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.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Boobies, bogeymen and babies: the unabashedly crunchy post

Recently, I went out to dinner with some friends. One, slightly known to me, was pregnant and expecting her first child. Others were swapping birth stories, and I had my mouth full, so I just listened. Oh, but you should ask her about her second birth, one said, pointing to me. I swallowed hastily, as another said, laughing, 'Yeah, but you should also know that she's really, really crunchy granola.'

Yes, I have a strong opinion about childbirth, and especially about c-sections and VBACs. I think there are too many of the first and too little of the second, and I'm a suspicious soul generally when it comes to medical consumerism. I know a few doctors, some professionally and some personally (the wife of one of my bleaders, for one), whom I'd trust absolutely if they performed a section. But the vast majority of ob/gyns? The statistics do not speak well of the profession as a group, I'm afraid. And I'm not so sure they speak well of the consumers, either.

So. I read this post at doulicia, and immediately sent a happy, excited email to the Grandmere, a person of wisdom and concern in regards to these matters. Wonders of natural childbirth in New Jersey? Rates of c-sections far below the national average? And in, I repeat, New Jersey??? The state has never struck me as a particular bastion of medical heretics. The Grandmere was as puzzled as I, as doulicia herself, and made some enquiries.

Here is a response from a trustworthy source working in the area (trustworthy by my standards, so caveat bleader). Please note that when she talks about her clinic patients, she's talking about those at her workplace, which is not Muhlenberg:

Muhlenberg is a small hospital with NO NICU or pediatric department. Babies are taken care of by pediatric hospitalists, as there are no attendings. Clientele is poor, black or Hispanic. I'm sure all high risk patients are shipped out to St. Peter's in New Brunswick. Any middle class family in this catchment area probably delivers at JFK in nearby Edison or goes to Somerset or Overlook.

More likely they have fewer C-sections because they do not have 24-hour anesthesia coverage and are not so worried about poor women and illegal immigrants suing for poor outcome. The high national C-section rate, I believe, is the result of MD fears of lawsuits if the baby is born with a hangnail, much less CP or infection or...

Our middle class/upper-middle class/wealthy mothers WANT C-sections. Labor is yucky and it HURTS! They surely want to breastfeed, but also expect to sleep through the night. (We do LOTS of education before and after birth on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding, for mom and baby, but...)

Our best breastfeeding moms are the clinic patients, almost all Hispanic. (Our black patients are usually middle class). They keep them in their beds with them, and breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed.

It makes me inexpressibly sad that WHO recommended standards for medical care are available to 1. the over-educated and crunchy (like me), who advocate furiously and can afford a doula and - this bit is crucial - are self-absorbed enough to trust ourselves over the wisdom of the medical standard, and
2. the lower class, who have no choices. This is frankly wrong.

This analyst offers a lot to consider, and I'm afraid I agree with most of it. I think too many people have sections because of poor labor support, I think they have poor labor support because they don't realize that they probably need more than a hospital (and a husband/partner) can give. And as a culture, we're afraid of pain. We don't like it, we refuse to accept it, and we turn those who can tolerate some into martyrs and heroes.

Should we accept pain when there is a choice? Well, I suspect it depends on the baggage for that choice. Should we accept that this hospital produces such amazing stats under these circumstances? Again, consider the baggage. American medicine just hasn't hit its stride where laboring mothers are concerned, and apparently the pendulum still swings too far one way or another, spending much too little time in the middle.

I'd like to try an experiment: let's pick a hospital with good medical backup - a good NICU, round the clock anasthesia, enough ORs, sensible doctors, etc. Offer a neutral prep class to mothers, one that talks about healthy and good pain, and tells you how to work with it, as well as giving you the options. (I remember my hospital tour with #2 - the nurse described the typical patient as flat on her back, plus epidural and catheter. If that's what you present as normal, then you get the stats to match it.) Then, equip each laboring mum with a doula - a good one, a sensible, noncrystal-waving one, and get the medical trappings of birth to a bare minimum. Check the laboring woman at the start and late in the game, unless she's presenting with complications. Reduce the pressure on her, increase the support, and see what happens.

