Unbelievable excitement ensues as two Seattleites prepare for a baby!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Heady Accomplishments

Inside Sophia's world record ...

I am proud to report that Sophia Hafner, as of roughly two weeks ago, blew wide open the Prone Poop Spray world record, establishing the new mark at a healthy 6 feet, 4 inches - with a maximum vertical component of two feet high.

Sophia, in her first full day home from the hospital, clearly had her mind (and other regions) firmly focused on her impending moment of greatness. The requisite window of opportunity presented itself in a diaper change performed by her fortunate father, with Leigh’s Aunt Linda distracting her at the head.

Sophia, however, was not to be distracted.

I, while wiping her buttocks, noticed a sudden sizzling sound coming from what my mother euphemistically calls Sophia's “vent.” My immediate reflex was to lean in closer to get a closer look at the phenomenon, but common sense quickly intervened in moving my head sharply backwards.

Moments later, my daughter made her mark in the history books – and all over the wall, a Velveteen Rabbit wall hanging (“Mr. Skin Horse, does being pooped on make me Real?”), several cards from my extended family, our baby monitor, her side table, a boom box, her crib, the mattress, and the floor.

During my hour-long cleaning session (including the scouring of woefully underprotected electronics equipment), I began trying to unlock the physics of her achievement – just like those forensic detectives who decode car wrecks by analyzing the, um, skid marks.

Unfortunately, we are missing a few key pieces of data. Any calculation of, well, muzzle velocity requires both distance and travel time. We have distance – a measurement longer than I am tall, I’m proud to say – but unfortunately we do not have an accurate time measurement from departure from Sophia to arrival on the floor. Even if we had that muzzle velocity, any measurement of force in Newtons would require mass, a measurement surely possible but impractical.

I, like most new parents, had been familiar with the likelihood of baby boys drawing new and exciting patterns on the ceiling (and their parents) with their urine during diaper changes. I had never contemplated the possibility of anything even broadly similar from my daughter.

Well, she's not just capable - she's excellent. That's my girl.

Linda with Sophia, during a quieter moment.

Milestones in Automotive History: 1974 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 454

The 1974 Chevy Laguna "Action Car" provided action in very slow, ponderous, inefficient installments.

Those familiar with the subjects of previous installments of Milestones in Automotive History may be puzzled at the vehicle of honor this week. What could a Chevrolet muscle car with a powerful 454-cubic-inch V-8 possibly have in common with the Yugo GVX and Chrysler-Maserati TC?

In truth, the 1974 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 454 wasn’t so much a muscle car as it was the decaying, bloated corpse of a muscle car – the dug-up remains of the glorious Chevelle 454, reanimated Weekend at Bernies-style with nothing more substantial than a spritz of Lysol and a freshly-pressed leisure suit.

While the Chevelle 454 was one of the brightest stars of the resplendent automotive firmament of the late 1960s, the Laguna was just the opposite - an impossibly inky black hole in the considerably darker sky of the early 1970s.

For its role in tarnishing an automotive legend, and for its status as a car that hit rock bottom in a variety of ways – a slow muscle car, a gas guzzler during the first major fuel shortage, and a cramped, uncomfortable car with massive external proportions - the 1974 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 454 easily qualifies as a Milestone in Automotive History.

In a 1970 Car & Driver comparison test, a Chevelle 454 had battled the legendary Shelby Cobra to a draw and established itself as one of the most powerful and seductive muscle cars of its era. Despite being saddled with the poor traction of the time’s notoriously poor tires, a 0-60 run of 5.4 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 13.81 seconds would make the Chevelle 454 a seriously quick performance car even today.

1970 Chevy Chevelle 454 - Champ.

Four years later, emissions regulation and fuel shortages were forcing automakers to drastically cut power and move to smaller, lighter cars. Chevrolet responded by dressing its full-size Chevelle up in styling classy enough to enthrall any 1974-era pimp and stifling the the 454 V-8 with emissions gear that transformed the smooth, torquey engine into an unresponsive weakling.

