Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gender Equality

    This weekend Jeff was on the phone with his mom and she asked how my work was going. Jeff said something along the lines of "Oh, it's fine. She likes it just about as well as any job" and then went on to say "I mean, I'm sure if I got an awesome paying job tomorrow she'd quit and stay home with the kids, but she likes what she does, she just doesn't necessarily like her boss." All of which is true. I left my job when Makayla was 8 months old because Jeff was making amazing money while deployed in the middle east and we didn't need my salary. It was great for the most part. I didn't have to miss any of those moments that pass so quickly in child-rearing. But Jeff did. He was halfway around the world in a trailer in a war zone.

    When Makayla was three, Jeff came home for good. I went back to work and Jeff started school and essentially became a stay at home dad. When Liam was born 6 months ago Jeff realized how much he missed with Makayla and it made him sad. His conversation with his mom got me thinking. If I got a really amazing job that paid all the bills and made any salary of his superfluous wouldn't he quit his job and stay home too? So I asked him that and he said, yeah he probably would but he wouldn't quit school because we both think it sets a good example for the kids to achieve your goals, etc. Jeff and I take a 50/50 team approach to parenting and household responsibilities in general. We compliment each others strengths and weaknesses very well and we are always striving to make things easier for the other in any way we can.

    Last night, I asked Jeff to mail a small package for me that needed to be postmarked today and I couldn't mail because I had a dentist appointment right after work. When he went to the post office today, some ignorant man saw him with Liam and said "UH-OH! Good luck little buddy! Looks like it's Dad's day to babysit!" Which pissed Jeff off so he replied "No man, I'm just trying to not be a shit-bag father like your generation was full of". Ignorant Fuck didn't know what to say to that so he just turned away mumbling something about it being a new world so Jeff followed up with "Yeah, times sure have changed.  Right now my wife is at work and I am trying to mail something for her because she doesn't have the time." If it had been me, I wouldn't have had the balls to say what Jeff did. I would have just sat there stewing about it. It's offensive as fuck! He's their Dad! He's not a babysitter! I don't pay him 10 bucks an hour to watch the kids so he can save up to buy some new video games to play in his man cave while he ignores the family. You wouldn't ask the female mechanic who changes your oil if she's just pretending to be a mechanic today or just automatically assume that the male nurse is actually a doctor so don't ask men if they're babysitting their own children!

     I like to think that most parents want to set a good example for their kids. By pretending that men are not capable caregivers to their children, we tell our sons that when they grow up, they needn't try to be an equal partner and we tell our daughters that they needn't expect it. Stand up and fix it. We are all equals.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cleveland Rocks!

I grow weary of people denigrating their hometown as if it is some festering cesspool. This is not a phenomenon exclusive to my own hometown- it seems to me to be the popular thing to put down wherever it is you grew up. Let's all stop being such Debbie Downers! We see enough negativity in the daily media. I think it's time to let everyone know the all the great things about your hometown!

10 Reasons I Love Cleveland

  • We have beaches! Lake Erie is a great place to hang out, picnic, swim, boat, and fish!
  • America's greatest amusement park- Cedar Point is a mere hours drive away
  • We have four seasons- and they are all great for some reason
  • The Cleveland Orchestra- one of the ten best orchestras in the world- right here at my doorstep
  • The Metroparks- thousands of acres of parks- all beautiful and free to roam
  • Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals- if you need healthcare, we've got world class health care
  • Playhouse Square- the second largest theater district outside New York
  • We have great festivals- thousands to choose from every year, from Duck Tape to Irish to Oktoberfest and everything in between- there's always some festival going on
  • The Cleveland Museum of Art- it's free and has an impressive collection
  • Our food choices are awesome and vast
It's easy to think of things that you dislike about where you live but by constantly putting your town down, you are creating a self fulfilling prophecy- who want's to visit somewhere that all of the locals say sucks?! So now I challenge you. If you read this- think of just three things that you love about your hometown and share it with the world!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Screw Super Mom, I'd settle for Competent Mom

Before Liam was born, I felt like we had our shit mostly together. I worked, Jeff was in school and took care of Makayla during the day. The house was mostly clean, we did most of Makayla's school and extra curricular functions. I had time to keep up with my garden, the landscaping and do home improvement projects on a fairly regular basis. I got to work on my crafts in the evenings while I watched my shows. I was never perfect, but we managed pretty well.

