Monday, April 28, 2008

Next thing to fear: Cans

So I'm reading the Boston Globe this morning, and I come across this, from something called the Green Blog:

Q: Do basic canned goods - soups, beans, etc. - have bisphenol A? What about bottled juices?

A: Bisphenol A is in the resin that lines a lot of canned goods, including canned tomatoes, corn, soups, and soda cans. Juice bottles are not made with bisphenol A. I advise people to try to limit their exposure to BPA by using fresh or frozen ingredients over canned whenever possible.


I've been aware of the discussion of BPA (Bisphenol A) in baby and other bottles, but I have pushed it to the back of my consciousness because I'm not a big baby bottle or other bottle user. However: I do use canned food. Not everyday, but several times a week. I use canned tomato sauce, canned stocks, canned beans. I always thought they were healthy (especially the beans).

Guess again.

So I'm surfing around, trying to figure out what is real. Here is what the Chemical Industry has to say about it:
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a key industrial chemical used to make polycarbonate plastic, epoxy resins and other products. Following the four-step procedure recommended by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NRC, 1983), a safety assessment of BPA concludes that the potential human exposure to BPA from polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin food contact applications is minimal and poses no known risk to human health.
Here is what the Environmental Working Group has to say:

BPA is an ingredient in plastics and the epoxy resins that line food cans. Low doses of BPA lead to a range of health problems, including birth defects of the male and female reproductive systems in laboratory animals. Despite the growing evidence of risk to human health, there are no limits on the amount of BPA allowed in canned food.

The tests found that pregnant women and infants who eat even a single serving of some canned foods are exposed to unsafe doses of BPA. Of the foods tested—which included many of the canned foods eaten most often by women of childbearing age—BPA levels were highest in canned pasta and soup. Canned infant formula also had high levels. Just one to three servings of food with these BPA levels could expose a pregnant woman or infant to harmful doses of the chemical.

So now what do I believe?

I'll tell you what I know. We have thousands of chemicals in our bodies from the air, water, the earth itself, from what we eat, from our homes. We are doing a giant research project on ourselves. 100 years from now, people will laugh at the silly things that we did to ourselves. "They made themselves sick! They gave themselves cancer! They were so stupid!" they will chortle. "Didn't they think at all about putting all these chemicals into the air, into the water, into the earth? Stupid, stupid, stupid."

Yep, they'll be laughing at us.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


I haven't written for a while. Being with my FOO (family of origin, for the uninitiated) in Florida for a week seems to have silenced me. But now I'm back in the Northeast with my FOMOC (family of my own creation?!) and I'm feeling more like myself. More soon....

* word shamelessly stolen from Bipolarlawyercook

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Pregnancy Rant

Two of my favorite mommy bloggers are knocked up pregnant right now, and I'm pissed. It's not that I'm not happy for them -- I am, I really am -- it's just that I don't want to hear for nine months about how fulfilling and wonderful it is to be pregnant, with life growing inside you and all that, blah, blah, blah...and then once the baby is born, how wonderful and fulfilling it is to go through childbirth and have a new human being, blah, blah, blah...I guess the truth is, that's just not where I am right now. I had a kid, I'm not having another kid (for a variety of reasons) and I don't really want to think about pregnancy and childbirth and little babies. I read their blogs because they are funny and sarcastic and real, and when bloggers get pregnant... well... it's just not the same.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Random thoughts after a short trip

You know you have a good friend when you don't see each other for months at a time, but when you do get together, you just pick up the thread of where you left off as easily as if you had seen each other the week before.

We are growing older. "How is it," asked my friend, "that you are brave enough to go gray?" "I'm just lazy," I replied. "I don't want to have to color my hair every 6 or 8 weeks." It's true. I can barely manage to get to the hair dresser every few months for a cut. I'd hate to have my hair colored and then have raccoon stripes when the gray comes in. So instead I'm just gray. Well, not entirely gray, but pretty gray.

We were looking at the backs of our hands. The skin is thinner now, and less elastic, and we have age spots. My friend remembered looking at her mom's hands when she was a child, and touching the thin skin on the back of her mom's hands, and seeing how the veins move, and now her hands look just like that.

For her son's Bar Mitzvah party, my friend opted against a dance, and chose instead to have a fun, movement-oriented party at a place with giant inflatable slides and bouncers called Pump It Up. The kids had a blast, basically running and jumping and playing and being silly for an hour and a half, and getting very sweaty. The adults were talking about bar mitzvah parties we had attended as kids -- the obligatory DJ dance party in the basement rec room (remember rec rooms?) -- and whether this was a better choice. Some kids still opt for dance parties, but for this particular set of kids, this seemed just right. As we left, one kid was overhead saying: "This was the best Bar Mitzvah party ever! Usually they make us dance!"

