Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Fourteen years ago a random group of 52 Santa Clara University students signed up to be resident assistants. Among them were people I now consider lifelong friends: Michelle Pietrosilli (now Etter,) Tom Burns, Tony Phipps, Dina Francomano (now Knouse,) Ernie Kwan, Jennifer Keilen, and a pretty girl I had my eye on named Megan Piazza. My dorm's resident ministers were Tom and Rosemary O'Brien-Wilson, and whether it was from their sage advice or the fact they were a family and we were all a little homesick, we gravitated toward them, and in many ways they were the glue that bound us together. In a very short time many of us went from strangers to joined at the hip.

September 11, 1993, only a week after arriving at school, was a day memorable enough to now lend some joy to that otherwise joyless anniversary. On a park bench next to a stream in the Santa Cruz mountains I gathered enough courage to kiss Megan for the first time. Some time that same day, Tom and Rosemary welcomed their first child, Annarose, into the world. For the rest of that school year the O'Brien-Wilson "apartment" became a second home for many of us, and we all adopted Annarose. This lucky little girl's world consisted of a home with a door that opened to hundreds of friends who were all too willing to hold her and play with her. We all have funny stories and cherished memories of the cherub down the hall.

Megan and Dina weighed Annarose in a fruit scale:

We spent holidays together:

Annarose and I took naps together:

My favorite picture of Annarose from that year, with Dina:

The Dunne crew:
Back row: Tom Burns, Jennifer Keilen, Mike Erickson, Mike BC, Tom O'Brien-Wilson
Middle row: Darien Ching, Lara Courtice, Dina Francomano, Thomas Tannert, Rosemary O'Brien-Wilson, Megan Piazza
Front Row: Tony Phipps, Chris Hite, Joel Bittle, Annarose O'Brien-Wilson

The year ended and nine month old Annarose had to watch as all of her friends packed up and moved out, and I won't deny that I felt her pain at watching everyone go. Within two weeks I missed Santa Clara so much I made a return visit, and when Tom Burns and I walked through her door Annarose stood up on her knees and began to shake uncontrollably, her eyes wide at seeing us again. I just picked her up and said, "I know. I feel it too."

Some time the next semester the O'Brien-Wilsons moved to Washington, where they have stayed. In 1996, the year after we graduated, Dina, Megan, and I made a trip up to Washington to visit them.

You can tell Annarose and I were buds:

Megan and I each had this picture on our desks at work:

In 1997, when Megan and I decided to get married, it was clear that Annarose had to be one of our flower girls. After all, she was exactly as old as we as a couple were. She was a perfect choice, guiding one-year-old Alex down the aisle with her and asking Rosemary afterwards, "there's another wedding - do you think they need a flower girl?"

At the reception Annarose was glued to the dance floor, and loved to spin:

Annarose and her sister Maryclare:

After our wedding it was years between visits, with occasional correspondence interspersed. They were at Dina and Todd's wedding, where Maryclare got her chance to be flower girl and we got a chance to see new sister Lauralyn. I saw them again when I drove across country with John Regalia in 2002 - nine year old Annarose was already writing her own plays. She was clearly very bright, but it was the gentle kindness of her parents that I saw most in her, and I was very proud to have known her since her birth. Even after so much time apart, she couldn't sit close enough to me at dinner.

Since 2002, we have unfortunately fallen out of touch with the O'Brien-Wilsons. Three weeks ago, a woman named Mary Farrell referenced this blog in a syndicated column that Tom and Rosemary read in one of their local newspapers. They looked it up, Annarose left a comment for me on the post titled Dancing with Myself, and we have been in email contact since. Check out that post for comments from both Annarose and Rosemary.

And now I present to you the beautiful O'Brien-Wilson girls :

From top to bottom: Maryclare, Annarose, Lauralyn (with baby cousin Brenna Mae)

If you knew Annarose or the O'Brien-Wilsons, please leave a little story or a quick hello for them, as they will be reading the comments below.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Stinky Baby Head

Earlier this year someone named Patricia left a comment on my post "Surprise!," which was about my surprise visit to Sacramento for my brother's Silver Star ceremony. Her comment, however, was about her baby's stinky head. You might be wondering what's the connection between the two, and I'll refrain from making a cheap joke about my brother. If you look at the top of my blog, up there in italics, I ask "why does the baby's head smell like stinky feet?" What Patricia did was google "my baby has a stinky head" and came upon my blog, posting her question on the most recent post. I left my response there, hoping she would find it.

I have a program that not only tells me how many people are or have been looking at my blog, it tells me from what city they are viewing. I'm huge in India - I'm not kidding. Recently I found out that I can find out how they found my site, even what specifically they typed into their google search. I got past my initial misgivings of spying on people and decided to spy on people. There are some strange searches that got to my site. This is my favorite: Tattoos for cars of lady (mine is the 8th result.) But by far the most common search that takes people to my blog is "Stinky baby head." I get between five and ten hits a day just from that search. I'm not just on the first page of results, I'm #1! I am the premier source of information on stinky baby heads on the planet. People pay big bucks to be number one on google. The problem is it takes people to the aforementioned post on my brother's Silver Star - you'd really need to search for the stinky baby head info. So I decided to move Patricia's question and my response to a new post, to help out the hordes of people seeking a cure for their baby's stinky head.

