Saturday, December 22, 2007

questions and an answer

This has been the week for watching the Eldest's brain tick. The following are the three top questions of the week, as explained by the Eldest himself:

1. Why is it harder for ice to form under bridges, than on the rest of the river?

2. how do bodies make cells and factor?

3. My class got most of the way through this very hard question: who created God?

I had some answers to the first and the second, but the third left me gaping. Without knowing the details of God (how, when, where, etc), the Eldest is nonetheless very clear on one divine aspect, as we see in today's Quote of the Day:

you can't punish me - only God can punish people!

The Man, tired of his role as Human Punching-Bag, was inclined to disagree.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

reading the fine print

Between the car and my flickering, fading cell phone, I'm spending a lot of time reading customer contracts.

Try this, on my cell phone:

Our Right To Suspend Or Terminate Services
We can, without notice, suspend or terminate any Service at any time for any reason, including, but not limited to: (a) late payment; (b) exceeding an Account Spending Limit (“ASL”); (c) harassing/threatening our employees or agents; (d) providing false information; (e) interfering with our operations; (f) using/suspicion of using Services in any manner restricted by or inconsistent with the Agreement; (g) breaching the Agreement, including our Policies; (h) providing false, inaccurate, dated or unverifiable identification or credit information, or becoming insolvent or bankrupt; (i) modifying a Device from its manufacturer specifications; or (j) if we believe the action protects our interests, any customer’s interests or our network.

Translation? Tick us off in any way, and we will take revenge. Remind me not to graffiti any cell towers, hm?

Or try this, on the insurance assessment of our poor car:
car is not driveable, suggesting tow to nearest facility for repair.

Well, now, that seems sensible. But it made the tow guy laugh: you could absolutely drive this car! They're just setting you up for more fees. I thought this over. Or maybe there's a lawyer eyeing the potential liability of telling me that I could drive? The tow guy nodded, wisely.

But you've got me. The car rental guy wrote me a contract for $29.97 per day. The insurance guy says they are paying $30 per day. Who is right? Frankly, I have a contract that says I'm only paying $29.97/day, and I'm sticking with that. But oh, that fine print...

The Fine Print Dinner

At the end of a long day full of haggling, this is a fast, cheap meal that only barely meets nutritional standards. Translation: kids love it.

6 potatoes, cubed
1 broccoli crown/3 handfuls broccoli spears
1 cup pitted green olives
5 cloves garlic
olive oil as needed
1 package cold cuts (we use Empire's chicken/turkey bologna, since it's dairy/corn/wheat free), sliced into strips/cubes/small anatomically correct dwarves. You choose.
1 handful parsley, chopped up
vinaigrette dressing, very well shaken (our favorite is here)

Toss potato cubes into water and boil. Shortly before the 'taters are ready, toss in the broccoli. When broccoli turns bright green, drain potatoes and broccoli - but reserve a little potato water, perhaps 3 Tb. Dump potatoes, broccoli and water into a big bowl.

Meanwhile, saute the garlic in a little oil, and then add bologna. Sizzle together a bit - you want the bologna (or lunch meat of choice) to brown a bit. Add some coarse black pepper. (You don't need much in the way of spices, since your dressing is providing that for you.) Dump into potato-broccoli mix, and don't forget to scrape the pan for the nice brown-y bits!

Stir gently to combine (potatoes will collapse under rough handling at this point), and add remaining ingredients.

Tip: tossing potatoes with dressing while they are hot really, truly lets the dressing's flavor saturate the potatoes. By keeping the potato water, you are making the potato salad more saucy and less oily.

Optional: replace bologna with sausage. Add an onion (sauteed). Replace green olives with kalamata - really, there's lots of wiggle room here. Just remember the recipe math: starch (potaotes) plus crisp veg (broccoli) plus salt (olives) plus flavor bridge (dressing). So, you could try fresh zucchini or summer squash instead of broccoli, or green beans. You could add some fennel seeds to the garlic-bologna mix, you could, you could, you could... and if it works, let me know!

Monday, December 17, 2007

the small changes and the big bump(er)s

It's okay, I understand your confusion. You are standing on the street looking at our house (okay, our apartment) and you are just plain stumped. So let me explain.

Yes, that's the Toddles, washing windows. Someone, after all, needs to do it. And he seems to be having an absurd amount of fun, so I'm calling it Montessori-style education. Edu-tainment for the slacker, non-window washing mama? Edu-something, and I credit the ever-creative Zina with this one. So *that's* what you do with buckets once sandbox season is over! And rags - well, there's always rags around here. You might note, however, that while I provided the initial demonstration of rag and water-spritzing, that the adult begging the child not to soak the windows is not, in fact me. I happily demonstrated, collected happy child kudos, and left the ever-patient QG to the job.

And yes, that's my car with the bumper forlornly lying on the ground. Yes, and with the wires sticking out worryingly. Oh, and yes, the cute little PT Cruiser parked in front of it is also mine, courtesy of the nice folks at Enterprise and the rental coverage on our car insurance. Note also how nicely the street is plowed. Coincidence?

Oh, yes, silver linings abound. And it's awfully easy to see them from my nice, clean windows.

If you've been at our shabbat table any time in the past three weeks, you've probably eaten an adaptation of this. Here is our version of the recipe (minus zucchini/squash/peppers and simplified somewhat), with a very satisfied nod to Vanessa.

(Imperfected) Chickpea and Green Olive Tagine

2 cans chickpeas
2-3 onions, chopped small
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
olive oil as needed (about 1/4 cup)
1 large eggplant, diced (smaller is better, but I'm always in a hurry so mine are about 1 inch cubes)
1 big, big can of diced tomatoes or 4-5 medium tomatoes (corn allergic: watch out for ascorbic or citric acid! You're safer finding tinned tomatoes without those, or using a combination of tomato paste and fresh tomatoes)
2 cups green olives, or 1 can of the Beit Hashita pitted green Israeli olives (reserve a little of the liquid)
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp paprika
1 cinnamon stick
½ tsp salt
1/2 cup water (if reheating the next day for shabbat or as needed)

If you have one, this is a great time to use a wok or a good, big and deep nonstick sauteeing pan. If not, make it up - but you'll need extra oil if you don't have nonstick.

Saute onions and garlic until browning, then scrape to one side in the pan. Toss in eggplant, making sure that the eggplant is hitting the bottom of the pan and sauteeing nicely. The trick here is to only add as much eggplant as you have clear pan space for. Eggplant touching the base of the pan will get that nice seared surface, as opposed to simply steaming. If you are in a hurry, though, just chuck the eggplant in, stir a bit and move on. The dish will still be yummy and perfection is for people with extra time. Or patient children.

Add spices, and stir a bit. Then, dump in everything else. Cover and reduce the heat to low, let burble happily for about 15-20 minutes. The tomatoes (if you use fresh) will soften, the flavors will melt into each other. Stir occasionally to maintain culinary happiness and prevent burning. Stir more often if your pot isn't nonstick. Add water if the dish looks especially solid - you want a little soupiness.

Serve over rice.

Optional: in a hurry? measure your spices the night before.
want some pretty color? Toss a handful of chopped parsley, colorful bell pepper, scallion or avocado on top. Or, have prettily arranged any or all of these in bowls on the side, and let people decorate as it pleases them.

FYI: Harvard: a mom's review Heh.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

and, phump!

holy moly, but there's a ton of snow out there. And it's still falling.

The Man is out there right now, heroically shovelling the walk and steps (third time today), and trying to dig out my car. I have a steaming mug of tea and a hunk of white chocolate, and I'm off to my bed - where I doubtless will find the Toddles, determinedly hunkered down for the duration. Sweet kid, that one, and very very territorial in his sleeping habits. Want my mummy! Want my mummy's bed! I go sleep in mummy's bed! WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Sigh. Nice kid. Good tactical sense of volume.

With luck, tomorrow will be a snow day. Which means that on a day when shabbat arrives at what? 3.55 or the like? I will not have to spend two precious pre-sabbath hours schlepping in a car. And, with luck, the closed school will camouflage nicely that the Eldest isn't going to school tomorrow regardless. The poor kid slipped in the snow today, and now has a nice muscle bleed going in his right ankle. And this is on a day when he had clotting oomph in his system, too. Oh, well.

It was almost comic, watching the child decide how he felt about this state of affairs. Here's how it went:

Eldest, wiggling his foot: ouch. (considers this, and finds himself surprised and offended) ouch!
Parent: does that hurt?
Eldest, still offended: yes!
Parent, mildly: hmm. Maybe we should keep an eye on that.
Eldest, realizing that the parent is considering the possibility of a bleed: oh, but it doesn't hurt now. It's fine. See?

The Eldest performs a small jig on the ankle, thereby proving beyond a doubt that no way, no how does he need to go to the ER. The parent, unaware that an ER run is being considered, is relieved and turns back to the dinner dishes.

Eldest, tucking his feet under him: ouch. Ouch?? (shifts position rapidly to relieve ankle)
Parent: hmmm? Still sore?
Eldest, looking for a way out: oh, no. See?
Attempts jig, finds that ankle is too painful, seeks other way to escape and fails.
Eldest: ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch
Parent: yep. Time for factor.

