Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Eve

In the old, pre-children and wife days, it was my unintentional tradition to wake up late on New Year's Day with a debilitating hangover. Times change. This year we got some Chinese takeout, watched a little TV, tuned in to see the ball drop in Times Square, then went to bed early. So with no exciting drunken exploits  to report I’ve decided to deconstruct the pile of ‘fortunes’ from the pile of fortune cookies we consumed (I brought Zoe into the restaurant and used her to collect the extras).

Someone is speaking well of you at this very moment: This was from the cookie Zoe opened at the restaurant while we waited for our food. My guess is that it was Grandma.

You will be surrounded by things of luxury: I’d like to take this opportunity to give thanks for everything we already have; although it would be cool to have an iPhone.

Something on four wheels will soon be a fun investment for you: Unless it operates by remote control and can be driven around my back yard, I really can’t imagine what it could be referring to. Unless it has something to do with the next fortune.

A pleasant surprise is in store for you soon: I’m going to defer to the previous two fortunes.

Success will come to your plans: Um, I don’t have any plans.

Tomorrow is good day for trying something new: Maybe I should make a plan.

You will be showered with good luck tomorrow: I definitely need to make a plan.

You will inherit an unexpected sum of money within the year: This is not a very clear fortune. What exactly is an unexpected sum? A buck? The bad news is someone has to die for me to get that buck.

Nothing can keep you from reaching your goals. Do it!: Very apropos for a New Year fortune. I think my resolution was to lower my cholesterol level, a definite sign of my age. I could reminisce on New Years resolutions years past, but given my age I’ve forgotten most of them (and suspect some of them may have contributed to my cholesterol level).

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Christmas Vacation

Sung to the tune ofWhile My Guitar Gently Weeps

We’re heading to Big Sur as soon as she wakes up
While Ma-in-law soundly sleeps
I walk on the floor and I step on a Cheerio
Still Ma-in-law soundly sleeps
It’s Christmas day morning the presents are piled high
We’re waiting to open them
But we’ll have to wait more.

It’s just 6:00 AM Cal’s been up since 4:30
While Ma-in-law soundly sleeps
Now Zoe’s awake and we’re all getting grumpy
Still Ma-in-law soundly sleeps
I drive Cal down the coast it’s amazing
Too bad it’s completely pitch black
I return after one hour
But now he’s sleeping in back.

Two days in a row now that no one is sleeping
While Ma-in-law soundly sleeps
I need coffee...
Still Ma-in-law soundly sleeps.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Birdfeeder

I picked up a hummingbird feeder recently thinking Zoe might enjoy watching the tiny birds float in the air. I hung it by our back door and filled it with sugar water. Rather than bringing up the ladder I used Zoe's plastic slide, which wasn't quite high enough. Although I was balanced precariously on the slide, which flexed ominously, while sugar water poured out of the feeder down on me, I didn’t fall, and there was still some feed in the feeder. Now all we had to do was wait for the birds.

Success! Hummingbirds started showing up. “Zoe, look! A hummingbird!” “What’s that?” “It’s a hummingbird.” “Why?” “Why what?” “Read me a book, Daddy.” Zoe was unimpressed. I tried explaining that hummingbirds can flap their wings as fast as 90 times per second. Still she was unimpressed. No matter, Alison and I and the cats enjoy watching the birds. However, suddenly the cats seem to be showing up with more hummingbirds than usual, and having floor-to-ceiling windows seem to confuse to tiny birds, since they seem to be bouncing off them at an alarming rate.

Flying into a window is usually lethal to a bird, but sometimes it just knocks them silly.
It is my job to protect them from our cats until they have recovered enough to fly. Yesterday, after a hummingbird flew into a window (and failed to die), I picked him (her?) up just as both cats made their appearance in the yard. The bird had recovered enough to perch on my finger, and seemed to tighten its grip when the cats started meowing. What to do? I had a bird in hand, in shock and possibly injured, and two cats licking their chops in anticipation. I could try throwing it as hard as I could and hope it recovered before the cats found where it landed (assuming throwing a tiny, delicate bird isn’t lethal). Finally I got tired of standing in the back yard holding the bird, so I placed him on top of the shed and hoped for the best. Harry, our cat, circled around to the back of the shed, and a moment later I saw him appear behind the bird. Harry pounced just as the bird took flight, and poor Harry stood there and watched as he flew away.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It’s Christmas Eve and I’ve put together Zoe’s Skuut, laid out the stockings, and shoved the last two peanut butter chocolate kiss cookies down my throat before anyone else could claim them. Now I can sit back and relax and reflect. This December marks the 20th anniversary of my mother’s death and amidst all the holiday cheer–the lights, eggnog, gifts, and endless variations of the Twelve Days of Christmas, making the rounds of friends and family with the kids dressed in their cutest outfits–I find myself now more than ever feeling her loss and regretting that my mother will never meet Zoe and Calder, and that they will never know her. However, I can take some joy knowing that, thanks in part to her, my children have a really cool and handsome father. But there is joy this season as well, and that is the Hanukkah miracle of the cat. A couple of weeks ago I opened the living room door for our cat Tucker at 10:00 in the morning, and nine days later he returned. Despite a cold snap and heavy rain during the period he was gone, he returned healthy and clean, and only slightly hungrier than usual. We can only guess where he might have been, but it certainly would have been a darker holiday without him. So, welcome home Tucker. And to my mom, if you're looking down on us, know that we're thinking of you (but please don't 'look down on us' when I'm in the shower).

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Zoe, upon seeing a picture of the Pope on New York Times online.

"Who's that lady?"

Monday, December 14, 2009

News Flash – Child Breaks World “What” Record

This just in. A young child of approximately two and a half years of age has unintentionally surpassed the previous world record of beginning every sentence with the word ‘what’. The world record in this age group does allow for repetition, and this child used that clause to a great extent. For example:
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
  Child: “Daddy, what are you doing?”
  Father: “I’m eating an apple.”
The exhausted father of this extraordinary child could not get a word in edgewise to comment.

News Flash - Child Eats Breakfast!

This just in. A young child of approximately two and a half years of age has eaten all of her breakfast! The child’s father had prepared a slice of toast with cream cheese and two flavors of jelly (strawberry on one half, raspberry on the other), with the crusts removed as per the child’s instructions (Zoe no like!) and when he returned from the kitchen the entire slice had been consumed. The child then asked for some of mommy’s breakfast and was given an additional one-quarter bagel with raspberry jelly. This additional breakfast was fondled and slobbered on past the point of parental grazing, but was not consumed. The child’s father was near tears with pride and amazement with his daughter’s eating ability and noted that while she would often eat at least three quarters of toast with cream cheese and jelly, at least one piece would normally end up jelly side down on the floor.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Celebrating Hanumas: Religion and the Holidays

In our home we celebrate Hanumas, our own mishmash of Hanukkah and Christmas. We light the menorah candles and say the prayers (if mispronouncing and mumbling a phonetic translation counts as saying the prayers), but we also buy and decorate a Christmas tree, hang stockings by the fireplace, and open presents on Christmas morning. This contradiction is simple to explain. We are Jewish and therefore want to honor our history and traditions, but Christmas is more fun (besides, we figure Jesus was Jewish). However, we want our children to understand what these holidays represent and that it’s not just about presents (it’s not?), so recently I sat down with Zoe and tried to explain Christmas and Hanukkah to her. If you are new to this blog, Zoe is two and a half (which is why my descriptions sound like I am talking to a two year old).

