Archive for the ‘Food and Nutrition’ Category

I Just Had to Get This Off of my Chest

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

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Nursing can be way harder than it looks, and it’s a much bigger and longer term commitment than I ever imagined.

I’m tired, physically spent, more often than I like to admit. And I’m tired of people telling me that I wouldn’t be so tired if I stopped nursing my nine-month-old son, Everett. “Just put him on a bottle,” they say, “even if it’s just at night.” That way I could, at least, “sleep through the night,” they tell me. “Feed him!”

“No!” I want to scream. I AM tired, and I KNOW Everett would be more likely to sleep through the night if I filled him up on baby food and formula at night. But I’ve decided to let Everett lead the weaning process. This means that I’m going to wait until the little guy becomes better able to feed himself and consumes enough calories to offset his need to nurse. I expect weaning will coincide with independence in other areas of his life, like learning to walk and talk, so that he doesn’t abandon the breast before he is confident enough to do so, and able to find comfort somewhere off of my chest.

For now, it’s just this I want to get off of my chest.

Safe Boobiess Need a Healthy Place to Live

Monday, April 30th, 2012

“The mandate to nurse and the mandate to titillate are competing claims that continue to shape women’s fate. Since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian era, churchmen and secular males, not to mention babies, have considered the breast their property, to be disposed of with or without women’s consent.”

~ Marilyn Yalom, History of the Breast

My latest reading includes science writer Florence Williams’s Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History, which begins with the observation that breasts “can turn both babies and grown men into lunkheads.” Her history of this “evolutionary masterpiece” repeatedly juxtaposes the maternal and erotic role of breasts in contemporary, predominantly Western, culture. Williams situates her own lactating breasts squarely at the center of the toxic stew produced by modern, industrial economies developed to satisfy human desire, as opposed to ensuring its survival.

The list of ingredients in human breast milk? 4% fat, vitamins A, C, E, and K, sugars, essential minerals, proteins, enzymes, and antibodies – amounting to 100% of the recommended daily allowance of everything a baby needs to grow. In addition, there’s a proprietary mix of bonus ingredients evolved to moderate the nursling’s appetite, and thwart everything from the flu to cancer for her entire lifetime. The stuff is valued at 262 times the price of oil! Unfortunately, it also includes some geographically specific blend of DDT, PCBs, trichloroethylene, perchlorate, dibenzofurans, mercury, lead, benzene, and arsenic. No wonder, Williams’s agenda includes a call to "Save the Boobies."

What makes breasts so mercurial—and so vulnerable? The short answer is that they evolved to provide human infants with all the nutrition necessary to survive long enough to learn to carry themselves and to contribute to the family’s dinner table. (I continue to find this evolutionary tale far more persuasive than the alternative: female breasts grew large and round primarily to attract eligible mates.) They are particularly susceptible to disease – cancer, in particular – because they grow and change over the course of a woman’s lifetime, providing multiple points of exposure to our increasingly contaminated environment.

I’d like to believe that the research Williams marshals in the interest of saving women’s breasts (as opposed to preventing their deaths from breast cancer) will do the trick. Unfortunately, in the absence of resistance to market-based approach to breast cancer research, I think Williams herself might strike closer to the truth with her cynical comment that there is simply far less money to be made preventing breast cancer relative to treating it.

Ladies, are you willing to fight?

A Woman is Much, Much More than “Just” a Beautiful Body

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012


This ad has generated a lot of discussion. While the disciplined “work it” mantra resonates with many  health-conscious women, athletes, and exercise enthusiasts, it rubs critiques the wrong way by, yet again, equating a women with her body. What do you think?

What would Portland be without a Pub Crawl?

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

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Like I text my sibs, our first stop in Portland, where I’ve just arrived for a professional meeting, was  Cascade Brewing Barrel House. Cascade Brewing Company was established in 1998 by Art Larrance, who has been involved in Oregon’s craft beer industry since its inception; he co-founded one of the Oregon’s’s first microbreweries and the Oregon Brewers Festival. Cascade has developed a range of ultra-premium, oak barrel-aged, lactic-fermented Northwest Sour-style beers that are truly delicious. Think “beer-wine.”

(For the record, Parker indulged in Cascade’s home-brewed Root Beer; I enjoyed applause for having the temerity to take my son on – another – beer tour.)

What if It’s Terrorists?

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Lately, I’ve seen a number of well done articles on the wide-ranging effects of the  9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Lyz Best’s piece in Runner's World magazine about the ways in which the 9/11 attacks have motivated people to begin running, and/or to run farther and faster resonated with me as a runner. Cynthia Reynolds and Shannon Smith's argument that the attacks have destroyed our children’s innocence hit me as a mother.

