Sunday, December 31, 2006

on the eve....we ate

This is pretty classic Jewish behavior. In memory of ancient Judaic ritual...we eat. In celebration of survival against the odds...we eat (latkes, anyone?). In memory of sorrows and destruction....we don't eat, but we're enjoined to think about eating. And don't get me started on the subject of cheesecake, or as they call it in New Jersey, ice cream and waffles.

Happy new year, everybody. May we move from strength to strength, building where we can, nourishing where we are needed, recognizing the gifts we have been given, even when they are miserable with diaper rash and green snot.

Tonight, after the boys are in bed, the Man and I will crack a bottle of bubbly (apple juice, that is), and talk over the year. It's been a full year, as our years tend to be:

*The Eldest learned how to be a big brother (an on-going process, of course)
*the Babes became the Toddles, with all of the accomplishments that entails
* we began and concluded the Great School Debate
* we began and ended and began again learning to use the Eldest's veins.
* the Eldest learned the art of folding paper - and making endless paper planes
* we all went home, at least, and felt smug about being able to handle anything
* the Toddles introduced us to corn allergy, and we learned about being helpless in the face of big industry
* we remembered friends and family, lost to illness and old age
* we welcomed new little people, and learned to love them. (Welcome! Matt, Adira, Ben, Leora, Jessica....)
* I got my first professional writing gig(s)
* I got my first hate mail over one of those gigs
* the mice came
* the mice left. I think.
* we discovered that the neighbors aren't flinging shards of glass into our yard and cackling...the dirt's landfill and useless. Why *are* things growing there, anyhow?
* the Man's blog went on hiatus (where in the world is the Virtual Tourist?)
* I organized something. Anything. Occasionally, too many things.

Today, however, I continued another Imperfect tradition, and experimented with food. Good food, incidentally, courtesy of the wise ladies over at the food lab, a Yahoo group. Two recipes below - but first, a small contribution from the Eldest:
The Eldest's story:

One day, a message came back.
Well, maybe I should someday give you a stilt.

Left it on the computer, and he went and kept shaking hands. He was a very nice man. Until he got very old, and he grew into a five year old and he was very old.

What happened is that he got ready, and died.

Then he went back to his walk, shook hands, went around then died. (dramatic fall)

He jumped up, yay! and was back to being a five year old. But then he was very old. And he fell dead. And he said, why am I getting all of these deads? I don't feelt that I am so very (dramatic fall).

And he was very older - he was a five year old again- and he said, I'm so old. How can I have another baby? And aarrgh, he fell dead. But he was alive - so he was very silly. And he went, blah blah blah blah, which was very unsafe for his body, and he did whaaaaaa, and he died.


Somehow, this narrative seems perfect for the new year, and the cycles - artificial and otherwise - that it celebrates. Happy 2007, all. And now, the food!
Ciao, Liz' Veggie Fritters
makes approximately 15 fritters, a.k.a latkes

2 packed cups grated root veg (I used sweet potato and regular potato, carrot would have been nice)
1 small finely chopped onion
1/4 to 1/2 cup finely chopped mixed herbs
2 cloves of garlic, minced/pressed
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup rice flour
1 cup water

Mix all ingredients but the water together. Once well mixed, add the water, mixing well. Heat a griddle, preferably nonstick. If you don't have a nonstick griddle, then you'll need a small quantity of oil for frying.

Cook spoonfuls on hot griddle, about 3 minutes per side, with the heat turned to medium-low. Cool on paper towels, if you used oil, so as to absorb the extra fat.

Serve with sour cream or applesauce.

now, I made these for lunch, while the fasting Man (today was a fast day) escaped the smells and sights (and sounds!) of people eating. Here's the reception I got:

the Toddles ate, looking suspicious, but was slightly mollified by his favorite pickles (the 365 brand baby dills), and the opportunity to dip the fritter in applesauce. Fairly quickly, he tossed the fritter's remains aside, to focus on the 'sauce.
Verdict: moderate success. Worth retrying.

the Eldest ate briefly, then buried the remains of his first fritter under a hill of applesauce. Eventually, it occurred to him that, to eat the rest of the 'sauce, he'd end up excavating his fritter. He accepted this, and dutifully ate the fritter, and even reached for another.

But before I began quietly celebrating, he told me: It's too celery. There's no celery. It has potato. Now that's not my favorite thing. And it has onion. Almost none. You can believe this - mouth in a stubborn line - it does! How about some spaghetti, instead? Mouth set in an identical stubborn line, I declined.

Eventually, we compromised.
Verdict: neutral. Worth serving again at a meal with other options.

Cathy's Chocolate Cupcakes
makes 12 small cupcakes

Dry Ingredients:
1/2 cup garfava flour or brown rice flour
1/2 cup potato starch
1/4 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup cocoa (not Dutch) powder
1/2 tsp xantham/guar gum
2 and 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all together in a bowl. Set aside

Wet Ingredients:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1/2 cup silken tofu
2 tsp vanilla extract (watch for grain alcohol and other gluten-containing ingredients in vanilla!)
2/3 cup boiling hot coffee or water
cooking spray
In a food processor, blend all but coffee and cooking spray until very, very smooth. Add coffee and mix until blended. Add flour mixture and mix on low until smooth.

Heat oven to 350. Spray muffin tins with cooking spray. When oven is hot, spoon batter (it will be thin) into tins. Bake 20-25 minutes, testing with a toothpick for done-ness.

Suggestions: add chocolate chips!
For fluffier cupcakes, use 1/4 cup garfava/brown rice and 1/4 cup quinoa flour

Saturday, December 30, 2006

the corn analysis (and a word of wiz)

I keep forgetting that allergies is a big business. Look around, the next time you are in a supermarket or drugstore. See all the stuff marked 'hypoallergenic?' There's no way that whatever-it-is is allergy-free, since folks can be allergic to anything, but it just means that the industry's best guess is that most people aren't allergic to it. Thanks, guys.

