Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rednecks, Hillbillies, Farm Animals, and Rubber Duckies

Many of you know I celebrated a birthday earlier this month. Every year my birthday means a few things. One, I am getting older. Two, I will try to get away with anything and everything for one day. Three, The county fair is in town.

Growing up my birthday was always on the same week as the fair. That situation had its benefits. It ensured that I would always remember the fair, and it allowed me to pretend each year that there was a festival in my honor.

As a kid the fair meant rides and the demolition derby. The derby is the social event of the year in Arkansas County. It is the place to see and be seen. I haven't been to the derby in over a decade, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

Nowadays I am a resident of Garland county. That means I can still frequent the county fair during the week of my birthday. Even though the location has changed the fair remains pretty much the same. The fair will always mean rednecks and hillbillies. It will always mean people competing for the thrilling prize of best cow, pig, chicken, duck, rabbit, and mullet. The fair certainly still means carnies that scare the life out of small children.

Even with all the constants the fair is taking on new meaning as a father. This year it meant Braden picking up ducks for a prize. Then it meant Braden wanting the duck rather than the prize which led to intense negotiations.

It meant riding the merry go round.

 Most of all it meant good family fun and it always will as long as it never means Braden is barking for the yak lady or spreading pixie dust on the tilt-a-whirl like cousin Eddie's kids.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Macaroni And Cheese Tears a Family Apart

When Arica and I first met I knew right away that she was a good match for me. Everything seemed in order right of the bat. And as I got to know her better that definitely held true. I only found one thing about her that seemed odd to me.

Arica absolutely detests macaroni and cheese.

I used to tease her about it and say she must be a communist. There is no way that a full blooded American could not like mac and cheese. I just couldn't imagine that.

Well, let me warn you to be careful what you ridicule. Now I am the odd ball in our house because Braden hates the cheesy pasta favorite of many a kid as well. I teased my wife, and God saw fit to add another anti-macaroni member to our family.

Braden dislikes the dish so much that when it's served at school he refuses to eat anything. He won't eat a single thing that is on the same plate as the vile cheesy pasta. We have to keep extra meals at the school just for the days when macaroni is served. Otherwise our child would starve.

An interesting experiment might be to serve him some macaroni and cheese with a side of chocolate. I bet he would eat the chocolate, but nothing short of that would be deemed edible.

So once again I open my mouth and show my ignorance. Not only can a full blooded American dislike macaroni and cheese, but my very own flesh and blood can despise it as well. 

For the record, I am not a communist.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Woooooo Pig Sooie!!!

Tomorrow is a big day in the state of Arkansas. Our beloved Arkansas Razorbacks ranked #10 in the nation take on the defending national champion #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. It is by any measure the biggest game to take place in the state of Arkansas since #1 Texas came from behind to beat #2 Arkansas 15-14 on the final day of the season in 1969 with President Nixon in attendance.

As you might surmise I am excited. I am wearing a Razorback shirt at work today. For that matter I wore one yesterday too. As David Putty once explained, "You gotta support the team." Furthermore, if the Hogs are going to pull off the upset they need everyone to help including me.

I have been trying to raise Braden to love the Hogs all his life. His room is decorated in Razorback attire with the walls painted red and white. He can call the Hogs although it is hard to get him to participate. He does regularly exclaim "SooiEEE" though. That is what he calls Razorbacks. If he sees one on his shirt or anywhere else he will point at it and say "SooiEEE". It is an awesome thing to see for a life long Hog fan.

Before Braden was born when people saw all the Razorback stuff he was getting they would often innocently ask, "What if Braden doesn't like the Razorbacks?"

I would usually laugh and shrug off the question as if it was insane. When pressed I would offer, "If he wants to root for another team he better find another place to sleep at night."

Such is the devotion to the Hogs in my house and all across the state. We don't have a pro team. We don't have any big cities. Heck, we don't even have a good reputation around the country. What we do have is our Razorbacks.

So on Saturday afternoon rednecks and hillbillies alike will be gathered around our TVs with the rabbit ears tuned just right to support those Hogs. Hopefully come next week everyone in the sporting world will be saying nice things about our great state.

If not then we will just shut down Wal Mart to get back at all of you.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Secret Snoopy Love

I have written about Braden watching Cars enough to make everyone sick. Recently he has toned that down a bit. He will change DVDs to Elmo or Shrek at some point most evenings. The main reason he does it is just because he likes to change the DVDs out. We let him do it, and he feels all grown up.

