Sunday, November 25, 2007

psycho-homatic cures all

I love enthusiastic people. I have to. We're related.

I am surrounded by people who are happy to extol the virtues of all manner of natural remedies, tinctures and tonics that they believe will cure anything that ails you.

In fact, they SWEAR by them.

Sometimes it can be awkward. I try to look into their eyes and keep my smile sedate as they report on how their lives were changed forever by simply ingesting some revolutionary product found in nature and distilled into its purest, pharmaceutically potent essences, and all for the bargain price of more than my car payment.

It's sweet, really. All these people still carrying the torch of hope that they can turn back the clock and can stop the ravage of time with some product they get from their friendly neighborhood herbalist after the AARP magazine cracked the code to some ancient curative in its January edition.

In some ways I'd like to share such enthusiasm but I know my eyes are fixed in their usual upright, 'are you kidding me' position. And the only swearing I'm ever going to do is the four-letter kind when my husband comes home bearing one of the latest recommended remedies:

Apple Cider Vinegar.

Apparently the venerable magazine for aging Americans ran a story touting the miracle drug science has so brazenly overlooked, and my husband’s mom conveyed the news.

To hear her talk about it you'd be convinced a dinner spoon of stuff will cure ailments from one end of the alimentary canal to the other: Acne, acid reflux, arthritis, cancer, chronic fatigue, contact dermatitis, flu, gout, goiter, gastric disturbance, sore throat and weight gain.

For those of you planning on Googling, all you need to know is ACV. That's the lingo. And when you consult Dr. Google, you'll likely find a host of online pharmacies willing to sell you a souped-up holistic version of the bottle store-bought stuff, which the price tag alone is proof that the tonic is at least 75 percent more effective than anything you'd normally put in a salad dressing.

Apparently she convinced her son, who explained to me that in his extensive research into the vast benefits of this wonderdrug he discovered it all hinges on balancing the body's ph. And after only two days on the stuff he's a convert, insisting he's noticed a decrease in acne breakouts, he's more regular and he's not finishing meals.

(Cue harps and angels singing on high).

But that's not why I tried it.

I tried it because I've been experiencing a little stiffness in my joints. Something I SWEAR (with real four-letter words) is related to breastfeeding and not A-R-T-H-R-I-T-I-S.

Now, I didn't have any AH-HA moments. I didn't notice anything get better immediately, but after a few days the aches seemed to diminish. Cure all? Probably not.

When checked with Dr. Google about the nature of such ailments creaky joints, I learned that there's a natural remission process; times when one's symptoms seem to lessen or go away altogether. Perhaps that's what's happening a little here. When my husband tells me he feels like a teenager again … a teen without the acne ... I remember how cyclical the little pustules are, too.

Despite my cynicism, I wake up each morning and knock back a shot of the vinegar, thinking it can’t hurt. But then I wonder 'Could it hurt?'

Back to Dr. Google.

DR. GOOGLE: Seems there's some little controversy over the effect of vinegar on tooth enamel.

ME: Hmmm. Maybe I'll just go brush my teeth.

DR. GOOGLE: No! Don't do that, it may grind it into your teeth.

ME: Oh my, this is getting complicated. Maybe I'll just drink it through a straw.

DR. GOOGLE: Why not try diluting it with water?

ME: Well doesn't that just prolong the pain of the taste? You know, I'll have to just drink more at one time?

DR. GOOGLE: What are you a pansy?

ME: **Blank. Stare.** I tell you what? I much prefer the Red Wine and Dark Chocolate remedies. Maybe I'll just stick with those.

DR. GOOGLE: I knew it. Pansy!

ME: Well, at least I'm not psycho-homatic!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pumping 9 to 5

I’m sleeping two hours at a time throughout the night and still I’m like a well-oiled machine.

A milking machine, that is.

Friday at the newspaper is a day we refer to as "Page Fest" — a single day in which we produce the guts of at least three days’ worth of newspapers. We call the act of production on this day "pumping."

Since returning to work, however, my work station at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 and 3:30 and sometimes 5 p.m. is in the ladies' lounge.

Here’s even more information that you’d probably just as soon not have: sometimes the place smells like the monkey cage at the Bronx Zoo. I wish I were kidding.

