Friday, June 30, 2006

pillow. must. find. pillow.

The bags are packed, some of the food is cooked, and the article - a hideous 1100 words over the planned length - is submitted. This is the glory of being unpaid: when I do not rein myself in, it isn't entirely my problem to deal with. My partner notes, cynically, that I will some day find myself unpaid and responsible for lackadaisackal idiots like myself, but I can only hope that day is long in coming....

and now to bed. Oh, god, bed. Please, please let the baby decide to sleep a little tonight... Tomorrow, I get up at the crack of not-quite dawn to wrangle the kids, tie up details, find veggie sushi to eat on the road, and then, hurrah! head off to loverly New Hampshire, where they are only predicting a 40-50% chance of rain this weekend.

Yes, I packed a raincoat. And a deck of cards. It's our tenth anniversary, and I refuse to be totally squelched by the weather. Worst comes to worst, if it pours we'll just wait the kids out and then play strip poker. (Embarrassed glance at the MIL and FIL.) Or something. But I'll tell you one thing: there will be rose flavored turkish delight. Because, yea, we're like that.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

maternal linguistics

I am the best mama I can be in a cafe. It's one of the truths of my parenting, that my child and I relate best in public, and we're known and admired in a few select (non-seed and nut-serving, soy drink providing) cafes in the area. We go two or three times a week, sit and read books together, perhaps eat a packed snack, and generally reconnect without the press of other Things To Do. I first came to know the saga of Bindy and Blake at a cafe, and I learned about the class bully while sipping a hot, frothy drink. Which was a good thing, since it kept me from marching right out to roar at the kid's mother.

I tell my partner that this is cafe therapy, that it's a time that lets me feel good as a parent and helps me connect with our eldest. Communication with drink in hand, sitting around a teeny, tippy table: somehow the words just work better.

I spend a lot of time talking: when I cook, I often have a small audience. Inevitably, I begin my monologue. "This is a potato - poe-tay-toe. I will wash it with water, and then it will be wet and clean. See? Clean. Now I will cut it and put the pieces into the pot."
Or, "we're going to wash and then cut up the potato. If you hold it under the water and rub, the dirt will come off. Give it to me when you are done, and I'll cut it up."
Even when I'm alone, I can't seem to quite stop talking. Especially when I'm driving and pass a fire truck or construction vehicle. Then, on autopilot, my arm is flung in the appropriate direction and my mouth says, 'Look, boys! it's a [ ].'

Firemen, seeing the outflung arm move, tend to look for the kids in the car, and often smile and wave. I can only hope that, seeing my empty carseats, they are ever so slightly sympathetic? Or at least are driving fast enough that they don't laugh in earshot.

I assume that this is inevitable. I adored teaching, partly because I got to talk so much. I love unfolding the world to my boys with language, teaching them to name, interpret - you get the picture. I talk. They listen - sometimes.

Recently, I was introduced to a pair of perspectives on the subject of maternal chatter, and the lessons that come with it. First up is this:
building an argument , which points out that women have the bulk of the input on childhood linguisitcs, and the values conveyed therein. This is an argument that even the poster doesn't quite believe, and I'm not sure that I do, either. But I like the paradigm shift from winning an argument (argument as competition - think any political discussion here), vs argument as a vehicle for communication and cooperation.

I've discovered that it's easy to hammer my eldest with language, talking endlessly about something so that too often the punishment for a crime is listening to me discuss the act, the implications of the act, and inquiring as to what he plans to do now? To do differently next time? I discovered the power of my voice when I had paused, one time, looked at his blank face and said, "Allow me to rephrase." Horrified, he said, "oh, no, Mummy - don't rephrase!" I grinned slightly, and did.

And while it's easy to look at his stubborn, set little face and tell myself that he's not listening, I now know better. He recently developed a lisp, to his father's intense irritation. I noticed that the lisp was actually a control issue, and carefully explored it. Eventually, he admitted that "th" was a happy, nice sound, while "ss" was an angry sound. So he'd chosen to rework his language to convey his preferred emotion.

