Monday, October 30, 2006

dancing on the edge

The toddles now has teeth. Three on top, with the MIL's sweet gap, and three on the bottom. This is of tremendous fascination to him, and he'll spend much happy time gnawing on apples, bell pepper sticks, and of course, chalk. With the teeth, however, comes certain shall we say complications to our role as mother and nursling.

Yup, the kid bites. Not fiercely, not angrily, but meditatively, at the end of a nursing/snuggle, or sleepily, holding on to his Comfort Thing, or even playfully, knowing that when he does this the mama yelps and glares most amusingly.

But then the mama takes away the Comfort Thing, which is not amusing.

So, for the past week, the toddles and I have been practicing dismounts. He is learning that biting means a sharp, unhappy ending to our snuggle, and is increasingly annoyed by the finger near his mouth, held ready to slide protectively between his jaws. He knows what that finger means, and he's latching on, sucking briefly, then carefully sliding off the breast, warily eyeing the Finger of Doom.

Temporarily, then, a sense of tension and urgency has entered our nursing times, flickering through us, each of us wary of the other, but trying to relax back into our old ease. This, too, will pass. But it reminds me of the early days of nursing, this thrumming tension.

Nursing a child in the first month is work. It's teaching the child how to suckle, it's relearning the process yourself. Eventually, you look up to realize that it's comfort, it's relaxing, even nurturing. But first, there's work.

And need. The newborn's need for the breast is unlike that of a four or five month old. Secure in the knowledge that the Comfort Thing(s) is in there, the older baby will pat or pull at mama's shirt, while the newborn is all fierce need. Watching my boys' lunge for the breast used to remind me of my college fencing teacher. You commit to the moment, she said, you let everything else fall away and see only the target, the motion...and you go.

Breastfeeding the boys has never been wholly simple for me. My list of motivations is long. I nurse the Toddles now, aware that his limited diet is worryingly unbalanced, and that my milk is both protecting his system and balancing his nutritional intake. I nursed the Eldest, aware of the sanctuary I was providing, and cheered on by our nurses, who could find a tiny vein with ease while he nursed - and the nursing would nearly eliminate the pain of the needle. He got a lot of infusions of his clotting proteins while nursing and napping at the breast, and sometimes didn't even wake up.

That one's scientifically proven, folks. If you are nursing a baby, nurse them during innoculations and all invasive procedures - it reduces the physical experience of pain for the baby, and makes the whole thing easier for everybody. Except, possibly, for stubborn nurses who insist on poking and prodding a child on the examining table. But in a question of child's pain vs. medical convenience, well. How else?

But how different is that from the mother who stops into day care on her lunch break, to nurse the child? Forget the nutritional element, the biochemical need, the philosophy. She's lactating her way to a stronger connection with her child, using her breasts to pave the way to a moment of bonding, in the midst of an institution that is temporarily offering to replace her. Can you do that with a bottle? Sure, but your body won't force you to.

No, nursing is never simple. It's as tangled as everything else: gentle, fierce, nurturing, and occasionally sharp. And loving, even when you begrudge the 3am feeding, the 5.15 am demand for a cuddle with extras. But what sticks in my mind is the lactation consultant at our children's hospital, who when faced with a terrified me and a tiny Eldest, dripping in looping, messy tubes, simply swept them all aside, making a small space.

For, well, us.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

what the Eldest is thinking about

I do ask your indulgence as I take some time to gather corn allergy materials together - I'm working on a post that has my various resources and responses from companies. In the meantime, a warning: Pampers apparently has a new formulation for one kind of diaper wipe, and this includes DAIRY. Caveat emptor, folks.

Now, then, the Eldest. I spend much time rhapsodizing about the wee toddles, that the Eldest tends to get short shrift in this blog. And a bit in real life, which is one of my chief regrets right now. He's a fascinating, loving little fellow, and I wish I were better able to celebrate that in him these days. Thus, we've been reading together. Thus also my attempt at reviving the 5 minute dinner (see below for a recipe), so that I can spend some time focusing on him after school. My thanks to Auntie A, whose birthday gift gave us some good cafe-mommying time, otherwise known as Love in the Time of the Scarlet Fever. (Hey, it's a good book, thus I can plunder the title for my entertainment. Move on.)

We're reading Mr. Popper's Penguins together, and I'm sad to say that the book is interchangeable in his heart with any number of Mr. Men books. Alas, Roger Hargreaves, you have done us wrong. Sort of. I did have a brief affection for Mr. Bump and Little Miss Busy, but I think I'm over it now. Still, the Eldest persists in his affection for the little books, and Mr. Popper and I will simply wait it out.

But as for visual media, well, our free cable disappeared some months ago. Since, we've consulted our budget, which politely declined to support proper cable, and furthermore suggested that we might want to cancel TiVO, as well. We did so, and the pain has since lessened.

Recently, someone sent this link to a Boston working mothers group that I belong to. The Eldest saw me watching it and was fascinated. This is Dove's latest PSA, folks, and it's wonderful. Coincidentally, it comes just as the Eldest is in love with Five Guys Named Moe's song, I Like 'Em Fat Like That (listen to it here). Courtesy of the SIL-ly, you know. The idea of real beauty, in all of its shapes and sizes being played out before the kiddo is immensely pleasing to me.

