Five

emmy-five

She spins and she sways to whatever song plays
Without a care in the world
And I’m sitting here wearing the weight of the world on my shoulders
It’s been a long day and there’s still work to do…

So I will dance with Cinderella
While she is here in my arms
‘Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh I will dance with Cinderella
I don’t want to miss even one song
‘Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she’ll be gone

Happy 5th birthday, sweet Emmaline.

Six

IMG_3652

I’ve these dreams I’m
Walking home
Home when it used to be
And everything is
As it was
Frozen in front of me

Here I stand
6 feet small
romanticizing years ago
it’s a bitter sweet feeling hearing “Wrapped Around Your Finger” on the radio

and these days
I wish I was 6 again
..

– John Mayer, 83

 

Three

henry

Henry turns three today, and how fast have those three years gone:

Stop this train
I want to get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t
But, honestly, won’t someone stop this train?

-John Mayer

Four

EmIt only took me one look to understand [Emmaline],
sometime I don’t know what she’s saying.
Sometimes I do,
Sometimes I don’t,
know what she’s saying.
But I know,
I know,
I know what she wants to believe.

Arrivals, Departures

Sometimes I stand amazed that so much has happened in so little time. Many arrivals, many departures.

Stop this train
I wanna get off and go home again
I can’t take the speed it’s moving in
I know I can’t, but honestly
Won’t someone stop this train?

In three short years, I finished Grad School, Kari paused her teaching career, we left Houston for Waco, we moved twice, I started a new job, we bought a house, and we welcomed three babies into the world. Many arrivals, many departures.

This summer also marked the final departure of my grandparents. Some 13 years after Papa Curt passed away, his bride, Mama Donna, died in June at the age of 87. As a result, I am no longer a grandkid; my three kids alone possess that title. Many arrivals, many departures.

Don’t know how else to say it
Don’t wanna see my parents go
One generation’s length away
From fighting life out on my own

The titles have progressed one generation. Now a parent, I welcome wee ones into the world, hoping and praying for their future. The train keeps chugging along unaffected by the ebb and flow of life. Many departures, many arrivals.

henryThis summer, Kari and I met our third child, Henry. Our first boy, his fiery and sweet demeanor was evident from moment one. One of his first acts was knocking the doctor’s aspirator to the ground as if he were an accomplished pugilist. His general displeasure was soon replaced with a sweet calm as he cozily nestled on mommy. Many departures, many arrivals.

Don’t for a minute change the place you’re in
And don’t think I couldn’t ever understand
I tried my hand
John, honestly, we’ll never stop this train

Much of my grandparent’s generation has already departed after paving the way for us. That role continues with my parents and their generation, and more so than ever, to me, my wife, and our peers. Abby, Emmy and Henry know us simply as mommy and daddy. It is up to us.

girlsAlthough I can hardly believe that my little Abby is three, I wouldn’t change it for the world. And Emmy, our newly christened middle-child, is perfect as her curious and mischievous self. As for Henry, the baby of the family, he will be subject to much torment at the hands of his sisters, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Life is not about arriving but is composed of departures and arrivals. Those who lit the way depart, leaving the world to us. Situations in life necessarily change, causing us to depart from what we once knew. But with each departure comes a new arrival, a new experience to enjoy and learn. We may leave a city for another. We may lose a role but gain another. From only child to big sister. From little sister, to both big sister and little sister. And from grandchild to just child.

The train doesn’t stop, so I plan to enjoy it’s departures and arrivals. I can’t imagine anything better.

With regards to Stop This Train by John Mayer

A Trip to Galveston (Vacationing with an Infant & Toddler)

After traveling to Colorado last year, Kari and I opted to stay closer to home this year. After Emmy’s arrival last fall, we knew that traveling via car was a better option. Wise choice.