Returning home
When we got home, I read the mail, took a nap, unpacked the suitcases, did several loads of laundry, made dinner, went to the grocery store, put the laundry away, read my email, took a bath, went to sleep. My husband and son watched the baseball game. What is wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

No breastfeeding... no problem!

Erin from Manic Mommies posted a link to an interesting article from Slate entitled "Is breastfeeding not all it's cracked up to be?" and immediately got my attention. Because of my own issues with breastfeeding, I'm very interested in the subject. So I spent a chunk of time today (don't ask how much time) looking at the original articles, and here is what I found.

The original study was called the PROBIT study (promotion of breastfeeding intervention trial) which was conducted in Belarus between 1996 and 1997 (here's the link to that study). (Some of my family is originally from Belarus, but that's another story for another time.) Anyway, this study was quite interesting. They randomly assigned hospitals to one of 2 groups: the intervention group, which emphasized "health care worker assistance with initiating and maintaining breastfeeding and lactation and postnatal breastfeeding support," and a control group, which continued the usual feeding practices and policies of the hospital. So in 16 hospitals, the staff learned special techniques to promote breastfeeding, and used these techniques with patients who had just given birth. And in 15 hospitals, the staff did whatever they normally did. So far, so good.

Then the researchers followed these moms and babies for a year, and what they were looking for was how long the moms breastfed at all, how long they exclusively breastfed, and then the occurrence of certain conditions such as GI conditions, respiratory tract infections, or eczema in the babies.

And what did they find? Well, they found, as you might expect, that the women who had the extra-special breastfeeding support did better than the control group in terms of maintaining their breastfeeding.

Here are the numbers:

at 3 months 73% of the supported group were breastfeeding
while in the control group, 60%

at 6 months 50% the control group 36%

at 9 months 36% the control group 24%

at 12 months 20% the control group 11%

So basically, approximately 13% more of the supported women breastfed than the unsupported group. The control group actually didn't do so badly; these women breastfed quite a bit anyway. And this data is for "any breastfeeding," so this means the women stated that they breastfed, not exclusively breastfed. So any of the moms could have been supplementing with formula as well.

But basically what you have is 2 groups of women, one group that breastfed somewhat more than the other group. The big question is: is this enough to make a difference?

Well, they found that the breastfeeding group babies did have less GI tract infections, 40% less in fact. And the babies had less eczema. And the moms in the supported group were more likely to breastfeed their next child. Cool. So after one year, they did find some differences between the 2 groups, and the differences were in the favor of the breastfeeding support group. And we researchers like our interventions to work!

So now... the researchers decided to go back to this group of people when the kids were 6 1/2. Interesting, huh? And this is the study to which Erin was referring.

This study, which was just published in the journal Pediatrics (and you can find the link to the study here) went back to find out if the enhanced breastfeeding group kids did better on things like behavior problems, emotional problems, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, etc., if the moms were better adjusted and happier moms, and other things along these lines.

What do you think they found?

Well...they found no difference. No difference between the 2 groups. Or in their words:
"Our results show no consistent and significant differences in behavioral strengths or difficulties in children who were cluster-randomized to a breastfeeding promotion intervention. Despite the substantial increase observed in both the duration and the exclusivity of breastfeeding in the experimental group, that increase did not lead to any detectable reductions in emotional difficulties, hyperactivity, or conduct or peer problems or to improvement in prosocial behavior..... We found no evidence that the breastfeeding promotion intervention affected the mother's relationship with her partner or with her child nor her satisfaction with motherhood in general."
Damn! That's the worst thing for a researcher! No difference!

So let's think about this: we had 2 groups of moms, one group who got a lot of support for breastfeeding, one group that just got regular support. Both groups breastfed their babies, but the supported moms breastfed somewhat longer than the other moms. We don't know about formula supplementation with either group. Now remember that the 2 groups were randomly assigned, and that the groups are really very similar in terms of age, education, etc. So everything else being equal, the only real difference between these 2 groups is the amount of breastfeeding.

Now, 6-1/2 years later, we go back to the moms and the kids and find out that the enhanced breastfeeding kids and the regular kids are THE SAME when it comes to emotional issues, behavioral issues, etc. etc.

Hmm. So what does this mean? Breastfeeding isn't all it's cracked up to be?