Me explaining Hanukkah: A long time ago the Syrians and the Maccabees had a big fight. At the end of the fight a large celebration was planned. For the celebration, the Maccabees (the Jews) wanted to light the menorah. They looked everywhere for oil, and found only enough to light the menorah for one day. Miraculously, the oil lasted for eight days. This gave them enough time to go to the store and buy more oil. Today Jews celebrate Hanukkah for eight days by lighting candles in a menorah every night.
Zoe: Daddy, did you hear me fart?

Me explaining Christmas (the blasphemous version): A long time ago a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary were traveling at night and hadn’t booked a room ahead, so they had to sleep in a barn. The woman had a baby that night, even though Joseph hadn’t even kissed her. But the baby was very special and people showed up with cool presents so Joseph said what the heck. Christmas is the holiday that celebrates that little baby’s birthday.
Zoe: Daddy, I have a question.
Me: What’s your question?
Zoe: La la la la la!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Welcome to The Muzzy; DIY

Muzzy: Unable to think clearly; confused.

Welcome to the first post of The Muzzy, a blog devoted to my kids Zoe (formally and Calder (formally, and to the random and esoteric detritus that passes through my head. It’s no longer just about the children. So to start...

Above our kitchen door is a small window that, when open, provides a comforting breeze on warm days, and is the source of every yellow jacket that makes it into our house. At night, if I leave it open, the kitchen lights attract no less than one hundred thousand insects. After living with this for about five years, I found, on a recent trip to the hardware store, a DIY screen kit for only ten bucks (plus the cost of the screen and the special ‘screen and spline installation tool’, know in the biz as a ‘screen and spline installation tool’ or SSpIT) so decided to finally tackle this project. The instructions listed 4 simple steps:
1. Measure the window.
2. Cut the frame to size.
3. Assemble the frame with the included plastic corner pieces, making sure the frame is square.
4. Attach the screen using the SSpIT to press the spline’s into place.
Here are the 10 simple steps I followed.
1. Measure the window no less than five times.
2. Cut the frame to size using the wrong hacksaw blade to insure that the cheap aluminum frame is ragged at the edges. Be sure to cut on an uneven surface to insure an uneven cut.
3. Build frame, being sure to slip at least once to remove some skin from one knuckle. Do not verify that the frame is square. Do not check its fit into the window frame before the next step.
4. Attach screen. This step should be done on the cluttered living room floor next to the seven-month-old child. All parts should be closer to the child than you think. Remove various parts from child’s mouth. Be sure to press the SSpIT too hard so that it slips at least once, creating a one-inch slit in the screen. Use a dull kitchen knife instead of a box cutter to trim extra screen (because you’re too lazy to make a trip to the tool box). Stand back in amazement when the screen does not look like a pair of ill-fitting stockings.
5. Attempt to place completed screen in window frame. Discover that the screen is 1/8th to big in one direction. Swear.
6. Remove spline’s and screen.
7. Gently attempt to dismember frame, trying not to damage the cheap plastic corner pieces. Do not use a rubber mallet to gently tap the pieces apart, since this requires a trip to the toolbox. Simply brace the frame against the porch and whack with your palm. Break one corner piece in the process. Decide to proceed anyhow.
8. Re-cut frame, being sure not to measure, because 1/8th of an inch is easy to estimate. In the process of reassembling, discover that another corner piece is broken. Decide to proceed anyhow. Using Superglue, reattach frame, being sure to hold the pieces for at least forty of the recommended sixty seconds. Ignore the visible unsquareness of the frame. Do not verify that the frame now fits into the window frame.
9. Move the project to a flat surface, preferably the porch so that random pieces can fall through the cracks.
10. Reattach the screen. Stand back in amazement when the screen still does not look like a pair of ill-fitting stockings. Shake your head in awe and pride when the screen fits perfectly into its designated space.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Two-Year-Old Stuff

We’ve just wrapped up our second week of school and things are already looking up. Zoe still clings to me as we go into the school, but we’ve started this ritual where she will stand at the front window and we will make funny faces at each other as I leave. This of course means that I have to walk away as she watches me with her big, sad puppy eyes (because I’m really the only one making funny faces). It tears at my heart so much I can barely bring myself to sit peacefully at the coffee shop and catch up on my reading. I’ve been told that after I leave she no longer cries, and seems to have fun. I, of course, imagine her sitting despondent in a corner, quietly waiting for my return. If I discover that she is actually having fun while I worry I really will be very annoyed.

I’ve noticed a couple of details that I believe are going to define the next umpteen years of my life as both the kids weave their way through school. The first is crust on sandwiches. Already Zoe has declared (“Zoe no like.”) that she does not like the crust. So now when I make her sandwich in the morning I have to cut off the crust. (And she doesn’t like the skin on fruit, so I’m peeling peaches and plums for her, although I draw the line at grapes.) Another thing I have noticed is that no matter how early I am up, no matter how prepared I am, no matter how cooperative Zoe is, every day I have to tell Zoe to hurry up because we’re late. I mentioned in a recent post that Zoe just does not understand urgency. If a herd of elephants were bearing down on us she would stop to examine some gum stuck to the sidewalk.

Although Zoe is a ‘big girl’ now, going to school and sleeping in a real bed, she is only two and a half, and sometimes (okay, most times) she acts exactly her age. Usually it’s irritating, but it can be really sweet and cute as well (which is important, otherwise there would be a lot more child abuse out there). For instance, she had a bowl of cereal the other day, and while she ate Cheerios out of the bowl with her right hand, she was swinging her spoon in the air like a conductors wand with her left, oblivious to the milk running down her arm. There is also the cute obstinacy.
  Dad: “Zoe, don’t forget to put the cover on the marker.”
  Zoe: “Okay.”
  Dad: “Did you cover the marker?”
  Zoe: “No,” and walks away.
There is also her ability to completely ignore us. I could ask her a question a dozen times and she won’t even twitch. I think it takes amazing control and focus to ignore us so utterly completely. Zoe definitely has what my mother called selective hearing. And my favorite, her complete oblivion to my use of sarcasm, such as, “Zoe, what a great job cleaning up.”

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

100th Post / Zoe Starts Preschool

With this entry celebrates its 100th post.

Looking back through this blog at the milestones in Zoe’s life (and I expect you to read back over the previous ninety nine blog entries to catch up) Zoe’s starting preschool–last week–has to rank way, way up there. Preschool has occupied a good chunk of our time and mental space (is there such a thing?) over the last year. It started last September/October with the frenzied search and the sending of registration fees. Then there was the waiting, the rejections, the comparisons, and finally the choice. We then started preparing Zoe. This included the creation of an online Group of fellow parents, picnics and weekly play dates with other students, and an almost constant discussion with her about school and what to expect. But we too had to prepare. Here we are sending our child off to school when it was not that long ago that we were teaching her how to sit and walk, and getting excited because she had learned how to say Mama and Dada. She’s two and a half years old and we could count on one hand the occasions that Zoe was left in the care of someone other than Alison or myself. And now four days a week we are leaving her in someone else’s care.

