Chubby Bunnies

Oct 30, 2003

We spent last weekend camping. A Halloween weekend at Granite Hill Campground was filled with activities, from a costume contest (which deposited a prize in the wife’s nephew’s pocket) to a bout of trick or treating (Cambell fell asleep, but we need not talk about that). It was fun and every night ended just as it should: huddled next to a warm campfire passing around marshmallows.

Chubby bunnies was the name of the game on our last night there. For those not in the know, chubby bunnies is a game where you stuff your mouth full of marshmallows one at a time. After each marshmallow, you must say, “chubby bunnies.” One guy managed to get 16 marshmallows into his mouth before my comments about his likeness to Old Yeller made him spit them to the ground. It was truly impressive indeed. My wife led the female side of the campfire. Her grand accomplishment was 12. I’m so proud.

The trip really got us thinking about buying a pop up camper. We already have a hitch on the back of the Xterra, a hitch that was originally meant for a boat. A boat, however, sounds like a purchase of the very distant future. The wife and I love to fish but we have a very young child. I don’t think I’d feel real safe floating above the Ocean with him onboard until he can tell me his age. Even then, there’s always the possibility of a little brother or sister to worry about. Besides, much like a pool, the best kind of boat is somebody else’s boat. Those things are expensive, in both time and money, to maintain (Incidentally, I’ve heard that the two best days of a man’s life is the day he buys his boat and the day he sells his boat).

Anyway, back to the camper. It just sounds like it makes sense. Before we had a child, the wife and I camped a reasonable amount. Now that we have a kid, camping sounds a whole lot more family friendly than a hotel. Not to mention, its a good bit cheaper.

My wife remarked that she didn’t do a lot of traveling as a child. I was the exact opposite. We had a camper and we went all sorts of places. I liked camping as a kid. I still like it as a adult. The ability to, ahem, rough it while still being able to control the temperature — via a convenient heater or air conditioner — sounds right up my alley. Camping season gets extended and mom, dad, and baby get a good reason to get out of the house more than occasionally.

For the moment, this just a dream and future plan. But, if you couldn’t tell, I’m pretty enthusiastic about the idea. It might not be as far off as you, or I, think.

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Pumpkin Patch

Oct 17, 2003

Pumpkin in a Pumpkin Patch
(larger version)

This is my very own Halloween postcard. I know. I know. Halloween is about ghosts and ghoulies and witches. Yes, we must have witches. And skeletons. It’s all the same, really. You say tomato. I say Charlie Brown.

Cambell’s first Halloween season started with a day trip to a reasonably local pumpkin patch. Some friends led us to a farm with a host of activities. Among them, a corn maze, bees hives, a small store, and, of course, a little patch of land filled with orange vegetables springing from the ground.

A little fenced in petting zoo was our first stop. Cambell fearlessly grasped at the goats and sheep within. Daddy shadowed the little one, hoping that those little fingers wouldn’t be mistaken for feed. Shew. You still have 10? Let’s move on.

The pumpkin patch was a treat. A bumpy hayride took you to the field. Get out and pick your poison. We did so, and took an opportunity to shoot some glamour shots along the way. It was a neat way to choose a pumpkin for Halloween. It’s not like I grew it myself but ripping it from the earth felt a whole lot more seasonal that picking one up from Giant. Too bad my poor little pumpkin didn’t like its rainy stay in front of the house. It belched its filthy contents on my front doorstep. Eww.

On Sunday, we continued the family theme and went to Lake Waterford park. The park is only a couple of miles from our house. The wife and I have been there several times, normally stopping at the local convenience store to pick up some bread for the many geese and ducks that crowd the waters of the lake. Not so long ago, the wife and I made a not-so-secret discovery. Far in the back, the park houses a playground. This playground isn’t just any old playground either.

I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s obviously quite new. Plastic walls and spongy floors replace the rusty rails and dirt trampings of my youth. Swings for all sizes – toddler on up – guide you in. A play area filled with things to climb on, slide over, and fiddle with would have any child jumping for joy. The thing is huge. 10 kids couldn’t crowd this place. — heck, neither could 50.

It’s the kind of place you desperately want to share but don’t want anyone to know about. There’s this really, really cool thing, but, shhh, don’t tell anyone. We want it for ourselves. On Sunday, some close friends and their not quite two year old daughter were let in on the “secret”. She and her parents alike kept very busy.

