Monthly Archives: July 2012
Ben came home from the summer camp he’s teaching with a story about one of the girls in his camp. She’s allergic to dairy, eggs, and peanuts, and has to eat separately from the rest of the kids in the camp in a “peanut-free zone”. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that is — at least with my allergy, I could sit next to kids eating things that would’ve harmed me. Food, in our society (and from what I can tell, most societies), is a social thing as well as something for nourishment. When we get together with people, we talk about meeting up for lunch or dinner, or grab a cup of coffee. For kids in public school systems or very busy summer camps, lunch time might be the only unstructured social time they get with their classmates. And that means that for those of us with allergies, it’s not just eating that’s harder, it’s socializing.
I do a lot of contract work, which means I eat a lot of first meals with coworkers. The allergy comes up in conversation. A LOT. I don’t mean to be one of those people who’s always talking about my digestive tract, but when someone suggests we go out for pizza, they keep pushing for answers when I say I’m not up for joining them there. Or the number of times I’ve been offered cake or cookies, and when I politely decline, I get asked, “What, are you on some sort of a diet?” Yes, I’m on the thinner side of the spectrum (a result, I would wager, more to do with a diet low in saturated fat, rather than due to a genetic predisposition or all that exercise I avoid), so when these middle-aged women scowl at me with their slowing metabolisms, criticizing me for a diet they think I’m on and don’t need, a lot of the time I will speak up and tell them it’s because of an allergy (although, more and more lately I stay silent). When we go to restaurants, I’m used to playing twenty questions with the waiters just to find out what I can safely order.
I deal with a lot of that crap when outside the house, but now that I’m an adult, I can declare our house a Dairy-Free Zone. Okay, so it’s not a hard and fast rule, and Ben will occasionally bring something home that’s his to eat, like a tub of yogurt from the cows I nearly went to college with or leftovers from a restaurant. But for the most part, he’s voluntarily restricted his own dairy consumption, which means very little in our house. Come to think of it, we lost most of the contents of our fridge from the power outage, and I don’t think any dairy has entered the house since.
As a kid, it was a lot harder. At home, my parents kept dairy products for themselves (why shouldn’t they? As adults, we have the privilege of choosing our own food). At school, I ate my packed lunches because I could never have anything from the school cafeteria. And in elementary school, the lunch time teasing was pretty bad. I remember being chased around the lunch room with cartons of milk, having drops of milk flicked at my bare skin, string cheese wiggled in my face. Kids are really cruel about things they don’t understand, and in big settings like a school cafeteria, it’s really hard for the five adults present to keep an eye on three hundred socializing kids (had they even understood what was going on, and at that point, I’m not so certain they did).
So when Ben told me about the seven year old girl with the food allergies, who had one classmate who could sit with her because of the peanut allergy, but then shook a pudding container in her face and wiped cheese on her leg? I cried, and I don’t think it’s just the hormones this time.
I thought back to seven-year-old me and what I so desperately needed to hear.
Being a kid with allergies is so hard. All the grown-ups think they’re helping by giving you special cheese and a special plate of things you can eat. And yeah, sometimes that stuff is exciting, like when you go to a vegan restaurant and you can order anything on the menu. But special is only special when it’s, well, special. It’s only exciting when it’s different, when you can spend most of your time being normal. I can’t even count the number of times I cried myself to sleep because I just wanted a stupid ice cream cone like everyone else. Or the times I made myself sick because “well, a little bit will be okay”.
But you know what? What I eat now is normal. In our house, our normal “butter” is Earth Balance. When I say “please pass the milk”, it’s usually soy (although sometimes coconut or almond). And if I want, I can have ice cream for dessert, because we bought some at the store and it’s okay. I can open our refrigerator and eat anything I want to. And it’s No. Big. Deal.
And those decadent dairy-free desserts I make for myself? Most of the people I share them with can have dairy no problem, and don’t even care that what I made is cow-free. At Thanksgiving, my dairy-free pumpkin pie is regularly topped with whipped cow-cream. The raves I got for my dairy-free pumpkin cheesecake! And you know what else? Our wedding meal was totally dairy-free. And most people never even knew.
