New stuff in the Happy household

I don’t blog much anymore, but for the five of you who still check in I thought I should provide a small update. As you probably know, I was out of work for 18 months. I say “was” because I recently accepted a position at a Bible software company here in Austin. It’s the first job I’ve had since graduating from college that is not a writing position. Instead, I’m putting my web coding skills to work as an e-book developer. It’s a nice change of pace, as I had pretty much burned out on writing every day.

I realized recently that unemployment has been a recurring theme in my adult life. I quit a job two weeks before my (May) wedding, and found employment in September. Since my new bride worked in the public school system at the time, those three-and-a-half months of not working were like an extended honeymoon. I kept that September job until shortly after we moved to New York, when the company laid off 1300 people, including me. That was in March, and I was working again by May. I kept that job almost five years, but then lost it in another round of layoffs. One week later we found out Tater was on the way. Nine months later, he arrived and I still didn’t have a job. Six months after that, I still didn’t have a job and…

Our other bit of news is that we’re expecting another baby. Pregnancy literature states that it shouldn’t be possible to conceive while the mother is nursing, but that’s no guarantee. We are living proof of the second part. Tater was six months old when Mrs. Happy took a home test and discovered that another little life was growing inside her. Our (first?) two children will be 15 months apart. I hope that means they’ll be close friends as well as siblings.

We devised an ingenious method of announcing the new arrival to our parents. We bought a little shirt for Tater and designed an iron-on transfer telling the world that he was no longer an only child. Since the shirt was small and we wanted the message to be subtle (so the grandparents would have to think about it a little and kind of earn the knowledge), we simply printed the word brotobe in a wacky font across the chest, with two little faces on the shirt pocket. We set up a dinner, ostensibly for my birthday, where the happy in-laws could see the shirt at the same time as my mother. I also took a photo of Tater in his special shirt and e-mailed it to my dad, who lives about 250 miles away.

The big moment came, and we presented a message-bearing Tater to his grandparents. We expected them to take a moment to absorb the meaning of the cryptic word. I thought I would sense their thought-gears pulling brotobe through a series of possible pronunciations and then producing a mental flowchart of word associations while a curly flourescent bulb hummed to life just above their heads as they realized that if Tater is to be a brother then they would be having another grandchild. That’s what I envisioned, anyway. What actually happened was nothing. The shirt might as well have read If it’s too loud, you’re too old or Love the baby, ignore the tee for all the reaction it elicited. No one spoke of it all the way through dinner. I was so excited I could barely eat, but the oblivious grandparents all enjoyed a fine meal.

After the dishes were cleared, I picked up my son and said, “Has anyone noticed this shirt?” That question, at least, drew blank stares. I started walking them through the process. “It’s pronounced BRO-too-bee.” No reaction. “As in brother-to-be.” Brows furrowed, but made no sound. “Which is to say, Tater’s going to be a brother.” I didn’t know how to be any more clear without producing the pee stick. Finally, father-in-law looked at Mrs. Happy and said, “So…are you pregnant?” And there was much rejoicing.

I then called my father. He had gone to church straight from work, then out to eat with friends, so he hadn’t been home to check his e-mail. I eagerly described for him the photo. He said, “Well, that sounds neat. I’ll be sure to check it out when we get home. So, how’s everything else going?”

I intuited from his response that he didn’t understand the message any better than the other grandparents, so I elaborated: “That’s BRO-too-bee…as in brother-to-be.” He responded, saying, “Yeah. That’s cool. So we’re out having Chicago-style pizza. I’ve never had that before…” And he just blathered on about how he was standing in a Chicago-style pizza parlor set in an unlikely East Texas town. I interrupted:

“Do you see any significance in the message that Tater is a brother-to-be?”

“Yeah, I see significance in that. That’s cool…So these people we know are the ones who run this pizza place—”

“Dad! What sort of significance are you talking about?”

“Well, he’s in a Christian family and probably one day he’ll—”

Thankfully, my stepmother (inaudible to me) interrupted him, curious to know what he was talking about. He described for her the photo exactly as I had described it to him, even including the emphasis on “brother-to-be.” Though she was several feet away from the phone, I heard her response: “So you’re saying she’s pregnant again?!”

To which my father responded, “No, I’m saying…wait, is that what you’re saying?”

And there was, at last, much rejoicing.

It was frustrating, and I now question the wisdom of attempting such subtlety, but at least we have a story to tell.


When my wife was pregnant last year, we gave the baby the nickname of Tater, which was short for gestater. This new one we’re calling Tobe (pronounced TOE-bee).

21 thoughts on “New stuff in the Happy household

  1. Way cool! Congrats!
    Our two youngest are 17 months apart, and are often confused for twins (even at ages 4 and 6).
    Rubi was also nursing at the time she conceived our last and was in denial that she was pregnant for a month until I finally convinced her to take a test.
    We did the T-shirt thing too!! Our first child we made her a tshirt that said “I’m the big sister”, and our son (at the time the youngest), we made him a shirt that said “I’m the big brother” and we went to our respective parents houses waiting it for to dawn on them… took awhile for our parents to catch on… Rubi’s younger sister looked at it and finally said something along the lines of “wait a minute!”

    Again congrats! Both on the Tobe, and on the new job!

