Thursday, November 29, 2012


More places should have drive-throughs, specifically for parents with infants. I appreciate that I can do my banking, get my coffee, and pick up my prescriptions without getting Edwin out of his car seat. But that's not enough. We need drive-through grocery stores, libraries and department stores. Wouldn't it be great to pull up to a Target and order a high chair to go? Or request a library book through an open window? Or best of all, drive by a Hannaford and pick up cold cuts and milk?

Moreover, all the drive-throughs should have roundabouts attached. That way, while you wait for your food/prescription/bank slip, you can drive around in circles so the baby doesn't wake up just because the car has stopped. (Parents, you know what I'm talking about. Green lights = continued peace and quiet. Red lights = holding your breath, waiting for the crying to start.)

Or walk-throughs would be fine, too, with stroller privileges.

Of course, we're really quite blessed by the internet. Online shopping means I rarely NEED to leave the house for errands. I can get groceries delivered to my door, and Amazon provides nearly everything else (getting the Prime membership for free shipping was the smartest thing I did to prepare for the baby's arrival). I can't have library books delivered, but I can pay for Kindle downloads. How did our parents' generation do it? 

Just because I don't need to go out for errands, though, doesn't mean I don't want to. And for those times, I'd love more drive-throughs. I didn't appreciate them enough before having the baby. Before that, I could just as easily decide to walk into the store if the line was long. Now that involves much more hassle, and when the baby was less than 2 months old, there was no choice at all, as our doctor didn't want him out in public until his first round of vaccines was through.

At least I can always go to Starbucks.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November Thankfulness

This month, on Facebook, I joined some of my friends by daily posting something I was thankful for, leading up to Thanksgiving. Here are all of my posts for the month. Thanksgiving is so early this year, there were only 21!

11/1- Today I'm thankful for my little boy's smile!
11/2- Today I'm thankful for my husband always asking if I need anything when he's on his way home!
11/3- Today I am thankful for my mother-in-law, who gave me a gift certificate to my favorite massage place for no reason at all! I used it today and feel great!
11/4- Today I am thankful for my great-grandmother's chicken soup recipe. The most delicious "Jewish Penicillin" ever. Serving it with matzoh balls for dinner tonight!
11/5- Today I am thankful for my good health, and the fact that it didn't take me very long at all to feel completely recovered from pregnancy and labor. My son's first 8 weeks would have been a lot harder if I hadn't had that in my favor!
11/6- Today I am thankful that I have the right to vote for my country's leaders. And I really, really hope that tomorrow I can be thankful that Barack Obama is still president.
11/7- Today I'm thankful that the election is over and we can all try to come together as a country again. Last June I did a piece about a baseball game with my 4th grade band at Beekman, and we all wore baseball caps. I told the audience, "We're all wearing hats of opposing teams, but we're still making music together." That's what this country needs to do now.
11/8- Today I am thankful for disposable diapers! Best. Invention. Ever.
11/9- Today I am thankful for my dad, who gives so much of himself to care for his family, and is one of my favorite people to spend time with! Going for SoCo milkshakes today!
11/10- Today I am thankful for funny television shows!
11/11- Today I am thankful for my son skipping a night feeding for the first time! I was only up for half an hour in the middle of the night!
11/12- After the first night of "sleeping through the night," Edwin woke up about thirty times last night. So I guess today what I'm thankful for is coffee!
11/13- Today I am thankful for my Ari, who has been my beautiful companion for eight years this month.
11/14- Today I am thankful for our comfortable home. I've spent a lot of time in it for the last several months, and I still love it!
11/15- Today I am thankful for online shopping! Much easier than taking Edwin out to buy Christmas presents. And it has the added bonus of getting excited when the FedEx truck comes up the street!
11/16- Today I am thankful for chocolate!
11/17- Today I am thankful for a much-needed nap! Thanks to my mother-in-law for watching the baby, the baby for not needing to eat, and Ari for being a very snuggly, purry nap partner!
11/18- Today I am thankful for my collection of CHRISTMAS TREE SPODE that I am getting out TODAY!
11/19- Today I am thankful for the elliptical in my basement so I can work out while Edwin plays on his mat!
11/20- Today I am thankful for the comfortable, private nursing room at the Danbury mall! How thoughtful of the architects. So glad I've been giving this mall my business for so many years!
11/21- Today I am thankful for so many things! I'm thankful that my husband is home for 5 days; that we have a lot of family time planned; that the Christmas season officially starts tomorrow, and we are already decorating; that we are taking Edwin to our favorite diner for the first time this morning! But the thing I am most thankful for is the sound of my son laughing last night, over and over again, at my husband's silly noises. There is no feeling in the world like hearing your baby really laugh for the first time!