I bet that we'd get many fewer sections, and many happy mums - and fewer happy lawyers holding hefty paychecks.
Let's take the granola all the way to the cereal bowl, shall we? To cap off this post, here's this:

In response to my link about nursing in public, Mother in Israel pointed me to her own blog, and this post. It makes me tired and grumpy - what's the problem with a woman nursing among women? During my mother's shiva time, I nursed the Toddles in front of all sorts of people, but I watched the Grandmere's cues carefully. Sensitivity and respect - it was a strategy that worked just fine.

You grouchy types should just hush up - you're drowning out all of the quiet live and let live types, you are overriding all of the quiet, sympathetic smiles, the nostalgic glances. Your irritation and strident criticism is just too loud for a nursing mum, already anxious about tzniut [modesty] and kavod ha'makom [respect for the place] to hear the community's support when she nurses her child at services.

Yes, some communities have a nursing room - and some even locate it just off the women's section of the communal prayer room. (I have private, irritated thoughts for communities who relegate me to hot little rooms a floor or two away from the davening [prayer].) And others don't want to see a nursing mum, let alone her baby. But others, like my shul, debate whether it's okay to ask a woman to toss a shawl over her shoulder while nursing her baby in the women's section during davening. And they'll assign another, sympathetic nursing mum like me to do it.

The problem with the folks who hiss at small children who wriggle, or at mothers who nurse (even in the nursing room, as M.i.I's post shows), is that they resonate more loudly in the psyche than the folks who don't hiss. And for someone new to the community, the hissers can cut off newbie's chance to actually learn about the community, to see whether the shul is a hot small room (A), an adjacent (B) or a stay home (C) nursing community.

So I put it to you: two days of Rosh Hashana, with the extended service of the High Holy Days. Followed immediately by shabbat, and the shabbat davening. That's a whole lot of shul. And, if you are a nursing mum, it's a whole lot of staying home (if you have community C), or feeling anxious (A) or mostly accepted (B). Or frankly included.

Hmm. High Holy Days, when we examine our conduct towards others - even more so than our conduct towards the Big Guy Upstairs. Hmm. Yup, now would definitely be the right time to hiss at a poor mum, juggling her baby and her siddur [prayerbook]. Oh, yes - tactically sound, folks. Tactically sound.

As a considered, mature response, I have decided that the hissers among us should be dubbed 'boobies,' for boobies they are and boobies they object to. Silly boobies. Sit down and focus on your prayers, and not on a mother attending to her child.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

...and done!

That, my friends, is a badly framed photo of the finish line for the Boston Marathon. It is also, not so coincidentally, the finish line for the Jimmy Fund's Boston Marathon walk, which we crossed this afternoon.

The Man, despite having started the day at 4am to go to Hopkinton, nonetheless roared across the line while pushing a double stroller (not mine) seating two small boys (one of them mine). Zina, carrying one boy in her gorgeous Beco (not mine but oooh carrier lust) and pushing another (mine), scooted across, just ahead of the Y-Chromosome With Legs (And Wheels!).

It was an easy walk, a comfortable stroll, and I felt vaguely uncomfortable about the ease of it all. I've watched cancer and the battles fought with it, and those are brutal and terrifying. It wears people to the bone, and this walk felt too tidy, too self-satisfying by comparison. The Eldest's solution? Next year, Mum, let's walk FIVE miles!

You got it, kiddo.

Later that night, he ambushed me. The Man had collapsed in bed with aching muscles and the Toddles. I'd taken an antihistamine for a persistent cold, and was relaxing with tea. The Eldest, curled up next to me, had questions. Is Amelia all better now, Mum?

I looked at him. His logic was inescapable. Amelia was sick, we raised money for her, we walked for her, we made things better. Right? Oh, my little love. No. Not right. We started with the money. We talked about who it was for, and what it could do. And I told him about Isabella, again.

Five years ago, when Isabella had leukemia, the doctors didn't know how to do things they know how to do today. Scientists learn about the body, and they teach doctors, and doctors get better at fighting things like cancer.