Monday the 14th of September (2009) was the first day of school. Zoe’s schedule is Tuesday through Friday, but the school had a special short session today to acclimate both student and parent to the routine. We learned about name tags, cubbies, food sharing, allergies, sign-in sheets, sign-out sheets, drop-off time, pick-up time, snack time, circle time, outside time, inside time, a fish named Gloria, a rabbit named Sparkie, where to hang coats, where to put diapers,where to put a change of cloths, where to pick up our children’s art, and most important, where to leave our monthly payments. All the parents mingled about, hovering over our children and taking an active role in their enthusiasm over the collection of toys (“Play is the work of the child.” Jean Piaget). We (us parents) were all hyper attentive, trying to prove, to the teachers, that we all take an extraordinary active role in our children’s interests. At the same time, we (again, us parents) wanted to make sure we knew the drill. No one wanted to be the parent whose child failed cubbyhole.

The rest of the week did not go too well. Zoe was ‘sad’ about me leaving her (sad being the schools gentle way of saying that the child was inconsolable). There were tears every day. I was called back one day because she was sad. Another day I never left. And every day Zoe would plea with me not to leave. At home our months of sleep training evaporated in one night. She cried when we said goodnight, would wake in the middle of the night, and she would show up at our bedroom door at early morning hours. She would frequently tell me, “No Gay Austin,” meaning that she did not want to go back. As I said, the week did not go well.

Tuesday the 22nd, the start of Zoe’s second week, started off with some tears, but overall went better, and although she was crying when I left I was told that she calmed down very quickly and had no problems the rest of the day. (By ‘rest of the day’ I actually mean the total of two hours forty-five minutes that she is at the school, making this the shortest preschool day in recorded history.) I expect that we will have many days of tears and sleepless nights ahead of us, but today gave me some hope that Zoe will eventually adapt and perhaps even come to enjoy and look forward to going to school. I hope to write a blog sometime down the road that tells about Zoe’s tears on a Saturday because there is no school.

In discussions with other parents, we are of the consensus that starting preschool is probably the biggest transition thus far in their lives. Many of the kids have had nannies and babysitters or grandparents, but at school they are often on their own and though I have no doubts that at Zoe’s school a lot of attention is paid to the children, they are no longer the one-on-one center of attention that they are used to. As parents we want our children to be well balanced, socially adept, and stress free as possible, and ironically preschool, a step toward achieving those goals, is probably the most stressful thing they have encountered. I suppose home schooling would help reduce that stress, but I am altogether too lazy and definitely not bright enough to achieve any modicum of success. Besides, I want the kids out of the house so I can continue my tennis lessons.

For my 100th blog I had planned a big retrospective of previous posts, sort of a best of the best, a little trip down memory lane, musings of first steps, first words, and perhaps a sampling of some of my wittier lines from posts past. But it’s been a long week and a half and perhaps Zoe’s starting school is a good jumping off place for the next one hundred blogs. Take a look at the photos of Zoe’s first day of school, and check back here at the end of the week for an update on how the rest of the week went. Then we’re off to a big family reunion on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which will surely set our school and sleep progress back to square one.

Zoe’s first day of school:

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Number 1 Calder

Last week I mentioned that Calder had learned to roll over, and I want to talk a little more about this activity since it’s really changed things around here. First off, I need to stress how quickly he learned to do this. On July 2, 2007, in Zoe’s blog, I wrote that Zoe had been struggling to roll over for about two weeks. Calder, however, just rolled over one day, and the problem is he has not stopped. If you put him down on his back he will immediately–immediately once you have walked into the next room–flip himself onto his stomach and start to cry. Some babies like to be on their stomach but not Calder. He cries. Playtime is all well and good, but when we put Calder to sleep at night he is placed on his back (as is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics) he will wait to we leave the room then flip. We come back into the room, flip him back, stick the pacifier back into his mouth, he seems to drift off, and we leave. We repeat this about a half dozen times (he flips so often that I have left a giant spatula beside the bed) until he falls into a deep enough sleep that he stays put. Inevitably during at least one flip he manages to get on leg stuck through the bars of the crib, and he becomes this little squirming puzzle to extract. Once he’s asleep he usually stays asleep until three or four in the morning when he rolls himself onto his stomach, and decides that since he is up he might as well have a snack. Alison has suggested a Velcro pajama-sheet set and I suggested duct tape to keep him in one place, but I think the AAP has a negative opinion about those options.

In the last few weeks I have met two young boys (wouldn’t it be scandalous if I stopped the sentence right there!) who also are named Calder. At the time we decided on the name we had neither met anyone nor heard of anyone with the given name Calder. We knew we were not the only people who gave our child that name, but figured that it was fairly rare and that it would be unlikely that we would meet another. Yet here they are, popping up all over Berkeley (all over being in two separate parks). The parks I bring Zoe to are often crowded and it’s rare that I hear other children’s names, yet I have discovered two. The odds indicate that there could be hundreds of Calder’s in Berkeley. But perhaps it is even more unbelievable than that; perhaps I’ve met, simply by chance, the only other two Calder’s in Berkeley. Think of those odds? So, I am sending out the call for more Calder’s. If you know someone with the given name of Calder let me know. But if you want to see photos of the cutest Calder of all go here.

Sometimes She’s Difficult

I will frequently search through old blog entries to compare the Zoe of old with the Zoe of new. I do this most frequently when Zoe has overcome some hurdle that I had mentioned her struggling with in some earlier blog, so today, as I write about Zoe’s swimming, I know that at some point I will make some big announcement that she has finally, voluntarily, put her head under water. Zoe currently takes swimming lessons three days a week; group swimming lessons (with Dad in the pool) at the YMCA on Mondays, and private, one-on-one lessons at Sherman’s Swim School on Tuesday’s and Thursday’s. You would think that with all this swimming she would be ready to take on M. Phelps, but the truth is she is just as happy to play on the stairs leading into the pool than learn stroke and turn techniques. Our big hurdle at this point is Zoe’s aversion to getting her head wet. (I’m having a bit of déjà vu about this subject, but since we are in the thick of three-day-a-week swim classes I guess you’ll have to suffer through this repeat.) This extends beyond the pool. We still struggle in the bath to wash and rinse her head. And at public parks, with fountains that kids can run through, she will avoid any spray that approaches her face or hair. I expect that some day, when Zoe is on Harvard’s Competitive Underwater Swimming Team, we will be able to look back on these days with amusement (and embarrass her in front of her teammates), but for now we are happy that Zoe is happy just bobbing along the edge of the pool.

Two year olds are very demanding creatures, requiring patience10 (i.e. to the power of ten), humor and a touch of your inner seer. This morning I was preparing Zoe’s breakfast and each step required some finesse to avoid a pre-breakfast, hunger induced, micro tantrum. First there was the banana. Zoe doesn’t really like bananas but she likes pealing them. So I chop off about two inches from the end of a banana so she can peel it. She’ll take a nibble or two and hand it to me with instructions to save it. I suggest to her that she choose a plate that she would like her breakfast served on and she picks one with three segments, requiring me to ask her which segment I should place the banana (“um… This one). Next comes the hash brown potato. Which segment should that go in (study’s the plate for a few moments before choosing)? After she finishes the potato I try to encourage her to eat some cereal. “Zoe, do you want some cereal?” “No.” “How about if I just put some on your plate and you see if you like it?” I put a handful of cereal into segment three. Zoe starts to eat them. “Do you want a bowl so you can have milk with your cereal? “No.” Short pause. “Bring milk, Daddy!” I try to drag a few pleases and thank you’s out of her, but Zoe is the Queen and I am really just her personal butler. And everyone knows that there is no arguing with the Queen. But I tell you, by the time breakfast is done I’m exhausted, and we’re not even dressed yet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Zoe is no Pop*

Warning: the following paragraph contains egregious sexist and stereotypic comments. The author has already been reprimanded and is currently in the next room being spanked (although the author of this blog does not condo corporal punishment).