Eventually, the Eldest realizes that there will be dosing, but there will be no hiring of the dog-sled that we'd need to get to the ER. (There really is quite a bit of snow.) He shifts from anxiety about the bleed and the potential seriousness of the ER run, to being offended by the lack of ER. He's remembered at this point that he is admired and vastly entertained at the ER, and is now feeling shortchanged by this whole treating at home business.

Eldest: oh, no! Now my big toe hurts - so we have to go to the ER, right?

The parent who didn't escape fast enough now has to explain to the Eldest, for the seventeenth time, that in fact we poor mortals can manage this at home, with help via telephone. The Eldest, looking disgusted and bereft and somewhat pained (all at once), will manage a dramatic exit that sucessfully expresses all of this, despite lacking a door or even any real mobility. The parent will applaud. Silently.

Close curtain, time for bed. 'Night, all!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Days of headaches finally came to an impressive moment today, when I...fell asleep in traffic.

The whole drive home I felt my eyes closing, my brain numbing, and I changed my chair position, turned off the heat (cold = awake, maybe?), dug my nails into my palm (ouch - yawn), and got the Eldest to talk about the miniutae of his day. He never does that, and I only wish I'd been awake enough to appreciate it.

And then I actually started falling asleep. At one point, I was even dreaming - and let me tell you, in my dream I was not in a car.

Folks, I give you the current obvious cause behind this: the Toddles.

The Toddles has been sleeping badly, and insisting on sleeping with me - which means I sleep badly. And it's hard to argue with a child who will wail for over 30 minutes, ignoring the loving father trying to soothe him. And once he finally escapes the paterfamilias?

(leaping into the mama-bed) Hurree! Hurrah!
(pause, while the small person snuggles deep into the covers. Then, looking up at the astonished mama, he says proudly): I said that.

Yep, he did. So now I'm going to bed - and alone. For now, anyway.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

there's a light in here somewhere

Okay, okay, so I flubbed Chanuka. (chag sameach, by the way)

Partially, this was an accident of good intentions: after much discussion revolving around our lack of, um, discussions (okay, communication), I tried to sort through the household miniutae to see where I could comfortably include the Man. Chanuka presents seemed a good bet.

This is how it went:
Me (emerging from my study/DONOTENTER:working/room where we stash junk destined to go somewhere else...someday): I've got some Chanuka gift ideas for the kids. Should I narrow them down, or do you want to help me hunt?
The Man (lifting his earphones off his ears): wha?
Me (holding a fistful of catalogs and notes): do you want to look at these with me, or should I narrow them down?
The Man (recovering from his weekly Presidential podcast): um, well, ah - no, you narrow it down first. Got to go argue with Congress about insurance for children.

So off I go. I have a working budget of about $30 for the kids, plus S&H. And I have rules. No batteries, no small pieces, no cartoon/Disney/commercialized characters. No DVD/computer games. Oh, and both kids need to be able to play with it. Something that takes small hands and brains and imagination. Something that will help me reverse-engineer the perfect child. Easy, no?

Me: Okay, I have a couple of ideas.
The Man (leafing through my clippings and notes): oh, but they already have construction toys. Let's not - oh, no, not that either - nope, I can't see that working - oh, um, no. I don't think so. Good luck, honey!
Me: mumble grumble head onna stick mumble

We hesitated over this (medium small pieces, enough for both children to play), debated this (fun, but flying things in the house? how much trouble is this asking for? maybe I should loosen up?) or one of these. I lusted briefly after this (toy control!), and this (for the Man and the Eldest, both, right?) or any of these (ooooh - I do love me construction toys). But the budget and the rules prevailed, so we settled on this for the Toddles, who adores puzzles and building, and this in softcover for the number-loving Eldest, plus a set of fraction magnets.

Had I not actually ordered everything on Sunday, we might have been okay. But nope, Sunday it was, and there we were last night, present-less. That's okay, I consoled myself, we'll have Chanuka before we have the Festival of Presents. I wonder if I can figure out a vegan, gluten-free latke? Yup, I felt pretty good about that.

One bleed and one trashed day in a series of trashed and scraping-by days later, a tired and hungry mama sat down to dinner with overtired, napless and hungry Toddles and a end-of-day+post bleed=uber-fragile Eldest. Oh yes, and he was hungry too - he said so, loudly and repeatedly all the way home. ALL THE WAY HOME. (and of course I keep food in the car! This was, apparently, entirely besides the point.) The Man was in a meeting at work, and promised to make it home...eventually.

Mum, it's Chanuka today! Do we have candles? A menora?
wearily, yes. After dinner.
Mummummummum - what about presents?
Erm. Eat your dinner.

It was astonishingly clear to me: if I give the kids stuff, then they will be happy. If I don't give them stuff, then the Eldest will realize that he's missing a stuff-opportunity, and be unhappy. I found myself absolutely unable to manage even the thought of trying to console a disappointed child. I was just....too....tired.

So I did what any sensible woman would do. I poured a cup of coffee, pulled out my cell phone and texted the Man: tomorrow I am calling in sick.

And I did. Wise is the Man who heeds the Mama...


Warning: mental health day in progress.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Here, feeshy feeshy.

I know, I know, I've been silent. And naturally, in that silence many things have piled high. Big day today, big week, big pair of weeks, oh me oh my.

First of all, let me introduce the latest character at Chez Imperfect, whome we shall call Q.G. Q.G. has inherited Mary Jr.'s spot in our home, namely as one of the folks who strive to keep me sane. Luckily for Q.G., she gets to do this by playing with the Toddles, so she's fairly far from the line of fire.

I knew she's work out just fine when she emailed me the following (slightly edited):

Today, I asked the Toddles where he came from. He said, from my mummy and daddy.
Then, I asked him, well, where did they get you?
Matter of factly, he said, from Trader Joe's.

Now, isn't that exactly the kind of thing you'd want to know about the Toddles? There are many praises to sing for Q.G., but that one rather speaks for itself. As for Trader Joe's, well, their new allergy labeling does make them more food allergy friendly, but I hadn't realized that they'd reached such corporate heights...

Okay, so let's see. I've updated the cast of characters, I've given you the standard yea-but-I-have-committed-sins-of-neglect bloggish viddui, and now it's time to tie up lingering bloggish threads. Right, then.

When we last left our heroes, the Toddles was clearing an allergen out of his system, the Eldest was considering the nature of the divine and reincarnation, and there was something grumpy and useful about Bachman vs Nabisco. Nabisco's approach to food allergy consumers was repeated this past week by General Mills (yes, but what exactly do you mean by 'risk?') but we can probably move on past that.

Briefly, then. The Toddles is not allergic to fish. Hallelujah and pass the bewildered headscratcher, because this makes NO SENSE. Worse, it's a touch embarrassing.

Here's how it went: we fed the Toddles fish. Meanwhile, we're watching redness around the cheeks and chin, flaring eczema, increased nursing and reduced food-eating, clear snot. Okay, so something allergic is going on. Then, on three occasions I gave the kid salmon, and we saw all of these symptoms, bang! appear on the spot. But why?

There's something wrong with me, said the Toddles one day. Mm, hm, say I, more interested in a clear mammogram than the person in the back seat. There's something wrong with my body, insists the Toddles. I stop musing about ultrasounds vs mammograms and start paying attention. The child is red-faced and clutching his tummy...Aha, say I (mentally reviewing the week's menu), it's salmon.

I checked dates, tallied symptoms with menu, and called the allergy clinic. We have an appointment in two days - a cancellation. Can you make it? We could. But once there, we had the attending who doesn't like to leap - or look, for that matter. Sigh.

The scratch testing showed positive for trout, tuna, and negative for salmon. This makes no sense, said I. We almost never eat trout or tuna, and the troubles have all corresponded to salmon. What gives? The attending leaned against the door, confident in the face of my perplexity.

Note: major negative points here for not sitting down. A doctor who remains standing is sending the silent message that s/he's got one foot out the door. A doc who sits is telling you that s/he's focusssed on you, and listening.

Well, said he, those tests are 90% accurate. So it comes down to this: who do you trust, the tests or you?
I stared at him, a little flabbergasted. Yes, it's true that this is exactly the question. But did this guy realize the kind of power politics he'd just invoked? I fought the urge to bop him upside the head, and said, evenly, Not to sound egotistical, but I'd go with me.

The allergy fellow (sitting down) raised his head at this and looked me square in the eye. I'd go with you, too, he said.
And that, I replied silently, is why we booked this appointment with you. This shmoe is a... bonus.

Thanks, I said out loud. I do appreciate the vote of confidence, but I would truly like to be wrong, as well. And it might be nice to have my nose rubbed in it - shall we do the RAST testing?

Nodding, familiar with the Imperfect way, the fellow started pulling out a lab slip. But the attending intervened. He offered arguments about avoiding unnecessary tests, insurance costs, and generally feeling that we already had the evidence we needed. Finally, he tried to explain about statistical variance, trying to warn me about what was a statistically significant number versus what was not. I smiled, pointed out that I was married to a statistician, and promised to play nicely with the lab results if we could only, please, have them.

He folded, I marched off in triumph, and the Toddles tested negative to fish. Ooops.

