Monthly Archives: February 2010

The Real Deal

These days Josie is always reaching into bags or up to counters or under chairs. When I ask what she’s doing she says I’m lookin’ for (or geddin’ or movin’ or doin’) sumpin’. Then she gives me a look with raised eyebrows that says: ok? She’s not particularly irritated. She does not roll her eyes. She’s speaking as a fellow grown-up. It’s all very mature and her message is clear. She does not need my help.

But, of course, I continue to give it to her in a variety of useful and useless ways. I, for example, collect hair care supplies – combs, clips, beads, head bands, ponytail holders – as if simply owning this equipment will make me a better hair stylist and, by extension, a better mother.

When I recently found out that Josie’s hair stylist (yes, she is too young to have her own stylist) moved out of town, I called around to all the local kiddie salons, asking if they have any African American stylists. No, I’m not looking for someone familiar with black hair; I’m looking for someone with black hair. Yes, that’s right, I’m looking for a real genuine black person. You, blondie, will not do.

I hear about a hair salon that specializes in “kinky, curly or locked hair textures.” Pefect! I ask the woman who answers the phone how old Josie has to be to have her hair cut. The woman asks what Josie needs done. I say she just needs a trim. She says, well, how does she wear her hair now? Is it an afro?

What I think she really means is: are you sure your baby is black because you sure do sound white?

Meanwhile, I’m thinking: what is the technical definition of an afro? Does it mean, super-curly hair worn loose? Or does it have to be a certain size to qualify as an afro? Because Josie’s hair isn’t super-big but it is often unstyled. I have no idea how to answer this question. I am so white. Josie is so doomed.

Eventually the receptionist tells me Josie needs to be about 5 years old and “salon ready.” My child is definitely not 5 years-old, and defiantly not salon ready.

A few days later, I’m walking through the mall and I see a black child waiting in a hair salon. I walk in and ask how old children have to be to have their hair done. Two. Two! Wesley, the brunette at the front desk, tells me she’s familiar with African American hair. Step aside, Wesley, you’re not needed here. I make an appointment with their black stylist.

I come back a few days later with Josie, and I’m a bit nervous. It’s not a kiddie salon and, as I’ve mentioned before, my kid generally does not sit. So I do my best to talk to Josie about it beforehand. To play it up as a special treat – going to the salon. I can see the terror in the stylist’s eyes when we arrive.

We survive the wash and comb-out and the stylist rubs in a little dab of two products – one promises to make her hair smooth and the other to make it shiny. Anxious to learn everything I can, I pick up the bottles, write down the names, and read the instructions. On the back, in all caps, both bottles say HAIR IS FLAMMABLE and should be kept away from cigarettes and open flames. Tap, tap, tap. Excuse me, did you just douse my child in lighter fluid?

Eatin' Sumpin'

When her hair has been dried and while it is being cut and braided she gets a little antsy. I hand her a sticker book and she flips through it like its People Magazine. I ask what she’s looking for, if I can help. I’m doin’ sumpin’ Mommy. Fair enough.  

The Real Deal

By the time she’s finished, Josie’s been in the chair for over an hour. She sat quietly the whole time. I’m so proud. We have a little celebration that includes lots of high-fiving and a few bunny crackers.

The next day is the Sunday before Martin Luther King Day and Paul and I decide the best way to celebrate the day and celebrate black culture is to go to the gospel choir concert at a Baptist church. I dress Josie in her cute dress and tights and shoes, her hair still a bit of braided perfection. We find a seat on the aisle. Josie squirms on Paul’s lap and then mine. She’s turning and twisting, and wants to get down, then wants to be up, then wants raisins, then wants to be with Daddy, then with Mommy, then more raisins.

Then the music really gets going. I mean really going. Everyone is dancing and clapping. I stand with her in my arms and I dance. The choir is loud, beautiful and stunning but the energy in the church is even bigger, even louder. I’m trying to clap and dance and hold her. The bag of raisins falls to the floor. She’s completely still, gripping my arms with her hands, and staring at my clavicle. She’s full and open and focused with every sense except sight as if seeing the choir in their swaying robes would take away from the sound, the energy, the movement.

