Archive for April, 2012

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?

Olive Oil as Facial Cleanser: Who Knew?

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

459064_10150768886778739_645133738_9565785_1521440565_oApparently a whole lot of people. My mother among them. My 14-year-old daughter returned from a weekend at my mom’s and promptly advised me to start using olive oil as a moisturizer. After all, that’s what my mom is using, and she looks great.

Naturally, I checked it out. Jenni Wiltz cites Carol Firenze’s The Passionate Olive
and Cal Orey’s The Healing Powers of Olive Oil in her history, which credits the Ancients with the first use of olive oil as a cleanser and emollient. In short, hormones, trapped bacteria, and dirt – NOT oil – causes oily skin and acne. Oil protects skin. When the skin’s natural oils are removed, the body reacts by producing MORE oil – hence, the familiar vicious cycle of ever more harsh astringents to combat oily and oilier skin. An oil based cleanser arguably provides a more effective way to remove unwanted bacteria and dirt, with far less drying.

With respect to adapting the use of olive oil to facial care regimens for contemporary women, the Beauty Bottle's Stephanie probably provides the most thorough discussion how to use olive oil as a treatment and moisturizer. Many others provide simpler instructions. I like The Simple Mom's Tsh Oxenreider’s, in particular.

Tsh advises:

1. Create: Mix selected oils together in a small bottle, give it a little shake, and you’ve got yourself an effective facial cleanser. The most popular blend of oils for this cleansing method is castor oil and extra-virgin olive oil. Castor oil draws dirt out of pores; olive oil moisturizes, helping heal and nourish the skin.

2. Rub: Pour a quarter-sized amount into your palm, rub your hands together, and slowly massage your skin with your fingertips. Don’t splash your face with water first — apply it dry. Work the oil into your skin for about a minute. Don’t scrub — just rub.

3. Steam: Wet a washcloth with hot water, and put it over your face until it’s about room temperature to remove impurities and dead skin cells. It’ll take about a minute.

4. Wipe off the oil: Take the washcloth, rinse and wring it, then gently wipe off the oil. Your skin will probably feel softer immediately.

Most sites advise using this cleansing routine once a day – preferably at night, splashing water on your face and following with a bit of olive oil or your favorite moisturizer in the morning. I’ve tried it for two days so far, and it appears to work. My face immediately felt smoother and, almost more importantly, it is much less red after washing – even when I add a bit of fine (so-called “baker’s”) sugar to create a natural scrub.

For those who want to give it a shot, but shy away from undiluted olive oil, a mix of water and oil also works and forms the basis for commercial olive oil washes currently available from DHC and Kiss My Face.

Come on, try it. After all, what do you have to lose? Unlike other cleansers and moisturizers you’ve tried, this one can become dinner if it doesn’t solve your skin issues.

He’s a Big Boy Now, Right?

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

photo 13

California, here we come! This is almost seven-month-old Everett, weighing in at just over 12 lbs., with his 200+ pound daddy at the airport.  Just when I get used to the idea that my baby boy is really growing up, Maz provides a reality check.

Boys Aren’t Really Any Easier

Monday, April 16th, 2012

photo 9

I swear, every parent of a daughter, including those who don’t also have a son for comparison’s sake, has told me that boys are easier. Like hell! My lovable and adoring tween has grown into a tall, strong, mouthy, obstinate teen who acts as if his primary goal in life is to drive me right over the edge. If it’s not his refusal to do his negligible household chores punctually and without being asked, or to complete his school work until the last minute if at all, it’s his obsession with some combination of rock-climbing, Facebooking, Texting, and/or eating. No wonder I wasn’t kidding when, after receiving this photo in a text message from my loving spouse, I asked, “What? Did you take Quentin out into the desert and drive away?”

Red-Shirting: The Other End of the Tunnel

Friday, April 13th, 2012

“Redshirting,” the increasingly popular practice of holding a (typically male) 5-year-old back from kindergarten a year to increase the chances that he’ll be among the oldest and smartest kids in class, gets a lot press. This argument in support of "cumulative advantage," the idea that a later start in kindergarten can result in a significant advantage later in life, is so compelling to most that many elementary schools have moved the cut-off date for kindergarten enrollment into mid summer.

I wasn’t persuaded when my scrawny and precocious eldest son, Quentin, started school just a month after turning five years old. How could I be? The kid was already reading and had a vocabulary to rival some university students, considered two-digit arithmetic to be a game, and was the catalyst for chaos among the neighborhood children. Home-schooled through middle school, he “lapped” himself and skipped a grade. Quentin will just be 16 when he graduates in June.

Emphasis on the 16.

Quentin is an intelligent high school senior and IB candidate, with the goal-setting capacity of a 16-year-old. I’m not surprised that he’d rather climb than study, that a trip to Boulder, CO or Spain sounds more engaging than four more years of school, that there are times I can’t tell him apart from his 11-year-old brother. Frustrated, but not surprised.

I have been blind-sided by the criticism I’ve received to the tune of “you should have kept him ‘back’ with kids his age.” As a general rule, I disagree. While there may be something to the argument of keeping a physically small or socially immature child with his or her age-mates, I’d still err in favoring of educating a child with his or her intellectual peers. The risk that boredom will lead to misbehavior and/or underachievement remains too high.

In the wake of discussions on the merits of grade in school as a function of birth date or intellect, I asked Quentin if he wished I’d held him back or not encouraged him to skip a grade, and he said, “No!”

Quentin is easily as intellectually and socially ready for college as his mostly older high school peers.  What he’s lacking is a realistic appreciation for how the decisions he makes now could impact the opportunities available to him in the future. But that awareness can take even the most intelligent and mature high school graduate years to develop.

Off to a Great Start

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012


As most parents quickly learn, the hardest thing about heir children’s extracurricular activities is often the parents. My boys’ Scout troop recently devolved into two troops following yet another major disagreement on the administrative (parent) committee. While my eldest son, Quentin, opted to “Eagle out” of the old troop, his little brother, Parker, transferred to the new troop with the rest of the boys he’s been Scouting with since first grade! Their first meeting was last night. (Parker is the one wearing the hat.)