Married to Medicine

Married to Medicine

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Motherhood: Losing Your Autonomy

I know what you're thinking:  Obviously!!  Well yes, suddenly becoming 100% responsible for another human being is definitely a knock to your autonomy.  But that's not what I'm talking about here.

I'm talking about public autonomy.  As in, The Right To Be Left Alone.  I'm not going to lie:  The internet is just about the only place I like being social.  I don't know why that is... but I know it's true for many introverts.  I spend hours every day reading statuses, blogs, and list serves, viewing pictures, commenting, and posting my own stuff.  But I abhor my telephone and in-person exchanges are even worse, unless you're one of about five people.

I actually think it's an anxiety thing.  A social anxiety thing.  It's not that I don't like people... once my husband forces me to go to something, I often have a fabulous time (and then try to deny it, in a desperate attempt to salvage my credibility).  Whatever the explanation, I was psyched to be moving to Boston, MA, where that awkward moment of wondering whether I had to smile at each passerby would finally be moot.

HA.  Fast-forward a year and hand me an 11-month old child.  It was all well and good when he was an infant.  I don't mind the Little Old Ladies telling me how cute he his (provided they refrain from actually touching him during cold and flu season).  I end up crying myself when the not-so-old ladies tell me about how fast it goes and how their son is now 23 (and I wonder why I have social anxiety??).  And if if ever M was upset as an infant, I either fed him right away or we high-tailed it outta there for a nap.  All was well.

Then we got to be about 9 months old.  Suddenly My Main Man can crawl and cruise, and guess what that means?  It means he doesn't want to be confined to a grocery cart.  I think he also inherited my embarrassingly loud voice.  It's a mortifying combination...

Now, pretty much every time I go to the store my sweet baby makes a scene.  I start by giving him one toy.  Then one snack.  At this point I'm forsaking some items on my list in a rush to vacate the premises.  If I'm lacking in will power, or if I just can't leave the store without milk, I'll try a second toy.  But pretty much inevitably he's yelping mad by the time we get to the checkout line.  (I've tried, at the suggestion of a friend, bringing my baby carrier ... problem is, by the time he's mad, it's a scene to get him into the carrier).

His theatrical skills don't fool me.  As his mother, I know that he'll make it through another five minutes in the shopping cart without suffering permanent damage (and heck, it may even be character building).  But ladies in line behind us buy it hook, line, and sinker.  I don't *blame* them necessarily.  If you see a very upset child whose mother is unable to satisfy them with a toy or brief spurts of attention between cart items, it's probably natural to assume that the child is hungry, or tired, or otherwise legitimately uncomfortable.  I mean especially with a face like this, right??

WARNING:  Object in image is louder than he appears.  (And even cuter).
But what they don't know, because (ahem) they're not the parent, is that if we're at the grocery store it means he just slept and ate... because I wouldn't even try to take him there when he's needing a meal or a nap.  Believe me, as his mother, I'd love to imagine that my perfect baby was incapable of throwing a temper tantrum just because he doesn't like shopping.  But I know better... I mean he is a guy, after all.  (that's a joke... sort of).

Anyway, I'm starting to come to terms with the realization that this is an age-old complaint of the vast majority of parents everywhere.  Those "helpful" (or flat-out critical) random shoppers who see fit to advise you, a total stranger, how to parent your child even though presumably they wouldn't dare share their opinion on your outfit, because, well, that would be rude. 

What I don't understand is WHO these people are.  Since I have yet to talk to a parent who appreciates being the recipient of this "advice," I wonder:  Are all of these "helpers" people who never had kids?  Or did they have kids long ago and their children turned out so unbelievably perfect that they simply must share their wisdom with random strangers??

In any case, I know I've kissed that blessed public anonymity goodbye for the next many years.  I guess the bright side is mastering speed-shopping.

Below is a humorous response to my posting on our local list serve addressing this issue. 

On Aug 24, 2011, at 4:39 PM, Lisa Murakami wrote:

> Friendly Neighbors,
> I am mom to an cute, sweet 11 month old boy.  While I look young for my age
> (and blond, a double-whammy I'm sure), I'm 31 years old and I know what I'm
> doing:  My father is a pediatrician, my mother is a child therapist, and
> apart from 6+ years of law school and legal work I've always held summer
> jobs working with kids (daycare, camp counselor, karate instructor, English
> teacher in France, nanny...)

Welcome to [Boston Suburb].  I'll bet you are unpretentious, and would be considered to be kind, happy, normal, and a good friend in any other part of the world.  Key word: unpretentious.  Here, you really should carry a book on constructivist educational theory highlighting the work of Lev Vygotsky, while your child wears a t-shirt with humor derived from differential calculus that was ordered from the Signals catalog.

> I don't know whether it happens to everyone or whether it's because I look
> young and am clearly a first-time mom, but here in Arlington I find that
> complete strangers are VERY generous with their parenting advice and
> concern.

You will find that this is a very generous community, both on the Arlington list as well as live and in person.  It's part of the local charm.

> For example, twice when my baby has grabbed the grocery list and
> gummed it up while I'm putting items on the belt, people have brought this
> to my attention as if it could possibly be harmful to him (it can't - I've
> asked), and as if I'm not already aware of it.