Despite all the talk about Cars, Braden actually has an affinity for some classics as well. He watches the Mickey Mouse club house every morning while eating his breakfast. That may not be a classic but Mickey himself is as classic as they come. From Steamboat Willie until now that mouse has been the man.

Braden calls Mickey "Dot Dog" because of the hot dog song and dance at the end of the show. He knows his name is Mickey but never calls him that. If I ask what Mickey says Braden will reply "Dot dot dog" in his best excited sing songy voice.

Braden has two stuffed Mickey's as well. One is about the same size as our little man. He calls him "Big Dot Dog". The other is about the size of my hand. He calls that one "Mo Dot Dog" as in more hot dog.

Braden sleeps with both of them every night along with his pal Monkey.

The other classic Braden loves would be a surprise to even the little man himself. He doesn't know it yet, but I am certain that he has a secret liking for Snoopy. I loved Snoopy as a kid so imagine how excited I was recently when I saw Braden imitating my favorite cartoon beagle.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Here's Water In Your Eye

There is a fairly large online community, many of them my friends, of stay at home dads (SAHD). A lot of the growing presence of this Dad blogging stuff is fueled by those same SAHD's. I often read about the problems they have in what is typically a female dominated occupation. As bloggers they are also introduced to all sorts of offers and advertisers that address them as moms based on assumptions alone. I know from following these guys how frustrating this can be.

Even with the growing number of SAHD's I still think that there are many things that moms do as parents much better than us dads. If you disagree then by all means call me an idiot. It won't be the first time.

In my experience moms are simply more nurturing and gentle people. They are more understanding and compassionate. I, being a dad, am in no way gentle. I am not nurturing. I am rough and practical. I am more prone to analysis of the problem than offering my condolences.

I am OK with this. I think it clearly shows why it is best to have two parents raise a child. The kid then gets the benefits of each type of personality. Braden has his sweet loving mom to care for his every need, and he has his dad to teach him how to kill animals and fix the sink.

Over the past year bathing Braden has been one of my primary duties. For the first 6 months of his life I don't think I ever gave Braden a bath. It was a delicate process and I feared it immensely. Eventually Arica helped me overcome that fear and become a baby washer.

I watched Arica so many time gently wash the shampoo out of Braden's hair careful to avoid getting any water or shampoo in his eyes. I watched her do it again recently and she hasn't lost her touch. She is soft and gentle and ever so caring.

When I am at the controls the description is more fast and shaky. I have never been able to keep the water out of Braden's eyes. I have tried and tried for Braden's sake. Eventually I just started going for the quickest solution. My reasoning was that Braden was going to get water in his eyes no matter what so the quicker I finished the better.

This method has worked out pretty well in my opinion. As you can see below my careless non-nurturing method of hair rinsing has helped develop a fearless little bath tub warrior.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Invisible Disciplinarian

I really had no idea what I was getting into nearly two years ago when Braden was born. I had no idea how to feed a baby. I had never changed a diaper. I didn't have the first idea how to get a baby to sleep through the night. It was all foreign ground to me. My "Life as a New Dad" would be a trial by fire, and I think this blog has always shown that to be true.

Lately I have been especially overwhelmed by love and amazement for our little man Braden. The teachers at his school/daycare are always singing his praises. He is the only kid in his class that feeds himself. He is actually helping teach the other kids to be more vocal because of how well he speaks and verbalizes his wants and needs.

He is the absolute light of our world. Even a moment away from him seems so much more dull and dreary.  Watching his growth has been amazing. Watching his mind decipher so many things is a wonder, but even amidst this amazing journey of love and rainbows I have developed a problem.

Braden doesn't listen to me at all.

I always thought my kids would listen to everything I said. My word would be like some sort of law from on high. No one would question my authority. I would have the final say. I guess I envisioned myself as some sort of disciplinarian.

I have never been more incorrect about anything in my life.

Braden and I are the best of friends. We play from the moment I get home until bedtime every day. We play with his ever growing collection of cars and "Cars". We have Doc, Sally, Mater, Mack, Lightning McQueen, and Sheriff. We play baseball. We play basketball. We chase each other around the house tickling, wrestling, and acting just plain silly.

When it comes time for discipline, however, I might as well be a stranger at the mall. Braden will look at me for a second and then continue on doing exactly what I forbid. It happens pretty much every time.

When Arica speaks, Braden listens. She uses the timeout technique to perfection to keep Braden in line. He rarely disobeys her.

