Sunday, January 25, 2009


I asked Zoe to try a piece of squash. She first said no, but I asked her again nicely (and she was in a giving mood), so she stuck a piece on her fork and hovered it just above her upper lip. She shook her head, indicating that she did not like it. I asked her if she could put her tongue on it, so she stuck out her tongue and almost imperceptibly touched it to the squash. She paused, stuck her tongue on it again, and then slowly put the piece in her mouth. She ate two pieces.

We are all just returned from a trip east, to Connecticut and Florida. In CT we had a sprawling, wonderful time celebrating Zoe’s cousin Sam’s Bar Mitzvah. Alison and I each had a small part in the service; mine was to carry the Torah in the procession around the synagogue, a role that is considered an honor. We were already running late (Dunkin’ Donuts) and as we pulled up to the temple I developed a bloody nose. Alison went ahead, and after I staunched the flow of blood I sauntered into the synagogue, only to be immediately approached by my mother-in-law and quickly ushered onto the bimah. I was already a bit disorientated (light-headed from loss of blood?), but fortunately the speed in which everything happened prevented me from angsting over a possible fall down the bimah steps with the sacred scroll (I was mini-smitten, a.k.a. bloody nose, for stopping for coffee, imagine the smite if I had dropped the Torah?). Zoe also enjoyed the trip, although I don’t think she really understood why we were dragging her all around. But she had fun swimming in the hotel pools and pressing the buttons in the elevators. And through all our travels she only threw up on Alison three times; on the plane (a little), then again while we were in CT (a lot! Zoe’s got a little Linda Blair in her sometimes), then again in FL (a little).

For a long time Zoe's favorite colors have been green and blue. She never fails to point out an item of either of those two colors. It's possible that those two colors are her favorite because those are the only two colors she can say. I know she knows other colors, as she will point to the correct color when tested. Over the last couple of weeks she has sporadically said the word yellow, but she was shy about using the word, and would barely whisper it when she was pressed to say it. So this week we really pushed her to say the color when she saw it. Every time she would say yellow we would praise her like she had just won a Pulitzer, and by the end of our trip she was saying it at every possible opportunity. On the plane home she said it approximately forty-seven times in a row (she was pointing out each yellow light on the runway as we taxied). Our next goal is red, so check back frequently for the BIG breakthrough.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Let Me Tell You a Story

Zoe has developed a few cute and quirky mannerisms. One of the things she is doing is recognizing that some action she is involved in should be funny, or is funny but just not funny enough to have a real laugh. But since she recognizes that some attempt at fun is being made she will try to participate in the good times by putting her hands on her head and doubling over with a fake little laugh. Trust me, it’s really cute. Another idiosyncrasy she has picked up, and I swear I had nothing to do with it (although now I imitate her), is when she responds in the positive she will not just say ‘yaa’, she will say ‘chyaa’, as in “Chyaa, that’s really gnarly.” When teenagers say chyaa they are obviously trying to be cool and quirky, so it comes off as a little, well, irritating. When a twenty two month old says it, it’s just, well, cute.

As parents we become attuned to our child’s thought process. A single word, seemingly unrelated to a situation, is enough to drive an entire conversation, albeit a conversation in which one party is responding in single-word sentences. For example, this afternoon I was reading Zoe a book of colors. We flipped to a page that had a picture of an umbrella. Oddly enough the word ‘umbrella’ is one that Zoe knows and can say (in a manner of speaking). However, instead of saying umbrella, she said moo (as in what a cow says). I remembered that a while back we took a trip to The Little Farm to feed the cows stalks of celery. It was a rainy day and I was carrying an umbrella. It’s almost as if I can see the gears of her mind working, the bits of memory piecing together to tell me a story. Because her vocabulary is so limited, she has to rely on the single most defining aspect of the story that she is able to speak. Here’s a conversation I had with Zoe recently. We were reading an A to Z book and we get to E for Elephant when Zoe interrupts me.
Zoe: Tallulah. (Tallulah is Zoe’s best friend.)
Me: You saw an elephant with Tallulah?
Zoe: Yah.
Me: Did you see an elephant at the Zoo with Tallulah?
Zoe: Yah.
Me: What else did you see at the Zoo?
Zoe: Blank stare.
Me: Did you see a giraffe?
Zoe: Yah. Tallulah.
Me: Tallulah saw a giraffe at the Zoo too?
Zoe: Yah.
Being able to quickly deduce and respond to what she is thinking is one of the pleasures of being a parent, and what probably makes everyone else kids seem like they’re babbling incoherently. I mean if I was reading a book to someone else’s child and they said moo when I showed them an umbrella, I would assume that they were a bit slow. It’s no wonder that the stay-at-home parent craves adult conversation.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pull my Finger: Getting Caught Up, Part II

Recently we had a few days when the temperature dipped into the thirties. I was forced to forgo my flip-flops for a couple of days, and almost had to slip on a pair of socks. It was cold enough that our seasonal rain became snow on the ridge above our house (way up at 1754 feet above sea level). I was of course obligated to take Zoe to play in the snow, so I put the car in four-wheel drive (not really) and drove the mile or so into the blizzard (again, not really). I don’t think I put enough layers on Zoe, and I forgot her mittens (who needs mittens in California?), and she was definitely not impressed with my snowman (although it was only two inches tall), but at least I got a cute picture of her, which is really the only reason I took her up there.

A sure sign that Zoe is becoming a real person (rather than just an eating and pooping organism) is her budding sense of humor, her ability to make believe, and her keen sense of how to test our patience. Her sense of humor is limited, but can be spot-on on occasion. For example, she has learned the exaggerated ‘noooo’ response. On a recent morning we were all lounging on the bed and Zoe started saying pee (her new, favorite word). Alison asked her if she was peeing, and Zoe responded yes. When Alison asked her if she wanted to sit on the potty, she gave us a big grin and dragged out a long ‘no’. I’ve also taught her the fine skill of fake sleeping sounds, which she practices but is not yet using to its full comedic potential. (Alison can teacher her trigonometry, I’ll teach her how to fake-snore like the Three Stooges.) And teatime has a little more depth now that she knows to add the fake milk and the fake sugar, how to stir the fake tea, how to blow on it because it is fake hot, and how to fake pour it on daddy’s head (her favorite part of teatime). She also eats the fake cake, although for some reason when she eats the fake cake she sticks three fingers deep into her mouth.

Did I mention that we now have a nanny? Now, you may ask why we need a nanny when my job description is stay-at-home dad. Could it be that our garden takes that much of my time? No, we have a weekly gardener. Could it be the house requires that much attention? No, we have a weekly cleaner. Could it be that my tennis game is suffering horribly? Yes! But mainly I’m trying to get the house ready for arrival number two. However, the kicker is the nanny we hired. Kris is a retired coworker of Alison’s. That’s right, we have the most over-qualified nanny in Berkeley, a retired surgeon. What that means is that if Zoe needs an emergency appendectomy at the playground, she is in good hands. More on my tennis game later.

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