Especially, of course, as I'm a fan of this blog, a community written affair celebrating the wrinkles and sags of the mama body. Wouldn't show it to the boy, but happy to lay a bit of groundwork....

So, does the one-on-one thing work? I think it does. So does the more relaxed one-on-two thing, where I'm just occasionally doing dinner things, rather than spending an hour grumping about people needing me for silly things while dinner burns. Relaxed me is good. Relaxed me with just him is also good. But he's still a bit fragile around me, so while I treasure the successes, I know that they don't magically undo a year's worth of snappishness on my part. Still, on Saturday, when I blew a nice vein in his hand, he took it in stride as he used to, working with me, rather than dissolving into tears. The old relationship is there, lurking, evolving.

*****************************recipe time!
Fish Curry (serves 4-6)
adapted from Almost Vegetarian Entertaining, by Diana Shaw
I prepped for this the night before, pre-cutting the potatoes, measuring the spices and it was very fast and very very delicious. The Eldest had seconds, and I had lunch. And I'm making it again tomorrow!

2-3 Tb veg oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 leek (if you have it), chopped and rinsed well
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tb peeled sliced fresh ginger (will mellow in the curry)
2 hot peppers, seeded and sliced (I skipped this)
1 Tb ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (whole)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 large potato, cubed
1 large/2 small sweet potatoes, cubed
1 can diced/crushed tomatoes or 2 fresh, chopped
1.5 cups/1 can light coconut milk
2 Tb fresh lime juice
salt, pepper

1 lb white, firm fleshed fish (I used cheap frozen tilapia, which is mild tasting - worked beautifully)

Heat oil and add onions, leek (if using), garlic, ginger and hot peppers (if using). Saute until onion starts to brown (5 min?), then add spices, excepting salt and pepper. Saute some more, perhaps 8 minutes total. Add potatoes, stirring to coat with spices. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring until they start to turn into sauce - maybe 3 minutes).
(Note: if you use crushed canned tomatoes, this is roughly the same amount of time as if you use diced - the consistency is different in the end result, is all.)
Add coconut milk, lime juice, salt and pepper. Stir. Then add fish. Simmer over med-low heat, perhaps 8 minutes until fish is flaky.

Serve over cooked rice. Note: fish can be replaced with chicken, preferably cut up. Try it and let me know if it works!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

reaching out into the ether...

and getting a big handful of nothing. See below for the response I got from Hain (Earth's Best and half a dozen other organic/granola brands) about 1. what Earth Best products contain corn or corn derivatives, and 2. which are manufactured on shared machinery with products that contain corn or corn derivatives?

Here was their thoughtful response:

Thank you for taking the time to contact us regarding our Earths Best Product.

We strive to maintain the highest quality products and appreciate your patronage.Unfortunately, we currently do not have a product listing of corn free products. The Hain Celestial Group's labeling declares major allergens (peanuts, soybeans, milk, eggs, fish, crustaceans, tree nuts, and wheat) and we follow the U.S. FDA's regulations. In addition, our labeling always declares gluten containing ingredients.

We recognize the serious nature of the allergen issue and we strive to minimize risk. Both major and minor ingredients of all products, as well as all processing procedures and equipment, are closely scrutinized and all potential allergen issues as determined by the Hain Celestial Group are declared on our labeling.We assure you, the consumer, that strict manufacturing processes and procedures are in place and that each manufacturing facility has active allergen control programs.

Thank you for your continued support of The Hain Celestial Group. If we can be of further assistance, please feel free to contact us at 1-800-434-4246, Monday through Friday from 7AM - 5PM Mountain Time.

Consumer Relations

I believe that I learned precisely nothing. When prodded, the lovely folks at Hain offered further communications of nothing. Clearly, their goal was to a. do as little work as possible, and b. cover their legal tushies. Splendid.

This is, alas, par for the course where this sort of communication is concerned. The great exception has been Enzymatics ( who quickly wrote back to let me know that yes, their children's multivitamin is safe for my kids. Of course, when asked if there's anything else manufactured on the same machinery that could cause a problem, they fell ominously silent...

But here's a newsflash for ya: fingerpaint! Contains corn and possibly wheat. Oh yes, and diapers! Some contain cornstarch, which may be why the toddles is scratching his tushie raw, the poor wee man. I'm keeping track of the diapers as responses more or less roll in from the big companies. Post with diaper information is coming up soon..

WARNING: word is out that Pampers reformulated one type of diaper wipe to include dairy. I have not yet confirmed this, but suggest you all use caution. Me, I'm a fan of the 7th Generation diaper wipes, anyway - softest I've ever touched.

Monday, October 23, 2006

women and children omnibus!

In Which There are Tissues

Viruses abound in our world right now. As I type, the man is down the hall, coughing his way through a bedtime story. Having lead the way on our latest and rather ordinary adventure in wellbeing, he reads this story to a febrile Eldest, whose classic strep has turned into the more dramatic scarlet fever, courtesy of what was in fact, bacteria. A young rebel, that one.

Down the hall from them, stubbornly clinging to my mattress (yes, we have bedrails, and no, there are no pillows), is the snot-nosed wee one, snuffling his way through a restless sleep. A thermometer lurks in his future.

And here I sit, stiff-necked and sore, headachy (itchy!!?) and wondering: what happens when the Mama topples over? Taking care of the wee ones, I've been coughed on, used as a tissue, underslept (despite some valiant efforts by the Man) and oh, but the future looks wonky for me, too. Or is that the present?