I'm lucky, though. I've got a somewhat comfortable chair and handy table, d├ęcor circa 1972, as well as the use of a small refrigerator in the newsroom. It also helps that I have coworkers who pretend there's nothing out of the ordinary about a woman returning from the bathroom four times a day clutching a bottle of human milk. They even keep the jokes about running out of cream for the coffee (and dipping into my stash) to a minimum.

I know there are many, many women who make a commitment to feeding their children breast milk when they return to work who have to lock themselves into washroom stalls and hover above toilets to squeeze out the medically preferred substance for infants.

I can totally understand how they often give up, because even in my more opulent surroundings, this part-time pumping gig feels like a full-time job.

When I first returned from maternity leave I was absolutely frantic thinking I wasn't getting enough to replace what The Champ ate while he was with the sitter. It was a struggle that first week to get a few ounces. Lots of people I consulted say that’s the result of stress hormones.

"Relax. Breathe. Don't get all tense."

"Yeah, it's that old oxymoron again: 'Don’t Worry, Mom'."

But the volume confounds me. I'm not a complete novice. I’ve done this before, and successfully, too.

When I sat in the same lounge, listening to the whirr of the mechanical suction for Ittybit three years ago I seemed to have an abundant supply, and only required two brief sessions in the ladies loo. If I ever worried about not being able to keep up with demand, time and distance (and perhaps lack of decent sleep) has stricken it from my memory.

This time, apparently over confident from past experience, I selected a manual pump from the beginning. I knew it was just as good as the electric, but without the motorized racket. But my milk production hasn't been predictable. Some days I get a few vats other days a couple of shot glasses.

Of course the kid’s been a bit unpredictable, too. Some days he eats like a bird and other’s he eats like a goat.

"Don't panic," I tell myself. Just keep at it.

So what if the door opens every four minutes?

So what if the automatic toilets flush mysteriously when the place is empty?

So what if you feel a little like a cow hooked up to an antique milking machine?

So what if you want to run amok, or at the very least sending a strongly worded letter to the Avent people, every time the equipment you dropped $100 on throws a valve and you have to stop everything twice a session, reset the system and start again. No. Big. Deal.

"Just keep your nose to the grindstone," I think to myself. And, so I am keeping at it — pumping 9 to 5.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Move two steps back over time change

For the past five years, my husband and I have had the same argument starting around about the week before Eastern Standard Time comes calling.

"'Fall Back' means we lose an hour."

"No 'Fall Back' means you turn the clocks back one hour, therefore you gain an extra hour of sleep."

"I don’t think so."

"When you go to bed at midnight you turn the clock back ONE HOUR. Then it's 11 p.m. See? Gain an hour."

"I don’t think that's exactly how it works. Sure we set the clocks back, but I think that means we lose an hour."

After a few more rounds of this He Said, She Said game, I invariably lose my composure over the lost hour and wind up sounding like a teakettle set to boil.

"Listen, buster, you are talking to someone who LIVES for this time of year. Since March or April, when we set the clocks forward and I sleepwalk through a few weeks, I'm thinking only of the time when I get the hour back come October or November. … And that time is finally here!"

He eventually acquiesces, half heartedly, hoping to avoid a full-scale scalding from the steam escaping from my ears.

I’ve won the battle but not the war; I know he doesn’t really believe me. To him it seems ludicrous that one measly little hour can cause so much havoc to a person’s internal clock.

After all, he surmises, it's not like someone has taken away our day like would a pie, devouring a piece and handing it back to us with only 23 slices.
Even if they did make off with a slice of the clock, he thinks, 23 slices can still get you a nice, thick waistline.

This year we didn’t even bother talking about the time change, let alone make the effort to fight its causes. Neither of us is getting much sleep with two little ones in the house. Champ sleeps like a baby (up every two hours) while his sister sleeps like a cyclone (one never can tell where she’ll pop up or when).

Still, I was smiling on the inside waiting for that hour to return. I fully expected to awaken the next morning feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Before I went to sleep at my usual (arguably too late to begin with) midnight bedtime, I set the clock back an hour. And though I was up again at midnight an hour later, and two hours after that, and so on and so on until the little cyclone blew in for good at 5:30, I fully expected to reap the benefits of my extra hour of sleep.