It's been over two months since I went back to work after my maternity leave. I keep thinking that it's just THIS week that's so busy, next week will be better. That we just need time to get used to life with two kids. I mean how can it be SO different with two kids than with one? Liam is just about the best baby I could ask for. He's happy and healthy, sleeps for most of the night and takes good naps as well. He loves to play on his activity mat or jumper and doesn't usually demand constant attention. Makayla is spirited, demanding and challenging- but she's always been that way. She adores Liam to the point that it's irritating because she is constantly all over him. He doesn't seem to mind, but I mind when she wakes him up from napping because she needs to hug him or kiss him.

I keep doing things to save myself time. I started a 20 minute a day cleaning program so that I don't have to do it all on the weekend. I started freezer cooking all of our dinners to save time and money. And they do save me time, but I still have none. The more time I make, the more shit that I need to get done. I don't understand how I can't get the front of my house weeded and how the vegetable garden is choked with weeds. This summer has been incredibly stressful for us with all of Jeff's health issues. I don't think a week has gone by since Liam's birth that he hasn't had an appointment with at least one doctor. On top of the hemochromatosis and cirrhosis, they told us that he had lymphoma as well. Thankfully, this week the biopsy came back as a benign granuloma and NOT cancer. It seems like every other week they are giving me more news that has me preparing to be a widow with two small kids. Of course with all of these medical issues come medical bills. We were making it all right before but now we can't possibly keep up with everything. So of course hiring any help for anything is out of the question. I feel guilty asking my parents to watch the kids for things that we HAVE to do let alone just because I want to get away.

Makayla's school hasn't even started yet. I look at the calendar of all the extra fun activities and it makes me want to cry because it's just more stuff that I have to try to squeeze in to a schedule that is too full already.

Last night, when I was getting the kids ready for bed, Liam was fussier than usual because he's going through a growth spurt right now and he is always hungry. So I changed him and was getting ready to feed him and he just wouldn't latch on. For whatever reason he just kept taking my nipple in his mouth, sucking once and spitting it out. And I couldn't make him stop. And my milk wouldn't let down because he wouldn't nurse. So he sitting there wailing in to my boobs and I yelled at him to stop. I yelled at a 5 month old baby to stop crying. And of course he was scared and cried more and it escalated from there until Jeff came and took him and he instantly stopped crying. Which of course made me feel even worse. So Jeff calmed him down and tried to give him back to me but he took one look at me and started wailing again.


It took another 10 minutes to calm him down enough to convince him to eat, which he finally did and then fell asleep.

I don't even know why I'm writing all of this. I don't have any answers and I can't think of a logical way to end this so I'll just leave this here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WaterWipes USA- A Terrible Idea

UPDATE 8/14/14:

More than two years have passed since I originally wrote this. Apparently the company has become more prominent and still sells this awful product (and is now even MORE expensive). I went to their Facebook page this morning and saw multiple reports of moldy wipes.

Their Amazon reviews also show several reports of moldy wipes. Some people blame themselves for putting them in other containers and some people realize the truth- these wipes are NOT SAFE for babies! There is nothing to prevent this type of mold and bacterial growth. Steer clear!

Last night, I was harvesting my crops on FarmVille like always and I look to the right and there is this ad from WaterWipes USA. Basically their ad says 100% Chemical Free! As a chemist I was instantly annoyed.

The product is a baby wipe moistened with 99.9% water and 0.1% grapefruit seed extract. This is the link to their facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WaterWipesUSA and their company website: http://www.dermah2o.com/ I was in a bit of a snarky mood so I went to their Facebook page and left a comment. "Dihydrogen Monoxide is still a chemical." These kind of claims always make me mad. EVERYTHING on this earth is made from chemicals. NOTHING is "chemical-free". Companies that make these claims are pandering to the ignorant and scientifically illiterate people who suffer from chemo-phobia.

Obviously I am a cosmetic/ personal care chemist, but I am also a mom. I had a natural, unmedicated birth but I would never even think of not having my child vaccinated. I breastfed but when I went back to work, Sarah gave her pumped milk in bottles made with BPA. I grow my own vegetables and can them myself too- but I use fertilizer and pesticides in my garden and on my fruit trees. Basically what I'm saying is this- look at the data, evaluate the source of the data and then determine whether you need to avoid chemical X or Y.

