Saturday, April 28, 2012


I am, in truth, fairly keen on Bug learning to read before he goes to school.  He will probably be capable of it without a lot of pushing ("It's a big M, Mama! May I have some french fries?").  This is: so the school can't screw it up.

I went to public schools.  My sisters went to public schools.  We currently hold three bachelor's degrees and two PhDs between us, and comprise a biologist, a chemist, and a nurse.  Public schools are wonderful.  However.

I still remember when my youngest sister, Prudence, ran afoul of the 'Phonics-based' reading method her (very good, Congressional Blue Ribbon, well-off suburban) school was using.  "You need to sound the word out," they said to her.  "Pl-ooo-uuu-gggg-hhh."

"But that's not how it's pronounced," she said.

"But you have to sound it out."

(Irrelevant postscript:  Someone mentioned the stupid 'delayed' vaccine schedule to me today, because their kid with significant other medical issues was extra reflux-y after the kid's last shots, and I nobly did not scream POST HOC at them.) 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Patient Education

Nurse: There's a med student here today.  Is it okay if she comes and talks to you [during your well-child visit]?
Me: Sure.

Med Student: And how many ounces of milk does your baby eat each day?
Me:  On demand. Breastfed babies eat when they're hungry and stop when they're done, and I'm pretty sure the thigh rolls indicate he's getting enough to eat.  [He weighs almost 18 pounds.]
Med Student: He looks very healthy.
[Slightly later]

Med Student: Do you have any concerns?
Me: He has a rash, and it looks like it might be candida, and I'm almost out of nystatin, which is the only thing that has made it better.
Med Student: Do you want some more nystatin?
Me: ... no, I want someone to look at it and tell me if it's candida or not.
Med Student:  Oh.

(Our regular doctor came in, afterwards; I figured two well-child exams would make good training for the med student, but I didn't know I would be the trainer.)

Saturday, April 21, 2012

On Clothing Gendering

When I was pregnant with Tater, several people offered me bins of girl clothes if he was a girl.  (Obviously, not.)  As is, my  boys wear lots of trucks and bears and striped rugby shirts. (These are the least offensive options, as graffiti and commercial slogans are right out).  Plus Bug's winter hats have trucks as inducements to wear them.

I don't have any objections to my little boys wanting to wear skirts.  But I'm not going to dress them in skirts unless they ask.  Why make their lives harder on purpose, if they don't care?  Honestly, it's hard enough to get a three-year-old into weather-appropriate clothing without a screaming fit.

Sometimes I feel like I'm taking part in the socially mandated over-gendering of small children by dressing my kids in such 'boy' clothes.  On the other hand, I regularly meet awful little boys with darling sisters, whose parents have apparently decided that bad behaviour in the male sex is gender-appropriate, but girls must behave.  Maybe rugby shirts aren't the worst problem with gender stereotyping.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ethical Issues

Your postdoc advisor informs you that all three completely new projects that you came up with, developed, and started publishing in said advisor's lab are off-limits to take with you.  Even though the advisor knows nothing (no, really) about two of the three.  Do you:

A) Decide that your advisor is having a psychotic break and have him/her forcibly committed?
B) Take this as further evidence that your advisor is a passive-aggressive jerk?
C) Lie down, roll over, and accept being completely screwed?
D) Start working on a fourth project, and don't tell your advisor?  Or, as a friend of mine put it, "Listen up, kids... two wrongs do make a right!"

 -More later.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mating Call

A (gay) friend of Dr. S's once said that he tended to dress flamboyantly as a social signal:  Here!  One single gay man!  (To concentrate efforts appropriately, one presumes.)

Well, I don't know if it's true, but today I saw a young man who was either putting out a mating call, or getting mugged by an Easter egg.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

What Toddlers Think

Let met try yelling.  It didn't work the last 2,056 times, but maybe 2,057 will do it!

Oooh, let's move on to hitting!

Why am I in a confined area?  SOME PEOPLE.

Let's yell some more.

Hey, I've got a good one!  Opposites.  I want it!  I don't want it!  No, I want it!  Give it here!  No, no teddy.  I don't want it.  HA HA HA!

Why do I not have a teddy any more?

Let's pee.  Wheee!  No impulse control!  Pee everywhere!

Man, I hate cleaning.  Mommies suck.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Memories of Education

I was reading some of FMH's posts on her son, and thinking on some of the curious and unfortunate aspects of the US school system as a whole.*

Since schools must provide services for learning difficulties or disabilities,** but not to the 'academically gifted', the net effect is that the kids who have an easy time are frequently... bored.  Really bored.

We can all understand the logic.  Everyone should achieve a minimum level.  We can all also understand that being that kid is really boring.  

I grew up in a wealthy school district that did, in fact, provide services to the bored kids.  Though it seems quite unfair in retrospect ("You did great, so here's more work!!) I liked having challenging work.  I suppose I enjoyed the working ahead, too, though it had strange effects later; I took college classes at the local college before I could drive.

I very especially remember being set to tutor the kids who were having a hard time.  And that? I did resent. I'm not sure I can articulate why, even now.  Partly because I was learning no new content.  I was learning how to explain things to people who just don't get it, which is indeed a valuable skill, but a ten-year-old doesn't usually appreciate that.  I remember feeling it was tedious and exploitative.  It was also like playing at mental gymnastics, like a game of Taboo with a group of well-read people.  After a few rounds it gets boring again.

From a teacher's point of view, it's naturally very effective.  They are making the most efficient use of their resources to help everyone get to the same minimum level.  I understand.  And yet, I retain the idealistic view that schools exist to help children reach their intellectual potential - not to drill in a minimum set of facts about Japan's history and the life-cycle of a caterpillar and how to add.  If you can already add, isn't it time to learn something new?

