when you get to the edge of the bed. Well, you do stop for a moment, but I think you wait until I get there before you take your “leap of faith”. You took your first leap on accident and luckily I was there to catch one of your legs and keep you from landing head-first onto the bedroom floor. Now you always assume that I’m going to catch your legs and swing you upside down and make you giggle. It’s a bad habit that we’ve gotten ourselves into but it’s A LOT of fun. Just don’t tell your Mom. I hope that when I’m really old and you have to take care of me that you’ll swing me around by the ankles and make fart noises on my stomach when I go to launch myself off of your bed!

Speaking of habits. It’s been a few months since you grew out of your baby bathtub that I used to bathe you in. When I first starting bathing you in the big tub, I was trying to find the way in which it was most convenient for me to bathe you. I decided to kick off my flip flops and sit on the edge of the tub with my feet in the water with you. Now that the weather is getting colder, I have to take off my shoes, socks and roll up my jeans in order to partially get in the tub with you. I don’t know what age you’ll be when you can take baths by yourself but if you find yourself at 13-years-old and I’m walking to the bathroom with you while wearing capri pants and no shoes, you might want to say, “Hey Dad, I’ve got it figured out now. And you really shouldn’t be wearing my capri pants.”

Your Grandpa B. gave me a set of iPod speakers for Christmas this year. I decided to put them in your bathroom so we could listen to music while I give you a bath. We always listen 70’s country music because it reminds me of my Dad. We like to listen to Tom T. Hall, Crystal Gayle, Waylon Jennings, Freddie Fender, Charlie Pride, Willy Nelson and the rest. I try to sing to you and I think I do a pretty good job considering the bathroom’s acoustics. You don’t complain so I guess we have a pretty good time. I look forward to bath days because you and I have time to play and you really like the water. When you’re old enough, I’m thinking that I’ll buy a boat, just like my Dad did and you can learn to water ski and fish.

You had your first Christmas this year. Again you played the role of my little angel. I don’t know if I could’ve made it through the day without an emotional breakdown had you not been there with me. You sat in my lap the entire time while we all opened presents. I gave your Grandma a card that told her how thankful I was to have had the Dad that I had. I also told her that I was proud and thankful for her and my Dad. I watched her open the card and read it as I was clutching you in my lap. Your Grandma and I made eye contact long enough to share a heartfelt thought of missing your Grandpa. I was really sad at that point and wished that your Grandpa could have been there to kiss you and say, “Merry Christmas, Sugar!”

I gave your Mom a card that I wrote by hand. On it was a poem from the card that Grandpa gave to Grandma the year before he died. It was an emotional day for me but I’m glad that I had you there with me to help me through it. I think you really helped your Grandma too.

You thoroughly enjoyed your first Christmas. You got all kind of fun presents and even better, wrapping paper and bows! I’m glad you were able to spend your first Christmas in Des Moines with your family. I’m also glad that you were born into a family that loves each other so much.

Other parents have told me that they can’t imagine life without their children. You’ve made me realize how true that is. There are no words to describe the joy that you’ve brought to me. If I’ve had a bad day, you make all of the bad disappear the moment I hold you in my arms. For being such a little person, you sure have a lot of power.

You never cease to amaze me. You’ve taught yourself to crawl almost fast enough to keep up with me as I walk about the house. You pull yourself up onto your feet by using my legs, pat the back of my knees and say, “Huuuuh!! Huuuuhhh!!” when you want me to pick you up. You point and smile at strangers. You love to giggle as you look at yourself in the mirror.

You’re very outgoing but very bashful at the same time. You smile and point at me and then turn your head ever so slightly while pulling your shoulders up to your ears while you watch me out of the corner of your eye and giggle and snort.

Sometimes we’ll look at each other from across the room and we’ll both just start laughing. We have an amazing bond that means the world to me.

It’s true: I can’t imagine life without you. You make me smile and laugh in ways that I never knew were possible. I love and cherish every moment that I have with you. And every moment that I have with you is the best moment of my life.

I love you, Sugar!