Sleepy Hike
(larger version)

For a kid, I couldn’t help but think this playground would be paradise. As a parent, it’s a Godsend. In a year, we can let Cambell loose in here. I have no doubt he will have a blast. As it stands, his laughter in the swing indicates that he’s enjoying it just fine right now.

On Monday, my family activities were far from over. A friend of mine and I found ourselves in similar positions. Our wives were working. We both had the day off and a little kid to watch. We decided to take a trip and a hike. The destination was Cunningham Falls. A picuturesque hike to the falls found Cambell asleep in his backpack. At least Daddy got some exercise.

All in all, it was a great kickoff to October. The leaves are changing and soon I’ll be spending less time mowing and more time with the leaf blower. I can feel fall settling in. C’mon leaves. Come on down. You now have permission.

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Cruise Control

Oct 8, 2003

Cambell has gained the ability to climb up a piece of furniture to a standing position. He then uses the furniture as a prop to walk, or cruise, around the room. He’s enjoying it quite a bit. His parents are flustered. Suddenly, he’s mobile.


In response, the wife and I spent the weekend babyproofing the family room. The room got a good cleaning, had some furniture rearranged, and had nearly all of its contents first removed and then reintroduced to a new resting place. It was an all day job. We couldn’t believe just how much junk was stored in that room. DVDs were moved from here to there. CDs were pushed out of reach. The knick-knacks on the shelf better move or, better yet, find a nice, cozy storage box. It was the kind of cleaning where you look about the room in the middle of the job and realize that there isn’t a spare patch of carpet anywhere. What do we do with all this stuff? Like any good pack rat, mostly we just moved it around.

A side effect of his new mobility is that Cambell is beginning to learn what the word “no” means. He doesn’t understand (or choose to understand) entirely — his chuckles at the wife testify to this — but he’s getting it. Still, the TV now has a habit of changing channels without my assistance. Those CDs he has his hands on have already become a point of contention.

Accompanying the little guy on his latest fully upright travels are his first two teeth. They came in as a group, sprouting on the top left and right of his mouth. In my opinion, he’s been a pretty good sport about the whole bones tearing through flesh thing. After all, it doesn’t sound very comfortable. The odd thing is that his two new teeth will give him a vampiric look if they don’t soon get some company. Thankfully, that whole turn into a bat thing seems to be beyond him, at least for now.

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This weekend I sat on the balcony of our 9 story ocean lookout and found myself in a position that was not unfamiliar. I wanted a camera. I wanted to capture the moment. But I was cognizant that leaving my purch to fetch my camera would ruin everything. So I sat there. Record or experience — sometimes you have to make a choice.

Moments like these come and go. They appear with great frequency since the birth of our son. You want the first step, the first words, the first everything recorded for posterity. You don’t want to miss anything. In a perfect world, every discovery would have a picture. Every new movement would appear on video. But that isn’t possible. You pick and choose. Should I hold the camera or hold his hand?

Cam and Daddy

In the sand, I choose the later. My wife held the camera. My son took an assisted trot and got a little sand between his toes.

The beach itself silently signaled the end of summer. It was mostly deserted. A few people were here and there. Beach blankets were in short supply. No one was there to swim. They were just there for the visit, perhaps to say goodbye until the warmth of summer returns the following year. You could almost hear the opening number to Grease. A home movie, silent or no, would tell the same story. Pictures did the trick just fine.

But on the balcony I wasn’t so lucky. Story time came early — just after breakfast. My mother-in-law was reading to my son. An old storybook of the wife’s was in her hand. Her words were very familiar to the little girl who now has a little boy of her own. My own mother and I watched as the reading of one became a chorus of two. The wife knew the words by heart. She didn’t need the book to pass the story along. No pictures of that one. I’ll just have to remember that I was there.

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Bad Food

Sep 28, 2003

I had planned to talk about my vacation tonight. I spent the weekend with both my parents and the in-laws. We all got together for a quick trip to Ocean City and we had a lot of fun. However, I’m not much in the mood for vacation talk at the moment. See, I spent the weekend with the mother-in-law and, not long ago, she was taken to the hospital.

Early signs are good. It looks like it is a case of food poisoning. Some fast food caught up with her in a very bad way. The wife had the displeasure of following the ambulance to the hospital. That’s a visual my brain keeps tumbling over. Those flashing lights — that’s for mom.

The wife is still at the hospital. I’m at home with the baby. I’ll leave the emergency babysitter phone call for later. I desperately hope I don’t need it.
I want to be there for the wife. My shoulder is there in spirit. But I want to stay with my son. There’s a (hopefully small) family crisis. He needs me. Or, maybe more truthfully, I need him.