Glancing through here I was surprised to discover that Nestle and Mead Johnson had even tried to claim that they had 'allergy reducing' formulas. Faked some science to get there, but today I suspect they wouldn't even try. Doctors would howl - but I bet shares would go up, even so. No, wait, remember "cushioning proteins?" The reason for that bit of advertising is, not only to hook onto the 'soft for your tender baby' idea, which I cannot argue with, but also to counter the knowldgeable, who will talk about the cushioning effect of immunoglobulins on the immature GI tract. I guess the artificial babyfood folks are still trying. Hm.

Staggering under the weight of corn's presence in my world, here is my wildly incomplete list of safe/unsafe kid related products. For a complete list of corn and corn by-products in food, check here for the various aliases used by corn. Please note that some of the names, such as citric acid or sugar, can come from non-corn sources - always ask. And look here for corn-based products (incomplete!)or here (especially page two, a fantastic chart of products that use corn). For those of you for whom this is a practical question, specifically in regards to the Toddles, the answer is this: he's reacted to corn, corn meal, corn starch, and it looks like he's sensitive to corn sugars via my milk (which means yes, if we fed corn sugars to him, he'd be miserable). Is he sensitive to corn-derived ethanol? Corn-based alcohol? I suspect that not the alcohols if they were a high proof, but I'm declining to test this. Oooh, drunk baby. Fun. No. Citric acid, however, seems to fly under his radar.

In response to the readers and surprising number of lurkers who feel medically boxed in by the boys, I offer this: don't panic. (Anyone? anyone? They made a movie out of the book, people, come on!) To have us over, just vaccuum, wipe down counters and avoid disposables. Cook simply: a broiled fish, rice and veg is our happiest food. Spices are okay, so long as you know what each one is (a spice mix is a potential problem for the Eldest), or cruise the blog for recipes. For shabbat meals, sweep the floor and change the tablecloth if you had challah at a previous meal. Done. You won't break the kids with a crumb so small you missed it during sweeping, unless you have a passel of unruly kinder, in which case we should come for Friday dinner, instead.

Or you can always invite yourselves over to us!

The List:
Okay, here's the deal: all items are based on my communication with the company, or my experience with the product (i.e., allergic response). None of this is official, and there are no guarantees that the company hasn't changed its formulations since I checked them out. My suggestion is to start with the ones that were safe, last I checked, and query those companies regarding their products.

Always ask! But be specific when you ask, checking for 1. corn ingredients, 2. corn by-products, and 3. made on the same machinery as corn containing foods. And don't let them fob you off with a pre-canned 'gluten free' list of items - not everybody counts corn when they write up their gluten free lists.

Baby Food:
Earth's Best impresses with their inability to answer the question. They are owned by Hain Celestial foods, a company that has always been admirable in their ability to not answer questions about ingredients...

Beechnut: our nutritionist says that Beechnut is the best choice, short of making things yourself. They are responsive via customer service - though I'll note that they didn't answer my email.

Gerber: here is their reply, somewhat edited for brevity
Q - The citric and ascorbic acid used in many of the baby foods - are these corn derived? A - Citric Acid is either dextrose derived from corn starch or sucrose from beet or cane sugar. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C ) is derived from corn.
(further inquiry reveals that they cannot tell me which products are made using corn-derived citric acid and which are made with beet/cane-derived. Thanks a heap, guys.)
Q - Is any kind of testing performed to see if residual traces are left from the processing of one food, when processing another on the same machinery? A - Yes.
Bottom line: don't use Gerber baby food if you have a corn allergy.


Seventh Generation - also corn-free, also responsive via email.
Pampers (their response: Corn (corn derivatives) is NOT found in our diapers at all.) But a cocked eyebrow in their direction for the amount of personal information that they demanded in exchange for being able to send off my question. Huh. But look out for the Pampers wipes, as a number of allergy moms report bad reactions to those.
Luvs - boo, hiss to P& G for lousy on-line customer service. When asked, they emailed back telling me that there is lots of information on their website, and why don't I go look at it? Idiots. I looked - the site is full of advertisements and yes, information. But not the answer to my question. Eventually, I got this: No. Corn is NOT found in our diapers at all. Thanks, guys. I'd avoid Luvs, if only because they have lousy information dissemination.
Huggies (In answer to your inquiry, there could be trace amounts of cornstarch in the adhesives.We hope that this information is helpful. Thanks again for visiting our web site.Renee Consumer ServicesKimberly-Clark Corp.) Moms from my allergy group report diaper difficulties with corn allergy babies and Huggies.
Especially for Baby: the Babies R Us cheapo brand. They have no e-contact information posted on the Toys R Us website, nor does the website on the packaging ( make reference to diapers. Useless, alas, and note that I have no evidence for this, other than my son's raw, red lower back. But I suspect there is corn in there somewhere... For those who want to know, you can call them (1-800-ToysRUs or 1-888-BabyRUs). Me, I have all the data I need.

Art Supplies:
art supplies can contain gluten (wheat, corn, other grains), and should be checked out before buying. Like beauty and health products, allergy labelling for these is not required.
contains gluten.
"All of our products are gluten free except for the Elmer's Finger Paints. The finger paints contain wheat and oat products." However, Elmer's is not responsive via email, so be wary.

Discount School Supply
Kudos to: for being extremely responsive! Their initial response re:gluten didn't include corn products, but they backed right up and gave me the following list of gluten/corn free items, then confirmed that these are nut/peanut/dairy/sesame/poppy/pumpkin/zucchini-free:
Colorations Simply Tempera paint (Washable/nonwashable contain corn), Colorations Multicultural paint (colors like me) (contains corn) all contain corn.
Safe items are:
BioColor paint - Regular & Fluorescent
Colorations Liquid Watercolor
Colorations Washable Finger paint & Glitter Finger paint
Colorations Glitter paint
Colorations Activity Paint: Regular, Fluorescent, Sparkle, & Metallic
Colorations Puffy Paint
BioPutty Solution
BiocColor Fabric Medium
Wheat & Gluten (including corn-free) Free (play) Dough

Crayola: safe items are:
colored pencils
regular (nonwashable) markers
twistable crayons
color wonder marker (requires the special paper)
regular crayons (have corn in label adhesives, which can just be torn off, I suspect)
Avoid all washable crayons, markers, paints. Finger paints have both corn and wheat.