Marketing that chaps my ass

  1. Credit protection from Citi: I received a letter from Citi, who we have our credit cards through. It was a very official, important and urgent letter. Apparently there was some activity in my account that seemed fraudulent. I obviously wanted to follow up with this because 1) I don’t want unauthorized transactions on my account and 2) I don’t want to be out and about and have my card declined. I called the toll free number and was able to speak to a customer service agent fairly quickly. He inquired about the charge at a restaurant at which we ate the previous night. He inquired about the gas purchase I made that morning. He inquired about the charge I made at lunch that afternoon. Everything was legit – no fraudulent charges. He then went on to try to sell me on a credit protection program for only $9.95 per month. This would allow me to check my credit rating monthly. I didn’t bother asking if this service would help customers fix their credit scores because I don’t need it, and I told the agent as much.So I was kind of pissed that I was tricked into making a phone call about my account only to be sold to. Smart ploy and I’m sure it’ll work for some people who don’t use credit wisely. Kudos to Citi for getting an extra $120 a year from some customers but now I’ll be leary before calling Citi regarding account specific information on my account.
  2. Funeral Home Direct Mailings: The funeral home where we held Dad’s memorial service sends me 9″ x 11″ packets nearly once a month now. The first package was some information on grieving as well as a condolence letter, which was nice, but still a stinging reminder. The next packet they sent me was a survey, which I thought was a good idea because they are a business that renders a service and feedback is always very valuable for the company. I dutifully filled out the survey and sent it back to them in the SASE that they provided. Tonight I had another packet in the mailbox from the funeral home. This was a form that we could fill out to make it easier on my family should Elise or I die. This form asked for information about standard life experiences like where we were born, went to school, military and work experience; things that could be put into a funeral program or announcement. I’d like to think that I’m done with that funeral home. I don’t really want correspondences from a funeral home because I don’t want to think of Elise or me dying and I’m still dealing with losing my Dad in my own way. I don’t want a business contacting me monthly reminding me of that and the logistics involved.  Great funeral home but believe me, I’ll remember everything about when Dad died. I don’t need a business card to remind me that my family was cheated.
  3. Steve Jobs: I’m looking around the house, trying to find things to sell and attempting to convince my wife that we need an iPhone.

New Year Roundup

Instead of watching bowl games on TV New Years Eve, Elise and I were in the master bathroom, pulling wallpaper. There’s only one thing more fun than pulling wallpaper and that’s getting two root canals simultaneously.  By Monday night we had all of the wallpaper removed and surprisingly, my teeth felt fine.

The week flew by and Friday was quickly upon us.  Friday night started with meeting for drinks and dinner at Brentwood Tavern.  Saturday morning Elise and Christine went to our neighbor’s house for scrapbooking which, in my book, is right up there with root canals and pulling wallpaper.  Maly and I spent the better part of the day together playing and getting my iBook set to send to Elise’s parents.

Perhaps I did the Zombie Eater wrong in a previous life because while Elise was away, Maly thought it would be cool to poop every half hour or so.  In case you don’t know me, I DO NOT deal well with miniature human feces.  Or any other feces for that matter.  The advice rendered while Elise was pregnant was, “Oh, if it’s your own kid, you won’t mind poopie diapers.”  To that I say bolshy yarblockos!

Late Saturday afternoon we went to the ol’ HoPot and ordered tile for our two bathrooms.  That night I went to the Apple Bar to meet my friend David and bid him farewell as he’s moving to DC later this month.

This morning we woke up and spent the better part of the day taking down Christmas lights and decorations.  We went for lunch at Madam Mam’s and then home to finish closing out the Christmas season.

Christmas 2006

Friday, December 22: Mom drove in early in the afternoon. I drove around Austin amongst holiday traffic and last-minute shoppers to find Maly the perfect gift for her first Christmas. We showed Mom where I work and then went out for barbecue at Green Mesquite on Barton Springs Rd. and then walked the Trail of Lights and to the Christmas Tree at Zilker Park.