Ugh. I am going to bed. I am not making plans with magid, I am not finishing Havelok (when, when will it end? and has anyone noticed the patchwork of dialects in the dratted thing? Gives me a headache just reading it). No, no, no, no. Early bedtime tonight. Which is easy, considering that there are no school lunches to prepare, alas. And perhaps with the extra sleep, the thought of two more days straight with this germ-ridden, cranky bunch will actually be manageable.

Mind you, for a germ-ridden gang, they are awfully sweet. But beware the knock-knock jokes. Those'll tip you right over the edge.

In Which We Rename the Babes:

officially toddling now, the babes is outgrowing his tiny self, becoming a lustily moving figure, hands comically mid-air. So it is time to rename him, and so we shall call him....the Toddles. Because so he will be, for the next two years, at which point he'll lose the diaper that creates that comic waddle.

Love that waddle...

Sunday, October 22, 2006

little mouse, little mouse, where have I been?

At lighting stores, actually. We set aside some money ages ago to put some overhead lighting downstairs, and I've been scoping out chandeliers. Mind you, my goal is to put a beautiful chandelier in a narrow room, with a dropped ceiling, and way too much furniture..and have it not look crowded.

Essentially, I'd like a semi-invisible chandelier that would give immense quantities of light (dimmable, of course) so that we could see wee veins easily, while gliding past the problems of the overcrowded room and silly ceiling. Preferably, the chandelier should come with a pre-paid contractor and Candice Olsen. Ya, right.

Here is my top pick for a chandelier: this spare, graceful offering from Hubbardton Forge. And no, it will not fit.

In fact, I'm giving up on the idea entirely, and filing it under 'someday,' and 'in the dream house,' along with an entryway that isn't a stairwell and a kitchen bigger than a large closet. We'll do fine with some plain recessed lighting, and it'll be a cheaper solution. Always good, that.

Where else have I been? Chasing toddlers! The babes is now the toddles, and waddles around, hands raised...and he's gaining speed. So now, in addition to his ability to climb small tables in a single scramble, he can zip around the house, giggling as I follow in hot pursuit. My latest solution: send the Eldest off in pursuit while I try to make things for the hungry masses.

Chasing mice! Our mouse became mice, then mouse again, then mouse upstairs (freaking everybody out), then no mouse, and now mouse again. I'm reserving judgement on the efficacy of the exterminator's work, but at least the quantity of mouse poop has declined significantly. My favorite response to the mouse problem is the Eldest's, of course.

He drew two pictures on his chalkboard. One, was of a mouse, and the other was of a cat. The mouse he circled and put a line through (he's much enamored of 'No Smoking' signs), while the cat he circled, sans line. He explained that, the mouses will see the 'no mouse' sign and leave. If they don't leave, they will see the 'yes cat' sign and run away because they are scared the cats will come.

He might just be right.

Refusing to chase small boys. Yes, refusing. The man and I realized that we were spending an inordinate amount of time curbing the Eldest's tendency to play what we call 'falling down' games. He'd fling himself into the couch from halfway across the room, he'd run and glide, Travolta-like, on his knees and shins, he'd spin wildly and then topple with glee. We'd holler things like, 'don't do that, you could get hurt,' then 'did you hear what I said about falling down games' before finishing with a shriek about not listening and poor choices. Phooey.

We sat the Eldest down and explained that falling down games are now up to him, quietly shuddered about his left knee (a target joint, which means that he bleeds into it rather easily), and called and apologized to the hemophilia nurse practitioner. Who egged us on, telling us that she fully agreed, and we should let him learn his own limits. Especially if it keeps us sane. Sane-er.

I strongly suspect, bye the bye she lives in dire fear of one of her hemophilia-families going ape on her, and the parents simply losing it. She's just so obviously grateful for any signs of compos mentis that she sees in us, that either she thinks we're on the edge or that she sees many who are. Yikes.

...and finally, chasing time! I've begun work on my dissertation again, thanks to a certain stubborn Canadian, who insisted on reminding me that, yes, I have a brain, and maybe I'm sometimes hiding from my own ability to write the dratted diss. Well, she and I have study dates now once a week, and I started re-reading some primary sources, preperatory to writing a new prospectus. My first reading session had me scribbling frantic notes, infuriated at the realization that this random text was useful to me, and I had a conference paper in the makings.

And no time to finish reading the text over the course of the rest of the week, and certainly no time to actually write a hells begotten conference paper! How amazingly infuriating is that.

And how wonderful it is to find that I have a brain, outside of the maternal role, and that it can still fire up and work like that. Must be the partner's grim determination to scrabble up more sleep for me, must be the coffee...and maybe, just maybe, it's that enough brain cells have survived this far to actually do the trick. Gee.
BTW, discovered this blog: The Restricted Gourmet, written by another mother on my food allergy e-group. Let's hear it for defiantly good food! And here's something to add to that thought:

We had an old favorite, German Peasant Soup, which is perfect cold weather food. It is also known around here as Hot Dog Soup, and I'm fairly certain that it answers to both names. Quick, easy, kid-friendly and hearty, this is a great soup.