most kid medicines are sweetened...with corn syrup. Examples include Tylenol, alas, and the non-dye-free Benadryl.
Feverall suppositories (acetaminophen) contain polysorbate 80 (corn derived) and vegetable oil (palm oil). Consult your allergist as to whether this is appropriate. Major kudos to the maker of Feverall, who had someone promptly return my call, and who had carefully educated that person, to boot!
Most IV fluids use corn or corn derivatives as their sugar source, and thankfully latex gloves are disappearing from use, as the white powder inside them includes cornstarch, alas. My recommendation: if you are going to the ER, carry a list of corn and corn derivatives, because the ER staff are unlikely to recognize corn as mallitol, for example.
Corn also shows up in a number of antibiotics - if you require antibiotics, have the PCP/ER staff consult with your allergist.

latex balloons: ever wonder what that white stuff is inside the balloon? Usually cornstarch, folks..
biodegradable plastics
waxed paper plates, cups
air freshener we buy a Trader Joe's air freshener, and rarely use it (I prefer opening a window). Well, it has corn-based ethanol, and one day the Man staggered out of the bathroom to tell me, I just covered the bathroom in corn! Yup, he did. Smelled nice, though. Again, see this for a list of household products that contain corn.
any number of toiletries....sigh.
Finally, this honest but depressing comment from quote about corn from YummyEarth co-founder, Rob Wunder:
"Because so many moms have contacted YummyEarth inquiring about corn-free we looked into the “corn issue” with a food scientist (Ron Schnitzer, owner of Sani-Pure Food Laboratories in Saddle Brook, NJ that provides over 100,000 different food tests). This is what I learned: While YummyEarth organic lollipops and candies do not have corn syrup (we use organic tapioca syrup with no added sulfites) or corn based citric acid (we use non-GMO beet sugar based citric acid), anyone with corn sensitivities should know IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A FOOD MANUFACTURER TO CLAIM THAT A FOOD IS CORN FREE (unless it is broccoli or something like that) down to 1ppm (parts per million) because 1: corn seems to be virtually an omnipresent food product that can exist in immeasurable amounts (50 or so parts per million) in foods whether you plan the food to be corn free or not. 2: it seems impossible with today’s existing tests to prove that ANY “corn-free” food does not actually have some microscopic amount of corn because unlike tests for peanuts which can go as low as 1ppm (parts per million) there appears to be no test for corn below around 50 ppm. It appears that the FDA does not regulate the claim “corn free” while it does appear to give guidance to manufacturers to claim that there is no soy, for example, even if soy is present below the current testable ppm (parts per million). By way of example, if the FDA acknowledges that today’s testing for soy can only go down to 35ppm, then it appears that any manufacturer can claim “soy-free” even if soy exists in the product at levels of 3ppm (which may not even be able to harm anyone). 3: Corn protein would not exist in YummyEarth organic lollipops or candy drops because even if there is some corn present in some level of ppm it would be in an immeasurably low amount of corn sugar, not corn protein. I am not trying to say that our product has corn, but since it appears there is no FDA approved way for ANYONE, including YummyEarth, to say there is no corn in their food, including YummyEarth organic lollipops and candy drops, I will simply say this: There is no corn syrup and there is no corn based citric acid in YummyEarth organic lollipops and candy drops. Please consume using the same discretion you would use when consuming any other product you hope does not have corn, but might actually have some immeasurably low level of corn, due to the apparent omnipresence of corn in our food supply."

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Book is done. Long live the Book! and down with badparentitis..

and...done. The book is edited, my oh so professional invoice is mailed, and I am too tired to really appreciate the experience.

(one honkingly huge cup of coffee later)

Since I started writing professionally, I've gotten some nice feedback, been embarrassed by saying the wrong thing to the odd admiring person (I am not smooth in person - blunt of speech, more thoughtful on paper) and generally been slightly befuddled and excited about the whole thing. But this, this is different.

Few people know I'm working on this book, my name will not be on the title, and yet I think it's the most satisfying project I've done in years. My little articles entertain a bit, educate a bit, but this will have impact. I remember as a new parent of a child with hemophilia, clinging to this book, as if it were a lifeline to a kind of sanity. I remember cursing the book for what it didn't have, and treating as holy writ what it *did* have. And now I was part of the team that made it!

I've come a long way, baby. Damn.

Just heard this: Ener-G Egg Replacer is now being made in a plant that also has items with tree nuts. Drat the thing. Now I'm wondering if my box of the stuff is nut safe or potentially contaminated. Was it made before the switch or after? Do I now toss yet another $5.00 box of something, just to be sure? Remember when I bitched about keeping kosher being expensive?

On a different note, today was a Good Mama day . Yesterday was, too. Whazzup with that?

Yesterday was easy, it was my Double Trouble day, with both boys home, and we spent it there. We played, we napped together (the joys of a baby with a virus is that he goes down, and stays there, if I'm willing to lie with him. I was. So was the Eldest, and thus the Wednesday nap is born.), we wrote letters to my grandmother. Here is the Eldest's letter.

DEAR BOM, DO NOT WORRY. THE BABY AND I ARE STILL ALIVE. LOVE, (drawing followed, of a couple of siddurs - prayer books - and a Torah scroll, for mysterious reasons).
The Eldest felt that, having lost her sister, my grandmother might be worried that other people would die, too. Hmm. So it's Bom who is worried, is it?

I'll be keeping a sharp eye on that laddie, and that topic.

Today, however, was more pre-planned Mama glory. The Eldest went off to school, while the Toddles collapsed into a phlegmy heap. He slept from 8.30am to 11.30, missing a playdate, missing being hauled around to several very interesting grocery stores - and, held hostage by the small dictator, I slept too. Aw, shucks.

At 1pm the Man came home, and I swept the Eldest off for a little one on one time. I arrived grandly at school, had a conversation with one of his teachers (I adore this woman) about the Latin origins of pudenda and whether we women should reclaim the word 'cunt' or not, and rather surprised with ourselves, she and I went off to extract the Eldest. He was, of course, learning about numbers, so I waited patiently.

