November 2009


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E has been a pretty easy going kid since he arrived.  That ended abruptly a few weeks ago when he started to develop very strong opinions about what he wants and when, and he can be pretty dramatic if he does not get his way (note about the photo above: yes that is a tape measure in his hands; no he is not upset because we made him wear that sweater).  These reactions seem disproportionate to us, but no doubt seem completely justified to him as he is asserting his will and taking his first steps toward personhood.  In the past we could quickly distract him or substitute something else for what he wanted.  These tricks no longer work – the point doesn’t seem to be so much the object of desire but the unfulfilled desire itself, which is probably why no amount of reason works in these situations (not that we seriously try this approach at his age).  Nor do reason or incentives work in other situations, such as the recent morning when I offered him $100 if he would just go back to sleep for a while.  No luck.

The sounds that he makes when he is upset can be pretty tough to listen to.  Fortunately, this is more than offset by his laughter, which is one of the best sounds we have ever heard…

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For Thanksgiving this year we were in Dillon, Colorado with Sean, Kathy, Dillon and Connor.  The last time the cousins were together was at Rehoboth Beach over the summer.  Connor is six months younger and Dillon is about a year older than Everett, and at this age a lot can happen in six months.  At the beach Connor and Everett were both crawling and seemed to spend a lot of time sharing the baby pool.  This time Everett was walking and seemed to interact more with Dillon; the two of them wrestling was the first time I have seen him really play with another child.  The trip was as relaxing as we could hope for with three children in the house under three years old.  All of the boys are being introduced to the concept of sharing, although this did not always go smoothly – Everett developed a new habit that is best described as defensive eating, in particular saying “No No Noooooo!” when either of the other boys got anywhere near his snack cup.  Dillon and Everett discovered that they both like jumping on the bed. Connor took a few steps every now and then and demonstrated his rather amazing climbing ability.  During the times when the boys were awake, the quietest moments were when the boys had yogurt drinks or were watching Elmo.  One unanticipated side effect was that by the end of the week all four adults were unconsciously humming The Elmo Song.

The adults spent most of their time relaxing or taking care of the children.  One day Chris and Sean went skiing, the next day Melissa and Kathy went.  Other than that there were long stretches of time that I can’t really account for with any particular activity.  It is amazing how often this happens since Everett arrived.

Photography is a relatively new hobby of mine and this visit was my most difficult assignment so far for two reasons.  First, the dry air and bright sunshine created conditions that were a combination of too bright in the sun and too dark in the shade.  Second, it was amazingly impossibly difficult to get pictures of the four adults and three children together.  During the entire week I only had two such photos.  Of them, one is completely overexposed and in the other some people are looking at the camera while others aren’t quite there yet.  I suspect this problem will only get worse as the boys get faster and more mobile.  I note that the instruction manual for my camera has a section about difficult shooting conditions but has nothing to say about the latter problem.  I am open to suggestions on how to address either.  Photos of the trip are here.

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Daddy Time

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Melissa is at the NSGC conference this weekend.  This is the longest she has been apart from Everett, and the longest I have ever watched him solo.  I feel both excited and apprehensive. I’ll try to keep this updated as the weekend progresses.


T minus 4 hours:

Melissa is scheduled to depart at 6pm tonight and we will be taking her to the airport.  She has already made food for us to eat and written detailed instructions on Everett’s care from the moment he wakes up until his bedtime.  This was ostensibly for our favorite babysitter who is taking care of E tomorrow, but she only has to take care of him from 10-3 so I think there are a few reminders for me in there as well, which is completely fair considering Melissa is with him all day every day.  Besides, I would like to have some navigation tips in case any rough spots arise.


We drop Melissa off at the airport.  E is pretty cranky the whole ride home.


E eats homemade quiche for dinner along with some banana.  I make a pizza and let him eat all of the black olives off of it.  Taking bites of food off my plate is a huge pet peeve, and I would never let anyone else do this, so I take it as yet another piece of evidence to support my theory that babies emit some kind of mind control pheromones over their parents.  After dinner we play the Hi game, which involves saying “hi” about 100 times a minute at close range until you are out of breath.  The rest of the evening Everett makes the sign for more and says “More? More hi?”


Glow in the dark bath, then play and story and bed.