German Peasant Soup, aka the Hot Dog Soup
1 pkg sausage (we use turkey hot dogs, but the more flavorful the sausage, the better), cut into non-choking hazard pieces
1 Tb caraway seeds
salt, pepper to taste
1 Tb flour of choice (can be omitted)
2 onions, diced
4 potatoes, diced
2-3 Tb olive oil
4 cups water (add more if necessary)

Heat oil, adding caraway seeds. Saute briefly, for 30-60 seconds. Add onion and sausage, sauteeing until onion starts to brown. Add potatoes, water, cook covered for 25 minutes. Add flour to thicken, salt, pepper.

Serve with crusty bread and salad. Serves at least 6.

Tip: cut up the potatoes and sausage the night before, stick them in separate ziploc bags.
Note: freezing this soup works well, though the onion often distintegrates, making for a thicker broth. This is a neat trick if you have a non-onion eating kid, which I do.

Monday, October 16, 2006

taking stock

Today is my birthday.

Part of me wants to sit there and say, I'm thirty-whazzat you say now? The other part is thinking about Yom Kippur, oddly enough.

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I typically step away from the day-long services to sit in a quiet room and have a heart-to-heart with the Big Guy Upstairs. In past years, this has involved a lot of irritated finger shaking on my part, more recently, it's been characterized by some mildly irritated, mostly 'okay, nu, enough already' tones.

This year, alas, I spent Yom Kippur feeding and tending to young people, even when they were meant to be in the hapless care of a babysitting service. (Boston's Best What-Now? I do not think so.) So much for spiritual insight. So much for taking stock of the year.

So, I'll do it now.

Things that Happened in the Past Year:
*my infant turned into a toddler
* I found a gym
* I lost a gym
* I lost weight anyway
* mice arrived and pooped on the floor
* exterminator arrived and less mice poop was found
* I found a gardener, and together we are extracting glass from the garden
* the gardener realized that my garden is just landfill, dumped on the site.
* the gardener gave up on the glass extracting
* I wrote a story
* I promised I wouldn't care what I thought my goals should be, and instead look for what they must be
* I became a drop-out from Famous University X
* I continued work on my dissertation anyway (apparently, being enrolled is an expensive bit of paperwork that makes no difference to a dissertation committee)
* I learned to match my expectations to the size of the (as magid says) small
* I forgot this and became a screeching fishwife mama
* I kicked myself in the butt and tried to remember again
* I watched my ability to focus intently on the Eldest, knowing each quirk and need, disappear.
* I started scraping together some idea of how to parent two in a way that nourishes us all, rather than just getting us through the day. Still scraping.
* I took a job that has me writing about this, in a position dangerously close to being a spokesperson of sorts. (shudder)
* I became independant of our homecare nurses
* I celebrated my partner's independance from the homecare nurses
* I gardened
* I shrieked a lot at the Eldest for not being a mature adult, then remembered that I hadn't eaten all day. Whoops.
* I told my child I was sorry
* I got used to not getting a daily newspaper
* I got used to not having TV, but still missing the newspaper
* the baby started walking
* the baby started signing, 'enough,' 'bye,' 'throw the ball'
* I watched my relationship with the man grow stronger, more nourishing than it has ever been
* I told my child that I was wrong, and watched him learn that this can be okay
* I ran around a lot, then learned to slow down. Still trying to remember that one.

Okay, Big Man, here's the deal. The allergies suck, yes. My head is still spinning with that one. The hemophilia is tricky, true. All of this is manageable. All of this will happen in such a way that we all can laugh at the dinner table, shriek happily on play grounds, chase balls, laugh quietly together in bed, love the baby who wakes us for the third, fourth time that night, and find joy. Happy, silly, bubbling joy.

All of this will happen because I am my children's mother, because he is their father and my partner and because they are simply, absolutely themselves. Together, we can make our world be what we need it to be, and I am proud and damp-eyed at the thought.

But I'm still pissed at You.

simchat torah

In case anyone was wondering, the autumnal Jewish holidays are really, truly, ruly (as we say around here) over. Weekends may now recommence to exist.

Simchat Torah finishes the holiday season with a bang, celebrating the finishing of the year's cycle of torah reading, and starting the cycle again - all in one night and day of dancing, singing, and dangerously delighted flag waving by small people hopped up on sugar. Excellent.

Where we live, there are a couple of options for simchat torah, one is the Hillel at the illustrious local university, known to us as the Shul that Shushes. Not entirely comfortable coexisting with little people (or, as magid calls them, 'smalls'), the Shul that Shushes does. The other option (which we go to) is the Shteble that Thinks It Can. It's an established synagogue, with a thriving egalitarian service and a bumbling along, ten families short of solid, Orthodox service. We go to the Shteble that Thinks It Can because they don't shush kids (with one notable exception), and they involve the kids wherever possible.

Any guesses where we were on Simchat Torah night? Actually, I was home with the babes, who needs some solid focus on sleep training to undo the damage done by the rise of the corn allergy. (sleep, scratch, wake, wail. sleep, scratch, wake, wail. Sigh.) But the Eldest and the man went, to my envy, and stayed. And danced. And sang. And was given a flag, which he came home clutching, tried to put on his pajamas while clutching, made a reasonable argument for going to bed while clutching...

There are few opportunities to watch Jews simply, delightedly celebrating being Jewish. A good Orthodox wedding is a great place for it - there's tons to happy, silly dancing with a lot of jumping around. Simchat Torah is another instance. In this case, the local police closed off the street, banned parking, and the dancers spilled out into the street and filled it with the joy of being us.