Saturday, December 23: We left around 12:30 p.m. and headed to the airport in San Antonio to start our trip to Des Moines. Mom, Elise, Maly and I had a combined nine bags we were carrying with us. Our flight left at 3:15. We arrived at DFW where our connecting flights was four hours delayed. We ate Sbarro pizza on the floor and watched people as we waited on our flight. We arrived in Des Moines at 10:30 p.m.; Steve and Joanne picked us up at the airport and we all piled into the minivan and headed to the house.

Sunday, December 24: Grandma came over with cinnamon rolls. Steve and I went to HyVee for groceries. Later that afternoon we went to church where Steve and Joanne sang in the choir during mass. After church we went to friends of the Boeckmans townhome for a Christmas party. We all went back to the house and Steve and I drove to pick up Elise’s brother, Eric.

Monday, December 25: Maly’s first Christmas! We woke up early and took Maly downstairs and let her play with some of the toys that Santa had brought her. Eric and Grandma came over to the house around 10:30 and then we all opened our presents. Everyone pitched in early in the afternoon for a great prime rib dinner.

Tuesday, December 26: Elise went to brunch at Heather’s house with Lindsey, Traci and Kari. Steve and Joanne’s friends, Chuck and Sharyl came over for dinner. Yours truly smoked southwest rubbed salmon filets over pecan shells and mesquite finished with dijon, clarified butter, smoked Penzey’s green peppercorns and brown mustard seeds.  Mom made a spinach souffle and Joanne made a salad. After dinner that evening Elise and I went over to Eric’s house to hang out.

Wednesday, December 27: Elise’s friend, Ingrid and her mom, Susan stopped by to visit in the morning.  Steve and I went to the ol’ HoPot to get base shoes for the kitchen, front hallway and downstairs bathroom. That afternoon we cut and installed most of the base shoes. That night, Steve stayed home with Maly while Mom, Joanne, Elise and I saw Triple Espresso at The Temple for Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines. Excellent show to say the least. All four of us laughed the whole time. After the show, Joanne drove us around greater Des Moines to see all of the new developments around the city.

Thursday, December 28: We woke up, had breakfast and played with Maly. After Maly’s nap the three of us drove out to Ankeny to spend the afternoon with Elise’s long-time friends, James and Louise and their kids, Alexis and Avin. We had a blast at James and Louise’s house. Before we left, James introduced me to the sport of paintball. We went out on the back patio and took turns laying waste to random inanimate objects. I’m soooo getting a paintball gun for my birthday this month! While Elise, Maly and I were out, Steve, Joanne, Grandma and Mom went to the botanical garden. After we all made it back home, all 7 of us piled into the van to check out the Christmas lights at Waterworks Park. After the tour of lights, Elise and I drove over to Eric’s for a nice, home cooked meal of grilled asparagus and red peppers and filet mignon with a very rich creole sauce. With full bellies Elise and I drove back home to conk out for the evening.

Friday, December 29: We all hung around the house until early afternoon when the girls went to the Salisbury House for a grand tour. While the girls were away, Steve and I played with Maly, put her down for a nap and once she woke up, we all three went to CompUSA. Friday night was a shuffle as Steve and I tried to configure two webcams to work among his 700 MHz Windows PC and my iBook, all the while trying to download photos taken throughout the week to each others’ computers. I finally determined that their computer couldn’t cut the mustard and decided to sell them my iBook so they would be able to see their granddaughter live via video conference from 1000+ miles away.

Steve left to pick up Eric that evening. Grandma came over as well and we all ate pizza that Joanne made. Heather and her boyfriend, TJ stopped by with Heather’s daughter, Juliet.  They left the same time Grandma left and the rest of us played Scene It before taking Eric home for the night.

Saturday, December 30: The morning came early and it was time for Mom, Elise, Maly and me to head back home. Steve and Joanne took us to the airport and we all had to say our goodbyes.

We made it to DFW on time but had to wait at the gate for our connecting flight because of a delay in the flight out before us that was heading to Guadalajara. We landed in San Antonio around 3 p.m. and Elise and I had a helluva time (along with all of the other passengers who’d flown in from other delayed flights out of DFW ) finding our 5 checked bags. We finally got home in time for Burger Tex burgers and to watch Texas beat Iowa in the Alamo Bowl.