Friday, August 28, 2009

Alec at two months

Has it really been two months already? At the doctor on Monday, he was 12 pounds, 14 ounces and 23 1/2 inches. That a gain of 3 1/2 pounds in the past month. Yes, I think it's safe to say he wasn't getting enough food his first month. He's now in the 75th percentile for height and weight, which seems about right based on his size when he was born.

Our sleepy baby is slowly but surely waking up. He gives big grins to: us, the giraffe above his changing table, his Winnie the Pooh mobile, the toys above his swing and bouncy seat, certain songs (like his sister, he finds "Lydia the Tattooed Lady" and "Mahna Mahna" hysterical). He coos like a particularly rotund and adorable little pigeon. We can put him down now as long as he's awake and cheerful, which usually happens in half hour blocks. The rest of the time, he's eating and sleeping, or violently protesting being in his car seat.

Physically, he's adept at holding his head up when upright, can lift it somewhat when on his stomach and has rolled over onto his stomach once, although it was while he was on the bed and therefore on a slight incline. He can hit his dangling toys and has started grabbing things.

Mostly, he specializes in being roly-poly and cute. And he's darn good at it:


More pictures in the usual place.

Monday, August 24, 2009


1. Since we're in the rare position this summer of nobody having to work on the weekend, we've been trying to get back in the habit of going to church. A large part of why we drifted away from our last church was the lack of childcare, since for some reason I find it difficult to develop my spiritual life with a bored toddler using me as a jungle gym. While K is now old enough for Sunday School, Alec is going to be starting up the pew wrestling matches soon enough so we decided to look farther afield. I found a nearby church that just recently declared itself Open and Affirming, offers a nursery and seems like a nice compromise of being large enough to offer good religious education and programs, yet not so large that you feel lost in the crowd, and we've successfully gone there three times in the past six weeks, which isn't bad given that we have two pint-size insomniacs who live to keep us up at night.

This Sunday was the first where we heard the minister preach, since she was on vacation the first two times we came. The sermon favorably impressed me in two ways. The first is that she was preaching on the armor of God, a topic heavily favored by Evangelical types* and nervously avoided by we hippy-dippy liberal progressive types because the literal interpretation of that particular scripture is that the armor is protection against Satan. However, this minister delivered a quite excellent interpretation for a progressive liberal Christian context. And she did it by referencing Star Wars, the Mirror Mirror episode of Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, and specifically enough that it was clear that she was very personally acquainted with all of these things, not just drawing from popular culture.

A challenge we've had in finding churches is that while everyone is always very nice, we never seem to find anyone we have anything in common with. A church with a minister geeky enough to be able to preach in detail on the opening scenes of book 7 of Harry Potter seems very promising on that front. Another good sign is that even though it was August and therefore sparsely attended, there were two other families there with babies - not having young families is another issue we've encountered while church-shopping.

So I'm hopeful we'll be able to keep up with attending as we move into the fall and I start working again.

2. We went to see Ponyo this afternoon. Oh my, it was a cute movie. The animation was gorgeous, as usual. The plot didn't bear close examination, but it was enjoyable and didn't even hit us with the 2 x 4 of environmental awareness. It was K's first Miyazaki in the theatre ex utero, since we saw Howl's Moving Castle when I was a week overdue with her. She absolutely loved it, and while she said it was scary afterwards, she didn't need to leave the theatre, which we've had to do in the past. So if you're the parent of a very sensitive small child that you would like to take to the movies, while it's not completely free of scariness, it's pretty mild and a good movie for the young scaredy-cat.

3. After months of frustration trying to figure out how to take good pictures on my camera without using the flash, I discovered quite accidentally last month that my camera has a specific setting for that right there in a place that should be obvious for anyone to see. The combination of discovering that, the fact that Alec's changing table is one of the few places that gets natural light in the house and Alec starting to smile has meant that I now have a lot of portrait shots of him on his changing table. But it's hard not to keep taking pictures when you have a model like this:


* Here's the story of how I became acquainted with the theology of the armor of God: when I was a teenager, the church I grew up in decided to purchase a Sunday School curriculum that consisted of a scripted series of shows using puppets and humans in a combination of skits and singing to teach concepts. It was called Caraway Street, and any slight resemblance to certain shows on PBS is a COMPLETE coincidence. I always felt it was kind of outrageous how concerned the creator of Caraway Street was with protecting his copyright considering that he was stretching the concept of fair use until it was practically doughnut-shaped.

Anyway, the creator of Caraway Street was some sort of Evangelical Baptist-type, and my church was UCC, which made for some incompatible theology issues. This particular church was not at all liberal**, but we still didn't traffic much in Devil talk or go in for heavy evangelism. So when the creator came to train us and showed us the pamphlet we could give the children so they could convert all of their friends on the playground,*** we nodded politely and somehow never remembered to pass them out after he left. And initially the scripts seemed fine. The emphasis on memorizing the books of the Bible seemed a bit inane, but harmless.

