A Sword is A Sword

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I grew up playing with all sorts of toy weapons — air rifles, phasers, nerf bows, plastic nunchucks and swords — and I love ’em to death.  But I don’t want my kid playing with toy guns until I’m confident he understand the difference between a real gun and a fake one.

My son and I play with swords instead of guns.  Last count, he had twelve of them.  My rule with these is “it’s not a sword unless it is a sword.”  A sword is a sword; a stick is not a sword.  I don’t want my kid picking up sticks on the playground and whacking his friends with them, and when he gets older I most certainly do not want him picking up other objects — say, a poptart — and declaring it to be a gun. That sort of crap is liable to get my kid expelled and my ass busted on suspicion of being some sort of arms dealer.

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Specifications for Packing My Child’s Lunch

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My son’s grandmother did me the favor packing his lunch the other day.  (In a nutshell, I’m sick.)  All she required of me was his Monsters University lunch bag/box/whatever you want to call it (it’s one of those insulated softies), and I ended up throwing in a box of V8 Fusion.  My mother was doing me a favor, so I wasn’t about to lecture her on the specifications of packing my preschooler’s lunch.

I go all out with my kid’s lunches.  I like to be creative and make things fun.  Bagged lunches can be boring, so I like to include variety.  I also like to zazz things up with fun character or holiday-themed paper products (plate and napkin), colorful zip-lock bags (available at Target), and character-themed tupperware containers.  I’ll periodically rotate in special food themes –– “China food” or “Mexico food,” or even “spooky food,” and on the rare occasions that I throw it a dessert, I’ll find some way to make it literacy based.  (This used to be a major hobby of mine.)

I also make a point of including “love notes” in his lunches.   Even on the day that Grandma packed it for me, I made a point of slipping a little heart-shaped sticky note into his lunch box with an excuse explanation as to why everything looked so dull different.  (Wasn’t it NICE of Grandma to pack your lunch today?)

I’ll scribble down a few sentences worth of well-wishes, interesting facts, useful information, or suggest social prompts.  Some notes will have it all.  And every note contains an integrated “sight word”, which I also make a point of S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G O-U-T. It sounds crazy, but the kid loves it, and his teachers find it adorable.  (There are only six other kids in his classroom, so they can afford to give him a little extra attention.)

So this got me thinking… what if I had left my mother an exacting set of instructions on how to prepare and pack my child’s lunch?  There are plenty of parents out there who obsess over what they feed their kids, and god help you if you accidentally feed them inorganic produce.  Some insist artificial dyes were responsible for their children’s behavior problems; others seek to “cure” their kids of autism Jenny McCarthy style (which evidently involves removing gluten and casein from their diets).  More still have taken it upon themselves to “diagnose” their poor kids with multiple food allergies and intolerances before subjecting them to rigorous dietary restrictions.  I can only imagine the enormity of the written instructions these parents must leave their child care providers, who may not even be able to make the distinction between quinoa and couscous.

Grandma ended up sending the boy in with beans, spaghetti, and the V8 juice I’d given her.  Not quite the lunch I would have packed, but certainly delicious and nutritious enough to keep my child satiated and content.

But if I had left her a list of specifications for packing my kid’s lunch, here’s what it would have looked like:

1. THE LUNCHBOX: Dimensions of lunch pack should be approximately 7.5 inches in height, 9.25 inches in width, and 3.5 inches thick.  Must come fully insulated with zipper closure, top-carry handle, and suitable for children ages three and up.  Acceptable designs include Monsters Inc, Mickey Mouse, Toy Story, and Dora the Explorer.

2. PAPER PRODUCTS: One (1) round or square dessert-sized plate to be placed beneath one (1) full-sized paper luncheon napkin.  Plate and napkin should coordinate, thought the designs need not necessarily be identical.  For instance, a Minnie Mouse napkin may be paired with a Mickey Mouse plate, provided they are similar enough in coloring.  Solid-colored napkins may also utilized, so long as they are appropriately matched with a character plate.  For example, a red napkin may be paired with a Lightning McQueen plate.  Under some circumstances, it may be permissible for a solid-colored plate may be utilized, but in these rare instances, the corresponding napkin had better be pretty spectacular.  Under no circumstances may a solid-colored plate be used with a solid-colored napkin.

