The Tyranny of Mrs. Pepper

Boy Woww. MomsicleBlog

Baby Woww has a lot of pretend friends. He’s not really a baby anymore. He’s three-and-a-half. We should call him Boy Woww. (Thank you, Lauren, for pointing this out.)

I love his pretend friends. Except for Mrs. Pepper.

K-Pants enjoys hearing Boy Woww list off his friends: There’s Pepper, the ring leader. Pepper is a large mouse who drives a two-story minivan. Even though he’s a mouse, he’s considered a person because of his size.

Then there’s Berry. And Cherry. And Pizza. And Tootie Pig. And Cuckoo Head. And the bald-headed kids. K-Pants always laughs at Tootie Pig and the bald-headed kids.

“What do your friends do?” K-Pants asks. “They poop and pee and have gardens,” says Boy Woww.

So they’re all normal kids, except for Tootie Pig, who is a normal-sized pig who passes lots of gas.

All the friends ride around in Pepper’s two-story minivan.

I really like Pepper because anyone who follows us around in a two-story minivan so that I don’t have to worry about more seatbelts to buckle is a friend of mine. The problem is Pepper’s mom. I don’t know how she’s raised such a great kid with so few legitimate rules.

  • Me: You have to listen to the teacher at swim lessons.
  • Boy Woww: But Pepper’s mom says you never listen to the teacher at swim lessons.
  • Boy Woww: [Fake coughing.] Mama, can I have a cough drop?
  • Me: No. You’re not sick.
  • Boy Woww: But my friend Pepper’s mom always gives him cough drops, because he needs them.
  • Me: It’s nap time.
  • Boy Woww: My friend Pepper’s mom says kids don’t ever need naps. They just need play time and treats.

The conundrum here is that I really love Pepper, so I don’t want to insult his mama, because that’s bad manners.

But what I want to say is, “Mrs. Pepper better stop feeding Pepper only treats and cough drops and letting him stay up all hours while encouraging him to rebel against authority. If she doesn’t, your friend Pepper is going to be toothless, selling meth out of the back of his two-story minivan, if he’s lucky enough to get out of prison before 40.”

Yo Mama So Fat…

Treats! MomsicleBlog

Weight gain during pregnancy is a touchy subject.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you might remember the fruit midwife from Baby Woww’s pregnancy. She was worried I was having too many milkshakes. So she did a little PSA about how fruit grows on trees and that in Oregon they sell it at these magical places called farmers markets.

“Maybe you could try boysenberries…?” My response was something like, “Maybe you could stick your wet fingers into a light socket.”

I eat a really healthy diet, and I figure when you have the duty of carrying around a little gremlin, or Furbie, or Fairy Pig for a while, you should be able to treat yourself.

Not surprisingly, in this wild and crazy round three, we’ve upped the midwife ante.

I didn’t gain much weight the first twenty weeks; I was really nauseous. I also started the pregnancy kind of underweight. Anyhoo, the last four weeks I’ve been feeling sloth-level tired, and emaciated-lion-level hungry. Still, I maintain my low-grains, low-dairy, low-sugar diet that is high in veggies and protein. I started this diet overhaul last year in the throes of recurring bronchitis.

But Midwifey’s scale don’t lie. And when I went in last week it said I’d gained 12 pounds.

I was seeing this particular midwife for the first time. Let’s call her Minka. “Twelve pounds in four weeks,” she said. “You know, when some people stop being nauseous, they start eating everything in sight. Have you been eating a lot?”

It was kind of like her saying, “So your husband likes a little meat on his bones, eh?”

I was taken aback. I imagined the midwives at their midwife meeting, discussing the question “What do you tell a patient who is gaining too much weight?” Minka answers, “I start telling ‘yo mama’ jokes. She gets the point.”

I answered her: “Yes, I’ve been eating a lot: I’m hungry. But I eat a really good diet, and I don’t eat a lot of sugar.”

At this point, K-Pants, who along with Baby Woww, make the most terrible tag-along medical appointment team in the world, shouts, “That’s not true! You eat treats!”

