Happy Valentine’s Day

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Valentines2015

taken by our awesome wedding/family photographer, Isabel March

Isabel March, our fabulous wedding photographer, held a Little Love Portraits event with complimentary(!) mini studio sessions in honor of Valentine’s Day. With our busy lives, it was a nice reminder to stop and capture the moment. Only a short time ago, our tiny 5-lb valentine came home and transformed our world. She’s now a sweet, endearing toddler who seems to have picked up her puppy’s habit of making friends wherever she goes. A singing, dancing, belly-laughing little girl with a big grin, tiny feet, and baby wisps still waiting for real hair to grow. Happy Valentine’s Day, and happy birthday, little Madeline. May this memory be one of many we will hold dear always.

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A language guide for translating Madeline

I loved the introduction to the development of language in my college cognitive science class, and I love that each child builds his or her own vocabulary of gibberish that makes no sense to anyone else except perhaps family and friends. If you ever babysit M, here’s a leg up on trying to understand what the heck she’s saying. I’ve collected these words over the past few months; a lot of her language is fairly intelligible with context.

  • Taintu: Thank you
  • Malcom: Welcome
  • Bassoo: Bless you
  • Babybug: Ladybug
  • Pickabook: Pick a book, read a book
  • Henny: Henry
  • Nahnice: Not nice
  • Meow: Cat
  • Rawr: Lion, bear
  • Mohs, Mimi Mohs, Mimi Moush: Minnie Mouse
  • Schwann: Shoe on
  • Muk: Milk
  • Shawbee: Sorry
  • Shtawbee: Strawberry
  • Shuggoe: Snuggle
  • Simmee: Excuse me
  • Padzu: Pretzel
  • Kooky: Cookie
  • Kinko Shar: Twinkle Star
  • See-yoh: Cereal
  • Ahmo: Elmo
  • Sheesche: Quiche
  • Wound and wound: I want you to sing The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round
  • Uppeedown: I want you to sing The People on the Bus go Up and Down
  • Weh ee go: Let It Go
  • Ewer: Ever (For the First Time in Forever)
  • Shummer: Summer (In Summer)
  • Up high, dow-woe: High five, down low
  • Baddee: Belly
  • Burr: Bear
  • Budday cake, Ahmo cake: birthday cake, Elmo cake
  • Chiddee: Chilly
  • Dah-wee: Dolly
  • Ditz: Dance
  • Dump: Jump
  • Pouts: Pouch (fruit pouch, yogurt pouch)
  • No-wah: Laura
  • Gama: Grandma
  • Gampapa: Grandpa
  • Eeemee: Amy
  • Miam: Liam
  • Eee ah you: Where are you
  • Mon: Come on

Confessions of a burnt-out physician

I don’t harbor any illusions about how hard ob-gyn residency will be, let alone with a young child. But this physician’s story only reinforces my belief that I made the right choice — an intensely personal choice that was the right choice for me — to start our family while in medical school. I need to learn how to live with balance now, so that I can draw boundaries when necessary for my own health, and so that I can thrive in the face of career challenges as before.

Thanks Jenny for sharing. Reprinted below in its entirety.

I’ve wanted to be a physician for as long as I can remember. As a teen, the choice to become a doctor seemed to perfectly meld my affinity for science, academics, and helping others. Better yet, pediatrics offered the ability to work with families and children of all ages and developmental abilities.

For fifteen years, I lived, breathed, and worked toward my goal to become a pediatrician. In college, I studied the foundational cornerstones of science and humanities and focused on how health impacts the rest of our lives. In medical school, I learned about different aspects of each organ system and marveled at the miracles of the human body. During residency, I walked the halls of hospitals during the wee hours of the morning. I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes as I provided artificial breaths to a dying infant and smoothed the crinkles in my yellowing white coat as we brainstormed why another child was brought to us at death’s door.

When I finally achieved my goal to call myself a board-certified pediatrician, I beamed as I walked into my new office space that had my name posted on the wall outside exam room doors.

