Category Archives: etc.

A tale of two feet

Claire’s feet: 1990

Those of you who have read Birth Day will recall this image of my daughter Claire’s feet from her birth record.

Here’s their owner, all grown up at her graduation from UC Davis yesterday…

That went way too fast…


Filed under About the photos, Birth Day, etc., Fathers

Call me Eli

Elihu Yale: Fabulous hair.

I’m in New Haven this week, attending the Yale Writers Conference. The attendees are mainly fiction writers, with a medium number of us nonfiction types, and even fewer screenwriters. (The poets either weren’t invited or they boycotted the proceedings. You never know with poets.)

It’s been a fascinating few days, sharing notes and ideas with other writers. There are novelists working on murders and zombies and crooked corporate CEOs and dysfunctional families (sometimes all four), and there are memoir writers working on real versions of the same things, minus the zombies. Nobody but me is writing about babies, except as cute little fictional props squeezed in between scenes of mayhem.

I’m here because I’m working on book two, code named “Son (or Daughter) of Birth Day.” I would tell you what it’s about, but my instructor here at the conference, who is a well-known, literary-battle-hardened L.A. writer and editor, tells me that only someone who wants their book idea stolen tells people what it’s really about.

So I’ll tell you this: There are no zombies. There will be babies. And I hope to bring back Queen Victoria for an encore.

What more could you want?


Filed under Birth Day, etc., Writing

Why I Love Kids: Storytelling edition

Just for fun…

"And pizza! And yogurt!"

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Filed under etc., Why I Love Kids

For space-nuts of a certain age…

Monday is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn’s historic three-orbit space ride. That means it was probably fifty years ago tonight that I started worrying about him. I tossed and turned in bed, visions of catastrophe filling my eight year-old head: What if he can’t get back down? Could they send another rocket up to get him? How long would his food and water and oxygen last? Visions of poor John Glenn endlessly circling the earth, waiting to die, kept me wide awake.

He made it back, of course. We cheered in class when we heard he’d splashed down. Sister Margaret Jeanette even cried–a shocking sight for a room full of second-graders, since none of us knew nuns could cry. I slept like a baby that night.

Happy anniversary to John Glenn (and the rest of us astro-nuts).


Filed under etc., Science, Things I learned en route to looking up other things

Buy a Fiat? Here??

Up next?

My blog appears to be haunted–by car commercials.

Yesterday when I looked back at an old post, I found a car commercial attached to it. This happened a couple of weeks ago, too.  (Toyota and Fiat, if you’re keeping track).

I’m flattered that Fiat would think my little posts worthy of sneak-attaching an ad to one of them, but a more believable explanation is that it’s some kind of glitch. Have any of you come across ads of any kind attached to my posts? Please let me know. And do any of you WordPress-savvy readers out there have an idea how this sort of thing happens?

Do tell…

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A comment on comments, Part 2

What's best?

I’ve decided to close out the comments related to my recent home birth posts. I’ve received quite a few of them in the last couple of weeks, the large majority of which are attacks on one category of midwives or another, are often personal in nature, and contribute little if anything to the discussion of home birth’s role in American maternity care. As promised, I didn’t publish them. There are obviously deep divisions among midwives (at least among many of those who wrote in) and  a blog shootout isn’t going to accomplish anything.

I’ll write more on the subject of home and other out-of-hospital birth in future posts, in particular about how place of birth increasingly appears to impact a baby’s long-term health, but for now it’s time to give it a rest.

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Filed under etc., Home birth

A comment on comments

Is this really necessary?

There are literally millions of places on the web you can go to engage in the shout-’em-down style of “discussion” that seems to have taken over most of American life. This isn’t one of them. I’m interested in exploring children’s health issues in ways that advance understanding of the topic, not in promoting behavior that should have been left on the playground long ago. Hence, I reserve the right to edit, or refuse to publish, any comments that contain personal attacks or ridicule.

If that’s censorship, as one angry commenter recently claimed when I asked her to remove a single personal-attack reference in a very long post, so be it. There are a lot of other blogs, forums, and chat rooms out there.