But through a complicated series of events, I wound up in charge of the program****, which meant I was in charge of making up cue cards, and found myself progressively editing the lines more heavily every week as more fire and brimstone kept creeping into the skits. And this is when I first encountered the armor of God: the week I had to start completely eliminating skits because Satan was starting to take on a speaking role. And the damn thing kept coming up again and again. I suppose I can understand why, since it lends itself to easy slogan-y chanting (the breastplate of righteousness! The sword of demon slaying! The tinfoil hat of alien-mindray repelling!). But I started to hate it very quickly, as I kept having to make the singing portions longer and longer to cover the fact that the scripts were starting to get quite anemic after I was done editing for hellfire.

** In fact, I believe they later left the UCC. The fact that many people didn't have nearly as many issues with the scripts as I did is a good indicator of why my family left the church later that year.

*** This being a heavily religious area (my home town had literally a church per every square mile, and a common question was "What church do you go to?" not, "Do you attend church?"), I think they would have been forced to convert the local squirrels due to a general lack of young heathens among their classmates.

**** The fact that a 16-year-old was in charge of the church's Sunday School program for a good six months is an excellent indicator of why we left the church later that year.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A note to the general public

Dear polite inquirers,

No, our son is not named Alec like Alec Baldwin.

He is named Alec like Alec Guinness.

See? All the difference in the world.


Two geeks who didn't actually name their son after Alec Guinness, but will cop to the fact that seeing his name in a baby name book under a list of famous Alexanders is the first time we thought, "Alec? Hmm, I like that."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Near miss

I spent most of Saturday feeling really tired, the sort that leaves you utterly unmotivated to move, let alone leave the house or fulfill your parental responsibilities. You would expect any parent of a seven week old to feel this way, even one so lucky as to have a spouse who let them go back to bed and sleep until noon that day. My right breast was hurting as well, but I didn't think much about that since I've been fighting thrush, which can cause shooting pains. Despite that, I hauled us to the park and back, and once we were home, took Alec into the bedroom with me to share a nap. When I woke up, I felt even more tired and I realized I was shivering, despite being under the covers and having a small heat extruder on top of me. So I took my temperature - 102. And then I looked at the breast that had been hurting and discovered it had a large red and blotchy spot. This was starting to look an awful lot like mastitis.

Argh. I debated calling the doctor, given the high likelihood that it would result in having to spend Saturday evening cooling my heels on the Group W bench in an inner-city ER. With that in mind, I decided that waiting 12 hours for antibiotics wouldn't kill me, and spent the rest of the evening alternating warm compresses and pumping. I'm just as glad I did, because while I still felt lousy when I woke up the next day, my fever was gone and the red spot was much smaller. I spent the day pumping frequently again, and today the redness is pretty much gone.

So apparently it was a mild infection that my body fought off on its own. Whew. But now there's the issue of what brought it on. The most likely cause is that I'm not pumping enough, which I'm not sure what to do about. I'm pumping just about as much as I can during the day. Occasionally I'll go too long when I probably could have fit a session in, but mostly I'm doing the best I can carving out pumping time while caring for a baby that won't be put down and a preschooler. The only real time to add a session is in the middle of the night, which everything I read on exclusive pumping says I should be doing but I haven't on account of it would kill me dead.

I'm not a good sleeper. It takes me a long time to go sleep and I wake up easily, but it takes me a long time to really be awake. And once I've been woken up and had to move around and be functional for too long, it takes me a long time to go back to sleep. It wasn't much of a problem when K was a baby because she nursed at night, so I just pulled her into bed and while I couldn't sleep through it, at least I was able to lie down and not be too awake. With Alec, I've mostly been able to give him a bottle lying down in bed, and while I occasionally lose my grip, it usually works fine and we're both back asleep within 45 minutes. If I have to get up and pump, the odds that I'm going to really wake up and have trouble going back to sleep are going to go way up. But if I don't do it and getting mastitis turns into a persistent problem, it's either going to be that or giving up pumping.

For the moment, I'm going to try to militant about not letting too much time go by during the day and making sure that I get up promptly in the early morning - I think part of a factor in the infection was that I was lazy and stayed in bed a lot longer than I should have both Friday and Saturday. Hopefully that will do.

What's clear is that bottlefeeding is definitely the right choice for now. When I switched Alec to a faster flow nipple, he went from drinking 20 ounces a day to 35. He's backed down to 30 now, since apparently he had some catching up to do for a while. But in three weeks he's gone from skinny little arms and legs to chubby, meaty limbs with deep creases at his wrists and a pleasing double chin. Instead of going and off the bottle and taking two hours of fussing and dozing to get a feeding down, he dispatches them in 20 minutes. Clearly he wasn't getting enough, and if he couldn't get enough food from a slow-flow nipple, he certainly wasn't going to do it through exclusive breastfeeding. I'd still like to try and get him breastfeeding part-time, but I've been reluctant to try when I'm trying to get rid of thrush. If that means our opportunity to get him back on the breast has passed, that makes me a bit sad but we'll survive. I'd rather have a chubby, happy little boy.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Correlation and causation