So here I am the parent that is taken lightly. I never would have guessed that. I know I have to start being more consistent with timeouts. I have also learned from Arica that I need to work on my tone of voice and my general attitude towards disciplining Braden. My methods aren't conducive to teaching and mostly just challenge Braden and irritate him.

To say that my son is independent and a little stubborn is like saying The Empire State Building is tall. The way I approach him often stirs his need to resist and maintain his independence. In order to fix this problem I have to change my methods. I must work much harder to find ways to get through to Braden.

This has been bothering me a lot lately. Thank the good Lord I have Arica to help me figure this all out. Otherwise I would be fighting tooth and nail with Braden for another 16 years.

Well, I'm sure we'll still fight our fair share, but at least with Arica's help I might win a few here and there.

Monday, September 13, 2010


A number can mean so many things

First Larry Bird

Then Scottie Pippen

Later it's the amount of money I need for beer and cigarettes on Friday night

Then it is the number of minutes I stressed out about calling Arica for the first time

Maybe it's the number of sweat beads on my forehead as she walks down the aisle

Now it could be the number of times an hour Braden makes my heart leap with joy

Or the number of toy cars he has strewn across the floor

It's the exact number of days until the start of Muzzleload season

But today it also means something else

They say that age is just a number

Today my number is 33

Friday, September 10, 2010

Back in the Summer of 2010

Give yourself a sticker for surviving Summer 2010 because it is gone. I don't care what the calendar says, it's over. I know this for certain because on my daily drives to and from work I don't have to dodge fourteen boats piled high with tubes, kids, and coolers as they head for the lake. I am not seeing as many people roaming around Wal Mart in their swimming suits with armfuls of potato chips and sunscreen. Our little town has slowed down again for the winter. It is nice, and to top it off we have even had rain for three straight days.

To further cement the end of summer football has returned to our lives. The Razorbacks won their first game and have climbed to #14 and #15 in the polls. This Saturday Arica and I are heading off to our first football game of the year. We will see friends, have fun, and call the Hogs on their way to another blowout victory against a former directional Louisiana school that is now simply ULM.

Even with the joy of football season beginning we will mourn the passing of another summer. There are good and bad things about every summer in Arkansas and this year was no different. Really the only bad thing was the oppressive heat. The temperature was over 100 degrees for nearly the entire month of August. That leads to huge patches of dead grass, nearly zero outdoor activities, and high energy bills. But even the heat can't keep us from having fun.

Now it is time to recap the good things about Summer 2010 aka Braden's second summer.

This year was the first family vacation which included Braden's first Cardinals game and a trip to the zoo. We also took Braden on his first of hundreds of lake trips. We went to water parks with and without the little man. Arica and I snuck in one trip that ended with a free Billy Currington concert. God is great. Beer is good. And people are crazy indeed.

There were plenty of other little things that were equally as awesome as vacations, water parks, and free concerts. For example:

We introduced Braden to snow cones.

Braden learned to help feed the dogs, and now he loves to do it every day. He has even developed somewhat of a friendship with the old hounds.

And finally there is one good thing that all this heat brings, besides all the water activities. It gives you a great excuse to run around the house in your underwear.

So that is it Summer 2010. It seems we hardly knew you. Until next Memorial Day when I fire up the grill and pop in the Saving Private Ryan DVD, I hope you enjoy your trip to the Southern Hemisphere.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Obama Is Following Me

We are back from Cleveland, and apparently we have started a hot new trend. Even President Obama is following in our footsteps with a visit to the city. I am sorry to inform you Mr. President, but we have already gone.

Thanks go out to Weasel Momma for providing us with this fun getaway via her giveaway on World of Weasels. If you don't know her by now then stop by and say hello. She is sure to keep giving stuff away now that she has a taste of giving away showcases like Bob Barker.

