Big Brother

May 17, 2004

The twisted and tangled branches of my family tree and that of my wife mirror each other in many ways. For example, we both have a sister named Deb and a brother Jim. Both trees sport marriages and remarriages, blurring the line between sister and half-sister, brother and half-brother until the difference isn’t always apparent and never important. One of the more interesting coincidences is that we are both the youngest sibling of our family by far.

When I say by far, I mean it. My closest sibling is seven years older than me (hey Deb). My wife’s closest sibling is eleven years older than her (hey Jim). From the perspective of human dynamics (and, incidentally, the wife and I met in Human Dynamics class), we are considered only-children. That is, during playtime, we played pretty much all by ourselves.

At the same time, our brothers and sisters were born much closer together. They grew up together. They went to the same schools. They used the same sliding boards and fought over the same box of Cheerios.

Now I don’t want anyone to get the impression that either my wife or I aren’t close to our siblings. In fact, I believe my wife and I are probably closer to our siblings than they are to each other. It’s just that our childhood disagreements were less likely to be about playground equiment and cereal than, say, who stole a peek at their brother’s Playboys.

Before anyone starts to feel sorry for me, I turned out just fine. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t want a brother or sister with a birthday a little closer to mine. I might have been willing to relinquish the role as the youngest for a little brother or sister. It always sounded like a good idea to have a younger one around to teach and protect (much like my sister did with me), rib and amuse (much like my brothers did to me).

Now that the chances of getting a younger brother or sister are pretty slim (what do you say, mom?), all of this takes a different perspective. It’s no longer me waiting for a play buddy. It’s my son. He’s the one waiting and he doesn’t even know it.

Well, he won’t have to wait long.

A second little Wootton is about six months or so from completion. A new little son or daughter awaits the wife and I. A new little child awaits his or her first meet and greet with their big brother.

To say we are looking forward to number two is an understatement. We have our trepidations. We worry about diaper duty times 2, we worry about finances, and we worry a lot about Cambell having competition for attention. But mostly, were pretty excited that the family is expanding.

See, I don’t look at it as sharing the spotlight, although Cam is sure to think that at some point or another. That sounds like something is being taken away. I look at it as a present. He gets a friend for life — a friend with a bond that only comes with family. We, on the other hand, get another shining light and toothy smile in our lives. I hope we keep plenty of Cheerios handy.

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New Toilet in Town

May 8, 2004

The wife and I purchased a brand new potty for the little one today. It’s pretty snazzy, if I must say myself. It’s sports a cute little transformable stool for him to stand on (no, not that kind of stool), a pee shield, and works in either a standalone manner or as part of our bigger, much more adult-sized toilet. We’re a little excited.

Now we are quite aware that we (and, ahem, quite possibly Cam as well) is ahead of schedule but he’s been giving us unmistakable signals that he’s ready to start leaving the whole sit in my feces things behind. For example, today he peed in our toilet 4 separate times.

The great thing about it is that he has such a good time doing it. Congratulations rain down from his parents as he gets up, flushes the toilet, and waves the pee pee goodbye. A good time is had by all. Don’t worry. The festivities are bound to be more subdued in about twenty years.

We’re pretty realistic about his chances of success with his newfound toy — we’ve read a bit about the normal timetable and we haven’t really approached the whole subject of number 2 quite yet. But, hey, I have no trouble getting the party started a little early, especially when that party could signal a temporary stoppage of my diaper changing duties.

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Happy Camper

Mar 23, 2004

It isn’t easy being a parent of the greatest child in the world but I’m coping. There’s all those smiles to return and all those laughs to take in. It can be exhausting. See? Even he needs to take a break now and then.


To be honest, he deserves the break much more than I. The little guy celebrated his recovery from a recent bout of pneumonia by acquiring a nasty stomach virus. He spent more than a week fighting it, a fight that required a few trips to the doctor’s office and a second round of nebulizer treatments. The little guy has been a sport but, until recently I didn’t realize how much it took out of him.