That’s one place where the events of tonight has brought about a change of perspective. It’s not the mother-in-law who was carted to the hospital this night. It was my son’s grandmother. A new little heart wishes her well. We both do.

Update: She’s coming home from the hospital today; one night was enough. There’s no telling when the little tike will get his daytime babysitter back but she’s feeling better. Shew.

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Baby Steps

Sep 24, 2003

Cambell has begun his attempts to walk. He’s not exactly steady on his feet — he requires both two hands to steady himself — but stepping seems to be in his blood. He didn’t need guidance. Those knees bent and those feet began to step all by themselves. Miraculous. I have a feeling that he’ll be walking by himself very soon. The great chase begins.

Standing, something he started a few weeks ago, was the ability that excited him. The moment he learned he could do it, standing became the only thing he wanted to do. Sitting on my lap is becoming a thing of the past. Dad, I want to stand. Why? Because I can.

Today, we put yet another check mark in his list of accomplishments.
I was excited when I was greeted with a hello from my son in the morning hours so many months ago. This morning, though, was much sweeter. I didn’t get a hello today. I got a “Dada” – the very first one. Dada was thrilled beyond words. He should have taken the opportunity to ask for a car. He might have gotten one. Or two.

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He’s Really Watching

Sep 20, 2003

I didn’t think my son really enjoyed television.
Baby Eistein can hold his interest for a little while.
The Wiggles can grab his attention for minutes at a time. But
rarely does anything on the little flickering tube garner
any type of reaction from him. It’s not like he asks to
watch a favorite show. Of course, it’s not like he can talk
quite yet either.

But the other day, the wife called me down to show me the Wiggles
in a little bit of car trouble. It seems the engine of their
Wigglemobile was acting up.
The purple Wiggle, who my wife informs me is named Jeff, opens up
the hood and promptly gets a faceful of grease. There’s a pause,
a squirt, a pause, and a squirt. My son couldn’t hold himself
back. Each shot of grease brought about a howl of laughter. It
wasn’t a chuckle. It was a signature belly laugh. He was hysterical.

The wife swears it is his favorite show. Who am I to disagree? It’s
not like he finds The West Wing particularly funny.

I know. I know. As a good little parent I shouldn’t be advocating
my son’s involvement with that evil box of horrors. It’s not like
I’m looking for a
I was just happy to see his joyous response, even if it means I’ll
be fighting him for the remote from this point on.

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Bugging Me

Sep 9, 2003

This morning the wife found a bug in her bowl of cereal. The creepy little thing was squirming for breath in a sea of milk. I had just finished a bowl of that same cereal when she made the discovery. It was bug free, I think.

She called the company responsible to explain her little crawling problem and they promised to send us some free coupons. You could almost hear the wife’s stomach turn as the company representative queried her about the bug’s shape and color. I tried to console her. At least she didn’t find half a bug.

My fantasy football team notched their first win last night. As I find out every year, fantasy football does wierd things to your football watching experience. You may vote for a team or player you hate. You might be timid about the success of a team you love. A meaningless game suddenly becomes a fascinating matchup.

Last night, both my opponent and I had a stake in the Philly Tampa game. Donovan McNabb would throw for his team. I started Philadephia’s defense and Tampa Bay’s kicker. My opponent wanted to see Donovan McNabb flash some skills. I wanted to see a battle of field goals. Philly 0, Tampa 3 would make me very happy. The final score – Philly 0, Tampa 17 – was good enough. Mr. McNabb, a very good quarterback, had a very bad day. That’s too bad. I like him as a player. I just don’t like it when he plays against my team, fantasy or otherwise.

The wife and I went shopping for a car seat yesterday night. It only took us three stores to find one we liked. She was focused on features and safety. I was determined that it would match the truck. Cambell didn’t seem to care. He fell asleep as the sun set. One of us has our priorities mixed up. Don’t worry. I’ll straighten her out.

The new seat feels like a graduation of sorts for the little guy. Daddy, I can stand up on my own. I’m this close to crawling and I’m ready to amaze you next week with a host of new activities. I think it’s time for a big boy seat.

I hear ya boy. Just don’t be in too much of a rush to grow up. It won’t be long before Dad is asking you to mow the lawn and make your own breakfast. Bug free, of course.

