Thursday, August 30, 2007

Monsters, Inc.

Last night, Alek and I went to the movies while Susan went to dinner with her friends from the FDA. We saw the 5:15PM showing of the live action movie Underdog. we ate hot dogs, popcorn, goldfish and lemonade during the previews. Being a live action adaptation, the movie strayed from the cartoon world where bipedal animals mingled unselfconsciously with humans, but I was able to put my preconceived notions aside and watch the movie at Alek's level, though I admit I spent a fair ammount of time watching his silver screen illumintaed face and occasionally whispering rhetorical questions about character motivation. Underdog was a good movie for Alek, talking animals, super hero action and slap-stick comedy. Something Alek really seems to enjoy these days are clumsy buffoons, the unfortunate sidekick in Disney movies (Sebastian in the Little Mermaid), real three stooges kind of stuff. The antics of such characters has him guffawing in that twinkly three year old way. By the end Alek was reciting "There's no need to fear! Underdog is here!" We were home by seven and had finished the bedtime routine by eight; a little dancing (two songs, fast songs), brush teeth, read book, go to the toilet, put on shirt, put on diaper, crawl to the crib, climb in, drink water, tell story, baba stay a little bit, good night kiss, I love you, close door. Now you can see why it takes about an hour. It's been slowly expanding for some time and now includes, five minutes of fidgeting in the dark in our bed before the crawl to the crib. Not that it has been a problem, it is an enjoyable routine and gives us time together as a family and Alek usually drop off to sleep some time after we close the door.

The operative word is usually. Lately, meaning the past few nights, Alek hasn't slept so quickly and occasionally gotten out of his crib for pee-pee feeling (which we always honor). Last night, he was still up at nine and when Susan came home, then when Susan went to bed (he slept on my side), then he was up at three until five and she wasn't sure if he slept in between! What's going on?! At some point before Susan went to bed he climbed out of the crib and was hanging around in the upstairs hallway (I know because From the couch I could see he was dangling fifi into the stairwell), when I asked him to come downstairs, he didn't and when I went up, I found him sleeping on our bed. Talking to him there I was informed that there were monsters in the closet, Lions to be more precise. He's been on a little lion jag the last week. I'm not sure why, but his pretend "show" always has lions and sheeps. Where did that come from? We have an animal noises book with a Lion's roar in that we revisited recently. We have his book of Princess stories which includes the Lionlike Beast that scared him at the ice show a year ago. We checked the closet together, no monsters, I even barricaded the closet door with a rocking chair, just in case. Alas, he still didn't sleep, later complaining that there were monsters in his crib (undescribed monsters) and that our bed was more comfortable, that his bed was hot, he wants his car bed. In the end, tired and worn, resolving to figure this out tomorrow, Susan and Alek slept in our bed and I went to the guest room, only to be awoken at 5:30AM by a sullen preschooler and a groggy wife. I was able to get Alek to sleep in the crib before I left for work, but at this point, I don't know how long he might have slept, certainly no more than three hours.

How did things get to where they are now? Gradually, ever so slowly it seems to have snuck up on us. Looking back, things have changed alot. Susan and I know how we want it to be and we've succeeded before. I can tell what we are doing wrong, but I checked our sleeping guide Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child just to be sure, I remembered what was what. Tired. Quiet. Relaxed. Here's the gist...

1.) Our bedtime routine is too long. Maybe we should trim it down to it's essential elements; take a bath (some days), read a book, brush teeth, use toilet, get dressed, go to bed. At the same time it needs to be soothing, which depends on the tone set by Susan and I, something she and I will have to be mindful of, no dancing, tickling, pinching, chasing at bedtime, quiet snuggling and calm help. Post and emphasize sleep rules (maybe it will be meaningful this time?)

2.) We have let the daily routine structure erode somewhat. Wake-up times in the morning and after nap need to be a little more consistant. The same goes for bedtime. Not only will it buffer against the day becoming shifted forward two hours, but it's going to be necessary with the fall schedule. Alek will be going to preschool two days a week, as well as have music and soccer activities. In the evenings Susan will be taking a class. Since I've shifted my work schedule back two hours (starting work around 7AM), I get home between three and four, so I hoping to wake Alek before he sleeps to 4:30 to 5PM (it's happened). Eating out less would also ensure the schedule does creep later again.