For now I will wrap it up with my new updated Top 5 things about Cleveland list.
  1. Downtown Cleveland is packed with great places to eat. We had a great meal every night and could have continued that trend for weeks to come. There are all sorts of different cuisines and settings right in the downtown area. We even saw my friend PJ Mullen's hero Michael Symon's restaurant "Lola" on Sunday, but it was closed. With a little better planning we could have eaten at an Iron Chef's restaurant.
  2. If food is number one then beer has to be number two. Great Lakes Brewing Company, located in Cleveland, makes several fine beers. While I couldn't try them all I did manage to try a Burning River Ale, a Dortmunder Gold, and an Eliot Ness. All were excellent.
  3. Downtown Cleveland is nice. Tons of places to eat and drink within walking distance of our hotel. Also within walking distance are the home fields for the Cleveland Browns and Cleveland Indians. If they could field a decent team with either of those franchises then they would really be on to something. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is right there too.
  4. The Christmas story house still makes the list. I liked the place. It is the leg lamp capital of the world.
  5. The Rock an Roll Hall of Fame was cool. I am not the biggest museum guy in the world, but any place that honors the best of the best in Rock in Roll is like the Hall of Fame for cool people, so it has that going for it.
Yes I dropped Lou Brown and his troops off the list. I felt since I have actually been to the city that I should focus on the real parts of the city. Major League is still one of my favorite movies and the best thing about the Cleveland Indians franchise.

Also the weather stunk. I froze to death for the entire weekend. It was windy and cold. At least it seemed cold to me being from the south. It reinforced my thinking that if I ever leave Arkansas I will be moving somewhere closer to the equator.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cleveland, The Bumpuses, and Lou Brown

Friday morning Arica and I are leaving for Cleveland. You may have heard that we won a free trip from Weasel Momma a few weeks back. Well in an effort to miss the fewest days of work possible we are cashing in on the trip this Labor Day weekend.

We are to some degree breaking the rules of the trip giveaway. It is supposed to be a all expenses paid family vacation. We have already had a full one week family vacation this year, so we are turning this into an adults only weekend. It will be nice to have some time for each other.
Arica and I are anxious about leaving Braden for an entire weekend. Arica has never been away from him that long before so I know it will be hard for her. I have been away a lot longer than that, but I will still miss my little buddy terribly.

The fact is that in order to be the best parents we can be for Braden we need to take care of ourselves as well. Mentally and physically exhausted parents do Braden absolutely no good. So we are taking a short little getaway to recharge the batteries. Hopefully after some R & R (both rest and relaxation and Rock and Roll HOF) we will be fully refreshed and ready to conquer the months to come.

I know absolutely nothing about Cleveland. I would have never taken a trip there, but that is a cool thing about free trips. You get to see a part of the country that you may never have considered otherwise. When I return I will have plenty of pictures and  a few stories to tell about all the things I learned about Cleveland.

I thought it would be fun to do a "Top 5 Things I Like About Cleveland" list before and after the trip.Here is my very uneducated before list.
  1. Cleveland is the home of the Cleveland Indians. I don't care about the real version. I am talking about the Hollywood versions consisting of Rick Vaughn, Jake Taylor, Willie Mays Hayes, Roger Dorn, Eddie Harris, and the late great Lou Brown.
  2. Even though I always thought it should be in Memphis, Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  3. I recently found out that Cleveland was home to the Christmas Story House. That is beyond awesome and moves Cleveland way up the list. The only thing that could be better is if the Bumpus family dog kennel was located next door. And if you hear that the leg lamp has been stolen, don't look at me.
  4. Cleveland is on the shores of Lake Erie. I have only seen Lake Michigan but I think the Great Lakes are pretty cool. They are like giant fresh water oceans in the middle of North America.
  5. I am going with Jim Brown, former Cleveland Brown here. He was one of the greatest football players ever. He is a notoriously tough guy who, frankly, scares the crap out of me. And he was in the movie "The Dirty Dozen" that I watched many times with my Dad when I was growing up.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Running with Scissors

I am thinking about the scope of my blog today. What kind of blog is this? A friend of mine told me recently that he considered it sort of a road map of what he could expect when he became a father. Of course we look at life through very similar eyes so maybe he can actually get something from all this mess.

In reality I don't think I have ever offered a word of advice in this space. I have told a lot of stories. In fact I think that is really my writing style. I tell a story mixed with a few examples and references to things that I find important in life like Seinfeld, Pearl Jam, and baseball.

I have also told some jokes and made some fairly obvious observations. One of my favorite things to do is philosophize on different topics relating to parenting. In these cases I have told about my philosophies on what is important to me in raising my son. Of course all of this is just wishful thinking. In fact I write a lot of this stuff as a target for my own parenting efforts. I rarely hit the bulls eye but it is nice to have something to aim at.

Still I have offered no advice. Maybe some day I will drop some profound wisdom on you readers, but today I can only offer this:

While keeping your children from dangerous activities like running with scissors is very important to their physical health, it is also important for us as parents to ensure the mental health of our offspring by not being too overbearing in our desire to keep them from harm.

After all you don't want to raise a child that ends up like this, do you?