Despite my lofty dreams and expectations, practicing primary care pediatrics was nothing like I hoped it would be. My days were filled with opportunities to meet and grow with patients and families, but my tidbits of time were sliced into 15-minute increments. As my practice size increased, I was persistently pressured to add extra patients over my lunch hours, before the day started, and into time slots already booked with other patients. The need to move increasingly efficiently sparked anxiety within me — I was halfway through greeting one patient before I was also surreptitiously listening for the opening and closing of the next exam room door to signal that another patient was waiting.

The physical and emotional work of completing a visit every 15 minutes repeatedly refreshing my smile before I burst into the next room began to make me feel like a machine. As a robot in the factory of medicine, the demands of my job pulled at my greatest skills of empathy and compassion, two of the character traits that made me most suited for primary care. Try as I might, it was hard to feel compassionate for the mother of a child with a mild cold when I was already ignoring my raging headache, need to urinate, and fatigue. Despite my gut instinct to address the “one last thing” that patients often bring up at the end of a visit, the pressure of metrics that detailed my length of visit and wait time for patients coerced me to ignore their concerns, even if my actions translated into another office visit, another co-pay, another day.

When I did have time to sit down, I was crowded into the corner of a small office shared by two other physicians. When we all were present and trying to make phone calls, type office notes, and converse with staff, the cacophony rose. My brain and my inner self was desperate for peace, though I knew it would be only moments before the next patient was ready in a room to begin again.

By the time I got home each evening, I was a deflated emotional balloon, sucked of energy and ambition and left with little to share. When my own children rushed to greet me, I offered them a quick hug and kiss and then silently wished they would quiet down. After dinner and bedtime stories, I rested with them until it was time to open my laptop again and work through additional charts, emails, and work tasks. My husband personified my laptop as a bedfellow in our marriage. I struggled for the emotional energy to make my steadfast lifetime partner feel loved.

As a part of the middle management administration at my health care organization, I sat in meetings week after week where the physicians in the organization were referred to as “lazy, whiny, irresponsible, and unmotivated.” I gazed through the picturesque windows in the large administrative offices and chuckled at the irony that money is too tight to upgrade or expand space in clinics to improve the workplace environment. I seethed quietly as I listed to the mantra that we need to see more patients, more efficiently, and work longer hours as if I were listening to the drumbeat at a funeral march.

The articles on physician burnout cite the need for physicians to develop coping strategies to deal with the daily stressors incurred in the office. We are tasked to learn and practice mindfulness, meditation, and regular exercise. While I make exercise a priority, I simply can’t find the time to learn the other soul-saving techniques in my current work environment. I think it is not only a physician’s responsibility to take care of ourselves, but the scaffolding of the health care system needs allow for practices that will sustain those of us at its very core.

Last week, I submitted my resignation from medicine.

Many have asked me if I will ever come back, but I’m not sure. I am jaded by the push to provide efficient and effective health care for others while ignoring my own personal needs. I am saddened by the palpable wounds that I have left my children through lack of energy, lack of engagement, and inability to be there when they need me. I am discouraged that despite 15 years of focus and sacrifice, Dr. Google has become a smarter and more esteemed physician than I. I am worried that the advent and elevation of pseudoscience has led to increased vaccine resistance, re-emergence of previously eradicated diseases, and hours of time spent fruitlessly discussing why the opinions of thousand physician researchers should outweigh the thoughts of one or two dissenters.

I have heard that it costs up to $10,000 every time my organization hires and trains a new physician. It costs patients and insurance companies each time I ask a patient come back to discuss other concerns I didn’t have time to address. Every time I order a diagnostic test that is not medically warranted but desired by a patient that has Googled their symptoms, costs increase.

The United States spent approximately $8,895 per person for health care in 2012, which is higher than any other developed country but is among the worst health outcomes. If we want to decrease the cost of American health care, it will be imperative to make efforts to retain primary care physicians, decrease administrative costs and overhead spending, and put back some autonomy in physician’s hands so that customer satisfaction does not override the importance of good patient care.”[sic] In addition, health care companies and patients need to recognize that those of us who chose to study medicine are not merely well trained machines but humans who strive to deliver care with compassion, empathy, and expertise.

I don’t know what my next career will be, but for now I will work on regaining what made me chose[sic] medicine in the first place. As I cultivate the human that has been suppressed by the robot that provided medical care, I look forward to regaining the health and happiness that we seek for all.

The author is an anonymous pediatrician.

Confessions of a burnt-out physician.