Like what, man? Granola and vegan cashew cream? The one ice cream sundae I had in March? Please! Stick to fighting with your brother in the corner instead of ratting me out.

“I do eat a lot of fruit,” I admitted.

“Fruit has lots of sugar.” She decided my high intake of apples and oranges probably wasn’t the problem. It was bananas. “They’re very high in sugar.”

“But I eat them as part of kale smoothies.”

“Well, be careful. We don’t want to see this kind of weight gain again.”

At this point I was mad. I’d just had to do that horrible gestational diabetes test where you drink a disgusting sugar syrup so the medical team can measure your blood sugar. Now I was being told that I was ballooning out of control because of the four bananas a week I eat.

“I’m not changing my diet,” I said.

“Well, maybe you could exercise,” she countered.

“I have a bad cold and I’m constantly exhausted,” I said.

“Well you do have to kick that, first.”

Ha! I’d won!

This being March still, I felt like we were in the last 45 seconds of the second half of a Sweet Sixteen game. It was all stategery and a well-placed zinger. I was going to keep my unsweetened kale, tofu, zucchini, banana, and apple smoothies, dammit. This woman was cray cray. It helped my cause that the gremlins were frothing in the corner and she knew that with a word I could unleash their snotty noses and sharpened incisors.

But when you see me next, feel free to say, “So Evelyn, when you sit around the house, do you sit around the house? [Nudge, nudge.]” According to the midwife, this kind of thing is a sure winner where pregnant ladies are concerned.

Will You Still Be My Friend?

I was that pregnant lady six years ago.

The glowing one. Easily knocked-up, easily growing, plenty of energy, cute and adorable in stretchy outfits. We should have done one of those baby bump photo shoots to memorialize the whole magical experience.

Did you know me then? Wasn’t I irritating?

I’m sorry about that. But don’t worry, karma is a bitch.

Back in October I was so worried about the baby and my health that I thought my anxiety was causing intense nausea. Luckily I have a therapist. “I don’t think so,” she said. “I think you have morning sickness.” I get it now. That sh*t sucks. I tried vitamin B6, Unisom, prescription meds, ginger pills, fresh ginger, ginger chews, sea bands, and a million naturopathic remedies. Nothing worked, except waging a war of attrition in which I was always losing.

There was a brief respite around twenty weeks when the nausea was gone and I had some energy. Now I’m just excruciatingly tired. I look at the dishes and think, I should let those rot and add paper plates to the grocery list.

You might have my phone number and wonder if I’ve changed it. No. I just don’t return your calls, or listen to your voicemails. There’s sort of a text-message-roulette thing I have going.

Am I supposed to send you a reply to something you asked me about a few weeks ago? Did you invite me to do something after 2 p.m.? It’s not happening.

Recently the boys and I came down with colds. Then my husband started to get a sore throat. I was irrationally angry: Who will take care of us now?

I need to rent a wife for the next few months. No sexual benefits, just chores and cooking. I’m working on making the description more appealing. “We provide room and board. You make food and tidy-up. Desired experience: Culinary Institute of America, U.N. peacekeeping forces, downstairs employment in British manor house.”

Until I hire my new wife, please forgive the way I seem to be stomping all over our friendship. I would love to stop alienating you, but I have to take a nap and then get ready for bed.

Recipe: Cashew Cream (Vegan)

