Unbelievable excitement ensues as two Seattleites prepare for a baby!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Here's wishing everybody a Merry Christmas, and a better new year for the SuperSonics.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

This may look somewhat familiar ...

I hope everybody is having a terrific Christmas Eve and an even better Christmas tomorrow. And for those of you who don't celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a spectacular weekend anyway. For those of you who don't want to have a spectacular weekend, well, fine - be that way.

Here was our first alternate ...

And, for everybody's enjoyment, here's our Christmas card picture and some of the out-takes from that photo session.

Outtakes ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005


Sophia doesn't look especially happy about it, but she was recently baptized into the Catholic religion.

Sophia was baptized at Assumption Catholic Church in Seattle on Oct. 30. That was a ridiculous amount of time ago, so this post will be more of a filler between photos rather than anything unique or special in its own right.

Parents, godparents, and new baptizee pose for photos - of course, they're all looking in different directions.

I will say, however, that not only was it wonderful to get our friends and family (at least those reasonably local to Seattle) , and very special to see Godfather Kevin Robertson and Godmother Karen Evans (other Godmother Erica FitzRoy was unable to attend, having recently moved to South Carolina) officially take up their already unofficially cemented positions as major influences in our daughter's life, but the moment itself carried unexpected power.

The Hafners also can't decide where they're looking - but they sure are having a good time!

I'm not even Catholic, preferring a more Protestant-oriented faith, but it was an amazing moment. Thanks to all who participated in what was another wonderful moment in Sophia's young life.

The Miller side of the family - in color!

And for those of you who couldn't be there, we were thinking of you - and eating enough pastries and snacks to represent you.

Many thanks to Eric and Tommy for providing the black-and-white photography.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Valiant Folly

Back to nature - the Valiant in the previous owner's backyard.

If one were to compile a list of what our family needs the least, a debilitating flesh-eating disease would probably rank at the top. An unreliable, barely running, deeply flawed 1973 Plymouth Valiant would probably appear only a few lines down the list.

So, of course, that's exactly what I went out and got. And yes, in addition to our 2003 Honda Accord and scabrous old 1986 Volvo 240DL, we have a 1973 Valiant. This is three cars for a family in which only one car gets driven.

Those of you who have known me for some time are familiar with my fascination with both weird turbocharged European sports coupes of the 1980s (think Saab) and mediocre American sedans of the 1970s. There are few 1970s American sedans more relentlessly mediocre than a '73 Valiant.

Admittedly, my tastes run more to something like an AMC Matador X or a massive '76 Chevrolet Impala, but neither were as readily accessibly as the '73 Valiant, which was offered to me free by a co-worker, who had been storing the Valiant in his back yard along with several vintage Subaru BRATs.

Five blocks into my drive home with the free new car, I started thinking that perhaps I had overpaid. Aside from the exhaust fumes pouring into the cabin, and the loud but powerless chug-chug-chugging of the clearly out-of-tune 225-cubic inch Chrysler Slant Six, the Valiant began displaying a rather diverting habit of stalling in the middle of intersections. With a combination of profuse cold sweat, full throttle, and power dumps with the three-speed automatic, we somehow managed to limp home at a maximum of 40 mph. Since that time several weeks ago, thanks to its untrustworthiness, I've driven the car roughly five miles.

In this way, the Valiant is rather different than the subject of my last old-car fling - my dearly beloved and much-lamented 1983 Chevrolet Malibu Wagon, which owned my heart for years before it was pried away from my protesting grip by Leigh. She insisted that two drivers didn't need three cars. Perhaps not, but now we're up to three cars again - and now instead of the reliable, trustworthy 'Bu, we have a car that makes the 300,000-mile Volvo look like a high-powered, futuristic European sports car. Plus, now that I take the bus to work, we're down to one driver for those three cars.

When I've told people about our new Valiant, they invariably give me the same pitying, slightly incredulous look normally reserved for an eight-year-old who set fire to his parents' house.

To answer their invariable first question, no, I have no idea what I'm going to do with it. The drivability problems likely stem from a dirty and worn carburetor, and the exhaust leak is probably a result of a cracked exhaust manifold. The only problem is that, with a one-car garage, we have neither a place to keep the Valiant nor a place to work on it.

