Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fried Rice Pilaf

I really have no business taking pictures of food.  I am not a photographer.  At all!

I have been calling this dish "fried rice."  The Beast informs me that that is totally inaccurate since I'm not actually frying the rice, and that it's better called a rice pilaf.  So I have been calling it Fried Rice Pilaf while grinning like I'm being as mischievous as a certain newly-minted 2-year-old (this really happened 2 years ago?!?).

Whatever you call it, this is currently a weekly staple around our house.  It's easy, it's pretty quick, I can walk away from it for several minutes and nothing burns, and it's tasty - the kids tend to pick out what they like and leave the rest, but since the only options are basically rice or vegetables, it's one of those meals that feels easy and satisfying and worry-free for everyone (except for that arsenic thing, which has kind of made me roll my eyes and wonder what the rest of my food is contaminated with...)

I wanted to make a few notes about the ingredients I use - this is an extremely flexible recipe!

First, about those vegetables.  I usually use frozen, so that I don't even need to chop.  I get a bag of "stir-fry mix" and some frozen edamame beans, add some frozen peas (sometimes peas and carrots), plus always some broccoli florets because that is what Bean picks out. I have also used chopped fresh carrot, green beans, and celery.  I'll use sprouts in the winter, too

And about the Bragg's Amino - this stuff is great for anyone on a special diet.  It is dairy-free, wheat-free, and it is lower sodium than reduced-sodium soy sauce.  Plus, it has a stronger (but very similar) flavor and mouth feel to soy sauce, so you use less of it.  In recipes that call for soy sauce, I usually half the amount called for and replace with Bragg's Amino.

  • 2c. uncooked brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp oil (I usually use peanut)
  • 6-8c. vegetables of choice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 1 TBSP fresh ginger (1.5 tsp ground)
  • 3 eggs (technically optional, could also add tofu)
  • 1/4 c. Bragg's Amino (explain this stuff)
  •  3TBSP rice vinegar 
  • optional:
    •  Leafy greens like kale (remove the stems) or shinginku (a Japanese chrysanthemum, we got it in our CSA last year and I loved it in this dish!)
    • chopped peanuts (for garnish)
    • shredded red cabbage (for garnish)
    • Sriracha sauce (for garnish)
  1. Start the rice cooking! 
  2. Heat the oil in the bottom of a large pot or wok (you can at least pretend it's stir-fry, right?).
  3. Add the garlic and ginger, then all the vegetables.  Mix. Cover - thaw the frozen vegetables while steaming fresh vegetables.  Stir occasionally (when you think of it) and play with kids while you wait for the rice to cook and the vegetables to be ready (if you're looking for kids for this step, I have a couple you could borrow).
  4. Add the rice to the vegetables and mix well.
  5. Make a well in the middle and add eggs, scrambling right in the bottom of the pot/wok and incorporating into the vegetables as it cooks.  (Alternatively, stir in tofu during this step)
  6. Add Bragg's and rice vinegar.  Mix well.
  7. Add greens and mix until they wilt.
  8. Serve with garnishes of your choice!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

I'm completely terrified.

Maybe I just need one of these...or maybe I have good reason to be freaking out?

It has been almost a week since I scheduled surgery for my hip, and I am quaking - at times even crying - in fear.  I have not been great about keeping family and friends up-to-date on what has been going on.  I was majorly - hugely - blindsided by the recommendation for surgery and have been looking at articles/studies/recommendations hoping for nonsurgical options...

So, let's back up...

Back in February, I started complaining about pain in my hip.  Actually, in 2001 I herniated a disc, and when I went to physical therapy my hip would snap during some of the exercises.  It was annoying, verging on painful.  The physical therapist thought nothing of it - she said it had something to do with my low body fat (it doesn't).

But, in any case, I figured I just needed to stretch.  I did a little reading up and figured out I had snapping hip syndrome and started stretching my hip flexors whenever possible.  I powered through some pain and ran my first half marathon, figuring I would get myself put back together afterward.

At the same time, I was having a different sort of pain around the 7 mile mark of every training run - I it ran down the side of my leg and sometime pulled a bit on my knee.  That was iliotibial band syndrome (called IT band syndrome and pretty common in runners).

I spent the couple of months after my race running really minimally - I once tried for six miles and ended up limping home after four.  Finally, when I just couldn't seem to shake the pain on my own, I went to an orthopedist.  Sure enough, he diagnosed me with IT band syndrome and hip flexor tendonitis and sent me to physical therapy.