The 454 dropped from 450 to 235 horsepower - though, to be fair, the 1970 engine was rated on a different system that slightly exaggerated power. Still, for reference, the 2006 Hyundai Sonata is available with that same 235 horsepower - in a car with vastly more space, 1,500 pounds lighter, much quicker, and driving three times as far on a gallon of gas.

All this resulted in a tawdry “muscle car” that could manage only a 0-60 time of 7.8 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 16.2 seconds - slightly slower than a modern Honda Odyssey minivan and just a tick ahead of a Kia Spectra. The Chevelle 454 of four years prior would have passed 100 mph and still been accelerating by the time the Laguna hit 80 mph.

1974 Chevy Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 454 - Chump.

To cap things off, the Laguna achieved that stultifying performance while averaging 7.5 MPG in the city and 13 MPG on the freeway – just the ticket for an era of cataclysmic oil shortages and long gas lines. But, at nearly $6,000 in an era in which a Datsun economy car could be had for $2,500, at least the Laguna was expensive.

It might be a bit unfair to compare a 30-year-old car to modern vehicles – though I’d point out that unfairness is one of the founding principles of Milestones in Automotive History. However, regardless of era, I’m just enthralled by the idea of a Chevrolet 454 muscle car that wheezes along in stride with a four-cylinder Kia - especially considering the fact that the Laguna has 7.4 liters of engine to do the job, while the Sephia makes do with only 2.0. How is that possible?

The most damning comment on the Laguna is the fact that even in those dark times, high performance was still possible. Only one year earlier, Pontiac put into limited production its fully emissions-legal Trans-Am SD-455 with acceleration just as quick as the glorious 1970 Chevelle and miles ahead of the Laguna – 0-60 in 5.4 seconds, quarter-mile in 13.8. Even still, it managed better fuel economy than the Laguna.

Yes, those were bad times for cars, but the Laguna was, shockingly, worse still.

This gratuitous immediate post-birth photo of Sophia has absolutely nothing to do with the Chevy Laguna, unless of course she's mourning the collapse of a once-proud Chevrolet performance tradition.

Friday, August 26, 2005

More to come ...

"Update the blog, Daddy!"

The Blog is alive! It's ALIVE!!!!11!!!!!!1!

You know, I had thought I was doing the Internet and the rest of the world as a whole a service by sparing society from my meandering thoughts over the last two weeks, but as it turns out there are actually a few people who are masochistic enough to want to read this stuff.

For those people, I can say this - a few more pieces featuring my usual mix of idiocy and blathering rationalization are on the way. Thanks to recent events, I haven't had the time or inclination to write, so the result is that I have three or four pieces started but unfinished, and a few others that are written in my mind and crying out for amateur web publishing. Every piece will be studded with a variety of baby photos.

They include:
- a feature describing little Sophia's emerging personality - her likes and dislikes
- a birth blotter, taking us through the high and low points of pregnancy and birth
- a description (including a chart!) of Sophia's new world record
- my musings on fatherhood
- an all-new "Milestones in Automotive History"
- two all-new installments of "Driving with Chris"

I'm not all that far away from finishing them, so keep the faith!

Sophia in a slightly better moment.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Quick Note from the Daddy ...

Sophia had a tough time in the hospital, but Mommy was there for every moment of it.

Hello everybody,

Grandma Cathy has done an admirable job of keeping the world posted with the specifics, but I just wanted to drop a quick note and say hello and thanks.

The most recent stuff (the recent emergency room trip, the multi-day hospital stay, and all the scary stuff associated with it) was down pretty far in the childbirth post, so I'll just bring it up here to say that we are back on the path of relative normalcy. She evidently does not have an infection, and Sophia is now healthy again on the dehydration front and ready to come home tomorrow. Leigh, assuming she continues to operate continuously awake without spontaneously combusting, will be at home as well and hopefully can get at least a little rest.