So hang in there, kiddo. It’s hard now, I know. But when you’re done with school and living on your own, you get to plan your own meals. And then whatever you choose to make is normal.
I spent most of the day yesterday in the kitchen. Barefoot, of course, which caused much amusement for everyone else. See, in our family, when holidays and events occur at inconvenient times during the week, we move them. So my birthday got relocated to Saturday this year. It was a last-minute thing, so only a few people were able to join us, but it was still really fantastic.
I decided on Monday to bake myself the World’s Most Ridiculous Cake; not to be satisfied by merely one complicated recipe, I instead adapted from TWO complicated recipes. Why make something simple when you can instead spend ten hours baking something that you will then judge to be Not Good Enough?
Don’t get me wrong, the cake turned out great. By which I mean so decadent it almost killed us, but this is not the sort of thing we do often, after all. But it’s actually only my second layer cake ever, so the frosting did not go on quite as smoothly as I hoped, despite using the much-beloved “crumb coating” technique of frosting (I have a couple thoughts, but that is neither here nor there).
It really was the perfect way to spend a birthday, though. I clearly need more creative outlets in my life, and the cake helped with that a lot. And then getting to share it with a few good friends who I don’t see nearly enough? That made it all just that much better. I told Ben as we went to bed last night, crashing hard from the sugar rush, that I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration.
Just to be thorough, I’ll leave you with a parting image of the damage to the cake. It took FIVE of us to eat that small amount. Yes, that would be not quite a quarter of an 8″ cake.
Ben has started teaching summer camp this week, which he’ll be doing for most of the rest of the summer. I’m still at home trying to justify my continued existence (my grandmother tells me I’m gestating, which is a full-time job. I still feel lazy). Which means I’m trying to play housewife again. In case you don’t remember how this went last time, let’s just summarize with the fact that I fired myself after a week.
So task one as a housewife: make sure we have something to eat for most meals. That means meal plan! What did I plan this week to cook for us? The most decadent birthday cake possible, and a peach crisp.
Yes, that is actually all I managed to plan for meals. Yes, I should probably be fired again.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m excited about both the crisp and the cake. Especially the crisp, because it’s currently in the oven, although the monumental I-think-I-might-be-crazy cake is terrifyingly thrilling, too. But I really ought to have something more… nutritious planned out. Or maybe just a full meal. My last attempt at planning a meal? “Well, we’ve got fresh corn, and half a steak leftover from when Dad took us to dinner. So we can each have an ear of corn and about two ounces of steak. Oh, there may also be some beans, too.”
Seriously. Fire me.
Okay, to be fair, this time at least I bought us fresh veggies. And Ben is really excited about the baking projects, so he’s currently refusing to take my resignation. All of which means I’m doing somewhat better than last time, so I have another week to get my act together before this experiment turns disastrous. So next week’s goal: plan more veggies, and maybe work some meat into the equation.
P.S. Turns out Ben brought his leftover meatballs home from lunch, which meant we had TWO portions. So dinner became meatballs, buttered noodles, and those fabulous corn ears from the market. Not too shabby!
The other night, Ben made a fantastic spicy beef soup for dinner. Since it was our first real home-cooked dinner after nearly two weeks out of town with a week of electricity disruptions in between, it felt pretty special, so he asked me to pick out a bottle of wine to go with it (which also inspired me to actually clean off the dining room table, change the table cloth, and properly set the table for dinner). I picked out a Côtes-du-Rhône (one of my under $15 favorites, actually: a 2010 Dom Mousset Côtes-du-Rhône, for those who are interested in such details), and we opened it up.
I had myself a half glass (there are tons of studies on alcohol during pregnancy which show small quantities do absolutely NO harm to the developing fetus, and no I’m not getting drunk, so please keep your opinions on that subject to yourself). There are just no words for how transcendent it feels when I successfully pair a wine to a meal. When one sip of the wine and one bite of the food not only complement but enhance each other, each made better by the pairing.
When I’m back to being able to have a daily glass of wine if I want and it no longer feels silly to open a bottle just for a glass and a half, we’re going to explore finding our House Wines. I would love to pick a Norton for the red, but that depends on finding a good one that’s not to expensive to keep on hand. Failing that, we might look for a cotes-du-rhone or similar blend. For the white, probably a torrontes — versatile and inexpensive. I just need to find one that we can stock easily. That doesn’t mean we’ll suddenly only drink two types of wine. It just means we’ll have a go-to that’s always on hand.