Physically therapy was supposed to take maybe a month to get me back to running again.  But after 5 or 6 weeks I was still finding that anything over 6 or 7 miles a week - when I was hoping to be running that much at a time - had me limping.

I tried backing off of running and doing other types of exercises - like squats and leg lifts and plyometrics (jumping moves, which I cut out pretty quickly, too).  The pain got so bad that I stopped being able to play with the kids like I normally do.  If they pushed me to the side, I would snap at them because of the pain.  There were days I was limping again.

So, the day before we left for 5 weeks at my in-laws' house, I went back to the orthopedist.  He ordered an MRI, which they squeezed in that afternoon.

After a little bit of phone tag, I finally got the results and started learning some new big medical words:  I have a small labral tear that appears to be caused by cam type femoro-acetabular impingement.  (Translation:  the socket side of the hip is called the acetabulum, and it is lined with cartilage called the labrum.  My labrum has a small tear in it, and that is caused by the head of my femur - the ball part of the ball-and-socket joint - rubbing against the labrum.  I'm told that when the growth plates closed, it did so in a slightly misshapen manner.)

So.  This surgery.  The description of it makes my stomach turn.  The risks make me shudder and cry.  So here goes with that...

It's arthroscopic - they'll be using tiny instruments inside the joint.  Which means they are going to take my femur out of the socket by almost a centimeter (gag).  Then they're going to trim up the labral tear (this part does not bother me), and then they're going to shave off some of the head of my femur (barf).

Then, because I do have a snapping hip that doesn't seem to want to resolve, they're going to give my tendon a snip to lengthen it.

After this surgery, they usually give non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to prevent growth of extra bone (human body = weird. I'm guessing it tries to grow bone the same way it does when you break one?!?).  I can't take NSAIDs because of my kidneys.

Guess what the alternative is?  A dose of radiation.

So.  They're going to dislocate my hip, shave off some bone, cut some cartilage and some tendon, and irradiate me. 

And the risks?  Numbness - including in what the doctor referred to as my "private area," which wouldn't be so bad if that meant my office or bathroom or other areas of my house that are private or I wish were private, but I'm pretty sure he meant my genitals/groin.  Also, because they are shaving off a tidbit of a weight-bearing bone, it creates a risk of fracture.  And because they are taking it out of socket (shudder!), there is some risk that it will dislocate in the future.

That's all I remember.  I might have not been able to hear other risks over the voice in my head screaming "LALALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU!"

He pegged the risks at about 1-2% chance.  He thinks he can make me 90-95% better, and the most likely long-term side effect is some numbness in my thigh - where I already frequently have shooting pains, burning, dull ache, etc (depending on the day). recovery...

I'm going to be on crutches for 2-3 weeks, ending whenever I decide I'm ready to bear my full weight on that leg.  I will start physical therapy a few days in.  I will not be able to drive for 7-10 days.  It will be 3+ months before I feel as good as I do now.  But 4-6 months in I might be able to start running (a little).  And I'll be fully recovered (i.e. not getting any better) after 6-12 months...

All while parenting my two kids and having a husband periodically travelling for various aspects of work (no travel planned between surgery and Christmas),

So that's the story.  The bone-shaving, radiation-having, hip-dislocating story.

I have tried physical therapy, I tried yoga (it caused more pain), I've seen three chiropractors... I'm quite open to suggestions.

Oh.  And I have to figure out what needs to happen in terms of nursing A-Train.  He's not nursing super frequently, but he will flip his shit if I can't nurse him for a stretch, and I just had a super painful plug without changing anything.  I haven't pumped in at least 20 months, so I'm not even sure I can pump to relieve any engorgement. 

And, there are no real long-term studies on this surgery.  I'm actually signed up to participate in that (by filling out questionnaires for up to 10 years).  Maybe it will prevent arthritis later?  Maybe most patients are better off?  Maybe maybe maybe...

To sum up:  OMG.  AAAGGGHHH!!!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The FAST Track

Imagine you bring your brand new baby home, and snuggle and coo and make faces and fall completely in love.  You start to work out who that baby is going to become - does she like to listen to music?  Does he like to be bounced?  What will these interests become in adulthood? 

Perhaps your older child is making plans, too.  When A-Train was tiny, Bean once told us he wanted a different baby - one who could walk.

