Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Baby junk food

I have been very proud of the fact that through my entire pregnancy--and the first few months of Hattie's life--we have avoided getting on any mailing lists for baby junk mail. However, a couple of weeks after applying for her birth certificate, when she was 3 1/2 months old, the mail began to arrive (it kind of makes you wonder what the government is doing with your personal information). Yesterday I arrived home to find a large, brightly colored box on my front porch. It was clearly from a formula company. The outside of the box contained the following messages, aimed at families with children 9 to 24 months:

"The fact is: Many toddlers aren't getting adequate nutrition." "He's growing--and so are his nutritional needs. Will milk keep up?" "The fact is, milk lacks some key nutrients toddlers need. Next Step LIPIL gives you a better alternative."

The clear implication to both Ryan and me after reading the outside of the box is that you are depriving your older infant of valuable nutrients by breastfeeding, and only this formula can provide proper nutrition for them.

In my anger and frustration, I opened the box to do some further investigation. Upon reading the fine print of the package insert (and what average person reads the fine print?), I found that the company is actually comparing their formula to cows' milk, not human milk--but at first and second glance you would never know that. The nutrients that this "toddler formula" claims to provide are Vitamin C, iron, Vitamin E, and DHA and ARA--all nutrients that are abundant in breast milk and healthy whole foods. Also, a closer look at the packaging reveals that those nutrients make up less than one percent of the total ingredients.

The ingredient list itself is printed in the tiniest font on the can of formula. It reads as follows (with my comments in parenthesis): nonfat milk (babies need fat for brain development), vegetable oil (probably to add fat), CORN SYRUP (gross!), and 29 other ingredients (yes I counted them) I cannot pronounce. They want people to put this garbage into the body of a baby!

On the package insert, they compare the nutritional content of the formula to several "commonly consumed" toddler foods. These foods were macaroni and cheese and chicken sticks, with nutritional figures that reflect the highly processed and pre-packaged variety. Again I say gross! I'm sure that comparing this formula to anything actually considered real food would leave the formula looking very poor indeed.

The whole thing just made me sad and angry at the state of our world--that something that can hardly be called nutrition is being sent directly to people's front doors and freely marketed as superior to good food choices. There is absolutely nothing that is nutritionally superior to breast milk and healthy solid foods for older infants and toddlers.

The real fact is that breast milk constantly adapts and changes to provide for every nutritional need of a baby from birth through toddlerhood and beyond, as well as provides support for their immune system.

What is worse, this formula costs $23 per can. Breast milk is free.

I suppose the only good thing that resulted from this mysterious package arriving at our door is that Hattie loved playing with the colorful cardboard box (which I can recycle after it has been appropriately chewed and mauled).

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The end of the world as we know it

We arrived home Saturday night from visiting our wonderful families for Thanksgiving. After Hattie expressed much delight at being in our own home again, we placed her on the floor to play while Ryan and I unpacked an organized the house. Ryan called me from the other room and we both witnessed Hattie CRAWLING for the first time. She was chasing her red ball around the living room. She can now get anywhere she wants to go using her low to the ground combat-style crawl (technically, in the child development world, hands and knees crawling is called creeping). She can move surprisingly quickly when she is motivated. So, we spent Sunday cleaning and beginning to baby proof our house. This is the first time we have lived in a house large enough for a full sized Christmas tree and, now, gone are my hopes of having at least one Christmas without a mobile baby interested in touching, exploring, and pulling on everything.

To me, the transition to a mobile baby is scarier than transitioning from no baby to having a baby. Yes, Hattie changed our lives tremendously the moment she was born, but now she is changing our house. Ryan's beloved books will need to be moved out of arms' reach (and that reach will only get higher in the coming months), furniture that can easily topple must be removed completely, outlets must be covered and cords hidden, floors vacuumed and mopped much more regularly. I can no longer leave Hattie to play on the floor while I do the laundry, cook dinner, or run to the bathroom. She has already developed that bizarre baby ability to bypass the toys meant for her in order to find and insert into her mouth the one potentially harmful thing that I forgot to move off the floor (yesterday it was the phone book).

So, yes, this is the end of the world as we know it, but I'm sure the unknown and the joy of watching Hattie learn and grow will be far more rewarding that the comfort of everything being the same.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Avila Valley Barn

We went to Avila Valley barn this weekend with friends visiting from out of town. It was nice to be there without all of the crowds before Halloween. The kids loved the animals, even Hattie was smiling and kicking when she looked at the goats, emus, and ponies. Here are some photos of our adventures. Just chillin on some gourds.

It's a bird, it's a plane....

Hattie thinks her friend Nate is SO funny!

Delicious corn.

Ella the wild child!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

8 (Other) Random Thoughts About My Kitchen

Sarah tagged me to write eight random thoughts about my kitchen, which is technically her kitchen. But I do visit it occasionally ...