Like our journey last year, we learned much about traveling with kiddos. First, there is a big different between trips and vacations. Last year’s journey to Colorado was a trip masquerading as a vacation. It was fun, but there were so many cool things to see and do, and we were rushed the entire time. Since we have both been to Galveston (and Galveston is not be as beautiful as Colorado), we had no plans to sight-see and have a hectic schedule. Our plan was to get away and rest. It was a wildly different and just as wonderful.

Earlier this year, we upgraded from a small sedan (Honda Civic) to a minivan (Honda Odyssey). Although we managed to visit family and pack what we needed in the Civic, our needs have grown:

Lesson two: “needs” rise to the level of available space.

The ride down was great, and we stopped at Gringo’s for lunch. Lesson three: Waco needs a Gringo’s. We breezed through Houston with only one slowdown and were in Galveston early in the afternoon. The beach house was nice and only 1,000 feet from the gulf.

After settling in, we made an obligatory trip to Walmart. For some reason, we frequent shady Walmarts on trips (lesson four). After checking my pockets to make sure no one absconded with my wallet, we went back to the house for dinner and bed time.

Lesson five: kids who don’t nap fall asleep so quickly. With our crazy schedule driving down, neither girl napped much. As a result, they didn’t fuss at bed time. Win. For those of you with kids, you know that sleeping in weird places can sometimes be difficult. After putting the girls down, Kari and I enjoyed a little cable. Which brings me to lesson six: absence makes the heart grow fond. Since we no longer have cable at home, our 30 minutes of HGTV was very enjoyable.

On Tuesday, Kari’s parents drove down for lunch. We had a delicious lunch, and I made the terrible mistake of turning down dessert. Lesson seven: never turn down dessert when offered. Lunch was great, and it was nice seeing them for a little while. They departed at nap time.

Following naps, the four of us wheeled down to the beach for the girls’ first ever trip to the beach. They both loved it. Abby loved the water, putting her face into the surf and smiling from ear to ear. Emmy loved it too. That is until she tried to eat it. And rub it into her eyes. Lesson eight: kids who love the water hate getting out:

She calmed down rather quickly. The weather turned bad, so we packed up and headed back to the beach house. I see many more trips to the beach in our future.

The weather was mostly gray and rainy for the rest of the trip, but that was ok. In between storms on Wednesday, we went to the candy shop on the Strand. We also learned that suckers are a parent’s friend (lesson nine). After getting candy, we took the girls to the Rainforest Cafe. Abby loved the fish but hated the simulated storms.

The rain continued on Thursday, and we went through numerous storms on our way home. We stopped to visit some friends in Houston and eat at Smashburger (lesson ten: Waco needs a Smashburger). Our journey home was capped by a low-water crossing on HWY 6 just north of Hearne.

It was a wonderful vacation.

2011 by the Numbers

12 – New teeth in Abby’s mouth.

11 – Number of mealtimes in the day (Abby – 5, Emmy – 6)

10 – Hair bows Kari made & sold.

9 – Trips to visit family.

8 – Inches of snow on vacation in May.

7 – Trees removed from our back yard.

6 – The time I get up almost every morning.

5 – Days spent in Colorado on vacation.

4 – Nights spent in the hospital.

3 – Years of wedded bliss.

2 – Number of kiddos.

1 – New Baby.

0 – Moves.

Choke

At dinner in the not-too-distant past, Abby grabbed a piece of banana and shoved it in her mouth. Normally one to bite off a piece at a time, she decided that she wanted it all. She wanted a bite that mommy or daddy would take.

Shocked to discover that her mouth was now uncomfortably full, she chewed in vain, but it was no use. She choked. Mommy and daddy came to the rescue and extricated the banana from her mouth. To prevent a repeat occurrence, mommy sliced smaller pieces for her. She pushed them away. She had her fill.

Choking changes future behavior.

It’s the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys are poised to take a seemingly insurmountable lead. On the verge of a touchdown, the ball pops from quarterback Tony Romo’s hands. No score. The Cowboys make countless mistakes in the final 10 minutes. They lose by three.

