Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas, Baby

The 'J' in 'NJ' stood for jolly this holiday season. To wit:

My suggestion to you is that we commence with this festive gathering forthwith!
Mommy's sister gave me a drum! That makes two -- I'm that much closer to the sprawling uber-kit I've been dreaming of.

Of course, the box works pretty well, too, if you want some funky Tom Waits-style percussion.
Oh yes, this'll do nicely. If the drum doesn't wake Daddy up, this bad boy will.
A tee-pee, huh? How do you shut the door on this thing? I need some privacy.
I know it's not a hat, Mommy. That's why it's funny! Sheesh.
No, Mommy, YOU come HERE.
Time to unwind with some light reading.
But first, more drum work. Daddy, can you spot me while i climb up here Moon-style and trash the place? Thanks much.
Not pictured: NJ devouring Christmas chocolate. This kid loves her some chocolate; she only has eight teeth to this point, but apparently they're all sweet teeth.

If you don't see NJ enjoying a gift you sent her in these photos, don't despair. If you can measure that sort of thing by how widely they are spread throughout the house, she's enjoying every single thing she got. And if you didn't give her anything ... well, what's your problem, anyway?

Oh, not really! I've got too much stuff as it is. Seriously -- this place is a mess.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Twas The Night Before ... Man, "'Twas' Is Such A Funny Word, Right? Always Cracks Me Up. Anyway, Where Was I? Ah: 'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Last year NJ was four months old at Christmas, so there wasn't a lot of Santa's-coming-to-your-house-with-presents hoopla. I mean, she couldn't even sit up by herself without the aid of a Bumbo (right) -- so even though she made out like an adorable little bandit, present-wise, there was no need to go through with the Christmas morning ceremonies. (My family has always done Christmas the right way: We open presents from each other after dinner on Christmas Eve, then go to bed and wake up to more gifts -- the ones Santa brought from the North Pole because I was such a very, very good boy all year long.)

This year, of course, is much different -- the kid is a force in the house. Walking, jabbering, running after the dog when prompted, all of that. Today we found that, in the spirit of this blog's title, she's pretty handy with a light saber (actually, a cardboard wrapping paper tube). The three of us just spent a good fifteen minutes playing "NJ slays the parental Stormtroopers" in her bedroom. (Only now is it dawning on me that, basically, we just taught her how to attack someone with a sword -- if she grows up to be a samurai villian, it'll be no one's fault but mine.)

Prepare to get bonked.
Once we've eaten dinner and NJ is asleep in her crib, The Wife and I will mobilize. There are a few presents that need assembly, and we have to arrange things in the living room Just So to maximize the "excited kid toddles into a toy wonderland on Christmas morning" vibe that, hopefully, I'll be capturing tomorrow with the camcorder.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hallelujah! She's Sick

We got some good news today: NJ has two ear infections -- one for each ear!

Good news? Ear infections are GOOD NEWS? !)@&+%#*&#@, Daddy!
OK, maybe illness isn't good, particularly a double-barreled ear situation. But after a couple of days when I thought she was turning into the Awfullest Toddler Ever, at least now we know what's up with that. She's been wailing at the drop of a hat -- including early in the morning, which today meant that I had to get up a good ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off. (I know ... right?!?) She'd sit in her high chair and scream blue murder; she'd lay on the bed and scream herself crimson. Basically, she used every ominous color at her disposal to let us know about her discomfort.

Originally we thought it was a troublesome tooth coming in, but last night The Wife noticed NJ grabbing at her ear a lot, so she took her in this a.m. and the pediatrician handed down this diagnosis. Now NJ has been properly medicated and is asleep upstairs, The Wife is working from home, and I'm hard at work here in the basement office (or will be as soon as I finish this).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Duck My Life

We took our quack-quacking NJ to Green Lake this afternoon for a little bread-on-duck action. We've done it a couple of times already and she loves to watch the ducks, seagulls and other waterfowl in a feeding frenzy, as long as one of her parents is tossing the food -- as you'll see below, she's not much on throwing bread herself. Never passing up a chance to mentor my wide-eyed-with-wonder, ever-learning child, I delicately took a piece of bread from her hand and tossed it into the water for the birds. "See, like this!" I added helpfully. She only stopped crying once The Wife handed her another piece.