3.) Speaking of the post-nap routine, I think Alek should be doing some of those things he's now doing at bedtime, dancing, running, playing. Our guru writes that I child needs to be tired to sleep. It makes sense, so in the afternoons, Alek and I need to get our exercise.

4.) Things I am hoping to avoid are movies or TV in the afternoon, not only is it sedentary but the content (especially movies) often has violent or monstrous components that I am more fully realizing are not appropriate for children of Alek's age. Such children often have difficulty separating reality from pretend, especially since the imagination flourishes before reason and logic. Underdog was a thrilling movie but it was not particularly violent, more slap stick silliness, and it wasn't monstrous, just dog, cats and people. However, the one of the previews was for a movie entitled The Spiderwick Chronicles. A dark and scary hidden monsters everywhere juvenile fiction series that I hadn't predicted would be ceremoniously plopped in front of a campy Disney kids film. It's not just the movie you need to know about, but also the trailers and even the military advertising that runs before the trailers. In retrospect, it is probably this trailer that triggered some of last nights "troubles" since it prompted Alek to proclaim, "I'm not scared". It seems obvious now. Lesson learned.

Of course this is all hypothetical adjustments, what happens in reality may be quite different. For instance, the subject of switching to the car bed has been injected into the mix, so we might have to accomodate that transition as well. How much resistance will there be? How quickly can or should we make changes? I'll let you know what happens. I am also reminding myself that these challenges are a good sign of Alek's continued mental development. It heralds a growth in imagination and some sort of memory-based combinatorial synthesis ability. I guess that's my fancy way of saying he's growing up on schedule.

Friday, July 6, 2007


As I walked around campus, I noticed casual passers-by, and nearly every female passer-by, were behaving differently towards me. Rather than meet my gaze or studiously avoid recognition of my physical presence, many were staring at my chest. It was a disconcerting realization. As I walked on, I did an experiment, I made it known to a few that I noticed their attention. Some smiled, while others seemed to be embarassed at having been caught. What was going on? Did my gut truely look that big? Had I spilled on myself? Looking down somewhat self-consciously, I realized what was different that shirt. As you may know, father's day has just past, you may also know that each father's day since the birth of Alek I have received an Alek themed T-shirt. They are always very cute and this year's photo, seen above, is no exception captioned with "row, row, row your boat" in french. I wear them with parental pride. However, this year's shirt provided an unanticipated bonus...empathy.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


...or is it empathy? You decide.

After my work and Alek's chinese playgroup we met for dinner at a Bethesda restaurant, Matuba. Sushi (for Susan and I) and tempura-donburi for Alek. Dinner went well, Alek ate a fair number of edamame and rice so we got dessert, vanilla ice cream topped with sweet red beans (adzuki) and three spoons. Alek didn't much care for the beans, but vanilla ice cream is always a hit. We took turns digging pieces off the main scoop. Near the end, I accidentally dropped a spoonful back in the bowl. Alek laughed as his spoon dove towards my easy prey. So cute, I let him have it without a fight and reached for iced green tea. Only to be interupted by a high pitched "Baba"? As I turned, an spoon dripping with ice cream soup approached my face at an arkward angle. "Baba eat it?" Of course, I had to try, such an unanticipated fathers day gift has to be acknowledged. We both beamed with pride.

But wait there's more! This afternoon, Alek was having a snack as we watched some TV after nap. Cheerios to be precise. At some point he climbed up on the couch and handed me a cheerio, "Baba eat it"? Of course, I would. Only after I started chewing did Alek say, "That one dropped on ground". Gee Thanks! With mild amusement, I reminded myself that it's the thought that counts but what was he thinking? Was that generosity...or humor?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dental Debutante

Finally, we have gotten around to bringing Alek to a dentist. I say finally because the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists say the first visit should happen as soon as the first tooth erupts. For Alek, that would have been at seven months. No business plan in that recommendation (note sarcasm). Conversely, the American Academy of Pediatricians recommendation was a visit at three years.

Anyways, Alek went to this particular practice with his pre-school, so he knew that we would have to take an elevator to get there and that the waiting room was designed to emulate a 1940s bus station complete with child sized Greyhound Bus. These inducements certainly created enough excitement to get us out the door for our 8AM Saturday appointment (very little waiting and easy to schedule), for both last and this Saturday's visits.