Oh. (long pause) How old was Isabella?
She was almost 1 year old.
How old is Amelia?
She is two - she's a bit older than the Toddles.
(pause, in which the Eldest considers this and winds up for a knuckleball)
Can anyone get cancer? Can I get cancer?

So. We talked about cancer, who can get it and what happens. We talked about a near relative who had cancer, and who beat it. She stood up for herself, Mum, and she made people listen when she needed help. Hm. Yes, I believe she did.

We talked about kids with hemophilia, and how two generations ago many did not survive. How, a generation before the Eldest, many got sick from their medicine. How they didn't have recess at school, for fear of bleeds. Science knows a lot about hemophilia now, so the medicine is good. You are strong, your body is strong, and you can do sports like almost any other boy. He thought this over. Yes, and I love sports!

We talked about food allergy, and about how science is only starting to learn about allergy. Does it bother you that science is just getting going with understanding allergies? He considered this. No. I'm okay with that.

I begin to understand why so many kids with hemophilia talk about going into the sciences, into health care, into grass roots advocacy and support for folks with chronic conditions. It's what they see around them, the science, the care, the support is real and valuable to them. Experience is powerful - and it's exactly that which drives events like the Jimmy Fund walk.

Current estimates say that cancer will affect 1 in 3 people in their lifetime. If everyone affected walks, if they brought their brother, their cousin, their co-workers, then you end up with a huge affair like this one, full of people striving to find a way to do something real, to respond to the overwhelming medical reality - the human reality - of cancer.

Sometimes it has to be real for us to invest in it. Sometimes it has to be personal.

Well, then: meet Amelia. Meet Amelia's binky, and the foot that kept poking into her brother's space. She's ordinary, she's sweet, she's annoying her brother and testing her parents' patience. She is, to quote the after-school director at the Eldest's school, a normal kid who deserves a shot. How ordinary, how extraordinary. And the Eldest is right - she's definitely worth five miles.

See ya next year, kiddo.
And on a completely different note, for all you nursing, post-lactating and occasionally embarrassed mamas, try this:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

turning two

I have a 9/11 baby. I've told the tale of the Toddles on this blog before, but I repeat: I have a 9/11 baby.

Who cares? Everybody's got to be born sometime. And yet, it resonates a bit. I have a 9/11 baby, and he is sunshine and fire and love. And today he is two years old.

There's the silly things about him getting older, like the new gDiapers having arrived (ooh, the colors are lovely and the fit of the dipes on him is fabulous. Bravo, gDipe team - you've really reinvented the diaper!). Our cloth inserts now fit perfectly into the gPants, as Kim from Montana's Diaper Store had promised. And the hemp prefolds are truly tough stuff - many, many washes later, it's holding up beautifully. Between the fabulous fit of the gDiaper pants and the absorbability of the hemp inserts, I am one happy mama.

There's the lovely things about him getting older, like the moment when he looked at my mum, while she sat shiva for her older brother. He ran in, looked her in the eye and said, 'I love you, Savta.' She nearly wept over his ginger curls - that small, careless-serious expression of love hit her in places untouched by the grave, polite friends who came to visit. And there's the way that he leans into me and says, 'I hug you, Mummy,' and does. Sunshine and fire and love. With a dash of giggles.

I woke up this morning, to find him lifting my shirt. 'I have nai-nais,' he informed me, grinned, wriggled and did. 'Yummy,' I was told. Sunshine and fire and love and delighted, deliberate motion - with brief pauses for snuggling.

There was life before the Toddles, and it was good. But this has been two years of Babes and Toddle-dom, and I am humbly grateful. He has been a gift, a challenge and an opportunity to love. When the Man and I rolled the genetic dice, we never expected the Toddles, and oh are we glad.

For those of you who are sans Toddle but calendrically lunar, a happy and healthy (Jewish) New Year. Shana Tova.
And for those of you who prefer your holiday greetings with a little more coolness, here's this from a bleader:

In the coming year, may we all learn some of the Toddles' joy, his fascination and absolute certainty that the world is full of things to learn and to love.
Ah, the marvels of modern toydom. Check this out: The Man, however, points out that a recyclable dollhouse can also come from any number of stylish boxes around the house. And what the heck, we could paint 'em blue ourselves. Still, it's pretty neat.
Frankly, given how often kids like the box better than the gift, you have to figure that this one combines the best of the two. It's a gift *and* a box.