I was impressed by the nuance of his understanding, and decided that perhaps my droning voice was more of a verbal club than an invitation for cooperation and, yes, communication. Clearly, the best thing that this chattering mama could do is shut up. And this is what I heard:

(sung by a small boy, happily sitting on the toilet.)
oy oy oy oy oy oy
wish I could have my [unintelligible]
then I could [unintelligible]
but somebody stole it
and they didn't know who my other name was
I didn't like it because it wasn't nice
and so I decedide to say bring me back
My [first name] [hyphenated last name]
And all my days could be a different day
or another one
or in a jail, which no-one has discovered

dinner tonight:
rice pasta with lots of sauteed garlic, a can of tuna and another of salmon, lemon zest, fresh chives and fresh thyme.
roasted veggies

The result: a happy eating boy, an equally happily full set of parents, and one quieter and bemused mama. Night, all.

Monday, June 26, 2006

today, tomorrow

Okay, I accept it. I have cooked the food, I even found a reasonable tapioca bread, thanks to the Gluten-Free Gourmet. I have smiled at my parents and laughed at their jokes, while sternly resisting the urge to wreak bloody havok when told how to manage the boys’ allergies. But I am not dealing – not really.

Last night, pressured and overtired, I arrived at my favorite café, only to find that it had closed five minutes before. A grumpy survey of the local Starbucks showed that they, too, were closing much too early. Article unwritten, the deadline glaring at me, I stomped my way home, where a miserable small person was explaining to his father that he really, really needed some nai-nais. I nursed the small person, stroked the frizzing red hair, and tried not to think about my article.

Eventually, I gave the little body, by then sodden with sleep, back to his father. And it all came rushing in and I couldn’t breathe. Gasping for air, I paced the floor of our living-area, feeling the weight of my family’s needs pressing on me, my partner’s needs, my sons’ – and finally, my own. Eventually my breath regained it’s rhythm, and I sat, staring blankly at the floor. I felt oh so fragile, so carefully balanced, and utterly without the resilience that I rely on.

How is this going to work? I’m pressed between what I must do and what I insist on doing. And all of it must be somehow compressed so that I can also have some space for myself. Today there is no balance. Tomorrow?

Tomorrow: still fragile, and avoiding it by snarling at the child, who helpfully exploded a toy filled with liquid and millions of small beads. Just missed the vein when trying to do factor, but the nurse was there and rescued the situation. Silly woman - I actually do know better than to use a needle when I'm hovering on the edge. Ignored a tired baby while stuffing things into a bag, then picked up the furious infant and cuddled him, while racing for the door.

Escaping the house and having a rampage through Target (diapers and paper goods, ahoy!) helped immensely. As did reintroducing dairy to my diet. The doc said go slowly, but before I knew it, I'd downed two chai lattes with skim milk, and finished off the day with a salmon and brie sandwich on rice bread, courtesy of O'Naturals. Am now fretting that the bread may have had eggs, which will obscure a true test of the babe's ability to tolerate the dairy in my milk. But, oh, to have brie again....and lo, it was good. Even therapeutic?

Friday night: the Mater provided a tomato-olive chicken with a lemon basmati rice. Yum. It was so good that I forgot to serve my side of ginger-garlic sauteed spinach. Luckily, it was good cold the next day.
Sabbath lunch: chili-lime corn salad, pomegranate chicken (oooh), plain rice, roasted asparagus (ho, hum).
The great gustatory discovery? Tapioca bread and the happy reprise of corn muffins with cherries.
dykewife, my apologies - I answered your question in the comments section of the previous post. Lazy of me, I know. And alas, no, I'm not in the market for a set of fact, my partner is trying to persuade me to shed some of what we have, given our restrictions. He is sure that we don't need our dairy set of pots and dishes anymore, and should craig's list 'em, or at least box them up and stick them in the basement, as a memory of things past. More fool him, if he thinks he's touching my dairy set - those pots are the only good ones we have, and here they stay. If only for the sake of principle.