It looks as if my girl with her flammable braids has started moving toward the place I cannot take her. I wish I could go with her, but I can only hope she’ll give me a glimpse into what it is like to be a black person in America. Maybe by living her experience I’ll learn sumpin’, like how to be a better mother or, if I’m lucky and pay attention, maybe I’ll even learn how to be a better person.

We Went on Vacation

We swam in the pool all morning, napped, went back to the pool all afternoon. At dinner she asked if we could go “night swimming.”


It didn’t occur to me to bring floaties or pool toys. The pool was the toy.

Nice Hat

She wore the hat I bought for her. For a few minutes anyway.

Oh NO!

Every time she walked past the bee-covered rosemary, she’d say, “Oh no! Don’t ting me bee!”

My ARty SHot

I wandered around in my swimsuit in the mid-day sun, taking arty shots.


It really was that good.

Thems Must Be Some REALLY Good Peppers

Or, as my mother would say, what, are they filled with diamonds?

Yoo-hoo, criminals, come-out, come-out, wherever you are!

Last week, I got a little note in my mailbox from a neighbor. Actually it was an email chain printout in which a handful of people on our block recounted stories of prowlers and break-ins. There was one legit break-in (and, from the sounds of it, the victims knew the perpetrator), but most the stories were of kids lurking in the bushes with crowbars. They wait until we leave then pry our doors open and rifle through our freezer and medicine cabinet looking for drugs or cash or drugs for cash. (Hey kid, you really want my hormone-blocking cancer drugs? Help yourself. Welcome to the world of hot flashes and night sweats. Enjoy your stay.)

You’d think this news would scare me. I mean, I stay up at night thinking about flame retardants and dry cleaning chemicals (stay tuned). And sure it creeps me out, but nothing incites more dread and terror than…. Wait for it, wait for it… The urban Trader Joe’s parking lot. Gasp!

Some of you who are lucky enough to have a nice big suburban TJ’s may not know what I’m talking about. Trust me. You’ve never encountered such a tightly packed, poorly planned, small, exhaust filled, impossible-to-get-through-even-if-you’re-done-and-just-want-to-go-home, parking lot. And once you find a spot, don’t even think of opening your door to get your kid out. There. Is. No. Room.   

I really resisted the whole Trader Joe’s movement. Partly because of the lots but also because I didn’t want to add another grocery store to my list and there isn’t really a store close to my house. But, you know, I have a few friends who are die-hard TJ’s fans so I decided to do a little price comparison. Here’s what I found:

Product W. Foods PCC TJ’s QFC**
½ gallon organic whole milk 3.99 3.89 2.99 3.99
Pacific organic almond milk 2.59 2.59 1.69 2.99
Organic grass-fed ground beef 6.99 5.99 5.99 5.49***
Organic extra virgin olive oil (per oz) .65 .60 .38 .78
Organic Fuji apples (per lb) 1.99 1.99 2.07* 2.49
Organic red peppers (per lb) 3.99 3.99 3.52* 8.00*


*This produce was priced per piece instead of per pound. So I made some estimates and created some complex equations to come up with these numbers. I like to think Mrs. Runyan would be proud, but probably not.

**QFC overcharges you retail then makes you give them all your personal information in exchange for one of their bullshit loyalty cards that gives you “discounts” at the register. The rates listed here are what their price tags say and do not include their “discounts.”

***QFC did not have any organic grass-fed ground beef. The closest I could find was “natural.”

Seriously? $8.00 per pound for red peppers? Before this, I would have guessed that QFC would be the cheapest of the stores. Perhaps they don’t buy enough organic or natural products to get volume discounts.

As you can see, in most cases, TJ’s is WAY cheaper. I mean way. Look at almond milk. (For those of you dairy-free-ers, I really think that almond is the best of the alternative milks. I actually feel better when I drink it than when I don’t.) Anyway, the brand, size, everything is the same. How can TJ’s sell it for 40% less?

My experience with Trader Joe’s produce is inconsistent at best. I’ve heard that sometimes they have great watermelons and mangoes, but frequently their fruits and veggies lack flavor and substance. Limes without juice. Soft apples. Tasteless peaches.  

