Tag Archive | Children

Formula: Sometimes, Medically Necessary

When?

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.

 

 

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A Trip to the Consulate

Part of being an expat is deciding if you want your kids to be registered as citizens of your birth country.  Sometimes you want the tax benefits; sometimes you think that it is better for the kid in the future; and sometimes you think that it is worthwhile, or necessary, of the present.

We never really debated the subject; it was just kind of obvious that since Yitzchak and I are both American, and we have family in the States, that we would register our kids as American citizens.  When Shlomo was born, and we realized the expense involved (admittedly a pittance in comparison to expats who are not married to other expats, or who did not spend any time actually in America), we thought about just getting him a visa for his Israeli passport whenever we wanted to travel.  Not only did this turn out to be against the rules, it wasn’t even worthwhile financially.  We spent about a thousand shekels on getting him a Report of Birth Abroad and an American passport, and then we still had to get him an Israeli passport (because we were planning to travel).  Now, we had to register Tova.  Having no immediate travel plans, we pushed it off and pushed it off and finally decided to get it over and done with, for the sake of taxes.

Here is the story, for those who are interested in life in Israel and life as an American expat.

Part One: Making the Appointment

There is a U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv, and there is a U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem.  Because we used to live in Jerusalem, we went to the consulate to register Shlomo.  Because I hate Tel Aviv, and know where the consulate is (since I’ve been there before), I emailed the consulate and asked if we could still come to Jerusalem, even though technically the consulate is only for the residents of Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria.  The response I got was that we could go to the consulate and did not have to go to Tel Aviv.

Throughout this narrative, I write, “I,” because while we weren’t sure if Yitzchak would end up coming, it was pretty obvious that I had to go, since I am nursing Tova, and was still on maternity leave.

Then, I had to make an appointment with the consulate.  There were a few issues with this:

1. It is, at minimum, a two and a half hour trip into Jerusalem, not including the bus that goes from the Jerusalem Central Bus Station to the consulate.  Two and a half hours, multiplied by two trips (there and back) is already five hours minimum.  From the Central Bus Station to the consulate is about an hour each way, by bus.  Taxi might be faster, but costs a lot – maybe 100 shekel, or more, per trip.  The taxi may not save us time, either, because Jerusalem has awful traffic jams.  So far, we have a seven hour trip at minimum – and that’s not even counting the time we would spend at the consulate, which is calculated to be about an hour and a half, on average.  Total amount of time to travel from home to the consulate and back: 8.5 hrs.  Or, in other words, an entire [work] day.

2. We needed to get Tova a Consular Report of Birth Abroad.  Let it be known that this is an absolutely gorgeous document.  We also wanted to get her, and Shlomo, social security numbers.  When Shlomo was a baby, I sent in an application for a social security card, but we never got the card.  I don’t know if the application was rejected or if the card never reached us.  At any rate, because we wanted their social security numbers for taxes, we wanted to make the appointments in enough time to send in the forms at least before the June 15th expat tax date.  Looking back, I realize that my calculation was foolish, since it can take up to six months to get the social security cards.  But no matter.  We need to do it, and the sooner the better.

We debated whether to get Tova a passport at the same time.

The pros: No need to worry or race if we end up traveling, or if we decide to move back for whatever reason.

The cons: An extra $105 (about 420 shekel), and it expires in 5 years; Yitzchak would need to waste an entire day so that both of us would be present, or we would have to waste money on a notarized consent form that he allows his child to get a passport when he is not physically present; if both Yitzchak and I are at the consulate, where is Shlomo?

Which leads us to #3:

3. Only the people who are absolutely necessary for the appointment are allowed into the consulate.  In other words, if you are applying for a Report of Birth Abroad, one parent accompanies the child.  If you are applying for a passport, both parents.  But – if you have another child who has nothing to do with the appointment – he will not be allowed into the consulate.  Hmmm . . .  I considered making a fake appointment for Shlomo (because, after all, he did need a social security card, even if I didn’t need a separate appointment for it), but Yitzchak reminded me that Shlomo coming with us meant Shlomo running laps in the consulate, for about an hour.  We decided to that it was worth trying to avoid having to discipine him.  After all, what’s wrong with running laps?  (Answer: Nothing.  It’s just that the consulate isn’t really the place to do it.)