Monday, June 19, 2006

with cat-like tread

I am not here. You do not hear me (especially as I clear away the dinner dishes). You do not see me. Whatever you do, do not come down the stairs.

Sigh. If only the whole Jedi mind thing actually worked. If only I were a Jedi. Now that is a fun job description! Beats the heck out of 'homemaker,' which I staunchly refuse to write on forms.

Yes, I'm hiding in my own house. Having whipped up a dinner for a somewhat unexpected guest (whencefor the family calendar, eh?), I'd escaped to a cafe to finish the research for an article I'm writing, said article having an alarmingly close deadline. I arrived at the cafe, contemplated the amount of sugar syrup needed in an iced coffee with soy milk rather than dairy, and whizzed through the last of my research. But of course, when I flipped open my laptop, it had a nice big red 'X' over the battery icon. I had twelve minutes of power left and no power cord. So I slunk home, trying to salvage the evening by calling some much neglected friends and leaving messages on their slightly less neglected answering machines.

And now I hide. From my children, my partner (who knows that I'm here, but there's principle involved) and from typing up the rest of my notes for this article, which is sufficiently boring to make me flee to an otherwise unentertaining environment. But now I'm back, and even the dinner dishes are starting to look intriguing...

The article is actually (I'm trying to persuade myself here, so bear with me) one I'm rather passionate about. It's part of my 'take control' series of articles, as I've quietly labelled them. The first was about managing ERs, especially around July, when teaching hospitals have major staff turnover. Then there was one about managing painful procedures. This last (I think it's the last) is about managing hospital stays. I used to be the queen of hospital stays, second only to the cancer and transplant moms. We had a bag packed, full of carefully chosen goodies (including some for me) and useful objects, which lived at the back of the closet. When the time came, we'd grab it, toss in three changes of clothes and head off. Badda bing, badda boom.

But as the child got older, the complexities of hospital visits grew. It was no longer enough for him just to be where I was, as he felt more keenly the interruption of routine, the loss of familiar sights and especially, home. And then there was the time when he had what I can only describe as post traumatic stress. We gt home from the hospital after a particularly difficult stay, and the next morning the child just sat on the futon for most of the day, thumb plugged firmly in his mouth. He was too focussed on his own inner tape to eat, sleep, even watch TV. All he wanted was to be cuddled. After a couple of years of fairly smooth hospital to-ing and fro-ing, I was knocked flat by this. I called one of the hospital chaplains, now a friend, and she talked me through it. Ten days later, the child felt ready to reemerge from his little huddled ball, but I felt irrevoccably changed. My respect for him and awareness of his needs had exploded, to reinvent itself more complexly, and I hope, thoughtfully.

Whoops - look at that. I just might have talked myself back into getting the slog work done, so that I do the fun part and actually write. Oh, thank heavens.

dinner tonight:
maple-grapefruit salmon (needed fresh ginger), broiled
leftover buckwheat garden salad
leftover soybean pasta
arepas (thanks to M.H., who walked me through the international aisle at our local supermarket)
tomato-peach salsa
dessert: leftover ginger pear sorbet, homegrown strawberries. Hmm. Maybe I really *am* Martha Stewart? @$%!&* ahem, phooey.

conclusions: salsa was pretty good, but really needed a riper peach. And the arepas have promise, but I need to figure out a way to make them less oily (more baked, less fried - happy medium?) I might try the arepas again and use them as thick tortillas....hmm.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

and the verdict is?

Anaphylactic to wheat. Moderate to barley. Allergic (to unknown degree) to rye and oats. Unless the test overstates the matter, which the bloodwork is often wont to do. Even so, the numbers I see indicate something, though we may not know exactly what the implications of that something are...

Sigh. When even the tests are hard to interpret, how do you know what you are really dealing with?