Here in Berkeley (and elsewhere) it is considered inapproprié to raise your child strictly in line with their gender. If a male child chooses to wear pink dresses than the understanding parents will stand proudly at his gay side. If a female child chooses trucks over tutu’s than good for the little dy… construction worker. But here in the Glass/Savitz household that is not our problem. Zoe, without any prompting (okay, maybe just a little) has adopted some very girlie attributes. She only wears dresses. The only pants she will put on are pajamas and leggings, tight, shin-length pants that make slides a little more bearable. She has developed a girl-like aversion to any insect big or small, and she will actually squeal when I dangle a mouse, a gift from one of our cats, alive or dead, in front of her (yes, I still have a little of the ‘younger brother’ in me). She also frequently wears her tutu, will carry around and feed her baby doll, likes to carry around a purse, and most telling, the most girlie attribute about her, is she sits down to use the potty. Ah-ha! (Okay, now I’m just getting silly. Zoe is still in diapers, so her sitting on a toilet is just conjecture.) Maybe our sending her to a school named Gay Austin will bring out some of the man in her.

I see myself as a fairly organized and punctual individual. I don’t know if others see me this way, but having children has really put a strain on my efforts to remain so. Having children completely alters time; forty minutes will be over in five minutes and alternately five minutes will take forty minutes to complete. Let me explain by example. On Mondays Zoe has a swim lesson at the YMCA. We have to be in the car at 10:00 am to have time to drive downtown, park and change. So we sit down for breakfast at 8:30 and five minutes later I’m pushing Zoe out the door because it is 10:05. Alternately, sometimes I will be corralled into reading Zoe some tedious book about some furry animal or whatnot, or playing some game in which every few seconds she will yell, “Myself,” which means I would like to do it without your assistance, thank you, except without the thank you, and this will go on for about an hour, except when I look at my watch only five minutes will have passed. This inconsistency of time explains how I went from no gray hair to a few (possibly a dozen) so quickly (quickly is up to the readers interpretation of time).

Did you know that if you leave hummus on the floor for twenty-four hours it forms a semi-firm putty-like texture that can be picked up by hand?


See Zoe and Calder photos at

Friday, August 21, 2009

Calder Rolls Over

It’s a shame I haven’t been more active with Calder’s blog because when something important happens in that long list of developmental milestones, it’s even that more obvious that I’ve been slack in my blog posting responsibilities. The big event that absolutely needs to be posted is that Calder rolled over (back to his front, at which point he has nothing to look at so starts to cry). I looked back at Zoe’s blog to see when she first rolled over (to see which of my children is more talented) and discovered that they were almost the exact same age, within four or five days of one another. Zoe, however, worked at it for a while (we were like cheerleaders every time she made it halfway over), where as Calder just one day rolled over. But I also discovered, looking back, that I reported Zoe rolling over in my seventeenth posted blog. This is only the fifth posted blog for Calder. Bad Daddy! Bad!

The other late afternoon Alison ran out at the eleventh hour (actually it was around 5:00) to pick up an avocado for our dinner. Zoe was watching Elmo (because she fell off a chair onto her face and I was trying to cook dinner and mom was running out to buy an avocado) and Calder was sitting in the kitchen in his bouncy chair watching me cook, and by watching I mean whimpering with increasing volume while I tried to make funny faces and sounds as I passed back and forth. Finally I couldn’t take her pathos anymore and I strapped the Snugli to my chest and proceeded to make dinner with him glued to my front. The problem was his head blocked my views of the cutting board, my left hand, and the blade of the sharp knife in my right hand. I would try to lean one way or the other to see around him, but he would lean with me (no surprise, as he was strapped to my chest). I managed to finish making dinner without chopping of a finger or dunking Calder into something that might leave a permanent mark. One has to ask, however, why we couldn’t eat dinner for lack of an avocado?

I want to briefly talk about sleeping habits. I've devoted many pages on this subject on Zoe’s blog, and for good reason. Sleeping is one of the three points in the infant triangle of life, the other two being eating and pooping. Calder seems to sleep a huge number of hours. Is it because he is simply lazy and doesn’t realize that he is wasting his life? Or is it because sleep is so important to the early development of a child? I guess the answer depends on whom you ask, but regardless, Calder is already sleeping much better than Zoe ever did. Alison is very diligent about getting Calder to sleep when he seems sleepy, and sometimes when he doesn’t seem sleepy. I’m not very good at reading the sleepy signs, and in some ways I think it might just be easier to skip the whole, tedious, time consuming bedtime routines for both kids and simply let them play until they collapse from exhaustion. Unfortunately this plan would probably be accompanied by lots of whining and tantrums, and neediness. And it would probably affect the children as well.

Don't forget to check out photos of Calder at

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Secret Ears

Back in March I spent an hour or so visiting the preschool Zoe is going to attend this September. I was there for circle time, and I remember thinking how advanced the language skills of the children were, and that Zoe was nowhere near that level. I was worried that she would struggle to keep up with the other kids, fall into a deep depression, and start following the moody Oscar the Grouch above the cheerful Elmo. But suddenly Zoe is talking almost perfect sentences (by perfect I mean non-grammatical, three or four word, frequently random, and often needing some parental interpretation sentences). She sometimes gets a little embarrassed when we can’t figure out what she is saying, but after I ridicule her and… I mean encourage her to repeat herself or show me, if she can, we can most often figure out what she is saying. Anyway, I’m no longer worried that she won’t be able to speak well enough to keep up with the other kids. Now I’m worried that she’s going to start talking and never stop.

Talking about school, back in my February 22 blog, The Preschool Edition, Part 1 I mentioned that we were soundly and unceremoniously rejected from one particular preschool. I suspected that that particular school actually enjoyed sending rejection letters and probably published a booklet each fall filled with the names of every family that was turned away, which would then be handed out to parents of children who were accepted. It would instill in those parents a sense of superiority that would help soften the blow of the monthly registration fee. A few days ago I received a call from that school telling me that they had an opening, and if we were still interested the spot was ours. I soundly laughed my rejection of their offer (by soundly laughing I mean I politely said no thank you). I also heard from another family that they too received the same call. They also turned the offer down. So I say, Ha! How the mighty have fallen. Actually I didn’t really say that, but I wondered how many people they had to call before they got to me? As a reminder, Zoe was accepted into The Gay Austin School, the most prestigious preschool in Berkeley (by prestigious I mean one that is within a fifty yards of both a coffee shop with free WiFi and a pizza parlor), and certainly the school with the most embarrassing name.

Back on the subject of language, Zoe has started mirroring our speech. If we say something she will often repeat it. We are often in the habit of talking over her, having a conversation that we think is either too advanced for her, or speaking when we think she is distracted is some activity. The other afternoon I was beginning to prepare dinner and Zoe was sitting in her usual spot in front of one of the cabinets, removing items and placing them strategically around the kitchen so that I would periodically trip. She appeared focused on her task and I assumed she was not really paying Alison, who was in the other room playing with Calder, or myself any mind. From the living room Alison said to Calder, “All righty.” And a moment later Zoe whispered to herself, without pausing in her play, “All righty.” So, in the future, when I have to ask her a half-dozen times to do something, I will from now on assume she is simply ignoring me, and not that she is suffering from some sudden onset of hearing loss.