And then, sometime late in that first year, or perhaps sometime in your child's second or third year, what if you discovered your beloved baby has a genetic disorder and might never walk, or might now have and later lose that ability?  Or might have seizures.  Will require constant care.  Now who will this child grow up to be?  And what about the excitement of the older sibling?

In my family, there are two such kids; The Beast's cousin has Rett Syndrome, and my cousin has Angelman Syndrome.  I have such fond memories of both of these kids as babies and toddlers - my cousin as a happy, slobbery cherub in everyone's arms at my sister's wedding (he's still happy and slobbery!); The Beast's cousin dancing at our wedding until we all thought she might fall sleep on the dance floor.  They were so full of possibility (who would they be?  Would he always be so social?  Would she always love to dance?).  And, though neither can talk, and they each have motor difficulties, and the list of challenges goes on and on, they are still full of possibility.

There is promising research going on to treat or even cure each of these syndromes, and a breakthrough in one could benefit the other as well as other genetic and neurological disorders.  Each of these disorders has been cured (yes!  cured!  not just treated) in a mouse model!  There is immense hope for these kids and their families.

Currently, Chase Community Giving is having people vote on Facebook for various charities to split $5 million in grant money.  The Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST) is, at this very moment, in 10th place.  Can you help me lift them up so they can share in this, and help these babies shine for everyone as they do for their parents and for me?

You can click here to vote for FAST!

For more information, you can visit FAST, check out this post from The Feminist Breeder, and read this post by a father whose son was very recently diagnosed with Angelman Syndrome.

Please vote today!  It won't cost you a dime!  And please share one of the above links or this post!  Can we raise FAST to one of the top spots?!?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Bog Lady

We went out on my in-laws' bog yesterday - my first time out there. It was amazing!

More Sundew!
We crashed through some rotting trees and then followed a coyote trail to the middle, where it was sunny. There, The Beast showed me sundew and wild cranberries. There were red and green mosses (the red is quite beautiful) and some grey lichen that was brittle with the dry weather of August and the beginning of September.

I foraged for wild blueberries, and checked out the Labrador tea (which I thought had an unpleasant smell). Then we followed another trail, which had a deer print along it, so we assume it was a deer trail.

Red moss, grey lichen
We came back around and found another coyote trail, with two webs attended by enormous spiders. While The Beast took pictures of one spider, I made all the plants around me shake by bouncing on the spongy ground.  Then I found some salal berries (yum) and a mass of more wild blueberries.

As we went back out of the bog, I joyfully crushed some more logs and stumps (I felt massively strong). The Beast spotted some owl pellets and, separately, the bones of some small animal. And then he gave me a botany lesson: I can now identify bracken fern, lady fern, sword fern, two kinds of blackberries, and salmonberry leaves in addition to all the plants mentioned above.

And I picked and ate blackberries along the way back!

Labrador tea

Thursday, September 6, 2012

If You Give a Baby Some Milk

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today.  I loved it so much that I asked her if I could post it on my blog.

If you give a baby some milk,
He's going to want an arm cradle to go with it.

If you cradle his head while he eats, he's going to fall into a milk coma. He'll look so sweet and smell so good lying against you, that even when he falls asleep and finishes drinking, you won't want to move him.

Your arm will have other plans, however. It will jerk involuntarily from the weight of his over-sized he

ad. The jerk will cause Baby to wake momentarily.

In the blink of time his eyes are open, the baby will spot the ceiling fan spinning overhead. He'll remember that he has a story to tell the fan. He'll wake fully and coo and babble and laugh with his best friend, Fan.

The laughing and cooing will get the baby's stomach juices moving causing bottle rockets to go off inside his diaper.

You'll get up to change Baby's diaper. He'll cry throughout the process, growing ever-louder and more wiggly as you clean and re-dress him. You'll pray to all that you hold dear that his screams won't wake your older child.

All this crying will wear Baby out. He'll start giving nap cues.

You'll put him in his swing and his head will loll to one side. His eyes will roll back in his head. You'll suddenly remember that you should breathe.

Just as he's about to drift off, the gas from all his crying will rise from his belly to his throat, giving him the hiccups. He'll try to sleep anyway, but he'll be interrupted over and over again.

He'll want you to rock him. You'll pick him up and cradle him in your arms. And chances are, if you cradle a baby in your arms...

He's going to want some milk to go with it.

Postpartum PTSD

For numerous reasons both personal and professional, my attention was grabbed by an article stating that one in three women suffers symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) postpartum.  The article then goes on to say that 80% of those suffering these symptoms had "natural" childbirths (I roll my eyes at that term, but that's a story for another day) with no pain medication. Another risk factor appears to be not being adequately covered while giving birth.