4. We are always loath to part with such large sums of money.  The trip to Jerusalem is about 80 shekels round trip.  The Report of Birth Abroad is $100 (400 shekel).  That’s a LOT of money.  But we have no choice; we are required to file taxes and we want to be able to write down all exemptions possible, just in case, somehow, it may in some fashion look like we earn enough to actually owe something.  Plus, we probably qualify for $1000 a year, per child, in tax returns.  With Shlomo we were too lazy, and stingy, to get an accountant to deal with it, and we didn’t know how to file ourselves.  But things have changed since then (mostly expat tax laws), and it looks like, lazy or not, we need to file this year.  Which means, why not do it all at once?

5. The appointments are made online.  You can only make one appointment per child.  I cheated the system, not knowing which day I wanted to go, and wanting to make sure I had an appointment that worked for me.  The system allows you to make appointments only for the next three weeks or so, and they get taken very quickly, leaving only 8 or 8:30am appointments, and even then, only on one or two days out of the month.  You need to really keep on top of the appointment site in order to get one that works.  I made two appointments for Tova, and got past the system’s block by changing a letter in her name.

Part Two: The Stupid Rules

American security is infinitely stupider than Israeli security, for the simple reason that they do not know what they are doing.  One example is what I wrote above – only the people pertinent to the appointment are allowed entry.  Here are a few others:

– If you come more than half an hour early for your appointment, you may be denied entry and your appointment will be rescheduled.  Gee, it’s nice you wrote that on your website and not just on the window outside the consulate, for folks like me who are dependent on buses, live a few hours away, and called Egged, only to be told that the only bus that goes to the consulate leaves once an hour, at a quarter to the hour, and takes 50 minutes to get there.  It’s a shame I didn’t schedule my appointment differently.  On second thought, maybe I couldn’t have scheduled it so that it worked with the bus schedule.

– If you have a stroller, you need to leave it at the gate.  Oh, and they aren’t responsible if it gets taken.  Make sure you bring a sling, if you have a baby, or your arms will get exhausted.

– In order to be allowed entry, you first need to prove you have an appointment.  This you do by handing them the printout of your appointment details and the documents and forms that you brought with you.  The guy you proved it to gives you a pass.  Then, pass in hand, you go to the security guy, who asks you more questions, gives you a basket to put your phone and charger in, and asks if you have other electronics that need to be in the basket.  Basket in hand, you go through the doors, to pass through the metal detector and put your bag through the x-ray machine.  If, like me, you have forgotten about an electronic device that you happen to have in your bag (I forgot that I had the camera), they get very angry at you and treat you like you are a bigger threat than Iran.  The contents of the basket are put into a “cell” and you are given a card with the cell’s number, which you present in order to get your belongings back when you are done.  By the way, they are not responsible for any electronics put in the “cell”.

– Let’s say you need to make a phone call.  You go back to security, show your card, get your belongings (all of them), walk outside, make your phone call, and need to be readmitted by the guard.  Let’s say you need to get a document or whatever, and you walk out for a second.  Same deal.

– They take checks, written for the exact amount, according to that day’s exchange rate.  No credit cards.  They take cash, but do not give change.

– No one is allowed to wait outside the consulate.

– No sealed envelopes are allowed in.

For more stupid rules please see here.

Part Three: The Debate 

I had a Thursday appointment and a Friday appointment.

Advantages of Thursday:

– If only I go, and I am on vacation, it is just a waste of a day (and not a waste of two peoples’ days and double the money).

– It leaves me all of Friday to prepare for Shabbat.  Therefore, it is less stressful.

– I can also do some clothes shopping while I am there (I hate clothes shopping, but sometimes there is no choice); on Friday the stores close early and I probably won’t have time to shop.

Advantages of Friday:

– If we are not home for Shabbat, it is not a wasted trip.

– Yitzchak has books to pick up in Jerusalem; if we go as a family and are not home for Shabbat, we “kill” two birds with one stone.