1) We have two whole shelves devoted to nothing but tea, from Orange Dulce to Rooibos Chai. One day a few years back, we decided to become tea people, and have stocked up on the stuff ever since. We have black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea, tisanes ("teas" made without actual tea leaves ... basically anything floral or herbal or whatever), and a bundle of dried plants that Sarah calls "Greek Mountain Tea," though I've never seen her use it to make a drink.

2) Our freezer is stocked with Otter Pops. There's not much else to say about this one, aside from the personal slogan I developed for the product in college: "Otter Pops ... That's something my body needs anyway."

3) I keep the clock on the microwave set 10 minutes fast. For some reason, I enjoy looking at a clock and knowing that it's not really as late as the clock says it is.

4) When I was but a fresh-faced young lad, my dad cooked me pancakes practically every Saturday morning (and other times too, but the Saturdays were the best), and I've unofficially adopted Saturday mornings as the times I cook breakfast for Sarah. She--ahem--doesn't really like pancakes, but she does like scrambled eggs and omelets, so I oblige by making scrambled eggs and omelets that turn into scrambled eggs. I'm just not good at making omelets, but I still try.

5) When I cook, I cool by smell. This is not technically a thought limited to my kitchen in particular, but it's close enough. Sarah cooks by what "feels right." I use my nose, mainly for spices.

6) We have several different types of cheese graters, and since I enjoy grating cheese--it's so satisfying to watch that pile grow!--I'm almost always the one who shreds our cheddar or Monterey Jack or Gouda or what-have-you . My grater of choice features four sides, each with a different grating option, but I only ever use one side.

7) We have a cabinet in which we keep all manner of liquors (Kahlua, Irish cream, etc.), but I keep a few bottles used most often on top of the refrigerator: vodka, rum, and Scotch (which I drink neat).

8) I have long been fascinated by empty glass bottles, and our kitchen window sill is lined with samples of all shapes and sizes. There used to be more bottles, but I broke one or two when closing the window once.

Now, I tag Bret. And James Van Lommel, if he ever sees this.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The baby sits up

Last night Ryan called me from across the room to look at Hattie. He had been supporting her in a sitting position on the floor and let go for a moment to see what she would do. She sat there for about one minute, just looking back and forth between us like she wanted to say, "What are you getting all excited about? This is no big deal." Then she toppled to the side and began reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. She refused to sit up again so we could take pictures, so here she is reading.

"On Tuesday he ate through two pears, but he was still hungry."

Maybe I want to eat this book ...

"He was a beautiful butterfly!"

Friday, November 2, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

(Hattie as Edgar Allen Poe's "The Raven" chewing on her favorite natural wood teether.)

Though we have barely blown out the candles in our jack-o-lanterns, we are beginning to get the inevitable "What do you want for Christmas?" questions from friends and family. For everyone's convenience, and because Sarah constantly misplaces the long list of books that Ryan wants, we have each created an Amazon wish list. Feel free to browse it for ideas, or even just ignore it.

Hattie's list is the default, but links to Ryan's and Sarah's lists are on the sidebar on the left-hand side of the web page. Just click here to get to our wish lists.

When Hattie was 1 week old, Lisa Maksoudian took some beautiful pictures of her. We were unable to purchase all of the pictures we wanted, but Lisa has a list of the photos we would love to have if someone wants to get them for us. She can be contacted at for more information.

Hattie really loves the toys and other products from Nova Natural Toys (where we purchased the teether pictured above), especially since we're trying to become a plastic-free home! She also has a wish list at A Toy Garden. We just discovered that they have the cheapest naturally dyed play silks which are another one of Hattie's favorite toys. She carries her piece of silk around with her everywhere!

We hope this helps answer some questions, but of course we don't need any of it. The thing that is most important to us is to spend time with family and friends this holiday season, to make joyful memories and create our own family traditions.

What do YOU want for Christmas?

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Ghoulish Dinner

In our excitement to finally live in a house where we might get trick-or-treaters we stayed home and invited friends over for Halloween this year. While we only had two knocks at the door all night, I had a wonderful time preparing a spooky dinner.

Ryan and I have long established Halloween as a gift-giving holiday (I think we just like excuses to get each other presents). This year, Ryan gave me my gift a little early so that I would have time to figure out how to prepare it. My gift was squid ink pasta. It looks and tastes like regular spaghetti, but it is made black using squid ink. Inspired by his gift, I gave myself the culinary challenge of creating an all-black meal. It was quite a success!

Here was our menu:
Appetizers (in the photo above): black grapes, porter soaked cheddar cheese with pumpernickel toasts, spiderweb eggs (below), and pumpkin seeds.

Dinner: Squid ink pasta with pesto, prosciutto, and mozarella-and-olive "eyeballs," salad, bread, and a blood-red black currant and brandy cocktail (I tried desperately to find black vodka for the occasion, but apparently it is on back order at the two stores in town that carry it).

Dessert: Pumpkin oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (my first baking from scratch since before I was pregnant with Hattie), and Trader Joe's ice cream sandwiches rolled in mini-chocolate chips. I probably could have done better creating a black dessert, but I was more focused on the dinner foods.

The evening was rounded out by watching the original Night of the Living Dead, in black and white, of course!