No longer do our children feel the safety and security that once existed in generations past. They now live with a heightened sense of anxiety and fear of the potential for another terrorist calamity. Children often become afraid that such an event will happen again, and that they or their family may be injured or killed.”

I grew up under the influence of another diffused war, or one that exists as much as an incarnation of everyday media as it does in reality. The mediated social construction of the Cold War in books and films as well as in the news arguably “both facilitate[d] and contain[ed]” the Soviets in much the same way that it does Al Qaeda today.  Yet with the exception of the Soviets’ arrival in Colorado in the 1984 movie Red Dawn and images of what most regarded as a highly unlikely nuclear apocalypse, the “bad guys” stayed conveniently outside of the United States, and were clearly identifiable – by their bulky coats, Russian fur hats, and heavy accents – from our neighbors and classmates.

The differences between then and now hit me last week when my ten-year-old son, Parker, found a tiny video card on the sidewalk outside of our local Rubio's restaurant. Of course, Parker wanted to keep it. Just before that part of me that immediately thought, “Sure…” could articulate itself, the kids were arguing. Certain that they would not get to investigate what might be on the card, Parker’s older siblings yelled, “Drop it!” Parker loudly insisted on keeping it. I tried the “Take it into Rubio’s in case someone comes looking for it” tack. Parker screamed louder, really fighting to hang onto this tiny bit of 21st-century technology.

“Parker, just put it down,” I said, clearly exasperated.


“Why do you want it so badly? ” I asked – with more parental aggravation than motherly concern, I’m afraid.

“I have to see what’s on it,” Parker explained.

“Who cares? It’s not yours…” I said.

“What if it’s terrorists?” Parker asked. “What if they left it for someone? What if they’re planning an attack?”

“Whoa!” I thought, dumbstruck. (In retrospect, this reaction beats laughing out loud.)

What I said was something like, “Parker, just put it down. I don’t think the card has anything to do with terrorists. Someone just dropped it.”

Reluctantly, he left the card on the edge of a planter and we headed towards the car.

Perhaps the difference between the War on Terror and the Cold War boils down to relative the comfort inherent in the widely understood low probability of unintentional nuclear annihilation at the hands of leaders very far removed from everyday life. When I was ten, it never occurred to me that Soviet supporters might launch an attack in my Southern California “backyard.”

Beer is Just as Good at 7 AM

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011


At the last minute, my sisters-in-law and I decided to run the City of Laguna Hills Memorial Day 5K. Thinking our last minute sign up at Road Runner Sports would be chaotic, we were surprised at how easy it was. Just before we paid, we were asked if we wanted beer tickets. I said, “Of course,” and convinced my sisters-in-law to go along. I learned a long time ago that beer after a run actually tastes really good. After the run we were the first to the beer garden…long before most people were even awake!

Yes, Childcare “On the Road” Should be Covered

Monday, June 13th, 2011

I have to admit, I’m really enjoying sitting on the side lines as my youngest sisters, and some of their friends, make their way through new motherhood – so much so that, sometimes, I find myself smiling and chuckling ever so quietly. The latest act in this tragicomedy began when I asked Jeanna how one of her friends, who is, like Jeanna, a new mother who returned to work full time, was doing. Jeanna said she was doing great, but had to stop nursing her six-month-old daughter, in part because she has to travel so much for her job.

At this point, I was tempted to fisticuffs.

pumpeaseConsidering widespread knowledge about the virtues of breastfeeding – for society, in terms of lower health care costs and higher economic productivity – as well as for mom and baby, it’s remarkable that governments and employers in the United States do so little to accommodate working mothers who opt to nurse their infants and young children. In California, employers must provide a clean and private space for nursing mothers to express milk, but may restrict the time available for this necessary activity to regular breaks. Obviously, the legislators responsible for Chapter 3.8, Section 1030, Part 3 of Division 2 of the Labor Code (”Lactation Accommodation”) are clueless.

Although some women are able to purchase or borrow a state-of-the art electric double breast pump, and adapt easily to using it, others cannot. When I was nursing my eldest son, I depended on an uncomfortable hand pump provided free of charge by the birthing center; pumping both breasts by hand in the 15 minutes I had between back-to-back seminars was, at best, challenging, and frequently painful. On the upside, I could retreat to a private office to pump, and call a short break during class if I needed to use the bathroom or get a snack. Many nursing mothers are not so lucky. It is no understatement to say that some of these women have to choose between taking care of themselves and providing for for their children.

