Thursday, March 23, 2017

My daughter the leprechaun, part II

Read part I here.

Socha was crying in a Galway gift shop when we wouldn’t buy her a ring (again).  During her previous tantrum, Socha told us she’d be happy if only she found a coin on the street. Trying to distract her from the ring and the current tantrum, Shannon planted a 5 euro cent coin on the ground for her to “find.” This sneaky parenting tactic seemed surprisingly effective, and her mood lightened immediately. Socha showed her shiny coin to the shopkeeper. The grandfatherly Irish shopkeeper with a twinkle in his eye then reached into his till and handed Socha a US quarter.
Yes, Socha was just given money by the shopkeeper in a store where we didn’t buy anything and we were just having a tantrum that probably drove away a few customers. Not much money, and he probably couldn’t exchange foreign currency that small anyway, but still. I don’t recall a store ever just giving me money.
Later in the afternoon, we stopped to listen to a band playing some traditional Irish music in the street. Socha started dancing so exuberantly along to the music that the band reached into their guitarcase full of coins and gave her money, this time a full euro coin,  I think. Starving musicians on the street don’t usually toss money at the tourists while they play. But maybe they do pay homage to visiting leprechauns?

But the biggest leprechaun moment involved the ring.

            After being given a quarter and “finding” a euro nickel, Socha’s mood had improved. We strolled along the harborfront (and the fastest-flowing river in Europe!) to a playground.  Socha met some local kids and had good time playing. 
Playing with Shauna, a local Galwegian

Band that gave Socha their tip money, Galway

Then we walked down to the quite-polluted beach, full of debris from the entire city washing down the river. Socha started collecting shells as she navigated around the seaweed and garbage.
Collecting shells, and enjoying stomping on the air bladders in the seaweed (Galway).

“Daddy, what if I trade these beau-ti-ful shells for the ring?” she said in her sing-song voice.
The kid is persistent – the last ring tantrum had been over an hour earlier – I thought maybe she’d forgotten about it.
Finding the shiniest, most beautiful shells to trade.

“Um, I don’t think it really works that way, Socha.”
“But Daddy, look how pretty and shiny they are!”

I was stuck – should I encourage her entrepreneurial spirit, as she tried to find a way to “get to yes” on her ring problem when we kept saying “no,” or just try to get her to understand that (except in rare New Amsterdam real estate deals), most people don’t except shells as payment?

I decided to go with statistics.

"Sure, you can try. As long as you understand that it probably will not work. I mean really probably will not work. And you have to not get upset when he tells you 'No.'"

“But m…a…y…b…e… he’ll say yes!”

“Right, maybe he’ll say yes. But probably not.
 Remember, if you try a thousand times, it won’t work nine hundred and ninety-nine times."

We carried the shells back in a used coffee cup. Our prime requirement in choosing our lunch stop was that it have a bathroom, so that we could wash the shells off and make them as presentable as possible for the proposed deal.

I explained over and over that this will probably not work.

Shannon asked me “is this a good idea?” and I wasn’t sure. 
I assumed the shopkeeper would say no. Of course he would say no. The ring was 25 euro! Socha might get upset, but would learn (maybe) to take “no” for an answer, or maybe better understand probability.

If she took the “no” well without getting excessively upset, I thought I might sneak back in and purchase it for a birthday present that her grandfather could give her later. That was the plan, such that it was.

As we walked back into the “gives-out-quarters-for-free” gift shop, I prefaced the proposal with “Excuse me, my daughter has a business proposal for you, and I have told her you will almost certainly say ‘no,’ but I would let her ask you just in case.”

“Ok – what have you got for me?” He said.

She puts her shiniest, purple-est, most irridescent and beautiful-est mussel shell (recently washed in the restaurant bathroom) on the counter.

“Will you trade on of those rings for this shell?”

“Sure, lass. Find one that fits.


This was not what I had planned. These rings cost 25 euro! Not Tiffany, but also not a lollipop you just give to every kid that walks in the door.

She searches for one in (almost) her size, and chooses the Claddagh ring with the pink gemstone, because pink is her favorite color, even though the turquoise one would have been appropriate for her birthstone.
And she walks out.
I stay behind, stunned.
I pull out my credit card, starting to effusively thank the shopkeeper for playing along with our little family ruse, and offering the payment he surely expects. Don’t want to steal now, do we?

“No, no.” he says, refusing my payment. “Kids need a bit o’ magic in their lives.”
And that was that.

Socha has a beautiful new sterling silver Claddagh ring with a pink stone that she bought with a mussel shell that she collected on a trashy harbor-side beach in Galway, Ireland and washed off in a restaurant bathroom.
The entrepreneur / leprechaun, with ring (out of focus).