Came downstairs this morning and stared at the birdseed. It looked an awful lot like it had wheat. After preschool, took both boys to the pet store (and took all four EpiPen Jrs). Yup. Every brand of birdseed for parakeets has wheat, and some also have sesame and nuts. And peanuts. Sigh. Now what? Bought some millet and went home, where I called a couple of avian vets. Got the pet store to swear that they'd arrange a good adoption should we be, in the Mater's words, trying to fit a round peg into a square hole. (Or rather, a standard peg into a hole characterize by several standard deviations from the norm - did I get that right, jgfellow?) Vacuumed for 45 minutes, terrorizing the baby, and scrubbed the bird's cage. Tossed the birdseed down the garbage disposal, taking a certain dark pleasure in holding the switch to 'ON.'

I have moved past the stage where I holler things like "what the freaking hell" and "holy mother of god!" (yes, some Jews swear in Christian), and am now a bit numb. I have no idea how life works without the major grains. Even my allergy groups, replete as they are with other veteran mums, is now silent, awed by my sons' allergic range. They offer much empathy and few solutions. But I can tell you this: we've rented a carpet cleaner, and the carpet under our dining table is now soggy and has pretensions at cleanliness. Next up: the car, complete with pretzel fragments.
Here's what worked this week:

from the Kitchen Garden, a non-waldorf salad, minus blue cheese and with apples, cauliflower, sunflower seeds and fresh thyme and lemon zest. Yum, said the grown-ups. No thank you, said the eldest.

from the Lactose-Free Family, a wild rice, green bean and canned salmon salad in a vinaigrette dressing. Made a huge quantity. Again, yum! said the grown-ups. Um, not so very much, thanks, said the kid.

from the Boston Parent's Paper, a soy-maple-ginger chicken. Hooray, said we all! Yippee, said the married-to-a-vegetarian, who'd escaped for the night.

My thanks to the Tuesday playgroup for being guinea pigs, and to the ever determined magid, who watched me incoherently eat sushi last night, reminded me of meatloaf, as well as raising the intriguing possibility of dessert-ish spring rolls. (With mango and apple and mint, I think. Possibly also lemon zest? pineapple?) I can only hope that the fog will lift onto a world whose rules I understand. But first, this week's painful attempt at making challah.

In the loosest sense of the word...

Think allergies are all gloom and doom? Try this for a giggle. I'm dying to get one!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

tremble ye mortals

I have no ibuprofen. How can I have no ibuprofen? mumble grumble... ah, bugrit.

at least now I know why I really, really wanted the whole bag of those mesquite potato chips yesterday. And why today I am fighting the urge to look at my home and think: this is my domain. The rest of you lot, you are here upon sufferance.

Tread lightly, ye mortals, for today the Mama does not.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

not that we're pressuring you...

Courtesy of the Mater, here is this: Breastfeed or Else, by Roni Rabin, in the June 13 2006 NY Times, health section.

Intriguing things to note: the article's semi-bored style, the non-breastfeeding woman (a professor) vs the breastfeeding woman (a stay at home mother of three). The article aimed to be balanced, but fell flat instead, having sucked all of the tension out of the issue, leaving just, well, blah.


Frankly I'm bored with the issue. I breastfeed my kids. Everybody knows that this is the better option, for whatever the reason du jour happens to be. The best argument against it is "I couldn't," which the wary knows does not invite any questioning as to whether there's a physiological problem (breast surgery?) or educational gap (lack of support?). Just walk away. Those of us who do manage to breastfeed in our society do so in an environment where doctors quietly whisper ya know, ya really should... but society either ignores or frowns upon you. We are the few, the proud, the blah blah blah. What we really are is deviant. D'you see any happy breastfeeding ads on TV? I don't, and I'm pretty sure it's not because I TiVo.

Breastfeeding is harder than it should be. Guilt is all too easy. Ya know what? That's parenting, writ small. Note the microcosm, folks and either do something about it or move on. This article does nothing more than recap the old, tired situation, and I for one am going to bed.

Where, by the way, I will nurse my nine month old - mostly because it just plain feels good to snuggle with him.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

eight months already? um, no.