3. PLASTICWARE: If plastic spoons and/or forks are needed, it is essential that they not be permitted to violate the integrity of the plate-napkin color coordination.  Due in part to the vast under-representation of forks and knives in children’s lunches, it is not always economically feasible to have all plasticware match the paperware.  Still, a diligent effort should still be made to ensure that the colors do not clash.  If a suitable green or yellow spoon cannot be located for my kid’s yogurt, a black or white spoon may be substituted in its place.  (Note: metallic-looking plasticware should only be used with space/futuristic character themes, and clear only goes with winter themes.)

4. THE DRINK: Include 6.75 and 8 fl. oz of organic whole milk or V8 Fusion.  MIlk must contain at least 32 mg of DHA per serving.   Acceptable brands of milk include Horizon Organics and Stonyfield Farm.  The preferable flavor of V8 Fusion is pomegranate-blueberry, but strawberry-banana is also acceptable.  Kefir is also an appropriate beverage.  Milk and juice must be contained within an appropriate air-tight sports bottle (suggested design: Monsters University) and twice tested before being placed into the lunch pack.  Kefir is best stored within 8-oz plastic tumblers, preferably clear to make the flavor more readily identifiable.  Due to the thick nature of this beverage and its potential to ruin and entire lunch, tumblers filled with Kefer are required to be check thrice.

5. THE DAIRY: If milk or Kefir have been packed, move on to the next step.  Otherwise, a Dora the Explorer (strawberry) or Cars (vanilla) yogurt cup should be included in the lunch.  Alternatively, you may substitute a quarter cup of shredded cheese for the yogurt, but only if the meal is Mexico or Italian-themed.  Monterey jack or a cheddar-jack mix would be an appropriate accompaniment to a Mexican lunch, while parmesean, romano, and asiago cheeses may be paired with pasta, either independently or as a mixture.

6. THE FRUIT: A fresh banana (neither too green nor too brown) or a packet of ascorbic acid-treated apples will fulfill this requirement, as would half a cup of seedless, tricolored (red, green, & black) grapes.  Grapes should be washed with a special fruit & vegetable rinse (available in most produce sections) and cut in half the morning of school.  Dried fruit (such as craisins and raisins) are also acceptable, as are “monkey chips” (i.e., plantain chips).  It is important to observe that my child DOES NOT eat banana chips.  If V8 Splash has been packed (see Step 4), a full serving or fruit may not be necessary.  A few grapes may suffice, or a vegetable (such as corn on-or-off-the-cob), or perhaps even a small dessert as a stand-in.  (See Step 9.)

7. THE ENTREE: The entree should ensure my child a balance of all three macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and quality fats.  (Whole grains whenever possible/tolerated.)  Acceptable entrees include but are not limited to a turkey “sandwich” (the low-sodium turkey breast must be packaged separately from the whole-grain potato bread, as they are not actually consumed as a single unit), Spanish rice (Uncle Ben’s brand) and beans, spaghetti with tomato sauce and a TON of cheese (which would also fulful the dairy requirement — see Step 5), rice and “Mexico” cheese (ditto on the dairy), lo-mein noodles (be certain to supplement with milk), and turkey sausage or meatballs with a whole-grain potato roll on the side.  There needn’t necessarily be a discernible entree, so long as reasonable protein and caloric requirements have been met.  For instance, a lunch consisting of V8, rice cakes, yogurt, craisins, and shelled sunflower aka “sunny” seeds would be perfectly acceptable — and is a great favorite.

8. GOOD FATS: Seeds and seed oils are some of the best sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids available.  (Please note that my child has a nut allergy.)  Every lunch should help ensure that he is getting sufficient amounts of these in his diet.  Sunny seeds and/or sesame oil (over noodles) are a great supplement to any meal, but chips cooked in certain oils — such as sunflower, safflower, or canola — may also suffice.  My son eats both yellow corn chip and “monkey chips,” and he has never met a potato chip he hasn’t liked.  Also, as discussed in Step 4, all milk should contain at least 32 mg of DHA per 8 oz serving.