Practicing her letters

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We’ve been teaching M the letters in her name. (Actually, her school has probably done most of the teaching.) Daddy is convinced she understands how to make an M and an A, even if the execution is not quite there.

So far, Mommy has not been able to reproduce these results, but we’ll let her slide.

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Teaching manners

“Coo-kie?”

“Say, ‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

“No, say, ‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

<shakes head> “‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

“‘Cookie please?'”

“Yea.”

<sighs> “Okay, here.”

“Taintu!”

“You’re welcome, baby girl.”

^^^^Improvement over the past week, where repeated attempts of “Madeline, say, ‘Thank you’?” were met with “Macom” (her word for “welcome”).

Creatavita: Tough Choices

Heidi Hayes is a fabulous voice teacher in the Philadelphia region. She is also a mentor to many artists here, and she recently wrote a piece on career-life balance. Although I am not a working artist, her words ring true. Worth a read for anyone thinking about work-life balance. Below is an excerpt.

I admire people who can hand their kid over to a caretaker and fly off to do a six-week stint in Europe. I really do. I admire people who can take on the role of a lifetime while their kids are under the age of 10. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have enough psychological space. But what matters is that I know why, and that’s what you need to know for you and your life. I knew that being available for the Kid was the most important thing for me. I was lucky; I had had a pretty nice career before I had a child, so I knew that I’d be okay if I didn’t achieve more of my career goals in this lifetime. I also knew I could never forgive myself if I messed up a kid, particularly one that came from my gene pool.

I knew I was missing opportunities because there was a chance that they were coming at the wrong time in my relationship with the Kid and I was okay with that. Conversely, opportunities appeared that allowed me to be available for the Kid and fulfilled me as an artist. Maybe not as much as I wanted, but enough to keep me balanced.

I was also fully aware that I could mess my kid up even more by being around. My kid’s pretty self-contained, and he’s always been that way. So, I’ve done a lot of waiting, listening, and holding my tongue (and we all know how challenging that is for me) while calmly hanging in the parental holding pattern. He has always made it clear when I was really needed and every single time, I have been grateful. Grateful that I made the decision to be available and grateful that he could express himself.

I think the hardest part of this family and career intersection is figuring out what works for you. When it doesn’t line up with what you see others doing, you can really question your decisions. I know that’s hard for me. There’s a little part of me that’s very jealous of these people who can be parents and don’t have to be available all the time. I wish I could do that. But I can’t. So I haven’t. The reward is that I know I’m following my gut, and my kid is doing well. He’s a great human, he’s healthy, he’s vibrant, he’s his own person. I couldn’t ask for more.

via Creatavita: Tough Choices.

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How med students handle uncertainty could predict career future

Thanks, Madeline. You, along with four years of musical theater, have most definitely taught me to roll with uncertainty. Although I always liked unplanned organic adventures and surprises before, that kind of variability in a medical setting made me hyper-anxious. Not so much anymore. So thanks, baby girl.

The survey found that high tolerance for ambiguity was associated with students’ intention to work in underserved areas and with lower levels of perceived stress.

Tolerance for ambiguity—or the tendency to perceive uncertain situations as more desirable than threatening—is an important competency for physicians. For instance, the AAMC includes tolerance of and adaptation to stressful or changing environments as part of its core competencies for entering medical students.

via AMA Wire®: How med students handle uncertainty could predict career future.

“Get over yourself.”

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Get over yourself.
This song is only doing
What it has always Continue reading

[just to be clear,] Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

Thanks to Jenn for passing along. I suspect I will need to refer to this in the future, particularly with the new recommendation for 3rd-trimester Tdap.

How My Daughter Taught Me that Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism.

Additionally, the above led me to the article below, which dissects the “alternative vaccine schedule” put forth by the popular Dr. Robert Sears and explains its problems and misrepresentations:

American Academy of Pediatrics: The Problem With Dr Bob’s Alternative Vaccine Schedule. (If you google the article title, you might find a full copy in a repository.)

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Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All

Reminders to myself for the tough days ahead. She makes me proud to be a Yalie.

