Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the Bad, In with the Good

I know. I risk boring even myself as I continue to write about diet and health issues. How much duller can it get? But this is probably the last time in a while that I’ll feel inspired to write about these things, at least in any great detail. And I’m not going into that much detail today. It’s just that I’ve spent the last week being much more relaxed about what food I eat, and I’ve noticed a huge difference in the way I feel. That seemed worthy of a post.

As I recently noted, I feel very good about the efforts I’ve made. However, from Christmas Eve through New Year’s, I decided not to restrict myself. I wasn’t going to go overboard, but I wasn’t going to avoid things, and Christmas day itself was a free-for-all. Today, New Year’s Eve, is also supposed to be a free-for-all. You probably think that means I’m having lots of fun. But the truth is – I kind of hate it. As soon as the protective dietary walls came down, I’ve felt worse. More sluggish, more uncomfortable in my gut. The good news is, this motivates me. I’m actually looking forward to being more disciplined again. It feels better. I wasn’t on my new health kick for very long, but I’m glad I can already recognize a difference. That’s an inspiring thing. In fact, I’ve been surprised to learn that eating better has resulted in me getting full faster. I didn’t notice that while I was eating better, but since reverting back to recklessness, I can tell I don’t want to eat as much as I used to. We got pizza a few days ago, and I ate less than I normally would have and felt like I’d eaten too much. It’s probably a good thing – just one piece of pizza I ate had half a day’s worth of saturated fat in it. (Cheese is a killer, I’m afraid.) Even though I’ve been more relaxed, I’ve been paying attention to what I eat, and there have been a couple of days when I’ve taken in almost three times the daily recommended amount of saturated fat. That’s easy to do when something like a half cup of egg nog gives you 25% of the recommended daily amount. But it’s also pretty freaky.

So yes, I’m finishing out the year with all the bad stuff, and I’ll begin the New Year on a much better note. I really will go back to better practices, even after this splurge. I’m not worried about that. If sheer feeling better weren’t enough motivation, there’s also the fact that in the brief time since I’ve seen my doctor, I think I’ve dropped a pound or two. I’m not sure. I got a bathroom scale several days ago, and according to it I weigh ten pounds less than I did when I was at the doctor. Some of that is probably due to differences in what I was wearing and, perhaps, differences in the scales themselves. But I’m crossing my fingers that those things cannot account for all ten pounds. Who knows, I may have put those pounds back on in the last few days, but I trust they’ll disappear again. Here’s to 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas 2010

Another year and another great Christmas, our first as a family of five. If I tried to capture all of the details, it would take me forever, so I’ll just stick to some basics. In some ways, it’s hard to believe it’s already come and gone. I wish I had listened to more Christmas music than I did. Maybe then the Christmas season wouldn’t have felt so fleeting.

Melanie grew up with the tradition of acting out the Nativity on Christmas Eve. She wanted to carry that over to our family, but this was the first year we’ve done it (though we didn’t wait until Christmas Eve). With a four- and a two-year-old as our lead actors, the production was a bit more avant-garde than we would have planned, but that’s OK. Edison and Peter did their best in the various roles which they played. Here is a picture of them in character as, respectively, Mary and Joseph, at the door of the inn. Mary (Edison) is holding onto the donkey, played skillfully by air molecules.

The traditions continued on Christmas Eve, when Melanie again prepared a delicious soup that was served in bread bowls. This year’s soup: Pumpkin Coconut Bisque. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to taste butternut squash soup, this is in the same ballpark—or, should I say, gourd patch! LOL!—though it was quite gingery. It was yummy, though it had over a day’s worth of saturated fat in it. (Sorry, I’m sort of stuck in that mode lately!) Adding to the richness, we drank egg nog. Both the egg nog and the soup were sprinkled with nutmeg. For good measure, we also had Mountain Dew. It was wonderfully indulgent. Here are some pics:

Knowing we would have lots of presents to open on Christmas morning, we let Edison and Peter each open a gift on Christmas Eve. They did this last year and received Christmas blankets, which they then took with us as we drove around looking at Christmas lights, another Christmas Eve tradition. This year we let Eddie and Peter choose what to open. Edison ended up opening a super cool helicopter from Grandma and Grandpa with the Silly Car (Melanie’s parents, so-named because Melanie’s mom drives a Volkswagen Beetle—a model of car that a younger Edison once dubbed “silly”). Peter opened a new kitty cat from the same grandparents.