The joy of being different, in a society that occasionally remembers that we celebrate that sort of thing. The joy of being an ancient people, still here, still building on our impossibly complex system of laws and faith.

And in the middle of all that, the delighted joy of a small boy who will always be different, always be hedged about by rules and regulations...

...but who can certainly, delightedly dance.

Our thanks to everyone who made this last holiday wonderful - the MIL and FIL, who spent many late nights figuring out how to feed us, and did (splendidly!), magid, who fed us beyond our deserts even as we wandered exhaustedly in and out of the diningroom, the families who came and potlucked with us, oh so carefully...and everyone who danced.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

rabbinic bra-gazing, part II

A reader sent this to me, and it's a pretty good point in response to this grump. Comments are mine, in non-itals:

A reader of your blog might misunderstand the pumping issue on shabbas. (Shabbas = Jewish sabbath)
So here are a few comments FYI:
Generally speaking you can't use an electriic or hand held or even hand express on shabbas.
Electricity is one thing. The malacha
('malacha' means work, which is forbidden on the sabbath) is squeezing (apart from the electricity issue). It can only be done on shabbas if a mother's health is threatened ,especially soon after delivery when she is still considered to be in danger. Later she is not considered to be in Sakanah. (Sakanah = danger)
She can't choose to pump even with a shabbas clock just because of the inconvenience of leaving her guests at the shabbas table to nurse.
The issue of throwing out the milk is to avoid getting hanaah (pleasure) from a labor done on shabbas. I and some rabbis argue that the infant needs the milk so it should be given to him/her. However, I don't think that would hold if there is lots of other breast milk available or if this is a a healthy toddler, for example. So, the health of the baby has to be considered despite the local culture that make a medical equivalent of formula with breast milk. The science indicates that there are risks of formula, especially to the newborn.
It is important to distinguish between newborn or an at risk (allergic family history) baby from another in this discussion.

Right, ho then. Okay, so in the instance being described by the aforementioned rabbinic person, the child is indeed an infant. However, how far from delivery does the mother need to be for her not to be in 'sakanah?' A woman can get mastitis from not pumping, should she pump, for months after delivery - according to my limited understanding. And, yes, while it's one thing to say that an infant's health requires breastmilk, it's another to say that you won't defrost the frozen pumped milk because you want to give them fresh. Or you won't give them formula because you have milk.

Unless, of course, as this commentator points out, your child has allergies, in which case your milk is miles and away safer than formula, thanks to the cushioning immunoglobulins in the breastmilk, easing the passage of potential allergens through the kid's system. (Without these, the immune system could be triggered, creating a response to the foreign proteins, and leaving you with a right PIA.) And unless your child is medically fragile - particularly immunologically speaking - in which case the antibodies in the breastmilk are supporting the immune system. And unless - oh, heavens me, I could go on, but the bottom line is that there are any number of exceptions, and I don't know nearly enough instances of rabbis respecting those exceptions and ruling in favor of protecting the nursing mother-baby relationship.

But I do hope that they are exist. Maybe rabbis are quietly, secretly, ruling to protect the mother, protect the child, and Rabbi Irksome is a lone cog, wailing in the wilderness? Somehow, I'm skeptical. I suspect my skepticism is because these rulings, if they are being made, are quiet. I've never met another young mother who knew that you could use an electric breastpump on shabbat, let alone another who knew that there are circumstances in which you can use the pumped milk for the baby.

Then again, I rarely meet other mothers who don't believe that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt. Or who manage to extract adequate help and support from the sea of well-meaning and improperly educated people available. But that is, perhaps, another story.

Either way, this fellow isn't talking halacha (Judaic law). As I said to Precision Blogger, he's talking marital counseling with the voice of rabbinic authority. Which, in its own way, is worse. You can argue legalistically with a legal ruling. You can't extract the authority from someone who is flapping his mouth...but not overtly exercising his position as a rabbinic figure.

Irritating but true. And there I leave it.
P.S. and in case you guys think the docs have got it right and the rabbis have it wrong, check this out: the latest word on c-sections. Thanks to Doulicia for the write-up. Sigh. We have all so very much to learn, a thought that I find alternately comforting and infuriating.

culinary homerun for the temporally oppressed

Did you make it past that title? The previous fire-breathing post? Well, then, kudos to you.

Peace is insinuating itself into our household, as I slowly remember what it feels like not to want to whack my brother's head against the wall, I accept that yes, the babes is now officially allergic to corn, and prepare to mourn the passing of the strawberry. My articles are written, edited, my very first invoice submitted (ooh, I feel professional!), and I can even giggle over the exhausted man.

For those of you who cannot imagine this, here is a brief clip:
baby: bweaah!
bleary father: (inserts binky)
baby: (spits out binky) bweaahh!
bleary father: (inserts binky)
baby, now truly offended: (spits out binky) BWEAAAAHH!
Now, imagine this going on for a good five minutes, while I wonder why I haven't been called in. Why not? The man was too tired to do anything but repeat the sole action his foggy brain produced as the Appropriate Response to the Situation. Oy.

Yes, now we begin to breathe. And giggle. The Jewish autumnal holidays coming to a short, there is light at the end of my tunnel, and possibly even a chance to install locks on the toilet seats.