– We do not want to be home for Shabbat anyways, since it is the Shabbat before Pesach.

– If I go on Friday by myself, I can meet my friend, who I haven’t seen in ages.

In the end, my cousin saved the day.  We went on Thursday afternoon to Jerusalem, I did some shopping, we stayed at my cousin’s overnight, and early in the morning I went to the consulate, and Yitzchak went to pick up his books.  Then, we all traveled to Kfar Chabad for Shabbat, and after Shabbat went home.  On Thursday night we changed the clocks, which meant an hour less of sleep for everyone, but more time to get things done.  It was tough, because we were exhausted from all the running around, but we made it.  My cousin was also traveling for Shabbat, so we helped them get out, as well.

Total time spent going to and from the consulate: 4 hours.  Not bad, considering that if we had traveled to Jerusalem just for the consulate, it would have taken an entire day.

Oh, and I forgot – Friday was our fifth anniversary.  And we spent it traveling.  To and from the consulate, from Jerusalem to Kfar Chabad.  We had thought to do something else, less for the anniversary than because it was an excuse to get a babysitter and take a breather.  But in the end, like every year, we forgot the date until afterwards.

Stay tuned for the next section of this riveting narrative . . .

Why Do Mothers Choose to Formula-Feed?

During my maternity leave, I went back to an old hobby of mine – reading about baby feeding, health, and development.  Probably, all of you know on which side of the breastfeeding – formula feeding divide I very firmly stand.  That said, it irks me a lot when people say, “The most important thing is a happy mother; if breastfeeding is too hard for you, it’s better to just give your baby formula and quit nursing, as long as you’re not stressed out.”  Which, by the way, is bunk.  Then there are those who say that mothers who choose, from the outset, to add formula, care just as much about their babies, and do not do it for convenience but for the baby’s sake.

I’ll let Alpha Parent say it; here’s a quote from her post comparing past and present in baby feeding:

Self-interest is still quoted as the prime reason for not breastfeeding. From the UK Department of Health Infant Feeding survey (which involves around 8000 mothers and is done every 5 years): “The most common reason for choosing to breastfeed was that breastfeeding was best for the baby’s health, followed by convenience. The most common reason for choosing to bottle-feed was that it allowed others to feed the baby, followed by a dislike of the “idea” of breastfeeding.”

And here’s some more, for those who claim that breastfeeding doesn’t allow you to sleep at night:

Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep and their sleep is of higher quality. A breastfed baby can eat as soon as he is hungry. If co sleeping, that means before the baby even starts to cry. A formula-fed baby has to wait for formula to be prepared and warmed, in the meantime getting more and more distressed and agitated as well as waking others in the household. When breastfeeding, even the mother does not need to wake up fully to nurse her baby. Furthermore, the hormones produced during nursing have a relaxing effect, and the mother is likely to sleep even better when she nurses her baby. Studies have shown that parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept an average of 40-45 minutes more than parents of infants given formula (Doan et al). Parents of infants given formula at night had more sleep disturbance than parents of infants who were exclusively breast-fed at night.

And for those who think that Dad can feed the baby at night if you formula feed:

I’m sorry to burst SMA’s bubble but as Gabrielle Palmer (The Politics of Breastfeeding, 2009) has pointed out, “The reality is that few fathers actually do take the whole responsibility of infant care and most artificial feeding is still done by mothers”. Pauline Lim, author of the very useful book Teach Yourself Successful Breastfeeding, concurs that:

“In reality few partners actually share the night feeds, so don’t be tempted to stop breastfeeding for this reason. There might be an odd occasion when this happens but the novelty wears off very quickly, leaving you firmly back in charge of the night-feed. This is particularly true when your partner has to get up for work.”