Like last year, Edison and Peter fell asleep during our drive to look at Christmas lights. Unlike last year, Edison woke up when we got back home. Fortunately, he easily went back to sleep, and Melanie and I were able to get to work on prepping for Christmas morning. We wouldn’t be to sleep until around 2 a.m. Of course, we were up by 7 a.m.

Christmas morning was great, but Edison’s being one year older made a big difference in how things progressed. Last year, Eddie and Peter were content to open one gift at a time and spend quite a while playing with it. The unwrapping process lasted all day, which was neat. This year, Edison was much quicker to move on and to want to unwrap another gift. Peter followed suit, so things moved much more swiftly. It didn’t start out that way, however. The first gift Edison and Peter discovered was the fire station Santa Claus left, a kind of doll house complete with three identical (and disturbingly pantless) firemen, an ambulance, a fire truck, a helicopter, a fire pole, a Dalmatian and dog house, and various furniture (everything from an outdoor grill to a large screen TV to a treadmill). Eddie and Peter have loved the fire station. They have played with it more than with anything else, and they spent the first while on Christmas morning playing with it alone. It was almost an afterthought when Edison finally moved on to find his stocking. Peter was even slower to move on. Throughout the day, they continually returned to the fire station. It helped that they eventually opened another set of smaller but fully-dressed firemen. It’s become quite the busy fire station.

Notice the lack of pants on the fireman. I think we may have gotten the stripper version of firemen. Careful, Santa Claus!

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Creegan. From what I can tell, Creegan enjoyed his first Christmas. He peed and pooped and ate and cried and spit up and everything. He really seemed himself, so I think he was having a good time. And yes, he received presents, including a stylish new outfit from my parents, pictured below.

Although it looks even better out of the box...

Surprisingly, Creegan himself gave out some gifts. Some of the best gifts of the day, in fact. Smiles. He’s only started smiling very often this week, and Christmas was one of the best days for it. I got the biggest, longest smile from him ever that day. Sadly, the huge smile was long gone by the time Melanie grabbed the camera, but we still got a few good pics. Here are a couple of them:

I got some cool stuff. One of the coolest is a digital scale for the kitchen. Now I can weigh in grams or ounces just how much cheese I’m eating, etc. This will really help me in keeping track of what I’m eating. Another really fun item I received is the new Michael Jackson CD. I know there has been some controversy surrounding it, but overall, I think it’s a very good album and I’ve enjoyed listening to it. Melanie also received some gifts that I’ve benefitted from. Aside from eating some of the treats she got, I’ve utilized her new family-size grill. (Not to be confused with the kind of family-size grill that cannibals favor.) I first used the grill for Christmas breakfast, which consisted of egg nog French toast and a hash brown / egg / sausage medley. I’ve since used it to make grilled cheese sandwiches. It’s nice not having to make one piece of French toast or one sandwich at a time. The grill is a nice addition to our home.

Aside from half-naked firemen, Eddie and Peter both received Nerf guns, swords, Transformers, sleeping bags, an indoor tent (jointly shared between them), books, and more. Our movie collection also swelled. We went from owning zero movies on Blu-ray to owning six—Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs; Despicable Me; The Sixth Sense; The Dark Knight; Inception; and Slumdog Millionaire. If that weren’t enough, we also got some DVDs—Bolt; The Pursuit of Happyness; Lars and the Real Girl (which I strongly encourage everyone to see, despite the fact that the setup sounds like it could be questionable—it’s one of the sweetest movies in existence); and the first two seasons of 30 Rock. Santa found some great deals, I think, and I’m not sure his helping elves always realized how much the other helping elves were doing. Not that I’m complaining. We actually haven’t bought movies in quite a long time, so this was fun.

And that’s that. Here are a few final pics, just to round things out. I hope everyone else had a wonderfully merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Health Hath No Fury

After my bout with diverticulitis in early October, I’ve been watching my fiber intake quite closely. Since that time, I have not gone a day without eating at least 25g of fiber, and often I’m closer to 30g. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s getting easier, and I’m pleased with the options that exist out there for high-fiber food.