The babes has moved into what we call 'gremlin mode,' as he learns to open things and fling them about - or, worse, thoughtfully insert small items into unusual places. From whence, of course, they rarely return. (courtesy of the mice or the babes' imaginative choices? You decide.) He has long since figured out how to climb the stepping stools to either dangle himself by his hands from the bathroom sink, stand proudly on a table, or generally make me gasp and dive. Naturally, the Eldest finds this all wildly amusing, and eggs the kidlet on. Secretly, so do I.

Briefly, then, as I rush off to clean mountains of dishes, assemble school lunch and cook my weight in Succot food, here was tonight's main dish. It assembled in ten minutes flat, and was much too good for what is usually waffle night around here.

Chicken Salad with Lemon and Fennel? What Fennel? Seeds
(adapted from Cooking Light)
serves 2
1.5 Tb olive oil
1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into strips
black pepper
4-5 Tb rice cooking wine
1.5 Tb lemon zest
juice of one lemon (a good juicy one, not a dry one)
.5 tsp fennel seeds
2 crushed cloves of garlic
salad greens
avocado, sliced
dressing: mild vinaigrette, mine was olive oil and rice vinegar, a bit of mustard, honey, curry powder and crushed garlic. Salt and pepper. More oil than vinegar, everything else to taste. (Annoying recipe-writing, but true..)

Dump chicken, salt, pepper into a wok/skillet and stir a bit. Add oil, then heat, sauteeing until chicken is nearly cooked - perhaps 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, sauteeing briefly (1 minute?), then rest of ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, simmer 5 minutes.

Let cool, then toss chicken with greens and avocado and a bit of dressing. Dress lightly - the chicken and its flavorings are the focus here, not the salad dressing.

Results: the salad vanished, and I never got seconds. Yowza.
Note: the fennel seeds disappeared. Didn't really taste them. My suggestion is to consider omitting them entirely, or figure out a way to play them up. Perhaps by adding finely sliced anise/fennel to the salad?
Bonus Recipe!!!

Lemon Crunchies
(slightly adapted from the Kid-Friendly Food Allergy Cookbook, by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger. Loaned to us courtesy of the MIL. Page 157.)
1.25 c. margarine (yes, I really mean it)
1 tsp dry egg replacer (Ener-G Egg replacer worked fine, but the egg replacer is optional)
2 c. sugar
2.5 c. rice flour
1.5 c potato starch
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp powdered vanilla (brutally expensive)
.25 tsp salt
2 c flaked coconut (hard to find allergy friendly)
1 Tb lemon zest
1 c dried cranberries
2 Tb soy milk, more as necessary to achieve correct texture for dough

Using a cake mixer, cream margarine, egg replacer and sugar. In a separate bowl, sift together the rest of the dry ingredients. Add to margarine mixture, mixing until you have a smooth dough - ading soy milk as necessary to achieve this.

Remove from cake mixer and stir in lemon zest and cranberries - by hand.

Heat over to 350 F. Roll cookies into balls, flattening slightly with your palm. Bake 10-20 minutes, depending on size of ball (tsp quantity of dough = 8-10 minutes, larger ball of dough is longer). Cool slightly before moving to a cooling rack.

Note: cookies were a bit crumbly. Next time I think we might try 2 c rice flour and .5 c sorghum. They were, however, delicious and not greasy, as I'd feared. I ate most of the first batch - the lemon zest adds a lively flavor. Delightful!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

get that rabbi out of my bra

I’m almost bored with myself on the subject (how’s that for an attention-getting first sentence?), but I just could not, could not, let this go.

Naturally, someone sent me a link to this beliefnet article
Sigh. Okay, with a leetle spin, you can see that he’s making a good point: nourish the marriage as well as the baby. Yes, that’s important. But he’s also offering a line to the jealous husband (more on that jealousy in a moment), to say that the marriage trumps the baby’s need to breastfeed.

What irks me is that this wolf is wearing halachik (Judaic law) clothing. It is a common misconception among religious Jewish women that either, a. you cannot use an electric breastpump on the Sabbath/jewish holidays or b. if you do use one, you must ‘pump and dump,’ tossing out the milk that you produce, instead of feeding it to the baby. The reasoning behind a. is that using electricity is forbidden on the Sabbath, but b. it’s okay to use electricity because it’s a matter of the mother’s health to pump, as unemptied breasts become engorged breasts, and there is a risk of mastitis (shudder).

But what about c.? C. is the part where we say that the mother should not only pump on the Sabbath with the electric pump, but feed the milk to the baby, because the baby’s health and well-being depend on it, too. Some rabbis have ruled that, based on ‘pikuach nefesh,’ or the preservation of life, that c. is acceptable. More so, where pikuach nefesh is concerned, c. is actually necessary - it's (wait for it) the law. So ruling c. means making a big statement about the significance of breastmilk, and don’t kid yourself – religion’s stance here says a lot about the social positioning of the rabbi in question. The first guy to really give c. credibility was a major rabbinic figure – anyone lesser ruling c. ran the risk of being called a hippie radical. I know of one major rabbinic figure in NY who is considering the halachik witness protection plan because an infuriated lactation consultant lives (and worships) in his area. He has all but admitted to c., but won’t rule publicly – thus the ire.

