December 30, 2008


Sorry it's taken so long to update the blog, but we've had some extenuating circumstances. The major setback being that Kerstin has been in the hospital for the past few days. Something is very wrong with his brain, but the doctors have not yet been able to diagnose the problem. They have ruled out a stroke and MS and we are extremely grateful for that. He was released from the hospital on Sunday. He is doing much better today and seems to be back to normal, but will be back in the hospital today and tomorrow for more testing. The second problem is that something is wrong with our desktop computer. The fan doesn't turn off and it's keeping the hard drive from booting up. So, between those issues and the holidays, we have not been blogging. I have oodles of milestones, videos and pictures to share, but we'll have to wait until we can fix our issues at home. In the meantime, I'll try to keep everyone updated as best I can from work... so I hope Willie and Susie aren't reading this!

December 14, 2008

Ben Pics

Since these pictures appear to be a hit, here are some more shots of Ben abusing the neighbor's dog.

Comet's such a glutton for punishment.

Ice storm

As well as being dangerous and inconvenient, ice storms are very beautiful when the sun shines. The ice around tree branches reflects light and makes things look as though they are made of glace.

The Northeast has completely iced over! The freezing rain started Thursday, but it didn't get bad until late Thursday night. By Friday, there were power lines down all over the state. Route 27, the only road into Boothbay Harbor, was closed for the day, so I had my first official snow day. The State government also closed all offices, so Kerstin was home as well. We hunkered down and listed to branches falling outside. We lost power for a few hours on Friday, but we had a nice fire going and all was cozy. The only real inconvenience was the loss of power to lab servers and possibly, loss of power to our incubators, which may mean that our cultures are all dead. Willie was able to get the incubator going again on Friday afternoon, but we don't know if the cultures will recover. I shudder to think of that possibility.
Icy pumpkin vines on our "woodchuck-proof" fence.

The rain/sleet stopped around 3 on Friday afternoon and Ben answered the call of the shovel. It was no easy feat to clear the driveway, seeing as it was half slush and half ice. Our neighbor Claire was clearing her driveway too and her dog Comet came out to see what all the commotion was about. He was excited to see that Ben was back. Comet is the friendliest, sweetest dog on the planet and lives to chase stuff. Icy, gritty, nasty hard snow is no exception. This dog tried to eat every shovelful.

December 9, 2008

December Blahs

Most of the clan is sick this week. Poor little fella has a head cold, so no one is sleeping much these days. Not that we get much sleep on a normal night, but having a sick baby reminds you just how much worse it can actually get. He's been very congested and can't breathe well at night. He's also snotting up a storm and smearing all over my shirt/blowing it into my face/rubbing it into the carpet, so despite almost OCD-like hand washing, I've managed to contract his foul little bug as well. One last note about being sick and then I'm moving on - Every time I've written an entry on this subject, I get some anonymous comment from a lurker who thinks he/she's going to make bank by enlightening me about a fabulous product that will cure whatever ails me and/or my child. I've got two words - Piss Off. Seriously, you people are like buzzards. I can't imagine this tactic ever actually works.

It's been snowing on and off this week, which makes everything around here quiet, except for the occasional clanking from a plow truck. Ben returned from Maryland and is staying with us for a while. He hadn't been here 24 hours before I suckered him into babysitting for an hour so I could finally get a hair cut. I have now entered the "sensible hair" era of my life (moving away from the "neglected hair" era that marked my youth). The look is very practical, very middle-aged-woman-with-a-kid. It's slightly depressing, but I guess that's who I am now. I saved my ponytail and will be donating it to a non-profit group that makes wigs for the American Cancer Society. I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a little fun before mailing it. Doesn't Ben look awesome with a mullet?

December 8, 2008

More Crawling

Alden is developing nicely. He has stopped spitting up and I suspect it was because we were overfeeding him. At his check-up on the 3rd he weighed 19lbs, so he is close to being on track for the big two-oh on his first birthday. Alden's learned how to decline food by shaking his head and raising his hand to push away the spoon when full. He cannot feed himself yet, but he has figured out how to feed others (me). He will put veggie bits or sweet-potato-flavored puffed rice in my mouth but not his own. I am tickled by this but find it a little backwards.