Remember when we were dealing with tongue-tie?  I pumped and went to sleep, and Yitzchak fed her the pumped milk.  Or, sometimes, I just pumped while he fed Tova the previously pumped bottle.  However, this was for a very limited time, until Tova finally learned how to nurse while lying beside me in bed, and Yitzchak did it not because he ideologically believed it was better for him to share the nighttime burden (because there is no question that nursing is better than getting a bottle of pumped milk, no matter how fresh), but because I was so weak, out of it, and barely functioning that he basically had no choice.  It wasn’t easy for Yitzchak and I don’t think we would have been able to keep it up long-term.  Especially since I would wake up when Tova cried and then have to fall back asleep. During those early weeks, however, it was a lifesaver (and you know something is wrong when it’s easier to pump than it is to nurse).

Here’s a study that compares the health of formula fed, or mixed formula and breastmilk fed, babies with those exclusively breastfed for the first six months.  Obviously, any breastfeeding is better than none, but that does not mean that supplementing a breastfed baby with formula does not have any undesirable side effects.  Another thing that should be mentioned is that breastfed babies are not healthier than formula fed babies; rather, formula fed babies are sicker than breastfed babies.

Don’t worry, give me a few days and we will get back to the elections.  We are still waiting on the final 1% of votes to come in, and until they do, nothing is official and the only thing we can do is speculate.

 

Poopy-Training and Tzuk Eitan

Remember how, during Tzuk Eitan (Operation Protective Edge), we were potty-training Shlomo and a siren went off while he was on the potty?

Well, 6 months later, we are about back to where we were then.  How we did it, I don’t know.  I think by just making a direct reward, a direct consequence, and letting it be.  In other words, the direct reward and direct consequence are the only things that we associate with pooping.  It was just getting to be too much, and we felt like everything in his life, and ours, was connected to poopng . . . something we didn’t feel was healthy or beneficial.

Direct reward: He gets his pacifier from the moment he’s off the potty until he leaves for gan the next morning.  There is no connection between the pacifier and the potty, you say?  You’re right.  Except that the pacifier was the only thing he really seemed to care about on a long term basis.

No potty, no cookie?  No problem, I don’t need a cookie anyways.

Potty and half an hour of uninterrupted playtime with one of us, even on a busy day?  Well, that’s nice, but I get it enough anyways, and when I really want it I’ll poop in the potty.

No potty, no pasta (because pasta is constipating and he eats too many carbs)?  Who cares, I like vegetables and as long as I’m not hungry it doesn’t make that much of a difference.

No potty, no tablet? Meh, who cares.

Poop in pants and pick it up with a wipe?  Who cares?

Poop in pants and pick it up with my hands?  Ewwwwww.  But it’s not so bad, it gets a reaction, and the solution is simple: Don’t poop.

No potty, no pacifier?  But I waa-aa-aaa-annn-ttt.

Originally, I suggested trying poop-f0r-pacifier for a single week to see if it would work.  The idea was that at the end of the week, something would have changed.  Either he would give up the pacifier, he would poop in the potty, or possibly both.

In the end, what happened was none of the above; and all of the above.

He is much less dependent on the pacifier, and can sleep well without it.  (If Tova wakes him up, we give him the pacifier whether or not he’s pooped.  Tova waking him up is not something that he can control, plus it means that he won’t become resentful of her waking him or us up.  Win-win.)

And when he wants the pacifier, which is nearly every day, he sits and poops on the potty.

If he poops in his pants, he helps clean it up.  Just like he would clean up after himself if he spilled oatmeal.  We clean up our poops, he can help clean up his.  Because he is a clean freak, this is a very awful punishment – which is why, when it was done by itself, he held in his poop for a whole week and became seriously constipated.

Shlomo isn’t pooping every day yet, but we’re averaging about three times a week, which is pretty good.  Sometimes he holds in his poop so long that he gets poop smear stains on his underwear – poop that tried to come out but got pulled back in.  When that happens, he has two choices: Put a big poop in the toilet, or touch the poop in the underwear.  It’s been about a month since the last poop outside the potty, and we’ve only had a few big smears and a few little ones.  Tfu tfu tfu, may it continue to get better.

Also, at some point more than a month ago, we switched from potty to toilet seat.  We took the stool and the toilet seat and sat him on the big toilet.  At the beginning he was afraid and held Yitzchak’s shoulders, until he realized he wouldn’t fall.  Then he had a choice: No toys and potty, or toys and big toilet.  Guess which one he chose – the big toilet.  He poops with his tablet in hand.  And if that means that he only poops 6 days a week and doesn’t poop on holidays, so be it.  The maximum is three days, and even that is only once a year, and not every year.