And here's my last one for today, Thanksgiving day:

11/22- Today I am thankful for the written word. Whether I am reading or writing them, words are the love of my life.

Except my family, of course!

Happy Thanksgiving America!

Love this Norman Rockwell painting!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Symbol of Spode

Today, in early anticipation of the season, I got out my treasured Christmas Tree Spode. For those of you who don't know the pattern, it looks like this:

I have a pretty big collection, as my family adds to it each Christmas, and it gives me great pleasure to eat, drink, and serve from it. I love the day I unpack it, sometime around Thanksgiving, and loathe the day I have to put it away, usually around mid-January when my husband starts getting sick of it. (Or maybe he gets sick of it sooner and just waits until then to tell me.)

Every year as I unpack the Spode, I can't help but remember the year my collection began. To give you some back story, I've loved Christmas Tree Spode ever since I was a teenager and my father started collecting it, based on his own childhood memories. My dad always said that he'd give me my starter set of Spode the first Christmas after I was married. This was a running promise for many years. But he didn't wait that long. Instead, my parents chose to gift me with my starter set the year I was twenty-two and had just moved out of the house. I had just graduated college and started my first job, and I was seriously dating my now-husband. I'm sure they saw me as having started the process of settling down. They were very excited to give it to me, and saved it for our traditionally special "last gift" opened on Christmas morning. I still remember my family all gathered around me as I opened the cardboard box to reveal the familiar Christmas tree pattern.

And I promptly burst into tears.

I'm not usually a crying sort of person, so my reaction, understandably, took my parents aback. I wasn't crying because I hated the gift; I was crying because of that long-standing promise they'd made to give me the Spode when I got married. If they were giving it to me early, it meant that they thought I was a Real Adult. Only Real Adults owned special holiday china. And I didn't feel ready for that title yet.

Years later, I've grown into my ownership of the Spode. I've brought my Spode from a roommate's house, to an apartment of my own, to a larger apartment with my boyfriend/fiance/husband, to our own first home. And today I unpacked it with my ten week old son watching me from the cradle in the kitchen. I'm definitely a Real Adult now, and I'm proud to be one.

The Spode is a symbol of me growing up. But it's just a symbol, and that's why today, in the middle of unpacking it, I stopped for a few minutes to pick up my son and dance with him around the kitchen as he giggled and pressed his cheek against mine. Because it's his turn to grow up now, and he's going to get all the special Christmas memories I can give him.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Favorite (Pregnancy) Things

I have a few friends who are either pregnant or trying to conceive, and as I've recently survived a rather challenging pregnancy, I've been thinking about advice I could give them. Since I try not to give my unsolicited opinion about serious issues like diet, prenatal vitamins and whether to find out the sex of the baby, I think I'll confine my advice to products that I was very grateful for during those nine months. Here's the list of my favorite (pregnancy) things:

1. My body pillow. Such a lifesaver, it helped me sleep so much better, and now it's become useful on the couch as an aid to nursing or snuggling the baby. I didn't get one of those expensive ones from Babies R Us, just a cheap one from Target and an equally cheap cover. Total bargain.

2. My prenatal yoga DVD. I credit it completely with my ability to touch my toes at nine months pregnant. I also think my body bounced back fairly quickly after delivery because I kept myself in good shape as much as possible. The DVD I used was Prenatal Yoga by Shiva Rea.
I also liked the Quick Fix Prenatal Workout for maintaining muscle tone in my arms.

