Thursday, December 15, 2005


Pete has seemed to be getting the idea of language lately. He picks up his books and pages through them while babbling. He points at things around the house, generally the Christmas ornaments and ceiling fans, and likes it when we name the things.

And THEN. Yesterday evening, I went to get Pete at day care. He was with another baby (Ezra, the younger son of [praitis] and Roger Hill) and two of the women who care for him. When I arrived, Pete was uncommonly cheerful; he smiled and clapped and reached for me to pick him up. When I did, he turned to the other adults, smiled again, and said,


The bell of the proverb could not have been clearer. The other three adults were agog.

And then I had to explain that we don't call me Dada, or even Dad. (I'm Papa.) Pete might hear other people call me Dad occasionally, but not often, and almost never Dada. "Dada"--in keeping with the movement of modern art that goes by that name--is just a sound Pete happens to be able to make.

It was a great moment, though.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chuck of the upward persuasion

From Carolyn:

Pete just threw up a l l o v e r m e. And all over himself. Repeatedly. There was nothing to do but step right into the tub with all of our clothes on. We have both recovered, though. And Erik was a hero who brought towels and helped take my watch off and collected the messy clothes in a bag and wrapped Pete up in many towels once he was clean. Thank goodness there was no chain reaction vomiting. And thank goodness for washing machines.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Clapping and crawling

Pete, by the way, has enjoyed two breakthroughs in the last few days. First, on Thanksgiving, he learned how to clap. I noticed that Carolyn's cousin Mike was clapping at Pete. Then I looked and saw Pete clapping back. "My goodness!" said I. "You got him to clap!" And Mike explained that it was actually the other way around--Pete clapped to him first. The next day, Pete developed the skill enough to make a little pat-pat sound with his claps. The day after that, he really got the hang of it: we were in a big group of people, including another baby, and when everybody else clapped, Pete would respond with huge sweeping claps, starting with his hands way out to the side of his torso, always smiling. BAM BAM BAM.

And last night going into this morning, he really figured out crawling. We've seen the elements falling into place for a while. Most recently, he developed the ability to move from a sitting position into a very confident crawling stance on all fours--this was so smooth that it always looked like he was set to zoom across the floor. But then his arms would go forward, and his knees didn't know how to follow, so he would just go down to the floor on his belly. The knees have now figured out how to follow. Which means, of course, that we're in big trouble.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Up and at 'em

During his usual roll-around-the-floor time after second breakfast, Pete has sat himself up twice. He seems to have understood immediately that this well let him reach things, such as the top of the coffee table, that were previously inaccessible. Yikes.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Fall photos

Here are the latest Petey pix! I recommend the "view as slideshow" function.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Papa got a blog

In case any readers of this blog care to see posts on topics other than Pete from Erik, they can have a peek at Underlying Logic.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Where's Pete?

Pete has added a new element to his peek-a-boo game. Now, he covers himself up, and as we're saying, "Oh, where's Pete?" he sticks his hands out to the sides, raises his legs way up in the air, and then slams the legs down. Repeatedly. So we're there saying "Where's Pete?" as Pete lies in front of us, twitching with excitement and slamming his legs, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Friday, October 28, 2005

Hey! I'm not here to play background music!

Pete started to get fussy a little before his nap time this morning, so I decided to play piano with him. Playing or hearing the piano almost always settles him down. This time, he joined in hitting the keys for a few minutes, then leaned back against me while I practiced some things. During the next ten minutes, he got more relaxed, which let me concentrate more on the playing, which I could do with both hands in a limited way. Then I looked down and realized that Pete had fallen asleep! I had been working out a solo over a Gershwin tune, and he was happily snoozing on my lap. Nice.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Nature boy

From Carolyn:

We took Pete to CERA for the first time this weekend. The weather was gorgeous and everything there is turning to fall colors. I hadn't been there since the new lab opened, and from what we could see from the outside, it looks fantastic! We used our baby backpack for the first time and tromped through the woods a bit. Pete had a great time (loving the outdoors with a passion that is a bit unsettling in its intensity), and Erik and I , in our more restrained, less screeching way, loved it, too. I found some good-sized snail shells near the trail. I'm not sure I've ever seen those before. (I left those where I found them, but I did remove a tic-tac box that didn't seem native to the area.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Sudden sitting

I think I've mentioned before how much we've been surprised by the suddenness of Pete's developments. The latest: he figured out how to sit up (meaning, how to stay in a sitting position when placed there) in the last 24 hours. BOOM--he could do it, and now he's perfectly stable for long stretches. The downside is that if he starts to crawl that suddenly, we will be lost.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Comedic interlude