In most parts of the western world, the scientific evidence that the grocery list is inert and harmless enough to prevent this kind of response.  However, you have chosen to live in a part of the world where we have higher standards for shopping lists that might be gummed or eaten by a toddler.  To gain local acceptance, you must use paper made of 100% organic rice imported from the west coast of Japan, hand-written with a fountain pen filled with Concord grape or blueberry juice.  Unless you can provide your child with a list that meets our community standards, may I suggest keeping your shopping list on an iPad or iPhone.

>  Meanwhile if EVER he is
> yelping unhappily in the store, people around here react as if they've never
> heard of a baby who got bored doing groceries and wanted to get out of the
> cart.  Today, someone seriously asked him "What happened???"  Nothing
> happened; He's 11 months old and not always content with being confined to a
> shopping cart.

Confined to a shopping cart?  Lisa, my friend, have you read this list?  Do you understand how controversial it is to keep a dog on a leash in a town park?  And you want to confine your child to a shopping cart?  Horrors! These stores have wonderful produce departments - well, not Stop & Shop, but it's certainly adequate for child-store acculturation.  Your child should be allowed to play in the string beans!

> And while I will give him a toy or a snack when appropriate,
> I refuse to establish a pattern of pacifying my child with snack after snack
> or toy after toy just because we're in public and everyone thinks my
> business is theirs.

This would be acceptable if the snack was broccoli or sushi.

> This is a simple plea to fellow patrons of Wilson Farm, Stop & Shop, and
> Market Basket:  If you'd like to be parents, by all means, have your own
> child.

If you gently inquire, you will certainly find they did not abide by the advice they are presenting to you as a gift, and they are guilt-ridden for failing to follow their sage (albeit post facto) advice at a similar stage in their child's development.  "If only my child hadn't sucked on that shopping list, she might have gotten into Harvard instead of MIT."

Be well.

Your friend and advisor,

> Lisa

Friday, August 5, 2011

Two Year or Three Year Spacing? Always On My Mind...

Time sure does fly when you have a baby.

At this time last year I was 8 months pregnant and could barely imagine what it would be like just to have one.  Now here I sit with an 11-month old, and it's T-4 months if we want to stick to plan A and space our kids two years apart.

I've heard a little from both sides - I've been warned not to do it, and I've been told that it ends up better in the end because they can play together sooner.  We're totally torn and you know what that means, folks:  We're easy prey for that insidious Baby Bug. 

Making this pro and con list, I know in my heart that what I want most is to be convinced that it's okay, and 2 year spacing will work out.  However, living in Boston with very little money, a lot of educational debt, no family in the area to help, and a husband with crazy work hours ... I'm worried I'd be biting off more than I can comfortably chew, and I really believe good parenting comes from parents who are in a happy place.

Pros of 2-year Spacing:
  1. Kids play together sooner (in theory...)
  2. Kids may be closer as teens and young adults, due to being closer in age (key word:  "may")
  3. If we have boy-girl-boy, the two boys would only be 4 years apart instead of 6.
  4. Easier to do family activities (ex: the afternoon-nap years are over when #1 is 7 instead of 9... woot, way more fun on vacations).
  5. Physically way easier to be pregnant when younger.  Not to mention way easier to lift 30 lbs forty times a day, easier to clean the floor under the high chair after each meal, easier to give a bath while on your knees... parenting is SO physical.
  6. Have baby #3 at age 34 instead of age 36.  Statistically most risks (infertility, miscarriage, health of baby) start going up exponentially at age 35.  And what if we end up wanting more than 3?
  7. More financial aid for college, if we qualify.  They consider whether you have another kid in college that same year, but they don't consider your own educational debt.
  8. Get rid of baby gear and get furniture we care about up to 3 years earlier, depending on how many kids we have.
Cons of 2-year Spacing:
  1. Another year of squeezing a family of 4 into a 2-bedroom apartment... and possibly a family of 5 if we have a 3rd and do 2 year spacing.
  2. Soooooo much harder to travel with two kids than one, especially a toddler and a baby... and my parents only visit us once a year, and my in-laws visit even less, so everybody expects us to go to them.
  3. Along those lines, we'll be buying 4 plane tickets whenever we go home a whole year earlier, which means a whole year poorer... YIKES.  Would we only go home once a year ever?  Good thing our families live driving distance from each other.
  4. I've heard it's really hard to keep the toddler entertained when you're stuck at home for the baby's morning nap.  I've heard that you should wait until your oldest can do a few mornings a week of preschool.
  5. My husband will be super busy the year we'd have #2.  I've heard the adjustment from 0-1 is hardest on the primary care giver and 1-2 is hardest on the secondary caregiver.  But if I'm BOTH of those people... would I lose my mind that year?
  6. The walk-up to our second floor apartment is hard enough with just a baby, and hard to imagine with a baby and a 2-year-old who may not follow direction.  Add groceries to that...
  7. Speaking of groceries, imagining doing them with a baby in the baby carrier and a 2 year old who might try to run off at any time is somewhat unfathomable...
  8. As is being sick as a dog when Matthew is just 16 months old.  Do they watch TV by then?  We currently don't even have television service.  
  9. And what about being hugely pregnant when M is a year and a half?  How will I lift him?  How will I wrestle him for diaper changes?  My husband will already be in his busy year at this point, so dinner and bath time will be all on me.
  10. Last, generally:  The time with just one baby is sort of blissful and sweet.  I have time to blog, time to make photobooks, time to keep up with friends on Facebook, time for a book club.  But two is supposed to be more than twice the work.  If we space them two years will I regret giving up a whole year of what has so far been one of the very best times of my life?
Eegads.  I want so badly to do the 2 year spacing but I'm terrified.  If anyone has any additional pros, cons, advice, or encouragement, I'm all ears.