E wakes up and immediately wants to know where Mom is.  I show him the empty bed and tell him she is away until Sunday, which he seems a bit confused by.  I have many things to get done before Molly arrives at 10am.  As I try to accomplish these things I recall Melissa saying “Don’t plan on getting anything productive done while you are watching him.”  I eventually give up on most of my list and we watch the Num Num video seven times.  Why are children’s songs so catchy?  This is going to be playing in my head the rest of the day.


Molly arrives and I leave for work.  Everett seems particularly upset that I am leaving.


I return home.  After Molly left, Maddy and Joseph watched E from 3-5 pm and after they leave the house is strangely quiet with just the two of us.  E is not quite his normal self and doesn’t eat much dinner.  We Skype Noni and watch Andrea Bocelli sing goodnight to Elmo.  Then bath, story and bed.



Everett wakes up and asks for Mom several times, and I try to explain that she will be home tomorrow night.  We watch some Sesame Street videos with Elmo.  I’m not sure where it came from but E certainly seems interested in Elmo and asks for him repeatedly during the day.  What is surprising is that Elmo became a part of E’s vocabulary with almost no exposure – Elmo toys are not something we have around the house.  It must be something about being red and furry with a high pitched voice and a giant head.  Quiche breakfast and then Skype with Gabby and Gabby.


We visit the Audubon nature center where they are showing one of their resident owls.  These are fascinating creatures and E seems pretty interested, at least judging by the number of times he points and says “owl”.  We spend some time looking around the center, then climb the watch tower and then hike down to the beach.  Everett tries sand flavored Pepperidge Farm goldfish for the first time.

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Skype with Mom, during which E is pretty quiet but he eventually gets into it.  Then we eat lunch and walk around outside a bit followed by a nap.  There are a couple places inside our house where if you set a bowl of water out during the winter it would freeze solid.  I decide this will probably be one of the last days this year that I can address these problems and take apart door thresholds during his nap.


Everett sleeps for three hours and I need to run some errands before the day winds down so at about 4 I encourage him to wake up.  I prepare a snack of dried mangos, Cheerios and goldfish and a cup of water (we have been out of milk since yesterday) and we hit the road first for groceries and then the hardware store.  I have to go to the bathroom at the grocery store and I wonder how parents, especially Moms, do this with kids.  Without getting too graphic, a number one for a man with one child seems manageable.  Beyond that I don’t know how people do it.  I recall a product called the Baby-Hanger which was endorsed in the Dave Barry holiday gift guide.  The first time I read it I thought it sounded ridiculous; now I think it’s an idea that is at least worth considering.  Our errands proceed and everything is going great until about halfway through the hardware store when E decides he has had enough sitting in the stroller.  In retrospect this is when things started to unravel.  I try carrying him but he wants to explore and the hardware store isn’t safe for that so we get going as fast as we can.  He throws a fit when I put him in his carseat.

I arrive home and after following some cries of distress realize that one of our cats is locked in the garage.  This is odd because they are indoor cats and I didn’t let them out.  She must have left the house when I was working on the door thresholds and been in the garage when I closed up to run errands.  She goes in the house, and at this point I have a car full of groceries, a dog that is going berserk and a hungry, clingy baby.  E wants me to hold him but I can’t do that and unload the car and prepare dinner.  He cries and I console him until he remembers that he can now get into whatever he wants.  As recently as two weeks ago we thought our house was babyproof.  It is not.  Everett can now open the refrigerator, cabinets, drawers and doors as well as climb onto the sofa and the bed and who knows what else.  He decides to go through the spice cabinet, which is not great but I let him until I discover one of his newfound abilities is to unscrew the caps from bottles.  Within a couple minutes the floor of the office is covered in peppercorns.  Finally I put on a baby video and he settles down until dinner is ready.  We’ve had a fair amount of quiche so tonight the boys eat tacos with cheese and avocado and black olives.  We have bath, playtime and E goes to bed a little before 8.



E wakes up screaming, which is weird.  I put him in bed next to me hoping that he will go back to sleep.  This has never worked before but for some reason I remain hopeful.  Eventually we get up, have breakfast and head to the hardware store to find plumbing parts.  This is virtually impossible for an 80 year old house but again I remain hopeful.  After that we go to the zoo for some closeup viewing of Happy the hippo and the giraffes, then home for lunch, during which our neighbor Dennis stops by.  He and his son Henry are headed to Green Bay soon for the Packers-Cowboys game.  Dennis is a Packers fan.  Henry is a Cowboys fan and decides to wear his Dallas jersey until Dennis’ cousin persuades him not to, partly with the aid of a $20 bill.