This is a rare post not directly about Pete, but I must call your attention to Calvin's snow art.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Incident report

At day care today, some one-year-old BIT MY SON AND HEIR ON THE HEAD. Aside from a couple little scratches, he's fine, expect for having been BITTEN ON THE HEAD. We got an "incident report" with gems such as "[form] WHERE did the incident take place? [answer] In the Honey Bunnies room." Given that, I say it was Colonel Mustard with the Candlestick.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A sporting chance

Pete seems to love live sports (as well as live music, happily). I thought he might enjoy the crowds, but he has surprised us by showing a lot of interest in the action--he was watching the ball from the minute we went in to see volleyball. Huh. As I type, he is making his evening non-milk feeding (peas, bananas, and oatmeal) difficult for Carolyn by commandeering a spoon and jamming his own spoon into his mouth every time Carolyn approaches with food in hers.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Last night, after his bath on the dressing table, Pete started playing peek-a-boo with us! That is, we've played it with him many times, but this time he was controlling the game--he'd cover his face with a cloth, and we'd say, "Where's Pete?" and he would immediately reveal his face and start laughing. Over and over again. A conversation!

Monday, September 19, 2005


Pete has been an utter joy for three and a half days--he got over the worst of his fever thing quickly, and he's been happy, sociable, and sleeping well. Then I dropped him off at day care twenty minutes ago, and he was instantly despondent. Pete will be eight months old tomorrow; perhaps he has arrived a day early at the time of this paragraph's relevance:

"Between 8 months old 1 year old, your child is growing into a more independent toddler - yet he or she is even more uncertain about being separated from you. This is when separation anxiety typically develops, and your child may become agitated and upset whenever you try to leave him or her. Whether you need to go into the next room for just a few seconds, leave your child with a sitter for the evening, or drop off your child at day care, you may find that your child cries, clings to you, and resists attention from others."

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Laugh buttons

Pete is doing much better. He's on antibiotics, and he seems to be feeling good. Last night, I was trying to give him the medicine with a little syringe, and he jerked to the side, knocking a bit of medicine onto the front of his shoulder. So I got a bit of damp cloth and started patting it onto the offending spot of medicine. And Pete started laughing and laughing! It turns out that the upper corners of his chest are little laugh buttons. This is a great, great discovery.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Flickr: a bettr place for pictrs

We've gotten a Flickr account, and Pete's pictures are now much better organized. Searchable, too. The latest big batch includes Pete's recent baptism and trips to Davenport, Kenosha-Milwaukee, and the Twin Cities, as well as my pictures from Greece this summer.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Call

I got The Call this afternoon. Not the call to the big leagues, which I still expect any minute, but the call from day care: Pete has a fever, so come get him, 'cause he's all yours now, bub. The remainder of the week just got really different.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Baking with Pete

Pete and I have been baking a cake and brownies. That is, I've been preparing the ingredients with Pete in a carrier in front of me, while Pete excitedly reaches for everything with his hands and feet. My reach is longer than his (even spotting him the advantage of being in front of me), but the difference is small enough that whenever I relax my vigilance for a second, he's sure to catch the lip of a bowl with a finger or toe. It was not his fault, however, that in the course of my licking a spatula, he got a medium-sized spot of chocolate batter on his head.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

One step Ferber

After being called upon as a last resort, Dr. Ferber has revolutionized our evenings. Keep in mind that Pete was crying hysterically at bedtime every night, for a good while, until we broke down and fed him. We started the Ferber method of teaching him to go to sleep on his own last night. It involves some crying at first, but Pete is learning:

Last night: 32 minutes of crying before sleep, followed by an unprecedented nine-hour sleep
First nap today: 30 minutes, followed by unprecedented nap in crib
Second nap: 22 minutes
Tonight's bedtime: 7 minutes

It's certainly hard to hear your baby cry even for seven minutes, but that's a whole lot better than last week, and at least there's a reason behind it, and we get the extremely valuable bonus that Pete is going to be able to get himself to sleep without all the theatrics we've been using for months. If things go according to plan, the crying will stop completely soon. Oh joy. And knock on wood knock on wood knock on wood--especially since everything could be thrown off when we leave for the weekend on Friday.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Day care begins

As we had hoped, Pete was easily the least anxious of the three of us about his adjustment to part-time day care. So far, so good. Bedtime has not improved, but thanks to Jackie Brown's encouragement, we will let Dr. Ferber take the lead tonight. I've gotten his book and found that his ideas have always been wildly misrepresented when I've heard about them in informal settings.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Trouble sleeping

There is a developmental stage, usually between six and nine months, in which babies often abandon learn to keep themselves awake and become panicked when parents begin to leave the sleeping area. Ask me how I know. And Pete goes to day care for the first time tomorrow. We need good luck this week.