The toilet seat has this lid in the front meant for making sure that the pee won’t spray all over the place.  He complains that it hurts his peepee.  Solution?  Stick a wad of toilet paper between the plastic and the peepee.

We are still working on peeing while sitting on the potty.  At present he insists on standing up to pee and then sitting back down to try pooping.  Eventually, I think he will get it.  In the meantime, he has peed on himself a few times when we told him to push down his peepee and pee into the toilet while sitting.

I write the bathroom-appropriate details because I assume that some of my readers are parents who are potty-training boys, and I assume it will be helpful.  If Shlomo reads my blog when he is older and protests my explicit instructions meant for potty-training parents, I will let him reword it.  Otherwise, I will save it for him and his wife when his son decides to pull the same stunts.

I take comfort in the fact that Tova, unlike Shlomo, does not like sitting in dirty diapers.  She will cry until you change her diaper, even if it only has pee in it.  Shlomo did not care if his diaper was wet or dirty, unless it got his clothes wet or dirty.  The biggest obstacle to his potty training was that he simply did not care.  For all that he is a neat freak, having a gross bottom was someone else’s issue and not worth the break from playing.  Hopefully, since Tova seems to dislike being wet or dirty, she will be happy to learn how to keep herself dry and clean by going to the potty.  She is also a girl, and supposedly girls train faster – but this we will see in due time.

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Update from after Shabbat, Feb. 28: Apparently, I need to stop posting poop-training updates.  Shortly after this was published we found poop in his underwear – or rather, slime in his underwear.  It was much more than just a little stain.  Then he pooped in the toilet.  The next day, we found another stain in his underwear.  And the day after that.  Sigh.  Today I told Shlomo that my contract includes washing poopy underwear for maximum eight months, and that it applies to one-, two-, and three-year olds, but not to four-year-olds.  Then I got a brilliant idea: My contract doesn’t include washing a 4-year-old’s poopy underwear, right?  And the extra loads are a waste of water and electricity; if I don’t do the extra loads I suffer from the stink and have to make sure nothing touches it.  Solution: He can hand wash his own poopy underwear.  Fair enough, no?  It takes the task of my hands, and saves electricity and water . . . and teaches him some responsibility.  We’ll see what happens now.

Geography Lessons

When Shlomo was a baby we would use a bulb to suck gunk out of his nose.  He hated it, of course.  We would also pick his nose; he hated that, too.

Since pulling snot out of a nose is also called ‘digging for gold’, we started saying that we have to pull gold out of his nose.  Then it became pulling gold out of his nose because we needed to donate it.  To whom would we donate it?  To the hungry children in Africa, so that they could buy food.

When he cried, we would say, “The hungry children in Africa need your donation.”

Then, a few months ago, Shlomo’s car (a Cozy Coupe) broke a rule (or perhaps Shlomo broke a rule while/by using the car), and Yitzchak took the car to China.  A few days later, I asked Shlomo if he wanted car to go back in China, or if he was going to listen.

Yitzchak got mad, “Don’t say things you can’t do.”

I said, “You did the same thing a few days ago.  It’s going to go to the same China you put it into.”

Yesterday, car needed to go to China.  But as Yitzchak pointed out, China is now filled with poopy clothes (one item is a pair of Shlomo’s poopy underwear; the rest is the baby’s (I’ll find her a name to use on the blog soon)).  So, car went in China Room, and is now blocking the door and access to the washer.

China, which was originally on top of our washing machine (we have a front loader, like most Israelis), has now expanded to include the tops of the fridge and bookshelves.

A toy that breaks the rules goes to China.  Shlomo, therefore, does not want things to go to China.  People, however, cannot go to China.  I guess it’s just too expensive a plane ticket . . .

Potty-Training Attempt #3 – No Turning Back

This post was begun on January 30, 2014.

Success!  Well, sort of.

