lundi, janvier 24, 2011

quotable

"It may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery." - E. Annie Proulx

mardi, janvier 18, 2011

better than grannie's creamed corn

We made this and couldn't get enough of it.
Better Than Grannie's Creamed Corn
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown

Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

* 1/2 onion, diced
* 1 tablespoon butter
* 2 pinches kosher salt
* 8 ears fresh corn
* 1 sprig fresh rosemary, bruised
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
* 2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
* 1 cup heavy cream
* Fresh ground black pepper

Directions

In a saucepan over medium heat, sweat the onion in butter and salt until translucent.

In a large mixing bowl, place a paper bowl in the middle of the bowl. Resting the cob on the bowl in a vertical position remove only the tops of the kernel with a knife, using long smooth downward strokes and rotating the cob as you go. After the cob has been stripped, use the dull backside of your knife to scrape any remaining pulp and milk off the cob.

Add the corn and pulp mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium high until the juice from the corn has tightened. Add the rosemary. Sprinkle the corn with the sugar and turmeric. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes. Sprinkle the cornmeal onto the corn, using a whisk to combine well. Add the heavy cream and cook until the corn has softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the rosemary. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

samedi, janvier 15, 2011

in defense of the guilty, ambivalent, preoccupied western mom

In Defense of the Guilty, Ambivalent, Preoccupied Western Mom
Ayelet Waldman on the virtues of letting kids quit, have sleepovers and find their own way.
By AYELET WALDMAN
JANUARY 15, 2011
Here are some of the things that my four children of a Jewish mother were always allowed to do:

• Quit the piano and the violin, especially if their defeatist attitude coincided with a recital, thus saving me from the torture of listening to other people's precious children soldier through hackneyed pieces of the juvenile repertoire, plink after ever more unbearable plonk.

• Sleep over at their friends' houses, especially on New Year's Eve or our anniversary, thus saving us the cost of a babysitter.

• Play on the computer and surf the Internet, so long as they paid for their Neopet Usuki dolls and World of Warcraft abomination cleavers out of their own allowances.

• Participate in any extracurricular activity they wanted, so long as I was never required to drive farther than 10 minutes to get them there, or to sit on a field in a folding chair in anything but the balmiest weather for any longer than 60 minutes.

• Quit said extracurricular activities, especially if their quitting coincided with league finals that might have demanded participation on my part exceeding the requirements stated above.

In the days since this newspaper published Amy Chua's simultaneously entertaining and infuriating excerpt from her new book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother," my two elder children, 16 and 13, have devoted a remarkable amount of time to raging against the essay and crafting compelling and bombastic rebuttals to be delivered to Ms. Chua herself, should they ever encounter her.

I am more than a little astonished. I say with confidence that neither of my children has ever before bothered to read a single word of The Wall Street Journal. I don't think that I could have screamed or threatened them into doing so, not even if I'd tossed them outside in the middle of winter, to cower barefoot and freezing on the front step. So to Ms. Chua I express my gratitude. It seems to take a Chinese mother to force my Western kids to read the paper.

Were I crafting my own bombastic and compelling rebuttal to Ms. Chua, I might point out, as others have, that Asian-American girls aged 15 to 24 have above average rates of suicide. I might question the hubris of taking credit for success that is as likely to have resulted from the genetic blessings of musicality and intellect as from the "Chinese" child-rearing techniques of shrieking and name calling. But I have a feeling that she knows that.

More importantly, if I did write such a rebuttal, I'd risk being called a hypocrite by my own children. Sophie, my oldest, would remind me of the recent evening when I stared in stony silence at her report card, sniffing derisively at her father's happy congratulations.

"What?" she said. "I got 5 solid As."

I shrugged.

"Ayelet," my husband warned.

My daughter narrowed her eyes at me. She knew what was coming.

I pointed at the remaining two grades, neither a solid A. Though there was not the "screaming, hair-tearing explosion" that Ms. Chua informs us would have greeted the daughter of a Chinese mother, I expressed my disappointment quite clearly. And though the word "garbage" was not uttered, either in the Hokkien dialect or in Yiddish, it was only because I feared my husband's opprobrium that I refrained from telling my daughter, when she collapsed in tears, that she was acting like an idiot.

The difference between Ms. Chua and me, I suppose—between proud Chinese mothers and ambivalent Western ones—is that I felt guilty about having berated my daughter for failing to deliver the report card I expected. I was ashamed at my reaction. But here is another difference, one I'll admit despite being ashamed of it, too: I did not then go out and get hundreds of practice tests and work through them with my daughter far into the night, doing whatever it took to get her the A. I fobbed that task off on a tutor, something I can afford to do because my children reside in the same privileged world as Ms. Chua's.