Besides the modification on crawling style Alden is about to get his fourth tooth and is officially a creeper (able to pull himself up on things and walk by holding onto a sofa or bookshelf support. It's not problematic yet because he's still perfecting it and is slow, but he is enamored with our wood stove, so I foresee some safety stove thingy in the near future.

It snowed again and has been cold, and it looks like Uncle Ben will be paying us a visit again soon.

November 30, 2008

Family Portraits

Another Thanksgiving came and went. It was a pretty good Thanksgiving this year with lots of food and stories. Alden's schedule got completely thrown out the window with our visitors and the long meals. His night schedule was somewhat consistent (getting up twice 12:30 and 3:30) but the day schedule was full of missed naps, late meals, and overdue diaper changes. Alden was a little crankier than usual because of this, but he was always able to redeem himself by babbling and smiling.

November 29, 2008


The feast included lobster this year, because lobster prices are at historic lows and the lobstermen and women are struggling. There was a statewide campaign to promote lobster on the Thanksgiving table to give lobster prices a little bump. I'm not sure if it worked (I bought these little crustaceans for $2.75 a lb!!), but I know lots of other folks who did this too. Hopefully our collective efforts increased the price a bit. Besides the lobster we had a small (10lb) turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, olive bread, roasted squash, and salad. Dessert was pumpkin pie - of course.
Alden's started making this face when he's done eating. He does this while snorting through his nose, like some sort of triggerfish with a head cold. We welcome this behavior - it's much more informative than vomiting!
Alden has been touchy around Sandy, Joseph and Geoff. He won't let them hold him and clings to Karen most evenings. This stranger anxiety is sad, especially when all these loving people traveled so far to see him. We've been working on acclimating him to everyone, so I'm sure that he'll start warming up to everyone on Sunday, when they leave.
Napping before the big dinner.

November 23, 2008

New milestones on the horizon

Alden's top right incisor came in this week (the left is still hidden somewhere in the gums). He has also started to... I hesitate to call it crawl. Let's call it quasi-directed motion instead. I like the think of it as more of a belly slink. He does the same sort of slow creep on his butt when he's sittting.

Here's the wiggle, shot from another angle. Note the awesome "Cool Hand Luke" cinematography.

A new level of drumming for Alden

Alden's weight is still a little low and his crawling skills need some work, but he makes up for it on the drums.

November 17, 2008

Basket Case

The laundry basket is our child retainer of choice these days.
Alden helped me rake the yard today. I decided it was finally time to move the piles of decaying leaves in our lawn across the street into the woods. Alden helped by sitting in his basket and accepting the compliments of passing strangers.

November 16, 2008

Spitty Baby

Alden has developed into what his pediatrician calls a 'spitty baby'. Alden is no stranger to vomit, especially when he had his ear infection, but about two weeks ago, he lost the entire contents of his stomach for no apparent reason. Since then, every other day or so marks another major spew. Being a spitty baby is not serious, and of the three of us Alden seems to be the least upset by it. At first we thought it could be a food allergy, and we still thinking it may be related to overfeeding, but spitty-ness is exacerbated by the development of his esophageal sphincter, or lack thereof. It's something I hope he will grow out of, but in the meantime we have to be vigilant for that panicked T-minus-6-seconds worried look before all spew breaks loose.

Fortunately Alden's vomiting is not encouraged by aerial tossing, one of his favorite things ever.

November 15, 2008


Alden has been particularly active lately. His motivation to move has increased and the time he spends standing and trying to walk is abundant. The other day I had to lower the crib mattress a level. There are three levels with the highest for babies, the middle for when the babies start to stand, and the lowest level for when babies become toddlers. After the third level I suppose I will have to put a piece of plywood and a cinder-block over the top of the crib to keep him in... for safety.
Besides insulating the house for the winter and taking a class for the remote-learning system at the University (I may be teaching there this winter as a second job for some additional scratch) I have been busy building a filtration manifold n' crate for Ilana's boss at the lab. The manifold is meant to filter ocean water from between one and six bottles. A pump is connected to the mechanism to pull the water through and valves can be turned on or off depending on which bottle the technician wants to filter.