Mistakes lead to more mistakes.

Travel to Flushing Meadows for the 2011 U.S. Open Men’s Semifinals. Roger Federer has taken a commanding two sets to zero lead over Novak Djokovic. One more set to win. Federer crumbles as Djokovic mounts an unrelenting comeback. Crushing victories followed in sets three and four. The final set appears to be headed for extra games, but Federer errs at the end, losing the final set 5-7.

Easing up before the finish opens doors for opponents.

In what many believe will be the last NBA finals for several years, the Miami Heat take a double digit lead into the final minutes of the game. The players jump and scream on the court, celebrating their near-certain victory. Stunningly, this display lights a fire in the Mavericks who reel off an impressive 22-5 run to steal the victory.

Celebrating victory prematurely is foolish.

America’s past-time, 2011. The historically inept Rangers are poised to take their first world series crown over the Cardinals. Two outs, two strikes. One more pitch and a victory for the nine fielders. Unless, of course, that pitch leads to a run. Hours later, players wonder how they let that game get away.

Intense pressure distorts execution.

Choking is a reflexive behavior. Abby choked because she tried to eat too much at once. The Cowboys choked because they feared making more mistakes would cost them the game. Roger Federer choked when he let up before finishing the match. The Heat choked after celebrating their victory instead of finishing the game. The Rangers choked because they let the pressure get to them.

In Abby’s case, well, she’s only one and gets a free pass for choking. For the rest of the evening, she was banana-averse–and for good reason, in her mind it was a dangerous behavior not worth trying again. As a one-year-old, she’s well suited for failure. She quickly forgets and tries again. The next morning, she returned to her normal, banana-loving self. Of course, mommy, daddy, and Abby are all more mindful to prevent this from happening again.

Well-paid athletes don’t get the same luxuries as small children. They are expected to perform under pressure and forget what happened in the past. The Cowboys have been dogged by their mental demons all year. Federer has been in steady decline after losing the edge to Nadal and Djokovic. The Heat came back, won game 3, but then lost the following three to cede the championship to the Mavericks. And so the question is: what will become of the Rangers?

Smart people choke from time to time. It’s inevitable. The foolish ones don’t learn from the past and relive it time and time again. The smart ones learn from the past and change their actions.

Here’s to the chokers.

A Trip to Colorado (Vacationing with an Infant)

This past week, Kari, Abby, and I left on a jet-plane and flew to Colorado. It was our first trip as a family. Leading up to the trip, we couldn’t wait to escape the approaching Texas heat and enjoy some crisp mountain air. In many ways, I think the anticipation of a vacation constitutes much of the joy of a trip. There’s something about leaving your home and taking in new and exciting vistas. It’s thrilling.

Along with our anticipation of the trip, we also felt much trepidation at how Abby would do. Would she cry uncontrollably on the plane? Would she do well away from home for a few days?

Early last Sunday morning, we loaded the car with two suitcases (to be checked), four carry-on bags, one stroller, and one car seat; we drove to Austin to catch our flight to Denver. Along the way, we learned some important lessons about traveling with a small child: one, always plan to stop more than you anticipate. We had to make two stops between Waco and Austin to take care of business, if you know what I mean. Two, just because everything will fit inside of an enormous suitcase, doesn’t mean it should. Our large suitcase topped the scales at 64 pounds — about 28% over the weight limit. Three, airport workers are quite amenable to people traveling with kiddos. The Southwest employees as well as the TSA folks were helpful and patient as we started our journey.

After a quick lunch, we hopped on the plane to Denver. Abby did great. The weather, however, didn’t cooperate–the descent to Denver was the rockiest I have ever experienced. Lesson four: bumpy descents and pregnant wives make a terrible combo. While fanning her profusely with the provided barf-bag, we learned lesson five: bumpy descents are like baby-Ambien. Abby didn’t make a peep as she slept through the entire ordeal.

