Spanish Boy Suffers for Parents’ Stupid Decision

Or, perhaps, “The Obvious Has Happened: Unvaccinated Child Contracts Diphtheria.”

Or maybe, “Parents Who Don’t Vaccinate Are a Danger to Us All.”

Thirty years ago, Spain eradicated diphtheria.  Thirty.  Years.  Ago.  But of course, since then, parents have become smarter, braver, more educated, more independent, and in general, have a better understanding and grasp of the world, and think for themselves.  In other words, doctors are out to get us.  So are pharmacists, nurses, and anyone else who sells conventional medicine, with all those long leaflets covered in warnings.*  Obviously, a bunch of parents with a bone to pick, and a need to hang autism on something avoidable, are much smarter than everyone else.  And much safer, too.  After all, none of their kids are vaccinated, and none have contracted any of those diseases.  Until, of course, they do.

As I mentioned in my last post on the subject, pertussis is the most common problem, but measles and mumps sometimes pop up, as well.  This time, though, a kid is paying for his parents’ stupidity.  And if not for modern medical miracles, he’d have paid with his life, already.  A 6-year-old Spanish boy is being kept alive by 3 machines, after he contracted diphtheria.  No, he wasn’t vaccinated.

Worse yet, eight children – vaccinated children – who have been in contact with him, are being quarantined, because they tested positive for the disease.  They aren’t sick yet, and maybe they won’t get sick, but they are being quarantined as a preventive measure, to prevent an outbreak.  In other words, 8 children are suffering because of the stupid decision of this kid’s parents.  I don’t even want to think about any babies (too young to be vaccinated) who came in contact with him, or any pregnant women.  Let’s just not go there.

And we forgot the immunocompromised, didn’t we?

Parents, listen up, and listen good.

Choosing not to vaccinate your children means CHOOSING to endanger many, many other people.  CHOOSING to endanger other peoples’ children, sick people who have a compromised immune system, and tons of others.  It is not funny.  It is not nice.  It is not safe.  It is disgusting.  And anyone who dies or gets sick, is on your head.

We protect your kids, by being vaccinated and vaccinating our kids.  You endanger our kids’ lives, and our own lives, by not vaccinating, and not warning the rest of us that you are a potential disease carrier.

This kid’s parents feel, “terrible guilt,” as well they should.  They are guilty for their son’s condition.  And guilty for possibly spreading it to many other people, endangering them, as well.

They were not “hoodwinked,” or, “tricked,” by the anti-vaccination movement.  They chose to take a risk, a known risk, a deadly risk, without doing proper research and without thinking their decision through.

Because most parents who care will understand, that beside the risk of 0.0000000001% of the child reacting adversely to the vaccine, is a much higher risk of the child actually contracting the disease and being permanently disabled, if not killed, by it.  (Diphtheria has a mortality rate of 1 in 10.  Would these same anti-vaccine parents take an integrated NT scan with that number without doing amniocentesis?)  There is nothing in the vaccine, and no side effects in the vaccines, that are not found in, or caused by, the disease itself.  If the side effects of the vaccine scare you, think about how much worse it would be if your kid got the disease.  And then go beg for the vaccination, because it will maybe, maybe, maybe, give your kid a mild side effect, but it will very, very, very probably keep him from having to suffer from the actual disease.

And the parents whose kid “became” autistic right after the MMR vaccine?  Here I stand with MidlifeSingleMum; I believe that the kid showed signs of autism shortly afterwards.  But I have a few questions about whether the connection is causational, correlational, or nonexistent.  Possibly, the signs of autism were only noticed after the MMR vaccine, even though they were present long before; autism is tough to spot in tiny babies, unless you know what very specific signs to look for.  Possibly, the child would have become autistic anyways, and the vaccine sped the process up.  In any case, autism is not – or at least, has not been proven to be, after much research – a side effect of vaccines.  But it may be a side effect of untreated fevers during pregnancy.




*(Note to self and readers: Alternative medicine is medicine without the lengthy research, without supervision, and without leaflets stating contraindications and warnings.  For some reason, I’d rather know what I’m getting into than take medication without knowing its possible side effects, especially concerning my kids.  I do use natural remedies, but only after researching them thoroughly.)

Extended Breastfeeding: Until What Age?

Breastfeeding is the normal, natural, and ideal (and only truly side-effect free) way to nourish babies until the age of one year.  It is also an ideal nutritional supplement that mothers should strive to give their babies until those babies turn two (and I admit, at this I flunked, breastfeeding advocate as I may be; I nursed Shlomo until he was 14 months, at which time I let him quit).

But until what age is breastfeeding normal and acceptable?

Yitzchak’s older brother, Be’eri, nursed until his third birthday.  A few weeks before his birthday, his mother started saying, “Be’eri, soon it’s your birthday.  You’re going to be three years old.  Three years old is a big boy, and big boys don’t nurse.”  She said this over and over again, and on the morning of Be’eri’s birthday, he came over and asked to nurse.  Mom said, “Be’eri, today is your birthday!  You’re three years old!  Three years old is a big boy – ” and Be’eri finished, “and big boys don’t nurse,” with a sad face.  He turned around and walked away . . . and never asked again.

When I was born, I didn’t immediately gain weight at the pace the doctor thought was necessary.  Because my mother was an ignorant, first-time mother who had her kids before the Internet Age, she didn’t have access to the wealth of information that first-time mothers often have access to today.  When I didn’t gain weight, they told her to add formula, and she did.  Thereafter, I apparently decided that nursing was too hard (typical, by the way, for formula-supplemented babies) and it slowly tapered off.  I nursed either three months, six weeks, or six months – apparently, memories aren’t exact. FTR: I don’t blame my mother for this, although I am kind of peeved that I missed out on something so important because of a lack of information and/or misinformation.