We went to Belkin Lookout Farm, a local place in South Natick that has changed hands at least twice in recent memory. We'd been there a few weeks after the Toddles was born, for apple picking, and today we went to see the Winter Wonderland.

Well, it was moderately fun. There was a hayride, which the Eldest firmly declined, so we played giant checkers until he changed his mind. The hayride was, well, sedate. Then we hung around until dark, when the orchards were plugged in, and bing! lights everywhere. My favorite part:

Mum, there's a clown in that car!

He was, of course, pointing to Santa Claus.

It was cold, dark, and the pickup for the train was poorly signposted (which is to say, not at all), and a bunch of us weary travelers had to be rescued by a farm-person, who looked at us as if we were daft for waiting for pickup at the spot where the train had dropped us off. Which is, I'll point out, where the train picks one up during picking season, but I grumble. grumble, grumble.

I got to see the Eldest fretting over being lost, over being left behind, and trying to persuade me that really, his toes would never, ever unfreeze. I wonder when he became so anxious a person? So have I stopped shielding him over the past year? I think I did, actually, sometime around Malka's death. It's a decision I regret only if I fail to be sufficiently sensitive to what it means.

Such as when his friend was going in to Children's for bleeding from his surgery. The Eldest, veteran of six surgeries, got really quiet. Then he got really loud and frustrated. finally, I looked at him and said, 'He's going to be okay. I know this because you were okay, and...' here I told him the story of my ten month old in surgery, and the nurse coming out to tell us, while he was in the OR, that the Eldest was not clotting properly, even with the clotting meds. He was okay then, this child will be okay now. The Eldest took a deep breath, and visibly relaxed. Ah. Good work, mama.

Some days,. I earn my keep. And some days, I earn it and get a fluffy hair cut!

P.S. for anyone wanting cute Chanuka (Hanukka) stories, we're fresh out. I will do an Eldest medley at some point, but for now I offer up Uberimma's family as an example of overeducation gone off the rails. But oh so sweetly. And considering the pudenda conversation today, who am I to judge? (For my non-Hebraic readers, 'imma' means 'mother.')

Monday, December 25, 2006

zen Jews: so relaxed, so in tune with our guilt..

Another omnibus post, starting with counting some blessings.

-my dearest J's son is oozing at the site of his surgery. The surgery was supposed to implant a new port, for the family to use to give him clotting factor. He bled at the site, then oozed, then bled some more. But he's home now, resting and clotting. May it continue to be so.

- a friend's daughter is home tonight. She has leukemia, and was admitted with viral pneumonia. After a bad round, she went home today, Christmas day, to join the family. She is sixteen months old.

We do not celebrate Christmas, to the mild surprise of the Man's co-workers, who seem astonished that we do not even have a tree... But I know a cosmic gesture when I see one. Blessed be, for the health we have, the family who embrace us, the joys we choose to seek out.

And now, the omnibus!

We're tweaking the gDiapers. After a happy month of flushing poop and pee, we're now facing the byproduct of our eco-guilt: higher costs. gDiaper inserts cost about 10 cents more per diaper, and with our seasonally tighter budget, that's going to hurt.

When the Man came home with non-organic milk for the Toddles, I decided it was time to put my foot down. Yes, we must save money, yes, we must sacrifice principle to fiscal realities, but perhaps - perhaps - we could do both at the same time.

The Man gave me a long suffering look, and patiently put the milk in the fridge. Pontificating, I looked down to find myself alone in the kitchen, and wandered off to the computer. Where I found this: bit of sage advice. Mom in Israel is right: if you have the patience and a good washing machine, cloth very well may be the way to go. So, tentatively, we're trying cloth inserts in our gDiapers.

Our first try was hemp inserts, which didn't quite hold their shape. Not really thick enough, the Man says, and I agree. They are fine when we are home, at leisure and able to change diapers rather often. Next up: Indian prefolds. M.i.I., where are you? I need a sage voice of experience! (especially one patient with blogger's sometimes idiotic commenting feature. Why *are* you having trouble?)


With thanks to Dr. S., who sent this on from Israel:

* If there is no self,
whose arthritis is this?

* Be here now.
Be someplace else later.
Is that so complicated?

* Drink tea and nourish life.
With the first sip... joy.
With the second... satisfaction.
With the third, peace.
With the fourth, a danish.

* Wherever you go, there you are.
Your luggage is another story.

* Accept misfortune as a blessing.
Do not wish for perfect health
or a life without problems.
What would you talk about?

* The journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single "oy."

* There is no escaping karma.
In a previous life, you never called,
you never wrote, you never visited.
And whose fault was that?

* Zen is not easy.
It takes effort to attain nothingness.
And then what do you have?

* The Tao does not speak.
The Tao does not blame.
The Tao does not take sides.
The Tao has no expectations.
The Tao demands nothing of others.
The Tao is not Jewish.

* Breathe in. Breathe out.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
Forget this and attaining Enlightenment
will be the least of your problems.

* Let your mind be as a floating cloud.
Let your stillness be as the wooded glen.
And sit up straight. You'll never meet the
Buddha with such rounded shoulders.

* Be patient and achieve all things.
Be impatient and achieve all things faster.

The Torah says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Buddha says there is no "self."
So, maybe you are off the hook.

Each flower blossoms ten thousand times.
Each blossom has ten thousand petals.
You might want to see a specialist.

* Be aware of your body.
Be aware of your perceptions.
Keep in mind that not every physical
sensation is a symptom of a terminal illness.

* The Torah says, "Love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Buddha says there is no "self."
So, maybe you are off the hook.

* Though only your skin, sinews, and bones remain,
though your blood and flesh dry up and wither away,
yet shall you meditate and not stir
until you have attained full Enlightenment.
But, first, a little nosh

and now, some surfing! Time to finally try and find the Eldest a gymnastics class. Yes, kids with hemophilia can do gymnastics. Yes, it's going to give me a bleeding ulcer. (hey, I'm relaxed, but not quite that relaxed.) And yes, the hematologists okayed the idea, and of course the Eldest is twitching to go!

