November 30, 2007

Food for Thought ...

When a child reaches the age of four months she'll begin to drool uncontrollably. It's true. Ella, who has recently joined this coveted age group, is producing saliva so fast that you could ride a tiny surfboard down her chin. Of course, that's pretty absurd; after all, where would you find a surfboard this time of the year?

According to medical journals, world- renowned pediatricians and, better yet,, excessive drooling is the number one sign that it's time to start introducing solid foods into her diet. Now I know what you're thinking because I was thinking it too: Finally, we can get a sack of White Castles and those last two won't go to waste! But apparently when the doctor says "solids" he actually means "mushy- rice- cereal- that- isn't- solid- at- all- and- looks- more- like- watered- down- eggnog."

Sorry, Ella. We're just as disappointed as you are.

While on the surface this task looks like fun, it's not. Feeding your child solid food for the first time is much like riding a Slip 'N Slide: It seems like a good idea as you make that long run down the yard, but the minute liquid hits your face you know that you've made a giant mistake.

So on Saturday night, we made a dinner date with Ella. We set up her Bumbo chair and plopped her on the table. Several veterans of the parenting field informed us that the first couple of tries are messy, so we prepared ourselves. We wrapped the largest bib we owned around Ella's neck, laid a giant burp cloth over her lap and hung painter's tarps on the walls and over the floor. My wife braved the situation with nothing but her usual weekend wear. I, on the other hand, made sure to put on gloves, goggles and a poncho for good measure.

Brittany took the first stab at feeding her. She dipped the tiny spoon in the tiny bowl, waved it in front of Ella's face and explained what she was going to do: "Ella, this is big girl food. I'm going to place the spoon above your tongue and let you eat." To which Ella replied, "(confused look on my face)." Then Brittany placed the spoon on our babe's tongue and, without hesitation, Ella licked the spoon clean. There was no mess. No anything. It was as if she'd been eating solids her entire (though short) life.

Ecstatic about this turn of events, I took off my goggles and gloves. For the next five minutes I watched as Ella pleasantly took down the rice cereal. It was a tender moment for our family to share. I couldn't have been any prouder of my little angel.

About halfway through the bowl, my wife turned to me and asked if I'd like to give it a try. Me? I practically shed a tear. It was like bouncing around rookie ball for years and then suddenly getting called up to The Show. I promised myself I wouldn't let her down.

I took the bowl and buried the spoon in it, pulling out a small portion of food. I smiled at Ella. She smiled at me. And with one gentle swoop, I put the spoon in her mouth. For a special moment like this, there's only one word that can capture its sentimentality:


Instead of eating it down like before, she blew bubbles in it, spitting all over her face and mine. I learned quickly that this wasn't mere coincidence. It was actually a cleverly designed deceptive move on her part so I'd let down my guard. As I wiped my face with my sleeve, she grabbed the spoon and flung what was left at her mom. With her free hand, she grabbed the bowl and poured it all over the table.

I'd like to say I was mad. I'd even like to say I was surprised. But I was neither. As I finished wiping off my face, I immediately saw my little girl give the biggest smile she's ever made. She was proud of what she did—not because she made a mess but because in her eyes she was helping. I turned to my wife who was also smiling. I couldn't help but follow suit.

So the three of us sat there, one happy, rice-covered family. I only hope that everyone can be so lucky.

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian

November 16, 2007

Two Godmothers Are Better Than One ...

Baptism is a right of passage that most Catholics bestow upon their children. According to the church, it cleanses newborns from Adam and Eve's original sin and asserts their belief in Christianity that, if memory serves me right, involves Jesus, a cross and a 1973 Oscar-nominated rock opera.

Man, I do love a good rock opera.

Now I'm not a big traditionalist, but I don't think my daughter should be punished for some dude and some chick eating an apple—which, if you think about it, must be the lamest sin in history. I can only imagine how that scene must have gone down:

Adam: "Hey Eve, wanna smoke this crack?"
Eve: "Hell no! I've got something much better than that."
Adam: "What is it?"
Eve: "An apple."
Adam: "SCORE!"