I don’t think women can have it all. I just don’t think so. We pretend we have it all. We pretend we can have it all. My husband and I have been married for 34 years. And we have two daughters. And every day you have to make a decision about whether you are going to be a wife or a mother, in fact many times during the day you have to make those decisions. And you have to co-opt a lot of people to help you. We co-opted our families to help us. We plan our lives meticulously so we can be decent parents. But if you ask our daughters, I’m not sure they will say that I’ve been a good mom. I’m not sure. And I try all kinds of coping mechanisms.

I’ll tell you a story that happened when my daughter went to Catholic school. Every Wednesday morning they had class coffee with the mothers. Class coffee for a working woman—how is it going to work? How am I going to take off 9 o’clock on Wednesday mornings? So I missed most class coffees. My daughter would come home and she would list off all the mothers that were there and say, “You were not there, mom.”

The first few times I would die with guilt. But I developed coping mechanisms. I called the school and I said, “give me a list of mothers that are not there.” So when she came home in the evening she said, “You were not there, you were not there.”

And I said, “ah ha, Mrs. Redd wasn’t there, Mrs. So and So wasn’t there. So I’m not the only bad mother.”

You know, you have to cope, because you die with guilt. You just die with guilt. My observation, David, is that the biological clock and the career clock are in total conflict with each other. Total, complete conflict. When you have to have kids you have to build your career. Just as you’re rising to middle management your kids need you because they’re teenagers, they need you for the teenage years.

And that’s the time your husband becomes a teenager too, so he needs you (laughing). They need you too. What do you do? And as you grow even more, your parents need you because they’re aging. So we’re screwed. We have no… we cannot have it all. Do you know what? Coping mechanisms. Train people at work. Train your family to be your extended family. You know what? When I’m in PepsiCo I travel a lot, and when my kids were tiny, especially my second one, we had strict rules on playing Nintendo. She’d call the office, and she didn’t care if I was in China, Japan, India, wherever. She’d call the office, the receptionist would pick up the phone, “Can I speak to my mommy?” Everybody knows if somebody says, ‘Can I speak to mommy?’ It’s my daughter. So she’d say, “Yes, Tyra, what can I do for you?”

“I want to play Nintendo.”

So she has a set of questions. “Have you finished your homework?” Etc. I say this because that’s what it takes. She goes through the questions and she says, “Okay, you can play Nintendo half an hour.” Then she leaves me a message. “Tyra called at 5. This is the sequence of questions I went through. I’ve given her permission.” So it’s seamless parenting. But if you don’t do that, I’m serious, if you don’t develop mechanisms with your secretaries, with the extended office, with everybody around you, it cannot work. You know, stay at home mothering was a full time job. Being a CEO for a company is three full time jobs rolled into one. How can you do justice to all? You can’t. The person who hurts the most through this whole thing is your spouse. There’s no question about it. You know, Raj always said, you know what, your list is PepsioCo, PepsiCo, PepsiCo, our two kids, your mom, and then at the bottom of the list is me. There are two ways to look at it. (laughing) You should be happy you’re on the list. So don’t complain. (laughing) He is on the list. He is very much on the list.

via Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic.

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“I’ll never miss another bedtime.”

Madeline has been going through a developmental growth spurt this past month or two. We have observed that she

  • very clearly loves to dance (as in the video here) and also loves to watch dance (she was suddenly mesmerized by a dance video I came across while web surfing),
  • claps to music with a strong bass beat (today, she clapped regularly for a few seconds when Flip Fantasia came on in the car, and just to test her, I played it again a while later, and she did the same),
  • figured out old-school 1970s toys (a pull train with a whistle) almost immediately when we went to visit the grandparents,
  • matches her socks when we fold laundry,
  • matches shapes on her sorting toys and claps for herself when she succeeds (and when she doesn’t, too),
  • recognizes objects she’s seen once (a Trader Joe’s bag of freeze-dried strawberries, which she snatched unbeknownst to me during our next trip to the store; a display of fruit pouches after her first one at Karla’s wedding, for which she lunged frantically to grab),
  • recalls activities she’s done once (a week ago, we read Eric Carle’s book of food and made a silly game where I ask a question and we shake our heads no; today, she brought me the same book while vigorously shaking her head no with a big grin),
  • recognizes hats, sunglasses and shoes as such even if she’s never seen them before (which she demonstrates by trying to put them on),
  • points to the “puppy” in various picture books, even if they don’t look like Henry,
  • perks up and says, “Daddy!” while looking expectantly when she hears someone at the door.