(I'm not blaming the teachers.  Teachers are over-worked, under-paid, and stuck with a class full of little darlings all day.  If there were more! better paid! teachers, this would be easier.  If schools had more money, they could do more individually-tailored education.  And so on.)

I know that our school systems operate very far from the optimum.  We will probably never be able to afford private schools.  I will do as my mother did and make sure my kids get the education they need.  I just wish it didn't have to be so hard for everyone.

* For those of you from other countries- it is in theory run state-by-state and in practice frequently run district-by-district, so each county or city may vary wildly from the next.  It's hardly a system at all.  
** Not that  they always do a good job.  And they try to weasel out of it at regular intervals.  And there's always more need than money.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

In-Laws, Again

Oh, Internets.  My in-laws. I try to be kind about them, I truly do.  I try to remind myself that surely, it all makes sense to them.  That's the best I can do.

Dr. S tells me that they don't feel 'welcome' here, probably from... oh, our resistance to plans made without consultation, and their offense when NO WAY.   Like dinner plans during baby bedtime.  Or something boring, on Shabbat, also during baby bedtime.  This could be avoided by asking, listening, or BOTH.

I was marginally more willing to go along before we had kids.  Dinner somewhere awful, at an inconvenient hour?  Fine, I'll have a sandwich first.  Although... I'm reminded of a movie-watching trip several years ago.  I didn't want to; I hated it; I walked out and went to the bookstore after twenty minutes.  That went well!*

Sunday, April 08, 2012

In Which Statistics Are Misleading

"The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about 6 months."
"WHO recommends mothers worldwide to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months to achieve optimal growth, development and health." 
"[CDC] Healthy People 2020 objectives for exclusive breastfeeding through 3 and 6 months of age are 46.2% and 25.5%, respectively."
Dear government and medical organizations: Screw you.

I am a committed breastfeeder.  Bug nursed until he was almost two.  Tatoe will probably do the same.  And neither of my children was 'exclusively breastfed' until six months.

Tatoe is now 5 months and 1 week old.  I just gave him a large baby helping of sweet potatoes, from my lunchtime soup.  (He cried when they were gone.)  Why?  Because he grabs our food and tries to put it in his mouth, and when I gave him steamed apple last week, he almost fell out of his chair with joy.   Five months, six months, who cares?

Bug got applesauce and oatmeal when he was four months old.  He would not, not not not, take a bottle.  Dr. S was home with him all day three days a week.   So we agreed to feed him a little real food and then, sometimes, he would also eat milk.  So the choices were: divorce; quit job; hungry screaming baby; applesauce.  Let's see.  Which seems best to YOU?

So I'm a failure in their statistics- even though I will almost certainly nurse both children well past 12 months- and my children will clearly never "achieve optimal growth, development and health".  (If you've seen my children, you realize this is a joke.  They are large.)  The choosing of cutoffs for statistically-determined screenings is its own mini-branch of statistics; choosing cutoffs for 'soft' guidelines is much harder.  They have to draw the line somewhere.  And yet, it seems that no child-related guideline ever manages to be expressed in an inoffensive way.  In trying to fit people into best practice guidelines, they manage to piss off even the people who wanted to do it that way.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Vaccination and Stupidity and Mommy Friends

Oh, good heavens.  The delay-vaccination-because-of-some-quack-book mom?  I thought her child had finally gotten his MMR.  But he hasn't.


Although we haven't (yet) had measles in our county,  I have to wonder if her stupidity is endangering my baby- who is too young to be vaccinated for MMR.  Because, make no mistake about it, this is nothing but stupidity.  It's not based in fact, or research, or even the most tenuous understanding of epidemiology. It's based on the idea that a quack who wrote a book is apparently more informed than 40 years of data and CDC research.  You know, the CDC, that dangerously inexperienced batch of undereducated epidemiologists.  (Do you know how hard it is to get a job at the CDC?)

I think that the morons  people who think vaccines are dangerous suffer from one or more of several patently wrong misconceptions:

Monday, April 02, 2012

How Not To Do Crafts

Decide you want to make glycerin soap!   Research, read, find a recipe.  Painstakingly grate your soap up.  Add the ethanol and put on the stove. 

Child demands milk.  You dump everything else in and go downstairs; soap pot burns.  Spouse takes it off the heat and everyone goes to bed.

Next day, persevere!  Put it in the oven on low and add more ethanol.  What's the flashpoint again?    Turn down the oven.

Soap overflows the pot and drips all over the bottom of the stove.  Did you know that burning soap smells... like soap, but ON FIRE?  Open all the windows.  Scrape incinerated soap off oven floor, racks, and door.  Go to bed again.

Next day, put it in the oven on low again.  Baby nurses until 11 PM. Go to bed.

Soap sits on the counter, and sits and sits and sits.  Spouse gives it baleful looks every morning.

Once again, put it in the oven on low.  Soap overflows again.  Spouse swears extensively and scrapes the soap off the oven bottom.  Again. 

Come up from nursing the baby.  Put it back in the oven, which smokes.  It's 10:30 already, so put the bread in.  Will the bread taste like burnt soap?  Who knows. Turn the oven up and open all the windows.  Again. 

Add some more ethanol.  Look up the autoignition temperature of 95% ethanol.  Turn the oven down. 

Look dubiously at the soggy mess, and add some more water.  Decide to follow the !@#$ recipe next time.  Turn the oven back up. 

Stay up until almost midnight dealing with the accursed soap.  Regret the impulse.  Vow to wait until the children go to college before you try again.

The End.