Monthly Archives: May 2011

The Peanut Puzzle Part I

After my last post, I know you’re all relieved to know that we finally settled in around the one pool in the greater Las Vegas area that did not have loud music. It was a plain rectangle that was in the shade of the high rises until 1:00 every afternoon but we made do.

The highlight of my reading was this: “The Peanut Puzzle: Could the Conventional Wisdom on Children and Allergies Be Wrong?” Sorry, they won’t let you read the article.

Um… YES.

Since 2000 the “conventional wisdom,” endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, has said that parents should wait until a child is 6 months old before introducing solid foods. Then parents should start with the foods that are least likely to cause allergic reactions. This late introduction was thought to make children less likely to develop food allergies.

In the past decade peanut allergies have doubled. Clearly there’s something wrong with our “conventional wisdom.”

I hated giving Josie formula. Spooning powder from a can seemed like the antithesis of nourishment – it was the ultimate processed food. I was anxious to start her on solid foods, but I followed the conventional wisdom and waited until she was 6 months old to give her a bite of cooked sweet potato. In spite of my efforts, or maybe because of them, she’s currently allergic to eggs, soy, white fish and tree nuts.

Doctors Hugh Sampson and Scott Sicherer at Mount Sinai Medical center have found that food allergens are unavoidable and babies come into contact with protein molecules though particles in the air and on skin and in other food and that by giving them such small doses we are actually making their systems more sensitive and more likely to develop allergic responses.

“You can’t avoid food proteins,” Sampson, said. “So when we put out these recommendations we allowed the infants to get intermittent and low-dose exposure, especially on the skin, which actually may have made them even more sensitive.”

Based on a report submitted by Sampson and Sicherer, The American Academy of Pediatrics overturned this practice in January of 2008, stating – “Current evidence does not support a major role for maternal dietary restrictions during pregnancy or lactation… There is also little evidence that delaying the timing of the introduction of complementary foods beyond four to six months of age prevents the occurrence of [allergies].”

Now what? The retraction of the previous recommendation leaves a hole where the current advice should be placed, but there’s nothing there. At this point, all we know is that we don’t know what we thought we knew and I guess that’s a great first step.

When did you introduce solids? How did that work out? Does your child have allergies?

To be continued…


We went to Vegas on vacation recently. Paul was there for work and, well, it seemed like it would be easy to join him for a week of sunshine and swimming.

We found a great condo and our accommodations were perfect. We had a kitchen, living area and big bedroom. We were upgraded to a corner unit on the 29th floor with a view of the strip and the desert beyond. The morning after we arrived Josie and Paul headed down to the pool at 9:00 am. I could watch them playing near the lazy river from our room. It was 80 degrees. It was perfect.

Then I went to the pool.

First there was the walk to the pool lined with monitors advertising a Vegas show that involved the shaking of bare butts. Please, could you make sure the hallway content is rated G? Then, we got to the pool and starting at 9:00 am every morning they play LOUD music. I mean so loud that I couldn’t read.

And, no, they could not/would not turn it down for the pasty white lady reading her New Yorker in the shade.

Then at about noon the 20-something’s descended on the lazy river. The pool bar sold fruity, boozy concoctions in gigantic plastic containers. I can’t call them cups because they were so much more than that. They were like 18 inches long, shaped like barbells and outfitted with long straws and lanyards so that you could wear your vodka slurpee around your neck. That way, if you’re too drunk to lift your glass you can still manage to get the super-long straw into your mouth. Awesome.

There was a guy in our hallway who was so drunk at 3:00 in the afternoon that he couldn’t get his zipper up. He stumbled over himself apologizing while Josie stared at him wide-eyed. I’m sure that was one of his proudest moments.

OMG, Vegas? What was I thinking?

We did eventually find one pool that didn’t have loud music and I did eventually get some reading time while Paul kept our girl from drowning in the pool. She, by the time we left, was swimming and breathing on her own and diving to the bottom to retrieve toys. I think she gained 5 pounds of muscle that week. Think of what she’ll be able to do when she reaches the ripe old age of FOUR. I look forward to watching her swim laps from the quiet shade of a palm tree somewhere other than Las Vegas.

PS – I intended to write a quick intro to this article I read, about kids and food allergies, but it looks like I’ve lost my way. That’s how it goes some days. I guess you’ll have to check back next time to hear about the important stuff.