What happened was this:

Shlomo turned three in March.  Traditionally, when a boy turns three, you cut his hair for the first time (a ceremony called “upsherin/upshernish” by American Jews and called a “chalakah” by Israelis), and give him a kipa (religious head covering) and tzitzit. About a month before his birthday, his ganenet announced that there was NO WAY that he would have his chalakah in a diaper.  How can you put tzitzit on a kid with a poopy diaper?  I agreed with her, and said that I’m all for it, but as we both know, it’s not fully up to us.

She insisted that we go for it and try again.  It just had to work.  She’s been a ganenet for twenty years and never has a kid worn kipa and tzitzit with a diaper.  I agreed, not fully believing that it would work – after all, this is time three, right?  And the first two ended in failure because Shlomo was just too stubborn, and at the end of the day, no one can make you pee or poop in the toilet if you don’t want to.

So we went for it.  Diaper off in the morning, on only at bedtime.  Poop belongs in the potty.  And for some reason, which Yitzchak and I believe to be a desire to get us to leave him alone, it worked.  Sort of.  He held in his pee – usually.  Stayed dry, and peed in the toilet, just enough to satisfy us and get himself nominally out of diapers (which is what led to the title of this post – Shlomo was nominally trained, and therefore there was no turning back).  We think that he just figured that if he didn’t give in, we’d keep trying every so often until he did, so he might as well just give up, or at least pretend to.

After a while it became more frequent, with less accidents.  But still, poops were saved for the bedtime diaper.  We would put him in pajamas and a diaper, get ready to read him a book, and he would poop.  We were just happy that he wasn’t holding it in; a lot of kids do, and the ganenet, when she saw that he wasn’t pooping in gan, asked if he was pooping at home, because she was worried.

At some point, I’m not sure how, we got him to poop on the toilet.  Yitzchak says that it was the tablet that he received as a gift for his birthday, from Bubby (Yitzchak’s mother).  We also bribed him with cookies and make a big fuss over it.  After a while, when he was more comfortable pooping on the potty, we stopped making such a big deal of it, and on condition that one of us sit with him (usually Yitzchak because my nose is more sensitive than his) he agreed to poop prize-free.  When we started seeing him backslide, we at first returned the treats and then realized that he was abusing the privilege: He would put a small poop in the toilet, get the treat, and then make a big poop in diaper.  Haha, you silly parents.  You fell for it, again.  And again.  So we took away all treats until he made a successful poop in the potty with no poops in his underwear.  And that’s been our policy since.

We STILL backslide sometimes.  I’m not quite sure why.  This morning I was feeding him and something started to stink.  I couldn’t figure out what it was, until it hit me and I asked Yitzchak to check his diaper (Shlomo was still in pajamas).  Yep, poopy in the diaper.  But as mad as we were, we were also relieved – Shlomo hadn’t pooped in four days (and prior to that, had made a week’s worth of poops in his underwear).  This evening, Yitzchak brought the tablet, sat with him, and Shlomo pooped in the potty.  We praised him.  And he got his treats back.  Boy, was he proud of himself.  I just wish I knew how to keep the poop in the potty – and what motivates him to decide to go on potty-strike.

Yes, Yitzchak STILL sits with him.  Poops are in a potty.  Pees are standing up, peeing into the big toilet, like any guy on the street.  I think the poops go in the potty for three reasons: 1. He’s scared of sitting on the big toilet. 2. The toilet seat we have isn’t comfortable.  3. It’s easier to poop with your feet on the floor.  Plus, you get the lid of the real toilet as a table to drive cars on.

Shlomo is not potty trained at night yet, and honestly, I don’t expect him to be.  He stays dry when he naps during the day, even during long 4-5 hour naps (which we allow only when we are going to be up late and we need the quiet to prepare for a holiday).  But my siblings didn’t stay dry till age five or six, and even then, I remember walking them to the toilet in the middle of the night.  If I remember correctly, twice – once about an hour after they went to sleep, and once around ten or eleven at night.