That’s the kindest gift from a stranger I think I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. Even after the ring trade, we had some more serious tearful moments that day, including one where I threatened that she would have to take the ring back to the store if she didn’t show appropriate levels of appreciation for the ring.

It took a bit of time to get her attitude adjusted (or maybe just to get past the jet lag), but now she is very concerned about taking care of her new ring. It sort of fits on her thumb (but is still too big). She takes it off at night and puts it away for safekeeping. She kept one glove on over it at the playground, despite being sweaty and hot, because she didn’t want it to come off (her other hand was ungloved for climate control).

If you are in Galway, please frequent the Judy Greene Pottery shop in the Latin Quarter, just off the main pedestrian shopping street (map). They have some lovely pottery in addition to rings (!), souvenir trinkets, and the kindest shopkeeper in Ireland.
Please frequent this shop. And offer to pay with cash money, even if they might accept shells.

If anyone knows anything about parenting a leprechaun, I’ll take advice.

P.S. Given her success, the leprechaun tried today to  trade a chestnut she had collected in Paris for a bag of fancy marshmallows at the Duty Free shop in Charles de Gaulle airport. She was unsuccessful, but at least I stopped the confused clerk from throwing away the chestnut. Maybe her magic only works in Ireland.

My Daughter the Leprechaun - Part I

Written 21 March, 2017 (the day before Socha’s 5th birthday, on the plane back from Paris and Ireland) 

 “If you try that one thousand times, it won’t work nine hundred and ninety-nine times. But maybe ONCE, just once out of a thousand times, once it could work,” I tried to explain some basic probability to her.

 “Could YOU try it daddy?” the four-year-old entreats.

 “Oh no, if I try try it, or if mom tries it, it would probably only work once out of a hundred thousand times, and not work nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine times. But you are a cute little girl, and for you, it just might work. Maybe.”

It had been a roller coaster day. Our fifth day since leaving New Jersey on our spring break trip, but the first day where we hadn’t spend most of the day traveling, and the first when we were on our own as a family, hanging out in Galway instead of trying to follow someone else’s schedule.

The first day we’d flown the red-eye to Paris, then spent most of the second day getting to Dublin (Charles de Gaulle airport is larger than some European countries, but could use a few dozen more folks working passport control). The third morning we boarded a coach bus with the Pingry student group and drove clear to the west coast of Ireland, stopping at (among other notable places) the “Barack Obama Visitor Center and Rest Stop” (unexpected) and the beautiful Cliffs of Moher, known to The Princess Bride aficionados as the “Cliffs of Insanity!” The fourth day was a long day trip to Inishmore on the Aran Islands – 820 permanent residents, lots of cows, thousands of miles of stone fences, and Dún Aeonghasa, a Bronze Age hilltop fort built on the edge of some serious seaside cliffs – 300 ft down with no railing to prevent your removal from the gene pool. It had been really fun and interesting, but Shannon and I were looking forward to puttering about town, doing a little shopping, checking out the local playgrounds, and taking in some Irish music in this happening college town where a quarter of the population are college students and a majority of local residents speak Irish (not English) as their mother tongue.

Playing "Can't Catch Me!" in Dublin Castle
At the Barack Obama Visitor Centre in Ireland

Testing the bounciness of the hotel beds, Dublin

Walking the wall, Cliffs of Moher

Family photo, Cliffs of Moher ("Insanity!") Socha is too intrigued by the cliffs to look at the camera.

Cliffs of Moher

Riding the ferry to Inishmore

Harbor on Inishmore at low tide

Traditional house on Inishmore with thatched roof (no longer common). Note the little "leprechaun house" off to the right.

Pondering gravity and a fear of heights, Dún Aonghasa

Family photo at Dún Aonghasa

Exploring the ruins of the "Seven Churches" on Inishmore, dating to the 7th Century AD

Walking the wall to the sea, Inishmore
Exploring the coast, Inishmore

Socha explores the playground in Eyre Square, Galway. Mom watches with anxiety.

Socha had been a trooper, if sometimes a little crabby as we traveled We slept in. We thought this would help Socha recover from jet lag and sleep deprivation. Instead this was our hardest day (by far) of the whole European trip.

As soon as we started casually shopping for souvenirs, the begging and whining started. She had already chosen her one and only souvenir from Ireland (a lovely stuffed sheep she’d named “Ella”), so today was going to be a day for mommy and daddy to shop, and maybe pick up things for friends and family. But she wanted stuff. Some days we can talk reasonably about “needs” versus “wants,” and being appreciative of the trip itself, and looking to find gifts for other people. She can often handle “no.” But not on this day.