Why is that? Well, this weekend the little child I remember emerged. That child burdened by sickness and daily doses of medicine was left behind. A smiling kid replaced it. He smiled more on Saturday than he has in two weeks. A beacon of cheerfulness wiped away the exhausted eyes that illness had brought. To say that makes me happy is an understatement. It warms my heart to see him laugh and play. I’m thrilled to see evidence that he’s truly feeling better.

And it’s a good thing too, as the wife and I spent the weekend visiting her family in Pennsylvania. It was an impromptu visit – we waited until Saturday morning to decide that it was just nice enough to test out the newly purchased camper – but an enjoyable one, at least from a visitation standpoint.

We took in some delicious food at the sister-in-law’s restaurant. We camped in the front yard of the brother-in-law. I got to visit my dad and he got to spend some time with the well version of little Cambell.

From a weather standpoint, let’s just say that the weatherman and I will have words. The temperature wasn’t all that bad — it was scheduled to get into the lower 40’s. However, I must have missed the fine print. The winds kicked up on Saturday night and were unrelenting.

Little did I know how susceptible a popup camper is to wind. The canvas of the camper battled with nature, constantly shifting to and fro. It made just enough noise to keep the wife awake most of the night but, thankfully, not enough to do the same to our sleeping child. I’m claiming ownership of the sleeping gene. I’m frankly amazed that the kid slept through what seemed to be an inside view of a tornado.

By morning, evidence of the overnight rains were hard to find. The canvas of the camper was dry to the touch, literally blown dry the morning gales. Closing the camper wasn’t a picnic as angry winds fought my every move. The experience itself was much akin to squeezing a balloon into a matchbox; you could never get both sides in at all, much less at once.

But all the extra effort and all the weather didn’t do much to dampen my spirits. I had a happy kid in the back seat, a sleepy wife next to me, and a brand new RV behind me as I headed down the road. If all weekends could end that way, I’d be a happy camper.

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Busy Middle of March

Mar 19, 2004

By some cruel twist of fate, two of my most anticipated games of the year – Battlefield Vietnam and Unreal Tournament 2004 — were scheduled to be released within a day of each other (the 15th and 16th of March, respectively). Just to prove that fate has it in for me, they arrived in the mail on the very same day.

How am I supposed to choose?

You would think that I would have been better prepared to handle a situation like this. Both games share some similar traits. Both offer combat on foot or within the safety of a nearby tank or plane. Both concentrate their efforts on online play (although Unreal Tournament has a great single player game as well). There is certainly no need to own them both. I could have thought ahead. I could have spaced out my purchases a bit but I didn’t. The pretty purchase button lit up like a beacon on EBGames website and I succumbed. Don’t tell the wife but need has absolutely nothing to do with it.

So now I have a conundrum. I feel like I received a package of 12 CDs from Columbia house. There’s so much music, I have no idea where to start.

I have the dirty green box of Battlefield Vietnam in one corner. The prospect of piloting a helicopter high above the jungle while listening to the sweet sounds of the “Ride of the Valkyries” is calling to me. The prospect of hearing that same helicopter high overhead is equally exciting. Cut out the nasty realities of war and you have a couple of warm M60’s poking out of a dense treeline.

The shiny metal box of Unreal Tournament 2004 sits right next to it. The new Onslaught mode is sure to keep me occupied. I spent Wednesday showering the landscape with spider mines and using a laser to guide the little beasts into my opponents. The Assault mode has a mission where you must first fight a space battle to wear down the defenses of a space station and then hop out of your fighter and rush the base, gun in hand. Take that Star Wars and Star Trek. I’ll take care of business myself.

It really is a difficult problem, no doubt complicated by the limited amount of my day currently falling under the banner of free time. It almost makes me I didn’t like gaming as much as I do. A pair of blinders and a couple of doses of Enter the Matrix (you too can own a crappy game for $20) might make me less likely to swoon to the lighted screen of my computer but I’m not that lucky.