PSA: Small Publishers and Independent Booksellers

Before Who in This Room was picked up, I had a vague idea of why independent booksellers were important. Now I understand.

When Who in This Room made the rounds to the big publishing houses, I was told, over and over, that the writing was good, the story enjoyable but that it wouldn’t sell. In a few cases, the editors were in favor of the book, behind the book, but the process always got hung-up in the marketing department. They didn’t know how to sell the book and they weren’t willing to take the chance. Too risky, they said.

Finally, the book was presented to CALYX Books, a small press who has been discovering and publishing women writers for thirty-five years. They were the ones who believed the book would sell and decided to take a risk by publishing it. I am flattered and honored by their generosity. They publish two issues of their excellent literary journal and one book each year. That’s right, they publish one book a year. They take great pride in the work they do and they should, they do great work.

You know all those tables near the entries of the big chain bookstores, piled high with books, the latest, soon to be best sellers? Those spaces are all paid for. The big publishing houses purchase those spaces to push books they think will do well. You can be sure that Who in This Room will not occupy one of those spaces. CALYX Books simply can’t afford it.

The people who work in independent bookstores – Elliott Bay, Third Place, Powell’s, Village, Tattered Cover and many others – they actually read the books they sell. They read the books and they develop opinions; they make recommendations based on those opinions and upon what they hear from customers. They put books they like on tables and, sometimes, they put the books they like into customers’ hands. I am grateful for them and I am hopeful that some of them will put my book into yours.

PS – CALYX Books is always in need of donations. They are a 501c3 so your contribution is tax deductible. You can also support them by subscribing to their fantastic journal. One of the stories from Who in This Room will be featured in the next edition.


A friend and I were recently engaged in a riveting email exchange about the merits of various natural cleaners and detergents when I realized our conversation was a blog post looking for a place to happen.

Just so you know I DO totally feel like the happy homemaker right now. Does your soap give you dishpan hands? But I’m going to carry on because this is useful information.

Please add to the conversation by sharing your favorite, or least favorite, products in the comments section.

Here we go.

We like Seventh Generation for the bathroom. I can’t say that I have done any research as to its claims of naturalness but I can say that they sell it at PCC, my local co-op, and they are usually pretty good about vetting products.

We like CitraSolv for the rest of the house. I love orang-ey smells!

I know there are a lot of you out there who use water and vinegar mixtures. How does that work? Do you use them exclusively for every application or do you occasionally slip a product in here and there? What ratio of water to vinegar works best?

For dishwasher soap, we use CitraDish. I used to have this terrible dishwasher that couldn’t clean a thing. I tried several brands until I finally found this one. It made my terrible dishwasher look good.

Now, for laundry… I was reading a post on one of my favorite blogs recently where she asked her readers what they used for laundry detergent. A ton of people recommended Charlie’s Soap. I’d never heard of it. I ordered some and it is awesome, non-toxic, and it makes my clothes and towels really soft. I cannot believe I just said that. Do you have dishpan hands?

Please, don’t make me suffer up here alone. Tell me what you like and don’t like. xoxo

PS – dispan hands?

Josie’s Middle-Aged Baby Sister

Josie and I were at a stoplight one day about 18 months ago, before we’d decided to adopt again, when Josie told me her baby sister was coming and pointed out the window. She said her name was Hona and I was super-surprised to find out she was a middle aged white woman wearing sneakers.

We made the decision to adopt again about a year ago but since we weren’t going to start the process right away and we knew how long the process takes we decided to wait as long as possible to tell Josie. So we still hadn’t told her when a friend said, “Hey, if you need any baby boy stuff, just let us know.” Josie was sitting on my lap and she turned, put her hand on my tummy and said, “You have a baby in dere?!” Oops. I told her, that no, I didn’t have a baby in there but that we’d talk about it later.

When we got home late that night she said, “Mommy, who’s Michelle?” Oh heavens. Michelle (name changed) is Josie’s birth mother. I looked at Paul, I guess we’re going to talk about this now… He nodded. So we did. We talked again, about Michelle and the women who choose families for the babies in their tummies.

Then I told her that she was going to have a baby brother or a baby sister and that she was going to be the big sister. She threw her head back and covered her face with both hands. She made a long yelling/laughing aaaahhh sound that could have been agony but that I knew was excitement. I knew the sibling-induced agony wouldn’t come until later, hopefully much later. I could see the smile even under her fingers. Hona would be with us soon.