  2. When I announced the birth of my second to my family I sent out a card where I photoshopped a logo on my son’s shirt of a tall kid with a little kid. It was cute, but only a few people picked up on it. Now I can’t find it.

  3. Congrats! My guys are 17 months apart… not quite planned, but good nevertheless. Other than the part where I felt like I’d been pregnant for years on end, it was great. They’re now 6 and almost 5, and they’re best buds.

  4. Congratulations! That announcement story was very funny. For some reason I think the people most likely to get those little “hints” are pregnant or recently pregnant women. My friend got pregnant again when her first was 5 months old, told her family and his that “Caleb is going to be a big brother” and just got blank stares for a minute or two until someone figured it out. Can’t make it much more clear than that! Me, on the other hand, I was squealing out congratulations almost before she had the sentence out of her mouth. :)

    Oh, and my husband and his brother are 16 months apart and always were and still are quite close.

  5. Actually, when I saw the picutre here, I thought “brotobe” was some new line of toddler apparel. When you started writing about unemployment, I thought “he’s a distributor for this new brotobe clothes line because he needs to supplement his income, and he’s going to ask us all to place an order.”

    And I already new that Tater is a brother-to-be.

    I’ll be buying a first-class ticket on the clue bus…

  6. yah, the father had it right: in a christian family, once you’ve broken the seal and had a kid, it is just plain assumed that you’ll have at least one more.

    more likely three.

  7. I am a random visitor to your blog . . . . it’s rather nice it’s not updated 6 times a week, I can keep up!

    *giggles hysterically* Yes, you can get pg while nursing. I spotted the shirt and knew instantly what it meant. Funny story. Except I’m jealous. Our son is 6 months and dh and I have been hopeing for a while now to see those double lines . . . . but not yet. Dh’s older sisters are 14 months apart. :)

    The Ash part of Jonash

  8. Chris,

    I think what my dad meant was that since Tater’s in a Christian family that he would one day be a Christian “brother” in the way that we’re all part of one big family. I may be wrong, though. I have never been able to figure out how my dad’s mind works.

  9. Congrats!

    My younger brother and I are 16 months apart . . . up until our mid-teens we were mistaken for twins – then people started guessing that he was older than I. (I’ve had to deal with the same thing with the older of my two younger sisters . . . and it’s starting with my youngest sis. Pretty soon people will think that I’m the youngest in my fam!) But, I’ve enjoyed having a brother that close in age – up until a few years ago, we did practically everything together (seriously, I didn’t go to camp until he was old enough to go with me, etc.).

  10. I didn’t know how to be any more clear without producing the pee stick.

    Most of the time, LOL is a figure of speech. My mom just called in “what’s the matter?” at the guffaw that statement elicited. That whole dinner read like the script of a great sitcom, and made me sad you don’t write as often on here as you used to. Anyway, congrats again!

  11. My two will be 15 months apart. It will save us from having to pack all the boxes of baby things away – and we’ll be finished sooner. My sister and I are 14 years apart – my mom was raising kids for 31 years total. Enough is enough! I think closer is better.

  12. CONGRATULATIONS, Curt & Mrs Happy! The T-shirt is darling, and I think Tater looks just like you, Curt ;) Wow, he’s so big now! I think the last pics I saw still showed him as a little baby…

  13. Hey, congratulations! That’s a great story, by the way. I would’ve thought the shirt was totally clever – but now I’ll know to think twice about ever attempting such a thing.

    (By the way, don’t know if you’ve spent much time browsing blogs, but in case you didn’t know, we are no longer going to be the McFarlane Duo, but the McFarlane Trio. And no, that doesn’t mean we’ve embraced polygamy and no, I understand the unlikely setting of Chicago pizza in East Texas. Get it? Get it?)

  14. Congratulations on the newest, yet-to-be-seen member of your family and on your new job!

    Incidentally, although at first glance it might appear so, brotobe.com is not a Bible software company in Austin…

    (after reading the first paragraph, I thought his shirt read “brotobe.com” with the last “m” hidden beneath his sleeve)

  15. The brotobe was just too well done. If it had looked more homemade, they might have gotten it. It looks like a real logo, and nobody really reads or thinks about real logos. At least, not people your parents’ age.

    Congratulations. I also got pregnant while breastfeeding–a few times. Having two really close isn’t so bad. The older one basically doesn’t remember life before the baby (even a really smart older one), and there is not much sibling rivalry. When they get older, it is FANTASTIC, because they are the best of friends. It is not quite so fantastic when you have three really super close in age and they all are supposed to go on the same school band trip to Bands of America and it costs $650 per child. We may have to join the world of fundraising (we are supposed to sell coupon books, cookie dough, fruit, candy bars and pizza). But on the whole, having them close is very nice. Except, check in on me in a three more years when we have three in college. That scares me. Will we have to sell the house and live in a shed?

    (Beware of number three–not the child, the experience; that’s ALL I’m going to say)

  16. Congrats! I was laughing all the way through the story about the grandparents. How cute. Too clever for your own good, Curt!

    It’s good to hear from you again. :)

  17. As another not exactly random but definitely not consistent visitor, I just wanted to state that I clearly notice you still have definitely more than 5 checker-inersz:-) CONGRATULATIONS to you three.