But Esther, the sister immediately after me, didn’t gain weight, either.  Except that the doctor looked at the chart, looked at my mother, and said, “Your first was this way, too, right?  Go ahead and keep nursing.”  And she did.  (You’re welcome, Esther.  I missed out, and you gained from it.  In many more ways than just this one.  But that’s the price every firstborn pays, isn’t it?) Esther nursed the longest of all of us – two and a half years.

Shira, too, nursed a long time.  She liked nursing and would ask to “nack-n-nurse” – a word derived from my mother’s question, “Do you want a snack (in which case, you can have one, but not me) or do you want to nurse (i.e., really nurse, not two minutes and that’s it)?”  I think Shira nursed until she was two and a quarter.  I don’t remember until what age Noach and Ari nursed, but I’m pretty sure at some point Noach was supplemented with formula (we bought formula and new bottles for Pesach), though I’m not sure why.

In other words, both Yitzchak and I grew up with extended nursing as a normal, natural part of life.  One you talked about anecdotally, but didn’t see as out of the ordinary or something to think about.

When I saw a mother nursing a two+ year old on the light rail train a few years ago, I was impressed.  She told me, slightly embarrassed, that this is the only way she can calm him down, and that she often hears that he’s too old.  I told her, honestly, that I was very impressed, and admired her.  I told her that the longer they nurse, the better off they are, and that she’s really good for keeping it up despite what people say.  I also told her that I was also getting comments about how long I nursed my baby (Shlomo, who was betwen six months and 14 months at the time), and that I thought people were just jealous.  She laughed and said that was probably true.

So far, so good.

Nursing till two is ideal according to WHO; nursing till three or five has a lot of benefits.  But where do we draw the line?  Every once in a while, there’s a story about a mother who is nursing a five year old, six year old, or eight year old.  I would assume that no one is nursing a high school or college student, and no one is still nursing her engaged or married son or daughter.  Definitely, no one who is pregnant themselves is still nursing from their own mother – I think.

Again, where is the line?  If nursing a two year old is ideal, and nursing a three year old is beneficial, why is nursing a four, five, or six year old problematic?  See, in my mind, a four year old nursling is kind of odd, but totally a good thing; a five year old nursling is weird, and a six year old is just . . . huh?!?!  What happened there?

But those ages are random, aren’t they?  And what about the mother who nursed her six year old, and later realized that the six year old’s autism had been immeasurably helped by the fact that she had nursed so long?  Why is 4 years, 364 days, acceptable – but 5 years, 0 days, is not acceptable?

In other words, where do we draw the line?  And why do we choose to make that age the maximum limit for the duration of normal breastfeeding?

And, perhaps more importantly, why are we posting pictures and articles on news sites every time we hear about a mother who nursed a single child for more than three years?  Why does it spark such a hot debate, and why is everybody so up-in-arms about it?

I agree, breastfeeding needs publicizing and normalizing, especially after decades, perhaps even centuries, of formula propaganda.  But is publicizing breastfed six year olds helping the cause or hurting it?

And another question: When we say “extended nursing,” are we talking about nursing past the age of twelve months, past the age of two years, or something else?  I guess it all depends on what “normal nursing” would be.

Is Felix Kiprono Nuts?

When I first saw that Obama had been offered 50 cows, 70 sheep, and 30 goats for his daughter Malia’s hand in marriage, I was pretty shocked.  After all, that’s a really high bride price.  On the other hand, just the thought of Obama dealing with flocks of animals is pretty funny.

A Kenyan lawyer?  Well, two points to him for not dating anyone else in the meantime.  Ten points for not being already married.  Five points that he’s willing to teach her and wants to live a simple life (i.e., not after money).  But minus fifteen for the fact that he’s probably over thirty.  Ughh.

Until I saw his picture, that is.  He can’t be more than twenty, and she’s sixteen.  So he was a smart, black, fourteen year old interested in a ten year old, of his own race, whom he thought was pretty, smart, and from what he’d seen of her personality, he liked her.  And, he’s learning in Oxford University.  Listen, a young Kenyan learning to be a lawyer in Oxford is not bad.  Nix the minus fifteen and add seven more points.  And a fourteen year old (maybe he was twelve?) interested in a ten year old isn’t too weird, either.  Kiprono also has support from his family, which is a big thing.

Is it really so bad?  At first it sounded kind of gross.  But if they’re about the same age, it really isn’t that bad.  At all.

I don’t know what Malia will think of it, and I’m pretty sure that even if Obama lets them meet (and give me a break, that’s not even in his control), he won’t take the bride price.  What I do know is that Malia was raised in a Western culture and she will be the one to decide who she marries.

So, Felix Kiprono, I wish you the best of luck in your dates with Malia, and hope that if you are meant to be married, it will happen when you want it to.  See if you can get in touch with her, and what you think of each other in person.

One tip: Wait until she’s at least seventeen before starting to date, and until she’s eighteen before proposing.  Also, remember that she might already have a boyfriend.

Oh, and to all those who call pedophile, because he was interested in her at ten and still is interested her when she’s sixteen, I have news for you.  Ten may be a touch young (depends on how old the proposed partner is), but sixteen is legally a minor, physically an adult.  Yeah, you read that right.  Pregnancies in 15-19 year olds go the same way they do in 20-22 year olds.  It’s the under-15 crowd who isn’t physically adult yet, and if we weren’t living in a skewed Western society that promotes marriage at age 25 or 30, and children at age 29 or 33, then we wouldn’t think it’s weird for a sixteen year old to be getting married.

I agree, and I admit to being part of skewed Western society.  But honestly?  Either you have lots of girl/boyfriends for ten or twenty years, from when you’re a teen until you finally get married – and that’s not good;

or you never end up getting married because somehow you just missed the boat;

or you get married “young” at 22, and everyone raises their eyebrows;

or you become a teenage parent, who should be responsible, but doesn’t know what the word “maturity” means.