UPDATE:  Overall the feedback I received from several friends has been very encouraging in terms of two year spacing.  But I also noticed that both of the friends who cautioned me strongly against two-year spacing are at home, or were at the time, and all but one of the friends who loved two-year spacing worked outside of the home.  It got me thinking... 7 of the 10 things on my "con" list really relate to the 1 on 1 ratio during pregnancy or the 1 on 2 ratio post-baby#2.  If I knew my husband would pretty much always be home whenever I was, I don't think I'd be as worried.   So... what now?

Monday, August 1, 2011

Homemade Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Some of the best desserts do require a great deal of effort, and this one is well worth making once a year in August when peaches are at their best.

Fresh homemade peach ice cream with mint sprig from our garden.

You'll need an ice cream maker; we have the ice cream attachment for our Kitchenaid blender. 

Kitchenaid Blender with Ice Cream Maker Attachment
You'll need fresh, ripe peaches.  If you want the ice cream to work as a stand-alone dessert (without the cookies) you have GOT to use the BEST, juiciest, most flavorful perfectly ripe peaches you can get your hands on.  Ho-hum standard but fully ripe peaches that just don't *quite* pack that flavor punch won't be good enough.  This ice cream relies on summer's bounty for its flavor... and that goodness has to be timed perfectly in order to be fully harnessed.

This year's peaches weren't as good as last year's... I jumped the gun and should have waited for August.

I adapted this ice cream recipe from "Ice Cream:  Recipe of the Week" by Sally Sampson.

You'll need:

4 1/2 cups pitted, skinned, and dice peaches (about 7 peaches)
2 cups heavy cream (yup, ice cream is baaaaaad)
1 cup cream
4 egg yolks (large) at room temp
1 cup white sugar
Large pinch kosher salt
 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup Marcona almonds (salted), whizzed in food processor OR
Chopped fresh mint leaves and 3 tbsp cardamom - if going this route, add a full tsp of kosher salt

Place the peaches in bowl, cover and keep at room temp for a few hours.

Mash with a potato masher on occasion, or pulse just a bit in a food processor.

 You'll get a consistency sort of like this.  A few chunks to stumble upon in the ice cream, but mostly just puree.  Cover and refrigerate.

 Now, simmer the heavy cream and cream in a pan until heated through but not steaming.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, salt together.  If you're adding cardamom and mint, add it now.

Slowly add the warmed cream to the egg mixture, continuing to whisk.  Don't go too fast or you'll risk cooking the eggs with the warm cream.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat until just steaming but not boiling (note:  this probably doesn't kill all the bacteria; pregnant women, babies, and the elderly should avoid homemade ice cream).  Once done, let the mixture reach room temp (or to hurry things along, put it in the refrigerator).  Once cool enough, add the peaches, lemon juice, and vanilla and stir.  Cover and refrigerate 2-3 hours or until mixture is fully chilled.

Process the ice cream in your ice cream maker, per the manufacturer's directions.  If you are adding the almonds, add them just as the ice cream is coming together.

The ice cream will thicken as you churn.  I chose to churn slowly, this yields a more dense ice cream (and saves room in the ice cream maker if you're short on space).

Transfer ice cream to air tight container and place in freezer until the ice cream reaches your desired texture.  Personally I prefer it about 3 hours into freezing, when it's still somewhat soft.  Home made ice cream has a very short shelf life - it's best within 12-24 hours of making, and after a few days it loses its charm - TRAGIC, this is a recipe to share with neighbors while the gettin' is good!  

Now, if you're feeling ambitious - or if you're disappointed in your peaches - my husband agrees with me that this may be the best flavor combo we've ever found.  I have to credit our friends Aaron and Rachel for originally introducing us to peach ice cream with ginger snaps, and credit Kelly for finding the best-ever recipe for Big Soft Ginger Cookies.

You don't need to make ice cream sandwiches, which involves letting the ice cream soften so you can shape it appropriately between the cookies.  It's lovely as a small dish of ice cream with a cookie on the side.  

Homemade Fresh Peach Ice Cream with Ginger-Molasses Cookies.
This is my second year making this recipe in August and I hope to make it an annual tradition.  The ginger and molasses in the cookies are perfect compliments to sweet, fresh peaches-and-cream.  Ice cream and peaches are perfect for honoring the month of August, and the spices in the cookies hint of the cozy excitement just around the seasonal corner.