And after talking to Yitzchak’s mother, I found that she had had a similar experience with her kids.  So with a combination of genes like that, and the knowledge the a lot of night training is physiological and not necessarily within the child’s control – we still buy diapers for the nighttime.  One Shabbat, we had forgotten.  Since we had been planning to experiment anyways, we let him sleep in underwear.  Suffice it to say, experiment failed.  When we see that the diaper is dry several mornings in a row, we will try again.

And with this, dear readers, I [hopefully] end our saga of potty training until next time – which will hopefully be only with the next kid.

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.

Planning Around the Sirens

I wrote this post while sitting in the library on July 20.

Last Friday (July 12) Yitzchak went to the store.  We kept Shlomo home just in case there was a siren, because his gan doesn’t have a shelter.  But, what to do? As I said previously, I can’t carry him down.  So Shlomo and I played outside during the heatwave, for an hour and a half, so that we would be withing Shlomo’s running distance of the shelter.

*We canceled a meeting in a neighboring city on July 10, because of the possibility of a siren while on the road, and not wanting to leave Shlomo in gan while both of us went to the meeting.  It’s not that we never have this concern about both of us being out of the city while Shlomo is in gan, but this time was a tad different, if you get what I mean.  So we canceled.

*Before we leave the house, we go through the route in our heads, to make sure that there will always be a shelter within a few seconds from us, no matter where we are on the route.

*Before Yitzchak goes to the store in the evening, we think twice.  What if there’s a siren while he’s gone?

*Yitzchak measured the amount of time it takes him to bound up the stairs.  If he’s at the bottom and runs to the top to get Shlomo, will we still have time before our minute is up?

*Yesterday (Shabbat, July 19) after the siren, our neighbors wondered whether they should walk their dog or if there would be another siren.  I errantly said that we usually had a few hours in between sirens, so it should be fine.  They left, and about ten minutes later I felt stupid for giving them bad advice.

*I’m sitting in the library (July 20), waiting for a long time to receive my 2-step verification code from Gmail.  I have a project to finish.  Behind me, the librarians are setting up an area for some kind of slideshow or video.  They debate whether to move the tables in the back of the room to somewhere else, just in case everyone has to run out of the room.

The irony of planning life around whether or not there will be a siren.  We don’t change everything, because we can’t change everything, because you can’t just stop life in the middle.  But it’s the little changes in thinking, planning, and how we do things that are the most poignant examples of what it’s like to live under threat of rockets.

Anybody who would like to help families closer to Gaza – those who have between fifteen seconds and a minute, and suffer rocket attacks several times a day, can take a look at Janglo‘s list of things to do to help.  There are also options for helping soldiers and helping the families of the reservists who were called up.

 

Shlomo’s Reaction to the Sirens

Most of you remember me writing about how Shlomo dealt with Operation Defensive Shield.  Suffice it to say that now he is dealing with the situation much differently.  Probably because of a combination of his age and the number of sirens.  In Defensive Shield, he was younger and we only had two or three sirens.  And still, if we forgot to warn him before a drill, he would sometimes get scared.

This time is different.  Much different, much worse.  And I can’t say I blame him.

Shlomo has woken up from nightmares almost every night this past week.  He’s not sleeping well; he can’t sleep well.  A few nights ago he woke up crying that the “shoshanim” (the lights in his room) hurt him.  It’s a story for another post, but suffice it to say that I was extremely happy, because at least it was his normal three-year-old fear, and not another woo-woo (air-raid siren) dream.  Every other nightmare he’s had has been about woo-woos.  He wakes up crying, sleeptalking about woo-woos.

He sleeps with us.  Either he comes to us in the middle of the night, or he insists on going to sleep in our room, or he wakes up in the middle of the night and won’t go back to sleep unless he’s with us.  We let it be.  Yitzchak feels better having Shlomo beside him, even though if you count the seconds, it takes about the same amount of time to pull Shlomo out of his spot by the wall as it takes to pick him up out of his own bed.

During the day, Shlomo goes back and forth between asking for another woo-woo and saying that he doesn’t want one because he’s scared.  He tells me what he does when there is a woo-woo in gan and what we will do if there is a woo-woo at home.   He told me that Friday’s woo-woo didn’t have a boom (the ones in the Iron Dome videos that we show him when he asks for a woo-woo do have booms, obviously, but if you’re in a shelter you don’t usually hear a boom).