Oddly, the Toddles also tested very, very, very high for wheat (far higher than ever before), much higher for rye, barley and egg white, and just when I was about to say things about falsely elevated results, I saw that he's still very, very, very low for oats. Which means he's probably been exposed to the heightened allergens. How?

My money is on cross-contamination. We buy our fish mostly at Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, both of which offer crumbed and stuffed fish options. I spoke to the fish dept. manager at WFM, and he explained that fish comes ready for sale in big tubs, one type per tub. If the person helping me changes their gloves and gets fish from the tubs in the back, we avoid the cross-contamination of the display case. So we shall try this - once we stop the Great Cow Bonanza over here, brought to you courtesy of a successful food challenge last week.

The Eldest, it seems, is no longer allergic to beef. And how lovely is it that his kindergarten class celebrated with him (as they did when he passed his chickpea challenge), with the shehechiyanu blessing. And that appears to have silenced our Mr. Nietzche for the nonce.

Today's favorite babywearing photos: a free trade baby carrier, which is nice in and of itself, but nice yet is the relaxed mama and baby in the pic.
Oh, but I'm eyeing these - the toddler design is lovely, though the baby design's fabrics are especially splendid - and plan to lust over them quietly for a month or so, before moving on.

Meanwhile, my thanks to Melissa of Lemon Balm Essentials, who came to the Eldest's school craft fair, and did a long and patient babywearing demo. She showed me the joys of the shortie wrap (3.5 m for back-carrying me) and the ruck (here's a splendid video of three ruck-style wrappings, plus footage of real babywearing!), a mei tai with nicely padded shoulders, talked about hybrid (mei tai meets ergo or other carrier of choice) carriers like the BabyHawk or the BBB linked to above. Yep, going to lust quietly. But enthusiastically.

Translation for the non-carrying: baby carriers come in a range of options. I started the Eldest off in a Baby Bjorn, and was in real back pain by three months. By four months, I was done and found a nice stretchy fleece sling. Babywearing is for folks who like to have their hands free, and will trade free hands for a snuggled close, non-strollering baby. And there's about three major ways to go: a wrap, which is a long piece of cloth that you wrap around yourself and the baby in any of a million ways (font? back? hip?) - customized to you and the kid each time; the structured carrier, like the backpack frame carriers you can get at wilderness stores; the soft-structured carrier (SSC), which has no frame or metal, but has straps and buckles. Faster and easier than a wrap, but somewhat less customizeable and definitely less pretty/funky. I think a mei tai is a SSC, and my ergo carrier is definitely one. Love my Ergo, but I find it a little bulky. Sooo, this week I'm happily using a plain, undyed wrap. The Toddles and I are ruckin'!

Monday, November 19, 2007

nighttime mathematics (with substitutions)

10 pm, Friday night.

The Toddles, having struggled all week with the lingering traces of fish in his system (it takes 2 weeks to clear an allergen out, post-exposure), has been sleeping badly for some time. While the rest of the family sleeps a relieved, sabbatical sleep, he pops up in bed.

Toddles: I'm awake.
mama, dryly: I can see that.
Toddles, confidingly: My poops are coming out of my bottom. They are working hard.
mama, straight-faced: ah. and where are they going?
Toddles, airily: oh, into my diaper.
Toddles, thinking out loud: one bottom for me, one bottom for [Eldest], one bottom for Daddy and one bottom for Mummy. [pause to consider this] One bottom each.
[satisfied nod]
The Toddles cocks his head to one side, and considers the matter further: One penis for me, one penis for [Eldest], one penis for penis for Mummy.
Toddles turns to the mama, and lays a comforting hand on her slightly quivering arm.
You have no penis, but you have Josh Beckett.
mama, controlling herself very, very carefully: I have who?
Toddles, confidently: You have a Josh Beckett. You like Josh Beckett.

one can only hope that he refers to the poster thoughtfully supplied by the Boston Globe, rather than a rather unusual choice of euphemism.


Even during the daytime, the Toddles is turning into a fascinating little person. We have delicious, hilarious conversations, and I find myself picking my way through the unknown territory of his mind. His perspective isn't just about two and a half feet lower than mine, it's completely, absolutely different. And one of the things I love about it is his fearlessness. (That's also the same thing that makes me gasp, clutch and my chest and eat far too much chocolate, but it's a good thing. In moderation.)

The Toddles, you see, will eat just about anything.

We discovered this one day when I decided to reintroduce the guessing spices game that I played with the Eldest at this age. (what spice is in this? here are three jars..what do you think?) The Toddles, however, is uninterested in waiting for the foods to be cooked, and instead likes to try the flavors before cooking and combining. He proved his point over cauliflower dum (cumin, coriander, pepper, turmeric, salt, cayenne. my face is warm, said he and smiled) and Imperfect Joes (where the heck did that recipe go? Oh, well. I think it was pepper, paprika, dark chili powder...etc). Then he moved on.

He ate

  • artichokes
  • mama's in haste green curry paste
  • ginger preserves
  • lemon-ginger tea (to prove the point)
  • hempmilk (a suggestion by Mary Jr, which I tried and found even more disturbing than ricemilk, which may say more about me than about hemp as milk)
  • the various spices of tandoori chicken (see here, though I skipped the yogurt and marinating. Instead, I sauteed an onion, tossed in the spices, then the chicken and finally added about 1/4 cup of reduced fat coconut milk, covered the pot and called it done. Ten minutes, tops.)

We all paused briefly to admire this, considered his early training on Vegemite, and appreciated the fearless gourmand that is this child. Huzzah! Wonder how long it will last?


Mama's in Haste Green Curry Paste

  • 1 lemon, zested and squeezed
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 1 large handful of parsley, another of cilantro (if available)
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 scallions, or a good chunk of red onion
  • salt, pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • small chunk of ginger, peeled

Toss the lot into a food processor, and whirl it around until fairly smooth. Remove and keep out of the reach of your toddler, while you spoon it into a jar. If you stretch an old plastic bag over the top of the jar before putting on the lid, the paste will be more airtight and keep longer - up to two weeks.

Best curry paste moment ever: watching the Toddles eat it straight out of the jar. Last shabbat, he hauled a stepping stool over to the fridge, opened the fridge, pulled out the curry paste, got a spoon, and asked me to open it. I couldn't help myself - I opened the jar for the kid, and then sat there wishing for a camera and non-sabbatical moment, as he ate it right out of the jar. Dang.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

and thank you, Mister Nietzche

God is dead, the Eldest announced at dinner tonight.
Wha' whatthe whatthe what the wha'? we said, while the Toddles looked on with pleasure.
He's dead, the Eldest said flatly. He was a hundred - a thousand - years old, and he died.
Um, said the adults cleverly.

Well, thank you mister Nietzche. Now to the challenge: the Eldest has an excellent point. If God is corporeal, then he's dead by now. Bodies live, grow and die in order to give life to other living things. The Eldest, as we've noticed, is very clear on this point.

Some months ago, we had this conversation:
Uncle Dennis died, the Eldest informed me.
Yes, I confirmed.
His body is in the ground, the Eldest said - now reviewing the sum of his understanding on the subject.
Yes, I agreed.
His body is in the ground and he's not in it, the Eldest mused, but he will come back in a new life.
Ye-wha? I sat up straighter and started to really pay attention. What kind of new life?
Oh, maybe a rabbit, the Eldest said airily.

Across the dinner table, my father looked at me, his poker face imperfectly in place. Buddism? Reincarnation? What do they teach them in these schools?

Oh, dear. We tackled incorporeality at the dinner table, but the Eldest didn't seem too convinced. I think he started tuning us out when we talked about how, if you don't have a body, you can't be either male or female. Again, the Eldest is very clear on this point.

Time for a strategic retreat, I believe..


Nietzche's Dinner

  • 1 bag of Tinkyada pasta, cooked.
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 large handful parsley
  • 1 cup pitted Israeli green olives, or stuffed green olives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • zest of one or two lemons
  • 3 Tb salad dressing (we used our current favorite)

Toss cauli and red onion in olive oil, salt and pepper. Set oven to 475F and roast oiled veggies on a cookie sheet until browning - maybe 15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta.

In a food processor, whirl the remaining ingredients until a little chunky - maybe 30 seconds to a minute, depending on how much horsepower you have in your machine.

Toss roasted veggies, pasta and olive mixture together. Need some protein? Add strips of lox! Unless you are the Toddles' mum, in which case stare at it suspiciously and wonder if it's why he's been having hives lately...not sleeping...been wanting to nurse a lot...fussy at dinner...itchy and

Nabisco versus Bachman: a consumer's grump

I emailed both pretzel companies recently, asking about nuts, dairy, sesame, etc (the Eldest's allergy list), whther these ingredients were used in their products, on shared equipment with products that didn't have the allergens I listed, or simply in the same facility. I've written this email many, many times before, and frankly nowadays I write it with a certain measure of skepticism. I rarely get a good response (With the exception of Amy's Kitchen and gDiapers, they were extraordinary in their response to me.)

Here are the responses I recieved. Please note that this is not a suggestion that you buy these products, if you share any of the Eldest's allergies - ingredient lists change regularly, and you should always check. Instead, I'm offering this as an example of how things can - and how they usually do - work in this sort of exchange.