9. THE DESSERT: Desserts are optional and should appear sporadically.  They should be small, preferably free of artificial dyes and ingredients (my reputation with his teachers is at stake here), and serve to both educate and entertain.  Trader Joe’s Cinnamon School Book Cookies are ideally suited to this purpose, although it is crucial to take the time to securely wrap each individual word in aluminum foil so that my child is not forced to deal with a jumble of letters.  Also, the word must plainly match the word-of-the-day in the note.  (See Step 10.)  Fortune cookies make great accompaniments to “China food.”

10. THE NOTE: To be penned on a single heart-shaped sticky note, preferably red, though pink would also be acceptable.  Holiday-themed sticky pads may be substituted whenever appropriate.  Due the inherently unreliable stickiness of Post-It notes (as well as the cheap knockoffs), the note should be secured with tape to another lunch item — preferably a container, but a ziplock bag will also suffice.  Note the note should never be attached to cold item due to the risk of condensation-related water damage.)

The lunchtime love note should begin with a formal greeting (either ‘dear’ or ‘hi’ will do) followed by my child’s name, and end with a ‘<3 [lunch packer’s name].’  Black or blue ink.  If the sticky note is a color other than red, the heart should be shaded in with red ink.

The body of the note MUST contain a three or four-letter sight word suitable to the content of the message.  This sight word should highlighted (either underlined or all in capitals) and then S-P-E-L-L-E-D out, either immediately following the sentence which includes the sight word (i.e., “have a good day today!”  D-A-Y) or just before the signature.  As mentioned above, the body of these love notes should include well-wishes, interesting facts, information, and/or social prompts.

The love note is — and ought to be recognized as — the most essential component of my child’s lunch.  Because without the inclusion of that red (or pink) heart-shaped (or Christmas tree-shaped) sticky note in my son’s lunch bag (or box), my child will feel as if he’s been abandoned, his teachers will assume he is being neglected, I will have failed in my duties as a mother, and Child Protective Services will undoubtedly crucify me.  Which is why I make a point of being the BEST. LUNCH-PACK. EVER.

Here’s an idea: what if I were in charge of setting a state-mandated school lunch policy for ALL preschool children, and given unilateral discretion to determine what parents are required to send in with their kids — regulations which, if violated in the least, would end in confiscation, weighty fines, public humilation, suspension, and possibly even loss of custody for repeat offenders.  (Note to self: I’ve found my calling!)

I Starved My Baby, Part Two

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I’ve previously mentioned how I starved my son for the first 23 hours of his life because I was far too sleep-deprived, doped-up, and frightened of having a new baby (not to mention recovering from a particularly traumatic labor) to realize that the nurses were serving me up lactivist ideology as sound medical advice.  The only visitors I had (my parents and my ex) were as inexperienced with neonates as I was, so I afforded these nurses far more credibility than they deserved.  Sadly, I was not yet finished torturing my poor little fella.

I don’t recall much about the first few day after being discharged — apart from my ex’s evil bitch of a sister pestering me about seeing her nephew.  (Really? It’s a friggin’ newborn.  Are you expecting it to do tricks?)  I assume we both got some sleep, what with having temporarily moved into my mother’s bedroom.  (Thanks, mom!)  Two days after we were discharged, I brought him to his first appointment at the pediatrician and things took a turn for the worse.

Neonates generally lose between 5 and 10 percent of their body weight within the first few days of life, though they’re expected to be back up to their original birth weight by the time they’re 10 to 14 days old.

My son was born weighing 7 lbs 11 oz.  He was starved for the first day, fed a few ounces of formula on the second, and by day four my milk had begun coming in, so I was able to throw in a few ouncedsof breastmilk.  On the fifth day — the day of his first appointment — he weighed in at 7 lbs 8 ounces.  Though the accuracy of that weighing would be questioned at a later appointment (with a different doctor, I should add) it seemed then that my son had only lost three ounces of his birth weight.  Not a big deal, considering he was a whopping 21.5 inches in length (the 99th percentile!) but only the 38th percentile for weight. I had a long, skinny-looking baby.

But the doctor (I’ll refer to him as ‘Dr. W.’) freaked out, accusing me and my ex (who was present for that appointment) of “overfeeding” the baby, after which he went off on some rant about infant obesity and on-demand feeding.  And while I certainly agree that infant obesity is a huge problem in America (and there is nothing remotely cute about a fat baby), none of the crap he was dishing out to us had anything to do with my baby.