Oh wine. I miss you.
I’ve been really cautious about writing this post, but I think it’s important stuff that needs to be said. Like I mentioned, Ben and I have been getting a lot of books from the library lately, which includes some of the parenting advice books. I really, really want to emphasize that I have met several children being raised with advice gathered from these books, and they’re awesome people. I don’t in any way mean to diminish or disparage what their parents have accomplished. I have a good friend who has two beautiful, happy girls who slept through the night at 9 weeks because of techniques learned from Babywise. I have met several children raised through Attachment Parenting methods who are healthy and happy. If parents can glean something useful out of them, then I think that’s fantastic and should absolutely be celebrated.
I think there is some really harmful stuff in the books, and something ought to be said about it.
I first got Gary Ezzo’s On Becoming Babywise from our library. There were things about the tone that really bothered me, but I took it back to the library and didn’t get any quotes out of it. Having read a few more books now, I think I’ll go back and get the book again to find those quotes and, hopefully, address it in the same way in a future post.
The second parenting book we got was Dr. Sears’ The Attachment Parenting Book. I’ve been struggling to find a passage that really shows, in a brief section, the problems I have in this book. Because, like I said, they’re very subtle. But I think I found it.
In Chapter 9, he discusses “Balance and Boundaries”, or what can go wrong with Attachment Parenting and how to avoid those traps. Sounds good, right? Except all of them end up boiling down to Mom did it wrong, or something’s wrong with Mom, or you’re not trying hard enough. There’s no room for the idea that these methods aren’t necessarily for everyone; instead, he seems to proclaim that AP works for EVERYONE, and if it doesn’t work for you, it’s your fault. The first section in the chapter, “Is your Parenting out of balance? How to tell” (a title which, on the surface seems like the only way to phrase it, but underneath, with the rest of the book behind it, reinforces the idea that It’s All Your Fault), begins with a complaint in bold, followed by Sears’ response.
“Attachment parenting is simply not working.”
What is out of balance: Attachment parenting works well for most families most of the time. If it’s not working well for you, there may be other challenges and issues getting in the way.
Solution: Get professional help.
HOLD. THE. PHONE. If Attachment parenting isn’t working for you, seek therapy. I’m sorry, what?! You have theories, you have techniques, but you do not have The Answer, Dr. Sears. And telling people that if your theories don’t work with their situation, it’s a problem with them? That’s just not okay, especially when your target audience is emotionally vulnerable, highly hormonal women at one of the most stressful transitions in their lives.
He goes on in the next paragraph to suggest that problems with AP may be because the mother has issues with her own mother, a history of sexual abuse, or a marriage that was in trouble before the baby was born. These are apparently the only reasons why a woman might be struggling with his theories that the best thing for baby is a mother who is constantly at its beck and call, day and night, and should always always ALWAYS put her needs behind that of her child. And look, I totally agree that a really tiny baby doesn’t have wants yet, only needs (I mean, when you don’t know what your own hands are, clearly the thought process is not yet complex). And I completely agree that when a tiny baby is hungry, you feed it. But when you’re dealing with a two year old who refuses to sleep through the night and insists on keeping a sleep-deprived mother awake at all hours because they’re used to Mommy being snack food at 3am? There’s a line to be drawn here, and it’s totally okay for an exhausted woman to put her foot down and say, “NO. I want my body back.” And if it happens earlier than that, it’s totally valid too. I mean, I’m still only 6 1/2 months pregnant, and I have nights were I just start crying uncontrollably because she Won’t Stop Kicking and I just want to go to bed and not have anybody touching me for five whole seconds.
The other thing that struck me, as compared with other books (like Our Bodies, Ourselves, which devotes nearly a chapter to the topic) is that he makes absolutely NO mention* of postpartum depression or “the baby blues”, which most of the other books I’ve read say affect pretty much all women to some extent or another. I imagine a woman (another version of myself, maybe), struggling with the early days of baby and the huge hormonal drops and desperately trying to figure out why this theory, which is supposed to be so good, is just making her more unhappy. And then she reads this chapter, on how to “fix” AP. And all those subtle messages that say if it’s not working, it’s because you’re a terrible mother? She’s not going to respond to that in the most healthy way, you know.