Bachman said:

The Bachman pretzels are egg and nut free. We distribute nuts and peanut butter filled pretzels, but we do not produce them. Our pretzel facility does have dairy, poppy and sesame seeds in the plant. We do have two dedicated lines that do not use dairy or seeds and are in a separate location in the plant. The following pretzels would be safe for your child:

Thin'n Rights Fat Free
Thin'n RightsPetites or

If you need any further information, please e-mail me at


Debra Facciolli
The Bachman Company
Quality Assurance Manager

The Mama says: Bravo! Clearly responded, well done.

Nabisco said:

If there is an allergenic protein in a product due to the presence of sesame seed, sunflower seed, poppy seed and/or cottonseed, it will be stated on the ingredient line. If the seed is processed in such a way as to remove the allergenic protein (e.g sunflower oil that has been refined, bleached and deodorized), and is part of a natural flavor then it does not need to be added to the ingredient line.Please note that at this point the allergenic protein has been removed.

Allergist's Note: this is not necessarily true.

I sent a politely irked email pointing this out, and requesting specific information regarding the 'natural flavors.' I also reiterated my question regarding ingredients, shared equipment and facility. (See above: the response did not discuss shared equipment or facility.) The same person said:

The supplier from which we obtain the natural flavoring will not reveal the exact ingredients to us, as they consider it to be proprietary.We do require the suppliers to inform us if any of the following components are in the flavor so we can label them on the ingredient line:

eggs, dairy, celery, soy, treenuts, peanuts, wheat, fish, shellfish, seafood, gluten and sulfites

Also, we do not include monosodium glutamate (also known as MSG), hydrolyzed protein (sometimes known as hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP) or autolyzed yeast extract under the term 'natural flavor' in the ingredient line.

What I can tell you is that if any of our products contains protein from a substance recognized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to cause severe to life-threatening reactions in susceptible individuals, those substances are ALWAYS listed on the ingredient statement.

Kim McMiller

Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Mama's note: my questions about shared equipment/facility are not addressed. Nor is the FAAN study that I cited regarding tree nut proteins found in 'natural flavors.' Furthermore, she's overlooking that my list of allergens includes items that the FDA requires them to list (a.k.a. the Big Eight allergens). Furthermore, the FDA has yet to make a decision about cross-contamination, and is wavering over how much protein content counts as life-threatening. Which makes stating the FDA's position not exactly helpful in answering my question.

My final request for clarification and my restatement of my questions was ignored.

Meanwhile, all hail Allergy Grocer, which not only answers my questions with zest and speed, but has an extraordinary level of precision. They do not, alas, manage questions about products outside of their own selection, which leaves me out of luck where Triscuits are concerned.

BTW, Triscuit makes a sesame-containing version, the garlic-rosemary flavor. Seems like the answer to my question was: yes, we make a product with sesame. And anything made on the same machines as this cracker would be problematic. So why couldn't the contact person at Nabisco just say that, and tell me what is/is not made on shared lines? In the same facility?

Bah, humbug.

From the post over at Check My Tag, I suspect Utz would be another company worth trying to talk to... see here for some excellent labelling practices.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

conversations with the short

But first, a quick nod to my new persona as book critic: this one was a good read, I thought, with an absolutely delightful authorial voice, and blogospheric-worthy sense of self. I could have done without the chookhouse, but the tale of two mariners had me frozen in my seat. I absolutely had to know what happened next...

Yup, worth reading. But you decide for yourself - wiser heads might point out a certain bias on my part.
[During lunch, at which point the Toddles reminds us all that he really does have a bit of a lisp]

small person: I hear a duck
Adult: my ears hear a truck, too.
[truck rumbles down the street]
small person, scornfully: noooo, the other duck.
Adult: my ears do not hear another truck.
small person, mouth slightly full: it is the backoe.
Adult: oh, the back-hoe was by the river before
small person, now liberally daubed with tomato sauce, singing: I fink the backoe should wive [live] down-a, down-a
Adult: live down where?
small person, undaunted, still saucy and still singing: Oh, I fink the backoe should wive down-a, down-a, Sanniego [San Diego]
Adult, sensing a narrative to which she is not - quite - a party: oh. Right then.

Scene: at the table, the Eldest is carefully, patiently, folding an origami compsygnathus. The Man is with him, watching this latest generation of passionate hobbyists at work.

Man: You know, when you were about a month old, I had a dream that someday you would have an activity that you loved, and we would support you in it.
Eldest stirs briefly in response, then returns to his work.
Man, meditatively: you know, I think we’re living that dream.
Eldest, looking up, his attention caught: I think we ARE living that dream, Daddy!
Yes, said the dreamer, smiling gently. But not during dinner.

The Toddles is on my back, sitting happily in the Ergo carrier while leafing through a copy of Where the Wild Things Are.

How are you doing back there?
Oh, good.
And how are the wild things?
Oh, um, good. And also Max.
Excellent. And where are Max and the wild things now?
Oh, um, in my mouth.

[choked gargle from the sherpa, a distinctly pleased silence from her baggage]

Mama at the sink, washing dishes. A small figure trots by.

I’m going to work wif dis, drifts back to the maternal ear.
Oh, okay hon, she says, unthinking. But then, snikt

[running feet]

What on earth?

how one discovers that the two year old can open the child-locked cabinets and drawers.
a quiet, pre-bedtime moment. The Mama is leisurely inspecting the child's head for, alas, lice.

Mum, hemophilia is when you are missing factor eight and factor nine. But who is missing factor nine?
I blink, and reel off a couple of names.
Oh. But what about ----, or --------, or ---------?
Oh, they are missing factor eight, hon. Like you.

And so is [list deleted]. They were with us at camp , d’you remember?
Thoughtfully, Yes. Those guys are all my buddies.
Yes. And I’m glad.

The gift of camp was a weekend of joy without the mention of hemophilia, thus quietly linking hemophilia with a sense of opportunity and delight. Brilliantly done. The less subtle goal, though, was building community - and with it a sense of shared experience, normalcy, blahditty blah blah. All good stuff, no?

This past week was the National Hemophilia Foundation’s big annual meeting. Someday, I’ll take the Eldest, and he can look at rooms and rooms of people, all reluctant clotters like him, like us. Until then, I'll just bask quietly in the knowledge that for a kid with a rare thingummijiggy, he's got quite a few thingumijiggy-type friends.

Which reminds me - a (belated) good luck to you, exblick! I hope you had a great session.
The Rower’s Tapenade

a dip enjoyed by Head of the Charles competitors everywhere, but especially by one member of the Watertown Master’s team…makes one soup bowl-ful.

1 can of tasteless black olives. No, not kalamata, not green, the cheap-o, plastic-textured can of olives that should be offensive to all sane palates. Drained.
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
1 large clove garlic, peeled
handful of parsley (try to avoid the stems)

Toss garlic and salt into a food processor, and whirl until pretty finely minced. Add everything else. Whirl until olives are in small pieces. Keeps in refrigerator for up to a week, though the liquid may separate. If it does, just stir it back in.

Note: this is not quite the tapenade that the MIL makes – I am given to understand that she’s made some adjustments. However you make it, please remember to include the following PSA: the following dip is an olive dip made for non-olive eaters. Please do not lick the bowl without offering first swipe to the cook.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

putting out fires

Today, I barbecued.

Yes, yes, yes, so it was cold. I ran outside (forgetting a coat), put the meat down (having forgotten to defrost it), ran back inside (forgot the lighter), corralled the Toddles (he wanted to play, too), and generally got dinner going.

I love barbecueing. It's my solution to a lack of culinary imagination, lack of time, and general kitchen blahs. And it comes in handy from time to time, like last week when Zina offered us the last week's delivery from her CSA. With the glorious bounty, came a pair of stalks with brussel sprouts attached. I stared at them for a while, and finally shrugged. What the hell, the things came with their own skewers, right? So I sprinkled them with kosher salt and olive oil, and 'cued them. They were pretty darned good, especially with a sprinkle of lemon juice.

Yup, bless the nice folks at Weber - they've been a boon. And I adamantly refuse to blame them for moments like tonight, when my darlin' Weber started shooting up flames. The hot dogs were crispy, the chicken was nicely burnt (but raw inside - natch), and there was, in case you missed this bit, FIRE.

Calmly, I turned off the gas. I unscrewed the gas canister, and moved it a fair distance away from the fire. I went inside and got the kitchen fire extinguisher. I took the extinguisher, read the instructions, and put out the fire. Done.

Still calm, I walked back inside, passing the Man. This is why we have these, I informed him. He looked up and realized what I was holding. Oh? Why? he asked. Grease fire, I said. And went to make the salad.

Eventually, it occurred to me that yes, I was cool, I was calm and functional in a crisis, and how awesome am I? Basking in my own admiration palls quickly, and once I was done admiring myself I realized I was also a little irked. Yes, I was cool and calm, but it was HIS job not to be. He should be shocked, he should be grateful and marvelling at my awesomeness.

Wazzamatter, did someone forget to give the guy his cue? Yeesh.

