July 28, 2008

Still small

Alden looks so much like Kerstin in this shot... uncanny...
We had a 6 month check up today. Thankfully, we saw his normal pediatrician this time (and not Dr. McKill-Joy, thank goodness). His regular pediatrician pronounced him "perfect in every way" and she said not to sweat his small stature. Alden is 15 lbs 8 oz (20%), 26.75 inches long (50%) and still has an enormous head (45.5 cm, 90%). He was very stoic taking his shots today. He only cried while it was happening, but stopped as soon as I scooped him up. We spent the rest of the day hanging at home and playing in the activity seat that Karen gave him. It has a bouncy platform and 360 degrees of colorful stimulation. It overwhelms me a little bit, but Alden seems to think it's just about right.

He's started licking his lower jaw and gums a whole lot lately, and is still drooling gallons. All signs point to teething (and have been pointing there for over a month now), but nothing is coming through yet, so I've started to doubt that I'll be able to tell when it's actually going to happen. His doctor said that she didn't feel anything in the gums yet, but teeth could happen any day now. Mercifully, she said that the lower teeth are covered by the tongue when he feeds. It's the emergence of the upper teeth that I'm worried about, but I think that's a few more months off. Alden tried bananas this week (thumbs up) and cooked carrots last week (thumbs down, mostly). Later this week we'll try applesauce.

Weekend on the lake- Updated

We went to my Dad's place on the lake this weekend and took Alden for his first swim. The water was a bit brisk, so Alden wasn't sure he liked it initially. Then he watched Mika the dog splash my Dad when she jumped in and thought maybe this water thing was more fun than he'd initially thought. So we tried again and he seemed happier about it. He was also better acclimated to the water the second time around. He liked to slap it and watch it bounce back in his face. We took turns holding him and moving him about in the water.
Even Mika was interested.

I think all the light bouncing off the surface was also really appealing to him.
Good times for everyone! It was a pretty hot and sunny day and I think Alden was happy to cool off. He would have stayed in longer, I reckon, but I started stressing about his sun exposure (babies his age aren't supposed to wear sunscreen yet) so we took him out before he was really done. He did get about 15 minutes of water time all together.

Here's a video of his first reaction to the water. Initially shocked by the cold, he watches Mika jump in and then thinks, "yeah, I can totally do that." After that, he went all in, no fuss, no muss.

I'd hoped to edit the second video down to a few manageable splashing segments and cut out my ridiculous commentary, but the format from our camera doesn't seem to be compatible with imovie and I can't be bothered to try to figure out final cut, so... here it is, unedited and a bit silly, but hopefully the splashy bits are entertaining.

July 24, 2008


The ongoing trouble with the woodchuck has taken some turns in the past few weeks. I was almost able to brain him with a rock the other day, but I missed. I soaked some pieces of cloth in ammonia and threw them down all the holes I could find followed by some rocks and topped off with sod. I've also been setting a have-a-heart cage around the property to get the varmint, mostly in front of the burrow holes I could find, but to no avail.
Yesterday I awoke to find a critter in my trap, a teenage skunk. He didn't seem fussed to be in a cage, and I had to go to work early so I left him in it all day. It was going to rain so I pulled the trap out from the garden and dragged it to the side of the house to keep dry.

My original plan (created in relation to the woodchuck) would have been to put the caged critter in the back of the truck and drive it out to a forest at least 5 miles away. I was going to apply this plan to the skunk, however, I got to thinking at work, and became less certain that it was a necessity. When I checked online, I found that skunks really aren't bad garden pests....so I let him go that evening

July 22, 2008

New Car!

After many months of online searching (and generally dragging our feet), we finally traded in the old, bedraggled minivan and bought a new car this weekend. It's a 2006 Hyundai Elantra. It's been a lot of fun to drive and so far we're very happy with it. We're currently accepting name suggestions.

Getting the car was an all day event that occupied the whole family. Alden went test driving with us, and this is the car he enjoyed chewing on the most. There are a few minor problems with it, but it is still under warranty so I think we will be able to get them sorted out. We still have the new-used-car-apprehension that something may go horribly wrong with our purchase, but that is fading with time. In any case the new-used-car-apprehension beats the owing-an- ailing-van-that-may-die-on-you-any-day-worries.

July 21, 2008

6 Months

Someone passed his half-a-year milestone recently, and so, we begin the retrospectives. It's simultaneously felt like the longest and the shortest six months of my life. (I know this makes no sense, but time exhibits very strange properties when one is sleep-deprived. Those of you without kids will just have to trust me on this one). Alden continues to astound us with his skills. He rolls over quite a lot now, especially in the crib, where he will migrate from one end to the other just by rolling and wiggling. He's completely lifting up his head during tummy time (which he also, coincidentally, doesn't seem to mind as much these days). He is happiest when he's on his own two feet and has started to try taking steps. He's also gotten pretty crabby lately and has stopped sleeping through the night, possibly due to teething.
At the recommendation of his pediatrician, we started him on some real solid foods last week (i.e. straight up, no milk). She suggested we try avocado first, since it's high in fat and has the right consistency. He was a little suspicious at first, but decided that he really liked it after a couple of bites. So far, no sign of allergies, so I think we've made it through the first food trial. Phew... He looks forward to his avocado spoon every evening and now wants to get his grubby little hands on ANYTHING that we're eating. Next week, we'll try bananas and sweet potatoes!