The biggest hype about this product is the worst of all- the fact that it is preservative free. The 0.1% GSE is SUPPOSED to be there as a preservative but as I have learned through research for work- GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT IS NOT A PRESERVATIVE!!! If you don't believe me look for yourself:

I'll summarize it here. There are no regulations for how GSE is manufactured. Most GSE has has been preserved by another preservative (i.e. parabens, benzethonium chloride, etc). When tested, the GSE samples in which no preservative can be detected show no anti microbial activity. In other words, if you leave a pack of these wipes open, and some mold spores float into the package, you will have created the perfect petri dish to grow that mold because there is NOTHING in here to prevent it. Since this product is for cleaning babies butts- a place where bacteria is plentiful- imagine if you were wiping up a big mess and some got on your fingers and you reached for another wipe. Now you have inoculated your package of wipes with fecal coloform bacteria- or E.Coli- where it will grow and multiply unchecked. Preservatives keep products from going rancid, and growing mold and bacteria. There is no data linking parabens to breast cancer or any other type of cancer. Check out the American Cancer Societies position on parabens: http://www.cancer.org/Cancer/CancerCauses/OtherCarcinogens/AtHome/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk basically, they say that there is really no connection between the two and that the study "linking" them was a poorly designed study.

If all of this isn't enough to convince you that this product is a terrible idea, the price for a pack of wipes is $4.99. $4.99 for a package of washcloths moistened with water. If you have a sensitive skinned baby, wet a washcloth in the sink and wipe your baby's butt with it. At least you can wash it out when you are done. There a lot of reasonable options for disposable baby wipes for babies with sensitive skin.
Pampers Sensitive Skin wipes do not have any alcohol, fragrance or dyes (the main contributors to skin sensitivity) but they are still well preserved.
Huggies Natural Care- fragrance free (all the same reasons as above)
BabyGanics Thick n Klean wipes a more expensive option but it does have an effective preservative, plus they claim a biodegradable status and have no parabens if you are still worried about that
Walgreens Comfort-Smooth Baby wipes with Aloe (unscented) almost the same product as BabyGanics except they make no claim about the biodegradability and they are half the price.

There are literally hundreds of valid options for gentle, disposable wipes that are also well preserved. I don't know about you but I would rather wipe my babys' butt with a well preserved wipe than mold. Hell, I would rather wipe her butt with just about anything besides these terrible wipes!

Monday, July 14, 2014

A handmade rant

Today, I would like to rant for a bit about something that is near and dear to my heart. Handmade gifts. I can not begin to tell you the number of times that I have mentioned to someone that I enjoy crafting (sewing, crocheting, knitting, etc) and the first thing out of their mouth is "Oh, well it must be a lot cheaper than buying it". I am here to tell you that NO it is NOT cheaper. Even from a strict materials standpoint, using quality materials almost always comes out to be more expensive than buying a similar article made overseas. Of course this doesn't include all of the time and effort that it takes to craft something with your own hands. I made this afghan for Liam. It used 3 skeins of blue yarn and 3 skeins of green yarn at 6.00 a skein (plus some brown, yellow and black scraps that I had laying around). I paid 5 dollars for the pattern. So just for the materials, I paid 41.00. It took me probably around 20 hours total to make it. If I paid myself minimum wage, it would cost 145.00 in labor. I could pick up a baby blanket at Babies R Us for around 20.00.

So why do it? Why do I make things for myself and for other people? Because I enjoy it. I enjoy creating something that I know will be perfect for the recipient and designing it myself instead of picking out the best option from a set of limited choices. It's a relaxing and enjoyable hobby, even if I spend a little more money and time doing it.

So the next time someone gives you an handmade gift, take it for what it is- a painstakingly designed and crafted gift that the giver spent countless hours from their busy life making FOR YOU. It's a one of a kind original. NOT an effort to save a few bucks. So just say "Thanks! I love it!"