The first visit last week, was mostly a get to know you. The main theater is a big open room with four chairs and a big toy box in the corner. They let us in for a bit and Alek got comfortable playing with the toys. Eventually he noticed a big boy getting his teeth cleaned and serruptitiously watched that until the dentist came in. She talked with Susan and I about our concerns, Alek watched that too.

Then came the arkward part, getting a kicking non-compliant Alek into the oversized, reclined dental chair so the dentists could somehow examine his teeth. Fortunately, the dentists had other ideas. Here's what happened, Alek straddled Susan's lap, facing her. Slowly, keeping eye and fifi contact she lowered Alek back onto her and the doctors lap. Alek calmly and willingly open his mouth while the doctor checked his teeth with her fingers a mirror and a scary looking pick. The dentists trick was to not move too fast and frame upcoming events in terms Alek would find familiar. For example, when introducing the pick she asked Alek if he could hear the music and then proceeded to tap his incisors.

The non-ordeal was quickly over. Along the way, our concerns were addressed. Alek has 20 fully formed carie-less teeth, well spaced and straight. He jaw has placed his teeth well. There is a very slight protrusion of his right front incisor that seems to be a consequence of thumb sucking but the dentists remains far more unconcerned than anti-thumb commentors I have encountered. The dentist also thought the perception that Alek's teeth are a wee bit discolored to be a result of looking too hard. On a scale of 1 perfect to 10 horrendous dental health she gave Alek a 1.5!

We went back again this past Saturday for the actual cleaning. This involved a dental tech gently brushing Alek's teeth, with a bubblegum flavored toothpaste/fluoride polish. This time he willingly reclined in the chair and even wore sunglasses to maintain his coolness factor. The dentist came in, impressed by Alek's willingness to sit in the chair, and reiterated her prior diagnosis.

So the low sugar diet and daily brushing regimen are paying off and we can all look forward to a pleasant check-up in December.

Friday, June 8, 2007

8-(2-amino-2-phenyl-acetyl)amino-4-methyl-7-oxo-2-thia-6-azabicyclo [4.2.0]oct-4-ene-5-carboxylic acid...

aka Cefalexin, 375 milligrams per 7.5 milliliters twice per day for 10 days. Grape Bubblegum flavored. We made an emergency early morning visit to the doctor on Wednesday to confirm our suspicions from the night before and because the symptoms were more advanced after a nights incubation. On the drive there Alek and I talked about how I knew it was ouchy but that it was important for Alek to remain calm and still so the doctor could do his job quickly and well. Sure enough both the resident and the doctor agreed that a swollen, red, tender to the touch penis with purulent discharge was the sign of a not so nascent urinary tract infection (UTI), although a lack of fever suggested it was not so advanced.

This is a first for us. In his first three years Alek had never had a symptomatic UTI, so what's different now? Recently, we have been encouraging Alek to use the potty. Everything is going well. A quick tutorial with Elmo via the net quickly framed the appropirate behavior. Soon Alek was running to the potty whenever he had a pee-pee feeling and smiling with accomplishment and pride as he ritually announced his recent success. However, time is of the essence and Alek hasn't quite mastered the task of pulling down his pants, taking off his diaper and then straddling the saddle-like "Once Upon a Potty". The solution to this challenge was simple enough, while at home, we let Alek go bare from the waist down, that way there is no impediment to mounting the potty. In hindsight, we now realize another we had also removed the impediment preventing an in depth investigation of the elastic properties of the human penis. Combine this with increased exposure to the environment and possibly an excessive amount bubble bath and we seem to have a good recipe for UTI.

We aren't relying totally on Cefalexin to do the job. Alek takes daily, low soap, soaking baths, drinks more water, eats more blueberries and is drinking a little bit of penis juice everyday. In hindsight, perhaps that wasn't such a good substitute name for cranberry juice, but at the time it seemed to help establish the notion in his mind that the juice specifically helps with the ouchies. More scientifically, it is thought the a large non-dialyzable component competes with bacteria for adhesion to the epithelium. Or the acidity of small weak acids such as quinic, malic and citric acid inhibit bacterial growth. Or that it is the phenolic Proanthocyanindins which inhibit adherence. Whichever of these hypotheses prevails is not so important at the moment. Now, two days into the treatment regimen, the symptoms described above have diminished and there is no apparent dysuria. None the less, we will continue with the remaining 8 days of antibiotics to ensure the infection does not recur and that resistance does not develop. And if you're wondering he'll be wearing a diapy or underpants for a while.