Not long ago I was somewhat concerned that Madeline was developmentally slow, even with accounting for her late premie status. Although she has far greater receptive language, she still has relatively few intelligible words besides “mama,” “daddy,” “bye,” “shoes” (“shuce!”), and “socks (“shocks!”). Alas, I should not have doubted her, for she soon demonstrated the extent of her comprehension.

Since my schedule can be irregular, Chris has been putting Madeline to bed the majority of the time. They have their own little routine, and she generally goes to bed quietly without a fuss. Last night, Chris had to do some work outside, so it was my job to put Madeline to bed. All was going fine; we played with toys, read a story, settled down, and I lifted her in her crib. She’d had a big day of playing at the sprayground and she was clearly tired. As she stood holding the side rail, I said, “Bed time, baby girl. Good night, Madeline.”

A question on her face. “Daddy?” she asked.

“No Daddy. Daddy’s not here.”

At that, she began to wail. Long story short, she was very upset, refused to sleep, and shrieked at the top of her lungs in that special way that she reserves for only Mommy. At one point she was even leaning against the side rail half asleep, with chin resting on her arms, eyes closed, and continuing to voice her feelings. She never sleeps well when she goes to bed upset, and she had multiple awakenings throughout the night.

When Chris came home, I told him about how she asked for Daddy and was very agreeable until she was told Daddy’s not here. Chris thought quietly for a minute, then said simply, “Well. I’ll never miss another bedtime.” Asked why, he explained that he never thought Madeline expected their bedtime routine, that she looked forward to it. Sometimes when she’s very tired she reaches for the crib as he’s putting her down. Chris had assumed that she went to bed more willingly if he put her down because she didn’t care much about staying with Daddy, in contrast to her separation anxiety with Mommy. But now that it’s clear that little Madeline wants her special bedtime routine with Daddy, that she asked for him and cried horribly for him to come put her to bed —

Now, he’ll never miss another bedtime.

(Point, Mommy!)

Happy Father’s Day 2014

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Last year around this time, Madeline was still nursing every 3 hours, plus a few times overnight. So, all Daddy got was a Photoshop collage Father’s Day card that half-asleep Mommy made at 6am. Oh, and a trip to the spy exhibit at the Franklin Institute.

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This year, Mommy planned a bit more. A few weeks before Father’s Day, while Daddy was at work, Mommy bought a tie and some craft supplies. Mommy, Baby, and the coffee table all donned protective gear. After some fabric paint, a bath, and a call to Poison Control (just in case), we had a special gift for Daddy. 

So today, for Father’s Day, we had brunch Devon Seafood on Rittenhouse Square. The weather was beautiful, and we dined al fresco both for the view of the park and to diffuse the occasional baby squeal.

Daddy liked his gift very much.

In the afternoon, we went to Washington Square to enjoy more of the sunshine.

Madeline loves to see Henry run around, so three dogs running around looks even more fun!

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My favorite baby food resources

I have been cataloging food that I make for Madeline (and often end up eating myself). Before I go much further, I want to point out my two favorite baby food recipe books thus far in our short tenure of parenthood:

  • WBFG The Wholesome Baby Food Guide, by Maggie Meade. I didn’t do much by way of purees for Madeline, but the recipes in the book’s latter chapters are finger-friendly and great. I also love the handy chart of age-based food introduction that you can print for yourself! It lived on our fridge for a while. Also, the book provides guidelines on freezing/storing food, which have been a huge help for planning and cooking daycare-friendly meals.
  • BLW The Baby-Led Weaning Cookbook, by Gill Rapley and Tracey Murkett. I love that they clarify the meaning of “wean” as in the Brit sense 🙂 We’ve made some great dishes from this book that are suitable for all of us — Chris just adds salt and he’s good to go.

Whenever I cook, I tend to adapt recipes to my preference (and figure out shortcuts when I can…). So, the primary purpose of cataloging recipes here is to create a reference of favorites for myself. For example, I adapted Maggie’s Zucchini & Carrot Fritters recipe to make Madeline’s vegetable fritters.