So, now I do fight with TJ’s parking lot on occasion. I shop there like I would Costco. I buy a gallon of milk, 10 cartons of almond milk (it lasts forever), 7 boxes of Paul’s favorite cereal, etc. I load up on prepared food but save my produce purchases for the co-op.

And in the last post about grocery stores  some of you brought up farmers markets. On the Neighborhood Farmer’s Market Alliance site they have a nice little article about produce price comparison studies conducted from 2003-2008. They all find that farmer’s market produce is cheaper than their grocery store competitors. Here’s one interesting example:

Spring 2008: study by Stacy Jones’ SU statistics students found that the average cost per pound of all organic produce at QFC was $2.98, at Whole Foods is was $2.53, and at the Broadway Farmers Market is was $2.36.  A few items were more expensive at the Farmers Market, but most items were more expensive at the grocery stores, so the total average was less at the Farmers Market – which means that a shopper’s grocery bill would average lowest at the Farmers Market. 

Now that we know how much cheaper TJ’s is, perhaps we should encourage them to charge us more and use the extra revenue to make their parking garage slightly less horrific. But then, what would be the point? If it’s not cheap, it’s just another grocery store.

Perhaps the miserable parking lot is the price, or the penance, we pay for the luxury of inexpensive ground beef. Maybe that’s why they give out free samples, to soften the blow. Oh Honey, they say when you burst through the front door waving your crow bar like a sword, after using it to pry open your door and scare away the criminals lurking in dark corners. Here, they say, have a chocolate covered strawberry on a stick and a tiny cup of coffee. Then they press a bottle of olive oil into your hand. Now here, they say, take this. Take home some of our cheap packaged goods. There, now the world doesn’t seem like such a scary place, does it? Don’t you feel better already?

Right on Target

On Daddy's Watch

There are so many places I can go with this picture. I could tell you about the time I picked Josie up from preschool and her mouth was encased with green ink. When I asked about it the teacher said, oh yes, Josie ate a green marker today. Then she was up half the night with a stomach ache. The next time we went to school I said something like: look, I know how fast she can be, they know us personally over at poison control, but seriously, can you try to keep her from eating art supplies? Thanks.

But I’m not going to tell that story (oops).

Instead, I’m going to tell you how much I love to kiss those cheeks. I have a friend who feels the same way about the temple. Not me, I’m all about cheeks. It’s been that way from the beginning. When I sat down in that hospital chair and the nurse handed four-day-old Josie to me, the little IV trailing from her arm, the orange bow stuck to her head with a dab of syrup. I leaned over and kissed her far cheek and told her how we’d been looking for her everywhere and how sorry I was it had taken four days to find her.

Ever since then my lips have been practically stuck to her cheek. It’s like a tic. I can’t control it. When she was a baby, I had free reign, she was captive.

Recently she’s learned to say, “No tiss (kiss) Mommy! No tiss!” And I try to respect her boundaries. I’ve been trying to exercise a little self control.

But then this! She painted a target right on my favorite kissing spot, just so neither one of us will ever forget where my lips belong.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup



I love fresh soup and I’m convinced it cures almost everything. This one is made without any stock so it is quick and easy and a good way to eat lots of vegetables. I give it to Josie in a cup so she can get more down faster since these days her butt is only in the chair for about 20 seconds before she decides she’s completely through and I have to go back to reading her fish book while she asks me if each fish is happy or sad and why or why not, and if, in fact, the bubbles are happy or sad, and I have to explain why the bubbles don’t have feelings while wondering if I should just give up and tell her the bubbles are happy and be done with it.

Anyhoo, the soup is good. Lots of veggies eaten quickly. It’s also easy and yummy. I’m not super-fond of curry so I use half of the recommended amount. It’s from the Café Flora Cookbook. They recommend toasting and grinding your own spices. Yeah, that would be nice. I just use regular ground spices and it works well enough.   


  • 1 medium butternut squash (2.5-3 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion minced
  • salt
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced, peeled, fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry (I only use 1)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 (14-ounce) cans coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Optional: pinch of cayenne pepper or hot sauce


  1. Peel the squash and cut it in half. Remove the seeds, and cut squash into 1 to 2 inch chunks.
  2. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and saute until the onion is soft and translucent, about 10 minutes, stirring several times. Add the garlic and ginger, and cook 2 minutes more.
  3. Add the curry powder, cumin and coriander, and sautee for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Add 4 cups of water, the squash, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cook, covered, at a low boil until the squash is soft, about 20 minutes.
  4. Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup in batches in a blender, being careful to fill the blender jar no more than halfway.
  5. Return the pureed soup to the pot, add the coconut milk, and bring just to a boil. Take the soup off the heat, add the lime juice, and salt to taste. Add cayenne or hot sauce if you want and serve.