But really, people, sixteen is young, but it’s not that young.

The other thing that really bugs me is the tone of the comments on news websites.  Why is everyone laughing at Kiprono?  Sure, I chuckled, too, at the thought of Obama with all those animals.  But if you do the math, just the cows are probably worth around $100,000.  That’s a LOT of money – and unlike money, which is gone after it’s spent, animals reproduce, thereby allowing you to keep your wealth and do things with it.  What Obama has been offered is a very, very, very high, respectable price for a bride.  There is no point in marrying for money if you are paying so much just to get the girl – you may as well keep your money and let her father keep his.

I understand that there is something of a cultural clash here, and that most of the Westernized readers do not see the significance of Kiprono’s offer, but it is, and remains, a very respectable offer and a very impressive offer.  And I don’t think it’s appropriate to make fun of it.

And about the bride price?  Maybe in your world that’s a little outdated, but in Kiprono’s world, it’s not.  And not necessarily is that a bad thing, either.  It’s just a different way of looking at things.

Think of it this way: Most men reading this blog, for the privilege of getting engaged, paid a lot of money for a diamond engagement ring.  If you couldn’t afford an engagement ring, well, then, you evidently weren’t settled enough/ mature enough/ whatever enough to get married, right?  So engagement rings are like modern bride prices, except that: 1. They are “paid” to the girl herself, not her father, 2. not every girl wants one, 3. you can fake gold or fake a diamond, and it’s very hard to fake cattle.  Yitzchak also points out that in the process of courting, the man usually gives the woman gifts here and there; these, too, are part of today’s modern “bride price”.  So in Kenya they give it all at once, and to the father, to ask for the father’s permission/approval.  And in the Western world, they give it bit by bit, to the girl, and [/in the] hope that the girl’s father approves and gives permission.  But it’s really not that different.*

I would also like to say that I Googled “Felix Kiprono” and saw his Facebook page.  He really is as young as he seems to be . . .  and his Facebook page really is a teenage boy’s Facebook page.  Ughhh.  Kiddo, grow up a bit and get some class.  I couldn’t stomach the stuff on your page.  But hey, maybe Malia will think it’s cool.  You never know with teenagers . . .

One more point: True, they’ve never met.  But how many people “fall in love” with a “friend” on Facebook?  How many couples met through an online dating website or forum?  Assuming that they will meet before deciding to actually marry, being interested in someone you’ve never met is no longer that rare.




* I was one of those girls who did not want an engagement ring, at all, of any form.  I do not regret that decision.  But my mother was mad and felt embarrassed for me(??) and Yitzchak’s mother was convinced that I didn’t really mean it and just didn’t want Yitzchak to waste money, and pressured Yitzchak to go out and buy me one anyways . . .  because that’s what people do when they get engaged, they buy a ring.  And you’re not considered properly engaged unless you have one.  As is illustrated by my extended family, who didn’t think that Yitzchak could be a mature person, ready to get married, if he hadn’t spent the money on an engagement ring.  And my not wanting one was just “an excuse”.  True, I can do what I want, with or without family approval.  But I think it’s pretty clear that today’s version of a bride price is an engagement ring.  What would Obama say – for that matter, what would you say – if your daughter came home, engaged, without a ring to show for it?  Would you approve?  Would you pressure them to call the match off?  Many people would – which is why there isn’t that much culture clash, after all.

When I asked some people why an engagement ring is so important, one of the answers I got is, “So you’ll have something to sell when you need money.”  In other words, an engagement ring is a piece of property meant to help you out in times of need.  Which means that cattle is better, because once you’ve sold a ring, it’s gone forever.  But you can keep your cattle, breed them, sell milk, meat, cheese, and plow fields with them . . . and you probably won’t have to sell all of your cattle, if you’re smart, nor is it a one-time guarantee.  

The C and G Bagrut, Or, The System is Messed Up

The first bagrut (matriculation) exam this season was the English exam.  The way Israeli exams, in most subjects, work is like this:

A few hours before the exam, each school is sent more than enough test booklets, for every test that they will be giving.

They bring in  proctors, unrelated to the school, but usually from a sector and gender that will be mutually comfortable.

The proctors make sure that the room is ready for the test, and then the students come in.

The students hand over everything that is not a pen, food, or drink, or whatever material is allowed to be brought in (for instance, a dictionary, or simple Bible).

Then the proctor hands out the exams, the students do what they can, and hand it in.

This is the process in short.

But what happens when someone finds a copy of the test and uploads it to the internet, so that he and his friends can prepare?  It’s no longer an “unseen” text, and the questions are known, and the students have the opportunity to prepare answers . . . but not across the board, and therefore, the test isn’t really fair anymore.

The ideal would be to isolate that student, or possibly school, and punish them appropriately.  But half an hour before the entire country is going to take the test, there is no time for that.  So, what do they do?  The following is what they did while I sat in the teacher’s room and waited, and while my co-teacher kept calling the Bagrut hotline to find out, as soon as possible, what we were supposed to do.

First, the people in charge of the bagrut exams talk.  Then, they decide to change questions, and the new questions will be sent by email to the secretaries, to be printed and attached to the existing test booklets.

But what about the students who are LD, and therefore only do half the exam, orally?  Which questions do they do?  Previously, we had a list of which questions were necessary.  Now, what do we do?  What about those LD kids who have a disk?  The disk doesn’t have a recording of the new questions, and it’s not fair to make them do the test without having those questions read aloud to them.  And what about students who already started the test?

We got the list of questions for the first LD set, and the second LD set was told to do the original questions.  Then we saw the replacement questions – they were practically identical to the originals, except maybe in a different order.  The students who had already started had to start over, and had two options: 1. extra time, 2. moed bet (another chance to do the test, in a few weeks).  Even for those who chose to take the extra time, the test isn’t really fair.  It was late in the afternoon, and doing a matriculation exam is taxing.  I think it’s fair to say that the answers they gave the second time around were probably of a lesser quality than those they gave the first time around.