It’s worth mentioning how I decided on these two books as my favorites. First, I went to the library and got a bunch of baby food cookbooks. I realized quickly that we are not a puree family — I much prefer to mash soft foods for her. Another nuance is that we did not start solids until she was well into 6 months of age. We offered her mashed avocado, but she made it clear she wanted the chicken breast on my plate — so I cut up the chicken in tiny pieces and she did just fine. I realized I needed some baby-friendly cookbooks with recipes that actually resembled adult food, and these two made the cut. I love being able to make a large batch of food that not only appeal to baby but also can feed me! So I often cook a meal that we all eat, and then I portion out leftovers for the next few days in the fridge and for daycare in the freezer (in units via an ice cube tray or this baby food tray). I’m not saying that making your own baby food is easy, but I do think that if you want to do it, you can find strategies to optimize the fruits of your labor.

The recipes in these books have been a great source of inspiration as I experiment in the kitchen. If you like to cook, as I do, they are worth perusing.

Vegetable fritters, baked or fried

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We didn’t start giving Madeline sweets until her first birthday. (My reservation had less to do with dietary habits and more with fear of taxing her pancreas. No science, just irrational mommy fear.) She’s generally game for a variety of foods although she does have her picky days. She has never turned down these, though. Baked or fried, Madeline loves her vegetable fritters.

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fried vegetable fritters with sweet potato and zucchini

Vegetable fritters, adapted from Maggie Meade’s The Wholesome Baby Food Guide

Ingredients:

  • 2014-06-08-20.09.41

    zucchini and eggplant fritters

    1 medium sweet potato, chopped into thin 1-inch strips (or substitute a vegetable you like; M.M.’s original recipe uses carrots, and eggplant also works well)

  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped into thin 1-inch strips (or substitute a vegetable you like)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup flour, divided in 2
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup milk (or ricotta cheese)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • butter and/or olive oil for frying, or butter for greasing baking sheet if baking

Directions:

  1. If baking, grease baking sheet and preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  2. Combine the eggplant, zucchini, onion, and garlic. Stir in the first half-cup of flour and mix well.
  3. Add the eggs and milk, and stir well. Add the remaining flour and stir until the batter is smooth (aside from the vegetables).
  4. Season with onion powder, garlic salt and black pepper to your liking; mix well.
  5. Proceed to (A.) to bake or (B.) to fry.
    1. The batter consistency varies with the type and quantity of vegetable, so you might want to add another 1/4 cup of flour if your batter seems too runny to stay put on the cookie sheet. Spoon out the batter onto the baking sheet in strips about 1 inch wide. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until the strips are golden and the batter is set. When cool, cut the strips into short segments so baby can pick them up and munch.

      2014-08-16 21.35.05

      fritters on the baking sheet, ready for the oven

    2. Heat your frying fat over medium high (I like to use olive oil with a tbsp of butter for flavor). Spoon out the batter into the oil in fritters 2-3 inches long. Fry them about 5 minutes or until golden brown, and then flip to fry the other side. When both sides are golden, place fried fritters on a paper towel to drain excess fat.

Why I married my husband

Well, one of the reasons:

If you are female, a degree from one of these schools complicates dating. It takes a self-assured guy to absorb that information and not say something insecure and cutting when he learns of it, and to look at you for who you really are as a person and a woman.

via “What do you do?” | adventureswiththepooh.

Props to Wendy for articulating the awkwardness of explaining yourself to people who think you’re an “overqualified” mom who could be putting her education to “better” use. (This reaction is pretty obvious when it happens — I swear I’m not having a hangry moment.) I’ve been called a hippie more than once; we cloth diaper, baby-wear, and are still nursing (though not pumping — I cut that business ASAP), and I was fortunate to finagle an extended maternity leave. So yes, I have an incredible bond with my child, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. But none of that could have happened if I hadn’t set limits on my work, which is an incredibly difficult thing to do for a (former?) workaholic. So yes, I am not making full use of my schooling. I am content to look at my experiences as a pursuit of pleasure that I earned, or as a windfall by chance — either way, they have intrinsic value to me even if they are not all formally applied. We as a family are still learning to balance. I could not do any of this without Chris. It takes a special guy to put up with my quirks while keeping a smile on his face.