Friday, August 26, 2005

A great babysitter departs

If Pete had a plan, the motor skills to operate a keyboard, an understanding of the future, and some command of written English, he would post today to say what a good friend Lara has been to him this summer. And he would wish her a great year and promise to write news of crawling and walking and talking while she's gone.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Did we mention we're cows?

We noticed on this trip that Pete, who has always been calmed by singing, was starting to settle down if we played Sandra Boynton's Philadelphia Chickens CD, which is a big favorite of ours in the children's category. Then, on the last stretch of the trip, after he had been traveling and meeting new people all day with admirable cheer and resiliance, he got especially fussy. We tried singing--no dice. We stopped at Williamsburg and walked around, which he liked, but the car made him cry again. Carolyn got into the back seat and played with him, which worked for about ten minutes, after which more crying than ever. Then the CD worked for a few minutes, but more crying ensued. By this point, Pete was realizing that he was hungry, so were were in a world of trouble but only about 15-20 minutes from home. Then inspiration hit: we realized that it wasn't just the Boynton CD that was calming him. It was the first song of that CD, a chorus-line number sung by a group of cows. So we played the cow song again. No crying. At the end, and I mean instantly, full wail. Cow song again. No crying, then end and wail. Then papa got smart: cow song again, hitting the button to go back to the beginning just before the end. Bingo! About four more renditions carried us through to 10th Avenue. Then we let it end, and Pete cried for the last ten seconds, and we were home. Oh, best friend cow song!

Pacing ourselves

[To a former student]: I, too, walk in circles or pace when I'm on the phone. Carolyn has not found this one of my more endearing traits, and I admit I probably wouldn't like being married to a phonewalker either. However, the habit has been enormously handy lately, since Pete loves to be held and carried around. If I need to make a longish phone call, I can just wait until he's ready to bounce to sleep and make the call. Then everybody's happy!

Friday, August 19, 2005

To Illinois

We go to see grad school friends in Champaign-Urbana this weekend. They have a daughter, Frances, who is just a few weeks older than Pete. She will be the first baby girl Pete has hung out with. This will also be my first visit to the place my parents met.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Fair minded

Pete went to the State Fair on Sunday. With us, as you may have guessed. I had wondered whether he would go nuts for the animals. He's fascinated by our cats now (after not noticing them for months), and I thought barns of cows and pigs and lambs might strike him as wondrous, huge versions of Giddy and Kirby. In fact, the results were mixed. Pete was generally more interested in the human fairgoers than the livestock. The two exceptions were cases where he could get a good view of an animal's eyes, once with a cow and once with a lamb. The best connection was with the cow, who caused much kicking and trembling.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Little guy

I've started calling Pete "little guy" with increasing frequency as he gets older and seems less like a baby and more like, well, a guy, but little. All along, I noticed that I was saying "little guy" with an inflection that wasn't quite my own. This little strangeness carried connotations of great fondness, but I couldn't figure out why the phrase came out of my mouth the way it did. Then it hit me: I've been quoting Marge Simpson calling Bart her "special little guy," as she does when she wants to mark an uncommonly tender moment between them. This instance is one of many in which I've recognized myself having unwittingly quoted comedic sources--about 40% of what I say comes verbatim from Steve Martin's early albums--but it's the first evidence that my son is, in essence, being raised by a cartoon character.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Pete was making these great happy little raspberry sounds with his mouth about a month ago. Then they suddenly disappeared. A few days ago, I noticed one little one. Now he's a veritable happy raspberry machine. Happy day.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


You may recall note #4 on Pete's development below, about speaking strings of syllables. Yesterday evening, we were eating dinner with Pete happily playing in a little chair next to us. Eating, talking, playing with Pete, eating, talking. Then BOOM!: "byaayayaya," says Pete. Carolyn and I both froze, looked at each other to confirm we'd heard the same thing, and we had it. Pete's first wordlike babble.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Pete updates:

1. Pete's all about rolling over now. I put him in his crib last night and stayed with him because he wasn't settled. He was having a grand old time rolling back and foth, back and ofrth, grabbing one side of the crib bars and then the other. He has gotten better and flipping completely over, too, and he's just starting to figure out how to lift up his knees and look for scooting traction.