Which is where my favorite quote comes in. Again, Chapter 9 (page 110 in the copy I’m staring at):
Your child needs a mother who is predominantly happy. If you radiate unhappiness much of the time, your child is likely to take that personally. She may decide that you are unhappy with her, and that feeling may become a part of her personality.”
Yes, the next sentence tells people who are totally overwhelmed and unhappy to talk to a professional. Which is good. But telling women that if they’re unhappy it will harm the baby? That’s just not fair.
Women are fed so much crap to make them feel worse about ourselves, especially when it comes to raising children. Every single choice we make is Not Good Enough, whether you can afford to choose to stay at home or you can’t afford to go back to work, or you have a job that makes you feel fulfilled and want to go back, or you can’t afford to stay home. Or you choose to put your children in daycare, or hire a nanny, or ask your parents to help. Whether you choose “sleep training” or “on-demand feeding” or “babywearing” or “cosleeping” (and can we take a moment to mention this whole other language you’re expected to learn as a parent? Because, seriously, I’d rather learn Spanish.)
There are a thousand different choices you can make. Every single day in our lives is a series of opening doors and closing others. If I defrost the pork, we can’t have chicken tonight. If I go back to work full time, I can’t spend all day with my baby. If I stay home, we can’t continue the lifestyle we like. There are as many ways to raise a child as there are parents and children. When the “experts” start telling us that making the “wrong” choice will make us bad mothers, it doesn’t help anything at all. It certainly doesn’t make us better parents. It just makes them more money.
* Okay, so yes, he mentions PPD twice. By which I mean the phrase appears in the book twice. The first one says if you room-in with your baby at the hospital, your risks of PPD are lower. The second says if you breastfeed, your risks of PPD are lower.
Update: I wrote this post before I’d finished reading the book (I know, bad Megan). I’m actually really glad I did, though. In Chapter 10, “Beware of Baby Trainers”, Dr. Sears goes on a ten page diatribe about how you shouldn’t listen to those he defines as “Baby Trainers”. My favorite part of this chapter is the two sidebars on page 120.
As you will see throughout this book, there is essentially no research supporting the advice of baby trainers.
Well, yes. I didn’t really expect you to cite all the research that shows someone else’s technique works better. Thanks for stating the obvious, doc.
The second sidebar is larger, titled “Profile of a Baby Trainer”:
Most official baby trainers (BT’s) are authoritarian males, so caught up in their role as advice giver that they ignore scientific evidence that shows they may be wrong. Some baby trainers even discount science altogether, rather than hold their own advice up to any scientific standard.
In contrast to uncredentialed [sic] BT’s, other advocates of baby training are psychologists or pediatricians with lofty degrees and academic appointments in high places.
You mean like Dr. Sears, a man who boasts of his own pediatrics practice and the famous children’s hospitals he works with? As far as scientific advice, I direct you to the page long “study” he and his wife performed on their daughter to look into cosleeping. Look, I have no problem with cosleeping. My issue is with a study with a sample of two babies being touted as proof that cosleeping is better. That’s not science. That’s anecdote.
And then there’s the chapter titled “Working and Staying Attached”. This one makes me so mad I almost wish I hadn’t read it. Staying at home with your baby is a great choiceif it works for you and your family. Dr. Sears spends an entire chapter hinting that a mother who chooses to go back to work is somehow harming her child. Oh sure, he lays out guidelines for how you can go back to work while still following his “rules”, but when the last three pages of the chapter are a section called “How a baby can change a mother’s career plans”, you know there’s going to be a second message. Silly me, I thought he would keep it subtle.
I tell [mothers], “You might as well enjoy some full-time mothering while you can, since these six weeks of maternity leave may be the only time in your life that you have so much time to devote to your child.”