But you better believe that he's getting a hefty dose of clotting factor the morning of classes...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

duelling dinners

Tonight, the Eldest and I constructed a version of my gluten-free, vegan lasagne. Proudly, we (okay, I) heaved it into the oven. As I set the timer, the Eldest's face fell. We have to wait? Oy.

This is what happens when I get my timing off. At Chez Imperfect, the locals are ruthless about their feeding times. If the trough isn't filled at the right hour, the smalls set up an outcry to melt one's heart, while the biggers go rummaging.

Ten minutes into lasagne baking, I come out into the dining room, a.k.a. the site of the Eldest's latest project: clean up the house. Half the chairs are pulled out from the table, the carpet sweeper is abandoned on the floor...and the resident Y chromosomes are gathered around the table, eating apple sauce and gingerbread.

I roar, indicating the lasagne in the oven, and wave my hands in the air. Finally, I concede. For all, you see, is not lost: the Eldest has also made lasagne.

Lacking any of the dreaded mushrooms, he carefully combined in a bowl the last of the crumbled tofu mixture, some fresh spinach, lasagne pieces and tomato sauce. I flung my hands up and instructed him to bring it out.

When I ungraciously stomped off, the Eldest was happily describing his dish. Mummy will love this when she comes down!

He might be right.

Merry Christmas to those of you who celebrate it. And to the locals, we're off to Childrens again next month, so bring along any beach reads you care to clear off the shelves. Books for adults, kids - so long as it's in reasonable shape, the folks at Childrens will be delighted. We also bring them recent magazines, so toss those in, as well!

As it turns out, there's another allergy kiddo in the Eldest's class. That makes four out of fourteen, which fascinates me. Assuming, that is, you count the kid whose allergic to pineapple. Which I would.

The child's mother lent me an allergy cookbook. Now, I tend to be skeptical of these, but it has quick, good plain cookery, without common allergens. As always, I still had to tweak the recipes, but here's a good one:

Red Snapper (a.k.a Orange Roughy around here) in Rosemary Crust
Adapted from What's To Eat? by Linda Marienhoff Coss, page 71.
Serves 3.

3/4th pound red snapper/orange roughy
2/3 cup ground flaxseed (flaxmeal)
1/4 cup orange concentrate, frozen
1/4 c. olive oil (less is fine, but use most of it if the fish is skinned)
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon brown mustard
2 cloves minced, pressed garlic
salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 375F. Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Put fish into dish.

In a small bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Bake 20 minutes. then broil for 5-8 minutes more. The fish should be moist, with a nice crunchy crust.

Monday, December 18, 2006

rising competencies

I have to get back to work, typing up comments for my boss on her book (so far, she's not mad at me. So far.), but first I found this: Catherine Newman! The SIL used to send me particularly good columns of hers, and the current one is rather timely.

I've been thinking a lot about the exposure of children, how fragile their psyches become, more or less as they grow physically more competent. Last year, the Eldest learned to swing a mean bat, but was dumbfounded by the bully in his classroom. (Said bully hugged me today, and based on this and other evidence can now be declared a non-bully. But still, a force to be reckoned with. Which is fine.) This year, he's wavering between his own, independant spirit and the allure of the guidance offered by a wise classmate.

He's on the cusp of the time when children start learning about the great divide: those who Fit In and those who are Different. I was different, with my nose in a book, my clothes unfashionable, and hanging out with the lone kid from the projects. Not, mind you, because I was a saintly child, but because the kid from the projects was a really, really great person. Still is.

So far, the Eldest doesn't mind being different. He doesn't mind having rice flour waffles when everyone else has pancakes from a box, he's fine with eating tofu instead of cheese, and he doesn't mind having Daddy's cookies when the birthday cake comes around. So far. And last week, for show and tell, he took a box of his clotting factor. He showed the kids how to assemble the syringe, how to connect the syringe to the factor bottle, and how to mix factor. Mind you, at $500+ a pop, he took an empty, used bottle, but the kids had fun.

He came home with this sign, that he'd made to explain his exhibit:
AVERYBODY (as in, everybody can use this kit)
Happy, happy boy. Proud to share, proud to demonstrate.

He's a strong, resilient soul in a joyful, energetic body, but sometimes his own nature betrays him. Right now, he's caught in a social triad with the sage and another boy. The three of them together get "a little wild," he tells me. They play games: squshy-mushy (dogpile), zo-zo (a sort of modified Red Rover), trying to shape their happy, careless aggression into a form acceptable to the grown folk, who require laws and boundaries.

Shai happily hugs his friends so hard they fall over ("but I only hugged him, Mummy!"), plays zo-zo and only every plays squshy-mushy by accident. Honest. And occasionally, he finds it's all too much.

This past week, he was very upset about the turn his interactions had taken with his friends. There's hitting and slapping and kicking, he told me. I, having seen him doling out some of that hitting while in a rage, nodded my head ruefully. We talked about using words to ask them to stop, we talked about asking grown-folk to help. He admitted that sometimes he's having fun, and doesn't realize he *should* stop until he's sad or angry. So he wrote them a letter:

Dear [person],

You are my friend. Please do not hit me, slap me, or kick me.

Carefully, he folded the letter, helped me address them. Torn, I agreed to send them off, enclosing a quick note to indicate that I did not think that my own child was blameless in this matter, but did think it important to support his expression of his wishes to his friends. Anxious, I'm waiting to see what the other parents say.

It's astonishing to me that, physically, he can learn that something hurts, and avoid it. But socially, he gets drawn in, time after time. His body says, 'fun!' and his brain says 'whee!' and then the happy little bodies roll around on the floor until someone cries. Does he do it to Fit In? Or does he do it because his enthusiasm hitches itself to the most likely prospect, and pulls him along?

We're lucky that his hemophilia is managed enough that this is a social problem - so far. After four days treating a mysterious bleed in his left wrist, though, I do wonder... Still, I'm calling this a social issue for him, since now it begins. He doesn't have to avoid physical play because he's Different. He needs to learn to avoid it because he's an individual who finds the end results painful, and because at this age and stage, the boys can't find endings other than the Grownup Made Us Stop, or The Other Kid Cried.