Instead of smiling, though, I spent the rest of the day trying to keep my eyes open (or at least afloat) by making several trips unscheduled trips to the coffee maker and keeping myself busy.

The hours ticked forward like weeks, but I tried to make the best of our time: We’d have breakfast, straighten up the house. I’d gather some art supplies to keep Ittybit occupied and not clamoring for the television. I started laundry and a new pot of coffee. I made lunch and plans for dinner.

This isn’t so bad, I thought to myself. I’m not as tired as I expected.
Soon it would be time to squeeze the kids’ into jammies and start the process of sending them off to the Land of Nodd once again.

But when I looked at the clock and saw the hour hand on 10 and the minute hand on 12 I thought I was perhaps a key player in a horror picture:

TEN A.M.?

TEN A.M!

Holy smokes, it’s only 10 a.m.?

The husband just sat at the table with his paper and his coffee cup and smiled.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hey, Bumbo!

When the phone rang at 7:30 a.m. I knew it was my mother.

"I was just watching the morning show, and that purple baby seat thing has been recalled."

I had been on my way out the house but that doesn't mean I was alert by any means.

"The carseat? What?"

"No, that purple dumbo thing your friend lent you for the baby."

"Oh ... the Bumbo," I said, laughing because none of us can remember colors with any degree of accuracy, so names are a lost cause.

The seat to which she was referring, a curious-looking foam circle that was designed for babies who don’t sit up on their own, was at the time of the call sitting smack dab on the counter, where it shouldn’t be sitting.


"It is blue, mom. No, Green. Whatever ... what's the problem?"

"They can overturn causing serious head injuries."

Can't say I didn't see it coming, though. As someone who generally carries the little man wherever I go, I had to be convinced that the Bumbo — a $40 item designed for kids between the ages of three and 14 months — was one of the 'must have' baby belongings.

Seeing it in action didn't really convince me, either. Not only was my husband partial to putting it on his head and wearing it as a hat, any kid who arched their back (which in practical terms is every kid) has the potential to pitch themselves right out of the contraption.

Ittybit must have seen it coming, too, since she’d always complain the baby was sitting in her dad's hat.

Common sense would tell you to watch the kids while they're in it, and keep it on the ground and away from the stairs. Don’t use it as a floatation device, a car seat or a highchair, and remember never ever take it to Old Man Potter's super steep sledding hill come January.

And yet common sense doesn’t have a job anymore, not in my brain anyway now that I'm sleeping like a baby (waking up every two to three hours).

It's just another recall where the manufacturer promises to update the warning labels on the item to include wording to the effect: "Don't treat this strapless, roly-poly item as if it were bolted to the table. It's not. Seriously — don't do it. We know you're tired and just leaving the kid alone for a second. We KNOW you've probably done it before with no incidents, but you were lucky. A second is all it takes."

But I'm so very tired of the recalls that are reported daily. Lead paint, magnets, tiny parts, unnatural ingredients that are causing lung disease in plants ... It's enough to make a parent (and grandparent) crazy. I suppose there's the moment of overload when you wonder if it's all just overblown — a slow news day — until you remember they’re talking about toys. Toys! Things we give to our children to make them happy; things that are supposed to make them smile.

Four years ago I used to think my mom was a little nuts for being worried about giving things made in China to Ittybit. I thought imports were inspected and safe, while she saw stories that showed Chinese infants dying from starvation after their parents fed them counterfeit baby formula that had no nutrients what-so-ever and wondered: ‘how do we know for sure those same greedy companies aren’t shipping their wares over here?’

Crazy like a fox.

Safety inspections, it would seem, would coordinate well with the Emperor's New Clothes.

So now I check labels when I buy toys. I look for things made in America and not just designed here.

It's a challenge, for sure, but I can honestly say it's been fun: The play dough we cooked on the stove in our kitchen was definitely made in the U.S.A., and the plain popcorn I put in a brown paper bag and shoved in the microwave tasted better than Orville's ... and it had real butter.

I just hope no one chokes on any kernels while I'm moving the Bumbo to the carpeted floor.