I really just don’t have the words to describe how wretched it is for a pediatrician to guilt his patients’ mothers for choosing to continue their lives, to behave in any other way than his 1950s notion of a housewife who, once she has her first child, is supposed to happily, gratefully bury the woman she has spent the past twenty to thirty years of her own life building up and creating. To give up everything that she IS so that she can become his ideal of what a mother ought to be. For all his cries that you shouldn’t listen to someone who (in his own words) “sets up an adversarial relationship between parent and child”, he then so clearly sets up a dichotomy of mother’s career versus baby’s well-being.
At this point, I’m sort of terrified to read the rest of the book. I will, though, because if I’m going to be this critical of something this prominent, then I ought to have at least finished it. After all, I’ve got at least another week before it goes back to the library.
Can I rant for a moment? (Ha! Like you can stop me.)
Everybody I talk to, and I mean, like, EVERYBODY, seems to feel the need to tell me what a terrible idea it is to be pregnant during the summer.
A little math for you. Pregnancy is 37 to 42 weeks. Depending on how you calculate it, that’s either 9 or 10 months. The year consists of 12 months, of which 3 are considered summer. So, theoretically, if you conceive PROMPTLY in early September, AND you have a regular, average-length cycle which falls at the appropriate time in the month, AND the baby doesn’t decide to hang in for 42 weeks, then the baby will be born sometime in late May. And that is the ONLY way to avoid being pregnant during the summer.
Okay, now I know what they mean by “pregnant in the summer” is “visibly round and pregnant while it’s hot outside”. Most people forget that the first trimester even exists, after all. But here’s the thing: even if you’re not pregnant, it’s still hot in the summer. And that late May baby? Well, now you have a tiny baby who’s complaining about the heat, instead of an adult woman who has been through many summers and knows how to dress for the weather. Or turn up the A/C. Or put ice in her water. I could be wrong here, but I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to put ice cubes in baby’s milk. And if it’s breast milk, then… Yeah, let’s not go there. Ow.
Don’t forget the perks of summertime — the pools are all open, you can wear almost no clothing and it’s socially acceptable, and frozen treats are available at every corner. Really, if I’m going to be going through a period of my life when my body temperature is unregulated, that sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
Besides, we’ve been having a 100-degree heat wave this July. If I’m having terrible hot flashes of pregnancy, I gotta say, I don’t think it’s any worse than anybody else this year. Ben has more trouble sleeping through the warmer nights than I do. And our little girl has very graciously decided not to become a little tiny furnace. There was one day I thought she might, but it was 102 outside and we had no electricity in the house, so it could have just been me feeling warm.
So please, to anyone out there who says, “Pregnant in the summer? Are you crazy?” or (my favorite) “You know, family planning could have avoided that”, please remember:
It’s none of your damn business when we decided to have our baby.
We were in the state less than 24 hours. Here’s a brief rundown of what we ran into:
- The “Service Areas”, which consist of a single, overpriced, run-down gas station with typical gas station bathrooms. Putting a plastic plant in for ambience does not make up for the fact that you haven’t mopped since last Christmas and that the purse hook is broken.
- Stop signs at the end of the merge ramps. Seriously, people? Just because car manufacturers advertise how fast a car can go from zero to sixty does not mean I want to test it just because I had a fetus step on my bladder.
- The hotel swimming pool and it’s non-functional filter. When I go swimming in a chlorinated environment, I have certain expectations. Like being able to see my feet in the 3′ depth and not getting choked by the tiny little bugs that have drowned themselves in the filth that is the hotel pool. This isn’t just me being pregnant and finicky — there were two children, at about that eight to eleven gee-I-love-dirt phase, who not only commented on the water being gross, but subsequently got out and decided to sit on the lounge chairs until their mother came back to retrieve them.
- Did I mention there was a dead bug firmly attached to the inside of our shower curtain?
- The complimentary hotel continental breakfast, which consisted of pencil-eraser scrambled “eggs”, soggy cold potato wedges with onion and peppers, and Canadian “bacon” with sugar-free maple flavoring that drooped off the fork. Even the orange juice had an off taste. Figuring even they couldn’t manage to screw up a banana, I went to check out the fruit… And found a grey, spotty mush of a banana peel that theoretically contained fruit. Ben then took me to Brueggers, where I got a lovely bagel sandwich and some real juice.