Dr. W. wanted to know how much I’d been feeding him.  I replied, “2.5 oz about 8 times per day.”  He told me to reduce the amount of breastmilk/formula to only 1.5 oz (keep in mind that a newborn should generally get 2-3 ounces per feeding) and to only feed him every four waking hours.  This went against all of my baby books, but both my ex and my mother (who was down the hall having a waiting room stare-down with the ex’s father) insisted I needed to listen to the pediatrician.  After all, I’m not a doctor.  (No, just a mother with a shitty support network.)  In the wake of that first appointment, my son’s behavior changed tremendously.

He’d initially calmed down after the first day of life starving and was generally pretty mellow.  Suddenly, he’d become a different baby, crying inconsolably for hours at a time.  Once again, I was so sleep-deprived, uncertain, and utterly terrified my baby that I had trouble putting two and two together.  The appointment had been on a Thursday, so by the time Friday evening rolled around, I was ready to call the nurses’ after-hours line.  They told me to bring him back in the following morning to get checked out.  Being a Saturday, the practice only offered limited hours and availability.  We ended up seeing a nurse who confirmed my worst fear: my baby had colic.

My little baby’s “colic” was so severe that not even the 5S’s could help.  I was just about ready to resign myself to four months worth of sleepless nights and inconsolable crying when my mother — who at this point had been getting up with me to help care for my son (my movement was still pretty limited by my injuries) — decided she’d had enough and that I was on my own with this shrieking, shitting little thing.  And so, out of desperation, I attempted the one thing I’d been warned NOT to resort to — feeding him.

When I made my intentions known, not only did my mother forget how tired she was, but she proceed to wake my father — who’s been sleeping on the couch since I was twelve — shrieking that I was going to hurt the baby.  He in turn decided to verbally assault me and warned me that if his grandson needed medical attention because I’d overfed him, he’d put me right there in the hospital with him.  (Thanks for your support, Dad! <3)

My son ceased crying the moment the bottle touched his lips. He ended up consuming a full three ounces of formula before settling down to sleep. He woke up about two to three hours later, drank a good three ounces of breast milk (my mother looked stricken), had his diaper changed, and again went back to sleep. Whenever my son’s “colic” began to rear its ugly head (approximately 8 times per day), I’d stick a bottle of breast milk in his mouth and he would settle right down.

At his second well visit — exactly a week after the first — my baby weighed in at 7 lb 6 oz. He was now eleven days old and had yet to regain his birth weight.  But the physician’s assistant we saw was unconcerned, especially after I’d explained about the two periods of starvation.  And it was she who realized that the weighing from his visit with Dr. W. could not possibly have been accurate because — get ready — he only weighed in at 7 lbs 2 ounces when we’d brought him in that Saturday morning, a fact which had completely escaped my sleep-deprived attention.  Though  you’d think the nurse might have said something about a baby losing six ounces in two days.

So there you have it — in a nutshell, a pediatrician put my 38th-percentile-for-weight, 99th for length neonate on a starvation diet.  My baby was subjected to not one but two periods of prolonged starvation before he was a week old.  *Applause sign*

I Starved My Baby, Part One

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My son did not eat until 23 hours after he was born.

He was my first child, and my mother (who’d adopted me at five weeks) didn’t have any more experience with newborns than I did, so we initially listened to the recovery ward nurses who said it wasn’t necessary for babies to eat within the first twenty-four hours of birth.

My son had some of the classic latching problems (which we would later overcome), but more importantly, I WAS NOT PRODUCING ANY BREASTMILK.  I never produced any colostrum, and the milk did not start coming in normally until several days after the birth.

But the nurses assured me I would produce milk if I kept trying to latch him on.  And so I did, even though it felt as if I were banging both our freaking heads again the wall.

When he was 10 hours old, I asked for formula.  The nurses convinced me it was unnecessary, and to keep on trying to latch and/or pump.  At 12 hours old, I asked again.  A nurse instead came in to “coach” me.  At this point, I was torn between “doing the right thing” (holding out to EBF) and doing what was “convenient for me” (feeding a starving baby).