I am, actually, grateful to Ms. Chua, and a little in awe of her. I expend far too much of my maternal energies on guilt and regret. Reading her essay definitely put some Chinese iron into my Nerf Western spine, and though I eventually apologized to my daughter for failing to acknowledge, right off the bat, all those tough classes in which she had excelled last semester, and for expressing my disappointment at the others too vigorously, I have also refused to back down from my expectation that she devote extra time to those two subjects in which she is "underperforming."

In her book, Ms. Chua tells a story of coercion that resulted in a certain kind of success with one of her daughters. Let me tell another kind of story. My Rosie is mildly dyslexic. By the time she was diagnosed, in second grade, she was lagging far behind her classmates. For years I forced her to spell words in the bathtub with foam letters, to do worksheets, to memorize phonemes and take practice tests. My hectoring succeeded only in making her miserable. Eventually, and totally out of character, she had even stopped loving school. She suffered from near-constant stomachaches and broke down in tears almost every day. At last we heard about a special intensive reading program that required students to spend four hours every day in a small room with an instructor, being drilled in letters, sight words and phonics. It sounded awful, but Rosie insisted on doing it. She loved books and stories. She wanted to read.

Every day when we picked her up, her face would be red with tears, her eyes hollow and exhausted. Every day we asked her if she wanted to quit. We begged her to quit. Neither her father nor I could stand the sight of her misery, her despair, the pain, psychic and physical, she seemed far too young to bear. But every day she refused. Every morning she rose stoically from her bed, collected her stuffies and snacks and the other talismans that she needed to make it through the hours, and trudged off, her little shoulders bent under a weight I longed to lift. Rosie has an incantation she murmurs when she's scared, when she's stuck at the top of a high jungle gym or about to present a current events report to her class. "Overcome your fears," she whispers to herself. I don't know where she learned it. Maybe from one of those television shows I shouldn't let her watch.

At the end of a grim and brutal month, Rosie learned to read. Not because we forced her to drill and practice and repeat, not because we dragged her kicking and screaming, or denied her food, or kept her from the using the bathroom, but because she forced herself. She climbed the mountain alone, motivated not by fear or shame of dishonoring her parents but by her passionate desire to read. She did it herself, without us, and it is no exaggeration to say that we were and remain stunned with pride. What's more, she came out of the experience with a sense of herself as a powerful, tenacious person, one who is so proud of having succeeded despite her dyslexia—"like Alexander Graham Bell, Winston Churchill and Albert Einstein," as she likes to say—that during her school's "Care Week," on her own initiative, she gave presentations to her classmates and to groups of other students about living with dyslexia.

I have a feeling that had one of Amy Chua's daughters suffered from a learning disability like Rosie's, Ms. Chua would have channeled her admirable perseverance into finding a solution that worked for her child. She would have been just as dogged and determined, but in an entirely different way. Roaring like a tiger turns some children into pianists who debut at Carnegie Hall but only crushes others. Coddling gives some the excuse to fail and others the chance to succeed. Amy Chua and I both understand that our job as mothers is to be the type of tigress that each of our different cubs needs.
—Ms. Waldman is the author of "Bad Mother" and the novel "Red Hook Road."

mercredi, janvier 12, 2011

on breastfeeding

My good friend and former roommate had breast cancer a few years ago. She's now in the process of trying to adopt. People invariably say the wrong thing, and weird things. I thought her post on the things smart, kind, well-meaning people say about breastfeeding (to someone who's had a double mastectomy, no less) was awesome on many levels.

One reason it resonated is because breastfeeding was one of the hardest, most frustrating experiences of my life. Leo and I took breastfeeding classes while I was pregnant and were able to cite the myriad benefits of breastfeeding. I wanted to have a breastfed, happy baby and was planning to do so for at least a year. My mommy friends were all great about saying that it's a tough thing for you and the baby to learn and get right -- even if everyone thinks it's "the most natural thing in the world." They were also right to say to get help -- from lactation consultants, other moms, and support groups.

When Seba was two days old, I remember holding him at 3 a.m. in the NICU and trying to get him to feed. He was hungry and not latching well. With the pillows, rocking chair, footstool, IV, wires, monitors, and everything else, I found that I was about three hands short of what I needed to position him properly. As my back and shoulders throbbed from contorting myself into a position that was supposed to work for feeding him, I wished for the many hands of Shiva. I looked down to see the few precious drops I was producing (my milk hadn't come in completely) rolling off of Seba's cheek and into my hospital gown. That was the first time I completely lost it while trying to feed him. The silent tears were profuse and my swollen eyes hurt almost as much as my C-section incision and tweaked back when I struggled back to my bed.

Over the next few days, we tried again and again and again and had a little better luck. I also pumped every two hours to help stimulate and establish my production, and that was yielding better results. Still, things weren't working as well as I had hoped. By the end of the week, Leo growled at the nurses who would bring us privacy screens any time I was breastfeeding Seba in the nursery because I "might want more privacy".