- Somebody up here just couldn’t resist a sale on “One Way” and “Do Not Enter” signs. We are not unintelligent people, but poor Ben was baffled by how to get into the Bruegger’s parking lot, and then again on I-95 on how to *leave* the “service area”. (Again, I reiterate, a McDonald’s plus a gas station does not make a “service area”.)
I’m sure people who live in Connecticut or love Connecticut or just like to be contrary would like to point out to me that several of these points are specific to the hotel we were in. I would like to make it clear that I am cranky and really don’t care. I had never been to the state before, and this is the first impression it chose to make. Now I can check it off my list and Be Done With It.
I’ve been getting a lot of books on pregnancy and childbirth from the library. It’s a great way to try out a book and see if it’s worth owning, or in the case of many, deciding it’s a great reference, but not worth a second read. For instance, Our Bodies, Our Selves: Pregnancy and Birth turned out to be exactly the book I wish I’d had starting in the first trimester. In fact, as I said to one woman who mentioned to me that she was in the pre-conception phase, throw What to Expect out the window and get this book instead. It has radical concepts like diagrams and non-judgmental medical advice. I mean, it doesn’t compare your fetus to the produce department on a weekly basis, but it does have a diagram that shows where your liver got shoved off to. And instead of all that “sympathy” over nausea (“Morning sickness? Talk about all day sickness! Ugh, right?”), it actually gives strategies for relieving it. So yeah, good book. But, honestly? It’s a great library book, because I really only need it once or twice.
I digress. I had found a new book I wanted to look at (actually, one that was noted in Our Bodies, and by the same author as another we’d read and adored, The Birth Partner). The library had it, but not at our branch, so I placed a hold/transfer request on it before remembering I was going that afternoon to the farmer’s market at another branch. Because pregnancy makes you stupid.
So before hitting the market, I stopped in the library to talk to the lovely ladies at the desk about the hold and to see if I could get the book directly, saving them a transfer. Turns out the hold request I saw online was for the OTHER person who’d requested the book and mine hadn’t been processed yet. Oh well. I still got peaches, so it’s hard to be upset.
At any rate, the point of all this is my walk into the library. I wish I could find a picture of the front entryway, because that makes the whole thing make a lot more sense. Imagine a big, wide hallway with mirrors along the left wall. There are also glass panels perpendicular to the mirrors in such a way that throws off your sense of perspective, but without distorting the images. The effect is that of seeing twice as many people in the entrance, but walking in the opposite direction. So as I entered, I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye of a very pregnant lady exiting the library. I probably took at least five full steps before I realized that image was my own reflection.
Just for clarification: I didn’t recognize my own reflection while walking past a mirror.
I’m still processing that one, honestly. I’ve definitely found myself having difficulty reconciling the self-image in my head with the reflection I see in the morning, but this was an entirely new level. Not just a disconnect, but a total lack of recognition. I saw a stranger walking towards me. Not even “hey she kind of looks like me”. Just “Oh, another pregnant lady.” In fact, I think it was even accompanied by my usual “At least I’m not that big yet.”
So when I had that first real peach of the season yesterday afternoon, and it was so good I completely forgot I was pregnant for three whole minutes? Yeah, there’s a reason I wrote about that part of the day instead.
My first peach of the season was on the drive home from Asheville. It was purchased at a farm stand in North Caroline, trucked up from South Carolina. It was quite tasty, although not as hugely remarkable as I remember.
Today, I picked up half a dozen from a stand at the market by the library. I had a lovely chat with the gentleman behind the table, and he selected a peach that would be ready for eating this afternoon.
There are no words.
The juice dripped just everywhere. The flesh of the peach? It just melted in my mouth. I just… no words. I will eat at least one peach every day until there are no more summer peaches. Because as we have discovered, those vaguely orange-red spheroids in the grocery store are not peaches.
In fact, grocery store produce in general seems to leave me dissatisfied. I’ve always thought I disliked cherries. Today, I picked up a small carton at the market from last week’s harvest (there are no more cherries this season, it seems) for Ben because he adores cherries, and I tasted one. And I actually liked it. So yeah, grocery store produce? You are for tropical fruits that do not grow here. And middle of winter vegetables when we just need something green. But not for summer produce. Oh no.