Meet Josie

Blog world, meet Josie. This should tell you most of what you need to know about my child.

IMG 0084 from Hysterical Mommy on Vimeo.

Lest you think I’m a bad mother (probably too late for that) let me try to defend myself. The rain jacket was new and I thought she would test it out by letting a little water fall on the outside of the jacket. I didn’t really expect her to have it shoot inside and run down to her boots or, for god sake, into her mouth.

Yes, she did get sick the next day (big surprise).

Just Kidding

Elizabeth posted an interesting comment/question on the Mattress Quest II post.  What should we make of The Lancet’s announcement they are retracting the study they published in 1998 linking the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism?

When I heard the news, all I could think was: Giiilllly! (This is probably only funny to Paul because he may, in fact, be the only person who follows this blog and watches Saturday Night Live. For the rest of you, click on the link above to watch a Gilly skit. Then watch it again because it gets funnier.)

Apparently the General Medical Council, which oversees doctors in the UK, found the Wakefield study did not meet their ethical standards. They said “there was a biased selection of patients” and “conduct in this regard was dishonest and irresponsible.”

Gilly, did you throw a milk carton at the black board?

First, let me start by confirming that indeed, I am not a doctor and I have very little experience with or knowledge of Autism. But it is clear, even to me, that the Wakefield study has been thoroughly de-bunked. While I can still find publications that are willing to make the case that vaccines are linked to Autism, I cannot find a publication willing to defend the Wakefield study itself. As of today, there are no proven studies linking the MMR vaccine and Autism.

Does that mean that the vaccine, and for that matter all vaccines, are completely safe? There is a small voice in my head that says: just because there is no evidence proving a vaccine does cause harm does not mean that it doesn’t. Just because something has not been proven does not mean that it does not exist. This is one of my pet-peeves with the medical community. Doctors act as if the information they have today is everything. How long ago was it that we thought the world was flat? That leeches were used as a viable form of medical treatment? That Thalidomide was given to pregnant mothers? This is my general philosophy regarding medicine: there is SO much about the human body and how it works that we do not know and we do not understand. This governs all my decisions. I do my best to minimize exposure, to minimize risk.

Gilly, did you stab three pencils in Cindy’s body?

However, I am not only skeptical of the medical community, I am also quite grateful for it. Western medicine did save my life. Oh yeah. There’s that. Let’s not forget.

And, vaccines are very important. They save lives. Measles killed 160,000 in the developing world last year.

Gilly, did you light Bobby’s tie on fire?

Josie got way more shots starting at a younger age than I did. It’s a scary thought, injecting those tiny bodies with all those foreign substances at once. What can her little liver handle? How can her little immune system make sense of what we’ve given her?   

Shit, I don’t know… The solution is different for every person/kid/family and depends on the individual risk factors and family history. The only recommendation I can make is to buy The Vaccine Book by Dr. Sears. It lists the pros and cons of every vaccine. It provides a recommended delayed schedule. These are not long delays, these are delays of a few weeks or months that allow a little body to process some of what it has been given before it is given another. It provides a rational foundation to make educated decisions.

I know there are some of you out there who have more knowledge of vaccines and experience with Autism. What do you make of this?

Gilly, did you tell millions of people that MMR causes Autism?

Uh-huh. Sorry.

Mattress Quest Part II – New Beds for Everyone!

Have I mentioned that Paul whistles in his sleep? It’s usually a random little tune pushed through his teeth. It’s not an incidental whistle, the result of his mouth-breathing ways, but it’s not a lip-pucker whistle either. If I could put it to a tune it would sound something like twee-te-twee-te-twee. Twee-te-twee-te-twee.

 After my little visit at Soaring Heart , I continue on to Bedrooms & More. I walk in and tell the nice young man with his wire rimmed glasses and bottle of vitamin water what I’m looking for. He shows me three beds.