I had fallen behind, but now you can see recent photos of Zoe and Calder at

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Ridiculously Long Toy Edition

Alison and I have recently been on a toy-buying binge. We somehow got it into our heads that Zoe’s childhood would not only be lacking without certain toys, but that she could possibly become developmentally stunted. However, being the cheapskates that we are we would not buy any of these ‘necessary’ toys new, so whenever we had a moment we would do a quick search of Craigslist. Unfortunately the items we were determined to find are hot items (reinforcing our belief that Zoe would suffer without them). Our binge was initially triggered by a couple of lucky finds at yard sales, a small, slightly wobbly trampoline that Zoe uses almost daily (and has only fallen off of once) that cost us only ten dollars, and a three dollar, sturdy metal toy stroller that replaced the cheap ten dollar one that she played with constantly (and broke when she sat in it). It was almost like a challenge; let’s find the toys Zoe needs as cheap as possible. First on the list was a water table. A water table, for those non-parents out there, is a basically a large basin on legs, and almost exclusively plastic. The non-parent might ask why not just fill a bucket with water? Because, it is the design itself--as is true of most children’s toys--that aids in their development. The large, molded slab of plastic actually makes your child smarter. After an exhaustive search Alison found a posting for a water table in the final seconds before we rushed out the door to pick up our sister-in-law from the airport (Alison was scanning Craigslist as she nursed Calder). It had been put out on the sidewalk, and it was FREE! We had to make a decision; a free water table or our sister-in-law. Long story short, we now have a water table, and have been heartened to see our little girl make daily trips out to the yard to frolic (or whatever one does with ones hands) in the water.

Next on our list was a small kitchen. All of Zoe’s friends have one, and Zoe will play at them for hours (or at least twenty minutes) at a stretch. Any toy that she will play with by herself is worth its weight in living room real estate. We automatically eliminated the plastic models that inundate Craigslist, and can be found for peanuts.* What we wanted was a tasteful, wooden model, and better still, a kitchen that came loaded with all the paraphernalia that is required in a toy kitchen (small pots and pans, plastic food, miniature jars of condiments and boxes of pantry staples, etc.). These kitchens can run into the hundreds of dollars when new, and we came to the conclusion, after many hours of searching, that a decent kitchen in good condition--and not painted some garish color--was going to cost us. But no matter how diligent we were we would often be the third of fourth caller. Also, for some reason everyone that is selling one of these kitchens lives an hour away from us. There’s probably some hidden Berkeley tax on these kiddy kitchens. Finally we were the first caller, so after Zoe’s swim class the entire family piled into the car and we made the trip to Marin County (we crossed a toll bridge, so you know it was a schlep getting there), were I was able to keenly negotiate the price of a three-year old Pottery Barn Kids kitchen down to only ninety dollars, and that low price included all the small pots and pans, plastic food, miniature jars of condiments and boxes of pantry staples that a child needs to make a fake gourmet meal.

There are some small signs that Zoe is a little overwhelmed with her recent bounty. We considered saving some of these recent finds for a birthday or holiday gift, but worried that she might quickly outgrow these items, but also we would have needed to seal off a room just to store them. There is the risk that she will not have any lasting interest in any of these things, and she will instead just ask us to read to her, as she did before we bought her all this stuff. We cannot let this happen. We must remain diligent in our search of Craigslist for good, cheap stuff, and steadfast in our efforts to fill every usable inch of space in our living room with crap developmental toys.

* My use of peanuts in the clichéd currency reference is an intentional, paradoxical reference, since peanuts are almost taboo in the universe of children these days.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Daddy is in Control

You might find this hard to believe, but sometimes Zoe does not do as I ask. Even if I use my most authoritative, parental voice she may still not do as I ask. In fact she will periodically fall down on the floor and scream in direct opposition to some request I might make of her. Here are some things I’ve tried in addition to simply asking something of her. Reason; usually fails, or in some cases will appear to work as she will say yes and nod in the affirmative, yet seconds after completing a lengthy and passionate speech she will do the exact opposite of what we had just been discussing and what I thought we were in complete agreement on. Firmness; you’d think a loud voice would cow her into submission, but it usual fails as quickly as using a rock to save a drowning man. Then there’s the ‘you’re a big girl so just…’ method; I’m actually trying to bluff her with that one, but usually she won’t fall for it, and will demonstrate that she is not really a big girl by having a tantrum. And lastly there is the ‘use candy as a bargaining tool’ method. I haven’t tried this one myself, although I expect it won’t be too long before I give in.

I’ve said this before (and I will say it again), but I prefer to use the bathroom alone. However, Zoe has a special radar that lets her know when I have snuck off to use the potty, no matter how quiet I am, and she will come looking for me. Up until very recently I could expect her to push the bathroom door open and busy herself in the small room while I am doing my business. I’m not sure what the appeal is to small children of being in a small bathroom while a full-grown man sits on a toilet, but I understand I am not the first father to comment on this phenomenon. Recently, however, I have discovered that Zoe aware of and averse to unpleasant smells, so I’ve learned a little trick that is allowing me to begin reclaiming my privacy in the bathroom. When she arrives at the bathroom door and tries to get in I now tell her it is very stinky. There is a moment of silence and I can visualize her thinking about the options available, then she, miraculously, wanders off. I will hear her talking to herself as she sets off down the hall looking for other rooms to dismantle.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Rhymes with Calder

There are only two steps to feeding Calder. Bringing him to a b**b and burping him when he is done. Zoe was a quick eater and an easy burper. Calder likes to savor his meals and take his time getting a burp out. In fact, in the time it takes me to burp him I could probably read a couple of chapters in a book, if both my hands weren’t in use. In fact, my right arm is visibly larger than my left from the extra workout it’s getting. Calder finds the rhythmic patting of his back very relaxing, and will sometimes fall asleep before we can get a burp out of him. But beware; if you think that you can just lay him down without getting that burp out, he will most likely throw up. Which raises the question, why is it that infants need to be burped? I know that they are not able to burp on their own, but don’t you think evolution would have resolved that small shortcoming? I mean really, they come straight from the womb knowing how to eat. How hard is it to burp? I think it is simply a mechanism put in place so the dads can have some part in the baby feeding process. Men = burping. I guess that sounds right.

When you read the Big Book of Rules for Parent, chapter ten talks about how it is forbidden to call your infant simply by his (or her) name. You must create some cutesy derivative, and use it whenever you are leaning over your child, making stupid faces and speaking in a saccharine baby voice in an attempt to make them smile. (In some states you are actually forbidden by law to say their name normally, unless you are referring to said child while calling the wife to take charge of some heinous diaper incident.) But I have a small problem when it comes to Calder; I can’t think of any words that rhyme with Calder except for ‘balder’. (Okay, there’s Gibraltar but not so cute.) So I’ve come to calling him Calder Balder, which is cute only because it rhymes. Now I have Alison calling him Calder Balder, and before you know it his nickname will be Baldy. He will be Baldy like six foot ten, three hundred pound guys are called Tiny (e.g. he is not bald in the least). So please, if you can come up with some other cutesy name that rhymes with Calder, please let me know.