I am so perplexed by my baby's stinky head that I googled "My baby has a stinky head" this morning, and came across your own perplexity. Did you ever get an answer to that question, and did you find a solution? I mean, it'd be nice to cuddle my baby without thinking, Man, you are STINKY!! He's only 7 weeks old. How long does this last?

My husband says it's because he has no hair, which is how he explains his own stinky head, and claims that if I had no hair, my head would stink too. I think this is manly bs, on the other hand, you do have daughters, and at least one of them had a stinky head, so maybe he's right.

Looking forward to your judgment on this issue, and hopefully a solution---bathing is useless, within an hour, stinky head once more. Though I confess, I haven't used scented shampoo yet, which I guess would be the first thing I should try. But I'm guessing S.H. is too potent for something as simple as nice smelling shampoo.

I love that she used the abbreviation S.H. My response:


it turns out Kate, who is bald, is also quite sweaty. We discovered that only after a day or two, she had a head-shaped spot on her crib sheet that she had sweat on enough to make it stinky. So we had to wash her crib sheet every day or two. That fixed baby-stinky-head.

hope that helps

So there you go, sage advice from one stay-at-home dad: wash your sheets. I'm guessing it didn't help Patricia too much, since her baby has stinky head an hour after a bath. Some parenting forums suggested it might come from an ear infection or lactose intolerance. But I would suggest asking a pediatrician, since there's little help on the interweb.

So if you found this page after searching "stinky baby head" or some such combination, please say hi in the comments and post your findings on the mystery that is stinky baby head.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The St. Louis Balloon Race

Some of the best memories come from events you don't plan, or decide to go at the last minute. This Saturday we decided at the last minute to try to catch the Great Forest Park Balloon Race, where over 60 hot air balloons compete. The race starts with the Energizer Bunny taking off, then 15 minutes later all others "chase" the bunny. (on a side note, St. Louisans embrace product placement in every possible way - among the balloons was a giant Ryder truck as well as Pepsi and Alpo cans - and see no irony or danger in the fact that kids' sports programs are sponsored by Anheuser-Busch. I'm sure I'll have a whole post on this later.) Wherever the bunny lands a couple hours later, officials will mark a large X, and the other balloons, "hounds," will drop a bean bag, trying to get closest to the middle of the X. We knew both girls would love to see the balloons, but doubted that we could even find a parking space near the park. So we decided to become hounds ourselves, and watch from the car as the bunny took off, driving around town as we followed it.

Just getting close to the park was nearly impossible. The rest of St. Louis wanted to be there and most of the roads were closed. We managed to get food nearby but when the time for the bunny to take off came and went without any sign of the balloons, we began to worry that if the race was running late we wouldn't have time to follow it. Circling the park, we began to see giant pink ears poke out through the trees, and soon the bunny was up. Of course, Clara was beside herself. A flying bunny!

Following the bunny for a couple of blocks, we wound through a small neighborhood and stumbled upon a small park, perfect for having a picnic as we watched the "hounds" fly overhead. Kate backed herself into my lap and Clara sat with Megan as we all pointed at the balloons we saw. The pictures will give you some idea of the kind of day it was. When it came time to go home, Clara asked if the bunny could fly over her house. We said we'd ask, but we didn't think the wind was blowing that direction.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dancing with myself

If you happen to be outside my house looking in through the big picture window into our office, well, that's a little creepy, but you'll have a good chance of catching sight of the happening Webster Groves dance club that is the Bittle household. On first glance, it may seem that I am dancing with myself, but if you wait around long enough you might catch sight of the tips of Kate's fingers as she waves her hands in the air like she just don't care, or Clara's hair as she jumps around, jumps around, jumps up, jumps up and gets down.

It's definitely not a compliment to them that they are both better dancers than I am. Who isn't? Clara approaches her dancing like she approaches any other of her activities: This is really fun for a little bit but what's next? But Kate, all of nineteen months, could actually teach a class on dancing. Any hint of music - from the radio, television, or even the ring tone on my cell phone - will get her head and then her shoulders and then her hips moving to the beat. And she doesn't have just one move. She'll do the head bob (What is love? Baby don't hurt me...) She'll do the shoulder shimmy. She'll put her elbows out and act like she's doing a marching dance. She'll do the twist. She'll do the side to side sway. She'll lean all the way over in a new dance, sure to sweep the nation, that can only be described as a sideways limbo. Where Clara dances herself into a frenzy before spinning herself onto the couch, Kate is actually working on her craft, attempting to match her bouncing and the waving of her arms to the beat of the song. This is no passing diversion.

Occasionally while we are watching Noggin "Move to the Music" will come on with a short clip of the song "Bottle of Sunshine" by Milkshake. Kate's eyes get big and her mouth forms a big O and she runs onto the dance floor, giving me nasty looks if I don't run out there with her.

Honestly, Kate doesn't need music to dance. If you ask her to dance she'll grin and start moving. Clara just looks at her with a puzzled look on her face - why are you dancing? Because it's fun!

I don't have any good video of them dancing yet, mainly because if I'm not dancing with her, Kate furrows her brow and points at me and says, much too forcefully for me not to obey, "Dance!" Once I do get good video I'll get it up here for her many many fans.