Here's the quick and dirty:

It takes a few days for breastmilk to come in, so what the baby gets initially is a small amount of high-protein, low-fat substance called colostrum, which has lots of neat stuff, such as the mother's antibodies. It's hugely important, but it's not all that sustaining.

Due to the Cult of Breastfeeding (I'm a fan of breastfeeding, but not a fan of the unbelievable expectations and unrealistic standards set by some - don't worry, I'll rant on this later), babies are expected to subsist only on colostrum for the first three days or so of their life. Formula is PURE EVIL and giving it to the baby is the virtual equivalent of scattering rusty nails into their cereal later in life.

So that was fine the first day, but the second day - at which point we were sent home - Sophia was getting a bit more fussy. She began refusing her colostrum at her regular intervals, opting for 5-7 hours instead of the recommended 2-4 hours. The hospital people didn't think it was that big a deal since her blood sugar was still high so we went home in good spirits and figuring she'd eat when she was hungry.

What they (and we) didn't take into consideration was her hydration. For a pretty big baby (Sophia was only one ounce shy of nine pounds at birth) , a tiny amount of colostrum at regular feedings just isn't enough to hydrate over several days. Especially when increasing dehydration made Sophia increasingly irritable and less likely to take the breast.

This, of course, led to a five-hour screaming and crying marathon several hours after discharge, during which 'Phia was completely inconsolable and, to an increasing degree, so were her parents. We expected her to cry and we'd work through it, but we didn't expect her to refuse any feeding or to blow past all the times she should have fallen asleep, or to blow up to a 101.9 degree fever (more than two degrees past the infant safe zone).

Increasingly panicked phone calls to family during the wee hours of the night gave way to a call to the doctor, who told us to get to the hospital pronto. Another few hours of inconsolable screaming and howling later in the ER, the staff finally thought to give us formula. We balked, figuring that hey - the hospital people had said her blood sugar was just fine! And anyways, feeding the baby vodka martinis would be preferable to giving her formula, right?

Of course, to our massive relief, Sophia slurped down the bottle of formula and fell fast asleep. With the exception of the hospital's curiosity about the possibility of a bacterial infection causing the fever, the immediate crisis was averted.

Still, the fever concerned the doctors and so Sophia subsequently got a spinal tap, catheter, and a multitude of IV drips. Poor kid. Everything looks fine now, and we're still trying to mesh the good aspects of breastfeeding with the reality that sometimes baby just isn't going to take it and that the bottle (both with formula and expressed breastmilk) can be our friend.

Leigh has been awesome throughout all of this, working on virtually no sleep while doing her darndest to keep 'Phia fed and hydrated. Big thanks to Lyle and Linda for helping me support Leigh in the hospital and keeping a rotating 24-hour presence with Leigh and Sophia despite having only one hard chair in a shared room from which to work. Also big thanks to Grandma Cathy for getting the word out and keeping me from going thoroughly insane when it looked as if there might be something seriously wrong with my little baby girl.

Once I get a little caught up with everything, I will be posting to the blog just as regularly (if not more so!) than before with photos, updates on the family, and my own wandering irrelevancy. I would advise you to expect the same tired mix of cliche and insipid prose that you've come to expect here over the past month or so. But now - baby pictures!

A great time was had by all at the hospital.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

We are very happy to report...

...that the population of Seattle went up by one Saturday night!

"Like a Greased Pea out of a Straw…" (Chris Hafner, Thursday Aug. 4 Posting)

Joyfully submitted by Grandma Cathy and Grandpa Mike Hafner

Miss Sophia Elizabeth entered the world at 11:27 on Saturday, August 6, weighing 8 lbs. 15 oz., 19” long. Had she waited another 33 minutes, she would have been born on her parents' 6th anniversary, but she decided she wanted a day all to herself. The sweet little procrastinator was 1½ weeks beyond her due date, but when she decided to take action, things happened very quickly.