Building the custom crate was just as difficult as building the manifold. I had to go back and forth to be clear on the design, but basically the front and top of the crate can be removed and the top also has a lid.

We have started building fires again, as there have been some cold days lately. The cold is not constant yet, but that is only a matter of time.

We have not yet seriously childproofed the house yet, I suspect that will be my next project.

More Alden talk

November 14, 2008

First Word


November 9, 2008


Election-night preparations for Guy Fawkes Day. This pea and fennel soup was delicious.

This was the week for bonfires and celebrations. On Tuesday, we gathered 'round the computer and breathlessly awaited the election returns. I was in the kitchen making soup and bread dough in an effort to calm my jitters, at which I was pretty much an utter failure. I think I made about 86 million trips from the kitchen to the computer to refresh the NY Times electoral map. Ben eventually took to slapping my hand away when I'd reach for the mouse. To quote the great Indigo Montoya, "I hate wait". But when Ohio went for Obama, we knew it was all over and could finally relax and start celebrating! What an incredible moment!! Until now, every election I've lived through I've met either with apathy or abject disgust. It was a strange sensation, this feeling of excitement and hope after an election. All week people have been walking with an extra spring in their step, making eye contact and smiling at each other. Yes, the country is still in the toilet, but it's so wonderful to have a thoughtful, articulate and highly intelligent person who pronounces "nuclear" properly to take the reins. That he's African American to boot is just so sweet.

Wednesday, was the 5th of November (remember, remember) or Guy Fawkes Day. Ben made a rather rude Guy and we had the excuse we needed to burn the brush pile we'd amassed for, oh, one and half years.
We had about a dozen neighbors and friends join us, including 2 Brits (to add authenticity to the event) who brought beer and sparklers. They both were almost a little too excited to see Guy burn. To see that twinkle of chaos in their normally calm and reserved eyes was a little unnerving. And of course, everyone was buzzing about Obama's election. Ben made Obamacakes (cheesecake and chocolate swirled cupcakes - sooooo tasty!), creme brulee and beer bread and I made pea soup and pumpkin soup. Spirits were very high all evening.

Alden was intrigued with the fire and the shadows it cast on the faces of the revelers.

On Friday, my bosses finally got married after an 11 year engagement, a 4 year-old daughter and a son on the way. They were kind of strong-armed into it by their immigration lawyer who complained that it would make the application for their green cards so much easier if they WOULD JUST TIE THE GODDAMNED KNOT ALREADY!!!
So they went to the Nobleboro City Hall for a dog licence and thought, what the hell, and came out with a marriage application. They asked me to be the witness for their wedding and gave me all of two days notice. I think the world of these guys and wasn't about to let them get hitched without at least a little bit of fanfare, so I dusted off the ole pipes. Willie is Scottish and claims that he hired me because I play pipes, although he had never actually heard me play until today. I hadn't played pipes in about 2 years and pipes (and pipers!) tend to sound awful when they aren't played regularly. There aren't many people for whom I'm willing to publicly make a loud ass of myself, but Willie and Susie certainly fit the bill. Willie was thrilled with the bagpipe surprise, which, despite loosing both tenor drones and a squeaky reed just outside the town hall, made it all worthwhile. I got to pipe the whole wedding party into and out of town hall. Afterwards, they had a bonfire and potluck at their place. Lorna, their daughter, and I made a Guy for their bonfire and Willie put a veil on it to make it more.... nuptial? I dunno, I didn't really get the veil thing, but it burnt really well.

Willie dances with his "bride".
Guy on the bonfire.Cutting the "cake", called parkin, which is a traditional food eaten on Guy Fawkes Day. It's very dry and dense, and reminds me of a homemade Clif bar.