I guess I should be happy to have a choice between great and greater. Determining which one is which, however, is something that will take months of study.

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All Better

Feb 18, 2004

To everyone who’s been asking, Cambell is feeling much better. Although I’d hate to jinx it, the pneumonia appears to be behind him now. All that praying paid off handsomely.

The little tike perked up all in one day. He had spent about a week acting lackadaisical and not entirely himself. This past weekend we got him back. His bright smile returned. He spent a full day running around the house doing something other than attempting to digest his latest trickle of snot. Sorry, sad but true.

While I’m counting my blessings, I should say that I’m grateful that Cam has inherited daddy’s sleeping habits when he’s sick. When I’m sick, I want nothing more than sleep. I’ll wake when it’s all over and I’m feeling better. Cam did his fair share of sleep over the past couple of weeks. More importantly, when he did sleep, he slept soundly. Our sleeplessness was more due to stress and a change of location — the wife and I slept on a futon matress in the baby’s room for several days — than a wide-eyed baby. That’s good for all three of us.

His return to health will do a lot for the cabin fever experienced by both the wife and I. Both of us spent time home from work in the last week due to grandmom the babysitter becoming ill — in what looks to be a not-so-unrelated occurrence — and we’re anxious see walls unlike those of our own. We also want to shop. A Very Important Purchase* is coming up and peering through the windows of the internet is no longer salving our appetite.

But we’re mostly happy just to have things get back to normal. Little things, like the good night hugs of tiny arms, are so much sweeter when you aren’t worrying about visiting the hospital.

* – I’ll get to this in a future post. Stay tuned.

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Feb 11, 2004

Friday’s weather – a wintery mix of cold rain, freezing rain, and more rain – was awful. The sky made little effort to brighten above a low dim. We have these days every winter. Sometimes they wait until March. A cold shower washes away the snow, now more slush than snowman. It’s Mother Nature’s way of rushing things along toward spring. Ignore this damp, bone chilling day. A thaw is on the way.

Still, it wasn’t the cold or the rain that left me shuddering on Friday. It was worry. On Wednesday, we found out that little Cambell had pneumonia and worry lines have peppered the faces of two first time parents ever since. Outside of a nasty little flu late last year, this was the first real illness we’ve encountered with our little one. Words like hospital don’t enter my vocabulary often. On Wednesday, it did.

It all started with a little cough Wednesday morning. Coughs aren’t usually something to worry about and we sent him to the babysitter. During the day it got worse. By the time my wife picked him up, he was wheezing. She went directly to the nighttime pediatrician. I came straight from work to join her.


Cam wasn’t well. His cough had worsened considerably. They ordered an X-ray and I accompanied him to radiology. What awaited me was a little unexpected; I had not thought through the entire process. It turns that they take it for granted that infants won’t exactly sit still for X-rays. Their solution to the problem involved a wooden seat not unlike the child seat we use to feed him dinner. The exception was two clear pieces of hardened plastic which held his body in place, with his arms high above his head. The technician spun him left and right in his medieval torture device as he let his displeasure be known. What was the worst part? The first set of pictures didn’t turn out. We had to do it twice. I don’t know who was more upset, him or I.

Cambell and I returned to my worried wife to wait for the doctor. He had pneumonia. The big question of the day was where we would be sleeping, home or at the hospital. Two other kids that night were already on their way to the hospital. It seems we weren’t the only one dealing with pneumonia. The doctor needed to see how he would respond to her treatments before we knew if those kids would have company.

Three nebulizer treatments followed. He fought us on the first one. He was upset for the second and he collapsed during the third. The effort exhausted him physically and us emotionally. I just kept worrying about resentment. He was in a strange place being forced into situations he was unfamiliar. No one explained this mask being pressed against his face. What was going on? The argument of being “for his own good” sounded hollow to me. Heck, the dentist is for my own good. That doesn’t make me excited to see him.