At least, we didn't until our friends Kim and Chavi went mildly insane and offered up their two-car garage to the Valiant so that both Leigh and I could tinker with it there. You see, Leigh has wanted for some time to become an automotive mechanic, and for all of my automotive love and knowledge, I don't have the foggiest idea of how to change the oil. Given that the Valiant was hopelessly out of date when it was made in the early 1970s, this blunt object is the ideal subject on which we can learn.

So, as soon as I screw up my courage to limp the Valiant down to their house, we'll begin a regime of changing the fluids, belts, hoses, and filters. Then the plan is to swap out the carburetor, intake manifold, and exhaust manifold with a similar but slightly more advanced two-barrel carburetor unit, ironically named the "Super Six," from a late 1970s Aspen/Volare. The Aspen/Volare, of course, were truly awful cars in their own right.

The current carb is a single-barrel unit - just for a bit of perspective, most performance cars of the era used four to six barrels. The Slant Six is a fairly gutless but willing engine, but saddling it with a single-barrel carburetor is like forcing a child to drink a thick milkshake through a coffee stirring straw.

I found a road test of a 1974 Valiant Brougham (given that the Valiant was the equivalent of a Dodge Neon, the name was a bit of a contradiction in terms) , in which Car & Driver flogged the 105-horsepower Valiant from 0-60 in 13.8 seconds. With a lot of work and expense, the two-barrel conversion might solve all of the car's problems and pump the engine up to roughly 120 horsepower - in a still-disheveled, worthless car. If that works, I may just splurge and buy a ridiculously undeserved "Screaming Chicken" Pontiac Trans-Am hood decal for the Valiant.

Either that, or I'll come to my senses and just pawn off the Valiant on some other sucker. The jury's still out.

The Screaming Chicken would look awfully nice on the Valiant's hood.

So How Are Leigh and Sophia?

Sophia and Leigh dance along to Survivor's Eye of the Tiger.

"Enough about you and your excuses, Chris," I can hear you all saying. "How are the two worthies of the family doing?"

It's a fair question. After all, the last time I posted anything, Sophia was roughly half as old as she is now. And since we last chatted electronically, Leigh officially left her job and began working part-time to support the real estate endeavors of our friend Kim.

Well, Sophia is now nearly four and a half months old, and as of two weeks ago she weighed 14.5 pounds and was 25.5 inches long. This means that if she stopped growing today for the rest of her life, she would be more than 2 feet tall, which in my mind is an important hurdle.

According to the doctor, her various measurements place Sophia at the 97th percentile for size at her age, while she is at the 90th percentile for the circumfrence of her head. This of course means that Sophia is much larger than most girls her age; however, we've chosen to interpret this as confirmation that Sophia is superior in every way to 97 percent of other babies.

How big is she? Sophia, at four months old, is now wearing primarily clothes made for babies 6-9 months old and has grown out of at least one 6-9-month outfit.

Last week Sophia mastered the ability to roll both from her front to her back and vice versa; so while she isn't yet exercising that ability very often, it's not totally impossible that she could wake up one morning and hit roughly 150 RPM in rolling from one end of the house to another.

Fun With Slow Shutter Speeds - 500-mph Sophia!

One more sobering accomplishment is Sophia's increasing drool and gum pain, ushering in the beginning of teething. She is now in the throes of it, and what would otherwise be long nightly sleeps are now disrupted by her waking up wailing with gum pain. Her hand-eye coordination improves daily, so now she is generally able to grab her teething beads and put them into her mouth the right way. She doesn't always do well at it - sometimes she grabs the beads and slaps herself in the head a few times with them before getting them under control.

She can't yet stand completely without assistance, but if you give her the help of a little steadying, she's more than strong enough to sit up and stand on her own. She has a beautiful little voice and has begun chattering happily away with nonsense, although such outbursts normally are the prelude to something a little more stormy.

She is advancing so quickly that I expect to come home one night in the next month or two and hear her greet me while she's downstairs tinkering with the car.

One minor hiccup came when Leigh and I tried to take Sophia to her first Sonics game - unfortunately, an NBA game is just a little loud for an infant.

Leigh is doing exceptionally well. She was worried that she wouldn't be a good Mom, but as I kept telling her, she's simply astounding - a much better mother than I am a father. She mothers with a mix of unflappable, dry humor and patience - and that's when she's dealing with her wayward husband. She's even better with the kid.