Last week, I went to the doctor for a routine physical, something I haven’t done in years. Before my doctor’s visit, I was instructed to have some blood lab work done. Overall, the results were quite positive, and the things that need improvement are not that daunting. I’m low on vitamin D, which is not so much a dietary thing as a matter of not spending enough time in the sun. My cumulative cholesterol level is in the normal range, although the ratio of good cholesterol to bad cholesterol needs improvement. I was told to be careful with saturated fats in order to help with that. And finally, my blood sugar level was basically at the very top of the normal range. Because my family has a history of diabetes, it is worth being extra careful with this. It’s recommended that I limit my carb and sugar intake.

Since my doctor’s visit, I’ve been tracking not only my fiber intake, but my carb and saturated fat intake. I’m proud of myself. I’m allowing these things genuinely to influence my decisions about what I eat. The other day, I ate a side of raw spinach without any salad dressing on it. I’ve hardly had any regular soda in the past week. When my family recently ordered a peppermint shake to share, I had only one bite of it and felt fine with that. I’m not being complete anal, especially with it being the holiday season. I know I will be having treats here and there, and I don’t even plan to pay attention to carbs or saturated fat on Christmas or New Year’s Eve. The cool thing is, if you’re selective about what you eat, the occasional treat doesn’t completely destroy you.

As an example of how well this is working for me, the other day Melanie and I decided to splurge and go to Chick-fil-A. We’re down to our last few “free combo meal” coupons that we received when I won a “year of free Chick-fil-A.” A few months ago, here’s what I would have eaten on a typical visit to Chick-fil-A:

1 spicy chicken sandwich (includes lettuce, tomato, pickles, and pepper jack cheese)
1 large waffle fries
1 large Dr. Pepper (refilled once or twice)
3 pouches of mayonnaise (2 to dip my fries in, 1 on my sandwich)

On my most recent trip to Chick-fil-A, here’s what I ate:

1 chargrilled chicken sandwich (includes lettuce, tomato, and pickles)
1 medium waffle fries
1 medium Diet Dr. Pepper (refilled once or twice)
1 pouch of light mayonnaise (to dip my fries in)

I share these details because I’m quite pleased with myself. I’m especially pleased that I’m making these choices so happily, not begrudgingly or only with great effort. And I’m quite pleased with the Chick-fil-A visit because I considered fast food a splurge, and yet that day ended up being one of my very best in terms of what I ate. My grand totals for the day that we went to Chick-fil-A were 243.5g carbs and 14g saturated fat. That’s about 81% and 70% of the recommended daily intake values, respectively. To reiterate, on a day when I went out to eat fast food, I still only consumed 70% of the recommended saturated fat daily intake level throughout the entire day! As Vanessa Bayer impersonating Miley Cyrus would say, that’s pretty cool!

I suppose it will take some time to see the results of all of this. I’m tempted to say I’ve felt more awake and alert and energetic in the mornings these past few days, but I’m not sure if that can be because of these changes. I’m not entirely sure how that would make sense. I know diet affects your energy levels, but would that happen from reducing carbs and saturated fats in particular, and especially this quickly? I still think it may be a fluke, but I’m not complaining. Anyway, time for me to go eat some high-fiber oatmeal. Laters!

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Somebody on Facebook linked to the following comic, which I think will speak to quite a few people I know. It comes from the xkcd website, which as a grad student, I’ve been directed to a number of times. Enjoy.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Potpourri No. 28

Random bits o’ life…

Worst Things First
In my previous blog entry, I reported that things were looking good with Creegan and that, if things continued to go well, he would come home from the hospital that same day. Creegan did make it home on Saturday. Shortly after getting home, however, he projectile vomited. This was a bit unsettling, as this was the very thing his surgery was meant to cure. He projectile vomited again a few hours later, and then again many hours after that. Melanie and I had read that sometimes babies still projectile vomit for a day or so after having the surgery because that is what their bodies are used to doing. One nurse also said this to us, but everybody else—including Creegan’s doctor and the surgeon—said we shouldn’t expect to see any more vomiting at all. I wasn’t sure what to think. I wanted to feel completely at ease by this point, but I didn’t. And I hated the suspense of not feeling completely settled. On the positive side of things, though Creegan was still projectile vomiting, the vomits were getting further and further apart. I hoped this meant his system was just getting used to things again. I also took comfort in the fact that Creegan had pooped twice since his surgery, a sign that the surgery had worked. However, the pooping then seemed to stop. And, one of the projectile vomits that Creegan spewed after leaving the hospital was oddly thick, almost like clay or putty. These things bothered me, but Creegan did seem better overall. He looked immensely better, and when he was awake, he seemed more alert and attentive than he had ever been. We knew Creegan had a follow-up doctor’s appointment on Monday (yesterday), so we decided not to panic. I kept all my hope invested in the “readjustment period” theory.