The doctor took her time deciding what to do with us. The fence was straddled. Eventually, home won out. He had responded to his treatments. I went to grab his prescriptions, one of which included a chamber used to administer inhaler treatments. I was home just before 1:00 am. There were lots of tired folks in the house that night.

On both Thursday and Friday, he returned to his regular pediatrician. On Thursday we were told to continue his medicine. On Friday, the inhaler was replaced by a nebulizer. This time we got to play the home version.

The weekend was filled with visits from the grandparents. Cambell improved over the weekend but his progress has been slow. He is still having nebulizer treatments every four hours but I have to say he’s been really good about them. We set up Bear and the Big Blue house and shove the steaming pipe in his face. He turns it on and watches the screen until we turn it off. When we do, he claps his hands and gets down from the couch. He doesn’t need anyone to tell him how good he is. I think he knows.

On Tuesday, we found out that the nebulizer treatments will continue for a little while but, for those who’ve asked he is getting better. He’s eating good, drinking good, and sleeping good. He’s got plenty of energy and he’ll even pose for a picture or two.

I’m quite proud of how good he’s been through all of this and thankful of all those folks who’ve expressed concern and well wishes for our little one. We’re hoping that we are on the back end of this thing. There’s nothing else that could make the rain go away any faster.

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Jan 2, 2004

Yum.  Cake.

A bond between a father and son is immediate but always changing, evolving if you will. If you told me today that I’d love my son more now than the day he was born, I’d have called you a liar. But I do. If you tell me I’ll love him even more a year from today, I’ll give you a crooked eyebrow but not be so quick to doubt your words.

Today is my son’s first birthday and for that I’m thankful. He’s an object of toil but an object of constant delight. Those little legs wander from room to room, carrying the brightest smile in the world. Teeth now decorate that smile, teeth that will soon feast on birthday cake.

The marking of this, his birth day, means that he’s accomplished a lot. A lot of firsts are complete:

First smile. Check.
First laugh. Check.
First word (“Hi”). Check.
First steps. Check.

It’s been an exciting year. Something new lies behind each corner. Each movement is the chance to see something for the very first time. The wife and I learned a lot. We know a little more about taking care of a child. We know a lot more about ourselves.

Happy birthday, son. I may not be too happy to leave the last year, the real year of firsts, behind but I’m quite excited about the year ahead. From your smile, I believe you are too.

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Merry Christmas

Dec 24, 2003

2003 12 xmasCards.jpg

This is the picture that went out in our Christmas cards this year. The ceramic tree is a family hierloom from my grandmother. The presents themselves are — shh — actually mine but went much better in the picture than his own. It’ll work out in the end. He’s much more likely to enjoy my boxes than I am.

The cards themselves went out late – which should be no surprise given my track record – so don’t get all sad you don’t already have one of your very own. They are in the mail. If you don’t get one, take solace. It’s not that we don’t like you. It’s just that we don’t like you that much – either that or we just don’t have your address. Work with us people. Like many things Christmas, cards were a last minute accomplishment.

And that doesn’t exclude my wife’s presents; the last of which was wrapped last night. I have to say I was quite surprised at the ease of my late season shopping. The lines were reasonable and the stores prepared. Color me impressed. One store was open until midnight. Who shops at midnight? 10:45 pm, well that’s perfectly acceptable but midnight? Sheesh and — ahem – color me lucky.

Santa and Cam.jpg

When Cambell wasn’t posing for Christmas cards, he was nestling up to Santa. And by nestling, I of course mean peeking around the room at all the staring faces before bursting into tears. He was a good enough sport and we got The Picture. I’m sure Santa won’t hold it against him.

I’m finally in the mood for Christmas and, thankfully, I’m not too late; I’ll soon be heading to church. Before I go, I wanted to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. The Son of God was born not so long ago and it’s about time I go and celebrate the occasion.

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Dec 19, 2003

From egg nog to the Christmas tree, traditions are part of the Christmas holiday. I’ve got two on my docket and one already has a check next to it.