In spite of our plans and our efforts, Seba never latched well. It might have been that he was bottle-fed for that first week of his life because he was in the NICU. Or it might have been the damn brace he was in for his hip dysplasia for the first six months of his life. Or it might have been my letdown. Or it might have been something else.

Yes, we saw the lactation consultant three times a week for about six weeks.
Yes, we tried a supplemental nursing system.
Yes, my kind seamstress mother-(s)in-law made a custom nursing pillow to try and get Seba in the perfect position to nurse despite the hip brace. She also drove me to lactation appointments and even lent a hand whenever I needed it to get Seba into the proper position while nursing.
Yes, my baby screamed at me and cried whenever he was put to a breast -- he loved my milk from a bottle, by the way.
Yes, my breasts leaked horribly at the forceful letdown.
Yes, I took fenugreek and blessed thistle and all the recommended homeopathic herbs and foods to help my milk production remain high.
Yes, I felt like a failure for not being able to do something so "natural".
Yes, I cried as my milk production tapered to nothing after I took supplements and pumped with a hospital-grade pump every 2-4 hours AROUND THE CLOCK for nearly 4 months.
And, yes, I finally learned to stop measuring my motherhood in ounces.

So, yes. As I told my roommate, skipping the hardest, most frustrating experience of motherhood is not necessarily a bad thing.

Today, I will feed Seba the last 3 ounces of the freezer stash of breastmilk. I'm grateful to have been able to give him what I could, but hope that I don't have the same issues with our next child. Beyond the emotional component of breastfeeding, there was the sheer exhaustion borne of spending 25 minutes every 2-4 hours pumping, and 25 minutes every 2-3 hours bottlefeeding our son. Leo was amazing in the process and helped a great deal. Still, when I realize that I basically doubled my sleep deprivation/ feeding time by having to pump and to feed, it's no wonder that I was a zombie for the fourth trimester.

For those who are interested, here's my friend's post on the topic:
Some Perks of Not Breast Feeding
Sometimes smart, kind, well-meaning people say stupid and insensitive things.

As an example, about 6 months ago I was doing some house-related shopping. The charming (no sarcasm intended) sales lady asked, "do you have or plan to have children?" At which point I gave her a quick explanation of my parental status. No kids yet. I'm adopting. Could happen tomorrow or in five years. And, oh yes, I've pretty much always wanted to adopt at least one kid -- my friends from high school are in no way shocked by this decision -- so when I was diagnosed and told this meant I was not allowed to get pregnant and take some of my post-chemo meds (you take them for 5 years) adoption was an easy and obvious choice. And, no, I did not have any eggs frozen or even consider that. "But you might be able to get pregnant later? Because, you should experience breast feeding if you can. It's such a great bonding experience." No, I'm not kidding. She didn't just talk about the joys of pregnancy, she specifically identified the joys of breast feeding. One minor problem with that: I had a double mastectomy. The only thing coming out of these guys is saline.

Even in my post-breast-cancer days, I've heard many stories about why breast feeding is just the best experience ever and how it really cements maternal bonds. Though, a good friend called me one day to say, "in case you were wondering, I hate breast feeding and wouldn't do it if I could get away with it." This, of course, got me thinking about possible benefits of my particular situation. As usual, if anyone else wants to share thoughts, please do so. And, no, you don't need to tell me about why breast feeding is good. I am actually pretty familiar with all of that.

(1) There is no reason I have to be the one to always get up in the middle of the night to feed the baby. A baby is a very compelling reason to get out of bed, and certainly I plan to take on my fair share of 3 a.m. feedings. But, I'll have less moments of mild resentment while I look over at my sleeping husband than the average new mommy.
(2) Speaking of this, along the lines of feeding=bonding, my husband will be seen as equally able of meeting essential needs in the eyes of our little one (who has no concept of $$$), and will get equal bonding opportunity. My husband is pretty nifty. I don't mind sharing with him. He deserves equal adoration.
(3) No need to pump, find a place to pump, find a place to store pumped milk, etc.
(4) No milk leaking onto my dry clean only work wardrobe. Also, no need to worry about leaking in front of a client, judge, boss, etc.

P.S. The woman carrying the baby in the cute little onesie at a breast cancer awareness march that says "I'm a breast man," probably didn't have a mastectomy.

mardi, janvier 11, 2011

vendredi, janvier 07, 2011

boys and their toys

Boys love their toys and their penises. So ... welcome to the Toylet.
SEGA Brings Gaming To Public Restroom Toilets

"SEGA recently announced that they are testing their Toylets male urinal video game at select locations around Tokyo. Toylets uses a pressure sensor located on the back of the urinal to measure the strength and location of your urine stream. A small LCD screen above the urinal allows you to play several simple video games including a simulator for erasing graffiti and a variation on a sumo wrestling match. At the end of a game, the screen displays advertisements. Whether you find the concept hilarious, disturbing, or disgusting, urinal video games are simply another way that interactive media could invade every part of our lives. It also shows that no space is safe from digital ads."