September 2006 Archives

Zoe sits!



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cousinsThe cousins were introduced to each other for the first time last weekend. That's Aaron and Mercy in the double-long (noot noot), and Zoe in the front.

Aaron and Mercy live with their parents, Doug (my twin brother) and Erika, in South Central Los Angeles. They have good reason to be there for now, like we have good reason to be here in Florida.

Of course, that doesn't make it any easier that we're all living three thousand miles apart, especially when we've got kids who are close enough in age that they should probably be growing up together. Erika and I were chatting after they got back to L.A. and we were both commenting on how it used to be "painful but bearable" that our families live so far apart, but after spending time with each other (and especially with the kids, who are delightful) it's just "painful."

Not that any of us would have traded a few days together for "bearable."

I have a deep hope that someday we'll all be able to live closer together, but I'm also committed to living in-the-moment as best I can. And for this moment, everyone is in the right place.

Mercy, Aaron, Doug, and Erika, thanks for coming to see us. I still count it amazing that all seven of us could live comfortably in the same small house (along with our zoo) for five days, but we did it! Mee-nack for coming to see us.

Being the pack leader

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We're housesitting a chihuahua for a couple of dear friends this month. Tiny is a bundle of energy, which often gets redirected in some very negative ways. She jumps up, bites gently to get attention, barks and growls a bit, and her mother told me she chewed up the carpet a couple of weeks ago.

In other words, she's got some issues.

I'm no expert on dogs, so I went online to see what I could find. A lot of the advice I saw talked about the "pack mentality" of dogs, and especially about how important it is to be the "alpha dog" in your house.

And a lot of the sites referred to a guy called "The Dog Whisperer." His name is Cesar Millan, and he has the uncanny ability to come into a house where a dog is misbhaving and somehow, with what looks like no effort at all, bring the dog under control.

He's so good, he's got a show on the National Geographic channel. Unfortunately, it's not part of my cable package. But National Geographic has posted about thirty short clips from the show (click through the "view more clips" link . . . you'll find them). I watched about twenty of them last night, and I was transfixed.

For Millan, the idea of "pack mentality" goes to a new level. He uses phrases like, "calm/assertive" and "calm/submissive" to refer to the way owners and dogs should act, respectively. He "bites" dogs gently, "touches" them instead of hitting them, and never raises his voice. He holds himself in a way that tells the dog that he's in charge, and he doesn't back down (even though it's assertive, not aggressive) for any reason whatsoever.

Last night, I tried some of the techniques I learned from watching the short clips. And this morning, Tiny was a model of good behavior, following me around the house, laying down when I asked her to, and even waiting patiently for the nanny to come through the door, without barking once, even though Bella (our chichi) was barking and charging the door like crazy.

I'm so amazed by how well it worked, I've got this yen to travel to L.A. to study with this guy. That won't happen, but I plan on getting his book.

Now, if I can just figure out how this whole "alpha dog" thing applies to human relationships . . .

Zoe, it's September

Dearest Zoe,

It's September, and you are already working on your 15th week.

Fresh ZoeFifteen weeks have been enough for you to learn a whole lot of wonderful new things, like how to stand up while I hold you, how to smile and coo, and how to charm your mother and me into forgetting how hard--how utterly frightening--those first few days were when you came home with us.

You love turning over in your crib, though you haven't figured out how to turn back yet, and you hate being on your belly for too long.

You've been a drooling expert recently, and you've been especially fussy when I try to put you in your crib at night.

Your mother and I think this means that you are teething. Of course, we aren't really experienced at this whole parent thing, so it could be something else. When I rub my fingers along your gums and look at your mother with a knowing look, as if to say, "no doubt about it, teeth are coming!" I still feel like I'm playing at being a parent.

responsible labelingBut this isn't a game and I know it; when I wake you up in the morning and you smile at me like I have always belonged there at the edge of your crib, I know that this whole thing is very real--that you are flesh and bone, and who knows what amazing things you will do tomorrow.

Last night I was singing to you, and I swear you were moving to the music. Like one of those dancing Santas, when I stopped singing, you stopped jiggling. And when I started again, so did you.

You are as fine a creature as I have ever seen. Your mom and I call you Beastie with every ounce of love we've got, but also out of the sheer shock that you exist at all. You are a miracle, mi querida Zoe.

Hiking, anyone?

Cape Town

In May and April this year, I was back in South Africa ("back" because I was there in 2005, too). It was a crazy trip: I spent eight working days there: two in Mpumalanga, two in East London, two in Cape Town, and two in the Free State. There wasn't much time for picture-taking, and I was working very hard (interviewing people, which was fascinating . . . but that's another story). Lucky for me, there was one moment of rest, in Cape Town, when I was able to explore the city a bit.

It's an amazing place, a jumble of mountains, oceans, and city, with a rich, lively culture. I loved it, and I hope I get to go back another time with more time to explore.

As it was, I spent the first day there driving around the cape, getting a good look at all of the ways the city reaches into the ocean and up into valleys between the crags.

The second day, I was planning on taking a tram to the top of Table Mountain. But when I parked, the man who was watching the cars asked me if I was planning on climbing.

He pointed to a trailhead, and said, "it takes about three hours, most of the time."

I'm completely out of shape, but I couldn't resist. I hadn't been hiking in years. (YEARS. Isn't that awful?)

So I grabbed a bottle of water (not enough, by far) and huffed my way up the mountain. It wasn't technical, but it was definitely a climb. It took me four hours (not bad for a fat guy who hasn't even been on his bike in the last year) and it's impossible to express how incredible it was to see Cape Town from the side of the mountain.

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This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

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