2. For a little while, Pete was making delightful little raspberry sounds with his mouth along with his little happy squeaks. The little rasperries have now been replaced entirely by odd closed-mouth grunting noises from the back of his mouth. We try to get him to revert to the rasperry noises by doing them ourselves, as questions: "Pppppppppppp?" But we get no answers.

3. Pete started solid food this week--specifically, oat cereal mixed with breastmilk. The first time, he just cried and let the cereal sit in his open, wailing mouth. Taking courage from the fact that he didn't spit it out, we tried again the next day, and he got some of it down. Then, yesterday, after doing pretty well for half the feeding, you could see it click for him: hey, this is food! And pretty good food, at that! And he got all excited about the rice cereal, trying to grab the spoon and put it in his mouth, kicking in glee. I've discovered that Pete is now extremely good at reaching and grabbing with his arm extended (and when he does grab, his grip is tremendous), but he's not so good at bending his arm and reaching with any accuracy. Therefore, the key to feeding is to get the spoon within the radius of his arms. As astronauts know, it's getting into the atmosphere that's the problem, not the landing.

4. We've seen cousin Blake and other babies start to articulate the typical baby syllables at about Pete's age, so we occasionally say them to Pete to help him along: "baabaabaabaabaa, laalaalaalaalaa," and best of all "yaayaayaayaayaa." Pete made no sign of picking these up at first, until about a week ago, when he was wailing in deepest despair about something, he cried "AAYAAAYAAYAAYAAYAAA." Very clearly. We still haven't heard the happy syllables.

Friday, July 22, 2005


We went to Milwaukee with Pete to do the site visit for the convention Carolyn organizes. Each of Sunday and Monday was by far the most car travel Pete had done in a day. He did really well with all of it until the very end.

Downtown Milwaukee--from the river to the Art Museum and then up the lake--is looking very good. What a contrast to the miserable state of downtown St. Louis! The city takes advantage of the lake and the river in ways that Philadelphia almost completely fails to do with the Atlantic and the Delaware. The Museum impressed me as much as everyone had said it would.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

More pictures

This batch includes Pete meeting great-aunt Cynthia and great-uncle Charlie in Vermont, seeing his first baseball game in Des Moines, and attending his first pancake breakfast in Iowa City.

These pictures bring us up to three or four weeks ago; in the last ones, Pete is about five months old.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Leaving Petey

I, Erik, am off to Greece in the morning.

Pete is now

1. Flipping himself over occasionally
2. Reaching out for people and things
3. Noticing and becoming fascinated by the cats
4. Giggling madly when he touches human or cat hair
5. Imitating, with squeaks of glee, the motion of raising one's arms and then rapidly slapping one's legs

All this has happened in the last 10-14 days. This stage is a blast. I can't believe I'm leaving him (with Carolyn and swarms of my family to help) for 11 days now.

New Pete tricks

Off to Greece in the morning.

Pete is now

1. Flipping himself over occasionally
2. Reaching out for people and things
3. Noticing and becoming fascinated by the cats
4. Giggling madly when he touches human or cat hair
5. Imitating, with squeaks of glee, the motion of raising one's arms and then rapidly slapping one's legs

All this has happened in the last 10-14 days. This stage is a blast. I can't believe I'm leaving him (with Carolyn and swarms of my family to help) for 11 days now.

Saturday, June 25, 2005


There was a big thunderstorm in Grinnell this evening--an Iowa summer doozy, complete with about five houseshaking claps, two of which made the tornado alarm (which seems to be very close to our house) get stuck on a constant high note for a while. The whole time, Pete was with Carolyn in Des Moines, and I happened to talk to Carolyn right at the beginning of the storm, so I knew they hadn't gotten any of it. Still, for the whole duration of the thundering, I was intensely anxious because I know that sudden loud noises really bother Pete. As in, at a certain level of intensity well below that of a concussive thunderclap, they make him scream inconsolably. So I spent the entire storm awash in a near-panic of parental protectiveness that had neither cause nor outlet.

Monday, June 20, 2005


In the last three days, Pete has begun rolling over--first once in a while, and this evening a whole bunch. The sun of mobility rises.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Unruly Subjects

In a recent study on how babies walk (described here), "the data for 11 infants had to be scrapped because they refused to hold still to have their bodies measured." --CJ

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Itsy Bitsy

"Itsy bitsy spider" astonishes Pete every time. And I mean *astonishes*. Regardless of his mood, as soon as I start climbing my fingers over each other, his face takes on this struck look--round open mouth, eyes open even wider than usual, and he shakes a little. It's great.