Work-related travel ratchets up the inequity nursing mothers face in the work place. Employers are in no way required to accommodate these women when they are must travel. Jeanna’s friend believes this situation is grossly unfair. I have to agree. Again, some women adapt easily to using a pump; they can freeze and ship their pumped milk home or simply pitch it while on the road. Others do not…or will not. I was one of them.

breastfeeding-bras2Breastfeeding is potentially much more than providing first-rate nutrition to an infant or young child. It can be a practice, in reference to a philosophically grounded system of behaviors repeated daily and intended to yield a high level of proficiency. More specifically, a woman who chooses to breastfeed her child opens herself to the possibility of engaging in a physical, emotional, and psychological relationship with a developing human being that is more intimate and consuming, and may exhibit a closer mother-child bond, than bottle-feeding can engender. That breastfeeding may also be "frustrating, exhausting, and ... painful," especially at first, compromises this ideal outcome. So does making it more, rather than less, difficult for a woman to nurse her child in peace and on demand. In that, the nursing child’s proximity to her mother is essential.

So, yeah, nursing mothers who must travel for work should have the option of taking their infants along, without undo economic cost to themselves. Much of my own travel is funded by research grants, which categorically cannot cover childcare. I took each of my children with me anyway, depending on laws commiserate with Section 43.3 of California’s Civil Code (a woman may breastfeed anywhere she is legally permitted to be) to protect my choice to “take my baby to work.” Whenever possible, I covered the cost of a family member’s flight so that I’d have back up, which was always much less expensive than professional child care onsite would have been.

Imperfect and unfair? Yes. I still think I should have been reimbursed for those flights.

It could be worse. Jeanna’s friend travels much more often than I ever did, and she doesn’t have research funds to charge, even if that strategy were allowed. Instead, her clients would have to pick up the tab for childcare. Sure, she could make that demand…but what incentive would a client have to meet it? Surely, it would be more economically efficient – i.e., cheaper – to replace her. And that’s what matters, right?

Double Header

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011


Today’s double header included Reiley’s graduation from 8th grade…

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And Olivia’s bridging to Brownies.

We left the house just after noon, and arrived home eight hours later. In between the girls’ milestone events, we left a blouse at the cleaners, dropped packages at FedEx and the Post Office, got the boys’ hair cuts, and walked the dogs! Celebratory meal began with happy hour pizza at the Yard House, and was topped off by mini yogurts at Pinkberry.

Back Story

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

My sister Juliann’s recent post about our niece Alexandra’s first shopping cart ride did not include this important detail: Alexandra was asleep when Jeanna stopped at the market. So…novice mom Jeanna had to decide whether or not to wake her sleeping daughter before she even got to the point of deciding how to handle grocery shopping without her sling.

My advice? “Wake her up,” of course.

I know. I’m not even a mother yet, and I’ve already positioned myself in opposition to the legendary Über-Moms, who:

  • Volunteer at school, always get to be room mom and field trip chaperone
  • Work out in the best gym, and always have their hair done
  • Use words like “terrific” and “super”
  • Ensure that their children are the first to sport the newest kid-trend fashions, like Crocs
  • Host Southern Living and Tastefully Simple parties
  • Turn their children’s meals into happy faces, and always have nutritious “car snacks” and bottled water on hand

…and hold the nap sacrosanct. I may not have children, but I know mothers and deal with moms daily in my work as a retail sales associate. What drives me nuts most about the many variations on the Über-Mom model are excuses that include “No…because it would interfere with ‘Jane’s’ nap.”

If Jeanna had fallen in with that crowd, she would have missed Alexandra’s big smile during her first trip through the market in the front seat of a shopping cart. Jeanna wouldn’t even have been stopping at the market on her way home from work. No, she would have quit work to stay at home, where she could put Alexandra down for a regular daily nap.

I’m probably over-stating my case, but I think the world’s “Slacker Moms” may be onto something. Coined by Muffy Mead-Ferro, slacker moms are smart, and make decisions based on what really matters over what can wait till another day. In the case of naps, I think my sister Juliann is right. Alexandra has her whole life to nap, but only one first chance to take a spin through the market with mom.

Maz and his coconut

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

You have to remember that he is from Iowa!


While in Kauai for our Honeymoon, Maz wanted some real fresh fruit.  He was so proud of his coconut that once he finished drinking it, he had to put it in the car and then eat the “meat” out of it when we got back to the hotel room.