The first is the super-duper-organic bed from Organic Mattress Inc (I wonder how they came up with the name). It’s made of latex, organic wool and organic cotton. Even the thread is organic. He says they control the ozone in the manufacturing facility. I have no idea what this means. Then he says that when entering the plant, everyone must pass through a series of doors designed to control the interior atmosphere. None of the employees smoke or wear perfume (ever). They keep the wool and cotton material on a machine so it is constantly circulating (I’m picturing a giant taffy machine) because if you leave cotton or wool sitting on a shelf it can grow traces of mold.

Now, I have quite a collection of neuroses but germophobia does not happen to be one of them. I’m looking for something natural and non-toxic, but I don’t think I need my own ozone. That’s lucky for me because their least expensive twin is $1499. 

Paul isn’t just a whistler. He’s a snorer. So go ahead and picture this. Paul, sleeping on his back; he’s pulled the sheets up all along the bottom of the bed so his feet can hang over. He alternates a loud snore on the inhale and a few little notes of a whistled tune on the exhale. A deliberately whistled tune. Snore: whistle. Snore, tweedly-twee-te-twee. Snore, tweedly-twee-te-twee.

Then my new friend at Bedrooms & More shows me a chemical-free, inner-spring, Therapedic-brand twin that sells for $499. Nice enough, but because it is inner-spring it will age and sag.

It’s a little difficult to believe all this snoring/whistling business. I know that. So I’ve replaced the batteries in my voice recorder and stashed it in my nightstand drawer. Now I just need to memorize the button pushing sequence so I can get it to record in the dark. I feel like I’m stalking a nocturnal wild animal. As soon as I have something I’ll post it for you. I promise. (I know, you can hardly wait!)

The winner of the mattress showdown is the last option: the Natura Sunshine 6” latex twin. That’s 6” of all-natural, non-off-gassing latex, guaranteed not to hold an impression for 20 years, encased in a chemical-free cotton and wool package that serves as a natural flame retardant.

For $670 Josie is going to have this bed for more than 20 years. She’s going to have it forever. We’re going to attach it to her ankle. Instead of a ball and chain, she’ll have a mattress and chain. We’ll consider it part of her dowry. Instead of a goat or a cow and a trunk full of clothes, we’ll send her off with an old golden retriever, and an ancient mattress that still doesn’t hold an impression.  

Once the mattress decision was made, we purchased an inexpensive poly blend mattress pad without any plastic, petroleum or chemical additions. We topped it with this wool and cotton, waterproof and machine washable puddle pad. Then inexpensive cotton sheets and blankets because from what I understand none of the bedding is treated with flame retardants and even if pesticides are used on the cotton, very little of it transfers through to the cotton fluff.

Pillows? Don’t even get me started on pillows… After many hours (okay, minutes) of reading pillow labels I finally found a few that were not treated with iso-guard, sani-clean, rest-block or any other bullshit chemical created solely for the purposes of charging me more. Keep your damn chemicals to yourself. Oh, and another thing, no more dry clean only bedding. I’d rather have cooties than Perc any day. Eventually I bought three cheap machine-washable, poly-filled, chemical-free (as far as I could tell) pillows.

Well, finally, the mystery is solved, the puzzle complete, the big girl bed and accessories acquired.

Of course, I didn’t arrive at the decision to buy the Sunshine after just one visit. It took… a few. And a bit of pondering (obsessing?). Some of that pondering was done at night when I was supposed to be sleeping but instead was listening to my snoring/whistling husband and imagining the flame retardants working their way from my mattress into my blubber. I couldn’t turn my brain off and the day after I bought Josie’s mattress, I went back and bought one for Paul and me. New beds for everyone! Another round of new beds over here please bartender! Yes, that’s right, more beds for the crazy lady.

We bought an Englander 5003 all natural firm latex mattress. She’s a real beaut.





We made a giant box into a bus. We cut out windows and made a steering wheel from the scraps. She filled it with pillows and bowls of hot-cookie soup. She decorated the bus with stickers then reclaimed the stickers for her face. We disassembled her crib and moved it to the garage. She spent her first night on her big girl bed.

The big girl