Although Austin’s airport was very nice, Denver’s airport is probably the nicest I have been to. Large, open terminals and concourses. A fast, efficient tram to travel between terminals. We grabbed our six bags and continued on to pick up our rental car. Lesson six: workers at the rental care place seem shady and unhelpful. After reading me the riot act (also known as offering insurance), we picked out a white Camry as our vehicle. (Lesson seven: never buy a used car that was a rental.) After spending 20 minutes installing the car seat (sans base), we were on our way to Estes Park. Lesson eight: GPS’s are the most wonderful invention for wayfinding on vacation.

Along the way, we picked up some supplies from perhaps the shadiest Walmart of all time and continued our trek into the mountains. The drive up the mountains and into the valley where Estes Park sits was breathtaking. Lesson nine: there is no substitute for the beauty of mountains. My biggest complaint about Texas is the lack of mountains within the state (and yes, I realize that Guadalupe Peak is classified as a mountain). We checked in to our cabin at the YMCA of the Rockies, unpacked, grabbed dinner, and crashed. Well, we crashed until 11:30pm–when the newness of our habitation got the best of Abby. Lesson ten: babies can turn a relaxing vacation into something less than relaxing in a heartbeat. After spending a good deal of the night up with her, we awoke Monday morning to red eyes and a desperate need of caffeine.

Much of the reason we were able to visit Estes Park revolved around a little known fact (and also lesson eleven): May in the Rocky Mountains is definitely off-season (both for travel and accommodations). On Monday morning, we drove into Rocky Mountain National Park.

The weather was perfect (mid 50’s, dry, and calm); the drive, spectacular; we anxiously awaited hiking in the park. Arriving mid-morning, we discovered a little bit of snow on the trails.

By little snow, I mean at least four feet of packed snow. Unfortunately we left our crampons at home (sarcasm), so we slid along the path for 100 feet to take in one vista. We raised the white flag and slid back to the car, lamenting that our planned hikes would not take place. In hindsight, this may not have mattered all that much as we were both sucking air after this short jaunt. Lesson twelve: high altitude plus low physical fitness make a terrible pairing. Even if the weather were perfect, our hiking would have been quite abbreviated.

Lesson twelve: babies make you slow down more than anything else. Although we wanted to go and do, Abby needed a nap in the afternoon, so we spent every afternoon in our cabin. It’s safe to say that she wasn’t the only one who napped during our afternoon respites. After nap-time on Monday, we hopped in the car and went to dinner at Poppy’s Casual Mountain Dining. As a kid, Kari’s family traveled to Estes Park fairly often. This was one of their favorite stops, so we enjoyed dinner of pizza with scenic vistas of a fast-flowing mountain stream. After dinner, we strolled up and down the city’s downtown in search of dessert. Remember lesson eleven? That’s right, it’s off-season in Colorado, and the town rolled up it’s sidewalk at five o’clock. We found one open store: an ice cream shop, so we bought ice cream, and walked back to the car as we enjoyed the creamy delight. In some ways, it was madness as the brisk wind and chilly temperatures did not make it ice cream weather. But don’t worry about us too much, it was still worth it!

As you can imagine, the storyline for our trip was much the same on Tuesday. Abby had a better night on Monday night, and we traveled back into the park in search of some snow-free trails. After a chat with the ranger, we learned there weren’t many snow-free trails (remember lesson eleven). We chose to hike along an improved trail and see an alluvial fan, which was the site of a dam failure in 1982. By the time we arrived at our destination, clouds had formed and the wind picked up. The vista was breathtaking, and bundled up as best we could, we trudged along the path. I would be hard-pressed to explain the dichotomy that we felt. On the one hand, it was chilly and approaching miserable, but on the other hand, the beauty and wonder of the mountains made that disappear. It’s like you willingly take the discomfort because of the beauty. Lesson thirteen: being in the mountains makes bad weather bearable.