About a half hour ago, the baby turned nine months. So, belatedly and somewhat briefly, here’s the eight month scoop:

The Baby
Ah, the baby. Where to begin? Let’s start with food:

Feeding this child is one of the great pleasures of my day. He loves to eat! We’re moving very slowly with the introduction of new foods, so to date he has: apples, plums, pears, bananas and we’re in the midst of carrots. We had tried wheat and oats, via Cheerios, but the child appears to be anaphylactically allergic to wheat, so there went that. I have hopes for the oats, though, and the results of the tests for various grains are due back this coming week. Eeep.

Even so, I do love feeding him. His eyebrows knit over the first bite, then rise with pleased surprise. He pounds an imperious little hand on the tray when he wishes to be fed again, and occasionally insists on taking charge of the spoon himself. Eventually, the spoon will be held over the side of the tray, until the point in time when it is gently, thoughtfully dropped. He looks calmly over the edge of the tray, observing the spoon on the floor. Yes, gravity is still switched on.

This has been a good month for the gross motor skills: crawling has gained speed, and he’s settling on a commando-style crawl, with one knee bent and the other leg straight, for an extra oomph of power. He’s happy to crawl, but does spend a good chunk of time experimenting with the possibilities afforded him by standing. Cruising (walking holding on to things) is not confident, but he does move along nicely. Still, he’d much rather walk holding on to my hands, to the harmonious accompaniment of my screeching back. It is one of the minor tragedies of my eldest’s life that we will not let him help the baby walk – nor will we let him roughhouse with the babes, yank away toys….ahh, the cruelties of parents.

A couple more small things: the babes can turn a page handily, even enthusiastically and I often have slightly squashed fingers, when I don’t whisk them out of the way in time. He’s got a rainbow of babbled sounds, and is now responding to some hand signs, such as ‘come’ or ‘more.’ And he has a deep fascination with the washing machine. It’s a front loader, and he stands and holds on to the door while the wash swishes around. He pats it gently, and occasionally says something inquiring.

The Eldest
All is well in the child’s world, as the recent teacher evaluation from his preschool says. Apparently, according to his teachers (warning: parental bragging ahead!), this child not only lights up the classroom, he “brings a whole light show.” Happy warm fuzzies are mine, and I’ll do my best to hang onto that memory the next time he’s shrieking at his brother.

This has been a fairly good medical month for him, with a knee bleed and possible psoas-illiac bleed, but all handled smoothly and at home. We did have an impressive set of hives from a cross-contaminated rice cake (sesame!), and I was introduced to hives so large that a single one can cover the child’s shoulder. Yowza.

He’s still flirting with writing, which has more kinetic interest than reading. He wrote his first letter to his great grandmother (happy 89th, Bomski!), an epic of about four sentences. He adores spelling games, in which we sound out words and he writes the letters down, as he demonstrated on Friday, when he wrote out a list of things he’d need for Sunday’s lemonade stand. (He’s planning on selling lemonade to raise money for Children’s Hospital – more on that in a future post.)

He’s also having a rather practical introduction to philanthropy, as we write thank you letters to our marathon donors, and he learns about earning money to give to the hospital. Again, more on this in a future post. Suffice to say that I’m excited and very proud.

The Mama and the Papa
My partner’s blog has been moving along steadily, despite his recent shift from working one job to juggling two. For the same paycheck, mind you. It seems that some number cruncher over in California scarpered off, and the desperate execs at his company looked for a reasonably responsible person to take over. To no surprise of mine, they appointed my man, and invited him to do double the work for the same pay. Not lacking in a sense of his own worth, he nonetheless agreed. This has lead to some late days at the office, some working nights, but largely our family has been unaffected by this shift, although I do decline to check my partner’s blood pressure, lest my illusions be crushed.

On Friday, the eldest and I picked out a pedometer from the $1 bin at Target. The child ran happily around the house, occasionally lifting his shirt to nipple height and asking me to check his numbers for him. I have pleasant fantasies of father and son marching along together, talking numerical order and comparing the relative accuracy of their devices. (Like I said, it’s a fantasy.)