Half an hour - and one very yummy salad - later, the Toddles dissolved.
Milk! I want milk! Inna cup!
Okay, said the Man.
No! I don't want milk! I don't I don't I don't!
Ah, said the Man.
The Toddles, feeling that this response was insufficiently respectful of his current emotional state, repeated his position by banging his fists on the table and, when this didn't improve the situation, shrieked. (The Eldest was startled to see this imitation of himself, and made a fierce face at the Toddles because, as he explained, this is what you do when someone does that. Ah.)
I see, said the Man. Would you like to go snuggle? Read stories?
No I don't I don't I don't I don't I wanna read stories I wanna milk.

The Toddles, banked and loved, cuddled with his father in the big armchair until bedtime. I thought it over, and took my cue.

Afterword: the crispy but raw chicken? I dumped them on a pyrex pan, and stuck them in the oven. And forgot about them. I remembered them when I cleared the dinner dishes, yanked the oven open. A cloud of smoke billowed out... The chicken, however, was perfection.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Gluten-Free book review

It’s time to indulge in a little lit crit, my friends. Specifically, a book review.

I’ve held off on doing these because, well, it’s just too easy to be snarky about them. D’you see me writing a book? Certainly not. And yet, the magpie pleasures of the literary critic is to dip into texts and pick out their favorite, glittering moments, and to speculate not-too gleefully on the shortfalls. Still.

Recently, I picked up Gluten-Free Girl’s book. She was given the book contract based on her blog, but only partly – she’s no fresh off the boat writer, but has taught writing and been writing for years. Even without knowing that, I can see the strong style and structure shaping her blog posts. I rather like her blog, and she’s got a sweet story…so I bought the book.

I’m now in the slightly awkward position of trying to review the thing without having it in front of me. It’s the cardinal lit crit sin (can’t quote revealingly from the book? tsk, tsk), but I’ve lent it out. Yup, I read it, I lent it, I made a mental list of people who would enjoy it. Must’ve been a real stinker of a book for me to do that, yes? No. 'course not.

The focus of the book is simple: listen to your body. If something is wrong, figure it out – even if it means a major lifestyle change like going gluten-free. Far too many people with celiac (like people with von Willebrands disease) go undiagnosed. Don’t be one of them. And then, once you are trying to live this new life, ignore what you can’t have, and explore the wonderfully tasty world of what you can have. Buy produce from the farmers who grow it (it really does taste better that way, and not just because you are feeling morally superior), invest in some good cookery equipment, some excellent ingredients. Oh, and if you fall in love on the way, well, check your karma for fine print about package deals. (Note: the GF-G’s love story is a really darling one.)

I was a bit disappointed, though hardly surprised to find that there’s a rather large number of recipes that just don’t fit us. When you are focussed on excellent flavors and tastes, the blend of flavors is more precise, making it harder to eliminate one flavor (butter? nuts?) and still have a good, strong whole. But I’ll be playing with her recipes regardless, and I’ll report in if anything really mouth-opening pops up. And if you are just avoiding gluten, I heartily recommend trying her recipes, not to mention her blog. Let me know what happens!

Stylistically, the book is a bathroom read, a new parent read, something you put down and pick up again. It’s just not built to be read cover-to-cover, which is just fine by me. In fact, it’s built a lot like a blog that grew into a book…funny, that. It’s constructed of shortish pieces, some discussions and some narrative, and tends to reiterate its philosophy a lot. I tried to read it straight through, and it just didn't work. When I went back and tried to read just bits, I was happier.

This is by no means a criticism of Shauna, mind you. Having just finished my first really serious writing experience, I’m now a bit shocked at how easily the editing process can pull apart the fine strands that bind a text together. (Article by committee, anyone?) It’s hard, hard, hard to knit a text seamlessly together afterwards, and frankly the process can do worse than letting the text be episodic. Shauna maintains the spirit of her blog, has some useful interludes (and I'm with her on the olive oil, if anyone is wondering), and has certainly proven why her blog's so popular. Yay for the Girl!

Finally, a small grump. This is a book written by a person without children. Shauna’s focus and attention to food is remarkable, and her joy in it is palpable. But could she keep it up, between diapers and runs to the playground? I’m very, very curious to find out.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

wearing babies!

It is a touch noisy in Boston right now. Wonder why? Good work, guys - and ya gotta love the Lester story. Nice.

Off to bed, as our town celebrates in it's own, too-liberal, too-hedumacated to get drunk and roar joyously fashion. Duck, said the Man calling from the home of a friend with cable TV. Duck - they just won the 'Series. We-el, okay. But frankly, the helicopters overhead (no, really) do seem overkill right around here.

Coming soon: I've been collecting kid moments on scraps of paper. Plus, the Man quit the Evil Empire, and is between jobs (and on COBRA). He'll be guest blogging a bit.

In the mean time, this has been sitting on a back burner.

The Eldest's new school continues to delight me - the other mothers and fathers, seeing me carrying the Toddles in this have responded with curiosity. One mum went so far as to buy one herself, and then stopped me in the parking lot to enthuse. Still, I hate to be fickle but no sooner had I bought my beloved ergo from Zina, than she turned around and introduced me to this. I think I'm a Organic Avocado sort of mama, but oh, my. They are light, they roll up into a leetle sausage, and they carry a toddler with ease. Oh yes, and there's the whole Fair Trade, supporting cottage industry thing. Ah, the heck with it - they're purty.

One mother, assigned to us as our mentor family, is also a member of the local babywearing group. She said to me, looking at the Toddles happily squirming in a back cross-carry wrap, Hmm. Maybe we should have a baby wearing event? A sort of how-to? A father heard us in passing, and called over his shoulder, Let me know what I can do to help! We'll sponsor!

Turns out he and his wife own a fantastic local toy shop, complete with a small pile of baby carrying gear. How wonderfully coincidental.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

marking time

Recently, I had a birthday.

These things sneak up on me, in part because I was busy thinking about the Toddles' birthday party (4 two-year olds plus parents plus sibs, 4 grandparents, 1 caregiver plus roommate for moral boosting, 1 craft plus many toys plus fabulously, Zina-frosted cupcakes = happy, presentless Toddle-party. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as the Eldest likes to say.). And heavens, but that birthday of mine seems to surprise me every year. Time is fluid in the Imperfect household - think you've got a hold on it, and it will be October when your bones are still thinking about summer's warmth and hiking. But go hiking anyway - it's nice in the crispness.

Hurriedly, I made a gift list. Shelves, I wrote with the Man looming over my shoulder. Sports massage, pretty toes, gift certificate somewhere - the Man started looking ominous, grumbling about women who expect him to work all day and still be creatively gifting them at the end of it.

Okay, okay. I'll try harder.

As we squabbled amiably, the Eldest was preparing his own birthday gift to me.

Happy Birthday, Mama. I'm not allergic to chickpeas anymore...

This must be the best birthday I've had in a long, long time. Thirty sailed past me happily, a pish tush of a thing. Who could be bothered fretting over it? But this, this, this is like when his body stopped making antibodies, or inhibitors to his clotting meds. I remember the breathless fear that came with the news - fear, of course, because when you've had your head down and plodded onwards for a while, it's actually scary to hope that change is coming, or is true. So yes, fear. And breathlessness, and hope. And finally, a growing belief that it might actually be true. And still, fear - if this is true, what else might follow? What if it is taken away? Oh, but what if-if-if-if. Ah, shaddup and enjoy it, ya silly woman.

Happy Birthday, Mama. With all of the births and rebirths and evolution that one can pack into that sentence. Oh, my - it might just be true..
An Astonished Mama's Hummus

1 can of chickpeas (check that the can doesn't have things like citric acid, which is made of beets, citrus or corn - the companies often can't tell you which)
5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife
1/4 cup of olive oil, and more as needed
juice of 1 lemon
salt and cracked, or coarse-ground pepper to taste

Squeeze the lemon, and pour the juice into a food processor. Drain chickpeas and rinse, dumping into the same food processor.

Place a small skillet on the stove, and pour the oil into it. Warm the oil over a medium flame. Toss in garlic cloves, and sautee gently. You want them to start changing color but not really browning - the goal here is just to mellow the garlic a little. Let oil cool a bit, then pour oil and garlic into the food processor.

Puree the mixture, and add salt and pepper to it. If the dip is a little too dry for you, add a bit more oil (or lemon, if you like it lemony. I do, the Eldest doesn't.).

Optional: add parsley, scallion, red pepper flakes, green olives.

Serve with wedges of something crisp, like cucumber or apple or green pepper, and watch boys ignore your lovingly sliced veggies or soup-spoons and wide open mouths. Dang.

from joy, another gem:

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Holes in Walls

[writing from HitWGC]

People keep walking up to us and asking, Are you having a good time? How was your day? Did you have a nice day?

