Sunday, June 29, 2008

Am I Too Old for This?

What’s for breakfast? Jelly and cheese. Dad toasts a slice of bread, covers it with jam and cuts it into three-quarter inch squares. He slices some cheese into strips and puts a full-frontal bib on child. To eat, child presses a square of jam-covered toast into mouth and after a few moments of moving about in said mouth removes toast, sans jam. Child places soggy square on table beside plate or hands to dad. If dad does not respond fast enough child drops soggy square on floor while staring dad in the eye; follows with cute ‘no’ shake of head. Child periodically grabs three of four strips of cheese and crams them into her mouth with ball of hand. At end of meal child rubs jam-covered hands over tabletop and hair and presses thumb into and through remaining pieces of food on plate. Child then sweeps food off plate and onto floor and laughs hysterically. Child twists and screams when dad wipes child’s face and hands. Once removed from strapped-in position on chair, child eats pieces of food off floor before dad has a chance to pick up all said pieces. Child climbs on dads back while dad wipes jelly off floor. Dad grimaces when he remembers that there are still two meals and countless snacks remaining in day.

A mom at the park recently gave me a CD of children’s songs by Elizabeth Mitchell. The music is pleasant to listen to, not the usual saccharin, insipidly worded music of most children’s collections (think Raffi). But even better than the quality of the music, it seems to relax Zoe. Every time I put it on she will sit in a corner of her mat playing quietly with the half dozen toys closest to her. She will go back and forth from one to another, completely focused. When she gets into one of these zones she behaves as if it’s the first time she’s ever seen each toy. She'll turn the knobs, lift the balls, remove the parts, and laugh to herself. Lately I’ve been pleased to see her experiment with her toys, mixing them up and stacking one toy on another because they have similar characteristics. Ultimately this means she is thinking more about how things work. She is also becoming more dexterous, her balance is improving, and she is climbing and puling herself up onto everything. She especially likes to perform feats that will ultimately result in a bonk on the head, such as standing on her rocking chair, jumping on the couch, or balancing on any item that she can climb on, big or small. I like to see her climbing about like this but it is exhausting, both because I’m required to participate and because it’s nerve-racking to see her teetering on the edge of the couch. Which is why when I put on some pleasant music it’s so nice to have her just sit quietly for a few minutes.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Special Midweek Conundrum Issue

A few nights ago we had dinner with friends and they were heating up some hot dogs for their children. Zoe’s been off dogs for a while, but we figured we’d give it another try. She ended up eating a dog and a half. The hot dogs were a brand we’ve avoided because they contain nitrates. Here is where we run into problems. The foods that taste best seem to often contain things we’d rather not feed Zoe, it’s not just nitrates. We stopped heating her food up in plastic containers because there is a risk that Bisphenol A (BPA) is being released when the plastic is heated. We discovered that canned foods are lined with a resin containing BPA, and since most of these food items are cooked in the can, BPA has already been released into the food, so we are trying to move away from canned goods. And since BPA is in most clear, hard plastics, we worry about slow leaching even when the item is not heated up, such as in our Brita water filter. (We are aware that studies of the amounts of BPA being released and the danger levels they pose are inconclusive—which is also true of most items mentioned in this blog—but because most information available on the web is slanted toward whomever is doing the reporting we have decided on the better-safe-than-sorry approach.) We naturally avoid foods with Aspartame and Saccharin. Additives, such as tartrazine, a yellow colorant used in fizzy drinks, sweets and sauces, have shown to cause urticaria, dermatitis and asthma. Preservatives sulfur dioxide, sulfites, benzoic acid and benzoates may trigger asthma attacks or worsen eczema. These additives are found in soft drinks, burgers and sausages. Researchers believe food additives are contributing to hyperactivity and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders. And if that’s not all I have to worry about there’s environmental pollutants, damaging sun rays, chemicals in soaps and lotions, and theories of inoculation causing autism and other health issues. Playgrounds are broken bones waiting to happen, and every strange man is a threat. We have terrorists to worry about and poison spiders hiding in the woodpile. There were over six million car accidents last year and well over forty thousand deaths resulting from those accidents. It really is hard to believe that as a race we humans have survived this long. But I got off track. The point I was trying to make is that it’s hard to find a variety of food to feed Zoe that is both healthy and nutritious, and—since she has become picky recently—that she will eat. Maybe we’ll try hot dogs again. Sulfates anyone?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