As for me, well, I read Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark, which was lovely. Beautiful writing, really strong plot. I highly recommend it. When not reading, I met with my dissertation committee and tentatively discussed starting work on the dissertation again next year. Oddly enough, the best way to do this seems to be to withdraw officially from the program... I gave a talk about, well, my family to over 90 people at the fundraising arm of our local hospital. Yikes. And I’ve gone from being scary mama to being reasonably functional mama. Or at least so I like to think.

This wheat business has really thrown me for a loop, though. I was looking around my house and thinking about wheat today: nevermind that the stuff is in everything, flour is a powder. Which means it could be freakin’ anywhere. Fighting an urge to do a passover cleaning on the apartment, I took the baby to Café Zing, my favorite hangout (it’s in a bookstore and they have an aztec hot cocoa made from a kosher mix, how can it be bad?) and then started getting twitchy about the crumbs on the floor. There is a way to balance the baby’s allergy with my own needs, I just know it – but right now I’m scrambling to figure it out. And as my partner said tonight, the walls are closing in a bit.

Maybe they’d close in a bit less if my wheat/spelt-free breads weren’t so lousy. Maybe not. Either way, tomorrow (today? oy) is our early Father’s Day, and my partner’s escaping our narrowing walls for a ten mile jaunt. And once he’s done, the kid and I are off to sell lemonade and iced tea to people along the Charles River (if we can find a spot!), as they watch the dragon boat festival. If you are out there tomorrow, call my cell and I’ll tell you where we are. The lemonade’s organic, the tea’s Earl Grey Lavender, the kid’s disarmingly cute and the proceeds will go to the local children’s hospital. Come on down!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

binge and purge

Today was the official beginning of the end of the anticlimax to the baby's anaphylaxis. We went to the allergist, who did a bunch of tests and muttered some things, and we'll have precise information in about a week, yadda yadda, but truly the ending has come in with a quiet thought, rather than a medical flurry.

There's two types of fall-out from an event like this: emotional and practical. The practical is, relatively speaking, the easy part, where we toss out whatever the allergen du jour is and I spend twice our food budget in trying to figure out how to feed us. The emotional, however, depends on who is doing it. I'm an easy one: I hold it together under fire, act cool and calm, and collapse emotionally a day or two after the whole thing is over. Then, the day before and after we have clinic (the medical post-game analysis and official diagnosis because, really, what do the the ER people know, anyway?) I look for things to be grumpy about. Little things, silly things, and I'll even admit out loud that I'm doing this as a way to redirect the impossibility of having to adapt. Again.

Because initial results tell us that the baby's allergic to wheat, although he might not be allergic to dairy. But he may be sensitive also to rye, barley, oats and spelt....sigh. This is a brave new world, and I really, really want a word with the management.

We all received the news in our own ways: my partner was calm, even unmoved, allowing him to be gently surprised at my distress. He saves his outburst for his parents, while I save mine for him. Mostly. My eldest wailed about wanting to eat wheat (he misses his pretzels). I empathised, cuddled, problem solved, explained. He paused, considered, then wailed again. After some thought, I tried a different tack: You want wheat? Me, I want peanut butter. Surprised, he mulled over the idea that one could desire such a food, and was enormously entertained by the idea of his father’s secret peanut buttery life at the office. And the baby shone his delighted smile upon us all, as if to remind us that wheat or no wheat, this is but the details of who he is, and wasn’t it minor in light of the wonder of the rest?

Um, sure.

At any rate, today's 'day after' experience has been brought to you (me?) by the comment: I should’ve guessed.

For instance: I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that this happened on a playdate: my eldest's first anaphylaxis was on a playdate, too, and his playmate went from being unnerved by the experience to excitedly telling her deeply religious grandparents about the "fire truck" that came to her house. Except that she couldn't pronounce the "tr" sound and habitually replaced it with an "f" sound. Her mother had to hide in the kitchen, weeping with laughter, when she heard her daughter telling the story. Which is one of the things about this woman that kept us coming back for playdates.