The Toddles' gift, on the other hand, is rather more plebian. And, budgetarily friendly! It cost precisely $12.50, and is some fun, chunky snap-together link things that create three dimensional structures. And it's small - and I resent the increase in our local toy population even so. Sigh. Maybe it is time for another toy purge?
Readers, beware. Books ain't what they used to be:

Monday, September 03, 2007

lemon philathropy (take two)

2 neon posterboards, 42 lemons, 1 entire bag of sugar, 7 tea bags (good profit margin on that one, the Man mumbled) and one really, really annoyed papercut (mine) later, here we are.

Oh, we had lemon. Boy, did we have lemon.

Sure, we'll have a drink, amused passersby would say. What's good?

The Eldest would barely miss a beat. The lemonade is really popular!

At the end of a long, sticky day (10.45 am - 2.25 pm), here is the final count:

1 $20 bill
1 $10 bill
$20 - in $5 bills
$34 - in $1 bills
$1 - in a dollar coin
$12 - in quarters
$2.57 - in dimes, nickels, pennies and one quarter
10p - in a random English ten pence piece. We're a little stumped.

Grand total: $99.57 (and 10p) for research into infant ALL.

Thank you to everyone who walked by and listened to an excited (and occasionally world-weary) small boy invite them to buy lemonade and 'icetea.' Thanks to everyone who understood that the Jimmy Fund is for kids with cancer, and not for gyms. Thanks to a wise lady who came armed with a newspaper to keep us amused - and bemused! Thanks to two small boys (and their patient mothers) in particular, who helped sell the drinks and to all those who cheerfully wrote or drew with chalk, inviting folks to come and see our lemonade stand.
For now, though, I quote the Eldest in this photo:
Phhheww. I'm glad we're done!

Heh. Clearly he hasn't thought about the whole walking part of the Jimmy Fund walk yet. But that, at least, is for another day.
P.S. for lemon philanthropy, part one, see here.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

lemonade for leukemia

Things are hectic here, as we prepare for school (Wednesday! did I get the extra EpiPens? What about the medical kit, the IHP, the grab-and-go emergency kit, the chemical ice packs, the....argh), and I prepare to go to NY. My mother will be sitting shiva for her brother once she returns from Australia. I'll be taking over the kitchen (gluten-free, vegan shiva house! come one, come all!) and bringing the Toddles with me. The Man and the Eldest will join us for the sabbath.

It drives me batty to think of missing the Eldest's first week of school. I want to be there - selfishly, mostly - I hate that I'll miss it. But it's the right choice to make. (Argh. This grown up thing means much less selfishness than I want. ME ME ME ME ME. Right? Any day now, I'm sure. MEMEMEMEMEMEME.) With all of this, plus an encroaching - and now badly timed - deadline at work, I'll be sadly neglecting this blog for the next 7 or so days. Assuming, of course, I have the willpower to dedicate my energies as I should.

Oh, and where the hell is Mary Poppins? Since Mary Jr transformed herself into H.A. Mary Jr (Honorary Auntie), I've been sadly lacking in parrot-headed umbrellas, not to mention the wielders thereof. And let me tell ya, I'm looking.
My thanks to those of you who read this post and jumped right in! Your generosity will fund research into infantile ALL, and we are grateful to you.

For our happy donors and everyone else, donations continue to be available on-line (either generally or you can select a specific walker), or you might consider joining us on Monday at Cambridge's Dana Park, where we will have a lemonade stand to fundraise for Team Amelia. Organic lemonade and the Mama's iced tea at 50 cents a pop, and a smiling Eldest. Throw in a really excellent playground, and who'd want to miss that?

We'll open for business at about 10.30am, and will stay as long as we have lemonade. Come join us! Play with our sidewalk chalk, invite complete strangers to drink up and support a good cause.