Nice, folks, is too small a word. Good is too flimsy an idea. Let me offer a few snapshots:

  • The chef who came up to us and said, 'So, what would you like from me?' and quietly produced enough Imperfect-friendly chocolate cupcakes (with chocolate banana frosting) for the entire camp. And a fabulous dinner of dilled roasted salmon, fried potatoes, broccoli and pasta in a red pepper sauce. Oooh. I want to take him home with me, I said to the staffer sitting with us. You'll have to get in line, she told me. Yes. I can see that.
  • The Eldest, almost catching Wee-Pee, the 800 pound fish of legend who lives in the lake. I saw Wee-Pee's gold scales, he told me. I nearly had him! (Our thanks go to the HitWGC's staffer and CFO who, seeing the Eldest dissolve at the idea of not managing to catch a fish, leaped into action and persuaded him that in fact, he had. Nearly.)
  • The staffer assigned to our family, who chose to have shabbat lunch with we Imperfects instead of with the happy crowd. (Did'ja shake your bushy tail, Lucinda? The Toddles did!)
  • The Eldest, watching in awe and terror as campers climbed the Tower. (His thumb was so deep in his mouth that it required professional extraction.) The Eldest, deciding to climb himself. He tried, got scared, and tried again - and got two or three body-lengths off the ground. I was proud that he tried, prouder yet that he tried again. Our thanks to Lou, who backed the kid up on all three decisions.
  • Me, climbing three-fourths of the way up. Good grief.
  • The Eldest at the front of the rope, helping a friend with an elbow bleed get to the top of the Tower via a 'group fly' (group lift).
  • The staffers who realized that sitting at the allergy table can be lonely, and chose to eat Imperfect cuisine with us.
  • The tree-house. The tree-house's xylophones. The tree-house's drums. The tree-house, the tree-house, the tree-house.
  • The perfect loop in our cabin, suited just right for the tricycle someone left there. Happy, happy boys.
  • The Toddles, saying 'I walk! I walk!' and trotting all the way.
  • The OK Corral, stocked nicely with latex-free but deeply funky bandaids.
  • Etc, etc, etc.

The camp psychologist said to me, I can't believe that people actually pay me to do this. And I agree. I can't believe that Hole in the Wall exists, with its attention to kid-friendly detail (the murals! the hiding critters in the woods! The three rooms of arts and crafts - one for woodshop, one for paints/woodburning/decorating, one for beading! The sliding board that lets you check if the person at the treehouse door be friend or foe), the immense supplies and resources (it was cold, so the staff pulled out a box of knitted hats and gloves for the families). The gardens. I can't believe the buckets of money it takes to run this place. And I can see the pleasure in every face: the families who are there, the people helping the families - it's unreal.

This much good-will and the ability to exercise it is, true, as things are meant to be. In a pipe dream, maybe. But, as my free market-lovin' man likes to remind me, the market will bear what it's willing to bear. So, this much good-will and ability is impossible. It's a gift, and you can see the delight and astonishment on each face as they think,

Don't you dare pinch me - this is right. This is impossible. This is what I need.

No, I'm not kidding.

Did you think I was kidding? I'll show you pinching, buddy. Oh, but I'll show you PINCHING. Right on that there bushy tail!

Monday, October 08, 2007


It's 2 in the freakin' a.m., and I'm persona non grata with the power that be at our shul. Harrumph. Apparently, my inability to show up to meetings scheduled while I'm out of the country does not sit well. Or maybe it's my inability to adopt the ruling power's opinion. Whoopsie.

But what the hey, it's 2 in the morning and my article is finally back under 4000 words and I like it for the first time in well over a month. Oh, yes, and we're off to hang with a certain Mr Paul Newman this weekend (okay, okay, we're just going to camp). Still pretty damned cool.

So bah, humbug! I'm happily trotting off to bed, nasty rewrite and dreadful committee overlords be hanged.

Gamma's Tarragon Tuna

serves 10


  • fresh tarragon: strip leaves off 3-4 stalks. Should make about 2-3 Tb.
  • 4 oz olive oil
  • .5 tsp wasabi powder, or to taste
  • 2 oz red wine vinegar
  • 1 oz lemon juice (1-2 Tb, notes the Gamma)


  • 1 c rice, uncooked. Cook it as per your instructions of choice.
    3 cans tuna (Bumblebee Prime Fillet is soy-free, notes the Gampa)
  • 1 punnet (container) grape tomatoes, or other small tomatoes. Gamma says that she prefers grape to cherry tomatoes, because they tend to be a little sweeter than cherry toms. You decide.
  • .75 c pitted, halved Kalamata olives
  • .5-.75 c dried currants
  • 2-3 Tb drained capers

Cook rice. Whisk dressing together, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Add everything else, toss and serve.

Options: add 6 oz marinated artichoke hearts (hard to find without the vague 'spices.'), replace tuna with chicken, replace rice with orzo or other teensy pasta (wheat!!), replace wasabi with mustard, do all of the above and note distinct resemblance to the original recipe, here.

Note: I apologize for the formatting. Blogger has decided to double-space everything without asking me first. Sigh. Somehow this makes me think of the Toddles...


Want some dessert to go with that? We've been playing with this Enjoy Life cookie crust:
I'd advise a fairly dry pie filling - apple pie seems to work well.
Best with a dryish or fairly solid pie. EL suggests pumpkin or pecan - my gooey apple pie was too gooey for it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

and for now, a tip o' the hat

From the Eldest, I bring you an East meets Middle East moment: the rally kipa.

The Man was talking baseball (a rare occurrence, I assure you), and mentioned the rally cap. The Eldest asked, the Man explained, and the Eldest looked thoughtful. Suddenly, the child's face cleared: he wasn't wearing a ball cap, but he was wearing something on his head: a kipa, or yarmulke.

And so the rally kipa was born.

Go 'Sox!

Okay, okay, so it's not entirely apolitical. But it's pretty about them Mets?

Note to the suspicious: the kid's not giving you the finger. He's pointing the index finger at his rally kipa, and the middle one is raised coincidentally. Unless you are a Yankees fan, in which case I'm not so sure.

Monday, October 01, 2007

a sad, sad shake of the head

Hey, Cameron - how's this for the next-up cause?

Start here, and then see here or here... Nah. Too infuriating, and too far north. Or mostly too infuriating (which doesn't mean it's unfair, mind you, or a bad verdict - just infuriating).

Let's try this instead:

Dear President Bush,

thank you for vetoing SCHIP, a.k.a HR 976, a.k.a the State Childrens Health Insurance Program. I appreciate your choosing to prioritize the budget over insurance for children. I think that budgets are important, and here at the Imperfect household we think about them a lot. We think about the $500,000 that it took to keep the Eldest alive and healthy in his first 18-24 months of life. We think about the expensive food that we buy for our kids, because they can't eat highly processed options. (And, at the risk of spoiling this lovely, lightly sarcastic tone I've got going, we think a little about the Farm Bill and why those processed foods are cheaper than ours. Hunh.) And we think about the jobs we take, the choices we make in order to make our monthly mortgage payments, to retain our insurance and to generally be responsible citizens.

Clearly, it is more important that we resist the Democrats' mincing progress to state-run insurance than we insure those uninsured kids. Hell, their parents are probably just throwing away the cash they'd otherwise spend on insurance. And frankly, I wouldn't be willing to spend an extra 61 cents on my daily pack of cigarettes to pay for a sneaky, political move like getting kids healthcare. Nah.

That's what the ER is for, right?

Mama Imperfect

Now, if you disagree with me, feel free to express yourself in the comments section. Or, try writing here, if you have a child with hemophilia, or here and here if you do not. Because, frankly, this is absurd.

Note of explanation for the Canadians: most US insurance is private, but there are some state-run programs for the uninsured, and specifically for children with medical disabilities. Hemophilia is one of those disabilities. However, if you are above poverty level, you have to pay some large premiums to get and keep that insurance. We Imperfects had a state run insurance for the Eldest for a while, and it was impressively expensive. Without insurance, there's not only the problem of getting medical care, but also once you've been uninsured for a bit you can be effectively uninsurable, thanks to a 'preexisting condition.' So the price for having a medical condition and not having coverage can be horrific.

Again, let me remind you: the Eldest's medication alone costs nearly $2,000-2,500 per week. Assuming I'm allowed to shop around for the lowest price, which insurers don't always let you, and pharmacies don't always want to tell you. No, really.

And now, a slightly random array of links.

On the food allergy side of things, I found this promise of a Food Allergy Carnival:

and Rational Jenn takes a moment to mourn the passing of the inventor of Benadryl:

And this rather fun blog - my thanks to joy for this one: I especially enjoyed his pirate-speak!
Coming Up: a tale of the toddles, Gamma's Tuna-Rice Salad, and NO POLITICS. For at least one post.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

hedumacation and bread!!

Okay, so the Currier thing is over, and for the curious we have this brief.

I've heard from a lawyer in the firm representing her, and it sounds like there's a lot of specifics to the Currier case (high risk pregnancy, the NBME screwing up during her first exam, etc) and those make a great deal of difference in how you view it.

But enough lactation, time for some hedumacation and good old fashioned eating. Oh, and bumper stickers. More happily added here.

The Eldest has now been a kindergartner for a full four weeks.

To be fair, for at least seven of those days he was absent for religious holidays, or the transitions thereto, but hey, he's in school. Officially. So, time for a blog favorite of mine, the stats:
Full disclosure: I know these aren't real, number crunched statistics, and yes, I'm quietly needling the Man, bean counter extraordinarie, every time I do things like this. You should've seen his reaction when I tried to explain (in print) that 'average' is really 1 out of 100%. Heh.