Because all anyone knew was that the exam that was supposed to be at 4:15 had been leaked, this whole process happened to 2 separate exams – C and G, which were both scheduled to take place at 4:15 that afternoon.

Two days later, we hear unwelcome news: Now, 45 minutes before the start of the exams, all students testing must be phone-less in the examination room.  Then the tests will be sent by email to the secretary, who will print them out for the students.  This is a bad plan, and if this is what we have come to, then we are in big trouble.  First, let’s see why it’s a bad plan:

1. 45 extra minutes in the exam room.  Expect grades to drop immediately, because that adds 45 extra minutes of stress, and certainly won’t help anyone do better on the test.

2. What happens if the school’s internet happens to not be working exactly when it needs to be?  What happens if a specific city has a power outage exactly when the bagrut needs to start?

3. Previously, the test booklets were sent to the schools.  Who is going to pay for the photocopying?  And for bigger schools, is 45 minutes going to be enough?

4. Who says the test won’t leak, anyways?

In my opinion, there are major underlying issues in the system, if this is what we have come to.  But on the other hand, I thought that anyways.  I’m not sure how standardized, stupidized, matriculation exams help our academic ranking, use, or level at all.  In fact, I’m pretty sure it does the opposite.  But I’m no minister of education, so my opinion doesn’t really matter, does it?

In addition, the new system punishes everyone.  Why not just punish the sector that started the leak?  I understand that in today’s age of Facebook and Instagram, the leaked test will make it to everyone.  But not fast enough to be a real threat to the test’s integrity, for the rest of the country.

Update: The Education ministry has responded to the anger of teachers and parents, by finding a middle ground.  Some schools will get direct delivery, and some schools will have to send two representatives who will be held responsible for the integrity of the exam in that school.  Students will have to hand in their phones 30 minutes early.  This is much, much better.  Will it work?  I don’t know.  Honestly, I am of the opinion that a student who wants to cheat will find a way to do it, no matter what guidelines are set.  This is a global problem (as in, affecting the entire Western world) and will not be solved until we stop making academics into a golden calf that everyone is required to serve.  

We, as a whole, need to put more emphasis on who people are, and a solid value system, and less on grades, academics, and what people have.  “Keeping up with the Joneses,” should not exist, and is a symptom of this same problem; when you have to prove that you are a worthwhile person by grades, money, or lifestyle, you cannot put the same energy into living according to proper values.  But that’s a subject for a different post.


Formula: Sometimes, Medically Necessary


Well, once upon a time, the gene for not being able to produce breastmilk was pretty rare.  If a woman couldn’t produce enough milk, she needed a wet nurse.  Wet nurses were expensive, though.  So if she didn’t have the money, and didn’t have the milk – well, let’s just say the gene wasn’t passed on to the next generation.  Survival of the fittest, did we say?  Perhaps of the richest, who often used a wet nurse even when it wasn’t necessary, to spare Mom the “burden” of breastfeeding.

Over the centuries, many tried and failed to find a substitute for human milk.  The formula we have today is the grandchild of the earliest experiments at alternative feeding; usually these alternative methods resulted in infant mortality within the first year; some from the food itself and some from bad hygiene.  In other words, it is the grandchild of the first non-toxic formula.  Obviously, back then, no one gave formula unless the baby didn’t have a mother, or the mother had not a drop of milk and no one to nurse her baby.

Since the age of barely non-toxic formulas, we’ve come a long way.  We’ve come so far, in fact, that unless you know a person’s medical history, it’s hard to guess which kids were formula fed and which were breastfed.

In other words, formula does a pretty good job of enabling these babies to grow, develop normally, and have a great chance at a good life.

That doesn’t mean, though, that formula is for everybody.  Formula isn’t human milk, and because of that, it wasn’t made for human babies.  However terrific a job it does at compensating for the lack of breastmilk, it still isn’t the ideal baby food.  Formula is like medicine.  In many ways, it IS medicine.  It was made for certain situations, and in those situations, it literally saves thousands, if not millions, of lives.  But just like you don’t give your child penicillin if he doesn’t have an infection, you shouldn’t give your child formula if he doesn’t absolutely need it.  Giving either of them too frequently, and without just cause, can have unwanted results. But, that’s not the topic of this post.

With the advent of good infant formula, a lot of babies survive who wouldn’t have had a chance previously.  With the advent of successful fertility treatments, and good prenatal monitoring, a lot of babies are born who wouldn’t have had a chance to be otherwise.  Combine these factors together, including the fact that if a couple’s infertility is female-factor, the same hormones that made pregnancy difficult may make lactation impossible – and there you have it, growing numbers of mothers and babies who are simply unable to breastfeed.

And – that’s fine.  In fact, it’s great.  It is absolutely terrific that these mothers are able to have babies, and that these babies are able to survive.  It’s a modern-day miracle, and one that we all have to be thankful for.

Again, the problem isn’t formula.  The problem is the abuse of formula. Let’s take a look at some possible contraindications to breastfeeding:

– As usual, mother has no milk.  By no milk I mean that she tried supplements, she tried dietary adjustments, she went to lactation consultants, she nursed and pumped around the clock to raise supply – and no luck.  Nothing doing.  The mother who suffers from this often feels inferior, because she feels betrayed by her body and unable to give her baby its most basic necessity – food.

– The baby who cannot form a vacuum.  This is usually fixable by some surgical procedure (yes, even clipping a tongue is technically a surgical procedure, even more so fixing a cleft palate), and until then, the mother has to stick it out by pumping and/or nursing.  Many mothers, too many, give up prematurely.  (There, but for my research, go I.)