November 2, 2008


Alden's first Halloween was surprisingly uneventful. We dressed him in his cow pajamas (not pictured because I forgot to pull out the camera) and waited eagerly by the kitchen door for what would surely be a veritable tsunami of trick-or-treaters. At least, I thought we'd have a huge turnout because kids hang out on our street all the time. They've literally beat a path to the river just across the street from our house, which is heavily used all summer long. So I figured the 10 lb bag of Reeses peanut butter cups we'd purchased the night before would be depleted within minutes and that we'd need to make several trips to the drug store over the course of the evening to replenish our sugary provisions and keep the little ghouls happy.
Instead we had no trick-or-treaters. None. Not even an older chaperon to tell us how cute our son looks as a cow. In hindsight I can understand why. Our house is not close enough to others to make for efficient trick-or-treating. There are only of couple homes on our side of the road and on the other side is the river. We also don't live in an upscale area, the kind where heavily manicured moms give away entire KitKat bars or tickets to Celtics games to make an extra trip worth while.
So Halloween was quiet and no candy was doled out. However, between the three of us we managed to consume the entire contents of the candy bowl before the night was over. Oblivious to the holiday, Alden was in a remarkably good mood nonetheless and entertained himself with his squeaky chew toy and a spice jar full of whole coffee beans. Overall, I'd say his first Halloween was a success.

October 26, 2008

Reflections on Growth

Alden had his 9-month well baby check this Thursday and we were reminded, yet again, just how large his noggin is (97th percentile!) relative to his body weight (10%) and height (25%). Even my brother Ben, who makes it a point not to get all caught up with this "baby nonsense" has taken notice. Ben and I took Alden to the YMCA yesterday and swam in the pool for a bit. He then took Alden to the basketball court while I scurried off for a workout. When I met them afterwards, there was another small child, about 15 or 16 months old, running up and down court after a basketball with his dad. Ben was surprised that Alden's head was so much larger than that of this fully mobile, and much larger child. This kid probably had a normal head, but it looked disproportionately small, especially after you get used to looking at Alden all the time. Just more evidence to support my anime ancestor theory.

Alden is starting to stand a little more on his own and to pull himself up using the front of the couch/stool rungs/table legs as props. He still can't stand unassisted yet, but he's getting pretty good at holding himself up. He still shows no interest in crawling and won't get up on all fours. I'm trying to put the crawling-is-best-for-motor-development mantra out of my mind. In fact, I'm trying to put all preconceived notions about what he should be doing out of my mind. Alden has been behind on just about every milestone in the book, so rather than get worked up about it, I've chosen to simply stop reading. Part of my post-partum media package from the hospital included a magazine called American Baby with A COMPREHENSIVE MONTH TO MONTH GUIDE TO YOUR BABY'S LIFE! EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER NEED TO KNOW FROM BIRTH TO 1 YEAR! !!!!!!!!!!!! This issue lists developmental milestones and things to anticipate for each month. It was a mistake to read it. I started to fret back in March, when Alden wasn't tolerating tummy time and when, according American Baby "by now your baby is lifting up his head when placed on his stomach". Why wasn't Alden lifting his head? Was there something wrong with him? Are we doing something wrong? This is when project Tummy Time began, and ran intensively for the next 3 months. Then I made the mistake of reading Month Three when "by now, your baby is sleeping 8-12 hours at a time at night". Seriously?!?

The infuriating entries continued, but I won't bore you with all the details. It's really upsetting for me to think that my child is already behind and he's only just started his life. And I'm well aware that everyone develops at their own pace and it doesn't matter much in the long run, but it's hard not to feel crummy about it. I'm a classic over-achiever so perhaps it says more about me and my expectations than anything else. But books like these emphasizing milestones that we haven't hit yet just make me feel bad about my child and about my parenting. So, instead of reading up on what Alden should be doing every month, I decided to stop reading. I've banished my Dr. Sears to the upper shelf of the bookcase where it could only be referenced when absolutely necessary and I shoved the magazine under the bed. I forgot all about it until I unearthed it, covered with about 1 inch of dust and 40 hairballs, while cleaning last week. Curiosity renewed, I stupidly flipped to the entry on the 9th month. " Now your child has completely mastered the art of crawling and is all over the house".


"He is also starting to stand unassisted for short periods of time, can clap his hands when he is happy and is starting to write short pieces of fiction." Why do I torture myself by reading these things? I don't really know, but this time American Baby finally landed in the trash where it belongs.

October 20, 2008

On top of the world

Life is so much more fun in a carrier.