Look! A new recipe! I’m cooking food things, again! Our little friend Fairy Pig has let up on the nausea! High five! Okay, cashew cream… Cashew Cream. MomsicleBlog There’s this magical paleo parfait at Dick’s Kitchen in Northwest Portland. It has a cashew, maple cream that scoops like ice cream, a deep purple berry compote, and a nut “cookie” crumble. Over the past year, I’ve been cutting down my sugar intake. I don’t crave super-saccharine treats that often these days because they make me feel yucky. In my search to find satisfying replacements, I’ve only come across a few things that make me want to leave my family and live out of a box asking for money to sate my habits: the paleo parfait at Dick’s, the raw fudge made by Honey Mama’s, paleo almond cookies, and possibly a Coconut Bliss “milkshake.” Dick’s wouldn’t divulge to my friend Jamie and me the recipe, so I’ve resorted to creating my own. It’s been such a hardship carrying out the experiments. Most cashew cream recipes call for blending soaked cashews with water. I prefer coconut milk. To get the consistency of a heavy cream, which goes well with berries and granola, I use a whole can of coconut milk. To get something scoop-able, I use a blend of coconut milk and melted coconut oil, which hardens at room temperature, but I haven’t perfected that yet, so this recipe is for the heavy cream kind.

Cashew Cream (vegan: definitely; paleo: I think)

  • 1 lb raw or roasted cashews, covered in water to soak overnight*
  • 1 can coconut milk (I like canned because the ingredient is just coconut milk, whereas the refrigerated stuff has a lot of additives)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 maple syrup (to taste)
  • generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract (optional, but adds a marzipan taste–who wouldn’t want that?!?)

*You can also try using hot water and soaking the cashews just for an hour or two. 

Now blend all that stuff up in a blender. You might need to shake the blender around a bit, or use its stick thingy to keep things moving, or adjust the speeds. This makes me think the Cuisinart may be a better choice… Let me know what you decide.

Blog Share: “Measles is Serious: A History Lesson From My Grandmother”

I feel compelled to share this post by Alice Callahan of Science of Mom, though it takes on a topic that’s pretty controversial here in Oregon–vaccinations–because it made me change my own opinion.

Alice is an excellent writer and empathetic mother of two, but what I admire most is her ability to critically and thoughtfully read hundreds of pages of research and communicate the most relevant findings (I have a hard enough time reading a full Yahoo! News “article” these days).

Alice is a wonderful balance of compassion and science; and I trust her not to simply push a preconceived agenda. This post, with its research and very poignant storytelling from Alice’s own family’s history, really moved me. Start reading the post below, or click over to Science of Mom to get visuals and a lovely family photo.

Measles is Serious: A History Lesson From My Grandmother

Measles is back. The outbreak of this highly contagious viral illness that started at Disneyland in December has spread across the country and shows no signs of slowing. As of February 6, the CDC reported 121 cases in 17 states in this year alone, most linked to Disneyland. In 2014, we had 644 cases of measles in the U.S. This is a striking increase compared to the last 15 years, when we usually saw less than 100 cases in an entire year.

I’m sorry that so many people have been sickened in this outbreak and hope that it is reined in soon. This is no easy task given our mobile society and the fact that we like to congregate in places like Disneyland, schools, doctors’ offices, hospitals, airplanes, and shopping malls. Add to that the pockets of unvaccinated people where measles can easily spread, and we have a recipe for still more outbreaks until we can improve vaccination rates. In this situation, I particularly feel for those who can’t be vaccinated. Babies under 12 months of age and people who are too immunocompromised to get the MMR vaccine, like cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, are counting on the rest of us to get vaccinated and reduce the spread of this disease. Right now, we’re letting them down.

One positive outcome to this outbreak is that it has sparked lots more conversation about vaccines. It inspired me to be more public about proudly stating that our family is fully vaccinated. And I wrote an op-ed piece for my local paper, the Register-Guard, about the risk of measles in our community, given the low vaccination rates in our schools.

I spent a lot of time researching vaccines last year for my book. The result is an in-depth look at vaccine development, risks and benefits, and safety testing and monitoring. I also cover some specific vaccine concerns, like whether or not we give too many too soon (we don’t) and if we should be worried about aluminum in vaccines (we shouldn’t). (I don’t just tell you these things, though; I break down the science for you.) I read hundreds of papers about childhood vaccines, talked with researchers, and felt more confident than ever about vaccinating my kids on the recommended schedule.