3. My heating pad. Completely invaluable during month eight. Weirdly, I had no back pain at all in month nine.

4. My Birkenstock sandals. Easy to slip on and yet stayed on my feet, unlike flip-flops. The only problem is, they molded to my pregnancy-weight feet, so now they're set wrong for my normal weight. But at least I got good use out of them for one summer.

5. My iPad. When I was so sick during my first trimester, I spent hours and hours in bed, with the iPad on my lap, watching bad TV shows on Netflix- Gossip Girl, Greek and many more. It was a good distraction.

6. In the same vein, my husband and I spent many hours playing gin rummy and watching either Deal or No Deal or The West Wing during my last trimester.

7. Avocados. They were my only weird craving. I ate them almost every day and freaked out when I didn't have any in the house.

Looking over this list, I realize that it's not all that helpful. But it was interesting for me to think back on that time and what helped get me through. I can't say I'd ever look forward to being pregnant again, but if so, at least I'll be more prepared. And you should all buy stock in Hass Avocados beforehand.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Cancer's Better Than Your Cancer

Thyroid cancer has been in the news lately, since the celebrity Brooke Burke-Charvet was diagnosed with it. I didn't know who she was, but apparently she's the co-host of Dancing With the Stars. (I'm a So You Think You Can Dance girl, myself.) It's nice that thyroid cancer is getting some attention, because it's largely ignored by foundations and fundraisers. It doesn't have a month devoted to it, or even a ribbon. And yet it's one of the few cancers that is actually on the rise in the U.S., particularly in women.

I should probably stop here and reveal that I myself am a thyroid cancer survivor. I had to fight it pretty aggressively for four years in high school. Thankfully, I've been in remission for a long time, but there are certain things I'm never going to recover from. I have to take thyroid hormone supplements for the rest of my life, and that's a constant frustration. Over the years, I've had many and varied medical issues, ranging from severe stomach pain to hair loss, that resulted from an imbalance of thyroid hormone. I have frequent blood tests and dosage changes, especially when I was pregnant. I was also at increased risk for being unable to conceive, then of miscarriage, and finally of the baby not growing sufficiently in utero (thankfully, Edwin's a hearty Sowul). I also have had openly visible scars on my neck from my fourteenth birthday onward. And of course there's the emotional baggage that only comes from having cancer.

I say all this not to complain. I'm actually quite proud of being a cancer survivor and think it gave me a unique perspective on life at a young age. But my point is this: it was still CANCER. And the folks at Yahoo! news don't seem to think it's that big a deal.

Here's just one article on Brooke Burke-Chavet's diagnosis. Most of the articles I've read and news clips I've watched say similar things: thyroid cancer is the best type to have; it has a good rate of recovery; the treatment is fairly simple.

Yahoo! News: Brooke Burke-Charvet Diagnosed with "Good" Cancer

Out of those three points, I'll give them one half. I'll agree that thyroid cancer has a good rate of recovery. The surgery isn't as risky as the one for, say, cervical cancer, and the cancer's often caught before its metastasized. On the other side of the coin, though, it can be a very aggressive cancer in younger people, and needs to be attacked accordingly. Like most cancers, it also has a risk for relapse at any point in the patient's life, and puts him/her at higher risk for other cancers as well. And the surgery, while safer than some, carries risk of damage to the voice box and, if lymph nodes are infected, to shoulder musculature (I can't raise my left arm as high as my right for this reason).

As for the treatment, Yahoo! news makes it sound like all the patient needs to do is have the surgery and then take a few radioactive iodine pills, and she'll be fine. It's a lot more complicated than that. I had four surgeries, because the cancer kept spreading to my lymph nodes. And the radio-iodine therapy involves extended stays in hospital isolation rooms. The patient is essentially radioactive, and can't go near other people. It's like being a leper. I'm sure the procedures have gotten a lot more efficient and effective since I went through them (the radioactive iodine I took was in a drink, not a pill; I had to be isolated in a room covered with yellow tarps; and everything I took into the room with me had to be disposed of afterward). But it's still not as simple as "have the surgery, take some pills, you're done."