I seem to recollect that we waited an intolerably long time for Zoe to learn how to smile. It could be that she smiled at about the same time Calder started smiling, but with Zoe we were completely focused on every nuance of her development, whereas with Calder it seems that we don’t pay as close attention to how he is coming along (sorry Calder). It’s not that we aren’t just as excited when Calder smiles at us as when Zoe first learned, but I think with Zoe we assumed something was wrong with her until she demonstrated her grasp of each skill on the developmental ladder. With Calder we are more patient—perhaps more relaxed would be a better description—and since he seems to have picked up on the smiling thing early, we are not too worried about his development; yet. I think smiling is an evolutionary survival response. I mean we spend all day changing, feeding, burping, carrying, soothing, and otherwise catering to his every need, and if we didn’t get something back we would get tired of the whole ordeal and possibly trade him in for something more fun, like an iPhone or a large pizza. Fortunately he is smiling almost all the time, so he is safe for now, even though I would really like a pizza.

Calder has a sister. Check out her website at

Daddy Made me Cry (sort of)

Zoe was in her first car accident a few weeks ago. Here’s how it went down. The entire family drove to downtown Berkeley for the big Saturday farmers market. Alison decided she needed a walk so she and Calder set off for home with the stroller, and Zoe and I climbed into the Highlander (our big car) and started for home. Halfway back I stopped for a woman at a crosswalk (it’s not just polite, it’s the law!). However, a few seconds after I had come to a full stop, my car was rudely pushed across the crosswalk by a Honda Element that hadn’t noticed I had stopped. Zoe seemed baffled by the sudden movement, was briefly scared, but was completely unharmed (as was everyone else involved). Over the last few weeks there has been a lot of car activity, and whenever I mention my car now she will swing her arm and say, “Bump.” I will nod yes. Then she will say, “Wah, wah,” because she cried briefly. I will tell her that yes, she cried, but only a little. So, from this point forward, whenever anything having to do with my car is mentioned, she will remind me that I was in an accident that made her cry.

I tried to teach Zoe jumping jacks recently. It was very cute, with all her limbs flailing about somewhat randomly. And while Zoe is generally pretty coordinated, jumping jacks are the exercise equivalent of patting your head while rubbing your tummy. Zoe balances in all sorts of uneven spots, such as on top of me, and she can’t walk down a set up steps without hopping on the last step (it’s a rule that she can only hop on the last step—the steps to our house meander, so there are seven last steps). However, sometimes the smallest thing will trip her up. Tonight she landed face down after tripping on an empty (and crushed) egg carton (that she had pulled out of the recycle bag and left in the middle of the floor). And although she can almost walk across the length of a balance beam at gymnastics, she can’t walk across our living room floor without tripping on one of her toys. Actually, the more I think about it, I can’t walk cross our living room floor with tripping. Maybe ‘Traversing a Toy Strewn Floor’ should be an Olympic event?

Zoe’s most recent phrase is, “Daddy, see me,” often followed by, “See more.” She will then do a little dance, or hop, or do a summersault, or throw a ball, or bounce on her new yard sale acquired trampoline (a subject of a future injury-related blog I’m sure). Basically ‘see me’ is her method of grabbing me away from whatever I happen to be doing at the moment that is not Zoe related. If I’m playing with her, but briefly turn to say something to Alison, I will hear ‘see me’. When Zoe says ‘see me’ it mean right now, or risk her repeating it ad nauseum, and at an increasing volume. If I were performing CPR on the President, who just happened to stop by and has a heart attack in my living room, I would have to pause to watch Zoe do a little jig if she chose that moment to say see me. So to all you people out there, see me write this blog!

Visit the Calder Chronicle for more exciting stories from the home front.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Tipping the Scale

The day after we brought Calder home from the hospital he weighed six pounds. Last Wednesday, at his seven-week checkup, he was a little over twelve pounds. That’s almost a pound a week. I’m hoping he won’t keep growing at this rate, because Zoe already likes playing ‘Two Baby’s’, in which I have to walk around holding both her and Calder, and Zoe weighs close to thirty pounds. Don’t get me wrong; I think it’s great that he is putting on so much weight, even if there are similarities between him a Jabba the Hutt. It’s really no surprise that he’s getting so big. He eats constantly. If he were on to solid foods I’d be tossing him whole roasted chickens. His favorite toy is a baked ham. He can’t even roll over yet, but I’ve seen him open the fridge from his bouncy chair. You get the idea. The kid likes to eat.

I’m happy to report that there is far less vomit (known in the baby world as spit up) happening in our house. Not that Calder has stopped completely. A few minutes ago he threw up down my back and all over the chair I was sitting on. He was getting back at me for trying to calm him down without getting off my butt (he prefers us to be standing when he’s fussy). I told him I was writing his blog, and he just responded that he was giving me something to write about. I thanked him then tossed him in his bouncy chair. Baby’s can only see a short distance, but their eyes form a bull’s-eye on any cloth within vomit range. I think Calder, and possibly all baby’s, have a unique radar that alerts them to dry-clean only sweaters, cloth-covered furniture, and any clothing worn by a person who is running late for anything. I’m going to try wrapping myself in aluminum foil to see if I can throw off his radar.

And lastly, I am especially happy to report that Calder seems to be less fussy at dinnertime. Like the vomit radar, Calder (and again, probably all baby’s) seems to know when you are seconds from sitting down to eat. Personally I like to eat. And I, like Calder, get a bit fussy when I’m hungry. So I find myself getting a bit short-tempered when I have to walk around the living room while my dinner sits so tantalizingly close. I have already started docking future earnings on his allowance for his unruliness, so I think he got the message.

All the photos of Calder can be found here and here.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Big Beds and Other Developments

This has been an exciting week for us. On Wednesday, we were at Calder’s doctor appointment, and as the medical assistant was getting us settled into the exam room he asked Zoe her name, and Zoe said, “Zoe.” What makes this unusual is that Zoe had never, ever said her name before. Maybe it was her recent and frequent exposer to the Sesame Street character named Zoe, or maybe it was the fact that we say her name a hundred times a day, but whatever it was it took only eight hundred twenty six days for Zoe to say her own name. We’re now working on having her memorize all forty-four presidents.

Zoe also acknowledged that there is a ‘three’ and a ‘four’ on the way to five. Previously she would count one, two five. And sometimes skip the one. Two has always been her unofficial favorite number, and one could almost always count on it as a response. Ask how many cookies she wanted and she would always answer ‘two’. If we ran into someone on the street and they asked her how old she was, she could always be counted on to answer correctly. And if I asked her to tell this someone what the square root of four is, bam, she would nail it first time. Anyway, we’re now counting to five.

Thursday Zoe got her first bloody nose. I don’t think I was completely at fault, but I did contribute. See, she was riding on her shopping carriage, which, as its name might infer, is not really a riding toy. In fact, I suspect that the packaging came laden with warnings against such an activity. Anyway, she climbs on and says, “Push, Daddy.” So I give her a push around the room. Then I thought it would be a good idea to tickle her exposed back. I get the expect reaction of her arching her back, but that upset the equilibrium and the whole kit and caboodle (kit being the carriage and the caboodle being her) toppled as if it were on a pivot. It happened so fast her hands never made it out in front of her. Lots of crying, ice and Elmo videos later she seemed to recover. I’m not sure I’ve recovered yet.

But the really big news for the week is that Zoe is now sleeping in a real bed (aka, big girl bed). For months we have been rearranging the bedrooms and had set up a new bedroom for Zoe. Whenever we walked by we would tell her it was her new room. When the new bed arrived we would take our naps there and, more importantly, jump on it at every opportunity. But when, during a recent doctors visit, it came out that Zoe was able to climb into her crib with ease we were pretty much ordered to move her to her new bed immediately. Last night was the fourth night in a row in her new bed. We have not, however, been able to break her of the habit of calling for us in the morning, instead of just climbing off her bed and walking into our room. We haven’t decided if this is a good or bad thing.