Leigh had her scheduled doctor visit on Thursday, and she was still at just 4 cm. Nothing happened, no contractions, no discomfort, until 9:50 on Saturday night. Then the waters broke and contractions began at 2 minutes apart, lasting nearly a minute each. She was so uncomfortable and claustrophobic, she couldn’t get into the car for the drive to the hospital. Finally Chris called 911, which brought the fire department and the ambulance (and that brought out all the neighbors on their street). Chris called us from the ambulance about 10:45 to let us know they were on the way. The medical personnel in back with Leigh kept telling her to keep up the breathing and not to push, that most first births take hours and hours of labor. But one of them mentioned to the driver that he shouldn’t dawdle at the stop lights. They told Leigh they didn’t want to alarm her by putting on the siren, and she replied that she was more alarmed that they weren’t! So the driver looked over at Chris and grinned, saying, “This is the fun part”. He flipped on the lights and siren, and they got to the hospital emergency room about 11:00.

When the nurse examined Leigh, she suddenly became very businesslike – sent word to call the doctor, and told Leigh she was at 10 cm (6 cm in a little over 1 hour!). They went immediately to the delivery room, and Sophia was born shortly thereafter.

Chris called shortly after midnight, and he and Leigh were both feeling great, riding pretty high on adrenalin. Things happened so quickly, they couldn’t quite apprehend it was done. Neither got much sleep that first night.

We drove up Sunday morning from Camas in southern Washington, arriving when Sophia was sleeping on a pillow on Chris’s lap. It was so neat for us to watch Chris and Leigh falling more and more in love with their baby. When Leigh’s family arrived, all of us had a chance to hold her for a few minutes, but most of the time she was asleep. She is “newborn red” in color, has chubby cheeks and thighs, dark hair, and long fingers and fingernails. Grandpa Lyle says she looks just like Leigh did at birth.

It also happened to be SEAFAIR 2005 weekend, Seattle's big summertime extravaganza. The U.S. Navy Blue Angels were doing a show over Lake Washington in the city, and Leigh's hospital window was a good viewing point. Which means our little "Seafair Sophia" was serenaded by angels in a rather spectacular fashion on her first day of life.
An aside: remember Capt. William Clark, of the fabled Lewis & Clark Expedition? Nearly 200 years ago, when they saw the Pacific Ocean after toiling for months and months up the rivers, through the wilderness, and over the mountains, Clark recorded in his journal, ”Ocian in view! O the joy!” For all of us, it is “Baby in view! O the joy!”
Update: Tuesday, August 9, 2:30 p.m.
Leigh and Chris are having a few challenges. Yesterday at home, Sophia wouldn’t sleep and didn’t seem interested in nursing, but she did seem to embrace the concept of crying rather well. She cried inconsolably for hours and hours, with her anxious parents trying everything.

Around 3 a.m. they called the doctor, and because she had a temperature of around 102°, he suggested they go to the emergency room. They couldn’t find anything wrong but said she was hungry and overtired, and somewhat dehydrated by all the crying. (You know how babies get so worked up they can’t settle down to nurse or sleep…) So the nurse gave them a bottle of formula, which Sophia inhaled. Then she slept. But it was another night of very little sleep for Leigh and Chris.

Chris said they will keep little 'Phia at the hospital for a 48- hour observation. Apparently, Leigh carries a Strep B virus in her body (something about one-third of all women carry; it doesn’t affect adults), and since the delivery was so quick, there wasn’t time for an antibiotic I-V during labor. They just want to be sure there isn't a strep infection starting with Sophia. Leigh and Chris are staying with her, and Lyle is on the way. Aunt Linda will join them this evening, and they will take turns staying with Leigh and Sophia through the 48 hours. Chris said right now everything seems to be going well, and this is mainly a precaution. Both of them have managed to catch a couple hours of sleep this afternoon, which certainly helps. We all appreciate your warm thoughts and prayers!