I was listening to a program on Alzheimer's disease on the radio this afternoon. Aside from feeling incredibly irritated with the featured artist who works with Alzheimer's patients going on and on about how his work proved that people with Alzheimer's disease aren't just vegetables like everyone says but still have memories (gosh, really? Have you ever met anyone with Alzheimer's disease before now? Like most diseases, it has a progression. It's not like people just wake up one day a complete blank), I was struck with a new thought on the oft-repeated research that people who keep their minds active are less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

The particular research cited today was that people who work longer are less likely to develop Alzheimer's. As I listened, I started thinking, now wait a minute. My father didn't get Alzheimer's because he retired at 62, he retired at 62 because he had Alzheimer's disease. Research shows that people start showing subtle signs of Alzheimer's disease years and years before it gets bad enough to get diagnosed. Is it that working longer keeps the disease at bay, or is it that people who aren't going to develop Alzheimer's are better able to keep working, and people who do have Alzheimer's in their future may retire earlier because they're starting to experience subtle mental deficits?

Really, if you think about it, Alzheimer's is a physical disease of the brain. I'm sure doing crosswords helps maintain nerve connections and mental agility, but can it really prevent plaque formation? Almost certainly not. I suspect again that the research that shows that people who do crosswords are less likely to get Alzheimer's is because people who are developing Alzheimer's have trouble doing things like crosswords.

I'm not saying that doing activities that keep your brain sharp can't help your mental acuity if you do start developing Alzheimer's or dementia. My father's doctor said that the reason he stayed relatively high functioning as long as he did is that he was so intelligent, and therefore had a lot more function to lose before it really started to show. The better your brain works, the more resilient it will be in compensating if it starts to break down.

But this seems like yet another example of how studies that show correlations somehow get turned into the gospel of how you can control your health, that if you're just virtuous enough you'll be well-nigh immortal, and consequently how much you are to blame if you somehow get sick anyway.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

His sidekicks would be Laundry Lass and the Wet Wipe Kid

Lately, Alec has been earning the nickname Incontinent Lad. I know, all babies deserve that name, but they're not all quite so... aggressive about it. Incontinence isn't supposed to be an extreme sport, but try telling that to our baby.

Ironically, K, with her horrible painful reflux, didn't produce a fraction of the spitup her brother favors us with every day. But given the choice between spitup with no pain and pain with no spitup, the former is the clear winner. Alec is a much happier baby than his sister was at this age.

Slowly but surely he's uncurling out of the larval stage from a sleepy tiny package into a roly poly baby who coos and smiles and looks with fascination at the world. We brought the swing out this weekend to great success, as he sits back and engages the dangling giraffe in deep conversations on the world economic situation and last night's episode of Monk. Meanwhile, as much as we love his cuddliness, we sat back and enjoyed being able to put him down for half an hour, something that has rarely happened since he was about a week old. He's generally quite a happy baby and a very good sleeper - as long as he's being held. He hates his carseat with a passion because he sees no reason to be in its cold sterile clutches when he could be next to a nice warm body instead.

The tiny baby days go so quickly, it makes it hard not to think about having two or three more. Unfortunately, babies eventually turn into children who need to be sent to college, so we'll have to enjoy these days sprinting by as much as we can.

Friday, August 7, 2009

At the movies

I decided today that instead of sitting around gnashing my teeth over the fact that I've been wanting to go see Julie and Julia but not enough to spend babysitting money on it, and instead tucked Alec into the sling and went to see it on my own today. He slept angelically the entire time and I enjoyed myself immensely.

My parents were fans of Julia Child, so they passed their appreciation of her on to me as I was growing up. I was always predisposed to like a movie based on her, particularly when she's played by Meryl Streep, but this one did well capturing her humor and strength of personality. And on the Julie side of the story, they did a good job depicting the trials and humor inherent in learning to cook. I particularly appreciated the lobster scene since it was almost identical to my mother's story of the first time she cooked lobster.

Other movies we've watched lately:

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince: Great! I don't have a lot of insightful things to say about it except that we enjoyed it and I'm glad we made the effort to see it in the theatre. It wasn't identical to the book, but they got the atmosphere right and the changes still got the story where it needed to go.

The Ramen Girl: A really sweet little movie about a young American woman living in Japan who becomes obsessed with training to become a ramen chef. I was a little hesitant at first because we've been being burned lately by movies that Netflix calls "quirky." A quirky fun movie about a man who takes his British wife to meet his eccentric Southern family... until there's a stillbirth! A quirky fun movie about a difficult, prickly woman who goes visit her sister to attend the sister's wedding... until the fiance turns out to be a pedophile! Great fun all around. I never interpreted quirky movie to mean "leaves me slightly queasy with a sharp pain between my eyes" before, but a few more movies like that will have cemented the definition for me. But Ramen Girl really was a sweet, quirky movie, with a slight Like Water for Chocolate vibe.

Parker Lewis Can't Lose: A tv series actually. Back in 1989, NBC produced a sitcom based on Ferris Bueller's Day Off that didn't last very long. Simultaneously, Fox produced a sitcom very much like it that actually did Ferris Bueller right. That sitcom was Parker Lewis Can't Lose. The first season just came out on dvd, to my great delight. To my even greater delight, it's pretty much as good as I remembered. Watching it and seeing all of the 80s fashions and pop culture references is quite a trip too.