The morning of Creegan’s doctor appointment, he pooped. It wasn’t a lot, but it was something. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thrilled to have a child defecate as I was at that moment. Then, at the doctor’s office, with the doctor watching, Creegan pooped a big one. He’s been pooping regularly ever since, and it’s now been something like 40 hours since he’s projectile vomited. I finally feel at ease, like life is and will be normal, both for Creegan and for us. It’s a wonderful feeling after all of this. Creegan’s doctor put him back on Zantac, still thinking that he has acid reflux, which could explain some of the post-surgery vomiting. As I said in my previous entry, pyloric stenosis wouldn’t explain the more active spitting up that Creegan experienced during his first couple of weeks of life, so I’m not skeptical that he has acid reflux. But I think the post-surgery vomiting was probably just his body adjusting back to normalcy. Things had almost completely mellowed out by the time the doctor saw him. But that’s OK. The Zantac does seem to help Creegan when it comes to normal, non-threatening, mild spitting up, of which Creegan is quite a fan. We’re going to keep him on Zantac for a month and then reevaluate. I’ll let you know what happens.

Sharp Thinking
During the past week, I’ve often taken Edison and Peter out to the playground to play. I’m not sure where he got the idea, but Eddie likes for me to pretend that I’m a hunter chasing kids whom I plan to eat for dinner. He and Peter run around the playground screaming while I chase them. Here and there, they climb up on things and “barely” escape me by going down a slide as I come climbing up after them. Additionally, sometimes Eddie pretends to have a sword with which he can defend himself. It’s an especially deadly sword, a creation of Eddie’s own imagination. At the tip of the sword is—get this—a cactus needle! Just when you thought swords couldn’t get any more dangerous!

So, yes, living in Florida, we can still head out to the playground and play, even during the first week of December. I know that’s what some of you are thinking, and you may feel jealous. I’ll be the first to admit that there are many perks about our climate, such as not dealing with snow. But make no mistake, it gets cold here. And it’s quite cold here lately. The high for today is only 50 degrees. Morning temperatures are in the low 20s. It’s no picnic, even if you won’t get snow on your picnic blanket here. I feel I have to remind people of this because they often imagine that I’m living somewhere tropical, which I’m not. I remind you that I’m 15—20 minutes outside of Georgia, that Tallahassee is not a beach town, and that there is nothing picturesque about it.

The fall semester has ended. I’ve written what needs to be written and graded what needs to be graded. It’s over. Good riddance. I’m slightly disappointed with my not-quite-perfect grade in the one seminar class I took, simply because I think it would have been perfect had my first two papers been graded by the main instructor rather than by his assistant. That sounds like lame whining, but I have strong reasons for believing this and have been a student long enough that I can typically gauge how well I’ll do on things before I actually get graded. To share just one bit of evidence, my final paper in the course was an extension of one of my earlier papers. The instructor’s comments on my final paper were that it was “excellent,” “well-written,” “well-argued,” and demonstrated a “good command” of the material on which I was writing. Trust me, that didn’t come out of the little bit I added to it to turn it into a final paper, but the earlier version wasn’t nearly so well-received when graded by the instructor’s assistant. OK, OK, enough. From now until the spring semester starts in January, I need to be working on my special area exam, and I’m toying with the idea of trying to prep something to submit to a conference. I’m at the stage where I should be doing that kind of thing. It’s intimidating, but it has to be done. There’s a philosophy conference at the University of Utah in April. Wouldn’t that be cool if I got something accepted there? Grinders 13, here I come! Oops, I mean, family. Yes, of course, family is what I’d be excited about. Yeah. Sure.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

How My Baby Dropped Acid and Ended up in the Emergency Room

I’ll try to make this short, while also hitting all of the important details. We’ll see how brief I can be.