Shlomo was sick these past few days.  I think a big part of it – and why it wasn’t just a 24 hour bug – is because he’s not sleeping well.  Which, obviously, is because of the sirens.

He doesn’t want Yitzchak to leave the house without him.  We live on the fourth floor, and the shelter is all the way at the entrance level.  Shlomo could walk down, true, but it would take two minutes and we only have one.  Thank G-d he’s a pretty big kid (height and weight both) and I just can’t pick him up anymore.  When we had an earthquake a few months ago I did, but I regretted it for a few days afterwards and just can’t chance having to run the day after hurting my back.  Obviously, if I had to, I would pick Shlomo up and run, but we are doing everything possible to avoid me having to do that.  So, Yitzchak carries Shlomo down to the shelter.  And because of that, Shlomo is clinging to Yitzchak.  And when I say clinging, I mean clinging – like you’ve never seen a three-year-old do.

I miss the days of Shlomo refusing to go to sleep because he was scared that the “shoshanim” would hurt him.  Yes, it was annoying.  But at least it’s a normal three-year-old irrational fear.  When I go to the bathroom, Shlomo also points out that I don’t fall in the toilet, neither does Yitzchak, and neither does he.  He insists on falling asleep with light.  And it looks like the “shoshanim” fear is instead of the fear of the drain – probably because Shlomo likes to plunge the shower drain and therefore isn’t scared of it.  But all in all, annoying as the “shoshanim” fear is (and sometimes it’s just an excuse to stay up), it’s normal.

Nightmares are not.

And nightmares about woo-woos (AKA air raid sirens) are certainly not.

It makes me mad that my kid is waking up from nightmares every night because of a stupid, inhumane, terrorist group that kills its own children, tries to kill ours, and then blames us for everything.  It makes me mad that because of terrorists – who are murderers, by the way – my kid can’t sleep.

Hamas, and terrorists everywhere, I have a message for you:

אשרי שישלם לך את גמולך שגמלת לנו.  אשרי שיאחז וניפץ את עולליך על הסלע.

This post was written on July 20, while we were waiting for the daily siren, which had not yet come.  Thank G-d, it didn’t come, and hasn’t come – the two in a row on July 19 were the last two so far (watch me jinx myself by writing this . . .).  However, Shlomo is still getting over the trauma, little by little.  It’s going to be a long process, I think.  And Yitzchak and I still jump at unexpected loud noises, especially engines starting up and ambulance sirens.

The Wandering Pacifier

Three Thursdays ago, I took Shlomo with me to see an apartment in a different city.  By the time I got back, I had a migraine.  I met Yitzchak at the Central Bus Station, and he offered to take Shlomo back with him, to get the stroller.  (I had left the stroller with Yitzchak, so I wouldn’t have to drag it with me on the intercity bus.)

Shlomo and Yitzchak walked off, and I caught a bus home.  I had about 45 minutes of quiet, and then I heard the two of them coming back.  As soon as the door opened, Yitzchak said, “Did you give me his pacifier?”

“Yep,” I said.  “It was in his mouth.”

“Well, it’s gone now,” said Yitzchak.

Oh, well.  The clip was starting to break anyways, and the pacifier, even though it was still good, was a few weeks away from needing to be replaced.  So be it.  Pacifiers come in packages of two, so we took the second one and gave it to Shlomo.

pacifier, tree, lost pacifier, wandering pacifier, baby, toddler,

For illustrative purposes only. Courtesy of Google Images.

Fast forward a week and a half.  The phone rings.  It’s Yitzchak.

“Chana, guess what?”

“What?”

“Guess what I found?”

Nu, stop keeping me in suspense already.  “What did you find?”

“I was walking outside, talking on the phone, and suddenly I looked up, and there was Shlomo’s pacifier and clip, hanging from a tree.”

What?!?!

He brought it home.  We washed the clip and the pacifier.  The clip is in use, but we still have to sterilize the pacifier – it was kind of gross . . .