  • 12 days of school
  • 5 kids with food allergies in the class
  • 15 food allergies (counting the nuts as a single allergy) in one class (okay, most of them belong to my kid, but hey.)
  • 4 calls/emails from parents of kids trying to make allergy friendly food, because 'my kid really wants to sit with the Eldest'
  • 1 cranky email about food tyranny
  • 5 number of days of phys ed/sports club (which the Eldest chose from a range of options. Natch.)
  • 0 panicked phone calls during school about allergy issues
  • 0 panicked phone calls during school about bleeding issues
  • 7 happy, proud teachers and administrators (no, really)
  • 3 conversations in the parking lot with teachers/admin glowing about having the Eldest in the school
  • 5 conversations with parents who admitted that their kids have allergies, too. Some of those kids are even in the Eldest's class.
  • 0 laws requiring the school to do diddly for the kid
  • 1 wowed, grateful, dancing in the streets mama

The school has gone through a number of options, settling finally on having a peanut-, nut- and dairy-free classroom, and with signs posted asking people not to consume peanuts, tree nuts in the common areas and hallways. The kindergarten classroom has a box of diaper wipes outside, for use on hands and face before entering, and a picture of peanut-allergic Binky, from Arthur (PBS TV show) on the door.

The kindergarteners do not eat lunch in their (carpeted) classroom, but eat instead in the (tiled) cafeteria. No sharing of food is allowed, for both kashrut and allergy reasons, and there is a covered allergy-friendly table. Kids can bring anything they want to eat, even peanut butter - it all depends on where they want to sit. Kids wash up before and after each meal, and clean their tables.

Kids with allergies or safe lunches eat at the allergy table, and with so many allergic kids, it isn't isolating. All snacks are provided by the teachers, and birthday parties are under discussion. Currently, parents are urged to consider food-free donations to the classroom, and no goodie bags.

Oh, my.

I knew that we'd made the right choice when I turned up to the pre-start o' school training session, and found 3 kindergarten teachers, the head of the school, the phys ed teacher, the dean of students, head of admission, 3 front office staff, dean of the lower school, and the head of the after school program who wandered in because, he said, he saw the schedule and said to himself, 'well, heck, this kid is going to want to do after-school at some point, and I need to be prepared!' He sat through the meeting, listening to the bleeding disorder stuff, the allergy stuff, and finally put his hand up and said, Okay, so the bottom line is that he's a regular kid - with some issues, but a regular kid - and we should treat him like one and just be prepared. Is that right?

I felt muscles relax that I didn't know were tense. Yeah, I said. That's right. He nodded to himself, and said quietly, 'Well, we can do that.' And they did. Parents battle for small things, schools fight back, angry and feeling taken advantage of, teachers plant their feet, feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated. But these guys sat and listened and asked questions and took me on a tour of the classroom, to identify potential issues, and asked more questions and just...did it.

You'd have to read hundreds of frustrated, angry emails by allergy parents to understand how amazingly lucky we are. Parents who dig out IDEA, who call the state attorney, who hire lawyers to let their kids go to school. Parents who actually know that IDEA exists, that the state attorney is useful to them, and who have the knowledge to do anything other than self-destruct with fury and frustration. And parents who homeschool, some because they want to, more because they feel they have to. I had an email this past month from a hemophilia parent who homeschools because her son has lots of bleeds and was missing too much school. Hemo-parents jumped to help, offering links to legislation supporting the kid, describing how the kid is entitled to an extra set of books (carrying a heavy bag isn't always possible with swelling, bleeding or at-risk joints - and definitely not possible in a wheelchair!), how he's entitled to a tutor, how the school isn't allowed to hold him back for medically-based absence alone...the bleeding disorder crowd know their rights, and few people in the school system give them trouble over it. Hemo kids? A sad, pathos-ridden bunch. Of course we support them. By contrast, the food allergy crowd is less well educated, has less media tailored to their needs, and their knowledge is more haphazard. And those phonies who just can't be bothered taking their Claritin? Why enable the whiners?

Oh, yes, we are lucky with this school.

I cruised past Gluten-Free By the Bay and ogled this: I sat, I sighed, and then I smacked my head. I've just finished adapting a Bette Hagman's recipe for us (soy-free, egg-free, corn-free, dairy-free), and it is light and fluffy and wonderful as either rolls or bread. Here it is:

You Must Be This High to Be This Bread
Editor's note: most gluten-free breads are quite, quite short. And gluten-free sans eggs? Almost a guaranteed coxswain. Take a look at GFBTB's bread. Ooooh. Now look at the number of eggs. Ahhha. It is a mystery to me why this bread has the height and the loft of non-gf, vegan breads. Ya got me.

very,very adapted from Bette Hagman's New Challah. Makes 1 loaf or 12 rolls.

1.5 c rice flour (plain rice flour - not brown rice, not sweet rice)
1 c potato starch
.5 c tapioca starch flour
2.25 tsp xanthan gum/guar gum (guar for the anti-corn lobby)
.75 tsp salt
.25 c sweet rice flour
.5 c plain sugar
.5 tsp baking soda
1 Tb yeast

mix dry ingredients together. Dig out your breadmachine (or see below), and add the wet ingredients:

4 flaxgel egg substitutes (1 flaxgel= 1 Tb ground flaxseed, a.k.a flaxmeal + 2 TB water)
1.5 Tb honey or agave syrup, for the truly vegan - thanks for the nudge, joy!
.75 tsp vinegar (I like rice vinegar or cider vinegar)
.5 c margarine (I use Mother's stick margarine, the stuff from Passover which is corn free. Mother's tub margarine might work too, but the consistency is different.)
1 Tb instant potato flakes. No, really.
1.5 cups water

If you have a bread machine, dump the dry ingredients onto the wet ingredients and press a button. Look smug. I'd bake this in an oven, so once it's mixed and risen, turn off the machine and pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 400F for about 40 minutes. Or, pour into greased muffin tins and bake at 400F for about 22 minutes (i.e., check after 20 minutes and decide). Watch the bread puff and rise and say things like, 'holy cripes, that's vegan GF?' (There are probably children present when you say this. If not, feel free to improvise.)

If you don't have a bread machine, well, try this: having combined the dry ingredients, ignore them. Heat the flaxgels briefly in the microwave until they start to gel, then add honey and the margarine (in chunks) and the potato flakes. Beat in your mixer. In a separate bowl, mix vinegar, water.

Add the dry to the wet ingredients, adding the water-vinegar mixure slowly, to keep the stuff from flying everywhere. Mix hard, beating for about 3-5 minutes, to get some aeration into the stuff. Then let it rise somewhere warm for about 40 minutes. Less for the 'fast-acting, good for breadmachines' yeast, closer to 50 minutes for the slower acting yeast.

Spoon into a greased pan or muffin tins and bake at 400F as per above. When it comes out beautifully, ignore your lack of electronic doohickey and look smug regardless.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sophie Currier: following the story

In brief,

Her appeal is to be heard at 9 am on Tuesday: see here for details.

Opinions about her continue to be mixed, except on her blog which has become a dumping ground for vicious comments. She closed the blog, making it accessible by invitation only. Meanwhile, here are some other perspectives:
DollyMix - Natalie blames Currier's situation on poor gadgetry, which is only slightly missing the point. Her conclusion, " You never stop being a mum but unless you have a kid that's asking for "Bitty" when he's in his twenties, you do stop breastfeeding and you do reduce your amount of feeds with the introduction of solids ...." is a bit impenetrable. Whazzat? And how does that relate to a 4 month old infant and nursing mother dyad?

Breastfeeding Symbol - MamaBear is patient, if frustrated. "It is discriminatory (and hypocritical, considering the institution which this test is for) to not allow pumping breaks. Full stop." Well, considering that I wrote a nearly parallel post here, I'm disinclined to argue. Our stats even matched. Too cute!

Economics for What Ales You: ignoring the breastfeeding issue, the blogger asks: would you want someone with dyslexia/ADHD as a doc? Um, thanks. I certainly wouldn't want you on the job...your analytical skills seem a touch unsteady.

Sexing the Cherry - Zahra is flat out furious: "The decision comes down to this: don't feed your child or don't become a doctor." She argues that women can have it all - after all, men can! I'm dubious (men have different post-partum biochemistry than we do), but I appreciate the vote of support.

CMCCurry - is scratching his head a bit. He asks, "Why not put off having a kid until you get your PhD?" Oh, where to start, where to start.

And Notes of an Anesthesioboist is sincere, thoughtful and has the most mature commentators I've seen yet. On this subject, that is.

I think the word I'm looking for here is sigh. Currier is too human, too imperfect to be a good spokesperson. Her ADHD and dyslexia make her the target for people who say that she is a whiner and always looking for accomodations. It's impossible to say if this is true or not. Women who've been there and survived are writing in saying that their experience was that they didn't need X minutes to pump, they didn't pump during the exam - and their experience is surely definitive. It's not. In this case, as in the LD, the neurochemistry, the history of mastitis - the devil (or should I say plugged duct?) is in the details.