Once we were out of bread I walked Zeus around a bit while The Wife and NJ (her new chunk of bread still lodged in her pudgy hand) walked along the lake and kept company with the ducks. I saw that the kid was heading straight for a sizable rain puddle and thought "Uh-oh, those boots are going to get soaked." They did get soaked -- and so did a lot more of NJ's ensemble when she executed a Fatty Arbuckle-esque pratfall into the water, landing squarely on her fanny and not seeming to mind all that much. Sadly, the camcorder was already stashed away in her diaper bag, but here's a little photographic evidence to help us remember it forever:

Now, it's true I told NJ I loved the blues and hoped one day she'd get into Muddy Waters, but this isn't what I had in mind! Thank you, thank you very much -- I'll be here all week. Try the veal, and don't forget to tip your waitress.
We packed up the car and drove the now-pantsless kid home, where she continued to quack-quack for a bit, but then turned to other pursuits. Namely, marching around her room with a frog puppet on one hand, held defiantly in the air like she was a member of the 1968 Olympic relay team -- but cheerier, of course. There also were bubbles blown, laughed at, chased and burst. All in all, I think she had a pretty nice afternoon. And once she gets the connection between tossing the bread and seeing a duck feeding frenzy, I think she's going to be tossing a whole lot of bread.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Embarrassing Parental Milestone 2: Return Of The Embarrassing Parental Milestone

Last evening, NJ picked the remote control up off the coffee table and pointed it at the television.

That is all.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Sexy Beast

NJ has agreed to give up a little blog real estate in honor of her late, hairy brother, Willie. I had to put Willie's guns in the ground this week, and the boy deserves a few pixels dedicated to him.

All pets die eventually, but sexy boudoir photographs last forever.
You know Willie, whose official registered-with-the-AKC name was Redmond Chocolate Thunder, as one-half of the famous Two Idiots comedy team. He was as good a dog as I've ever known. I was fond of him from the day we brought him home, but he and I really bonded after two or three years when he established a routine that paid off for both me and him. He'd wake up The Wife very early -- leaving me be -- to let him outside and serve his breakfast. Then he'd come upstairs and jump back onto the bed with me and sleep until I got up. Shrewd, eh? This, I thought, is my kind of dog.

His penchant for eating anything -- A. Nee. Theen. Guh. -- was widely known, gossiped about and shuddered over. Now, at least, The Wife and I can blow our noses and freely toss our used tissues in the wastebasket without worrying that he'll be in there later, rooting them out and eating them. He so loved the scent and, apparently, taste of tissue paper that we occasionally came home from an outing to find that he'd pulled a nice, long trail of toilet paper from the bathroom to whatever room he'd made into his ad-hoc dining room. We learned quickly to shut the bathroom doors when we left the house, but sometimes we'd forget. And come home to this:

Don't just stand there pointing a camera, Ansel Adams -- get me some mustard!
In September 2009 Willie was slowing down, slightly -- a couple of gray hairs in the facial fur, and he took two steps at a time on the stairs instead of three -- but he still was being mistaken for a puppy on our walks in the neighborhood and around the lake. One day The Wife woke me up with news that he'd collapsed and couldn't move. I took him in and we found that he had a rare cancer that usually only shows up in Burmese mountain dogs. We had his spleen removed, but the cancer was fast and unrelenting, we were told, and he had two to three months to live. But he kept on keeping on -- his legs got a little arthritic, but I'd lift him onto the bed if he didn't feel like jumping. A couple of weeks ago, though -- fourteen months after he was given three months to live -- he stopped eating (and if you've been paying attention, that's a huge red flag). An ultrasound revealed that most of his innards were ravaged by cancer -- the vet was kind of impressed that he was surviving at all with so much of it all over his organs -- and while a steroid brought back his appetite and chippered him up for a while, it was only a while. A week later was Monday, and Monday was a really crappy day.

Zeus is still here, of course -- about a year younger than Willie, and a mutt so theoretically not as much risk of weird diseases. And while I love this guy too, he's no Willie. Whatever Zeus's previous owners did before The Wife and I got him from a rescue shelter did a number on him. It was weeks before he'd let us pet him, and to this day he'll only come when called about half the time. He's never fully embraced things like getting hugged or petted for long periods of time, or the general rolling-around-playing that Willie excelled at. We've always felt that Zeus loved Willie and liked us. Zeus followed Willie everywhere, and felt so secure and emboldened enough with his older brother that occasionally this notorious coward would growl at other dogs on our walks. Go on, come after me -- but before you do, get a real good look at this choco-Lab wildman to my right and ask yourself if you feel lucky.

Pass me that bottle, bro.
Now I feel better about things than I did in the days leading up to Willie's last trip to the vet, but I miss the SOB (I can say that, he literally was one) a whole lot. There's a beautiful song by The Band called "Rockin' Chair" about two elderly sailors who are headed home to spend the last of their days. I used to sing it to the dog when no one was around (he never once complained about my singing voice!) because the singer is one of the old geezers and he's singing to his friend Willie. It put me in the mind of a very, very elderly me sitting on a front porch, "with my very best friend, they call him Ragtime Willie." Silly, impossible, implausible, sure -- made me smile, though. And he sure loved the ear-scratching that came with it.

So it's the first Christmas in quite a while that I won't have to constantly worry that the tree is going to get knocked over because Willie is rooting around underneath it, or ornaments will be swatted across the room by his ever-wagging tail. It cheers me up a great deal to think that the next animal we bring into this house will be NJ's.

Oct. 31, 1997 - Dec. 6, 2010: RIP

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Walk On The Child Side

This is what's been going on around here for the past few days.