Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Travel's with Zoe

Alison and I have recently taken two long car trips. Up until now the longest drive we have taken with Zoe was a two-hour trip to Monterey, when she was a month old but most of our drives are usually less than an hour, often just a trip into San Francisco or Walnut Creek, each about a half hour without traffic. Most of these short drive’s required a stop at some point, our pulling off the road at the first opportunity, for a feed and a calming down because she had reached a level three crying fit. (Level one is her usual bored or hungry or uncomfortable cry and can be dealt with fairly easily. Level two is usually about the same intensity, give or take, as level one, but usually means she is over-tired and simply requires patients (and pacing) since she usually has to cry herself out. Level three is painful to watch and hear. Sticking a sharpened awl in her ear wouldn’t increase the intensity.) So it was with some trepidation that we even considered a long drive, but we reasoned that flying and all the hassles it entails was more than we were ready to undertake. Plus anyone who has ever traveled with an infant knows that while it takes a village to raise a child, you take a village, or at least their luggage, when you travel with one.

Zoe turned two months old the week we drove to Los Angeles to visit her parents, a 752 mile round-trip journey. Two weeks later we drove up to Ashland, Oregon for the long Memorial Day weekend, 660 round-trip miles. We knew that for the drive to go well we would need her to sleep for a good portion of the drive, so timing was everything; feed, nap, go. The drive to LA is mostly along Route 5, a long, hot, flat and boring road through the central valley. On the day we drove down the temperature hovered in the high 90’s. This meant that when Zoe started screaming we would have to take the first exit we came to, one of the long, empty roads that disappeared into the distance, pull to the side of the road, and walk around in the dust with her on our shoulder. Usually a feed and some shoulder bouncing was all that was needed, but when you are trying to get someplace stopping every 100 miles can really make a long drive, well longer. At one point we were had stopped and were pacing with Zoe in the shadow of a shipping container (next to a fruit stand on a road occupied by miles of farmland) and we’re discussing finding a place to spend the night rather than suffer another few hundred miles. Ultimately we made it and by the time she had recovered from the drive we were heading home.

From this point on I can stop trashing Zoe’s traveling skills, because she seems to have decided that if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, and on the drive to Oregon she slept for three hours. Three hours! We had to make only one stop on the entire 330-mile trip, at which point my bladder was so distended that it was beginning to block my view. But we have a rule; don’t wake a sleeping baby.

Did I mention the amount of gear we brought with us? It used to be that Alison and I could go away for a long weekend with a bag that could fit in the trunk of my Miata. The trunk of my Miata is about the size of my bladder on the Oregon trip. With Zoe we bought a SUV (a hybrid, thank you), and we do a good job filling that up. Fortunately we also bought a stroller that is about the size of my Miata, so when we got to our destination we would throw Zoe over a shoulder and pile all the crap on the stroller. I could go down the list of things we travel with, but basically it’s everything. In about a month we’re taking another trip to LA, but because we’re only going for the weekend we decided to fly. I’m not sure what gear we’re bringing, but the big stroller is already off the list, which just means I’m going to throw out my back hauling the bare minimum we are going to bring. I’ll report back on that trip after I get out of traction.

I don’t think Zoe will always be easy to travel with, but I don’t think I’m always easy to travel with. But I hope she eventually learns to enjoy our trips. We’ll sing car songs and visit state parks and hopefully I won’t have to say, “Don’t make me stop this car,” too often (it’s my right as a parent to say that at least a few times). But I suppose I should enjoy these early days when often the problem is solved simply; a boob and a shoulder.

[I’ve started adding links to other websites on the left side of this screen. The two I have started with are both sites from friends of mine. I encourage you to check them out.]

See photos of Zoe at

Monday, May 14, 2007

Correction & Apology

In yesterdays blog I tried to be witty but in doing so misread the situation, or at least misreported it. When I said that people found Zoe “boringly familiar” that was absolutely not true, it just sounded like good copy. Everyone did comment on how cute Zoe is, and did so honestly, not dutifully. And although bringing a monkey to the party would have been a good conversation starter (and marked us as the strange neighbors) I don’t think Zoe received less attention for not being a monkey, far from it.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Upon Reflection

As I begin writing this blog entry on May 13th, Mothers Day, I look across the room at Alison holding our little angel Zoe and reflect on what it is to be a father. I find myself responding to this new situation (e.g. fatherhood) from two perspectives. The first is how calm and carefree I am, that fatherhood is the natural next step in my life and how dealing with a new baby seems so natural. For example, this morning Zoe was lying by my side, wide awake and moving her limbs as if Godzilla were in hot pursuit. I was half asleep barely registering this motion, as if having a bag of cats in a bag pressed up against me were normal. As if having a sleeping two-month-old baby girl next to me were normal after 42 years of not having a little baby sleeping next to me. Did I mention it was 6:00 AM? The other perspective I have on this whole fatherhood thing is HOLY CRAP, WHAT HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO!?