E goes down for a nap and I resume work on the house until he starts stirring around 3.  While working on the house I consider becoming a Packers fan.  Because I have never really followed professional football I am unencumbered by any emotional allegiance to another team.  Also, I like beer and that seems to go with football.  Once E wakes up we watch a few minutes of the game but my attention quickly wanders and he wants to watch the Num Num video.  As a test I ask him if he would rather see Num Num or Elmo and he responds Elmo, so we watch a few videos and then go for a walk with Kyra.  I’ll have to practice being a better fan.


E has an early dinner and we head to the airport.  I note that he is getting less and less tolerant of his carseat and stroller – now it only takes a few minutes for him to get restless and unhappy.  I  begin to wonder if this is because of his development or my parenting style or Mom being away.


Melissa arrives!

We return home where E has second dinner and we have our first while talking about the weekend.  Melissa’s conference was hosted by her professional organization, the National Society of Genetic Counselors, which for some reason is more than 99% women, many of whom are Moms away from their families.  Apparently Atlanta experienced a huge spike in bubble bath usage over the weekend.

When I was about 10 years old one of my Mom’s friends from college said to me “There are only two good things about being an adult: you get to drink, and you get to go to bed whenever you want to.”  She was being a little facetious but I think I understand her motivation.  Freedom and responsibility seem to grow in relative proportion to each other as we get older, but at times it feels like the number and magnitude of responsibilities we face as adults and parents have taken over a disproportionate part of our lives.  After a while this starts to feel normal until brought into contrast by the carefree innocence of someone who is new to this world (one current reminder for us is Everett’s habit of waving and saying hi to every animal he meets).  Everett’s motor abilities now provide him a lot of independence and provide us with a sign that parenthood is transitioning from the physical heavy lifting phase to the emotional and intellectual heavy lifting phase.  It was nice for each of us to have some time to ourselves this weekend and for me to have some time with Everett.  It is much nicer for everyone to be home together to share the joys and responsibilities of raising him.

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We went to the zoo today, and it was a proverbial zoo.  The weather was freakishly warm and apparently most of the county also felt that this would be a good day to go.  We arrived just as they opened and fortunately only had to wait a few minutes to get it.  By the time we left, the parking lot was almost full and the line of cars to get in went from Blue Mound Rd up 97th St, across Wisconsin Ave, up the exit ramp from Route 45 and off into the horizon.  For those who don’t know this area you can trust us that this is a long line of zoo-goers.

One current news item for the zoo is Happy the Hippo.  The Milwaukee Zoo recently adopted him from the National Zoo in Washington DC, where he has been a bachelor for the last 28 years.  At the Milwaukee Zoo he will be moving in with two female hippos, Patty and Puddles.

This has led to a lot of jokes about how Happy is going to be happier.  But those of you who are married know that keeping one spouse happy can be challenging at times, and keeping two happy might be overwhelming.  I’m sure we will be keeping an eye on them because Everett is usually happy to see the hippos.  Actually, he is usually just happy.

Another news item for the zoo is the arrival of two Siberia tiger cubs Tula and Nuri:

On a somewhat related subject, Little Tiger is one of Chris’ nicknames for Everett.  Another nickname is the Little Dipper which came about because he loves to dip his food – chips in hummus, bread in yogurt, meat in ketchup – and while doing so he says “dip, dip, dip”.  Getting back to the zoo, this was probably Everett’s last train ride until spring.

Later in the day we visited Weston’s Antique Apples in New Berlin.  When you drive out of Milwaukee, even for a short distance, it reinforces how much of an agricultural state this is.  Weston’s is just a few minutes away yet is in some pretty quiet countryside.  While we were there we met a man who showed us a couple dozen varieties of apples along with an explanation about each one, and it is safe to say that you won’t find any of these in a supermarket.  We also went for a walk through the orchard and Everett ate whatever variety of apple they kept at his eye level.

The next day was equally warm so we went to the Shlitz Audubon Nature Center (as I have mentioned, beer is popular here) north of Milwaukee for one last walk on the beach before it freezes.

In all it was a full weekend.  Next weekend Melissa will be traveling to the NSGC meeting in Atlanta and Chris will be watching Everett solo for three days.  Woah!

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