27 June 2015

Weekend linkage

Scripture, flowers, critter friends
"University of Cambridge to hire Professor of Lego." Indeed.

Oh my goodness, now I want to buy a million terracotta pots.

Because such things are vital to life: the best way to grill sausages.

Why those final five weeks of pregnancy are critical. Clearly, some babies need to be hurried along for their own well-being! But some babies are not most babies. Chances are, your mini-me will arrive exactly when he is ready. Be patient, mamas!

And after he does arrive, here is a truly great thing to keep in mind: "My Number One Parenting Tip." More patience required. . . good parenting means a lot of patience, I'm finding.

I typically enjoy the podcasts put out by Ricochet, as they range from the highest of culture to grubbiest of politics. Here's an interesting and recent one, with guest appearances by Michael Barone, Richard Epstein, and R.R. Reno: Three Headed Hydra.

This made me laugh (and cringe, remembering some of the misguided but incredibly confident advice my writing students used to give one another): "If Jane Austen Got Feedback From Some Guy in a Writing Workshop."
A few other concerns: Mrs. Bennett is annoying, and you don’t have any people of color. Also, there aren’t a lot of men in this book. Only about the same number as there are women. I was thinking that what you could do is have Mrs. Bennett be dying, but give her a black best friend. Like Othello? (Have you read it? It’s also by Shakespeare, fwiw.) The Othello character could be her butler, maybe? There you go: three problems solved. You’re welcome!
"Homeschooling and Christian Duty."
The idea of sending a child daily into a hostile environment—if not actively hostile, as in bullying, then certainly philosophically hostile—expecting him not only to withstand assaults on everything his parents have told him is true but also to transform the entire system by his presence, seems sadly misguided to me. There may be many valid arguments for sending a child to school, but that one doesn’t wash.

18 June 2015

things we never thought we'd have to say

"Ellie, carrots do not belong in shoes."

"Ellie, stop decorating your water bottle with zucchini."

"Ellie, please don't draw on the computer."

"Ellie, your stroller doesn't go on the couch."

"Ellie, do not put your hair clip into the coffee grinder."

"Ellie, don't eat rocks."

"Ellie, you may not step on other people's heads."

Parenting! You gotta tell these toddlers everything.

17 June 2015

I know that full well

Been thinking a lot. It's surprising, even when you have two young daughters-- one of whom puts the Energizer Bunny to shame, the other of whom is, thankfully, a mellow melon of a baby-- even when you have a house and garden to tend, and friends to see and errands to run and emails to answer, even when you never come close to being bored, how much you can still think.

Deleting my Facebook account helped a lot with that. I stopped trying to think about everybody else's life, and like magic, discovered that I had time (and brain space) to reflect on my own.

Right now I am sitting at the dining room table, with a bowl full of zucchini noodles tossed in peanut butter and soy sauce (very good), a clementine, a half-empty water bottle, and rare naptime quiet enveloping the house. Quiet except for the air conditioners. Humidity plasters our neighborhood every day now. Our valiant lettuce rows wilt a little in the afternoon sun, and I wilt a lot every time I need to step outside.

One truth weaving its way through my head is my girls' beauty and intricacy. I don't have in mind their inward intricacy, though of course I could spend years writing about that: about how Ellie drinks up reality like a milkshake, how Zoe concentrates her entire self on understanding the world, Ellie's comedy and creativity, Zoe's startlingly deep emotions. I just mean their physical being. They are made perfectly. They know it, too. You can see the innocent delight they take in their own meticulously crafted bodies. Zoe rolls over, flaps her arms joyously, and stuffs her toes into her mouth: "Look, I have a foot! And I can grab it! Isn't that marvelous?" Ellie learns new things about her body every day: "Look, I can kick the ball! I can jump like a frog! Isn't that marvelous?"
You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.
-Psalm 139:14
We have been beyond fortunate with our daughters' health; even in this first-world country I see many children struggling physically, on medication for chronic conditions or in the hospital for surgery. It breaks my heart. And in the rest of the world, children like mine-- rarely ill, never hungry-- are a hopeless dream for so many mothers. Sometimes I just grab Ellie and Zoe and squeeze them as hard as I can. They are lively, strong, resilient. I could not design anything better.

I would like to be as grateful for my own body as I am for theirs. Usually, if I think about my body, it's in negative terms. When I pray with Ellie before bedtime I thank God for creating her, but I don't often thank Him for creating me. I am more prone to complain. I grumble about my wide face (not feminine enough), my eczema (it's unfair that I have to deal with this), the gap in my abdominal muscles (a souvenir from my giant offspring).

God did create me, though! Not only that, he was so kind as to make almost everything work correctly. I hardly ever get sick. I have plenty of energy for life. I recovered really well from my pregnancies. In fact, I'm pretty dang healthy, and that is not as common as I assume. So when I scoop Zoe up from her crib, I'd like to take a moment before rushing on with my day, and think Look, my hands can grab my baby securely, my arms can lift her, we can spin around and laugh together and make big silly grins in the mirror. Isn't that marvelous?

Speaking of which, I hear her wriggling upstairs, so I need to scoot.

