Friday, May 27, 2011

post-scoop, or bringing back the dairy at BCH

Many thanks to those of you who emailed me with your thoughts - and wishes - regarding the Eldest's reintroduction to dairy. (cheese-cheese-cheesegimmecheese-ooh, ice creeeeeeeeeeeeeeamcheese) Yes, other tolerizing efforts are going on around the nation, and yes, right here in MA.

At Boston Children's Hospital, in fact. We were not part of this study, but you can read - or watch! more about the BCH clinical trial here, or watch Dr. Lynda Schneider explain it:

We're familiar with Dr. Schneider as the doc who didn't laugh during one of the Eldest's food challenges. The kid, tired of being asked to yank up his shirt every quarter-hour (to check for hives), decorated himself. In green marker. He put one dot over a middling high rib, another on the matching rib, a line downwards, and a flat, curving line just below the belly button. It looked roughly like this:   :-) His nurse was nearly 8 months pregnant, and laughed herself silly. It was a whole lotta laughter - but Dr. Schneider, alas, didn't find it infectious. And yet, listening to her in this video, you can see that even if she doesn't get the Eldest's sense of humor, she does understand something about what food allergies can do to a family. Good for you, Dr. Schneider!

For more of this series, you can watch Robyn Nasuti demonstrate the impact of a food allergic kid (or two) on the family food budget.  I was struck by Robyn Nasuti's willingness to cook multiple meals for her children. It's not an effort that I could sustain. The amount of time involved in preparing this individualized menu must be enormous, and how one maintains an identity outside of Allergy Mom - or a life outside of the kitchen? is beyond me. But different families make different choices, based on their different needs. Looking at the Nasutis' list of allergens, it's clear that their choices serve to keep their family going. And if three different dinners works to do that? well, then, three dinners it is.

In another clip, Ming Tsai, chef and father of an allergic child, talk about his efforts to educate others, and life with his allergic son. Tsai is wry, pragmatic, and I admire his ability to make things happen. The legislature that he helped craft - and see into law - offers a very basic education to folks working in restaurants. And, if you are wondering if that education is needed, I suggest watching the following clip about Brett's own efforts to educate his peers. The children's misunderstandings of food allergy - that the big 8 are "all of the allergies"   are common. Adults share these misunderstandings, and frankly, adults worry me more than the kids. Because, as we all learned from the parents of Edgewater, where the adults lead, kids follow.

Which makes us, some days, a living, mobile exhibit in the Things That Don't Happen museum. I told my wife that this allergy thing isn't really true, a lovely preschool dad - and educator - confided. Our son is lactose intolerant, but it's just not a big deal! So why are all of these people getting so upset about food allergies? He grinned and shrugged. I shrugged back, and arranged my face into something as far from wtf as possible.

Yeah, I nodded sagely. Never saw anything like this allergy stuff when I was a kid. Maybe someone had hayfever, but that was it. And now? I flung my hands up, EpiPens everywhere! We offered each other resigned, wry expressions.  If I hadn't seen the kids have the anaphylactic reactions, I said ruefully, and paused. Shook my head. I'd never have believed it.  

His head whipped around. Really? The anaphylaxis? I nodded, remembering.

Yeah. Never seen anything like it before it happened the first time, but it's pretty nasty. The kid starts to cough, vomit, then he's wheezing and his throat is closing. It's pretty bad.  So, yeah - I understand why parents get scared. It's a nasty thing, and it's easy to overprotect because it's so scary.

He blinked. You know, he said slowly, you are totally ruining my world view. 

I grinned.  I've heard that before. But if it helps? Lactose intolerance isn't an allergy. It's a missing enzyme that the body needs to break down the dairy. 

He flung up his hands, possibly in relief. Well! At least there's that. And trotted off to tell his wife.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

do all the things??

With thanks to Hyperbole and a Half, and if you are scratching your head right now, stop and go read this. No, really - I'll wait.

So, if I have a fault as a parent (what, me fault? cue the cackling children), it's my love of projects. Oh, I do love me some projects, possibly seventeen or so at a time. So we trip off happily to the yarn store, and find yarn to teach the child crochet. Or fabric, because we're going to teach the child sewing. And, in each case, we shall create marvels, and it shall be good.

Also? It will take so long to complete some of these marvels, whose marvellousness will expand and origami itself as the child gains competence and understanding of the technical skills needed for the project, that (deep inhale, cripes this sentence is running amok) the kid will lose interest. And I will end up pushing, because inevitably, that project was to be their grandmother's 60th birthday present, or a friend's birthday present two freakin' years ago or, or, or.