This and That

Zoe does not like any fiddling above her neck, which is why she loses hats. She screams when we wash her face or hair. She twists like a contortionist when I try to put in a barrette or simply try to push her hair out of her eyes. You’d think I was using sandpaper when I wipe her nose with a tissue. And she acts like I am spreading acid on her when I dab her cute little nose with sunscreen. Since I know I am not getting good coverage with the sunscreen, I insist that she wear a hat. Well, she doesn’t like hats either and will almost always fling hers off at some point. She has also has decided that she does not like to recline in her jogging stroller so I allow her to perch up on the edge of the seat (which in turn covers the warning not to do that). But sitting up like that I can’t strap her in (hence the warning). I also can’t close the sunshade because it would hit her in the head and—more importantly—it would block my view of her. Since she periodically decides she is going to climb out while we are rolling down the street I really need to be able to see her. Long story short, I require that she wear her hat if she wants to sit up (as if she listens to reason). However, she has a little David Blaine in her and no matter how closely I’m watching she can make that hat disappear. There goes another hat.

I used to require privacy when I used the bathroom. I believe that as a species we have advanced beyond the indignities of performing our business in front of whomever is walking or standing by at that particular moment, except at major sporting events, where urinating into a trough alongside a dozen other men stands alongside beer and hotdogs as part of the experience. However, at home I still like a closed door. Zoe, however, does not like to be left alone and does not like closed doors (and would probably dismantle the linen closet if I left her alone for thirty seconds). So she joins me and tries her hardest to distract me from the business at hand [sic]. If I am standing she likes to watch the flow, and sometimes wants to see what it feels like, so I twist and turn and use my knees to block her. Or she decides to slam the lid down, or try a quick feint around my back to unroll the toilet paper. And there is always the question about what happens to bath toys when they are thrown in. If I am sitting the game is to see how many bath toys will fit into my lowered drawers, and it’s still fun to unwind the toilet paper, and try to close the lid, which just whacks against my back. Oh, and she’s learning how to flush, so why not just do that a dozen times. When Alison gets home I’ll sometimes disappear into the bathroom for a little while. I’m just enjoying the solitude.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Father's Day II

This past Sunday was Father’s Day (FD), my second (as a father). I now have two FD credits to my name; FD credits can be redeemed once the child is an adult. A FD credit will allow the parent, me, to tell the child how to do something without getting the response, “Dad, I’m an adult now and I know what I’m doing,” or some other such nonsense. Last FD Zoe was not even rolling over and Alison had just started back at work after her maternity leave. This year Zoe is practically running and Alison had to work all day (and night), but Grandma was visiting so we all went into the city (San Francisco) to run around the Yerba Buena Gardens playground, visit the new Contemporary Jewish Museum, and grab some of the best barbecue in the city at Memphis Minnies over on hip (hippy) Haight Street. Zoe behaved like a little angel all day, although she did throw-up onto my bare chest around three in the morning.

I wanted to use this FD blog to try to express some of the more subtle changes we are seeing. Probably the most obvious (can obvious be subtle?) is her walking, almost imperceptibly improving each day so that now she is just about running, where it seems, to me, like she just learned how to walk. She is able to identify objects with correct responses, less by chance as they were before. And she is learning new tricks such as holding her own cup and drinking from a straw. But there are other changes that are harder to identify, subtle shifts in her perception of the things around her. She is more likely to respond correctly when I ask her to do something, such as, "Hold tight with two hands," or, “Bring me the block.” She is also learning the subtle art of selective listening. For example, requests (commands) such as, “Please don’t put your hand in the glass,” or, “Don’t throw your food on the floor,” will most likely be ignored if she feels like doing one of those things. It’s not that she doesn’t know what I’m asking of her, she just chooses to ignore me.

She has been trying to figure things out, such as the workings of her ‘latch’ puzzle, which has various do-dads that need to be opened and closed. Previously she would just whack it with another toy to hear it rattle. And then there is the ubiquitous head shake ‘no’ that has become frequent and emphatic (and is also used when she means yes). She is not yet speaking, but is making (or trying to make) more animal sounds and making sounds that could very well be words (if you listen closely and know the context). She seems to know what I am talking about when I tell or ask her something or point something out to her. And the other day she looked at a drawing and made a dog sound. There was no dog in the picture, but when I looked closely I could see that the abstract shapes in the drawing resembled a dog. She already has what it takes to be an art theorist, or at least a psychiatric patient.

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Sunday, June 8, 2008


It’s sort of funny what you can get away with, with kids. Early this week I made pulled pork in the slow cooker (for Zoe, or course). I heated some up for lunch, and after Zoe ate I stood in the kitchen finishing what was left from the plate (which, along with the savory pork, had an ample amount of barbequey cooking juice). She was playing at my feet and started fishing around the cats bowl. I leaned down to take the bowl away from her and in the process spilled the barbequey cooking juice onto her head and down the back of her shirt. She barely flinched, and only became upset when I attempted to clean her hair with a wet paper towel. I’m happy to report that even after a shampooing she still retained the pleasant scent of pork and barbeque.