And to the last point, that thyroid cancer is the best type to have? I feel like that diminishes the difficulties that I and other thyroid cancer survivors endured. Our stories are just as valid as those suffering from other cancers. Our families went through just as much trauma and fear. Our lives were just as disrupted, and we felt just as fragile. 

So to Brooke Burke-Charvet, and to all the other thyroid cancer patients and survivors out there:

Join with me and give our cancer a voice, so that the world will stop dismissing it as "the best cancer" and understand that emotionally, all cancers are created equal.

UPDATE: If you are interested in learning more about thyroid cancer, or would like to donate to thyroid cancer research, here's a great place to start: THYCA

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Only Once

My son's having a growth spurt this week, and overnight he stopped fitting into his newborn-sized footie pajamas. He's a very tall boy, and has been pushing the lengths of the one-piece outfits for awhile, but it still came as a sad shock. My son will never fit into newborn-sized pajamas again. He'll never again be that tiny.

People keep telling me to enjoy every moment, because it's so fleeting. It's the one piece of parenting advice that I always take seriously (though I've been given a lot of other very helpful tips). I think a lot of parents go into the experience of first children thinking that there might be a second chance for those special moments of first smiles, first laughs and first words. After all, even though there has been an upswing of only children, most people in the United States have siblings, and I don't see that changing anytime soon.

Contrary to that norm, I'm approaching this experience as if I'm never going to have another child. It's possible that I won't (sorry, grandparents). I like the idea of having one child to focus on and nourish instead of splitting our attention between two. I like knowing we'd have more money to take our son on exciting vacations, give him enriching learning experiences and buy him expensive musical instruments. And I don't really buy the argument that all children need siblings to play with. I could never imagine life without my sister, but not all siblings are as close as we are. My best friend grew up an only child and is one of the most self-assured, well-adjusted people I know. That's what friends are for.

Not to mention that I didn't enjoy being pregnant at all. I was sick a lot, and I never got comfortable with the fact that my body was not my own.

But I also "never say never" about the future. I didn't know if I wanted children in the first place, until something changed and I realized I did. I don't assume that my present self has the amount of wisdom and insight that my future self will, and therefore I don't try to make decisions for her.

What I do know is that if my future self decides not to have another child, I want to know that I didn't squander the special moments with my son. So I'm extra mindful of living in the moment, knowing that it might be the only chance I get.

I think that's a good way to live life.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Rowling Update & Recent Reads

I thought the NY Times reviewed The Casual Vacancy very well here:

NY Times Review- The Casual Vacancy

The reviewer saw more of the "societal ills" aspect to the book than I did, and after seeing Rowling do a few interviews on the subject, it was clear that for her, addressing those themes was the focus, even the impetus, of the novel. Maybe I needed to be hit over the head with it a little more, because that didn't completely come through for me. But I defer to the Times and to Rowling who both obviously know better than I.

Here's my original post on the book:

The Casual Vacancy

Other books I've read lately:

The Blue Bistro by Elin Hilderbrand- not my favorite of hers, but still a fun read.

Night Road by Kristin Hannah- excellent, a real tearjerker.

Three Girls and a Wedding/ Three Girls and a Leading Man by Rachel Schurig. I read the first in the series, Three Girls and a Baby, over the summer and liked it. It's nothing heavy, but the "three girls" are written well and have a great friendship

The Virgin's Lover by Philippa Gregory. I hated this book. I loved her Henry VIII books, so I was extremely disappointed by this one, which is about the early days of Elizabeth I's reign. It was so badly written that I had to stop reading it. The characters were wooden and the descriptions, particularly the adverbs, were repetitive and cringe-worthy.

I also read a biography of a woman who taught in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Arizona circa 1909-1913, which was interesting, but I forgot the author's name.

A lot of women's lit there, and I'm starting to tire of it. I need some male authors, some crime novels, maybe a mystery or two. Any suggestions? I'm reading even more now (still love that Kindle during baby feeding time) so I need help!