A special thanks to all of you who maintain a constructive tone, even when it isn’t easy. That’s the only way to move a discussion forward. Please keep the comments coming!


Filed under etc., Politics

It’s not easy being me…

What is it about my name and TV shows?

Me #1

First I lived through a decade of Dick Van Dyke jokes–he played a roller-skating, crime-fighting Dr. Mark Sloan on Diagnosis Murder back in the 1990s. (My favorite episode–and this is a quote from the online plot summary–“Mark is called to investigate the murder of a mime and how his colleague’s hand wound up in the belly of a shark.” Man, they just nailed my typical clinic day!)

And then, of course, there’s Eric Dane, who has played me, er, Dr. Mark Sloan (aka “McSteamy”*) on Grey’s Anatomy since the early 2000s.

Me #2

And now…I just got a call last night from a friend who says there’s an AT&T commercial in which Santa consults his naughty-and-nice list on an iPhone, and the second name on the list is–you guessed it–Mark Sloan.

Next stop for Dr. Mark Sloan: The Simpsons?

# # #

*My wife says I was cuter than McSteamy at that age, which is why I married her.


Filed under etc., TV

Why I Love Kids: #1 in a very long series

Went to see my niece, Nathalie Chicoine*, perform in the Ballet Califia‘s Nutcracker this afternoon at the Spreckels Center in Rohnert Park, California. Nathalie performed beautifully, playing a young party girl, a Chinese dancer, and a flower in the Dance of the Flowers. (Ballet Califia is not a huge company – multiple roles are the norm.) Quite a stage presence, that girl. We’ve seen her perform in the Nutcracker at least five years in a row now, and since she’s only ten years old, there will no doubt be many more Drosselmeyers to come.

Part of the fun of seeing this particular company perform is watching the kids grow and transition to more demanding roles as they age. The youngest member of the troupe today must have been no more than three years old. She played a mouse, scampering around the stage with the somewhat older mice who kept a close eye on her, lest–in her wide-eyed wonder at the bright lights and flying bodies–she might wander offstage or fall into the orchestra pit.

When the Littlest Mouse wasn’t skipping, scampering, or lying on her back for some well-choreographed kicks, she was engaged in what Alison Gopnik, the author of The Philosophical Baby, calls “lantern-like consciousness.” (My San Francisco Chronicle review of that excellent book is here.)

“Instead of experiencing a single aspect of their world and shutting down everything else [as adults do], they seem to be vividly experiencing everything at once… Their brains, as well as minds, are dramatically plastic, profoundly open to new possibilities.”

And that is exactly what the Littlest Mouse was doing, as her attention skipped from the task at hand (run on tiptoe, jump up and down, act scared), to the huge puppet waving its wooden arms above her, to the bewildering stampede of uniformed boys with toy swords circling around her, and back again. She was completely lost in the moment, oblivious to the audience, her lantern consciousness taking in everything on the stage.

Me? I was sitting there in the 13th row with my boring old adult “spotlight consciousness”–picking out one aspect of the world around me and shutting out the rest, as Dr. Gopnik would say. But what an aspect! As the Littlest Mouse finally left the stage, she stopped for a moment to look back at the swirling spectacle. Then a bigger, slightly more Nutcracker-savvy mouse–probably all of five years old herself–yanked her stage right, and she was gone.

And that’s why I love kids.

* * *

(*Chicoine is pronounced shik-WAHN,  for those readers lacking French-Canadian linguistic skills [and not chee-chee-OH-nee, or chi-COIN, as that noble name is often massacred]. My in-laws will love me for this.)

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One thing I do really well…

…is hide Easter eggs. I just found this one in the back yard.

Like father, like son.

Contents: Melted jellybeans (2).

I inherited this talent from my dad. He’d hide real eggs so well we wouldn’t find them until July, when the full power of an Illinois summer sun at last released their sulfuric essence.

Barney Sloan

Barney Sloan, 92, master egg-hider

Picture a half-dozen Sloan kids, circa 1963, pointing and gagging…

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Filed under etc., Fathers