But he has to do it. I can't do it for him, I can't make him choose to walk away.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

hail and farewell

In Orthodox Judaism, it takes ten men to make a minyan, or prayer group. Most people, when entering such a minyan, count kipa (yarmulke) covered heads. When they reach ten, they breathe a sigh of relief, knowing that the minyan's services are off and running.

What they don't know is that a minyan really takes two men: the gabbai (deacon), who runs the show, and the leiner, who reads the Torah portion.

These two guys make it happen. The gabbai is the one who knows the precise nature of the services, and can figure in complications: should the start of the month happen on Thursday, on the sabbath, how does that change things? He is also what I like to call the catcher, to the leiner's pitching.

To explain: reading the Torah from the scroll is a specific skill. You need to know Hebrew, of course, but you also need to know the handwriting style used for the Torah scroll, which is a kind of encoded music. The codes tell you what series of notes happen when, when a verse ends, and so on. None of this, however, tells you how the words are pronounced (Hebrew vowels are a dot/line code embedded in the word, called vowellation - and this vowellation is handily not included in the Torah), so the leiner must essentially memorize the text. You can see an example of Hebrew letters plus vowels, here.

So, what happens if the leiner hasn't had time to prepare the Torah reading for the week? Well, the gabbai uses a range of hand signs, to tell his leiner how to sing each verse. It looks a lot like a catcher telling the pitcher how to throw the next ball, except that it's happening just as the pitcher is throwing.

The Man is one of the local leiners, and for nearly five years now, he's been practicing his craft with a child in one arm. (Never two, mind you.) So the boys are growing up listening to the sounds of the Torah being sung, and watching their dad get corrected on weeks when sleep was lacking, along with anything resembling free time. And each night, they are sung to sleep by the Man, who sings a lullabye and the Sh'ma, sung as you would when it turns up in the weekly portion.

One day, the Eldest starting imitating the gabbai's frantic gestures (it must have been a particularly rough paternal week), and his father decided to make the wee terror live up to it. So the Man began training his own, personal catcher. It was a lark, a delight to see the Eldest wave his arms about imperiously...and then the Toddles caught on.

A couple of weeks ago, the Man was singing the Toddles to sleep with the Sh'ma, when the Toddles sliced his hand down, sternly. The Man stopped, sang again - and the Toddles repeated the gesture. It was the end of verse sign, or sof pasuk. Umm, thanks, said the Man, and tried not to laugh.

Perhaps, then, the minyan needs only one man - and his two sons? Assuming, of course, if it can wait until the boys come of age...

In the midst of bountiful baby-dom, I'm saying goodbye tonight to my Auntie Dor. Great-auntie to me, great-great-auntie to my boys, she left a painful body behind today after a long, full life. She was the energetic, artistic variant on my quieter grandmother, her sister, and I loved her very much.

Recently, she had valve repair surgery on her heart, and the Eldest and I decided to write her letters. Writing letters is a big deal for the Eldest, but he set to with conviction, and wrote a lovely little get-well card. We stuffed in drawings, photos, and sent it off to Australia, where she was delighted to recieve our package. I regret that the Eldest won't remember her, that the Toddles didn't meet her, and that I didn't have more time with her. But I'm glad that she had that much of my boys, and at this time. But I don't regret her death: all in all, she was a wise lady, and knew her moment.

My clearest mental image of her is from when the Eldest was nearly three, and we went to visit her in Melbourne. Auntie Dor, like my grandfather, was a lover of things that grow in the dirt, and she came outside with us to show us her garden. My mental snapshot is of the Eldest holding the door open for her, as she stepped through into a wonderfully green space. Sometimes, I suppose, one must open one's own doors.

Rest well, Auntie.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

the cards have spoken.

After some intense blood orange sorbet and chocolate mousse ice cream at Christina's tonight, we wandered over to Stellabella, where a wise swami person was reading Tarot cards (the Aleister Crowley deck), with wise pointy hat and wise red velvet slippers. Fortified with hot cider, I jumped in.

My question: will the children have good health? This was a rather snarky question because, as the bridal Canadian pointed out, my definition of good health is not quite the norm. And yet. Teh swami cut the deck, I cut the deck, and the three cards were:

Past: something to do with fertility, pleasure (the Empress?)

Present: Princess of Disks

Future: 8 of wands

The swami concluded: the boys have a grounding in fertility, are nutured by a caring person, and have energy and electricity in their future.

Hmm. Also in their present. Not bad Mister Swami, not bad a'tall.

a Big Dig

As some of you may know, the Big Dig is just down the street from me.

I was informed of this by the Eldest, who, pointing to a big hole where a building used to be, told us firmly that this was the Big Dig. Well, it certainly was big, and it was definitely dug. The hole, which used to be a convent (sold by the church after the courts made it apologize), has been a source of fascination for us. What is going to be done with the site? (the Papa) Will it be ugly? (the Mama) Will kids live there? (the Eldest) Will they eat sesame seeds? (the Eldest) Ba? (the Toddles) Will anyone mind that I'm salvaging and hauling away bits of bluestone? (the Mama)

As you can see, we are full of curiosity. To channel some of this fence-peering in more savory ways, we have constructed our own work site: Imperfect City.

It happened one night, when I was desperate to make dinner and entertaining a rare spark of inventiveness. I took blue painter's tape, and laid it down in a number of random-ish patterns. I then invited the boys to run cars along the 'streets,' to build buildings, do a little urban design.

Here's how it went:
vroom, vroom!

The hospital will go here...the post office is here - Mum, write down that this is the post office - the school will go here...the ocean is here, in this part...and this (pointing to the biggest section) is the parking lot.

Hon, you don't have so many people in your city that you need parking lots. They can park in their driveways, or on the street. What about a nice park?

Eyes fixed firmly on the car bin. Nope, we need a really big parking lot.

Some time later....
Okay, so think about it this way: you want about three kinds of space - living space, working space, and playing space. I plant some trees, to demonstrate.

thinks it over. No, I need a really, really big parking lot.

Well, see name of city. What else did I expect?

On the subject of really fabulous imperfection, here is this gem, courtesy of joy.