Last week I ended my blog with a note that Zoe was now drinking from a sippy cup all on her own. I was going add a little comment that the next step would be to teach her how to drink from a straw, which not only required that she not tip the cup but that she suck, a concept that is hard to teach. I instead ended with a ‘witty’ comment about peas on the floor. Well, before I even went to press, Zoe and I were out for a walk and stopped at a Jamba Juice for a refreshing and tasty treat. I usually spoon-feed her the smoothie but this time I handed Zoe the cup (mostly because my hands were full and she was reaching up and yelling, “Innng, innng, innng,” which means everything from ‘I want’ to ‘we’re being invaded by bald-headed aliens’). So, I stuck the straw in her mouth, and within moments she was sucking the juice like a bee sucks nectar from a flower. Next on the list is to teach her what freezer head means.

Although we have received a large number of hand-me-downs I don’t know how anyone with children ever has anything to pass down. Some of the toys we have received are worn a bit and some are missing a piece or two, but are generally they are in great shape. And the cloths look clean. There is the occasional stain, but again, most stuff is clean and almost new looking. Zoe’s stuff, on the other hand, looks like she crawled across Iraq with all her possessions dragging behind her. If she has a toy with a piece that can be snapped off, she will. I suspect Zoe will be the type of kid that will pop heads off dolls and will take her tricycle over hand-made ramps. I guess it’s too early to tell about the trikes and ramps, but her cloths are certainly taking a beating. I suppose it’s possible that I’m letting her get into things or do things most parents would steer their kids away from, but probably not. Anyway, I should go, Zoe’s playing in the fireplace.

If you missed last week’s video, it’s not too late to go back. It’s at the end of last weeks blog.

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Sunday, June 1, 2008

Activities, Part 1

At around nine months we discovered that Zoe was anemic and we started a campaign to increase her iron intake. Up to that point she was eating very few solid foods, actually not much more than breast milk. I was tired (lazy) of trying to find things that she would eat, or at least tired of the effort of pureeing everything. But finding that she was anemic changed everything, and the next thing I put into her mouth were chunks of liver, albeit very small chunks. Next was steak (rare, au jus). That she had no teeth I never gave much consideration. I figured if her food was cut up small enough she would simply gum it a bit and then swallow. Then last week Zoe went through an extreme teething episode. The amount of drool that poured from her mouth exceeded the amount of water passing through the Panama Canal locks in a twenty-four hour period. She also ran fever, developed hives and had a loss of appetite. What this means is that she now has more teeth, which in turn means that I will no longer have to cut her food into microscopic specks. Of course she’s still going to choke on the food, but now I get to say, “I told you to chew your food.”

We all hear horror stories of parent’s getting their kids up at 3:15 AM to head off to swim lessons. We may be a couple of years away from that extreme, but the seed is being planted. Here is how Zoe’s week is currently divided. Monday is East Bay Dads (EBD) day. EBD’s are a group of slacker’s stay-at-home dads who meet three days a week ostensibly for various kid-centric activities such as playground time and Zoo visits, but really it’s a thinly veiled excuse to drink beer in the middle of the day (the dads, not the kids). Tuesday is Babygym. Babygym is an hour-long YMCA pay-as-you-go indoor playtime, with fifteen minutes of group activity stuck in the middle to justify the $7 fee. Basically it’s a large room filled with oversized padded things that the kids can jump on and fall off of. There is always at least one child crying because they whacked their head on something. Wednesday is Music Together. You can read what I wrote about MT here. Thursday is Zoo day with the EBD’s. Unfortunately there is no beer at the Zoo. Saturday (at a humane 9:30 AM) is Zoe’s swim lesson. So far she has failed kicking and spitting, but has excelled at choking. Sunday we rest and Zoe will sometimes let us sleep in until 6:00 AM or so.

Zoe has learned how to hold her own sippy cup. She could hold her own sippy cup before, but she hadn’t figured out that she needed to tip the cup to get the liquid to come out. She would often stand there sucking air until one of us would lift the bottom of the cup (at which point she would release it and we would have to stand there holding it while she drank). Now, for the most part, we can hand her the cup and she will drink from it correctly. The first time she figured this out she was so pleased with herself that she drank the entire cup (creating one very wet diaper). This of course has freed up a huge amount of my time, which I can now use toward scraping mashed peas off the floor.

See the world’s cutest bonus video below.

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