This day brought frequent tears, and some tantrums in shops and on the street. She wanted (among other things) jewelry. Real jewelry that cost thousands of dollars. Costume jewelry that cost dozens of dollars (but still too much for a four year old, especially one that had already chosen her souvenir). She wanted shiny things.

“It’s not fair!” she wailed.

“Will I ever get to have a ring?!”

It was a hard day.

One of many times during the day she burst into tears. Yes, we were photographing our daughter crying. We had ample opportunity.

But there were some bright(ish) spots. Some bright(ish) spots that make me wonder if my daughter might actually be a leprechaun.

Evidence for her possible leprechaun-dom:

  1. She’s (partly) Irish. Sure, lots of people have some Irish in them (such as Barack O’Bama), but I figure she’s got a least a quarter Irish in her (on my Haughey side and on Shannon’s Savage side). Not sufficient for proving leprechaun status, but probably necessary. 
  2. She likes rainbows. I mean, a lot. Anything rainbow-colored is the best. Her 5th birthday party will have a rainbow theme. Her 4th birthday party was officially pony-themed, but all was rainbow colored anyway. Again, love of rainbows may not be so rare among the four-year-old girl crowd, but still probably necessary if not sufficient for proving leprechaun status. 
  3. She’s leprechaun-sized. This might change in the future, but we don’t know that for sure. 
  4. Pot of Gold? Well, strangers keep giving her treasure. For real, people keep giving her stuff in a way that doesn’t really happen to most people I expect. Maybe she’s magical. 
Read on in My Daughter the Leprechaun, Part II.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Socha-isms from Puerto Rico

This year we decided that we needed some "just the three of us" time, so we sadly skipped out on Savage and Jewett family Christmas celebrations in Michigan and Colorado. Instead we hopped on a JetBlue flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico for a wonderful week of tropical loveliness (unpaid endorsement: JetBlue is the best US airline to fly coach. By far. Lots of legroom, free snacks, first piece of luggage free, new planes...really quite nice). Socha was officially 3 months delayed in speech development when we last went in for a checkup (September), but I'm not concerned at all - she is picking up vocabulary/grammar at an impressive and entertaining rate. Here is the story of our Puerto Rico trip, told through Socha's mouth. Hope to post some photos soon. Until then, enjoy these Socha-isms.

TOP 14 Socha-isms from Puerto Rico, December 2013
1. Lah’-lee (rhymes with “trolley”) def: “water” Can mean water in a cup or water in the Atlantic Ocean. When she first left the bedroom in the morning she would run out to the porch shouting “lah-lee, lah-lee” and keep going down the stairs to the beach. We had to keep the front door closed to prevent lah-lee-based escapes. When riding in the car, she would point to the ocean and gleefully shout “lah-lee!”. When we were walking on the seaside malecon in Esperanza, she would tug and whimper lah-lee lah-lee because we were walking, and not swimming. 

2. Mee’-nut def: peanut (butter). Socha would suck peanut butter through a straw all day if we let her (wouldn't that be impressive?). When we did feed her peanut butter on a cracker or bread, she usually licked the peanut-buttery awesomeness off the mee-nut vector, leaving the cracker/bread naked and uneaten.

3.  Neighs  def: horse(s) – There are feral horses roaming about the island of Vieques. They’re rather fun to go horse-spotting, but you should be careful while driving, especially if you are driving a rust-bucket Jeep without functional shocks, wipers or seatbelts that you rented from Louie, the island’s notorious fixer and sometimes rent-a-car. Just sayin’. Socha may have successfully pluralized “neigh,” though sometimes she’d use “neighs” for one horse too. The horses would often had cattle egrets with them, and sometimes Socha would note those with “tweet.” I saw this random Saturday night parade in the main town of Isabel II where most of the local youth in the parade were riding horses, some with blinking red safety lights. Yes, I was sitting in the plaza doing Facebook, because that's where the free wi-fi is. (Note: this video is loud...careful with headphones.)

4.  Yes I do!” This improbable sentence was the enthusiastic affirmative response, as in “Socha, do you want to go to the Lah-lee? Yes I do!

5. “All day!” Another affirmative response. “Socha, do you want to eat some peanut butter? All day!” She may have been saying something else, like “OK,” but it sure sounds like “All day!”

6. puh-lay-ane def: airplane. She would point to them whenever we would see them, and even if we heard them, or if she imagined them.