There are so many issues with this article that I'm not even sure to begin. But because I a) believe that parents and parents-to-be should be well-informed and should make their own choices regarding their babies, their bodies, and their health (including mental), and b) I can see this sort of thing being cited without further discussion, I will just start at the beginning and see where I end up.

So, first off, how postpartum are these women?  According to the DSM-IV-TR (the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual for mental disorders), PTSD cannot even be diagnosed until symptoms have been present for a month or more.  In this study, mothers were interviewed at 2 to 5 days postpartum and again at one month.  There is no mention of any follow-up beyond a month.

Second, (and I admit this should have been my first question!) what is the sample size?  A meager 89 women.  It's a start - and I am truly interested to know how prevalent this is cross-culturally, and also how long these symptoms persist.

Next, what is the birth culture like where these women gave birth?  Are there numerous people coming in and out of the birthing space, making it particularly uncomfortable for these women to be disrobed?  Are the births usually attended by men?  Is there a tacit (or even explicit) expectation that the women will remain clothed/covered while giving birth?  Were these all hospital births?  Were there homebirths?  Birth centers?  Was there a difference between those groups, and was it as pronounced as the unmedicated/medicated split?

I'm glad to see this investigation on the impact that childbirth has on the emotional well-being of mothers.  It's a good start.  And I appreciated the last sentence (a quote from the lead researcher):  “Dignity is a factor that should be taken into account. It’s an issue of ethics and professionalism, and now we can see that it does have physical and psychological ramifications."

I have no doubt that a lot of new mothers feel traumatized by various aspects of the experience of becoming a mother (whether the physical, the emotional, or the spiritual).  I also have no doubt that women experience traumatic births and resulting anxiety, depression, and PTSD.  But I am concerned that stating the statistics within this study  - without context or discussion - could cause more anxiety, and less dignity. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

To praise or not to praise? And how?

Here's a parenting dilemma I am having lately:  Whenever we show interest in or praise something that A-Train does, Bean tries to replicate it louder, faster, etc.  Usually they are things that are not impressive in a four-year-old...or are outright obnoxious (especially louder, faster, etc).

He is obviously looking for attention/praise.  I have taken to being straightforward and honest, saying things like "that's not cute from you because you are able to talk/run/whatever." Or even "that's really annoying because ______."

I always try to give him a reason, I always try to keep it from being personal (no "you are annoying" or "you are acting like a baby" or anything like that). And often I point out something he does that gets attention that A-Train can't do.

I also have been very careful about other kinds of praise lately.  He says things like "aren't I good at _______?"  (football, dancing, jumping, etc.)  I try to be specific, but he is also very resistant to doing classes/activities to hone any skills, and I don't want to give him a false sense of....expertise, for lack of a better word.  People work for years to be good at things.  Yes, he can practice a lot of things and get very good at them...

Any thoughts on this?

Monday, September 3, 2012


I feel I would be doing the Internet a disservice if I did not share this photo that The Beast took of himself and A-Train.

Giving him a chance

Love him.
A few evenings ago, Bean was rather out of control.  He was running around in a disorganized way, yelling randomly, interrupting, and generally not himself.  He had had some big, active days, no naps, and we were certain it was an early bedtime kind of night.

The Beast also wanted to watch a little pre-season football with his dad and brother.  And, understandably, he did not want to have Bean running amok in the tv room.

So, about 30 minutes before kick-off, we (The Beast, my mother-in-law, and I) told Bean it was bedtime.  I said, "you are exhausted and unable to control yourself, and everyone is getting frustrated.  It's time do do bedtime."

"NO!" he snapped.  "I'm not tired." And he gave me dagger eyes.

Knowing this child is as persistent as they come, we also knew that he could put up an hours-long fight against sleep no matter how tired he was.

So I said, "ok.  I will make a deal with you.  If you can get yourself together and be pleasant and not have any outbursts for the next 10 minutes as you're getting ready for bed, you can stay up until 8PM and watch some of the football game.  But if you are being wild and crazy and screaming and unpleasant, bedtime is immediate."

"OK."  He said seriously.

 And so it was that he proved us all wrong.  He was not only sweet and pleasant, but his grandpa and dad had a fantastic time watching football with him.  It made me so glad - for all of us - that we'd trusted him and simply given him a chance, when honestly all I wanted was to force him into bed and be done with the day!
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