There was one other bit of vaccine research that may have been the most meaningful to me: I flew to Florida to interview my grandmother, now 90 years old. She raised seven children before most of today’s vaccines existed. She was a mother during the 1952 polioepidemic that killed 3,145 and paralyzed more than 21,000 in the U.S. She was having her babies before a vaccine for rubella was available. That disease caused 11,250 miscarriages, 2,100 stillbirths, and 20,000 children to be born with birth defects in a 1964-1965 outbreak in the U.S.

My grandmother also nursed her children through the measles. Before the vaccine, nearly every child suffered through a case of measles at some point in childhood. During the current measles outbreak, I’ve seen some comments downplaying the seriousness of this disease. After all, most kids did survive measles without long-term consequences. However, many didn’t. Among those who didn’t survive was my grandparent’s second child, Frankie. In 1956, at the age of 6, he died of encephalitis, or inflammation of the brain, a complication of measles.

My dad was the oldest of my grandparents’ children and the first of 3 boys: Richard, Frankie, and Larry. When the boys were little, the family lived in a faculty housing unit at Princeton, where my grandfather was an English professor. The families that shared the building were a tight-knit community. They built a playground together and parents took turns keeping an eye on the kids. “It was such a marvelous place to grow up,” my grandmother told me. “There were a whole bunch of kids, and you knew every single parent. Had conferences about your children and so on.”

In May of 1956, all three boys came down with measles. My grandmother remembers neighbors remarking that they were lucky to get it all at once, although this wasn’t surprising given that measles is one of the most contagious pathogens on earth. Those infected are contagious for several days before the characteristic rash appears, and the virus can survive in respiratory droplets, suspended in the air, for two days.

[Finish reading the family history and see a photo of the three boys in Alice’s blog post HERE, at Science of Mom.]

Thank you, Alice!

Note regarding my personal views: Having been a public school teacher who saw first-hand the incredibly fast spread of contagious disease, I never considered not vaccinating, but I did space out shots for my two boys: Fairy Pig, however, won’t have a spaced-out vaccinations schedule.

*

Note regarding your personal views: I fully respect them here and would invite anyone to comment as long as comments are respectful, as well.

Pink Shoes

The boys needed new shoes. So a few weeks ago we were up to our ears in the shelves at Nordstrom Rack searching for kicks.

Baby Woww chose Tonka Truck shoes. K-Pants had eyes only for the princess rock-star Sketchers.

Pink Shoes. MomsicleBlog

They were the pinkest, sparkliest, most bejeweled shoes in the store. I think I’ve captured their glory sufficiently in the picture. What you can’t see are the lights that blare out of their rhinestone-packed toes when you step—definitely the same lights used at Katy Perry’s Superbowl show.

I was surprised about these shoes.

We let the kids pick their own clothes, and K-Pants pretty much wears sports clothes every day, finished off by a pair of cleats. He wears cleats to the library, to kindergarten, to church.

As we looked for additional shoe options to try, K-Pants became more and more fixated on the Twinkle Toes, and I noticed myself feeling uneasy.

“What do you like about these shoes, buddy?”

“They’re really bright! And I love pink! And Caran has these shoes!”

I paused, What will the other kids think? He’s in kindergarten. Kids are going to say, ‘Those are girrrrl shoes!’”

Fluorescent department store lights don’t make you feel great in a bathing suit: They also don’t leave you a place to hide with your thoughts.

I don’t want the bullying to start now. Will my husband be okay with this? What about our family?

I blamed my reticence on our culture: I only want to protect him from feeling like an outsider so early. People don’t need to judge him now.

My unease mounted, but it started to shift from the shoes to myself. Here I am, letting culture protect me from cowardice. I’m surprised about when and where the rubber meets the road in terms of following my morals as a parent. I often imagine big discussions and decisions, but it turns out it’s in the small stuff where most of our map is drawn.

I shifted from imagining K-Pants’s first day wearing the Twinkle Toes shoes at kindergarten to our dinner table fifteen or twenty years from now.

“Remember when you bought me those pink light-up shoes, Mom?”

“Those things were blinding. You loved them.”

“Yeah, thanks for buying those crazy shoes.”