My thoughts? Well...actually, I'm not entirely certain that this study proves anything at all. Let me amend that. It proves a few things: 1) if you give women lots of breastfeeding support, they will breastfeed more. 2) women who breastfeed more tend to breastfeed their next baby. 3) breastfed babies have less GI troubles than babies who are breastfed less. 4) breastfed babies have less eczema than babies who are breastfed less. 5) if you have 2 groups of women, some of whom breastfeed quite a bit and some of whom breastfeed less, 6-1/2 years later, the children of both groups are essentially the same in terms of behavioral and emotional problems. So breastfeeding isn't the magic panacea that cures all ills, but it ain't bad for you either. How's that for results?

This will get you in the mood for Passover...and will make you laugh

The Two-Minute Haggadah
A Passover service for the impatient.
by Michael Rubiner, for Slate Magazine

Opening prayers:

Thanks, God, for creating wine. (Drink wine.)
Thanks for creating produce. (Eat parsley.)


Once we were slaves in Egypt. Now we're free. That's why we're doing this.

Four questions:

1. What's up with the matzoh?
2. What's the deal with horseradish?
3. What's with the dipping of the herbs?
4. What's this whole slouching at the table business?


1. When we left Egypt, we were in a hurry. There was no time for making decent bread.
2. Life was bitter, like horseradish.
3. It's called symbolism.
4. Free people get to slouch.

A funny story:

Once, these five rabbis talked all night, then it was morning. (Heat soup now.)

The four kinds of children and how to deal with them:
Wise child-explain Passover.
Simple child-explain Passover slowly.
Silent child-explain Passover loudly.
Wicked child-brow beat in front of the relatives.

Speaking of children: We hid some matzoh. Whoever finds it gets five bucks.

The story of Passover:

It's a long time ago. We're slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through. The Egyptians aren't so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

The 10 Plagues: Blood, Frogs, Lice-you name it.

The singing of "Dayenu":

If God had gotten us out of Egypt and not punished our enemies, it would've been enough. If He'd punished our enemies and not parted the Red Sea, it would've been enough. If He'd parted the Red Sea (remove gefilte fish from refrigerator now.) etc.

Eat matzoh. Drink more wine. Slouch.

Thanks again, God, for everything.


Monday, April 07, 2008

Affirmation with a capital A just posted it's choice of The Top 25 Blogs, and amazingly, nestled among the Huffington Post and Boing Boing and all the other biggies, is listed a small, quiet, wonderful blog about Judaism... no, not my blog... but one I love to read: The Velveteen Rabbi. Congrats Rachel Barenblat! You're playing with the big boys now!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Thoughts on a bar mitzvah

Dear D and B,

I was thinking a bit this morning about our trip to the Midwest as we will be heading out your way at the end of the week to attend J's Bar Mitzvah. I truly can't believe he is about to turn 13. I remember the day that you called me, D, from the road (you were driving to Ann Arbor) to say that the pregnancy test confirmed your feeling that you were pregnant, and here you were, moving to a new place and suddenly you were about to become parents, too! And I remember flying out to attend J's bris, and how wondrous and amazing it seemed that a friend of mine had a baby. And now time has folded in two like a piece of paper, and somehow he is 13.

I was thinking today that raising a child to the age of bar mitzvah is more about the sheer perseverance of the parents than anything that the newly-minted teenager has accomplished. Yes, it's about years of schooling, learning to read Hebrew and how to sing prayers, attending services. Yes, it's about learning to read Torah and Haftarah, preparing a speech, becoming comfortable leading the service from the bimah. Those are worthy accomplishments. But from my perspective -- and I suspect yours -- it's much more about making it through all those sleepless nights, months of potty training, the happiness/sadness of the first day of school, the tears of not fitting in, the joy of learning to read, day upon day of getting up and eating breakfast and do you have your lunch? and put on your coat and have a good day. And someone they survive, and we survive, and suddenly they are 13. And we are a bit older, too. But just a bit.

So I guess I just wanted to say: congratulations on bringing him this far. I know he has been, at times, a challenging kid to raise, but it seems that he is definitely becoming the person -- dare I say it, the man -- who he will become, and we will all be proud of him this weekend, but I also wanted to say: I'm proud of you both for raising him to this day.

With much love,


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Just Say Maybe? (part 2)

In yesterday's post, I finally finished up a post I had started writing almost a year ago about my frustration with the anti-drug messages that are promoted by government and community agencies. They seem too black and white, too out-of-touch with reality. To hear these messages, you have 2 choices: 1) take drugs and become an addict and ruin your life forever, or 2) don't take drugs. There is no middle ground.

Now, we all know that there IS a middle ground. So how do we explain THAT to our kids?

The reason I started thinking about this issue again is that the Manic Mommies had a guest this week who was talking about prescription drug abuse among teens (now we have to worry about prescription drugs as well as illegal ones - oy!). I'm sure you've all seen the ads on TV in which a "drug dealer" is complaining because he isn't getting business from teens anymore, as they are simply going to their parents' medicine cabinets and taking their old prescriptions to get high.