Monday, December 11, 2006

burgeoning by proxy

Babies abound in my world right now, ranging from the newly arrived to the burgeoning future. Welcome to Adira, to the Peanut, to the new S-K baby (to whom I'm losing one of my favorite lurkers, but what the hell - I'm all about the sacrifice for others), and whee! over rounding tummies (note to self: call sister in law, ask if nausea has abated. If not, stay discreetly out of range). Not myself caught up in the production and management process, I'm nonetheless enjoying this immensely.

And on that note, I found this: a debate is raging as to whether epidurals affect breastfeeding success. The poor epidural, first it's linked to increased chances of c-sections, now to sleepy babies? I remember the gently puzzled look on the face of one of my favorite anasthesiologists, asking, honestly, but why would you want it to hurt? Havers, dear, by no means. But the baggage the poor epidural is acquiring is enough to make anyone think about backing, slowly, away. According to Grandmere, ask a room full of lactation consultants, and they will all say that yes, epidurals are linked to sleepy babies. But do lactation consultants write medical journal articles? Maybe they deputize...

in different news, Frida Bee has arrived in Inman Sq! Yesterday was their first day open, and I was able to browse some wonderful secondhand children's clothing. I scored with a great pair of lined corduroy overalls, plus a lined fleece sweater for the Toddles. Growing at a tremendous rate, he's far outmatched the clothes I set aside from the Eldest. Yikes.

Good to have a place to buy gently used kids' stuff, other than ebay. And the shop is a sweet one...but then, I don't need much of an excuse to visit Inman Sq these days, between 1369 Coffeehouse, Stellabella (the toy store, which is excellent and a Must Avoid - bad for our pretenses to a budget), and of course, Christina's ice cream...All of which will be open Thursday night, in the Shop Inman by Moonlight event. And each year, Christina's resident genius creates chocolate flavors of ice cream for the event. So come Thursday, at about 7pm, you all know where I will be!

In case you were wondering, this chocolating experience will be medicinal. Having survived three nights of lousy, roseola-inspired sleep, we promptly embarked on a trial of cornstarch. The theory being, the allergist said, that children are allergic to the proteins of a food, so a starch wouldn't necessarily have any protein. Let's worry less about exposure, and more about figuring out exactly how strict we need to be, he said. Two nights of a screaming, scratching Toddles later, I looked at the bags under his eyes, compared them to the bags under mine, and slipped him some Benadryl. He slept nicely....until it wore off.

Experiment over. Time for chocolate.

In case anyone is wondering, yes,the boys are currently available for bridal consultations. Having accompanied a certain Canadian on two wedding dress expeditions, they are now able to knowledgeably discuss gauze vs tulle, beading with pearls vs with brilliants, and of course, the ever important corset back.

Yes, for the price of a good, strong cafe au lait (for me), my children will dive in and out of ridiculously expensive dresses, wrap themselves in veils, and play ball with tiaras.

On second thought, make that misto with a shot of scotch.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

the annual toy dilemma - phooey

Somehow, I lack the energy to get het up about the evils of toys. I've condensed this rant to these simple ideas:

toys with batteries tend to be problematic, if not annoying
toys that tell kids how to play with them are problematic
toys that keep kids from using their imaginations are worse than problematic
toys that are really an excuse to have your kid play with them, rather than with you, well, you get the idea.

For those of you who want to see the experts handle this, try this:
Boston Globe and childhood development. For people shopping for boyish boys, I recommend also Mothering magazine's article on violent play, in their November-December 2006 issue. Mothering tends to be aggressively lactivist, arguing passionately about the overly aggressive influence of medicine on childbirth and child rearing, so I expected them simply to recite that violent play is bad, bad, bad. Boy, was I surprised. And even more so to find myself agreeing. Sometimes, even violent playacting serves a necessary purpose. (Did I really say that? No, wait, I did.) I come from a home full of aggressive people, in your face, using their bodies as well as their voices to make a point. I find that overwhelming, disrespectful, and just plain upsetting - leaving me on continual watch for such behavior in my children. And yet.

for anyone else, move on. I say, pick a toy that the kid can use a bunch of ways, that doesn't require batteries, that interests them in the world around them, and then hang around and play with them. Toss in a little eco-sensitivity if you can. Don't throw money (unless it's in the cause of funding my kids' education), throw time at the child, and everybody will walk away happy. Capice?

Right then. If you are wondering, yes, this year Chanuka gifts are coming for the kids - a xylophone for the Toddles, and I still don't know what for the Eldest. (His birthday is coming, so we're going for fairly low-key over Chanuka. Suggestions, anyone?) For the Man, however, I have this (if you are my partner, click here. Anyone else, click here.). Yes, I trade heavily on his good temper and affection. And on my child's food source. self-satisfied pat

And onward we go. I'm finally finished filling out kindergarten application forms (what are my son's expectations for himself? To leap tall buildings in a single bound? And where is Sam the Wise going to school? I'm almost afraid to ask.), the Man and I are settling into our annual wintry budgetary negotiations, and planning the Eldest's fifth birthday party. Limited to five and only five guests, he chose wisely and well. By this I mean, of course, that he chose to invite both of his cousins, saving us some uncomfortable familial discussions.

Plans for the party are to make a sort of stage, have puppet and mask crafts, and give each child a canvas bag to carry their work home with them. Some light snacks and 'performance times' and presto! We have a party. No big heaping pile of gifts, barring those for the present swap - I saw this at another birthday celebration and admired the idea. I'll report as to whether it works or not...

Briefly, however, gDiapering continues well. We've learned the limitations of our toilet (one g but not two in a row), and I'm trying a combination of g-diapers and cloth inserts, thanks to a line of inquiry sparked by Mom in Israel. And NAET is sputtering along. Having done two meridian sessions on the Eldest, we've done an egg treatment for the Toddles, and are moving on to the third treatment tomorrow. Calcium group tomorrow, I believe, including...dairy! As my mother-in-law says, if we don't try it, it certainly won't work for our boys, but there's a serious leap of faith here. Caught between the allopathic (Western) and complementary traditions, I'm hovering: when the Toddles had roseola recently, I consulted both doctors - and gave neither remedy. Of course, with viral illness, one can afford such indecision...and with a corn allergy, who can find a safe ibuprofen or acetaminophen for children? Ridiculous but true.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Shifra, meet Sam

Want to know if it's going to rain? Ask Sam.