Several years ago, on a whim, the wife and I got together with our best friends for a little neighborhood sightseeing. This close to Christmas the sun sets early and little bulbs of green and red quickly light up to replace it.

Riding around in the car looking at Christmas lights was nothing new to the wife and I. Including our friends, however, was. We ended the night with the girls in the back seat singing Christmas carols and my friend and I searching for the a copy of the South Park Christmas album. The next year it became tradition.

Since then, we’ve added some members to our group. They had a child a couple of years ago and we added one just this year. We’ve outgrown both their Xterra and our own, requiring the quickly growning group to borrow a minivan to complete the adventure.

This year was much like the rest. We warmed up with some coffee and wound through neighborhood streets. Next year we might have to rent a bus. The minivan had just one empty seat.

My other tradition this time of year is to make some time in the schedule for Christmas with my father. This one has been a little sidetracked. It was supposed to happen last weekend and my wife, child, and I were sick. It was rescheduled to this weekend before a similar affliction occured within my brother’s family. We’ll get it done. In the meantime, Dad, Merry Christmas. We’ll catch you before the new year.

Ah, traditions. Now I can wait for the one where I open all my toys.

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Weekend Alone

Nov 17, 2003

Harpers Ferry
The wife and I spent last weekend alone, quietly celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary. Seven blissful years gone – twelve now in total. These chains of love are starting to fit. In fact, they have never fit better.

Our destination was the sleepy town of Harpers Ferry. Sleepy is a charitable word for the historic town without the warm weather of summer or spring. We started our trip with a little exploration. We took a walking bridge across the Potomac and back again. We thawed our windblown ears in a local tavern. A trip through town featured a secluded — almost creepy — visit to the wax museum (Let’s not speak of part of the tour where John Brown looks at you on his way up to the noose.) and more than one trip into the local shops. A cookie to warm the belly, a beanie to warm those ears, and a Christmas quilt to warm the heart were the conquests of our travels. We braved the 200 steps to Jefferson’s rock and finally left to track down our Bed and Breakfast.

The next day we were off to Antietam, a place significant for featuring the bloodiest day of the civil war as well as the Union victory that triggered the Emancipation Proclamation. Perhaps less significant, it rounded out our tour of “the big two” Maryland civil war battles.

I found it interesting how hard the historians are on the Union, the eventual winners of the battle. General McClellan was too reserved, foolishly squandering an opportunity to crush the army of the South. He only had their battle plans and far superior numbers. Their hasty escape only allowed them to fight for two and half more years. Cmon. Give the guy a break.

McClellan was eventually fired (and, it seems, rightfully so) for letting the army of the South get back across the Potamac. His successor, Ambrose Burnside, is infamous for related reasons. Late in the day, a large force of Union soldiers were repeatedly beaten back by just a relatively few Confederate riflemen while attempting to take a bridge. They could have forded the river a little upstream or a little downstream. Instead, they wasted the morning and many lives in the effort. In a bit of historical sarcasm, Burnside Bridge was the reward for their commander.

The whole trip was quiet. We didn’t have to fight the crowds; there weren’t any. Except for some wandering boy scout troops scattered along our tour of Antietam, we were pretty much alone and that’s just how the wife and I like it. One of the real advantages to having a mid-November wedding is that tourist season is over. Our love doesn’t just make it feel like we are the only ones in the world, the population of the attractions we visit bare it out. It’s a nice way to spend a trip — no bumping elbows for me. The wife and I are on vacation. Only us two need be present.

Still, I must admit, our minds weren’t just on the two of us. We spent more than a little time thinking about what we left behind, in the form of just the best little baby boy on earth. This was our first overnight trip without our little bundle of joy and it felt like it. Don’t get me wrong. We had a grand time, particularly that part about sleeping until the late hour of 8 am, but by the end we were ready to return. We didn’t want him to forget our names. We didn’t want him walking away before we got a chance to witness it.

And what a wonderful way that was to end the weekend. We spent the weekend celebrating our love. We spent the trip home celebrating the fruits of it.

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