Cookie Day

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Apparently tomorrow is Cookie Monster’s birthday, and Madeline’s class is having a Cookie Exchange. Mama works long hours these days, so Daddy stepped up to the baking sheet. Mama then felt compelled to contribute something, so stationery it is.

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cookies baked by dad, card drawn by mom

Quinoa vegetable nuggets

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Yes, she actually eats these. Mommy is ever in a quest for baby-friendly nutritious finger foods.

quinoa vegetable nuggets for baby

quinoa vegetable nuggets for baby

Ingredients:

  • About 4 cups cooked quinoa (the yield from 2 cups uncooked quinoa), cooled. Prepare the quinoa with broth or water, as you like. I cook it in a rice cooker.
  • 1 lb frozen mixed vegetables
  • 3 medium-large bananas
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. On a cookie sheet, bake the bananas until the skins turn black and they are soft. Meanwhile, grease another cookie sheet. When the bananas are done, take them out of the oven to cool. Reduce the oven to 350 F.
  2. Cook/steam the frozen vegetables. I do this in the microwave using a steamer basket.
  3. Peel the bananas (carefully!) and dump them into a large mixing bowl. Add the quinoa and vegetables, alternating in small quantities, to combine and distribute evenly. Stir in the lemon juice.
  4. Roll nuggets in baby-friendly size (about 1-inch diameter) and place on greased cookie sheet. Bake 5-8 minutes or however long it takes for the nuggets to hold their shape. Don’t bake for too long or they will be dry.

These freeze and thaw reasonably well; I pack them in an ice cube tray so that they don’t freeze together.

 

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Mothers and Fathers | Brain, Child Magazine

Thanks to Anittah for passing along. Here’s a beautiful piece by Lauren Apfel of omnimom.net.

Sometimes I do get annoyed that I inevitably get more tied up in parenting than Chris does, and reminding myself that biology/evolution more or less programmed Madeline to cling to me doesn’t do much to quell my frustration. I’m also somewhat worried that I’m spoiling her when I get home because I feel bad that I don’t have much time with her anymore. But after reading this, I suppose I’m more content that things are as they should be, and I’ll go on kangaroo carrying her.

Gonna save this one for stormy days.

Mothers and Fathers | Brain, Child Magazine.

I’ll reprint it here, just in case:

When I think about what a mother is, I tend to think about what a father is not. My mother was day in and day out, my father was summers and some weekends. My mother was the endless overseeing of schoolwork and driving to lessons, my father was special occasions. My mother listened to my problems from the end of the bed, my father from the end of a phone line. This arrangement was, in part, a product of our individual situation: I am the child of divorce. But I am also a child of the seventies, an era when gender roles in the home were more clear cut than they are now. Even if my parents had stayed together, I’m not sure how different things would have been.

They both loved me. I would never argue that fathers don’t love their children as much as mothers do, I would only argue that their love often manifests itself differently. Because there is love and there is presence and they are not the same gift. Most mothers are present in a way that fathers are not. And I don’t just mean physically present. I mean emotionally present. I mean, to borrow Jennifer Senior’s perfect phrase, they are “more alive to the emotional undercurrents” of family life. A simple observation with a profound effect. It is at the heart of why, even in 2014, as fathers shoulder increasing amounts of childcare, mothers still perceive a palpable inequality in this arena, irrespective of whether they are employed outside the home or not. And their perception goes hand in hand with the facts: “women, on average, still devote nearly twice as much time to ‘family care’…as men,” according to Senior.

Growing up, I was blissfully unaware of these gender lines. My mom did everything because she was the one who was there, not because she was a woman (though if I had taken the next logical step, I would have realized she was there because she was the woman). Plus, she was raising her daughters in the twilight of feminism, with the genuine, entrenched belief that we could do anything we wanted to do. For my generation, gender equality was no longer a battle cry, it was the air we breathed. The year I enrolled at Yale was the first year more female applicants were accepted than male. But my presence at that university, along with the other young women who made up 51% of my class, didn’t feel like an achievement. It felt like our right.