– The mother who is taking a medication that is incompatible with breastfeeding, and there is no breastfeeding-compatible medicine available for her.

– The baby who is lactose intolerant, including lactose from human milk.  Sometimes this is fixable by a change in the mother’s diet.  Sometimes, no matter what the mother eats or doesn’t eat, the baby reacts.

– The baby whose mother got pregnant only a few months postpartum.  While this doesn’t mean that you have to stop nursing, if the baby is less than nine months old, chances are high that supplements will be needed.  Sometimes, the baby will start eating more solids.  Sometimes, if the baby isn’t old enough for solids or refuses, formula will be necessary.  Here I want to add that for the first two or three months of pregnancy, the milk stays suitable for the older baby.  Around week 16-20, it begins to turn into colostrum, and possible supply will decrease.  Again, any breastfeeding is better than none, and even if supplements are necessary for a few months, when the baby is born, the mother can dump the supplements in the trash and nurse tandem.

– The baby whose mother chose a method of birth control that is incompatible with breastfeeding.

– The mother who is hospitalized without being given an opportunity to pump.

– The mother who was given bad advice by medical or lactation “professionals”.

– The baby who has no mother.

There are probably more, but these are the main, basic, categories that come to mind right now.

Let me ask a question: Why aren’t there more banks for human milk?  At the moment, at least in Israel, there is a government-supervised bank, but the milk goes mostly to preemies, gastro-intestinally compromised babies, or babies without a mother.  Why can’t a “normal” baby get donor milk?

Some of you will say that it’s gross.  Well, I have news: Birth is gross.  Changing diapers is gross.  For goodness’ sake, any bodily fluid is gross.  Well, except breastmilk, in my mind; it tastes okay and it’s good for you (I tried a drop of my milk so that I’d know the difference between good milk and sour milk).  What grosses most people out, I think, is the idea of sharing the breastmilk.  But think of it this way: When you need a blood transfusion, do you say, “Ewww, gross, that blood was in someone else’s body?”  Of course not.  So, why is it gross to use donor milk?  As long as the donor is healthy – and if she is willing to feed the milk to her own kid, I think that she can pretty much be trusted – there’s no reason why not.  The only difference between donor milk and the wet nurses of old is that donor milk can be fed to the baby by its parents, while a wet nurse took all the responsibility on herself.

So, now there are Facebook groups and community milk banks.  But they aren’t widely enough spread, they don’t have enough donors, and not enough recipients are aware of them, or willing to use them.  But if formula, in the mind of someone who tried to breastfeed and couldn’t, is a sign of failure, why is donor milk worse?  It’s better – no, you couldn’t breastfeed yourself, but you still made sure that your child got breastmilk.

I think society needs a change of mindset.

Formula is a legitimate choice for those mothers who cannot breastfeed, or whose babies are unable to breastfeed.  Formula is a very, very, good thing, as long as it is not abused.  Those mothers who use it without medical necessity ruin how society views formula for those who have a legitimate need to use it.

Those who need formula should not have to pay the inflated price formula companies ask.  It is not fair, it is not just, to force someone who has no other option to pay an outrageous fee, for that many containers a year.  Formula that is medically necessary should be hugely subsidized.  Formula that is not medically necessary should be off the shelves.

Breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, is better than formula.  Feeding someone else’s breastmilk to your baby is not a sign of failure but a sign of courage and dedication.

Breastfed babies are the norm, not the exception.  Breastfeeding needs to be accepted and encouraged, not something shameful and disgusting.  I am not for a woman exposing her entire front and side on a park bench.  I am for women being able to sit and nurse, modestly and decently (I don’t use a blanket, but between the blouse and the t-shirt underneath, no one sees anything), in public places.  Without worrying if they will be yelled at, without feeling that the whole world is staring at them, without worrying about a smoker coming to sit down next to them (and then they are either stuck second-hand smoking for half an hour, or they have to get up and move in the middle), and without having to walk ten minutes, with a screaming, hungry, baby, to find a place to nurse.

Pumping should be legitimate and supported, especially for working mothers.  It should not be easier for a mother to switch to formula when she goes back to work, especially since, in the long run, it costs us all money.

Society needs a change.  But it won’t happen if we play Ostrich.



Things I Don’t Understand

There are things that I never understood, still don’t understand, and perhaps never will understand.

For instance –

Why is it okay for Obama (insert name of current U.S. president) to drop bombs on Iran, Syria, and whoever else he wants – and are not even distant neighbors – but it’s not okay for us to bomb Gaza?

Why is the world silent about all the inhumane things happening in Syria, but an attempt at humane fighting in Gaza – in self-defense, so that we can have some security and live normally – causes an uproar?

Why is it okay for our civilians to be bombed, but not okay for us to bomb a terrorist organization that uses its own civilians as human shields?

Why does the world expect us to make peace with people who don’t respect or value life, even that of their own people?

Why is it not obvious that security breaches would not occur if countries would use racial profiling?  Why is it taboo to say that a Middle-eastern, young, unmarried, Arabic-speaking man is more of a security risk than a 76 year old Jewish grandmother traveling with two grandkids?

Why does it seem like Kuala Lumpur keeps coming up in connection with terrorism?

Why can’t Israel stand up for itself, ever?

Why are children born to people who don’t know how to take care of them and don’t care to take care of them, while I know really good, responsible people who waited five years or more for their first child?

Why do adoption agencies make so much money off both sides of the equation?  Why not just have an agency that takes unwanted, neglected, or abused kids and places them with people who want kids?  (Israel, by the way, works that way: You pay a 2000 shekel fee for psychological testing to make sure you’re going to be a decent parent, 400 shekel for the court fee, and the rest is free.)

Why do people get married thinking that they can change the other person?

Why do people have kids just to leave them in daycare from the age of three months?  And why is it forbidden to ask that question?