I should’ve guessed that wheat was lurking somewhere in my future. My eldest was initially nicknamed "peanut," and then we learned that he was allergic to peanuts. We then started calling him "pumpkin," and he then developed an allergy to pumpkins. And other associated gourds (must've been a slow week). My partner now calls him "potato," which frankly seems like asking for trouble. So yes, Murphy's Law is well embedded in our family's workings. So when I started using wheat and egg to defuse the pitying look and the 'but how do you manage?' You think dairy is tough, I'd ask, consider wheat! Consider egg! Those are in pretty much everything, I'd point out, and the other person would pause to consider. Ohhh, they'd say, marvelling at the limitations of those other people with wheat and egg issues. That's got to be tough, they'd tell me. I'd nod. Yup, I should’ve guessed that wheat and egg were headed my way.

I should’ve guessed that my sons were going to connect in some way. Before the baby was born, I felt mildly smug about the possibility of his having hemophilia. The genetic dice having already been cast, I knew that a second child with hemophilia would offer the boys a wonderful bond. It never occurred to me that allergies were going to offer that connection. I should’ve guessed. Of course, I think I'd have preferred the hemophilia - at least you can treat preventatively for that! I should’ve guessed that if the baby was going to have allergies, that he would pick something new and different. To go with the red hair, I suppose. Well, babes, I get the point: you are not your brother. Now, could we try a little conformity?

Actually, I have a feeling that the boys got together somewhere, sometime and sat down with a little list. Here's how I think this went:
I'll take the nuts.
Okay, then I want dairy.
Nooo, I want dairy! (muffled scuffling)
I'm taking sesame.
Hmm. Okay. I'll take eggs, then.
Oh, eggs is a big one. If you have eggs then I, um, want gourds and

Okay, but only if I can have wheat.

However it went down, here we are. The baby was wonderful at the clinic, and didn't cry over either the skin prick testing or the blood draw. I was astonished and grateful, given the older and carefully watching brother. I had no desire to see the elder sib's protectiveness challenged, nor have him disturbed by the realization that perhaps blood draws might be a cause for distress. Nope, it all went smoothly, even wonderfully - right down to the sweet kid who spoke delighted Spanish to the baby and tried to give him a little white bear.

And so we're awaiting final results, but knowing enough to begin the purge. Wheat products going cheap at my house, folks - come early for the best selection! Anything unopened will get donated, as per our babysitter's suggestion. And, to the ongoing horror of my number crunching man, our food budget will now gasp under the burden of figuring out how to live a wheat-free life... with flour at 2.50 for 2 pounds. Oy. And breads with ingredients like xantham gum and gelatin. Oy again. How did I go from living the simple life to living it with additives? Guess I should’ve guessed....

Monday, June 05, 2006

a quick giggle

Driving on Rt 1A on Monday, somewhere between Hamilton and Wenham, I saw this sign:

Myopia Hunt Club

I laughed so hard that my sides ached.

(sorry, man.)

Sunday, June 04, 2006

menus and maternal musings (but no cheesecake)

(note: avoid alliterative titles in the future. Too darned cute.)

In response to some queries, here was our Shavuot menu. It was successfully nut, seed, dairy, egg, wheat, bean and squash-free.

Thursday dinner:
spelt challah
picadillo (turkey-based)
green beans
spice cookies (barley flour)

Friday lunch:
fed by the culiarily resourceful magid, we provided spelt challah, and feasted on a
roast mango chicken salad (with vinaigrette, rather than mayonnaise)
roasted eggplant
fruit crumble (although I happily ate chicken salad for dessert)

Friday dinner:
spelt challah
green salad
Indian spiced salmon, a la Alton Brown (thanks, Brownie!)
potato salad with green beans, green olives and roasted tinned artichokes and onion
curried tofu in coconut milk
blueberry pie (with a rye crust)
Persian rose water rice cookies (bleh. No rose flavour to them, a real disappointment.)

Shabbat lunch:
spelt challah
2 salsas, one with cilantro & peaches, the other a classic tomato minus jalapenos
soy-maple-ginger chicken
lime corn salad
green salad
fruit, pear-berry crumble

Saturday dinner:
leftovers, also known as the time in which we collapse and hold our aching tummies.