7. Busss  def: bus. “Socha, do you want to ride the bus? All day! Busss!” She’ll probably feel different in 13 years or so, but right now, busses are pretty exciting. She was quite patient (excited, even) waiting 45 minutes for a bus in a stinky Old San Juan bus station. We felt a bit badly when we abandoned the bus terminal for a taxi (we were unconvinced the bus was ever coming). Luckily, she was also pretty excited to say “tak-si! tak-si!” repeatedly as we were driven back to our hotel.

8. Boad def: boat.  Continuing on our travel theme, she was a trooper on our nighttime boat tour of the amazing Mosquito bay on Vieques, full of bioluminescent dinoflagellates that allegedly make this the brightest bio-bay in world. Whenever anything disturbed the water, from the boat propeller to fish darting about, there would be streaks of blue. Most of the internet pics look kind of photo-shopped, but this one is about right. The bay was pretty neat, and the actual stars were amazing also. As we were waiting for the tour, Socha was zipping back and forth from the waiting area, through the restaurant, out to the inflatable Santa Claus, back inside to the waiting area, spin around, lay on the floor, climb on the bench, go flirt with the five-year-old boy, climb on the bench to stand up on her tip toes and try to get a map down, zip outside to the Santa Claus, and repeat. And repeat. An onlooker noted “Boy, she’s got energy,” which I believe may have been uttered a time or two in my direction when I was wee.

9. Dabb! def: crab. We saw a crab on the beach, which an older girl “helped” back into the water. After that, whenever we were wading in the water, Socha would point down to water and exclaim “Dabb!”. We searched and searched, but did not find lost Mr. Dabb.

10. Powt def: Pouch – referring to a squeeze pouch of baby food. Expensive, non-recyclable packaging, and she should have outgrown them by now, but these were comfort food in a strange land. Many powts were consumed.

11. Mama-Lama! – def: Mom, Mama, Shannon – There’s a series of children’s books about Llama Llama and his mother Mama Llama. They’re pretty cute. We only have one (and don’t read it very often), but she’s seen others at her cousins’ house and probably at daycare. If Shannon went out snorkeling, when she came back Socha would greet her with a warm squinchey face and shout “Mama Lama!

12. Luff-lo – def: "Gruffalo". A fictional beast in the children’s book “Gruffalo.” A current favorite.

13.  “Two oh-noes” – def: two swim diapers, of the “Nemo” variety. She has a book about Finding Nemo where there is a line “Oh, no, a diver! Marlin cannot see Nemo,” so Nemo = “oh no” = swim diaper with Nemo. This is the first time I hear Socha successfully using the word/concept “two.” She also talked about a “poo” which was confusing when she hadn’t pooped, but was in fact the other variety of diaper with Winnie the Pooh on it.

14. Dang it, shoot, geez - she actually gets the pronunciation of these almost perfectly correct, especially after Mama Llama has spouted the phrase.  Luckily she hasn't used the F-bomb (yet), which we are actually pretty proud of, considering how much swearing we do in front of her.  Time for a swear jar...

Here's audio of Socha saying some of these words, plus calling me "Jeff," talking about going to "down" (town) and playing with her "bucket.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meat-eating escalators

We went to France and Bulgaria for spring break, otherwise known as Socha's first European tour. The trip was challenging and excellent, mostly in ways you might expect. Great to see old friends, challenging to pack all of the baby gear; excellent to eat Onda muffins, jet lag still sucks, especially with Socha. We'll post some photos of our trip with some other stories eventually, but what follows is a tale of an unexpected misadventure (though with me, I suppose misadventures are to be expected...).

Our friend Adam suggested the best way to get his apartment in Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport was a taxi, but that taxi would be 65 euro ($83 at current exchange rates, though I thought it was more at the time). 65 euro for a taxi? Hell no! We like trains! We're not afraid of public transit in Europe!  And I'm cheap!

The following unedited haikus were all written by me while waiting to be seen in "urgent care" at the 400 year-old hospital only a short metro ride (plus snowy walk) from Adam and Amanda's apartment in Paris. I do not speak French, and neither do Adam and Amanda.

Damn, i broke my foot
Purple blue swelling sore ouch
Escalator fail.

65 euros?
Too much for a taxi. But
Trains bring pain, waiting.

Waiting. With Drunks. With
smells. With the painful
Foot. Paris late at night.

Elevator out.
Escalator upheaval
Ground convulsed. Foot broke.

Train tix hard to buy
Train platforms hard with luggage
Fiasco of pain

Hosp blinds askew. No,
not askew. Wrathful attack.
But ER doc nice.