Why is the mother’s happiness more important than the baby’s health?  Why is it not obvious to everyone that rooming in and nursing until the baby is at least a year are desirable choices, and being separated from the baby and formula feeding are extremely undesirable choices that can negatively influence the baby’s health later on?

Why is it okay to feed your child liquid plastic in public but not okay to nurse in public?

Why does it matter if you’re not obligated to use a carseat in a taxi?  Does it change the safety problem?  Are taxis inherently safer than private cars?

Why does it matter if you’re allowed to leave a six year old at home in charge of a two year old?  Does it mean that it’s safe to do so?

Why can’t people use logic?

Why are people so influenced by peer pressure?  Who cares what other people do?

Why is it so important to have a degree?  It doesn’t even promise you a good job anymore.

Why is it taboo to write that homosexual men have a much higher rate of colon cancer (and other things) than anyone else?

Why is it taboo to write that intelligence is on the X chromosome?  Why is it not obvious?

Why is it taboo to say what you think?  Why does everyone look at me odd for doing what I believe in?

What’s wrong with saying that not everyone can sit and learn Talmud, or become a rabbi?

What’s wrong with saying that some kids will never finish college?

What’s wrong with saying that not every kid has the capacity to become a doctor, lawyer, or millionaire?

Why do people put so much time, energy, and money into making sure they look nice?

Who says looking nice means being skinny, wearing designer clothes, and painting your face with makeup?

Why does perfume always stink to high heaven?

Who wants to buy clothes or furniture that will go out of style in five years?

Who invented fashion and what’s the point of it?

Why do people consider fashion to be important?

Why bother buying expensive brands of clothing for kids, who will just stain them?

Why drive kids nuts over stains on their clothing?

Why does everyone have so much STUFF?

Why do people fall for ‘this toy makes kids smarter’ nonsense? 

Why does everyone’s kid have to be the smartest, most advanced, in their class?

Why do people buy expensive birthday presents and waste so much time and energy on fancy parties?

Why do people waste so much time and energy on ANY party?

Why does it seem like everything turns into a status issue?

Why don’t parents talk to each other instead of getting a divorce?

Why is it so hard for people to admit that they made a mistake, say sorry, and try to correct it?  We’re only human, after all.

Why does it seem like so many divorcees blame the other and make their kids’ lives miserable?

Why do so many divorcees make the same mistakes the second time around?

Why do people ask obvious questions after the answer was written in an obvious place and explained three times?

Why is it so important to have a large circle of acquaintances?

What’s this thing called ‘entertaining’ and why do people do it?

What’s wrong with a kid having one close friend and not wanting to play with anyone else?  What’s wrong with being shy, or an introvert?

Why do people get married?

What IS marriage, anyways? [Answer: A social institution designed to protect the wife from being left without an income and with a bunch of kids; and designed to protect the kids by committing both parents to their welfare.  Therefore, gay marriage is pretty pointless, because kids don’t come naturally, nor will one be left without an income because they are busy taking care of the house, since both partners are of the same gender.]

Why do people want kids?

Why do people have kids without marrying or intending to marry?

What logic is there in making the word ‘spouse’ taboo and using the word ‘partner’ instead?  Gimme a break.

Why do people divorce only to get back together, or get back in bed together (sorry little sister Shira, just pretend you didn’t read that), even if they’re not back together?  Why not just work on the relationship, or give it up?

Why do teachers not like the questions that I ask?  Why do they think it’s off topic? 

Why do I seem to intimidate people who are supposedly in a superior position to me?  Rabbis, teachers, potential or real bosses; I even scared my first date (by saying I was learning something that I was told not to mention, but what was I supposed to say?).  And – surprise surprise – Yitzchak does the same thing.  But it’s different because he’s a guy.  Guys are allowed to know a lot; girls aren’t.  And while I’m extremely grateful that Yitzchak has it better than me – why is it not okay for girls to know anything?

Why is it that people comment on what a cute little boy I have until he pulls out his doll, and then people start to say what a cute little girl he is?  Does a man become a woman because he’s holding a baby?

Are we really a liberal-minded society?  [Answer: No.  We just pretend that we are and make outcasts of anyone who dares to question if the emperor is really naked.  And he is.]

Why does no one know how to answer my questions?

Why is it forbidden to ask why?


*     *     *      *     *

Yitzchak and I used to play the “Why Game”.  He would say something benign such as, “Can you clear the table?” or “Maybe you should work on your assignments,” and I would ask why.  He would give the reason, “Because it’s dirty,” or, “Because you want your degree,” and I would ask why.  And it would go on and on for half an hour, maybe more, until we were both racking our brains, me to come up with a question and him to come up with an answer.  Sometimes his answers got really complicated and scientific; usually when that happened I would sit through two or three answers and then just get tired.

It’s a fun game.  He’s the only one who ever had, or has, patience for my questions.

But we don’t play that game so often anymore, probably because we’re more tired and have less time, energy, and patience for such things.  We should, though.

About Marriage and Ethics

One of my friends, A., recently bought a new bookshelf and did some sorting.  Since she’s a Ukranian immigrant to Israel, A. knows English, but doesn’t know it well.  (But, she already knows two languages well, so she’s quite forgiven.)  At any rate, A. and her husband have been collecting random books for years, and they have a few in English.  As part of her cleaning/sorting project, she decided to add to my already overstuffed bookshelves (we need to buy another one) and give me all her English books.  After all, they’re just taking up space in her house; once upon a time, she had time to sit, read, and translate the books, but right now, they’re just sitting useless.  And it’s pretty obvious that if she ever wants to read on, all she has to do is call up.

Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Esther Jungreis, books, marriage, relationships, commitment, Judaism, the commited life, lifetime commitment, living together, eloping, judaism, marriage, parenting, children, grandparents, jewish life, jewish values, jewish women, women in judaism, hineni, outreachSo, we got a few new books.  And, because I’m a bookworm (so is Yitzchak, by the way) I spend time reading them.  They’re actually good additions to our library, for the simple fact that we don’t have a lot of “easy” reading around here.

Today, I decided not to get on the computer until around Shlomo’s bedtime.  (He is in bed, by the way.)  The book that I have been perusing for the past few days is “The Committed Life“, by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.  It’s a book I’ve skimmed before, but she’s an excellent storyteller and someone that I really admire.  So, without being paid for this, I am quoting two paragraphs that I think are right on target for today’s society:

. . . Pearl’s husband was a good man, devoted to his wife and children.  Because he couldn’t earn a living, he was held in contempt.  Were he a ruthless, nasty, but successful businessman, no one in the family would have suggested to Pearl that she seek a divorce.  There is something profoundly wrong with a value system that measures a man not by what he is, but by what he has. (pg. 65)

And then she says, later:

 . . . “Rebbetzin, I agree with everything you say, but if I don’t live with the person I’m seeing, I’m afraid he’ll walk out on me.”

” . . . You’re so afraid, so you give the guy everything he wants without any commitment on his part.  You move in with him, so now he has a girlfriend, a cook, a housekeeper, a companion – all free of charge with no responsibilities.  You convince yourself that you can trust him when he says, ‘Eventually we’ll get married, honey, I’m just not ready yet.’  A year goes by, then two, and then, as in your case, three years.  Meanwhile, your biological clock is ticking away, and with every year that passes, the prospect of having a family becomes more and more remote.  Should you bring up the subject of marriage, he puts you off with, ‘Not yet!’  Finally, if you really press, he may break up or agree, but even if he agrees, it doesn’t mean a thing, as you so well know.  At the last minute, after living together for three years, he suddenly discovers that he loves you, but there are some issues that separate you.  . . . countless couples who live together only to divorce after they were married.  . . . ” (pp. 262-263)

So, what do you think?

(This one is from December 30, 2012, but I think its message is timeless.)

Bubbles in Your Milk

Tell me, is it really so bad?  Shlomo has reached the bubble-blowing stage, and I have to say, I think it’s hilarious.  The sound of it, the happiness of the kid, the way the bubbles get higher and higher – it’s all win, no lose.  And really really funny.

Granted, I no longer blow bubbles in my drinks.  But that’s because, well, I’m an adult.

And seriously?  Did any of you stop blowing bubbles because your parents screamed at you about it?  Because your parents told you that it’s not socially acceptable?  I’m guessing not.  It’s a childish behavior, and a behavior that every child knows and has practiced several times over.  It’s also fascinating.  And guess what?  It’s also something of a phase that we all grow out of.

Will Shlomo blow bubbles in his milk in grade one, whether or not I tell him not to do it now?  Probably.  Will he blow bubbles in his water on a date?  Probably not.  Will he blow bubbles in his milk with his own kids?  Probably yes, and I really couldn’t care less.  He won’t do it in high school, he won’t do it in college, and he won’t do it while he’s at work.  If he does do such a thing as an adult, it will probably be either alone or with his wife when they are both blowing bubbles in their milk together.  Unless, of course, he is doing it with his kids.

So I am not planning on saying anything.  I said one sentence – “You should know it’s not socially acceptable.”  When the bubbles got high enough I made Shlomo choose between sitting on my lap beside the computer and blowing bubbles in his milk; he gladly got off my lap, and it’s not the first time he’s made that choice.  He knows that any mess he makes he has to clean up.  And when too much milk started ending up on the floor I told him that we don’t waste milk and if he spills any more I will take it away.  Guess what – he is now keeping the milk in the cup and not letting it overflow.

In addition to the bubble-blowing, he also stuck an index finger in the milk to mix it, he said his hand was in the milk and it got wet.  He also told me he was blowing bubbles and then said that they looked like balloons.  Of course, balloons need to be popped, so stick your entire fist in the milk cup to pop the balloons, and say, “boom, trach (guttural “ch” again).”

These are not behaviors that will last until adulthood and so I think – we think – that life will be more peaceful if we let them be.  Some behaviors, if left alone, will just get worse if they are not stopped.  Somehow, we don’t think bubble-blowing is one of them.

Happy blowing.

blowing bubbles, milk bubbles, bubbles in milk, bubbles in drink, milk, bubbles, straw

Fights or Abuse?

Nobody agrees on everything all the time.  Nobody goes through life without some screaming or arguments.  And if a parent says, “I can’t believe you did this!  How stupid can you be?” to their child, it’s not automatically abuse.  Neither is spanking a child.  On the other hand, if a mother slaps her twenty-year-old daughter, then maybe that is abuse.  And although taking your mother to court is not something to do immediately or without weighing the consequences, if the slap is not an isolated incident (and let’s face it, slapping a twenty-year-old rarely is), then maybe the daughter should think about it.  Because that slap is either harassment or abuse.

So where do we draw the line?

Let’s leave the question of corporal punishment aside.  Instead, let’s focus on verbal and emotional abuse.

abuse, cycle of abuse, violence, relationships, abuser, victim

I think one of the easiest ways to tell if something is abuse is to talk to the family.  There are a few classic characteristics to abuse:

– The victim is always wrong; the abuser is always right.

– If the victim were to have behaved differently, the abuser would not have responded in such a fashion.

– The victim is afraid of the abuser.

– The abuser doesn’t see anything wrong with his or her actions; to the contrary, they are always justified.

– The abuser may feel that the victim ‘made him/her’ act in a certain way.  “You made me hit you.”

– The victim will often take responsibility for the abuser’s behavior: “If I were better, s/he wouldn’t have hit me.”

– The abuser is under so much pressure that the victim should have known better

– The abuser’s behaviors are often inconsistent and may change dramatically in a short span of time.