Thank goodness "Itsy bitsy spider" has a positive message. The spider goes right back up the spout again, undaunted. This may be a little creepy if you don't like spiders, but I don't feel bad repeating it over and over to Pete. Unlike, say, "Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater," which I'm working on rewording.

Another Pete favorite is "I've been working on the railroad." Who is Dinah? The train's cook? The train's horn blower? What's she doing in the kitchen, and who is that with her? Is the speaker really working on the railroad "just to pass the time away"? There's something fishy about this song that I just can't put my finger on. -CJ

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Grabbing water

Pete took a bath in the real bathtub for the first time last night. He was a little apprehensive, which is understandable since he rarely is in the bathroom and has never been in the tub before. But he was fascinated by the water. His little tub never has much water in it, so this was his first time really exploring what water is like. He kept touching the water gently, and then eventually started trying to grasp the water with both hands. He seemed confused that he couldn't hold it. --CJ

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Hearing things

Two nights ago, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking that I heard Pete crying in the distance, muffled by a door. I slowly realized that I was instead hearing the sound of the bedsheets rustling as Carolyn shifted in her sleep. The odd part of the experience was that waking up didn't change my perception. Even when I knew what I was hearing, I could still recognize a distant baby's cry in the sound. Such is the rewiring of my poor hypersenitive brain.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Lots more pictures

It's been a while, so we've piled up more photos than usual here. This batch includes documentation of Pete's ventures into smiling, grabbing, finger-sucking, and toe-grabbing, as well as pictures from the family gathering in Utah for my grandmother Venice's funeral. Cousin Blake makes his first appearance in this batch.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The gift of sleep

Pete slept through the night (until about six, more or less when we usually get up) for the first time on Mother's Day. Good lad.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The circle of baby is complete

After a few weeks of straining for them, Pete successfully grabbed his own feet last night as we got him ready for a bath. We gather that this is likely to kick off--so to speak--a couple of months of foot obsession, featuring much self-cramming of feet into baby's drooly mouth.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Wiffle dreams

It's common knowledge that parenthood causes people to sleep more lightly, what with listening for baby and getting up early and all. (After Pete was born, fellow parents started amending this to "YOU WILL NEVER SLEEP WELL AGAIN!" But that's not the point.) An unexpected side effect for me: I'm suddenly starting, for the first time, to be aware of my dreams most nights. I don't remember much yet, but I do catch moments here and there. Last night, I was playing wiffle ball. I have no idea why. But I really ripped the pitches I faced. Now that's good dreamin'.


Pete is getting really good at finding his mouth with his fingers. This is an excellent development because it helps him calm down, or even go to sleep, on his own. It also creates a fun face featuring two or three fingers jammed wayyyy into his mouth beneath big wide eyes and raised eyebrows. Capturing that face on "film" (i.e., memory card) is now a high priority.

Sunday, April 10, 2005


Pete definitely laughed this evening, as we gave him his bath. Specifically, as Carolyn wiped off what we call "all of his necks." It was swell of him to do it while we were both right there.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Kick kick kick

When Pete starts to feel a fairly strong emotion, he kicks his legs emphatically, back and forth, as if he's marching in place. I gather this is pretty standard baby behavior, and Pete now applies it to many kinds of emotions, more and more including excitement about a toy or face that interests him. What a world it would be if this reflex never left us: I would know, for instance, how a given class was going by checking whether students were kicking unrestrainedly during conversations. Or some students would learn how to kick kick kick as if interested in what's going on the way I used to try to maintain an attentive facial expression in certain classes. Especially good actors might brag that they could keep kicking in a class or at a lecture even when they dozed off for a few minutes. We could try to cut off discussions in faculty meetings when pretty much everybody has stopped kicking. Kick kick kick kick.

Thursday, March 31, 2005


Pete has started grabbing stuff. He's not very good at it yet, but he got the idea last Friday night that if he keeps opening and closing his fingers and moving his arm around, he'll sometimes strike gold. Or strike toy, more accurately. The next day, he improved upon this model by trying to pull the grabbed objects to his mouth. When he gets better at that--and he's working on it--we will enter a world of slobber.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The uncertainties of parenthood

I just heard a sound behind me that was made either by a) a woodpecker outside or b) Pete, pooping. Both are common sounds here. I guess we'll never know.