All told, this was almost too much of a good thing! Outstanding dishes were: the corn salad, the blueberry pie, potato salad, magid's chicken salad (especially when mixed with the eggplant!). Dishes that hold promise: the spice cookies (I used a mix of spelt and barley flour on them. They're better with just barley flour), and Brown's salmon, which was baked instead of broiled. Probably better broiled. And the challah was lighter and whiter with the VitaSpelt flour than the Arrowhead Mills spelt flour. Not that I care about the colour, but the difference is striking.

Conclusions: yum. I won't be able to eat for a week.

Guestage was wonderful, with a lovely array of dear ones and people we just don't see enough, all happy to hang out, eat voraciously and play with small children. One of these guests was the baby's "play partner," as she described herself last week: a person who began as a babysitter and has become a friend. Babysitters and child care professionals are a tricky category for a mama, as they are professional parental substitutes, which means they've much less likely to have shrieked at a child for no reason whatsoever, beyond his unlucky presence in your moment of crisis. Or at least, one hopes not.

Our caregiver is remarkably honest, and admits to me that she knows that parenting is very different than caregiving for a limited number of hours per week. It's like grandparenting without the high sugar quotient and a sheepskin: you play, you enjoy, and you avoid losing your temper over silly little things, knowing that you get to hand the kids back. I'm deeply grateful for her honesty, although I maintain the sneaking suspicion that she'd probably make a better parent than me, most days.

So one Shavuot night, she and I sat on the kitchen floor while I nursed the baby to sleep, and we talked. I told her about my eldest's adjustment and concerns after the baby's anaphylaxis. We brainstormed about ideas for helping him. We talked about communication and teaching kids honesty (my son had told an untruth about something minor earlier, and he and I had worked through that) and of course, talked about food. Long after the baby was snoring at the breast, she told me that she admires my parenting, my calm and communication with my sons and partner, my.....oy. I shriveled inside. I remembered roaring at my son countless times, and how even a subdued roar now triggers an intense response from him, so primed is he to respond to my ire. And I remembered this:

The child had knocked over a bowl of rice (I patiently helped him clean up), spilled his drink (I almost calmly handed him a towel), neglected to pick up several small toys which were painful underfoot, and finally slammed the door to the room where the baby was sleeping. When he hollered down the stairs, I finally snapped. I had just spoken to him about shouting down the stairs while the baby slept...and I seized my opportunity. I ordered him to his room, ignoring his rather sensible explanation ("but I called down the stairs because I didn't want to go down and I wanted you to hear me"), and growled that I'd be back after five minutes. Righteously, I stomped down the stairs.

A few minutes later, having caught my breath and my temper, I left the baby with my partner and went into the child's room. I found him reading a Dr. Seuss book on his bed.
Oh, I said, you are reading. That looks nice - why don't I go and get my
book, and we can sit and read together.
You are talking to me in a different voice, he said thoughtfully. You
aren't the angry scary Mummy now, are you?
I resisted the urge to pour out apologies and excuses, kissed him and went to fetch my book.

It's the reality of his world: the all-powerful adults who care for him can also be the most frightening creatures imaginable. I remember when he was two, and I roared at him for something. He froze, burst into tears, and rushed to cling to my legs. Even though I was the source of his distress, I was also his place of safety and ultimate comfort. The combination of the two roles flattened me.

It astonishes me how sensitive he is to my moods, and how easy it is to set him up to respond in anticipation of my emotional spillage. I know that he is a resilient kid, but he's also so easily moulded, psychologically, that it frightens me a bit. What an enormous responsibility to nurture this person, to not break or at least bend him irretrievably! Inevitably, I will fail somehow, if only to give him some angst to use when he's a teenager. So, while I'm tempted to bask in the praise of our caregiver, I think instead I will rest comfortably in this reality: this week, I parented well more than I parented badly. Sometimes I was even proud of my parenting. And that will just have to do me.

Note to the reader: this is not a plea to have my maternal ego massaged. Feet, yes - ego, no.