Went Ass over tea
Kettle Metro moving stairs.
Heroic paris.

Hours tick by with no
Urgency in urgent care.
Many stay unwell.

Why didn't i bring
My book? Smart phone sans service:
Expensive notepad.

Check'd into logan
24 hours ago. Awesome
Spring break with X-ray.

Adam waits in guest
Lounge. Jeff waits in patient lounge .
Bored sleepy it smells.

Socialized med
Is cheap.  Insurance should pay.
Hope i can walk soon.

Arming myself with
Patience, BG style. No one
Here to translate. Blerg.

want to keep my X-
rays as souvenirs. Better
Than eifel tower.

I just want an x
Ray. 5 minutes of urgent
Care time. Much longer?

Still smells like shit and
Disinfectant. Not enough
Cleaner, i am sure.

Socha treats jet lag
Like colic. Sudden Screaming
But now, happy too.

After midnight. Can we
Have an emergency now?
Want to go to sleep.

'This will make a great
Blog" is not much comfort
No video though.

How long should we stay?
Need sleep. Spring break in the balance.
Tomorrow Dijon.

1 hour metro plus
Walk in snow. 2 hours waiting.
Now NEAR  xray room.

Fell and could not get
Up. Escalator terror.
Parisian rescue.

Broke foot. Still had to
Haul 2 suitcases car seat
Up down up down out.

Friendly strangers help
Carry stroller and luggage.
Elevators good.

Estonian SIM card
Not activated. No call
No text. No entry.

No xray machine
In this room.  Why am i here?
Next to sick no more.

American hosp
Better I'm sure.  Better blog
Post Here, i suppose.

Have to pee. What day
is it? Why am in paris
Hospital? (Freedom!!!!!!)

Exam room or just
Solitary confinement?
Family sleeping.

Fuckity fuck fuck
Can we do this and get out
Of here? Pretty please?

1 am xray
Machine: 1962
No digital here.

[I wrote this one after arriving back in the US, but I'm including it because I liked it.]

Convulsing Meat Eater
Escalator Fiasco
Elevator please!

Notes: The x-rays showed I had only sprained my foot, not broken it. It turned all interesting shades of green and purple and got quite swollen over the next few days, but I more or less did all the things I wanted to do in Europe (no running). I went to the doctor back in the US today to confirm what the French doctors may or may not have told me (there was a bit of a language barrier), that I could basically walk as much as pain allowed. The one hour or so of sleep on the plane may have contributed to poor decision making that resulted in the escalator fiasco, and we were more frustrated by the "global" SIM card we bought for our phone that wasn't working for shit while we were trying to get to their apartment- we could receive frantic messages from Adam and Amanda, but not reply. We even got to their front door, exhausted, frazzled, and in pain, and couldn't call up to get inside because our phone didn't work and we didn't know which unit was theirs. Suck.   In the end no harm was done, and we had a great trip to Europe, but this was a rather inauspicious beginning. My x-rays are actually the only souvenirs we got in Paris.

I'll finish this by saying we took the taxi on the way back to the airport, and it was worth it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Halloween 2012

Jeff and I LOVE dressing up for Halloween.  We'll spend hours (usually on Halloween) trying to create our costumes.  And now we have a little one who we can inflict costumes of our choice on and so we did so with relish this year - three costumes for Socha.  So here are the three costumes, followed by a review of  most of our costumes since 2006 (we didn't take any pictures of 2011 (he was a pirate, I wore my Balkan dance costume).  Enjoy...

Pumpkin number 1

Pink Poodle

Pumpkin number 2

2006: Trinity (from the Matrix) and the fairy Godfather
2007: Trinity again and ??? (but check out those shoes and that hat!)

2008: The Just Us Squad - Internet Man (Sam), the Monopolist, the Decider, and the Purple Protector (Erin) (actually one of the funnest Halloweens on record)

2009: Trinity yet again (I used this costume so much (a) because it's awesome! and (b) because I made it; it has been bequeathed to my friend, Amanda, who now resides in Paris, France - I expect to see pictures some time soon...)

2009: Paperclip

2010: Floyd Black (the founder of ACS in Bulgaria)

2010: Professor Umbridge

2012: Jeff is Think 80/20 Man (this is one of his projects this year where he is trying to convince everyone on campus to reduce, reuse, recycle 80% and throw only 20% away as trash).  I am an original Star Trek redshirt (usually I do Yeoman Rand, but I didn't have the energy to deal with the hair and makeup this year).

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Socha's Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Months

Here are the photo albums for months 4, 5, 6, and 7.  Enjoy!