Newsflash 5:30 - Chris just called to say Sophia is sleeping well, feeding well, and has no temperature. The preliminary results on her bloodwork show everything is fine.
Chris apologizes for not keeping up with the baby-blog, and he has given me (Grandma Cathy) the privilege of updating. Without Chris's editing, there may be some inaccuracies that will need to be corrected later.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Four of a Kind

A quick note - If you don't want to hear a great deal of detail about Leigh's cervix, I'd advise you to skip this post entirely.

Leigh enjoying some fries at a time before she was dilated four centimeters.

Well, we just returned from the doctor with some interesting and rather heartening news - Leigh is now four centimeters dilated on both sides of her cervix.

"Both sides of her cervix?" you might ask. "I've never heard of such a thing! Does Leigh have a really bizarre cervix or something?"

The answer to that question is evidently yes, although while answering in the affirmative I'm sure I'd be trying to figure out if I should sock you in the face for asking such an insulting and personal question.

See, here's the deal - a few weeks ago, when we reported that Leigh was dilated three centimeters, Leigh was actually dilated one centimeter in the front of her cervix and four centimeters in back. Having different numbers like that is very unusual. So unusual, in fact, that when doing her exam, Dr. McDermott said that Leigh's cervix was "very strange." Still, she said that Leigh was dilated to the equivalent of a three if we didn't want to go super in-depth about it. Same exact deal last week.

This time, things have evened up. Leigh is now an honest-to-God four centimeters dilated front to back, although Dr. McDermott still said that Leigh's cervix is "really messed up" - a phrase I'm sure every woman is excited to hear. The good doctor was even able to hook her finger around the opening of the cervix, which is evidently thrilling news but created sensations about which Leigh was rather less excited.

The really interesting thing is that four centimeter dilation is all that's necessary to be granted entrance to the birthing suites - in terms of dilation, Leigh is in fact already done with the first stage of labor. All that is missing are contractions. How Leigh is walking around four centimeters dilated without having any contractions or just shooting that baby out like a greased pea out of a straw is anybody's guess.

Regardless, Dr. McDermott told us that childbirth was imminent (which was news we greeted with cold, skeptical stares) and that if all else failed she would induce labor early next week - likely on Monday.

So, it's not as if we haven't heard this before, but the latest word on the streets is that we should have a baby by Monday at the latest. All I can say is that if Sophia tries to upstage our wedding anniversary by arriving on Sunday, she will have to be severely disciplined.

Back off, Child Protective Services, I'm just kidding. Mostly.

By the way, the photo accompanying this piece has absolutely nothing to do with the subject matter. I just enjoyed Leigh's look of utter satisfaction while she's eating those fries. This despite the fact that they were almost criminally undersalted, thanks to our friend Tracy telling the waiter that Leigh was "already bloated enough" and didn't need to "retain any more water."

Classic stuff. Thanks, Tracy.

Driving with Chris: Nissan 350Z Roadster

Ours was like this, but red - and with a pregnant woman in the passenger seat.

Reviewing cars can be a brutally tough business. What is this world coming to when a poor soul can be callously tasked with the duty of driving a nimble, powerful, red sports convertible for a week?

It was a difficult burden to carry, but I mustered every bit of professionalism I could to get through the ordeal.

The Nissan 350Z Roadster is the open-topped variant of Nissan's relatively recent reinvention of its Z-car line. Most onlookers were impressed by the topless 350Z's styling - its taut, aggressive, and modern looks combined with its bright red color and automatic convertible top gave the aura of a car more exotic than a $35,000 Nissan sports car. The 350Z is refreshingly non-retro - unlike Chevrolet with its Corvette, Nissan felt free to create something entirely new out of its storied sports car line, with excellent results.

That is, if you don't listen to the uncharitable onlookers who compare it to a rolling red gel cap straight out of the medicine cabinet.