Ever since Creegan was born, he seems to have spit up a lot more than is typical. We assumed, as did Creegan’s doctor, that he had acid reflux, which is not wholly uncommon in newborns. Melanie and I both have acid reflux, so I figured that increased the odds of our children having it, and thus I never really questioned that that’s what Creegan was dealing with.

At about four weeks of age, the spitting up seemed to increase. Creegan had a doctor’s appointment at about 4½ weeks old, and the doctor prescribed Zantac. The spitting up only seemed to get worse. In fact, “spitting up” no longer seemed an appropriate description. He was projectile vomiting. It looked quite literally like someone turned on a garden hose hidden inside Creegan’s mouth. It didn’t come out in one quick spew either; it would sometimes keep going for a second or two, which was really crazy looking given that the stream was so big and arching.

Mama called the doctor and the doctor said that the Zantac could possibly be making things worse. And so, quite counterintuitively, she instructed us to increase the Zantac dosage and instructed us to make sure Creegan had some breast milk immediately after taking any Zantac. We hadn’t been instructed to do that before, so we tried it. If anything, matters only got worse. By this point, Creegan had gone a day without pooping and his urinating was quickly disappearing too. Clearly, nothing was getting through his system. Consulting again with the doctor, we were told to cease with the Zantac altogether and put Creegan on Pedialyte and nothing else. If things didn’t improve by that evening, we were told, we should take Creegan to the ER.

Things didn’t improve. Wednesday night, Melanie took Creegan to the emergency room. As I’ve learned all too well by this point, emergency room visits generally take 6 – 8 hours before anything is figured out. Finally, they were able to deduce that Creegan has pyloric stenosis. The condition affects about .3% of babies, mostly males, and typically first-born males. It usually manifests itself at about 4 weeks of age. It’s an overgrowth of the muscle between the stomach and small intestine, and because the muscle is too large, food is unable to pass from the stomach into the intestines. Having nowhere else to go, that food eventually comes back up. The only treatment is surgery. The surgeon goes in and stretches out and spreads the pyloric muscle open, eliminating the obstruction. (For an excellent summary of pyloric stenosis, including its symptoms and treatment, see this article from It’s spot on from what we can tell.)

Creegan had surgery on Friday morning at approximately 10 a.m. We were told this surgery is incredibly routine and simple, a guaranteed fix if performed correctly. The actual surgical procedure takes as little as 8 minutes. Dr. Crooms performed the surgery, and by 10:45 or so, he told us everything had gone well. The surgery was over.

Now for the recovery. Creegan had to wait until 4 p.m. to eat any food by mouth. He hadn’t eaten since 5:30 a.m. the previous day, almost 35 hours earlier. An IV kept him hydrated and nourished, but he wasn’t happy not to be eating. Melanie had to do her best to keep him calm, all the while feeling heartbroken to deny him what he was asking for. At the 4 p.m. feeding, Creegan was allowed only half-an-ounce of Pedialyte. Fortunately, he ate well and did not fuss and fight for more. He was a bit doped up on morphine, so that helped. In fact, he slept almost all day yesterday, into the night. At 7 p.m., he had a full ounce of Pedialyte, again doing well with it. His next feeding was scheduled for 10 p.m., at which point he was going to receive an ounce of fluid, half Pedialyte, half pumped breast milk. He was too doped up to eat at 10 p.m., and kept sleeping. He didn’t eat until 1 a.m. He spit up after this feeding, but the nurse said it was nothing to be concerned about. The spit up was kind of snotty, and they expect there might be some spitting up as Creegan gets used to eating again. Since then, Creegan has had two more feedings—still the half Pedialyte, half breast milk mixture—and is up to two ounces. He has not spit up again. He is doing well. The next feeding will be two ounces of pure breast milk. If all goes well with that, then he can begin breastfeeding (at the breast) like normal at the next feeding. As long as the doctor makes his rounds at a decent hour, Creegan will supposedly be able to come home today.

It’s still possible that Creegan has acid reflux. The pyloric stenosis wouldn’t explain the spitting up that occurred during Creegan’s first few weeks of life. Even though acid reflux was dropped as a possible cause of his most recent ailments (and yes, that’s the lame and convoluted way that I got the title of this post), it may be something we’ll all have to deal with. That’s something we happily accept.