Month 4

Month 5

Month 6

Month 7

Monday, July 2, 2012

Socha's first 3.25 months

I'm supposed to be packing right now, but packing sucks, so I figured it was a good time to write a little. I haven't had much of a chance to write since the insanity of our week-long hospital stay for Socha's birth.
The spring was hard. I knew all year leading up to this that it would be hard, but I didn't really know any way to prepare for it.  There probably was no way to do it anyway.

We came home from the hospital on Sunday night before classes started again. I was lucky that our hospital-cation happened during spring break, so I didn't need to worry about making sub plans or whatever. As we arrived home though, we were both pretty overwhelmed. The birth was emotionally and physically draining (for me! I can only imagine what it was like for Shannon), and then we were told by the doctors to give Socha formula within the first 24 hours because of Socha's jaundice, in addition to having her suffer the indignities of a day under the UV lights (looking back on those early photos, she was remarkably orange!). Neither of those were in our plans, just as having an induced birth and lots of pain meds hadn't been in our plans - we were feeling a little shell-shocked as it was.
Arriving home was when it really slammed me (and I think Shannon too). Suddenly there were no doctors, nurses, and lactation specialists around to help, but there were high school boys living just outside my office that needed my attention, classes to design for a sub, a whole bunch of baby gear that we brought home from the hospital that had to go somewhere, and Shannon's parents sleeping in our living room (we were glad to have them around to help out and meet their granddaughter, but I think I didn't expect the physical incursion on our space when I was already in an emotionally fraught state). My friend Jodi wrote an excellent post about the joys of being a mother in a country that has good medical care, maternity/paternity leave, and state-supported child care. That country is not the United States, sadly. In my first year at this job, I didn't qualify for any official paid paternity leave. My various supervisors were generally supportive, and didn't balk when I said I would be taking the first 2.5 days off after spring break (though I did have to spend that first night home from the hospital trying to make a lesson that would keep my students productively occupied while I was gone). That's all the leave I took. I told them that I might want to take more later on as needed, but I chose not to. I could have taken unpaid leave or even sick leave, but I would have still spent time planning and probably grading, so I'm not really sure I would have ended up with a net increase of time, just a loss of pay. Of course, there is always the work-guilt functioning too: it was the end of the school year and the AP exam was coming, and I didn't want to drop the ball for my students after all the hard work we'd all put in already. It's going to take some practice and discipline to carve out time for my family at a job where there are no boundaries between work-place and home-place or work-hours and home-hours.  Even summer has thus far been more full than I would like with meetings and lingering (or preparatory) work.

In addition to the demands of teaching, dorm duty, Socha and Shannon (who needed her own TLC with all the physical, hormonal, and emotional adjustments to being a new mom), spring also brought my first season coaching an after school activity. It was called "Elements" and it was an outdoor education group. It was actually a lot of fun, going hiking (usually), mixed with climbing, canoeing, rafting, and horseback riding, but it meant 10-15 hours a week more that I wasn't spending with family.

Socha had a hard first few months. She was born on the small side  (6 lbs 14 oz) and skinny (she was long), with jaundice. Breastfeeding was (and to some extent continues to be) a constant battle. On the plus side, Socha latched on right away and started to feed. On the down side, there were concerns about whether Shannon was making enough milk. We met with many different lactation consultants, talked to supportive friends/neighbors/relatives, read nursing blogs and books, and tried half-a-dozen different feeding "systems" trying to figure out what would work. Bottle feed before the breast. Bottle feed after the breast. Take a break in the middle. Don't use the bottle - it will spoil them for the nipple. Tried an eye dropper, tried a syringe (alongside my pinky finger, which Socha happily sucked away at). We tried a "supplemental nursing system" with thin hoses that attached to Shannon's nipples to try to make Socha not prefer a bottle to her breast. There was plenty of breast pumping too - Shannon complained of feeling like a "femme-bot." Our pediatrician didn't really help - she was clearly intellectually but not emotionally committed to breast-feeding (she told us that she herself had tried but that it didn't really work for her). Because of this lack of comittment, she seemed more worried about where Socha fell on the weight/age charts (way, way down) than how to help us breastfeed, and kept giving us more things to try to get Socha to fatten up. It was very emotionally draining for Shannon, who despite all encouragement, I'm sure at times felt rejected by her daughter when the breastfeeding sessions went badly, or felt like a disappointment at her difficulties nursing.