It's a world of babies!

After some telecommuting, Carolyn is back working in Iowa City today. A tough transition.

But there are two reasons to be happy: 1. our carseat can be used without a base--who knew?--so we don't have to get one in a rental car this weekend, and 2. turns out hotels provide cribs on request, so we don't have to take our travel crib. I tell you, there's a whole world of baby stuff that's been going on right under my nose while I had no idea. Oddly, I have become most aware of that fact at Coral Ridge Mall. The first time I wheeled Pete in there, I realized that there are hundreds of strollers in that place at any given time. Hey, wha' happened? I had never noticed. And there's a family restroom for toddlers. And a little room just for breastfeeding. The breastfeeding room is always about 20 degrees too hot, however. I think the Sbarro workers use it as a sauna betwixt their shifts.

Thursday, March 17, 2005


Carolyn has been working from home in the afternoons this week, so Petey and I have started having adventures. I learned a lesson yesterday: I cut a trip to my mailbox a little too close to feeding time and had a wailing Pete on my chest (in his Baby Bjorn) all the way back across campus. But he is generally doing very well and sleeping better at night, which means that I'm back to my old, caffeine-fueled day-night routine. I'm getting work done, too, but everything's up in the air when Carolyn goes back to work full-time next week. Gulp.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Alien baby

Some parts of calming a baby down are intuitive for adults. Like Pete, for instance, I would find a way to protest if I were wallowing in my own poop. I don't like to be hungry or tired any more than he does, and I understand being calmed by quiet environments or music or darkness. On the other hand, it's very difficult to imagine being put to sleep by having a giant human bind my arms to my sides (a.k.a. swaddling), turn me on my side, bounce me to jiggle my head a little, and blast fairly loud white noise into my ear. And yet it this is standard baby practice and works for Pete. What an interesting and familiar little human he is! And what a strange alien creature too!

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Wednesday, February 23, 2005


We took a little trip to see Aunt Bess (Carolyn's sister) in Des Moines last night, and fate allowed us to understand the interpretive key of our present lives. To explain, a selected chronology of the trip:

1. We leave the house with crying baby (who often cries when being packed into the carseat--which, beautifully, is a portabebes in Spanish). Pete cries through Grinnell and for the first couple of miles on route 80, and then settles into his customary vehicle slumber.

2. We arrive at Babies 'R' Us, and I add a second apostrophe to the store's name to indicate the second missing letter in "Are." Then we go inside, strolling Pete. As long as we keep rolling, he stays awake and calm, sometimes verging on drowsiness. If I slow down or stop too long to look at something, he careens into fussiness, and I get moving again.

3. After we leave Bess's house, Pete cries again until we hit the onramp to I-80 and settles down on the proverbial dime, exactly as he did the previous time we drove that route.

4. A point placed out of sequence for maximum dramatic effect: while at Bess's, we happen onto the first part of the movie Speed, whereing LAPD bomb squad dude Jack (Keanu Reeves) must keep a bus running at more than 50 MPH lest it explode. See! See! We are living in Speed, and baby crying is the bomb on the bus! Now we can rest easy.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Mighty feets of fatherhood

Unexpected fact of baby life: now that I'm spending a lot of time carrying a baby around, I'm discovering a lot of things that I can and can't do with me feet. For example: I'm getting pretty handy (get it?) at operating the CD player and receiver of our floor-level stereo system with socked feet.

Friday, February 11, 2005


In Pete's first two weeks, he grew an inch, to 20.5 inches. In the eleven days after he dropped the usual bit of weight after birth, he gained 21 ounces, ending up at eight pounds, six ounces. Extrapolating those rates (.5 inches/week, 1.9 ounces/day), we see that when Pete turns 21, he will be just over 47 feet tall and will weigh about 915 pounds. I'm sure he'll carry it well.

Sunday, February 06, 2005


Photos of Pete: Page 1 * Page 2.

You can click on any photo (on the linked pages, not here) to see a larger version.

Hello, World

Erik here. We're using this blog to collect serious and (mostly) silly things we've written and collected about Pete going back to his days as in utero protoPete. The pre-natal commentary generally comes from Plans (, an online community of Grinnell students, alumni, staff, and faculty. When our comments reference specific people from Plans, we will anonymize them. If you want to start from the beginning, go to the archives and read up from the bottom of each monthly page.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Who was born on your birthday?