Yesterday we went to a neighborhood garden party where a number of the attendees were old enough to have grandchildren. They all commented (dutifully) on how cute Zoe was and asked if she was a good sleeper, then nodded knowingly to our answer. They had all been through this baby thing and have experienced not only the sleepless nights but also gobs of child rearing situations we can’t even imagine. It seems odd that this amazing thing we are dealing with is so boringly familiar to most people. Here we have created a living, soon to be thinking and functional being, but we would have received more attention if we had arrived with a monkey.

You have to wonder why people choose to have children. We will spend a fortune on a wasteland of baby, kid, and teenager paraphernalia. We’re creating a new continent out of soiled diapers. We haven’t slept though the night in two months and I don’t see it getting much better anytime soon. I bought a family car rather than a Porsche. And instead of gifts of flat panel TV’s and video iPods we received singing mobiles and cute towels with hoods. Okay, I realize that Alison probably wouldn’t have let me buy the Porsche in the first place, and it’s unlikely that people would have bought us gifts of expensive electronic toys, but the point is why would you choose the Yugo over the BMW?

I realize I just compared my child to a Yugo, and I do know that it is a bad analogy, but the point is why not save ourselves a lot of headaches and simply spoil our cats and buy expensive toys? Well, Zoe does this really cute thing when she’s sleeping where she makes this little sucking motion as if she’s eating. Her little cheeks go in and out and she puckers her little lips. And when she wakes up, she goes through this ten-minute stretch where she makes a hundred faces and moves every muscle in every direction and she’s really fun to hold while she’s doing this. And after she’s done all this (and had a quick snack) she becomes all smiles and giggles and doesn’t mock you for making idiotic faces and repeating, “who’s my cute Zoe,” fifty times. And when she’s older I’ll be able to show off our “Our Child is a Hardest School in the World Honors Student” bumper sticker, which may actually be more rewarding than owning a Porsche or bringing a monkey to a neighborhood garden party.

See photos of Zoe at Look for the new timeline feature at that site, where I will attempt to add a new photo each week so you can see her grow before your eyes.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Zoe Turns 2 (months) and Dad Gives Advice

This week Zoe turned two months old. It’s been a fun week. On Monday we had a visit from Grandpa Morton and Judy (all the way from Boston). It was a sweltering day with the temperature nearing 90 degrees. We dressed her in a pretty dress and she didn’t even throw up on it until late morning. On Tuesday Zoe had her two-month checkup. She now weighs 10 lb 12 oz; up 5 pounds from the day she left the hospital. She has also grown to 23 inches, up 4 inches. On Tuesday she also had her first round of immunization shots, which seemed to have made her a little more clingy for the last couple of days, but have also seemed to have moved her poop output into high gear. Here is a typical day for Zoe. EatPoopSleep. EatPoopSleep. Zoe has begun to open her hands more often, and appears to be grabbing for things (a big stage in her development). She doesn’t seem to have any problem ripping the hairs from my chest, and I swear she was laughing the last time she pulled away a handful. And most important, she is smiling almost on demand.

As parents of a two month old, we can now claim a vast range of expertise in the field of child rearing, and will use this knowledge to speak confidently to those about to experience “the joy” but not yet in the know. Here are just a few morsels of knowledge I can pass down.
  • It is not a good idea to play airplane soon after the child has eaten. This may seem like common sense, but after the child has eaten she will be either ready to go to sleep or all smiles and daring you not to play with her.
  • Never change her diaper without having a clean one ready. Put it in position as soon as possible. Infants have an instinctual ability to “take care of business” at the exact moment you have turned your head away.
  • Always expect that your child will poo within minutes of having changed her diaper.
  • When singing to your child it doesn’t matter if you don’t know the words, as long as it rhymes. In fact, you don’t even have to use real words if a rhyming one cannot be pulled from your sleep deprived brain fast enough. Be careful in public, as this will make you look like an idiot.
  • If you absolutely, positively need to get something done that requires both hands and or bending at the waist, your child will absolutely, positively need to be held and will not tolerate being put down. Don’t even think about using the bathroom.
  • Your child will always throw up on your clean shirt. You can’t avoid this so don’t even try.
  • You will never have everything you need when you take the child out for the afternoon. You can create a list, but there will always be something that you forget.
Remember, this is your child so you can do with her as you please (within limits of the law). For example, I have considered giving animal toys the wrong name, sort of as a social experiment. You can also dress her in the most ridiculous outfits, because they don’t care. This can continue almost into their teens, as pictures of myself at thirteen will attest to. But remember, everything your infant does is a reflection upon yourself, which is why you must, must push your child to reach impossible goals.

See photos of Zoe at Look for the new timeline feature at that site, where I will attempt to add a new photo each week so you can see her grow before your eyes.

Monday, May 7, 2007


Let me digress from the main subject matter of this blog for a moment. I need to talk (briefly, I promise) about the amount of power we are generating in this household. I’m not suggesting that we have our own nuclear power plant in our living room. And I’m not talking about the surplus of energy that Zoe exudes (which is not insignificant). No, I’m talking about the plurality of batteries we are using in Zoe’s gadgets. Everything needs batteries. And a special sized screwdriver to get to those batteries. One toy—a mobile—needed three different screwdrivers to put together and two sizes of batteries. We have a thing that she lays in and it’s supposed to rock back and fourth or vibrate. I think it also plays music. I spent half an hour figuring out how to put the thing together only to discover Zoe doesn’t like it. It does rock and it does vibrate, but the gears must be made out of bone because it sounds like a coffee grinder in slow motion.