Okay, so is the marriage more important than the preservation of life? I refer you now to the question of jealousy. And this delightful response to the rabbinic busybody by Armin Brott, an author whose book I happily bought for the partner when we were expecting the Eldest. The father’s adjustment to the baby is a tough one, make no mistake, especially when the mother is breastfeeding. He was sidelined during the wedding, during the pregnancy he was support staff and local punching bag, and now he’s what, the water boy? Yippee ki yi yay. So yes, this will make a man southernly limp – and give him a sense that he’s being badly done by.

If, of course, he’s unprepared to grow up and be a parent. Because, of course, as the mother has long since discovered pre-baby-arrival, babies are ruthless about extracting their due. Get kicked in the liver enough by your unborn child and you come to realize that it’s not all about you, you are just the chauffeur. For fathers, I suspect that the physical reality of having to dramatically shift priorities and foci comes later, and most harshly when the baby is out and all she wants to do is….sleep?

A brief pause here, while we review the significance of sleep. I refer you to this blatant exhibition of greed, with specific reference to item three. Sleep has trumped food in my house, and I've walked away from mouthwatering meals to...dream about them. Oh, ye gods and little diapers, what I wouldn't do for five consecutive hours. No, for four.

Given the immaturity and selfishness of this hypothetical male attitude (and I do respect a good bit of selfishness, don’t get me wrong, even grumping about said selfishness – it’s when you take it out on others that it irks me), I really, really regret this next part: because, of course, the rabbi is right. Marriages do need to be nourished, and when there’s a new baby is when they are most likely to be starved, as well as most likely to be fragile.

What’s that irritating Johnson and Johnson ad? Babies change everything? Okay, they do. Ruthlessly. Let’s summon the echo of my man here and talk numbers: 50% of marriages end in divorce. With kids, the stakes rise, you have less time to communicate, greater need of support – this is the great flaw in having children right off the bat after you pop a ring on each other, because your support systems aren’t fully developed, you haven’t got strong habits of nurturing and caring for each other, solid communication strategies – all of which is going to be hit by Tsunami Baby, so if it’s not strong, it’s toast. Strong just gives you good foundations on which to rebuilt, anyway.

With a baby with a major chronic medical issue, the numbers are worse: 70% of those marriages end in divorce, post-diagnosis. If the stakes go up with a baby, they are high beyond conception with a baby with medical needs. So, okay, here it is: if the marriage survives, it’s because of the foundations you laid before the baby was born, healthy or complex. Especially not because some whiner imposed his needs between the mother and child – not only is that not a great choice, medically speaking, it’s pure idiocy where the lifespan of the marriage is concerned. Trust me that as grudges go, He Made Me Stop Nursing So He Could Get Laid – it’s a doozy. I’d rather send him down the hall with a box of tissues and a magazine, but when you wrap that whine up in religious excuse, who can argue with you?

Apparently not Reb BusyBody's poor wife. Jeez.

Sex is dead in the American bedroom, they say, and oh no! We must resurrect it, apparently even at the cost of the relationship. Oh, no, wait – it was the relationship that we were trying to protect all along. Oh, no, wait – it was the American family. Phooey.

I can only speak for myself here, but post-baby sex? With the man who supported me, the man who stepped up to parent a fragile, complicated child? Who backed me to the hilt through a second pregnancy and VBAC? (I can feel the MIL cringing, so I’ll be a good girl here.) Oh, it’s good. It’s better than it’s ever been, and ooh yes I'll stay awake for that.

Mneh. Words are cheap, navel-gazing words the cheapest of all. I think I’ll just go off and prove it, instead. Again. Heh.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

the mama's wishlist

My apologies to anyone who actually reads this blog, while I take this opportunity to post my birthday wishlist.

The history of the wishlist goes like this:
What on earth made you think that brass dachsunds were a good anniversary gift?
(infuriated shrug)
(infuriated shrugger produces other frustrated gift-givers, all of whom indicate similar irkedness or boredom)
Fine. What do you want me to do?
Create a wishlist. (infuriated shrugger stomps out of the room)

This was three years ago. I have never created a wishlist a. because they seem kind of crass and b. because I don't really tend to crave things. However, with the arrival of the babes, I have discovered that I don't tend to crave things because I have hitherto engaged in commercial happy-happies, and bought moderately priced things first at whim and then (after the Eldest came) at carefully timed whim.

Having said that, I actually have a problem with birthday gifts. I think that giving children lots of presents on their birthday obscures the celebration, turning it into loot-day, thinly excused by it's being a birth-day. In my family, we gave one gift from the family, more or less, and had a nice dinner. Years on, we'd have the obligatory birthday party, but I have no real recollection of presents piling up. Just kids having fun. It's a good way to go, and I'm delighted to say that we just started the babes' college fund, courtesy of the grandparentals. Happy happy, kiddo, here's to your future. How can you beat that?

However (listen carefully here - this is the clever bit) I feel that as a responsible adult, I can probably handle it. Yes, I, as a mature, responsible (did I say 'mature?' snigger) adult (definition of 'adult': person who for some ungodly and probably ill-considered reason is responsible for the health and general well being of others), can handle greed. Er, gifts.

So, anyone actually wanting to read this blog, I suggest that you move on to here or possibly the more disorganized offering here. Anyone else, here we go (in no particular order):

West Elm credit. I've been longing for some of those black, sleek photo ledges to replace a big space hog, and can't quite decide on what length and how least two of them, maybe 3 feet long? maybe one 3 feet and one 2 feet? I'm fairly certain that I could make up my mind if I had the funds, though!