My birthday list is uncommonly uninteresting. I share November 26th with Charles M. Schultz and a few other notables, but it's a short and relatively undistinguished list. Pete fares better, however; January 20th is a great day for film (Colin Clive, George Burns, Fellini, David Lynch), and other 1/20s include Theobald Wolfe Tone (leader of the 1798 Irish Rebellion), Leadbelly, Buzz Aldrin, and Bill Maher--along with former Virginia running back Terry Kirby, after whom Kirby the cat was named.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Where names come from

After all the joking conversations about Pete's name here, it occurs to me to share where the real thing came from. The middle name came first: "Jacob Simpson" echoes "Jacobson," Carolyn's last name. The boy's middle name was the first decision we made and the only one on which we never wavered.

The decision on "Peter" came much later. We were tossing around a bunch of boy names. Then friends of ours set up a baby name game with a bunch of people: one group shook up a Boggle cube, and another laid out a bunch of Scrabble tiles. Both groups came up with names that were in or suggested by the visible letters. Some of the results were common names, some funny, such as "Yoda." The Boggle group listed "Kit." I thought "Kit Simpson" sounded like a wicked cool name. Later, we asked ourselves what more mainstream names had the same kind of sound. Pete! said we. Peter? asked we. I like Peter, said Carolyn. Hmm, said Erik. The rock! So do I. Let's keep thinking about that. We also liked the trochaic effect of "Peter Jacob Simpson." Now, of course, we think our little guy couldn't possibly have gone by another name.

And that's how Pip became Pete.

Saturday, January 29, 2005


Pete and I had a loooong diaper change early this morning as I discovered more and more things that he had peed on when my head was turned. Perhaps he is training himself to do this.

Friday, January 28, 2005

First outing

The Pete Potato made his first trip out of the house this morning, to be looked at and weighed at the doctor's office. As I learned recently, newborns generally drop a good bit of body weight (up to 10% is normal) after birth. He had gone from 7 pound, 12 ounces to 7 pound, one ounce at his discharge on Monday. He's now at 7 pounds, 11 ounces--gaining two ounces a day! That's great news for his health. It suggests that we need to have the next size of clothes and diapers ready to go pronto.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005


Friends gave us a hand-me-down Baby Bjorn for Pete. It has enabled me to walk around and calm him down with my hands free, so he is now sleeping on my chest as I type. I want to lay a big smooch on whoever invented this thing. It's been a big sleeping day for the Pete Potato--an ill omen for the night, perhaps.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005


We're home! We came here last evening after dinner. Pete, as expected, screamed up a storm as we took him out to the car for the first time. He tends to cry enthusiastically every time room-temperature air hits his skin (meaning every diaper change, basically), so we knew that would happen when he first met winter. But the movement of the car calmed him down right away, from full-throated protest to mellowness in about ten blocks.

The cats freaked out a little when we came home. Pretty soon, however, Giddy decided that his love of the comforter on the bed trumped his anxiety about the new visitor, and he settled down there while Pete was nursing. Kirby stayed skittish for longer, but he ended up settling nicely, sleeping at the end of the bed with all of us most of the night. We've tried to encourage Kirby to enjoy the fact that he's no longer the smallest member of the family; he outweighs Pete by about four pounds. At one point, we did have all five of us sharing the bed at once.

And Pete has been great. He wanted to be fed a lot during the day and evening yesterday, and the payoff came when he slept really well the first night, including a lovely stretch from four to eight a.m. curled up on my chest. So the transition home is thus far a success, and we now commence the first day home, as well as the first full day without nurses and grandparents to help on demand.

Other baby notes:

* He now goes by Sweet Potato, or occasionally Pete Potato, in addition to Peter, Petey, Petester, Pip, Pipster, Piparoon, etc. We have discovered that baby nicknames multiply rapidly when Pete cries and we are trying to think of things to say to him.

* His yawns and sneezes are especially cute. Sneezing is not a sign of sickness for a newborn, so we can enjoy the funny look of it without worry. He occasionally yawns and sneezes simultaneously. Hottt.

* We had heard from other parents that their bodies somehow adjusted immediately to sensing the position of their baby when sleeping so there was no danger of rolling onto or otherwise harming the baby. This is amazingly true. When Pete was three hours old, watching him from six feet away caused unbearable anxiety--aah! he's moving! what do we do! aah! he's not moving! what do we do!--but putting him on my lap in the stupid hospital daddy recliner felt completely secure.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Oh, baby!

I have NEWS!

To wit:


a.k.a. Peter Jacob Simpson (trochaic trimiter),

a.k.a. Pete,

joined us in the outside world at 10:00 (on the dot!) last night, January 20th. He weighs 7 pounds, 12 ounces, stretches out to 19 1/2 inches, and delights his parents utterly.