05 June 2015

and then she said

"Good morning, box!"
-after finding an Amazon package in the living room

-on spotting the mailman climbing our porch steps

"I picka weeds!"
-showing me a fistful of lavender blossoms

Me: It's nap time, Ellie.
E: No nap!
Me: Honey, you need to rest.
E: No rest!
Me: Yes. You just have to lie down for a while, because you're growing all the time, right?

E: Want snack!
Me: No.
E: Raisins?
Me: No.
E: Yogurt?
Me: No.
E: Pepperoni?
Me: Ellie, we are not eating now. You need to respect what Mommy says and stop asking.
E: *dramatic sigh* I sad.
Me: Well, I'm sorry that you're sad. Why don't you find something that will make you happy while you wait.
[E considers this, then perks up]
. . . applesauce?

She real sassy.

01 June 2015

glad I did it, glad it's done

I am finished with The Autoimmune Protocol: I set out to do it for two months but stopped at one (now I can say that I did a Whole30 but more hardcore). I put peanut butter in my smoothie this morning and it was excellent.

I decided to cut the project short for a couple of reasons. For one thing, I had zero success on the eczema front. Zero. It flared, subsided, and flared again all month, as it usually does. It actually grew worse overall because of the heat-- this is why I don't like summer much-- and I would have been miserable without my prescription steroid creams. (I wish I didn't have to use them at all, but I try to weigh pros and cons in all my health-related decisions, and in this case pro tips the scales.)

sausage, sweet potatoes, baby kale, apples, bacon: not bad
If I had seen even a bit of improvement I would have continued. I was not surprised about this "failure" because my skin issues have never been diagnosed as autoimmune in nature. I am sure that AIP works wonders for many people with autoimmune disorders but I think my eczema is more complex than that.

Speaking of pros and cons, I found that following AIP guidelines delivered a whopping load of stress. It's incredibly hard to cook this way. Even the permitted spices and seasonings are restrictive. I mean, no cumin? No mustard? Please! I was constantly meal planning, buying groceries, trying to come up with something we could eat, and making food (because virtually nothing could be purchased premade). We ate great stuff-- grilled cilantro pork chops, lemon garlic chicken, sweet potato fries, huge salads packed with artichokes and spinach and coconut balsamic vinegar-- but it was tough to pull off. Then there was the cost. Jared and I both eat a lot no matter what our diet is, but we spent 40% more than usual in our grocery budget for May.  I was burnt out by the end. When I chose to stop AIP early, I felt like I was coming up for air after struggling under a month-long riptide.

Again, it would have been worthwhile had I seen any health improvements. I didn't, though, at least nothing that would merit staying on AIP. (We did decide to make some other, less extreme changes to our diet going forward. More on that later.) Without substantive benefits, I couldn't convince myself to continue something that was making me so unhappy. It seems pretty clear to me that yogurt and tomatoes are not what is making me sick. Something is, but I need more than an elimination diet to fix it.

The most obvious thing I got out of this experiment was quick weight loss. I'd already been dropping the pregnancy poundage, but Jared says I lost it even faster once I started AIP, and he certainly looks at me enough to tell. I am almost back to my pre-Zoe weight, which was the skinniest I'd been since getting married. A little more and I will be at my "high school ballerina" weight . . . though everything in my body has been stretched out and rearranged twice, so it won't ever look the same. :-)

It's not because I restricted calories or volume, either. We were eating roast beef and avocados like our lives depended on it. I suspect that the protocol's no-grains-or-dairy rule made the most difference. I've also read that coconut oil can facilitate weight loss because of its medium-chain triglycerides. We blew through an entire 43-oz container of coconut oil, so make of that what you will!

Now I know what to do next time I have a big baby belly to get rid of.

And dairy's expensive, you know? It was encouraging to discover that we could get by without. Jared noticed some health improvements that he attributed to not eating it. We both consume a lot of dairy products when they're around, so we decided that we will purchase smaller amounts with better quality: a wedge of Manchego to enjoy one evening, rather than a huge bag of cheddar lurking in the bag of the fridge.

In addition, I have known for a while that I have a bad sugar addiction. Within four days of starting AIP, my cravings had gone. I wasn't wishing for dessert after every meal or digging around for something "bready." So while I will be adding most AIP-illegal foods back into my diet, I will keep grains out 90% of the time. (The other 10% will be spent on beer and birthday cake.) I don't need them, and without cinnamon rolls whispering my name I will be free to focus on more nutrient dense food instead.

And that was something I hoped to accomplish by this, too: packing in more nutrition and eating less fluff. Ellie loves food, and I want her to become accustomed to eating sardines and roasted asparagus ("more spaygus? please more spaygus!") while she is still adventurous in her tastes. She needs the vitamins, fat, and protein of a paleo-ish diet. She doesn't need goldfish crackers. We get plenty of carbs from fruit and potatoes, anyway. Plantain chips are good!

The last thing I gained from doing AIP was a kickstart to searching for a solution. AIP didn't fix my skin but I want to work harder at finding something that will. I've tried and failed so often that in the past year I had reached a point of despair; it seemed pointless to visit one more doctor, take one more treatment. I have been inspired to keep searching.

I am glad I did this. I am glad it's over.