Those who have known us for some time will be surprised - nay, shocked - to learn that Leigh has become something of a chef. Once upon a time, my ability to scramble eggs and cook Macaroni & Cheese made me the culinary expert in the house. No more. Now when I come home, Leigh invariably has an irresistible dish on the stove and ready to serve. Aside from a little phobia about cooking chicken - something dating back to a particularly traumatic dish we tried to concoct back in Charlotte - she's simply amazing. And, since she listens to NPR all morning while I flip to the sports pages, she's also much smarter than I am.

Not that that - or the fact that I'm hugely fortunate to be blessed with the two of them - is exactly news. My next post will reveal just how tolerant Leigh is of her slightly deviant husband.

The city of Seattle is beginning to buzz about Leigh's new, peculiar growth.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Finally, A New Post

I'd love to blog more often, but I just can't tear myself away from Sophia. Look at that smile - can you blame me?

Those few people who still bother to check this site, yes, rub your eyes and do a double take, there is finally a new post. I will endeavor to give it the same level of trite and banal content that has characterized my previous posts on The Hafner Three.

Evidently - and this comes as a major surprise, since I haven't heard about it more often than three or four times per day - this blog hasn't been updated for some time. Frankly, I'm a little stung by the very idea that people could be tired of looking at the side of my Dad's head.

So why is this the first post in nearly two months? Well, the problem isn't that there hasn't been anything going on or nothing to say. The problem is that there has been an awful lot going on, not all of it has been particularly newsworthy, and we've been terrifically busy racing around to keep from falling any farther behind than normal.

Part of it is my new job and the frantic schedule I've been keeping there. The other part, well, I think I'll blame on my four-month-old daughter. That's good parenting, isn't it?

It's not exactly news that babies take constant attention. We knew that going in, but we hadn't imagined exactly what it means to be in that state for several months without the ability to take a real break.

What really sneaks up on you is how constant that attention needs to be. Now that Sophia is active and alert, a parent charged with caring for her is fortunate to have five or ten minutes in a four-hour stretch to be able to do anything else. And I'm not talking about breaking away to relax and decompress - you know, hang out with friends, play games, or read a good book. That 5-10 minutes had better be used to shower, eat, use the restroom, pay bills, or do laundry - or you'll be stinky and hungry all day long.

The weekdays are especially tough. By the time I get home from my 11-hour workday, I'm exhausted; but Leigh is completely wiped out after caring for Sophia all day by herself and running the household. When I get home, I take over primary baby duty while she gets things done around the house. The result is that when we both collapse around 1- p.m., both of us are thoroughly exhausted and lucky to have been able to keep up with life's demands, much less have time to do anything fun.

Things are slightly easier on the weekends, when one of us can assume Sophia duty while the other bustles around and accomplishes. And it's not as if spending time with her is especially tough duty, since she's amazingly good-tempered. Her throaty laugh is the most beautiful noise in the world, and we've both fallen in love with her impish little grin. She's quick to do both when you tickle or sing to her. She loves to hold and grip items, and does very well in groups of people where she can just watch and listen. But if you set her down, even in her vibrating, massaging, musical chair - something both of us wish was offered on an adult scale - she'll be crying and demanding attention five to 10 minutes later.

But just to illustrate how difficult it can be, even on a weekend, I began determinedly writing this blog post Saturday morning, kept hammering away at it through the day when I had a moment, and as I'm writing this it's 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon. I've been typing a few words and then breaking away to calm Sophia, give her a new toy, retrieve the toy, retrieve it again, retrieve it once again, put her in the swing, give her the pacifier, change her diaper, give her something to gum on ... it's just a never-ending process, and you have to be creative and keep coming up with new things to keep her interested and distracted. And this is with a remarkably well-behaved and happy baby.

The never-ending vigilance necessary reminds me the implacable robotic enemies of science fiction lore - the ever-adapting Borg in the Star Trek world, or the remorseless killer of Terminator fame.

To paraphrase Reese in the original Terminator, "You still don't get it, do you?! She can't be bargained or reasoned with! It doesn't matter to her what you're doing! She doesn't feel pity or remorse! She'll continue to eat, poop, and cry - that's what she does! That's all she does! You can't stop her! And she will not stop, not ever, until she is 18!"

So, you see, it's really Sophia's fault I haven't posted anything in two months. After all, it's not as if any of you have known me to be at all lazy when it comes to keeping in touch, right?

"You can't stop her!"