I got a little behind on photos in Picasa, but I am getting caught up. Check in at to see recent photos of Zoe and Calder.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Six Weeks Old

I have done a lot for Zoe in terms of posterity. There are the wildly successful Life with Zoe books, volumes one and two. Together they have sold upwards of half a dozen copies. There is the popular weekly blog, that has a dozen readers around the globe. Every year there is a Zoe calendar sent out to the grandparents. And of course there are the two thousand four hundred (and counting) photos of Zoe. It’s a little early to know if Calder will get the same treatment—I’m already behind on the photos and the blog—but I really want to defy all those second children out there (Alison and myself included) who complain that there are hundreds of photos of their siblings, the first born) and a only a couple dozen of them. As I said, I am already behind on this blog, but to be fair I did not post my first Zoe blog until five and a half weeks in. And I really did forget how difficult these first weeks could be. Not only am I sleep deprived, but now I am balancing the needs of two children, neither of whom approve of me sitting quietly in a corner working on a blog, even if it is all about them. Also, for at least the first few weeks there is really little to write about. All he does is eat, sleep, vomit and poop (all in equal distribution, except the sleeping). I guess I could write about the symphony of noises that come from him. He seems to squeak, gurgle, burp, groan, cry, moan grunt, fart, gasp, sob, wail, whimper, murmur, burble, peep, squeal, tweet, rasp and groan as much as he wiggles, squirms, twists, flops, arches and twists. Or I could write about the unnatural quantity of poop he produces (but I’d rather not even think about that, never mind write about it). And I don’t suppose anybody wants to hear me whine about how little sleep we are getting (we’re not getting much) or the fact that he inevitably throws up just to the left of the burp cloth. So unless he starts speaking at three months, or learns to juggle before he is walking, I guess I will simply have to fill these pages with witty asides (a.k.a. useless clutter) and steal content from the early days of

Today Calder turns six weeks, and he is not yet talking or walking (or even crawling). But his head is beginning to get some control, so he is no longer as floppy as Zoe’s Minnie Mouse stuffed toy. And he is plumping up like a turkey in September. Special skills, you ask? Well, on one occasion I was trying to make him smile by making funny faces at him while he was lying on his back, and he managed to throw up up into my face. He is also skilled at denuding my chest of hairs by pulling them out by the fistful. But skills aside, the biggest event in our house has been the arrival of the vibrating, musical bouncy chair. It seems to be the only thing that calms Calder (other than us holding him, which gets tiresome after a few hours). Honestly, if I could fit into the chair I’m sure I would also find it relaxing. Or I would just follow Calder’s example and throw up.

Check out the few photos of Calder I have taken at

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Boo Boo’s

We all have our small obsessions, things that can instantly refocus our attention from whatever we are currently involved in. In adults it can be trivial; iPhone Apps or photos of Pamela Anderson. For Zoe, and I suspect many (if not all) two year olds, it’s boo boo’s (although pee pee and poo poo are equally fascinating and distracting). Zoe is constantly finding pin-head sized marks on her body, or on my body, and instantly declares them boo boo’s, or to be precise, “Uh-oh. Boo boo.” If the spot is any bigger than a pinhead than she will cry and pull away if you even attempt to look at it. She identifies friends by the boo boo’s they have, and will remember their boo boo’s long after the injuries have healed. She had a small sore under her big toe recently, and when she remembered she would limp dramatically and require us to carry her down the stairs. My guess is that because she does not have to worry about the economy or… well anything other than her immediate state of being, injuries on herself, and others, are probably the only things that could set a day apart the next. Here’s hoping that pinhead sized boo boo’s are the worst she will ever have to experience.

Zoe’s has a new verbal idiosyncrasy. If I ask her a question she will respond first with an, “Ahhhh?” or sometimes a more prolonged, “Ummmm. Ahhhh?” and look around as if searching for an answer. Trust me, it’s cute in a two year old.

If you’re wondering how Zoe is adjusting to the new baby, well, so far she is doing great. There are periodically small signs that she is not getting enough attention, such as crying and needing to be picked up after a small incident, like tripping. But overall she seems to like having the
baby around and often mimics our actions. She will unzip her pajamas and nurse her ‘baby doll’, then put it over her shoulder and burp it. If Alison or I am burping the baby, she will often help by patting the baby on the back as well. When Calder cries (and believe me he cries a lot) she doesn’t seem to mind that he is getting the attention and actually seems to zone it out far better than me or Alison. I, of course, am thrilled. I’m not sure how well I could deal with a fussy baby and a jealous toddler (on top of all her two-year-old antics we already contend with). And I’m glad I don’t have to watch out for Zoe bonking the baby on the head with her toys when we are not looking.

Tomorrow I will post the second As you can imagine, things have been a little hectic around here, and I have not had a lot of time to write. Actually, I’ve had plenty of time, I’ve just been too tired. Anyway, check it out (tomorrow) at

Monday, May 18, 2009

Pizza Pie

I’m standing in the kitchen watching Zoe peel an orange in the back yard. As she peels off each small piece she looks over the edge of the porch, places the orange peel on the edge, and pushes it over. Then she then leans over and looks down to see where it landed. She does this with a half a dozen pieces before she notices me looking out the window

Zoe: “Fell.”

Dad: “The orange peel fell off the porch?”

Zoe: “Yeah.”

Dad: “How did they fall?”

Zoe: “Pizza pie.”

Needless to say I let the conversation end there. Later we were going through our goodnight routine. It’s my job to say goodnight first to all the stuffed animals in her bed, then we go through her friends, people we know and family. Alison has been pushing for Zoe to say to the goodnights herself. I try to help her along, but she has trouble thinking of people.

Dad: “Whom should we say goodnight to?”

Zoe (in a whisper): “Pizza pie.”

She really knows how to stump me.

Communicating with Zoe is both challenging and amusing. She says things out of context, pizza pie, and because her vocabulary is so limited she will use one or two words to convey an entire thought. In fact, the phrase ‘no mine’ is used almost exclusively to convey dislike, especially in those cases in which another person is involved. In the pool today, at the YMCA, I got tired of that monosyllabic, non-articulated whine to convey her displeasure whenever I saved her from drowing. So I told her that if she wanted to do something herself, and did not want or need my help, to say ‘myself’. If she wanted my help she should say ‘help’. This actually worked pretty well, except for those times that she thought she needed my help but changed her mind at the last minute, and then forgot to inform me. Then it was back to, "no mine."