July 18, 2008

Two weeks

It's taken a few days to get the house back in order since our guests departed. We did a lot of activities with our visitors, which included not updating this blog. The first weekend of the visit was spent playing mini-golf and hiking around Gardiner with the Johnston-lings, which was pretty fun. The days were hot, but we had good meals in the evenings.

On the second weekend we went to the 25th annual Moxie fest, which is a celebration of a soft drink that tastes like RC cola and quinine. In the early 20th century, Coke and Moxie dominated the soft drink business nationwide. Moxie never really made it past the 40s, then Pepsi came along and relegated Moxie to cult status. Today you can only find it in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont (and a few hipster cafes scattered here and there). Coke bought Moxie about 15 years ago.
Abby's reaction to Moxie is typical for first-timers. Even with all the sugar Coca Cola's added to it over the past 15 years, it's still quite an acquired taste.
We invited Gillian and Evelyn along too, and they seemed to appreciate getting out and having fried dough in the sun. We took two vehicles so we could leave early to meet Scott, who was coming up to visit later that day.
The days between the weekends were kind of blurry. Both Ilana and I were doing our regular work routines so our hosting grace was limited to telling Ian and family where the bowling alley was, or how to get to the Discovery Museum, and whatnot.

It was great to meet Ian's family and to introduce them to all the exciting people and places Maine has to offer. Hailing from England an' all, they generated quite a lot of buzz 'round these parts. At the Moxie fest, a girl asked Ian if "he really talked like that". When his son Ben asked what she was talking about, she pointed and laughed at him. "Ha, he talks like that too," she guffawed. Yeah, rednecks...Some other little kid quipped that Ben sounded like Harry Potter. I reckon they made this years' Moxiefest the most international one yet. Don't believe me? Check out the Moxie Fest's leading-edge website to see what a classy event it was.

July 17, 2008


July has been quite the busy month so far. The first half of the month was essentially entirely devoted to entertaining guests. My pal Ian Johnston and his family came to stay with us for a couple weeks as part of their American vacation. Ian and I became friends when I lived in London, England in the 90s. He's since moved to South America and then to Portugal, while I moved to California, New York and Maine. In any case, we caught up with each other again.

We started readying the house at the start of the month, but no amount of preparation could have readied us for the inscrutable force that is the Johnston clan. Being somewhat new homeowners and parents, we had little context of how to host a family with two small children (3 and 5) while caring for our own 5 month old. It was quite overwhelming at the start, but things began to settle down into a pretty nice groove by the end of it.

Pictures will be posted soon, but we lent our camera cable to Karen, so we can’t upload photos right now. For all the Alden fans out there, he is doing well. He can roll over now and is enjoying rice cereal (brown organic!) and milk every night. He's decided he prefers sleeping on his side, despite attempts to place him in his crib on his back. He rolls in his sleep and wakes up angry and confused when he ends up face down. (Alden - "Tummy Time? At 2 am?! What the hell??" Ilana, groggily - "You got yourself into this mess, you can get yourself out of it... Alright, alright, I'm coming".) He's taken a shine to metal and glass (perhaps because they are cool and it’s been warm lately) and continues to be very mellow and charming.

A long video of not much going on.. you know, for the Grandparents.

July 8, 2008


I had my annual job performance review today, which I've been dreading, as my productivity has taken a nose-dive since the kid arrived. Here are the data to illustrate what I mean:
When you subtract the time spent pumping milk, cleaning and drying the beast shield and walking back and forth from my office to the lab, that leaves about 4 hours remaining in the day for actual work. It's been really embarrassing, actually, I keep thinking that to can get X done in a day (because I got X and Y done historically pre-Alden) and now I can only get through about 20% of X before I have to abandon the project in order to milk myself. Compounding the problem is the fact that I lack the presence of mind to remember exactly where I left off when I return to the lab, leading to many an incomplete DNA prep (I forgot the lysis buffer TWICE!) and partial digest. RAPDs have not been working for 3 weeks now, despite numerous attempts and I left the Hg vapor bulb on Mike's epifluroescence scope all weekend (ACK!!!). Really dismal performance on my part. So my heart was pounding at the mere idea of an appraisal. However, the verdict was (shockingly) positive. I even walked out of the meeting with merit raise. Naturally I met this news with incredulity. How, I asked my supervisors, could they justify this? Apparently, they're impressed that I came back to work "so quickly", despite my sleep deprivation/spongy brain. In Britain, Willie reminded me, I'd still be on maternity leave for a full year. He and Susie think my "dedication to work" is admirable. That slays me. Ah, the sweet promise of low expectations. All I can say is thank god I work for Brits! An American would have fired my ass months ago.

On another note, I'm sorry for the long posting delay. We have been hosting out-of-town guests for the past week or so and will continue to do so until next week, so things have been crazy busy. Updates, if any, will be spotty until our guests have gone. Lots more info to come then, I suspect.