So the Mommies spoke with this woman for a while, and she gave lots of information about the incidence of the problem, examples of cases she knew of, ways to clean out your cabinets and try to protect your kids... but the one thing no one talked about is: WHY ARE TEENS DOING THIS IN THE FIRST PLACE???

Why do teens feel the need to go through the medicine cabinet and take whatever they can find? What is the problem here? Why do they need to get high, or anesthetize themselves from whatever they are feeling? What is going on???

I just took a look at Vanessa Van Petten's blog Teen's Today to see if she had any insight into the issue of teens and drugs (since she is closer in age to a teen than I am), and I was reminded that one reason teens use certain prescription drugs, like ADD drugs, is to stay awake while they are studying. Another reason she mentioned is the social use, that taking drugs helps smooth over social situations in which a teen (or anyone) might feel stressed or ill at ease. Another reason she mentioned is: boredom! Some teens take drugs (and do other things we wish they wouldn't) because they simply are bored. Add these reasons to typical teenage low self-esteem, feelings of isolation, feeling left-out and different, possible depression... and you have a million reasons why teens might be seeking a way to feel different and better than how they normally feel.

So in my mind, the way to prevent teens from using your old prescription drugs isn't to take the drugs away, but rather to talk to them and help them learn to deal with these sorts of situations. If teens are bored, they need things to do. If they feel ill at ease in social situations, they need to learn skills to deal with these situations. If they need to stay awake while studying, they need to find other ways to stay awake (coffee? soda?) instead of drugs. If they are feeling normal teenage angst, maybe they just need some love and attention and help finding friends who will make them feel included and part of something larger than themselves and loved...Maybe I'm naive, but I think that happy, busy teens aren't that interested in taking their parents' old antibiotics. But maybe I'm wrong...Talk to me in 5 or 6 years.

Here are some more articles on this topic:
Wall Street Journal article
Slate article

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Just Say Maybe? (part 1)

It's hard to miss the commercials on TV these days, imploring parents to "talk to their kids" about alcohol, drugs, smoking, what-have-you. Just talking to kids, according to these ads, helps to protect kids from whatever terrible behavior "they" are trying to prevent.

As someone who works in the social sciences, I have given quite a bit of thought to the issue of alcohol and drugs, and what is the best way to promote responsible behavior without a) scaring the bejesus out of my kid b) seeming so unrealistic that my kid will just tune out. I strongly disagree with "Just Say No," but I don't want to "just say yes" either. I want to teach my son moderation, if that is at all possible.

I recently picked up a brochure from our local library that is supposed to help parents talk to their kids about drinking. As this pamphlet would have it, parents would "firmly" tell their child that they are not to drink under any circumstances, and these are the reasons why, and this is what will happen if you do, yada yada yada. I found this pamphlet to be annoying, but I couldn't exactly put my finger on what bothered me.

Then I received my bi-monthly copy of Brain, Child Magazine, and there was an article about this very topic! This article, Scared Straight? Or Just Scared? Do elementary school anti-drug campaigns work?by Juliette Guilbert, is a really interesting read. I completely agree with her analysis of the situation:

But all too often, these anti-drug programs seem to put parents in an impossible position: We must either agree with pronouncements and propaganda we know to be false or exaggerated, or we must engage our children in awkward conversations about complex subjects they are too young to understand. And while it's a simple matter to get kids under ten to accept black-and-white pronouncements like "Drugs kill you" or "Don't tell lies" or "Beauty is only skin deep," I wondered what would happen when they hit middle school, and the costumes and handprints are forgotten or despised as relics of childhood. And what happens the first time they meet someone who admits to having tried pot and is, miraculously, still alive?

There has to be a better way.

One group I heard about recently that is trying a "new way" is called Choose Responsibility. They were started by a former college president (which, in my opinion, gives them a hell of a lot of credibility), and their view is that young adults who are under age 21 should be able to drink IF they go through a required educational program and receive a drinking license similar to a driver's license. The idea is to promote responsible drinking and reduce dangerous binge drinking. I actually wrote a letter to the Boston Globe last year about this group, which was printed. Here is the link .

So this is the first part of this "story." I actually started this post on 6/8/07, and am just getting around to completing it today. More on the reason why I'm getting back to it on my next post...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Suburban bliss?

I'm home today with my son, who has a cold. There are no less than 10 cars and/or trucks on the street today. Next door, a new house is being constructed. Across from that house, the tree removal service is taking down some trees. Up the hill, another new house is being constructed. The result: cars, trucks, and noise. So much for the quiet suburbs....