Last night, as Alison was saying her final goodnights, she told Zoe to get a good nights sleep because she had swimming in the morning. Zoe said Y (as in YMCA), but Alison interpreted it as ‘why?’ I was upstairs listening to the conversation over the monitor, and it was similar to the ‘Who’s on First’ skit. I speak not often well myself, so it’s a little scary to think that Zoe (and now Calder) will be picking up a goodly percentage of their verbal skills from me. In the meantime Zoe (and now Calder) make up for this deficit by being very cute. And really, isn’t that more important anyway?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Little Nadia

At gymnastics today Zoe became completely focused on the bar (no, not the kind that serves martini’s), and by the time we left at the end of our forty-five minute session she was able to complete her flips without my help. To perform a flip one needs to grasp the bar firmly, lean forward (there is a wedge-shaped matt that allows the little kids to reach the bar without having to be lifted or pull themselves up, and have enough clearance when they flip over the other side), and twist your body over the bar while keeping your grip firm on the bar. You tuck your head in, and if performed correctly, your feet land on the matt while still grasping the bar. Once you start spinning you gain some speed, and the hardest obstacle Zoe (and every kid in the class) had to overcome was the instinct to release her grip halfway through the spin. What’s surprising about this accomplishment is that while instructing her she seems to ignore all instructions. In fact, she seems to do the exact opposite to what I am telling her, and if I press her she will simply walk away. I should point out that the initial instruction took two people; the class instructor holding one hand firm to the bar and guiding her feet, and me holding her other hand firm to the bar and making sure she tucked in her head (so as not to break her neck, which is really bad form). Anyway, what this feat tells me, and should also be clear to you, the reader, is that my daughter is extremely talented and dexterous (and a bit obstinate). Please feel free to send letters of awe and amazement to my home address.

Zoe is adapting well to the new baby in the house. She knows that when the baby cries he is hungry and will tell you, “Baby. Eat. Boob.” When the baby is sleeping Zoe will put her finger to her lips and say, “Shhh,” then proceed to talk in a normal, loud voice. So far she doesn’t seem to mind the baby’s presence, and seems to have accepted him with hardly a blink. There were a few confused looks early on, but she acts as natural to having the baby around as she does the cats. In fact she seems to treat the cats and the baby almost exactly the same. I’m sure this will change as Calder begins to become more of a presence, and when she is allowed to interact with him more, but for now there seems to be peace in the house, if not a whole lot of sleep.

In our house old cell phones end up in Zoe’s play area, so it’s not uncommon to see her stumble across one and start chatting to various people. Her favorite people to chat with are Tallulah, her friend, but also Mommy, Papa (aka Grandpa) and Mama (aka Grandma). The calls are often brief and lately have gone something like this. “Hi. Hi Tallulah. Yeah. [Pause to listen] Yeah, yeah, yeah. [Pause to listen] Yup. Bye.” I guess I should be happy that she’s not racking up imaginary minutes, because even imaginary cell phone bills will wipe out what remains of my investment portfolio.

It’s off to a slow start, but check out the newest blog in the family at

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our Morning

It’s 6:00 am. I let Alison sleep and head upstairs with Zoe. Here is our morning.

I set Zoe up on the counter while I heat up milk for her, make a cup of coffee for me, and Zoe helps me feed the cats. She always makes at least one of the cats wait for his food as she decides where she will place the bowl. Before we settle into playtime I check my emails and headlines on the computer while I drink my coffee. Zoe knows this is the routine but will still bug me incessantly. My coffee finished I move over to her blue play area. We start with tea. Minnie (Mouse) does the pouring and we usually do animal tea (toys from the farm and zoo get places in cups; sheep milk, tiger tea, giraffe tea, etc.). Then Minnie poops and we have to change her diaper. We have imaginary wipes and diapers, and we put them in a pail, which we then dump in an imaginary trash truck. Then it’s time to pretend change Zoe’s diapers (like I don’t change enough diapers in a day). Zoe wanders over to her books and pulls out an ABC book. We get halfway through, then some letter reminds her of something and she wanders off to play with the abacus on her activity block for a few minutes. Then she gets distracted and pulls down her two jack-in-the-boxes. We crank them for a while—I try to get her to jump with each pop of the weasel—then we move onto her shape puzzles. We do all ten then she leaves me to clean them up so that she can explore her toy box, where she discovers a book that makes music when you shake it; “Read, daddy.” After the book she opens her box of treasures (random small objects she has collected) and fiddles with her 3-D glasses for a few minutes. Then she wants to play the nighty-night game. This entails each of us taking turns lying on the floor and puling a stuffed animal/pillow out from under the others head, so it (our head) goes clunk on the matt. After she gets tired of that game she decides that she wants to see mommy, but gets distracted by the baby’s car seat on the way to the stairs. For some reason I pick it up and start spinning it with her inside, setting a precedent I would regret for days. After ten minutes or so my spine has popped out of my lower back and I convince her that we need to take a brake. She heads back to her toy box. On this trip she finds the soft caterpillar book. “Read daddy.” After the book, “Tea daddy,” but gets distracted by box of treasures; finds Thomas the Train card, so moves over to the Thomas the Train set and stands in the center of the tracks, accidentally knocking over the trains. “Uh-oh.” Pause; “Play-Doh, daddy.” I start to clear the activity table so we can play with the Play-Doh and find a tea set spoon in the crayon bag. We’re back to the tea set. I sit down in front of tea set but Zoe moves past me to toy box and rediscovers the caterpillar book. I suggest we have breakfast. “Read, daddy.” “Okay, I’ll read it once, then breakfast.” We read it three times. Zoe helps me make her breakfast of 1/3 banana, a one-egg cheese omelet, a slice of cheese and a glass of orange juice. We finish eating as mom comes up at 8:00.

If you think it was tedious reading this, try doing this every day.

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Zoe gets a Brother

Zoe was very excited on Tuesday, April 21, to meet her new brother Calder, who was born the day before. For months I had been preparing Zoe for the baby’s arrival with small details of what to expect. I told her, for instance, that the baby would cry a lot. Whenever we would see a baby while out and about she would put her hands to her eyes and go wah-wah. So when she met Calder and he indeed did started crying, she seemed more amused than upset. It’s hard to gauge Zoe’s thoughts on the new baby, but since we have made an effort not to deny Zoe any attention while at the same time we are showering attention on Calder the transition to a four-person family appears to have not traumatized her too much. It didn’t hurt that Zoe also received a lot of gifts along with her brother, and that the baby’s diapers happen to fit her baby doll. As time goes by we will know better how Zoe will adapt to this change, but for the moment we are jut trying to keep her from poking out a baby eye as she identifies his various parts.

Zoe is growing in many different ways. She is beginning to string individual words together, and her coordination is improving dramatically. For example, she recently put her shoes on and strapped them by herself (on the correct feet), and on her little push-trike she was able to strap herself in, which is slightly tricky. As a two-year-old she certainly has her moments of obstinacies. I’m not sure at what age she will learn to say, “I’ll try it myself, please,” rather than screaming, “Mine,” and yanking it away, but I expect that will go away faster than her habit of completely ignoring us when we are issuing commands. Which is probably why it’s so nice when we ask her to do something and she does respond:
Me: “Zoe, can you pick up that strawberry you just dropped on the couch?”
Zoe: “No,” and walks away. At least she’s not ignoring me.

One of Zoe’s cute quirks is her dislike of tags. All new toys must have their tags removed. Just now I had to cut the ‘only to be removed by consumer’ tag from her doll (which a few moments earlier she had been pushing around in the stroller and repeatedly crashing into chairs). When I tuck her in at night and spread the blanket over her, if I inadvertently put the tag-side toward her she will repeat uh-oh until I turn the blanket around. Come to think of it, this extends beyond tags and into everything that is obviously not ‘part’ of the item at hand. If she is eating an orange she will uh-oh the small, stringy pieces that cling to the side. If she is eating a plain bagel she will uh-oh the occasional sesame seed stuck to it, even though she will specifically ask for a ‘seed’ bagel at the store. I guess she feels that everything should have its place, and that even the smallest items should be dealt with. This world order has not yet expanded to her play area.

‘Life with Zoe: The Second Year’ is hot off the press at my bookstore (
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