And then there are the medical students, writing crass things about Currier needing to keep her legs crossed, or to use her 'funbags' [sic] for better purposes. Lovely.

What do I think? I think that if this was a purely medical decision and it was made by an educated medical professional, Currier would be given the time she needs to pump. But it's not being done that way. Instead, this is a legal matter in the hands of an under-educated legal system (where breastfeeding is concerned) whose legislature does not support nursing mothers. See Carolyn Mahoney (NY) for exceptions. And frustrations.

I think I wish Currier well. She's fighting a good fight, and I can only hope she's doing it for the right and legitimate reasons. I think she might be, which relieves me - because if she's not, then she's only proving some nasty-minded folks true, and we've now got a judge telling nursing mothers to stay home. Just what we needed.

If there's a revolution coming, bringing respect for the woman and mother, well, it's taking its sweet time getting here...

coming up: nothing to do with milk ducts!

Instead, a review of the early days at kindergarten, and a new gluten-free (vegan, nut-free, etc, etc, etc) bread that actually came out of the machine at 4 inches high. Holy moly.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sophie Currier: didn't we just do this post?

Apparently not.

Let the crunchiness roll on: a local judge decided that a nursing mother can wait until she's done nursing before taking the 9 hr medical boards. (Article is here, courtesy of the Boston Globe. Currier blogs about it here. )Sophie Currier asked for extra time in order to pump milk (she's nursing a 4 month old baby) during her test, and the judge said the following:

"The plaintiff may take the test and pass, notwithstanding what she considers to be unfavorable conditions," Brady wrote. "The plaintiff may delay the test, which is offered numerous times during the year, until she has finished her breast-feeding and the need to express milk."

This is impressive.

The judge is flat out missing the point here: "unfavorable conditions?" try instead, 'risk of infection' and 'painful engorgement.' The best part of this quote is, of course, "may delay the test...until she has finished her breast-feeding and the need to express milk." Hmm. Well, let's see: Currier has a residency waiting for her this fall, assuming she passes the boards. So I guess the judge is giving her, oh, a month? to finish nursing - unless, of course, he's saying that if she needs to nurse (and thus to express), she shouldn't be taking the boards OR the residency.

I smell an appeal. That judge came within a hair of effectively telling this woman to lose a major career opportunity, because she's a nursing mother. Oh, dearie me, I think I must now suppress an urge to cackle, evilly, because this cannot, should not end well for Judge Patrick Brady.

What's really rather sad is this: a judge, who is presumably an educated, thoughtful person, has proven just how little is known and understood about breastfeeding. (The folks over at the TSA should be feeling a little self-congratulatory just about now. They get it - Brady doesn't.) The comentators over at Currier's blog show just where lack of understanding turns into defensiveness and just plain ugliness. Currier's description of her situation is angry, a bit overdone, but should not dent the validity of the matter at hand. And yet - women unite? Not over this issue.

But wait! It gets sadder:

"The national board thinks that breastfeeding is a fine thing to do but it also thinks that having a standardized examination for licensure is also really important," said board spokesperson Ken Cotton.

Okay, so let's walk through this slowly. The question was as to whether Currian's situation warranted extra time. The judge, who does not understand either the ramifications of not pumping regularly or does not understand the nature of breastfeeding in regards to the length of the nursing relationship - or both, says there's no reason to accomodate her. The board administering the test says that she doesn't fall under the ADA as a nursing mother, so standards are standards.

But, this is a board testing Currian's right to be a doctor. And as a doctor, she would dispense advice such as, oh, lemme see, this:
" The AAP identifies breastfeeding as the ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants and recognizes breastfeeding as primary in achieving optimal infant and child health, growth, and development. ... It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired."
And specifically on this subject (courtesy of the AP), "Dr. Ruth Lawrence, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section, called the medical examining board's position too rigid."

Or, what about those irresponsible folks at the World Health Organization, who say things like:
" A recent review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond."

Hmm. The exam is designed to test the medical competency of folk such as...these? Or these? Heaven help me if I ever get one of them as a doc - with the possible exception of the level-headed Baby Bop. Oh, dearie me. The women are defensive and the men are bitter, and none of these fine figures of would-be doctors are willing to stop being self-absorbed long enough to actually listen to the patient. Good grief.

Time to pack it in, ladies. The law, the test-givers - and the test-takers - have spoken. Who needs doctors, anyway? Especially the lactating ones.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

hand gestures and barbecues

Oh, dear. Did I get political? Right, then - let's get maternal:

Wail! Wail!
1.17 am. We are both awake, working on various deadlines, and slightly stupefied by our own night-owlishness.

Wail! Wail! [insert note of increasing indignation here]
The Man goes down the hall to the small, miserable body while I dive behind a door. Night weaning is still somewhat iffy, dependant on me doing a Mission Impossible-style disappearing act when necessary.

Oh, little one.
Oh little one, let's go to bed.
WAIL!! [brief pause for oxygen] DINK O WATER!
Drink of water? Oh, my sweet one, okay, you can have

Two adults gulp for a calm breath, while the child examines his father to see if the gulping sounds meant agreement. It didn't. But his dad gave him all props for timing and effort.

I had seriously underrated the stresses of a morning commute.

For years now, the Man has been trying to explain it to me, and I thought I got it - after all, I rode the subway for years in NYC to and from school. How much more raw and unwashed could you get? Okay, okay I understand now. Boston drivers are grumpy. They are crude, they have too little patience, and they are all too willing to use fellow drivers for their emotional dumping grounds.

Yesterday, an elderly man gave me the finger - one on each hand - for not turning right on red. I was indicating a left turn.

Today, an orange clad bicyclist hollered at me for wedging myself at the end of a long line of barely moving cars. Two other cars were behind me, moving purposefully.

Sigh. On the other hand, there is one distinct advantage: the reading material. Boston drivers tend to be Democrat at best, and Green Party or libertarian at better, and all of those come with some fun bumper stickers. My favorites from today:

Evolutionists do it in increasingly complicated ways.

prune Bush

Dog is my co-pilot.

Editor's note: thanks to all who responded by slapping stickers on, especially my next door neighbor (two of these are his? hers?). All new ones are in red.

may the fetus you save be gay

Bush's approval rating is approaching his IQ

the future is organic

You can't beat a woman who shoots

I'm resigned to you idjits out there, and if you teach my kids new and exciting vocabulary, I will take my revenge by turning you into an object lesson. (D'you see that driver there? She is not behaving in an appropriate way. Is she being considerate of others? What do you think happens if everybody behaves like this? I can go on like that for hours, you know, and I'll do it with the windows rolled down while going precisely two miles under the speed limit. heh.)

But if you've got to be grumpy, aggressive so-and-sos on the road, could'ja at least provide a little reading material? get a good bumper sticker. Be crabby on the 'sticker if you like, heck - be crude, even. Please. Because even with the moderately inventive hand-gesturing, I'm just flat out bored.
But not hungry! This week's been all barbecue, all the time. We have a gas Weber, and I'm having a blast.

Mama's Got a 'cue Salmon

1 slab of frozen salmon fillet, with or without the skin (if you buy fresh, adjust the cooking times accordingly)
olive oil
sage leaves, fresh

Fire up the barbecue, and when hot, lay the salmon on it - skin side down. (No skin? Look for the darker side of the salmon for the skin side. Can't figure it out? Don't worry about it too much - I suggest skin down because there's some fat content in the skin, which will keep it from getting glued to the barbecue too much. If you can't figure out which is which, just pick a side, drizzle a bit of oil on it and slap it down.)

With the salmon on the barbecue, drizzle olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with salt and carefully lay a few sage leaves on top. Leave for about 6-7 minutes, lid closed and smoke leaking out a bit. Then, flip the salmon over and repeat drizzle, sprinkle and add herbs. You might see some white fat/liquid bubbling up around the edges - resolutely ignore this and close the lid of the 'cue.

Walk away, coming back perhaps 5-8 minutes later (depending on how hot your barbecue is) to find a smoky, fabulous salmon. If you are wise, at this point you will also slide some veggie kabobs onto a plate, and voila! dinner is ready.

Options: replace sage with rosemary, or use thyme. Squeeze half a lemon over the salmon when done.

Veggie Kabobs, a.k.a the Whole Shishkabobble
(named by the Eldest)

bamboo skewers - they get scorched, by don't conduct too much heat
a colorful range of the following:
cherry tomatoes
whole white mushrooms
slabs of red onion
chunks of bell pepper
zucchini/summer squash (unless you are eating with an Imperfect)

Slide onto the skewer carefully, trying to alternate colors for maximum effect. Note: this is not a Martha Stewart moment here, people, this is feeding strategy. We are attracted to visually appealing foods, and we tend to like a range of colors - nutritionally, you should aim for three colors per meal - so pretty it up here, folks. It's easy and it's how I get my kids to eat bell peppers without nagging.

Leave a good quarter to a third of the skewer empty, you'll want it for a handle when you turn the food.

Line the skewers up on the barbecue, leaving about an inch sticking out over the edge - these end bits won't get as hot. Drizzle the veggies with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Leave for about 8-10 minutes, then turn as best you can.

Consider squeezing a bit of fresh lemon or lime juice over the skewers when done, or leave well enough alone.