A new Circulon pot, sized for pasta and smaller batch soups. Mine died this past year, and I do miss it so.

a full night's sleep. No, really. Preferably sans the guilt from knowing that the babes will be furiously howling for his favorite snuggle toys. This might require some gentle sleep training first, so a prerequisite would be reading the damned sleep book.

a stick blender. Mine died trying some months back, and we're doing kashrut (laws of kosher) dances trying to use the DE one we've got left. It's complicated, it's occasionally got me mincing. bad things happen when I mince. Stop the mincing!

anything from a spa. Facial, massage, sitting in one of their waiting room chairs and drinking their lemon water.

working wireless internet. My laptop can't find our home wireless network when I'm sitting in the same room. What the hell?

cuddles from small people. Preferably with kisses. Sticky, if possible.

A professional photographer for family photos. I adore those gentle, black and white portraits, capturing people being people, instead of people on display. Besides, the Eldest has conceived of a hideous camera smile, more akin to a rictus. Oy.

Window shades. Ours are vinyl roll ups, and one is missing. Okay, it's not missing - it used to fall on my head whenever I opened or closed it, and finally I gave up on the thing and shoved it in a closet. I'm imagining cream Roman shades, maybe even insulated? Hey, a girl can dream...

Time with dear friends. My week with Auntie A has spoiled me. Now I want to spend quiet time with the Mirrie, R, the Gnome and j.i.c (and baby Ben) and and and.

A romantic, impossibly delicious meal at a kosher restaurant with the partner man (plus babysitter). Will accept that this is not available in Boston. Will grump about the lack of decent restaurants in Boston.

Okay, so this is all way too elaborate for a birthday. Let's try something else:

  • credit at Pandemonium, a store where I'll admittedly be dropping some cash over the next year.
  • credit at Starbucks, because hey, they make a damn good chai. Does Cafe Zing offer gift cards?
  • sushi! Preferably Fugakyu...mmm that sweet potato roll. But not the ikura - search me. And company with which to engage in my gluttony.
  • one night a week off from making dinner. Okay, one night every other week? A certificate for a couple of nights off?
  • backrubs. Foot rubs. Long bubble Where is that man, anyway? Some of this need not wait for a birthday.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the conspiracy blog

There is a conspiracy to make me clean my apartment.

Those who know me will laugh, because I am a neat freak. I tolerate piles of untidiness, confined to baskets, placed in specific corners. If your home is a bit tidier after I leave, well, I do apologize. And I do apologize - often - until the SIL told me, kindly, that she was prepared to tolerate my obvious neurosis. The FIL invited me to stay for a week…

And now we have mice. First one mouse, now two. The Eldest, entranced, spent some time singing ‘come out, come out little mousie’ songs to the pantry, while I grimly collected exterminator phone numbers (from Angie’s List, BTW, a wonderful resource) and chasing the boys around with a dustpan.

Two days later, my kitchen is spotless, my pantry organized into barracks made of plastic or glass, and the floors gleaming. I spent a Martha moment wishing the pantry’s containers all matched, then moved on.

To the dining room. Earlier that day, the Eldest had managed to bonk his head with a childgate. Okay, I’d bonked his head with the gate – I opened it, only to realize that his head was at ankle height (how? when? what the hell?) and bumped his forehead with it. It wasn’t a hard whack, and I managed to overlook that today he has no clotting protein in him. None. For lo, it is Wednesday, and on Wednesdays we assume that the Mama can keep the boy from sufficient harm.


But back to the diningroom, where the Eldest was amusing himself by demanding toll each time I passed while clearing the table. In the kitchen, I heard a swish and a thump, and came back into the diningroom to see the Eldest lying on the ground, the tablecloth hanging down, and a glass shattered around him. He looked shocked – and oddly glittery.

Hold still, I barked, and he burst into tears. I settled him, picked glass out of his hair, vacuumed up the halo of glass shards around him until I was able to let him sit up and climb out of the mess. Twenty minutes later, the glass was vacuumed up (a wonderful thing, the Miele!), the table cloth was removed, and he and I were companiably sitting and washing off the chairs. One by one, he handed me paper towels and I scrubbed his chair, the baby’s chair.

Ouch, he said meditatively, putting a hand to the top of his head. Not, I noted, to the spot where his head had met the gate. Oh, dear.

I called the hematologists to discuss dosages (no head CT necessary, I told them – and made it sound good). There was glass on him, glass around him, I said giddily, but none underneath! Oh, my, said the young doc, you’re going to need to coat the floor in foam for that one. Surprised, I stopped. And then carefully explained that perhaps even this child needs to fall, once in a while?

We agreed that I had to give him points for drama, and I hung up. Walking up to the bath, where the Eldest was complaining of pain in his right hip, I noticed three single sheets of paper towel, laid neatly in a line under the table. It looked like an ellipsis. Oh, I thought, so something is next, is it?

Five minutes later, I was putting the last of my carefully packaged, mouse-resistant pantry items away. I hoisted the last, the sunflower seeds for our bird feeder, an item much adored by the mice, and felt a gentle yet solid rain.

The sunflowers poured down on me, on my stepstool, coating the floor and scattering happily into the next room. Giggling somewhat maniacally, I pulled out the vacuum cleaner again. Five minutes later, the floor was sunflower-free, and I sat on it. Next to me, the vacuum burped happily.

I need chocolate.