Even in my fluorescent-bulb-induced daydreaming I realized that there’s little chance of K-Pants specifically affirming my parenting choices, but I’d rather him have the chance, than to be able to look back and say, “It’s too bad you told me kids would make fun of me for wearing girl shoes when I was little.”

So the decision was made.

Plus, I realized I would encourage the Fairy Pig to choose Tonka Truck shoes when she’s older if she wants, so I should encourage K-Pants to stick with what he likes, too.

K-Pants wore the Twinkle Toes to church the next day. He received jovial surprise and admiration. The shoes are so bright that they demand attention, and it was overwhelmingly positive.

Then he wore them to kindergarten. On the way in a friend said, “Why are you wearing girl shoes?” K-Pants didn’t really know what to say, so I spoke up, “We really like pink at our house.” His friend’s mom backed me up, “That’s awesome!”

K-Pants has gotten one or two comments that have bothered him, but without the pink shoes, we wouldn’t have reason to talk about if there are really “girl” or “boy” things, and how it makes you feel when people single you out. Plus, he makes people smile a lot more that I would have imagined.

A Deep and Poignant Response to the Tragic Killings in North Carolina

Reading U.S. and world news feels like rubbing sandpaper on my skin until it bleeds. Raising young kids, my tolerance level for the anger-and-hatred-filled news has gone down to nothing, but important stories still filter through—like the tragic shooting deaths last week of three outstanding Muslim students in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

But I could only glance at this story of monumental heartbreak. That is, until I read the words of my wonderful friend Tisha, who lives in the Raleigh–Durham, North Carolina area.

Tisha’s kindergarten friend Saba had posted a link on Facebook to a powerful opinion piece from the Chicago Tribune, “Will Muslims ever be part and parcel of America?” In response, Tisha wrote the message below to her friend Saba, and she generously gave me permission to share it.

[Tisha’s mother, a psychiatrist and another wonderful woman, worked with Dr. Abu-Salha, the father of the two young women victims, and Tisha and her mother attended the funeral.]

I truly hope this isn’t insensitive and or inappropriate to write, but this is from my heart. My mom and I were at the funeral yesterday, and I know my life will never be the same after that experience. As I watched the thousands of girls and women walking in with their heads covered, my heart ached as I wondered how vulnerable they may feel in our society. Words cannot express how moved I have been over the past few days by the faith of the family and friends in this tragedy.

Saba, you are the first Muslim friend I had… the first experience I had with the Muslim faith. I am forever thankful for knowing you and your family because I was able to form a true understanding of the real Islam at a young age—an age when my heart was open and untainted by outside opinions. Over the years, as others may [have tried to] taint this idea of what being Muslim is, I always remembered what a beautiful family and beautiful people you and your family are. I vividly remember waiting, listening in your room above the spiral staircase in your house during sleepovers, as your family prayed together, bowing together and honoring God. I remember the feeling that filled in me as a small child. I remember sitting in your basement as you shared with me the Quran and your faith.

The person who officiated the service yesterday did an amazing job explaining the Islamic beliefs and customs and hearing the words and faith of the family members will forever be in my heart.

When this all happened, I kept asking my mom, “How can they go on? How will they cope with such devastation?” Mom kept saying she knew Dr. A’s “practicing faith,” not just faith but “practicing faith,” will carry them through this. I didn’t understand it until I witnessed it in the last few days. Dr. Abu-Sallah called mom a few hours before the funeral and told her (without her saying a word), “I know you are coming today. I know you have been praying because I feel your prayers.”

A Christian and a Muslim can pray together and for each other and respect each other, and these two doctors did just that on a regular basis. Yesterday, I saw a field full of Muslims from countries from all over the world; I saw Jewish people, Hindus, and Christians together sharing the tears and loss of three children of our community: It was remarkable to witness that.

I pray we can one day live in a world that we can truly love thy neighbor.

A simple way to show your support for the victims and find more outpourings of love is to like the Facebook page “Our Three Winners.” You’ll get sucked in by the powerful responses.