Kari and I have a tradition to have one nice meal on vacation. Or perhaps I should put it this way: we had a tradition to have a nice meal on vacation. Lesson fourteen: babies don’t belong at nice restaurants. After attempting to corral one fussy kiddo for an entire meal at an expensive yet mediocre restaurant, I declared to the waiter: our timer is getting ready to expire–bring us the check. He chuckled and assisted us in our quick departure. At any rate, we won’t be taking family trips to nice restaurants for quite some time.

After another good night of sleep, we were reminded of lesson eleven (you know the one about off-season in Colorad0). We woke up to a beautiful white landscape. That white fluffy stuff was everywhere. It was gorgeous. And cold. And we went back to bed. The snow continued unabated for most of the day, and by early afternoon, we were staring out at some 8″ inches of snow.

Being from Texas, we were both panicked at the thought of driving, but as luck would have it: we were in Colorado. Lesson fifteen: snow plows and educated drivers make a big difference. Whereas Waco would shut down for a week if it snowed 8″, in Colorado the constant snow plow work left the roads clear and dry by the end of the day. The rest of the landscape was breathtaking. Kari said it looked like the mountains were dusted with powdered sugar.

To combat our growing cabin fever, we hopped in the car, visited the park one last time to pick up souvenirs and see the plaque of Stephen Mather. Mather is widely considered the father of the National Park System. To commemorate his role in developing the parks, each one has a bronze plaque in his honor.

We went back into town and ate at Peak to Peak American Grille. Kari had a burger and I had a chicken dish (yes, I still regret not ordering a burger), but dinner was great. On our way back to the cabin, we stopped by Safeway for the fourth time in four days to get some medicine and dessert. Lesson sixteen: dessert is a requisite after every meal on vacation. After downing our eclairs, we swore that we would be eating healthier food on future trips. This leads me to lesson seventeen: you can still eat too much on vacation. And yes, the medicine for Abby was our full-fledged acknowledgement that she had a cold. And yes, that meant another bad night for us. Lesson eighteen: traveling with sick children is miserable.

My Thusday started at ten ’til two, and factoring in the time change meant my day effectively ended at midnight. By the time we left around 9:00am, snow had begun to fall again. As we traversed through the mountains, the snow got heavier and heavier, but thankfully the roads were all clear. Before we knew it the snow turned into a cold rain that continued long after we left Denver. We avoided the 64 lb. bag controversy by repacking and after waiting in a long check-in line, we were at the terminal, eating McDonald’s and waiting for our flight. The plane sat on the tarmac empty for some time until we learned a connecting flight was late, and we were waiting on them before boarding. Thirty minutes later with one fussy baby (read: had a cold), we boarded the plane, hoping and praying that our return trip would be good. And once again, Abby did great. Lesson nineteen: babies can do a lot more than we often think.

Arriving in Austin, we skirted I-35 on the new-fangled toll loop to avoid rush hour traffic. We trekked home in a rather uneventful fashion, arriving here in Hewitt just before dusk. Our first family vacation had come to a close. We were thrilled to go to Colorado and share that with Abby. It was a great trip with scenic vistas and beautiful clean air. We are already anticipating a return trip.

Lesson twenty: sometimes the best things in life are the hardest things.Traveling with a baby is exceedingly hard. Between the extra bags (both luggage and eye accoutrements) and the difficulty of keeping up with another person, we may need a second vacation. But one of our overarching goals with our family is to do fun things together. I think it’s fair to say this is a good start. Next time, we’ll go during the summer and experience Estes Park during the on-season (see lesson eleven).

2010 by the Numbers

10 — Distance of my new commute to work, in miles.
9 — Trips to see the pediatrician.
8 — Diapers changed in a day.
7 — Hours, in travel time to Port Neches with Abby.
6 — Times assembling / dissembling Abby’s crib.
5 — Hours, in travel time to Port Neches w/o baby related stops.
4 — Average hours of sleep at night.
3 — Residences.
2 — Jobs.
1 — New baby.

Happy New Year!