Aside from the fact that this poor excuse for a sin is the most touted and recognizable sin of all of time, it's still a church-approved offense that must be washed away. So after a few phone calls (and several weekly donations), we had a time and a place for Ella to join the church. Throw in a few more calls and we had a reception hall and caterer. Everything was falling into place. Only one detail left to be resolved: The Godparents.

Being named Godparent houses a lot of responsibility. You must guide the child spiritually. You must support them when they need support. You must buy them an extra gift every Christmas, and it must be something good. Not a sweater. Kids hate sweaters.

Brittany asked me my opinion, so I told her I would send out a call to all my Life of Dad readers requesting a resume, a list of references and a two-paragraph essay on why they deserve to be Ella's Godparent. After the submissions rolled in, I'd narrow the list down to 20 worthy candidates and send them a Godparent quiz. The quiz would include revealing questions like "If Ella came to you with a boy problem, what would you say to her?" and "What is the capital of Montana" (The correct answers here are "You punch that boy in the crotch and lock yourself in your parents' house until you're 32" and "Helena.") From there, we narrow it down to the top six contenders and hold live interviews. After a few weeks of careful deliberation, we could choose the two people who display the best qualities for this position.

"Or," said Brittany, "We could just make our sisters Godparents."

"Let's hope they know their state capitals."

Traditionally, you have two godparents—a godmother (female) and a godfather (male, Italian decent a plus). But again, I've never been much of a traditionalist. And in Church 2.0 the godparents don't have to be different genders. Plus, Brittany's argument for using her sister Allison and my sister Jennifer were strong: Both will love our child more than most anyone, both have a strong sense of right and wrong, and both are extremely aware of the "no sweaters as gifts" rule. While it wasn't exactly the selection process an HR department would approve, it was one I could comfortably and happily accept.

So this past Sunday, family and a few friends watched as Ella got dunked in that giant bowl and shed herself of original sin. They watched as Ali and Jennie confirmed that they'd help raise our daughter in the name of faith, love, humility and hope. They watched as my wife shed a tear and I mouthed to my buddy Will, "What time does the Bengals' game start?"

All in all, it was a pretty amazing event.

November 2, 2007

Trick and Treat ...

Like most women I know, Ella was incredibly indecisive on what costume to wear on this, her first Halloween. She tried on several outfits and dealt with the same fears that many young girls deal with: Does this make my butt look big? Will I be comfortable? If I drool on it, will it absorb quickly?

For the weeks leading up to the big day, it seemed pretty clear that she had made her choice. She planned to fly around the neighborhood as a beautiful butterfly, which was weird considering she doesn't even know how to walk. But, mobility aside, we dressed her up on Wednesday afternoon and got ready to trick-or-treat.

Like any busy parents, we started running down the list of items needed for the night. Candy? Check. Costumes? Check. Scary smell coming from Ella's diaper? Check. We had everything covered until my wife brought up one very important oversight on our part—we didn't have any Halloween decorations in front of the house. No ghouls, no goblins, not even a pumpkin.

Boo! (Think a little less Casper and a little more Bengals' Fan).

Some dads would panic, but not this one. I'm not only fun and good looking, but I'm also an excellent problem solver. I searched high and low, far and wide, near and far (again). I even checked the cleaning supply closet (an area of the house I'd never set foot in before) for an answer. Then, suddenly, the giant light bulb above my head lit up with only a brightness that dads could appreciate. I grabbed Ella, went upstairs and worked my magic.

Minutes later I returned downstairs with an Ella Pumpkin—that's right, an Ella Pumpkin—and set her on the front stoop. She would serve as our festive decoration for the rest of the night. Thankfully, she didn't mind and did an excellent job glowing for everyone who visited Klems Manor.

As the night and candy cauldron came to an end, we turned off the lights and headed back inside. Ella's first Halloween was over and it went off great. She may not remember being our little pumpkin, but she can smile knowing all the kids who visited us that fine night thought our pumpkin was the best.

Then, of course, we changed her back into her everyday outfit and went to bed.

"Goodnight, your highness."

The Life of Dad is updated most Fridays (barring the call of family duties). Thanks for stopping by and following my attempts to be a good dad, husband and co-ed softball player. I hope you visit again. -- Brian