During labor, Pete's wee head got caught slightly out of position for the descent, resulting in a difficult stretch for him and Carolyn and ultimately a caesarian section. Everyone got through that all right, and we've now had a very good night and morning together. Carolyn is doing very well today.

We’re scheduled to be in the hospital until Monday. Somewhere along the way, I’ll be getting pictures and whatnot on the internets. There will soon be a picture here, but I don't know when.

We all thank you for your good wishes.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


We'll be headed to the hospital early tomorrow morning to see what we (meaning other people) can do to help Pip into the world if Pip the journey hasn't begun already.

Monday, January 17, 2005

And waiting

The baby passed its fetal monitor test with flying colors again today, and for the first time, the test also showed a pre-labor contraction--a sign that Carolyn's body has come out for the pre-game shootaraound, as it were. We are now in the home stretch of the race between labor occurring on its own and the calendar dictating further steps to bring baby into the world. Whatever happens, we'll very probably meet Pip by the end of the week. (Yes, we're nervous.)

Thursday, January 13, 2005


Small baby update: baby continues to look great on the fetal monitor tests, but we're still in an increasingly anxious holding pattern, hoping that things kick in on their own before being helped along next week.

Monday, January 10, 2005


Brief update: still no baby. Thanks again for all the interest and good wishes. Pip put in another fine performance on the fetal monitor this morning, so there's no sign of anything to worry about other than the date. (The fetal monitor tests the baby's movement and heart rate to make sure that the placenta is still intact and keeping the baby healthy. This is important because placentas are not made to last much more than nine months.)

I noticed yesterday that I had been assuming Carolyn and I both faced boatloads of people asking us whether baby has come yet when we leave the house separately. I finally thought about that for a minute and realized that nobody sees Carolyn and then asks that question. Duh.

Friday, January 07, 2005


No baby yet. Since the due date has arrived, we are now in the emotional and medical process of worrying about the baby waiting too long--testing the baby's movement and heart responses (no problem) and fretting about induced labor, which is generally seen as a difficult process and has specifically resulted in difficult labors followed by C-sections for two of our close friends recently. On the other hand, as we remind ourselves, everything is perfectly normal now: due dates are always +/- two weeks, the baby seems fine, and everybody says that first children tend to be late, as Carolyn and I (first children both) were. I have begun to lecture baby about the advantages of the outside world and all the good people waiting to greet him or her.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Almost ready

Thanks for the continuing good wishes for Pip. No news, but the house is almost ready!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005


from Carolyn--

Just a quick non-update to say that there's no baby yet, of the Pip or the Fathead variety. There's also no indication that today is the day. I'm imagining him or her stifling a giggle behind a little baby fist, getting ready to wait until the snow really hits hard to make an appearance. I'd better get Erik to build a sledge today, in case he needs to pull me to the hospital.

Baby socks

I have completed the first washing of all the baby clothes and linens. The nice thing about baby stuff is that zillions of tiny outfits will fit in one load of laundry. But there is a scary side to that: we are now in charge of keeping track of many pairs of baby socks. Do you realize how small those suckers are?

No baby yet, but I'm set for delivery-room snacks. We're told babies like to arrive during nasty winter storms. Carolyn will continue working from home tomorrow.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

Letter about impending Pete

Link (pdf file)

New year's nursery

No baby yet, which is bad news for our 2004 tax return (that's OK) and good news becuase it's getting more likely that our doula, who is in Hawaii and returns Monday morning, will be able to attend the delivery. Knock on wood. We realized yesterday that it was the first day we could answer the question "When are you due?" with one word: Thursday. Two of our good friends from grad school called to announce their Dec. 30th baby yesterday. Hooray for second-generation friends!

Carolyn's parents and I painted the nursery Thursday. (Pregnant women aren't supposed to be near paint fumes.) Painting a room with one's in-laws sounds like a bad sit-com episode plot, but we all get along well, and the process was productive--we're very happy with the room--and even kind of fun, though exhausting. I'm now painting to match the bookcase made of big wooden milk crates and boards that Carolyn inherited from her dad, who made it for himself in grad school.

[someone]: you're right about the tension between Fathead and Pip, but is not a baby a little Pip with a Fat head? Pip is becoming very popular in the family, as Carolyn's mom is actively lobbying for it. It will be interesting to see whether it's one of those pre-natal nicknames that has some traction after the birth.