* * *

When I found out I was pregnant with my first child, the sands under my long-held view of gender equality began to shift. From the moment those two pink lines appeared on the test, summoned there by the magical workings of my body, my husband and I were not the same anymore. Up until that point, our relationship had been thoroughly modern. We shared the housework, my aspirations were not subordinate to his. And now, together, we were expecting a baby, who would need to be cared for by some combination of our efforts, the details of which had yet to be determined. But that baby was nine long months away from existing separately from me, not him. I took that pregnancy test and, within minutes, I was staring down the barrel of the enormous responsibility that lay before me and me alone: the responsibility of growing a life. My husband stood next to me, but his part was over. For now.

He could forget about the baby, live out the other parts of his life in a way that I couldn’t. Not really. Not with the bouts of vomiting. Not with the swell of my belly making ordinary movement impossible. Not with the burning reflux that kept me sleeping upright for the last, lurching months before birth. And not with this creature constantly poking me, prodding me as if to say: “I’m here, Mom, I’m coming!” In a sense, the other parts of my life had already been consumed. “I hear you, baby,” I would whisper, pressing my hand against the tiny foot projecting under my rib, as if we were making a pact. “I hear you.”

I was a mother for 41 weeks and 1 day before my husband became a father. And then the baby was born and I put him to my breast, again and again and again, only me, every time, and in many ways I still felt like the sole parent. For six more months, the weight of responsibility that comes with sustaining human life from your own flesh fell on me. Six months after that, the baby continued to nurse, to seek me out because he was conditioned to do so, though Daddy could now give the odd meal when he wasn’t at work. And then at the end of the first year, after twenty-one months of being physically bound to this baby by one tether or another, I weaned him and, in doing so, mother and father were finally on a par. Except, with that kind of prelude, I would hardly describe the playing field as level.

My fierce attachment to my son—and my subsequent decision to stay home with him—did not feel, at the time, like the mewl of circumstance. It felt like the roar of biology. Not every woman frames her experience of early motherhood in the context of nature: I am aware of the danger of drawing lines between males and females based on anatomy, and how unfashionable it is. But this was my reality. For close to two years, my body was awash with hormones that made it do things like let down milk at the sound of my baby’s cry. My son cried and my body knew he was hungry, without so much as a word uttered. It was astonishing to me: a physical reaction to a stimulus that had no such effect on that baby’s father. My darling husband who could sleep through the baby’s howls, who stood guard over the baby’s door, when we agreed on sleep training, because he could bear the siren-like sounds of distress and I, without somebody to hold me back, could not.

* * *

Mothers tend to be more involved with their young children partly because we have different standards than fathers, which we refuse to “compromise” and so we bear the brunt of potentially transferrable tasks. And partly because—and this is the key, I think—motherhood is more definitional than fatherhood. “Women, on average,” Senior writes, “assigned a significantly larger proportion of their self-image to their mother identity than…men did to their father identity. Even women who worked full-time considered themselves more mother than worker by about 50 percent.” “Father” might be one role among many, but “Mother” is a hat less easily taken off. Being continually awake to our children’s needs, embracing the responsibility for their emotional, as much as their physical, welfare, is how we measure the strength of the connection between us. It is, in turn, how we fuel that large portion of our identities.

There are, of course, fathers who are knee-deep in their children’s lives, a small percentage of whom are even primary caregivers or “pilot” parents, fathers who clip fingernails and fight the sickly pang of abandonment at nursery school drop-off. Likewise, some mothers are more detached, more typically “paternal” in their relationship with their kids. It’s not a matter of right or wrong. I’m not sure it’s something you can choose. It seems to be a brew of personality and cultural influence and, perhaps above all, the model of your own parents, whether you seek to emulate it or redress it.

I might be the one who is “more alive to the emotional undercurrents” of family life because of the biological pull I have felt since my kids were born. Or it might be because I have taken to heart my own mother’s example that parental love is a kind of ethereal presence. My mother wasn’t a hoverer or even home with us for the whole of our childhood, but she was our sun, the constant warmth under which we bloomed. My father was the moon. He was a part of our sky, but his presence waxed and waned with the tides. What is motherhood to me? It is a light so bright that sometimes it blots out everybody else.

Lauren Apfel is originally from New York, but now lives in Glasgow, Scotland (thanks to the Brit she married). A published classicist turned stay-at-home mom of four (including twins), Lauren thinks less about the Greeks these days and more about parenting, the tragedy and comedy alike. She writes regularly at www.omnimom.net. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.