Why don't babies talk when they are born? Ask Sam.

How does electricity work? Well, I thought I'd ask you, the Eldest informed me, but I'm going to ask Sam. He knows everything.

My child refuses to bring rainboots to school, unless Sam has confirmed that rain is expected. He trusts to the breadth and wisdom of Sam, and until recently, I was unaware the extent to which Sam was playing guru.

Sam knows everything, I was told. I have a lot of questions and things to learn about the world, and he tells me. pause. I have to ask him how buildings are built, he muses.

perhaps I can help? I ask, tentatively.

Yes, he says. And then I can check with Sam.

Ah. I do think that you know a lot of things, too. I suggest.

The Eldest thinks this over. I told Sam that he knows many more things than I do, and he said that I know many things that he doesn't know, I was informed. But I said that I don't think so, but Sam says it's true, and that's where the conversation ended.


yes. Sam says that I know things, so he is right, so I do.


It's cold outside, I cheerfully informed my offspring. You need mittens.

Said offspring cocked his head, thoughtfully. Did you check with Sam?

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Less dithering, more cheesecake!

And I'm not just saying that because the Man and I watched the third X-Men movie, either. What a waste of a Hugh Jackman movie. On the other hand, I think I said that about the second one, too. Hm.

It's been relatively quiet here at Chez Imperfect. Some snippets:

magid paid me a handsome cab fee: Oregon honey, amazingly scented with blackberry. Wow.

the Toddles picked up a new word: 'ap-puh,' meanig 'apple.' Of course.

the Man had his name put forwards for a beeeeg fency job at the Company. His chances of getting is are a bit questionable, somethign that not at all lessens his tension.

Feeling his tension, my neck and right shoulder spasmed, irritating the Man mightily.

I went to a focus group held by a major manufacturer of a product I care very little about. I pranced around giving opinions, for which I was given some cash and invited not to come back. Darn.

the Eldest is playing tic-tac-toe, Chaturanga and checkers and Monopoly and...just about anything else. And, he's playing by the rules, which is a rather new development. Hitherto, he played games but insisted on changing the rules to suit his plans. This game playing mania is apparently genetic, and he gets it from the Man. From me, he would get a long line of sore losers - an unfortunate mix. But so far, so good.

we had a lovely, quiet shabbat, with guests for lunch - one of our favorite doctors, who brought this economist guy who hangs around, plus the Eldest's intended bride (and her husband). Quiet, convival...although we talked doctor a lot. Do I not have other topics of conversation? Sigh. Maybe not.

We Made a Decision. After a meeting with the director of the Eldest's preschool, in which we discussed temperament and learning style and - especially - the practical aspects of food allergy and hemophilia in a school, we have decided to apply to the pluralist Jewish day school. The director, the Man and I agreed that irrespective of our preferences (we parents are not, after all, the ones going to the school) but with thought to our priorities (we parents are, after all, eating tuna to pay for the school), the pluralist school will suit the Eldest far better than the Orthodox day school.

So, now we fill out applications and financial aid forms. And try not to feel defensive. And have meetings - the director of admissions suggested that we meet with her, the kindergarten teachers, the phys ed teachers, principal, etc to evaluate how (and, alarmingly, if) the Eldest's various medical needs will be met. There's no ADA to invoke here, folks, so we're relying on good will and charm... Bless the director of the Eldest's preschool, who offered to attend this meeting herself, to help the new school understand how the old one manages it. Her presence will make an enormous difference!

But now, here is my latest creation: gluten-free, vegan cheesecake! It was delicious, and I'm astonished.
Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla, Vanilla, Va-Stop That Cheesecake

1 c. amaranth flour
1/2 c. soya powder (not flour, not granules - powder)
1/4 c. potato starch flour
1/4 c. brown rice flour
1 tsp guar gum
1 Tb baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 c. margarine
3/4 c. soy milk

Preheat oven to 425 F.

Combine dry ingredients in a food processor. Mix. Add margarine, pulsing until mixed. With blades whirring, dump in milk. Dough should form after 30 seconds or so.

Press dough into a pie pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Let cool briefly before adding cheesecake mixture. Wash out food processor - you are going to need it for the cheesecake.

1 tub Tofutti cream cheese. (Note: this has small amounts of corn!)
2 Tb lemon juice
1/4 c. dried, shredded coconut (whir in food processor if necessary, to make finely shredded.)
1.5 tsp vanilla powder

Blend all in food processor. Pour into pie crust, bake at 375 F for about 20-22 minutes. Cheesecake will be slightly gelatinous when it comes out, and will firm up in the fridge.

1/2 jar raspberry jam (watch out for corn derivatives here)
1 punnet strawberries
1 punnet blueberries (mostly for backup)

Dump jam into a small pot, and heat. Jam will melt.

Meanwhile, wash the berries. Let them dry as much as you can, then arrange on top of the cheesecake. Give a few to small helpers. Once jam has melted, let it bubble briefly. Then take it off the stove and, using a pastry brush, paint berries with jam, glazing them.

Stick into refrigerator, uncovered, or serve at room temperature. Try not to have thirds, but enjoy it if you do.

Please note the red ribbon. World Aids Day passed us by on December 1st. 98% of the guys with hemophilia who used clotting proteins got HIV/AIDS during our AIDS crisis, from sheer ignorance, willful blindness and stubbornness on the parts of various parties, including the Red Cross (who was just offered a whopping fine for poor management of their blood supply - again). The tragedy was exquisite: this was the first generation of kids with hemophilia who grew up, got married, dreamed of kids...and got coinfected with AIDS and hep C.

But why do I speak of the AIDS Crisis, as if it's a thing over and done? It's not. 40 million people are living with AIDS right now, 2.3 million of them are children. In 2006, according to the UNAIDS annual report, 4.3 million people were infected. Nope, it's not over. Years from now, when I sit down to talk to the Eldest about drinking, drugs and (yes) sex, will this thing be gone?

Somehow, I doubt it. But then again, I'm a medical cynic.