And there are many more.verbal abuse, verbal child abuse, child abuse, abusers, victims, relationships

What’s important to remember is that abuse is a pattern, not an isolated incident.  If you get frustrated one day and slap your kid on the hand, as long as it is only once a year or once every six months, you’re not abusive.  But if it becomes a habit, or happens once in a while after you’ve been yelling at your kid for half an hour straight, every single day – then maybe you are.

Okay, that probably wasn’t a good example.  But point made.

If that is abuse, then what is a fight?

A fight happens when two people of equal power disagree.  Abuse happens when one person wields more power than the other.  It may be husband and wife, with either one being abusive.  A friend may be abusive, or a coworker.  Usually, though, a child can’t abuse a parent – simply because they are not in charge.  They cannot throw the parent out.  They cannot hit the parent without getting seriously injured.  They cannot refuse to feed the parent.  They might bite the parent, or hit the parent.  But do you think that will go unnoticed?  Probably not.  Unless the biter or hitter is a toddler or preschooler who is just learning (and sometimes even then) the parent will usually strike back.  Children cannot abuse their parents until the roles switch and the parents become dependent on the children.

There is a fight, where we are both equal.  And then there is abuse, where one person wields their power in an unhealthy way over another person.  And if the less powerful person asks for help from family or close friends, they can usually expect to be told that the abuser is right, and they should apologize.

Because that’s the way life works.  No one wants to get on the wrong side of the more powerful person – especially when that person has a temper and a tendency to be abusive . . . even if the person in question doesn’t realize that it’s abuse.









*This post was inspired by my sister, who told me to write about [burning] bridges, and the importance of building bridges in our lives.  Since I don’t like to think that I burn bridges just for fun, I started thinking of what I could write instead . . .

What Is Dating Like?

In most Orthodox Jewish communities, boys and girls are taught separately.  Sometimes they are in the same building but separate classes, but usually, there are different schools for boys and girls.  (There are educational advantages to this, just as there are disadvantages.)  Friendships are usually same-gender only.  In fact, the only really acceptable way to speak to someone of the other gender who is not related to you, is to date.

However, you can probably guess that by the time a person gets to the stage where they’re looking to get married, they don’t have too many friends of the opposite gender.  So, someone sets them up (or, increasingly, they find each other on a religious dating website, with or without a site matchmaker).

Here’s how it goes:

1) Someone suggests them/they see a profile that might be a good match.

2) They ask for references for the other person.

3) Someone they know and trust (but sometimes they themselves) calls  these people up to ask different questions about the prospective date’s personality, background, etc.  What we are checking here is that if they like each other, the marriage can work.  Sometimes you can like someone with totally different goals than you, who wants to live on a different continent.  That’s called heartbreak for nothing – you can’t build a home simultaneously  on two different continents.

4) If all sounds good, they meet.  There may or may not be a direct phone conversation between them if they were set up, though usually, there is.

Sometimes individuals who use dating sites skip the reference-checking stage.  Usually when that happens, they end up complaining that they have no idea why they were set up with this person or why they wasted their time and energy.  It’s not the best idea to skip it; the step is there for a reason.  A very good reason.

This whole system is called “shidduch dating”.  Some people find their own spouse, through casual meetings.  It’s not the norm and is usually considered to be more of a risk.  But it does happen.

Marriages that are set up with this system are may be low on passion, but they are usually very high on commitment.  “Young love,” is left to develop after the commitment has already been made.  There are, of course, some people for whom it never develops.  There are also some bad marriages that come out of this system.

But hey, if America has a 50% divorce rate, and there are couples who aren’t happy everywhere, it’s not too bad, right?  Everything has its pluses and minuses. . .

Anyways, yesterday, Yitzchak and I were talking, and I told him, “You know, I wonder what it would be like to date.  It kind of sounds interesting.”  He said, “I wonder, too.”

We’re married.  How come we don’t know what it’s like to date?

I had one date, with one guy, before I met Yitzchak.  I truly don’t know why we were set up, especially since we did the reference step (I didn’t do the calling).  He wanted to join his family business in South Africa.  I had just immigrated to Israel and was stuck here for at least another five years.  Nice guy, but really no point in a second date.

The second person I dated was Yitzchak.  I was his first.  And we didn’t go through the “shidduch system,” exactly.  We did the reference step, but we met on a forum.  I guess we were something between the DIY and the dating sites.  It wasn’t a dating site, although we weren’t the first couple to meet there.  There were risks, obviously, because online you have no idea who the other person is.  That’s why the reference step was super-important to both of us, and we didn’t meet or talk on the phone before it was finished and we knew that the other wasn’t a wanted criminal or some kind of abusive monster.

Even after we met, because of technical issues, we didn’t date the “regular” way, with two-hour dates twice a week or something.  Yitzchak insists that our dates were normal and most of his friends 3 or 4 had 8-hour dates, too.  I don’t know.  But it sure wasn’t what everyone does . . . and I’m curious to know how it works for everyone else.  Sure, I’ve heard stories, but it’s not the same.

And on the other hand . . . I know so many people who would gladly switch places with me, and we really do count ourselves lucky to have found each other so easily.  So even though we’re curious, I think it’s just better that we stay that way.  Everything has its pluses and minuses, right?

This is one big plus, with the only minus being curiosity – and the fact that I really don’t know what to answer my friends sometimes when they ask me for dating advice.

Truthfully, I don’t recommend trying to follow in our footsteps.  It was risky and it took a toll.  Yes, I did it.  But I didn’t plan it.  You kind of take what G-d gives you, you know?  But it’s not a good idea to go looking for risks or trouble, just for the sake of it.

The following is a diagram of how shidduch dating usually looks.  It’s a slight parody, but might make it easier to follow, in case I wasn’t clear.