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The wife has been pleading for a vacation. Days off have been in short supply since January, when the event of my son’s birth caused me to take more vacation than I had accrued. In the time between then and now, I’ve been working off borrowed time. That doesn’t leave room for many weekdays spent outside of my office.

Still I hear her pleas. While a real vacation won’t become reality for a few more months, that doesn’t mean we can’t compromise. A day trip was on the docket. The only question was where. A dinner time discussion about St. Michaels on Friday filled in that blank. It turned out that a family outing was already planned for the next day. We decided to join in.

The trip to our destination wasn’t notable, which is a blessing when you must cross the Bay Bridge on a Saturday morning. We did, however, stop off for a short lunch at Ruby Tuesdays, an event that was notable only because of the quaint reaction solicited from my mother and stepfather, regular visitors to our destination.

You could see the lost look in their eyes when they realized that THE PLAN has been changed. We never do it this way. We are supposed to pick up some ice cream when we get down there. What are you doing?

It reminds you how set we are in our ways. My wife and I surely have habits such as these, traditions that are marked as much by the events themselves as the ritualistic way we repeat them. Thankfully they were open to change. The baby was hungry.

Speaking of the baby, our worries about the little tike began almost immediately upon arrival. To start it was nasty hot. Stifling humidity was thrown into the mix to create a truly entertaining sweat. I’m sure I would have had a better time if I wasn’t so worried about the child bursting into flames at any moment. I’m not sure which part of mother nature is responsible for the weather in Maryland. All I know is that it is moist and warm.

Our other worry involved the scheduled boat trip. I wasn’t really concerned about the trip itself; I’ve taken this trip before and I always feel quite at home on the water. It was a big vessel, not a rowboat. What really bothered me was any potential contingency plans. What would I do if something went wrong? I can swim. My child isn’t so lucky and, at such a young age, isn’t the best fit for a life jacket.

In the end, we swallowed our fears. The light breeze brought about by our travels was a welcome relief from the heat.

Afterwards we did a little shopping. St Michaels has a bunch of little stores selling a little of this and a little of that. We visited quite a few of them, generally more thankful for the cool breeze of a waiting air conditioner than the wares available for us to peruse. The wife and I picked up some garlic salsa I have yet to taste. My stomach growls at the thought.

Our shopping did not last long. The heat was a cruel companion, no doubt aided by the fact that I was carrying a 16 pound child on my back. I was sure that smoke was rising from my wife’s bottom. I had better get her home before she begins to smolder.

I had fun. While a single day on the shore is sad replacement for the vacation we so sorely need, it was a nice respite from the daily drone. Maybe next time we can go somewhere magnificent, like our neighbor’s soon to be built pool.

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Jul 10, 2003

The Small Bang

The 4th of July is one holiday that is steeped in tradition in my family. It brings me visions of parades and the assorted folks of the Wootton brood sitting around munching on shelled creatures. There’s Pop Pop busily cleaning crabs for Grandmom. Brother Jim is anxiously piling up his crabmeat for a big sandwich at the end. When do we leave for the fireworks?

This year we didn’t stray too far from the path. The wife and I skipped out on the parade, more or less. We didn’t actually witness it first hand. However, we were part of it for a short time at the end, also known as “why is everyone going so damn slow”.

We had new visitors in the form of my brother and his children. The long trip from Idaho had landed them in the middle of a holiday weekend. It was time to do what good Baltimoreans do. We eat crabs.

Crabs are one of those foods that add the cleaning of the carcass to the eating ritual. As a Baltimore native, I don’t even notice or acknowledge this fact. It’s just what you do. The eyes of my brother’s children remind me that this even-headed approach to butchery isn’t universal.

Excuse me. You rip what open? What is the heck is that?

Both children were a little freaked out about the whole process. It probably didn’t help that their father offered to eat an eyeball if they would take the smallest of tastes.

The uniqueness of our meal settled in when I offered to play ball with my nephew after dinner. He ran out front. “I’ll be waiting.” He had no idea just how long he would be doing so.

The evening’s fireworks were preceded by threatening rain clouds and, eventually, more than a couple drops of rain. The family huddled under a nearby tree before a dash to better cover. The rain would pass after a short time and return briefly for a second visit. In the end it gave up, allowing explosives to brightly paint the darkened holiday sky.

Unfortunately, one staple of the day was missing. Grandmom and Pop Pop are no longer around to celebrate; their trademark house along the old parade route sold long ago to unfamiliar owners. I have no doubt they watched from the heavens, though. I bet they had a much better view.

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