The first few weeks were a daze. I was trying to help some with the feedings in the wee hours, and even when I didn't do the feedings just the baby screaming before/after was enough so that I didn't get very good sleep. (Shannon's nights were certainly much harder than mine, but I'm writing this, not her!). The colic started in earnest around 6 weeks. There was no time that Socha was awake and not crying, unless she actively was eating at the time, and that only worked sometimes. Several times Shannon woke me up at 3 or 4 am, when both mother and daughter were sobbing. Time for me to sub in. I couldn't always do much, but it was at least time to give mom a break. The "baby hawk" carrier was my go-to tool. I put Socha in the carrier nuzzled up against my chest and went for a walk. I would often walk pretty funny bouncing a lot, until she stopped screaming and I could just walk normally until she drifted off to sleep. I walked up and down main street a lot, always wearing earplugs. I am thankful to live somewhere with safe streets for walking, though some nights I definitely got some looks from the night watchmen. I have a fond memory of one walk that started before the sunrise and ended when I had to hand her off so I could go to work. Tough day at classes, but a beautiful time to be awake. When she was really angry, it was very difficult to get her in the carrier in the first place, because her body was too stiff. After 10 minutes of walking or so, she usually relaxed and let me cinch her into the carrier. As the colic got worse, I had to walk further and further before Socha settled.

Oddly, this initial colicky period was actually one where I started getting better sleep, because Socha wouldn't sleep at all unless she was attached to mom. She wouldn't go in the swing, wouldn't go in her bassinet. In desperation, Shannon took to sleeping on the couch with Socha on her chest. This lasted for about two weeks before Shannon weaned her back to the bassinet. I feel bad writing this, because it was a very hard time for Shannon, but it was the best sleep I've gotten since Socha was born, except for those nights where Shannon woke me up to help out. Shannon wasn't sleeping on the couch, but I was out cold in bed! It was during this time, when I was starting to feel like life was semi-manageable, that I heard from a colleague that one of my students had said "I never want to have kids. Mr. Jewett just looks like hell all the time!" This coming when I was starting to feel like I was doing better!

School was hard - some days I was definitely a mess, but I'm glad to have supportive colleagues. Shannon didn't want to bring Socha to any crowded places during the first 6 weeks (to avoid germs, as infections are particularly risky during this period, according to our pediatrician), so Shannon was pretty much a shut-in, except for evening walks with me. Many of our neighbors had helpfully brought over casseroles and such, which kept us from starving (definitely no time to cook), and I brought Shannon food home from the dining hall when I could. The kids in the dorm hadn't seen Socha at all - they weren't really convinced she existed at all.

Various "milestones" on the suggested baby growth charts came and went without much notice from Socha. I think she was holding a grudge about being kicked out of the womb early and was not interested in anyone's charts. The doctor thought we would start seeing smiles around 6 weeks. We were desperate for some smiles, as so far we were putting immense amounts of time and emotional toil into this little creature, without much payback. Pooping, eating, and screaming, not really in that order.
6 weeks came and went, then 7 weeks, then 8. We didn't really get anything resembling a smile until 10 weeks, and even that was half-hearted and only on the changing table (of all places). It was 12 weeks (Father's day, actually) when we really got some full-on smiles. Oh, that was nice. Huge sigh of relief and heart-melting joy.

We tried lots of things for the colic (which no one really knows what causes it still - maybe it's digestive, maybe it's nervous system, who knows?). We've tried 4 different formulas. We've tried different feeding methods. We've monitored what Shannon is eating (though haven't yet done an allergy-elimination diet). We bounce. We walk. We sway. We bounce some more. I do the football Heisman pose (which does help). We have her on simethicone (anti-gas) and zantac (for acid reflux). We doubled the dose of the zantac. We bought some expensive and finicky bottles (Dr. Brown's) that are supposed to eliminate gas intake and help with colic. Meh.  The doctor claimed at her 3 month check up that Socha should grow out of her colic soon, and it would likely be an overnight "like a light switch" kind of thing. We have a poll on Facebook asking for when that lightswitch will get switched. We're hoping it's now-ish. It might be.

As the school year closed, we took Socha out more and more, to the dining hall (where we happily passed her off to eager baby-holders) and on walks around town. A few colleagues missed having a baby to hold, and actually asked me if they could babysit. "Um, OK." So far we've had wonderful free babysitting from Kris and Beth (twice), and Heidi is in line next. Those were welcome nights out (dinner & a movie, the school play, and dinner & a massage).