Inside, the 350Z is startlingly stark - everything is textured black plastic, with no evident luxury touches. The aggressively contoured dash looks a bit cheaply made at first, but over time appreciation grows for its simple, clean layout.

The seats are firm and very supportive, but thanks to a reclined seating position and an extremely low car, getting out is not nearly as easy. Those familiar with my No. 2 pencil-like flexibility will have little difficulty in visualizing my lack of grace in exiting the car. Extracting heavily pregnant Leigh from the 350Z often required calling in the Jaws of Life.

Nissan doesn't even make a pretence of providing a back seat with the 350Z. That's actually a bit refreshing - the Audi TT is just one notorious example of a four-seat sports car in which the back seat is suitable only for limbless eight-year-olds. However, in cars with vestigial rear seats, that area can serve as a padded and seatbelted luggage shelf. The 350Z has no such space within the cabin, and the Roadster's trunk is only 4.1 cubic feet large - sufficient to fit only one, perhaps two laptop bags. The 350Z is definitively not the car for long cross-continent odysseys.

As a beast of burden, then, the 350Z falls sadly short. As a sports car, however, it excels.

Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 engine is one of the best around - it is powerful, flexible, refined, rugged, and even provides reasonable fuel economy (to the tune of 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway in the 350Z). In the Z, it provides 278 horsepower and an excellent burbling soundtrack whether the driver is loafing happily along or is in full race-driver mode.

To judge against the 350Z's competition, if the Mazda RX-8 sings in a shrieking soprano and the Chevrolet Corvette murmurs in a mellow baritone, the 350Z voices its song in an aggressive tenor, warbling its way through the midrange of automotive music with a distinctively mellifluous six-cylinder note all the way up to its surprisingly low 6,500 RPM redline.

That engine, paired with the toggle-switch movements of an almost unnervingly immediate gearbox and clutch combination, propels the 350Z to hyperlegal velocities remarkably (and thrillingly) quickly. The 350Z also handles extremely well, although at the cost of some ride comfort.

As much fun as the 350Z is with the top up, dropping the top adds another dimension. Any convertible in summery Seattle can enthrall, entertain, and relax - this one can do so while subjecting one's body to hugely entertaining G forces.

At $35,000 as tested, the 350Z is obviously no bargain for a family looking to haul groceries and pick kids up from soccer practice, but it's an excellent choice as a smooth, well-engineered sportster.

Kim wishes she drove a red Nissan 350Z Roadster.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

O Sophia, Where Art Thou?

To answer 2005's most commonly-asked question:

No. No baby yet. No contractions, no labor, no birth, no life-changing event, no holding our daughter in our hands, no Leigh escaping for her biological nightmare. And yes, we're nearly a week after due date.

We are currently in this weird emotional purgatory in which Leigh somehow, despite all odds, continues to get more and more pregnant - she experiences more and more weird and uncomfortable things, and labor stubbornly refuses to begin. So much for the mucus plug and bloody show, eh? Just goes to show that secretions are an untrustworthly lot, I suppose.

Meanwhile, we can't exactly commit to doing anything other than sit around the house, since labor could conceivably hit at any time - so we continue to wait and put our lives on hold in anticipation of an event that has to this point resolutely refused to occur.

After waiting for this to happen over a period of time that has felt roughly equivalent to the Dawn of Time, we are both so numb and exhausted that neither of us at this point really believes that our child will ever actually arrive. We're like the little kids that send away for a toy with our cereal box UPCs - our fever pitch of excitement has worn down to resigned waiting, which in turn has morphed into a mix of slightly paranoid anticipation and resigned boredom.

Hopefully, unlike this example, when 'Phia arrives, she won't be a small, cheaply-made plastic toy. Now that would be disappointing - and a bit disturbing.

Bizarre, I know, but what can I say? We're going a bit stir-crazy at the moment.

We'll let everybody know as soon as anything happens - good, bad, or ugly.