Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Our great future in plastics

I’m reading a fascinating book, Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History by Florence Williams. It’s written in a casual, fun-to-read style, and I’m learning a lot about evolutionary theories, cultural trends, and ecology. I rarely read non-fiction, but this book has drawn me in the way a novel might.

The problem I’m having is that last night before I fell asleep, I read the chapter on plastics. I learned a lot about the chemicals that are in plastics and our cosmetics, and how scientists think these things may be contributing to early puberty (and what early puberty means in terms of cancer rates). I didn’t know that BPA was originally used as an estrogen replacement in women, a replacement for DES. That makes its use in so many products today seem much more ominous to me. When Williams wrote the book, she had herself and her young daughter tested for many of the chemicals she was learning about, and then tried to reduce the presence of those chemicals in their life, but found it very hard to do.

I woke up this morning, thinking about our exposure to these things. I already try to buy lotions and soaps that don’t contain parabens and phthalates. But plastics are ubiquitous. I made my orange juice this morning in the juicer we received as a wedding gift--that was ten years ago, before BPA was being questioned so much. I sliced peaches to put in oatmeal for the girls and me on a plastic cutting board that for all I remember at this point may have been treated with triclosan. I served the kids their oatmeal in brightly colored plastic dishes that I’m pretty sure are BPA free--but what else is in the plastics? I am generally pleased with myself for not feeding the kids a lot of processed foods, but every time I pack us a picnic, I put cut up vegetables, sliced fruits, and sandwiches into plastic containers. Canned beans seem like such a quick and easy alternative to soaking and cooking dried beans, but do they contain chemicals from the cans? I reheat leftovers in the microwave in plastic containers that say they are safe for microwave use, but how do I know? Our water bottles say they are BPA-free, but what is being used in the plastics that can hurt us? Even the produce I buy at our farmers’ market comes home in plastic bags.

I’m finding myself feeling helpless and hopeless. I remember a similar feeding years ago reading Our Stolen Future for a college course, but then I was only worried about myself. Now I’m wondering what effect the choices I make have on my daughters.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Compare and contrast

Okay, I know you aren't supposed to compare your kids to one another, but sometimes the difference in behavior in kids three years apart is particularly striking.


Adriana: Need any help in here?

Me: Actually, yeah. Can you give the onions a quick stir?

Adriana: Sure...looks like they're getting brown kind of fast. Want me to turn the heat down a bit?

Me: Yes, please.

WTF? When did I start letting her mess with the stove? When did she learn to caramelize onions? Whatever, they came out great.


Lyra: [catches my eye, purposely turns water cup upside down over the dinner table] 
Me: Why did you do that?
Lyra: To try to make you cry.
And everyone thinks this one is such a sweetheart! She did say it with a very charming smile.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lost and Found

Earlier in the school year when I went to the parent-teacher conference at nursery school, Adriana’s teacher mentioned that Adriana didn’t know her address and phone number. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me to teach those to her. That afternoon I wrote down my number for Adriana. She copied it down a few times herself, and then was able to recite it to me. I told her that if she ever got lost, she should find and adult, (preferably another mom with kids, or someone who works wherever we are) and have them call me.

But Adriana is the kind of kid who tends to stick pretty close and know where I am. Lyra is my runner. It was Lyra who took off from me in Target a couple of months ago, running down the aisle and then dodging through racks in the clothing section. I ordered Adriana to stay by our cart, and then I tracked Lyra for a while by the sound of her giggles, and the amused smiles and pointing of other customers. But then she was gone, and I couldn’t find her anywhere. An employee made an announcement over the speakers for everyone to look for a two-year-old girl with short blond hair, a red shirt,  and Thomas rainboots. She was quickly found back by the dressing rooms, a good three quarters of the store away from where she’d taken off.

But today, Adriana and I got separated at Happy Hollow. We’d been there since it opened, nearly six hours before, and we were all tired. Adriana was on a play structure that was a little too big for Lyra, and Lyra wanted to see the lemurs one more time. I tried to catch Adriana and waved, and then took Lyra to watch one lemur hanging from another one’s tail. We sat for a while, and then a couple who had been there watching the lemurs with us not long before brought Adriana to me. She seemed fine, but as soon as she saw me, she burst into tears. Although it had seemed she was looking at me, she hadn’t caught my wave and seen me take Lyra to look at the lemurs one last time before the park closed. She had looked up, seen I wasn’t there, remembered that Lyra had been wanting one last ride on the carousel, and headed off in that direction, calling for me. When I wasn’t the merry-go-round she started back and then hesitated. The couple had seen Adriana and asked her if she was okay. She says she told them, “I can’t find my mom,” and they had brought her back to me. Simple as that. She and Lyra were wearing similar outfits today (and maybe the couple had seen us together earlier), so the other parents knew where to bring her.