When I finally had the last faculty meeting of the school year, I was afraid that I would be occasional-meeting-ed to death all summer if I didn't just make a clean break with school, so we packed up the Subaru with all the baby crap (and baby!) and headed off to Maine. We visited Aunt Barb and Uncle Jim Haughey at their lake cottage. It was a good practice road trip (200 miles...she did pretty well, despite slowing us down a lot due to regular feedings), it was nice to see the family, and it was great to go sailing. At first I think Barb thought she would "fix" Socha, but she learned pretty quickly that Socha was just a frequently-mad little girl. At it's worst, Socha would sometimes cry in her sleep, or wake up crying (not from being hungry or tired). It was hard for a parent to bear. I don't know how single parents with colicky babies handle it - Shannon and I both had times where we were losing it and had to hand our little bundle of joy off to our partner for a while. Shannon has the patience of a saint, and nearly always handles Socha with smiles and love, even when she is being ear-splittingly mad.

Last week my sister Jenny and dad came to visit (with toddler Helen). I assumed all along that Socha would be an angel for them, so that they would be convinced I was making all this colic thing up. To some extent that was true, but Socha is still not quite there yet. It is a lot better than two weeks ago (maybe due to higher antacid dose?), but not yet colic-free, in my first-time-parent estimation. The only reason I have energy to write this retrospective is that it's summer and she is doing much better already.

About a month ago (under advisement from the lactation consultant), we conceded that Shannon was probably just not ever going to fully breast feed Socha. We would have to do just breast + bottle (or give up entirely for the bottle) for the duration. Thought this was disappointing, it gave us the freedom to drop a lot of the rigamarole that Shannon was doing trying to increase her milk supply (including the femme-bot pumping). From then on we just did bottle + breast at every feeding, and are generally not pumping anymore. Funny thing is that I think the simplified (but by no means simple!) feeding plan  took enough stress off of Shannon that she is producing more milk now (yay). Still probably not enough to go solely breast, but better.
And now Socha is seriously fattening up. She went from the 6th percentile (weight/age) at her two month check-up to the 13th percentile for her 3 month check up. I bet if we took her in today, she'd be much higher. She has been on a serious growth spurt the last week or so, demanding food pretty much all the time. She has pudginess and rolls that she never had before. My sister is convinced that Socha got visibly bigger during the 5 days she was here, and I think she's right.

It feels good to think things are stabilizing with the feeding, and the colic is getting better, even if it's not gone. Socha is starting to smile now. That's wonderful. Today was a new milestone. After her early morning feed, Socha wouldn't go back to sleep. Shannon wanted to sleep, so I took over "shushing" duties. I got Socha quiet, but oddly, she didn't go to sleep. Historically, if she'd just get calm and not wiggling/crying, she'd go to sleep, often rather instantaneously. Today, not so much. I tried to get her to sleep for 10-15 minutes, but her eyes were just looking around the fairly dark room, though she mercifully wasn't crying. Ok...I guess it's time for a mobile over the bassinet. I got her up and was going to go for a run or walk, but tried putting her on her tummy instead. The doctor has long recommended regular "tummy time" to build neck strength, but she always got so angry that we have done next-to-none. Today I gave it another shot, and she wasn't too angry. In fact, she managed to turn herself over from stomach to back, twice! (A few other times I tried, including when Shannon was watching and while recording on the camera, she was unsuccessful). Yay! Her first rollover.

Socha is also a lot more fun to play with these days. It seems she likes (tolerates?) when we dance with her, which has been frequently as we're packing. We're moving to our new campus digs soon (shortest move ever - only 200 m - but we get a moving company!). After that we'll be heading out to the the midwest to visit friends and family (oh, and go to Cedar Point. Shannon's never been. That will be awesome - good thing Grandpa Tom wants to drive down to Sandusky from Lansing to watch Socha while we ride roller coasters). We took Socha to Boston on a day trip last week, and she's getting better in the car - I hope she likes the longer haul to Minnesota.

 This may have been a complaining blog, and the last three+ months have been difficult, but I wouldn't trade them for the world. Socha has spunk and I'm looking forward to when she's not tormented by the colic. She already makes great faces. Shannon is a wonderfully kind and caring mother, and I have enjoyed getting to watch her grow into this new phase of her life. It's fun walking down the street (like in Cambridge, MA last week) and watch people watch Socha - especially when they think she is a newborn (instead of 3+ months old). The women invariably can't stop staring, like what men would do if a topless women were walking down the street. The men occasionally smile, but usually get really uneasy because of the excitement their wives/girlfriends are showing over the baby. Mostly, I've enjoyed staring into Socha's eyes, playing with her feet, dancing with her, taking long walks, dipping her toes in the river, reading her stories, and seeing the joy start to come into her eyes. It's going to be a fun (and tiring) ride.
Whew...enough rambling. Back to packing. Here are some photos from Socha's third month to keep you all enjoying her wonderfulness.