Please keep in mind that I was new to all this, utterly-sleep deprived (I’d been averaging two hours a night for the past five days) and under the influence of oxycodone, yet still in a terrible amount of pain.  I figured these nurses were the “experts,” and when they offered me a newborn pacifier to “soothe” (i.e. shut up) my hungry baby, I gladly accepted.

A few hours later (and after few more timid requests for formula), they sent in a lactation consultant who simply reiterated everything I’d already read in books.  We agreed that I’d wait until he was 18 hours old before resorting to formula, which somehow turned into 20.

At 20 hours, I insisted upon feeding my baby formula.  The nurses offered some excuse or another as to why the “breastfeeding-friendly formula” (Similac) wasn’t available at that particular moment in time.  At 21 hours, I finally called my father in another state (my mom did not have her car) to go to the store and bring me some damned formula.  He arrived with Similac about an hour later, but the nurse told me it wasn’t the *correct* Similac; unless I used the RTD version (which was supposedly the same consistency as breastmilk), I’d have no hope of ever breastfeeding my baby.  (Keep in mind these people gave my kid a freakin’ pacifier!)

I’d finally had enough, and at 22 hours I told them to find me whatever the hell I was supposed to feed my baby or I was going to give him powdered Similac.  It took my mother following up half an hour later, but at 23 hours old my baby was finally permitted to eat… a single ounce of formula.  Any more, I was told, and my baby would get sick. :-\

Thankfully, my milk came in a few days later, and I was able to EBF my son for the next 8.5 months.  But because of my experience, I never lost sight of the fact that while breast may be best, it isn’t everything.  And there is seriously something wrong with anyone who would readily sacrifice their baby’s health (or overall well-being) for the sake of an ideology.

My Reactions to Common Dental Problems

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Me last year, getting stung by a bee at the dentist’s office.

Earlier this year, upon learning my preschooler may have a cavity.
(Facepalm looks even better in HD)

Said preschooler refuses to cooperate with routine cleaning. Referred to a special dentist’s office for disturbed children.
(Didn’t even know they had those)

Last week, upon realizing that the red dental floss I’d
purchased from Target was in fact a shitty mint flavor
instead of the desired cinnamon — and it wasn’t even WAXED.

Late last night, upon getting Arm & Hammer’s Advanced Whitening Toothpaste (with baking soda & peroxide) IN MY FUCKING EYE.

Jean-Luc Picard Downvotes AP-ing

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This article is beautiful, and the fact that people are continuing to comment on it sixteen months later really says a lot:

Babies Are Assholes:
The Problem With Attachment Parenting

(Cross-posted in the comments.)

*Time to brag* My kid (now four) hit every one of his milestones early.  He began rolling onto his tummy at eight weeks, tummy-creeping at ten, began crawls up on hands and knees at 4.5 months, sitting independently at five, took his first steps at eight months, and was able to walk alongside me by the time he was ten months old.

The secret? From the day I brought him home, I KEPT MY KID ON THE FLOOR for as long as he would tolerate.  I’m talking five to ten minutes stretches as a newborn, several times a day, which increased to twenty to thirty minute periods by the time he was three months old.  By four months, if he wasn’t sleeping, eating, bathing, having his diaper changed, or being transported, he could be found happily playing on the floor.

When my kid fell, he’d first look to me before deciding how to react.  I discovered early on that if I kept my cool, he would not cry.  To this day, my heart swells with pride whenever I see a “sensitive child” run crying to their mommy over the tiniest bump or fall.  My kid simply dusts himself off and keeps playing.

I can’t help but be disgusted by parents (as you’ve pointed out, usually women who can claim membership to one “mom’s club” or another) who behave as if it’s perfectly normal for their “wonderfully attached” 11-month-old to not yet be mobile, often hiding behind the excuse that “crawling isn’t even a milestone.”  (Uh, really?)  Far worse are the ones who claim that tummy-time is somehow “disrespectful” to infants and should be avoided at all costs.  These are the parents of children who seldom walk before the age of two.  And this new trend of “extended dry-nursing” is borderline child abuse.

They say some babies hit their milestones faster than others, and I suppose this is true.  If a baby has a developmental delay, that’s unfortunate.  If the delay happens as a result of poor parenting, even more so. But if the delay is clearly caused by a parenting philosophy, that’s just unforgivable.