It’s funny the things that don’t occur to me. I thought because I taught Adriana how to find me if we were separated, I didn’t need to worry much. I hadn’t anticipated the trauma it would cause to her if we were actually separated. Can I blame Lyra for that? She thought her little escapade was hilarious. I’m not particularly concerned about getting separated from Adriana again. I think she’ll stick close, as usual, and I think I’ll be more aware of going out of her line of sight (for what it’s worth, on the larger play structure at the park earlier in the afternoon, she had gone out of my sight plenty). I’m starting to wonder, though, if in a panic she would be able to recall my phone number. I’ll just cross my fingers and hope I don’t have to find out.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

This might be kind of cheesy. I blame the vast quantities of sugar and sunshine.

At one point last year, I posted something on Facebook about considering a last-minute trip to the beach. My friend Kym commented that it would be harder to do that kind of thing once Adriana started kindergarten, so I should take advantage of the time we have now.

I followed Kym’s advice that day, and pretty much every other time I get the urge to spend a sunny day at the beach or a rainy day in a museum. The girls are at an age where day trips are easy, and our schedule allows it, so why not?

Today was one of those days and it was perfect.

Soon enough they’ll be in school and this will be harder. Right now I want to see Adriana’s eyes widen with excitement when I pick her up from nursery school and say “Want to go to Santa Cruz?” To have them beg for “one more ride” on the merry-go-round and let that turn into three more rides. To concede that since it had been such a warm day that they really should be allowed ice cream after dinner, even though they already had ice cream after lunch. To carry them in from the car sound asleep and tuck them into their beds, still covered in sunscreen and sand and ice cream. And right now I want to hope that maybe some day they’ll remember some part of it all.

Sunday, May 06, 2012


Lyra woke, crying, sometime around midnight. I went in to her and laid down beside her to nurse. I hadn’t closed her blinds before bed, and between the slats, I could see the moon. It didn’t seem any bigger than usual, but it was incredibly bright. Her eyes, I realized, weren’t closed as she nursed; I could see them shining there, looking at me as she nursed and twisted her fingers through my hair.

“Baby, look. Look at the moon.” She stopped nursing and turned to look out the window. “That’s the supermoon.”


“Yes.” She sat up in bed, so I did too, and she climbed into my lap and wound her arms around my neck as we looked out the window.

“Is it pretty?”


“Is it magic?”


“Is it white like the roses."


"Are you my mama?”


“You love your baby Lyra so much?” She leaned her face against mine.

“Very, very much.”

And we laid back down together, snuggled close, my body curled around hers, and we nursed to sleep.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Facts of life

Adriana was going through a photo album with Lyra before school this morning. I remember Adriana at this age, or maybe a little older, figuring out that she wasn’t always in pictures with Brian and me because there had been a time before her. Now Lyra is reaching the same realization.

Adriana: And here is a picture of me and mama in Minnesota.
Lyra: And where is me?
Adriana: This is before you were born. You were in mama’s belly.
Lyra: Ooooh. And before I was in mama’s belly I was a fairy and I lived in a flower.

And even more awesome than the fact that Lyra said this? The fact that Adriana did not correct her.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

To market, to market...

...to buy no fat pigs. Although I could probably get one there if I wanted. We are lucky to have an excellent farmers' market in Mountain View. We started going pretty much every weekend as soon as we moved here five years, and now nearly all our produce comes from there (bananas and mangoes are notable exceptions), along with our eggs, bread, and some cheese. And cookies. The best macaroons in the world are available for purchase every Sunday morning in Mountain View, just in case you were wondering.

This week, Adriana had a birthday party and our cupboards were bare, as we’d just returned from a three week holiday the previous afternoon, so I biked Lyra over to the farmers’ market, where I bought:

  • 2 pounds zucchini
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 1 bunch carrots
  • one big bag of peas
  • 4 artichokes
  • 2 bunches asparagus
  • 1 pound bag of salad greens
  • 6 apples
  • 3 baskets of strawberries
  • 4 sweet potatoes
  • 6 yellow onions
  • 4 lemons
  • 6 avocados
  • 2 cucumbers
  • 12 eggs
  • 1 loaf of whole wheat sandwich bread
  • 1 baguette
  • 2 kinds of cheese
  • 1 quart sheep's milk yogurt
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 bunch parsley

As I piled the groceries into my bike trailer I thought I'd bought most of what we needed for the week (along with a few things from the grocery store--cereal and beans, among other things). But I think I forgot how to shop while we were away. Either that, or my kids are just extra hungry this week. It's Wednesday night, and I have left 3 avocados (the ones that were nowhere near ripe, which I picked so they would last through the week), one cucumber, half the salad greens, a lemon, and an onion. I still have most of the eggs and sandwich bread, as well as the yogurt, which I'm using slowly because it's seriously expensive (but it’s awesome and it has a very short season, so I had to buy it this once).

I'm going to have to go to the supermarket tomorrow for fruits and vegetables. And I’m sulking because I know they won’t be as good as what I got over the weekend. I think this might be the very definition of first world problems.