The mobile she loves. It has lights and dangling toys and it spins around and plays three different songs and also has a soothing white noise mode and comes with a remote control. Remember, this is only a mobile. It also has a motor that sounds like a muted coffee grinder, but Zoe doesn’t seem to mind. And about that grinding noise, one would think that it wouldn’t take much engineering to have a quiet gearbox. Then again, I’m not an engineer, so maybe it’s one of those insurmountable problems, much like cold fusion.

I think I’ll save my rant about plastic for another day. Besides, I got off track. I was supposed to be ranting about batteries. Did I mention I’m trying to use mostly rechargeable batteries? I figure if I buy enough rechargeables to power all Zoe’s things and our own horde of battery operated gear that eventually I can strap them all together and take our house off the grid. Well, I’m going to have to wrap this up. I’m typing this in bed on my notebook computer and the battery is running down.

See photos of Zoe at ""

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Into the Crib, Part 1

The subject of getting Zoe out of our bed and into her own crib will be an ongoing saga. This is part one.

Zoe currently sleeps with us, either on top of us or pressed up against us. Before I say too much on the subject of getting her out of our bed let me just state for the record that it really is sweet to have her by our side. But there are a lot of reasons to get her out, and the sooner the better. One reason is that if we prolong her exile she may just decide to stay forever, or at least a couple of years. And of course there are those certain “adult activities” that I prefer not to have my young daughter witness. It’s bad enough that the cats like to watch.

A friend who had a child around the same time we did said that they put their child in the crib from day one. They may not have experienced the joy and bonding we have shared with our daughter, but I bet they have slept better. And seven weeks down the road they are not strategizing on the many conditions necessary to get the child to sleep alone. So problem one, we didn’t start early enough. To give you an idea of what we are up against, let me provide you with this analogy. You’ve parked your car at the top of a hill. You walk a dozen steps away when you notice that your car has begun to roll. You can run after it but really there is nothing you can do. It will continue to gain speed until bam! That is Zoe ten minutes after we put her down alone. She starts off motionless like she’s parked for the night. Then there’s a twitch or a startled movement, then a whimper. Followed by a stretch. Followed by more stretching, and twisting, squeaking, and moaning until bam!

Because it’s early in the process we have a dozen theories and plans for how to get her to sleep alone. Do we use her own crib in her own room or do we put her in the little travel crib that sits next to our bed? Do we rest a hand on her to help calm her and reassure her that we are still there or do we keep our hands off so as not to startle her? How about sounds? Do we use white noise, soft music or lullabies or just golden silence? So far the answer to all these questions is a resounding yes and a definitive no. Maybe we just need to choose the one we think will work the best and stick with it. For now we’re going down the list and claiming success for every ten minutes she is asleep away from us. Stay tuned for part 2.

See photos of Zoe at ""

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Losing the Parent of the Year Award

Before Zoe arrived we discussed the glut of plastic “crap” available for kids, and we were generally opposed to most of it. We would see yards littered with the detritus of the consumer obsessed American household (I say righteously as I type on my shiny new MacBook Pro) and say, “never for our child!” However, we have begun to collect and to receive as gifts a variety of diversions. Most of these are plastic toys that use batteries and do little more than distract her with spinning doodads and flashing lights. We like to refer to these items as “education” or “developmental” tools. Some are actually fun and you can see their benefit, such as Mr. Firefly. We hover it above her head and sing the Mr. Firefly song*. But today I introduced to our child that ultimate symbol of a tuned out and disassociated America, the television. Although we had received a gift of some Baby Einstein DVD’s we had decided that it would be better if we didn’t try to use the TV as a diversion. “Let’s engage our child with songs and books,” we said, “not with the mind rotting content of a dumb box.” WE WILL BE THE BEST PARENTS EVER!

Today Alison had a meeting so I am left all alone with our little angel. Alison left at 7:00 AM and I put Zoe down on her “activity matt” to wiggle. I started to straighten up the living room and Zoe started to make some “I need attention” sounds, so I propped her up on the Boppie® Activity Center, which kept her busy for about five minutes. The next time she started to make sounds I didn’t hesitate, I ripped the cellophane off the age 0-3 Baby Einstein® DVD and popped it in. So, we (I) made it one day shy of her eight-week birthday before I tried to use the TV to entertain and distract her. I’m not proud, but I would do it again. And to be perfectly honest, if she likes the molded plastic sloth with flashing eyes on wheels better than the hand-made wooden horse, then she gets the sloth. As for my efforts to straighten up the house while she was “learning from the TV,” I was out of luck. Ten minutes into the video she started crying. Maybe she needs an iPod?

* The Mr. Firefly Song – “Here comes Mr. Firefly, suck the fluid from your eyes. When he fly’s through the air, he will take all your hair. If he fly’s way to near, he will land in your ear. If he goes for your toes, what he really wants is your nose.” Yay!

See photos of Zoe at ""