And then we both hate the project, snarl at it and each other, and stomp off. Until the next project shows up.


And then we'll do it all over again. Because for a brief, shining moment early in the whole project trajectory, the kid has an idea. The mama backs him up. There's a special trip to the store that sells the supplies, and we romp through it like selective magpies, falling in love with all of the shiny possibilities. We collect endless project idea cards and handouts, and gaze at them and a possible future of creative wonderfulness. And I take pictures like this one, which leave me damp of eye and proud.

That's my grandmother's sewing machine, schlepped to the country by my mother, and used (infamously) to make the Eldest's siddur cover.  And that earnest face? Well, it don't help us kick the habit, is all I'm saying. In fact, it's rather irresistible...

Note for the perceptive:
The buddy-taping in the photo is more or less for the reason you think - at the time, the kid had a bleed in the joint of his middle finger. It was a beeyoutiful shade of reddish purple, and worthy of admiration at the dinner table. Which is, of course, where I noticed it and inquired as to cause, duration and all of those finicky details. My hand? asked the child, surprised. And looked. Oh! Wow! the Eldest exclaimed, and seemed honestly surprised. That hurts!  Across the table from him, I nearly choked on my tea. And it really is purple!

Sometimes, the hard part about being a parent is the urge to howl with laughter - and not being able to do anything of the sort.

Note the second:
The kid is, of course, fine. And my diaphragm is still recovering.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

a pause for memory

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It's no coincidence, I always think, that my grandmother's yahrzeit falls so near to Yom haShoah, the day of remembrance for the Holocaust. I should not have known her well - she lived impossibly far away for most of my childhood, and lived nearby only for a blinkingly short time. But in that blink? Well.

A teenaged trip to Poland, touring the concentration camps, because that's what you did with your gratingly idealist Jewish teen in the 80's, and for all I know, still do. The kids came home shocked, quieter, and many of us, angrier. Try gratingly idealist with an edge of historical angst? Yeah. Great. I came home stunned, and realizing for the first time that there were numbers large enough for me not to grasp, and that those were numbers of people.

I'd learned that, as it happens, in a warehouse of shoes.

Anger, I rather thought, was a reasonable response to the unimaginable. But my grandmother mourned such anger in her quiet, determined way, and had far more right to it than I. She wrote endless letters, trying to educate people about the Holocaust, teach a nuanced, thoughtful understanding of history. And she was not angry.

I missed that at first, awash in a collection of her oddities. She didn't bake cookies - she mashed bananas and sprinkled carob powder on them. She had a compost heap, and believed in rot. She ate this buggy, dirty lettuce, sold in coops (what the what the was a co-op? hell-o? seventies?) by people who didn't believe in deodorant. She treasured her friendship with a farmer person, who didn't believe in using modern fertiziliers because oh, maybe somehow they'd be bad for you. And oh yes, there were the herbal remedies. And her vegetarianism.  That chamomile tea will lighten brown hair, turning it nearly blonde - and didn't I want to try that? And wierd quirks about plastic in the microwave. What was there to understand? The woman was sweet but high, high, high on the seriously odd scale.

If she had one saving grace, teen-me thought, it was that she made the absolute best sandwiches ever. Thick, crusty, never seen the inside of a supermarket bread. With seeds and things in it. Slabs of avocado. Crunchy bits of sprouts which were sneakily delicious despite being so - so - hippie. And oh! that dirty lettuce, washed and crisp and melting. On that foundation, she wreaked a range of marvels. And, being the food slut that I am, I fell in love.

Years later, I'd be a parent, making decisions about organic food and whether a bit of ginger might settle a young-un's tum. But back then, I was a fuzzy teenager, chewing on a revelation and learning that individuals count. That the specifics of circumstance can rule you, and that unless I knew those specifics, I could not judge. I set that thought next to the impossible warehouse of shoes, and watched it. Chewed. Tried to undercut it with her narrative of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, machine guns and the camps. Swallowed.


The sandwich - and the idea - settled deep inside me, both setting standards for which I owe her.

Decades after her death, I found myself in a produce store, staring at a rather lumpy looking bit of citrus. And then frozen, inhaling the distinctive smell of a sour orange, and remembering sun-rich fruit, and a farmer casually picking something perfectly ripe. Think about patience, thoughtfulness and smile at the orange in a way that made an older man tilt his head and watch me. Grin a little, even.

She echoes, my grandmother does.   And I miss her.