Thursday, July 3, 2014


About four months ago I asked all of my family members to update their Tdap vaccinations in anticipation of Liam's birth. When my husband went in to get the booster his PCP insisted on doing a physical first. She ordered some blood work and found that his liver enzyme was elevated. After a long and confusing path of testing she ran a ferritin test. Normal ferritin levels are less than 100. Jeff's was 2562. He had a condition known as hemochromatosis or iron overload. People with hemochromatosis absorb three to four times more iron from food than normal, leading to an overload of iron, particularly in the liver and other storage organs. When this excess iron interacts with oxygen in the body, it produces the free radicals which damage cells and eventually lead to organ failure (like cirrhosis of the liver), heart attack, cancer and pancreatic damage.

The treatment for hemochromatosis is phlebotomy or blood letting. They take a pint of blood about three to four times a month to bring down the iron stores in his body. After three months, Jeff's ferritin levels dropped to 1440, which is great progress but unfortunately, the liver biopsy shows that he already has some degree of cirrhosis in his liver, which is irreversible.

Worldwide, some 24 million whites (about 1 in 200) of northern European ancestry suffer from hemochromatosis. Another 600 million (1 in 10) carry one of the genes responsible for the disorder, and absorb up to 50 percent more iron than non-carriers. Hemochromatosis is an autosomal recessive disorder so it is expressed when you have two copies of the defective gene- one from your mother and one from your father. Until recently it was thought that women were unlikely to have hemochromatosis, since men are five times more likely to show symptoms of the disorder. Scientists now believe that women are equally at risk, but the blood loss of menstruation and childbirth temporarily protects women of child-bearing age from the effects of excess iron absorption. After menopause, though, women with the disorder show symptoms at the same rate as men. After Jeff was diagnosed, he told his mom to get tested and she too, has hemochromatosis and has begun treatment. Her levels are not nearly as high as Jeff's however.

The symptoms of hemochromatosis tend to manifest themselves in middle age, because it takes time for the iron buildup to cause problems. Hemochromatosis can mimic many other ailments - including iron deficiency. The most universal symptoms include the following:

Arthritic aches and pains, including swelling and tenderness around the joints
Heart arrhythmias ("skipping beats")
Changes in skin pigment - most notably development of a bronze tone - that occur even without sun exposure and that don't fade with time
Impotence or loss of interest in sex
Late-onset diabetes (some 10 percent of diabetics may actually be suffering from iron-induced pancreatic damage)
Missed periods or premature menopause

Prior to Jeff's diagnosis, I had never heard of this condition despite it being the most common genetic disorder of Caucasians with northern European heritage. The worst part about it is that it is so benign and easily treated if caught early, but devastating if missed. Despite this, it is not screened for and your ferritin levels have only every been tested if your doctor suspects a problem with iron overload. It is not part of routine blood work. In its early stages, when people are in their 20s and 30s, the condition is often easily ignored - or mistaken for other illnesses - because the symptoms, such as fatigue or aches and pains in the joints, are so vague. But if the disease progresses unchecked, by the time someone reaches his or her 40s or 50s, the growing iron deposits damage and eventually destroy surrounding tissues, leading to organ failure and chronic disease. The ferritin test costs only about $15. Given that the disease is so avoidable, and the consequences are so tragic if missed, I think that spending the money for the test is a good idea- even if you have to pay yourself.

We are still waiting to see how severe the cirrhosis in Jeff's liver is but whatever part of the liver that is cirrhotic is gone. When too much fails the only option left is a liver transplant. Hopefully, we're not at that point but I still wish that someone somewhere had screened for this sooner and he could have avoided all of this.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother's Day Stepping Stones

So this year while I was trying to think about what to give my mom for Mother's Day, I was flipping through a catalog and saw some stepping stones personalized for moms and grandmas. I thought to myself- "That's perfect for Mom! She loves her garden and her grandkids! JOB DONE!" But they were like 30 dollars a piece and I didn't want to spend that so I decided we would make our own.

1. Gather your materials.

2. Lay out your mosaic pattern. The first one that I did, I laid out the design inside the mold and then moved it in order to the ground. This is very inefficient. The next one, I traced the mold dimensions on to a piece of cardboard and laid the design out inside that. It worked much better. 

Makayla did her own design

3. Prepare the stepping stone mix. The stepping stone mix that I used said "Dump this in a bucket, add 2 cups of water and stir until mixed". I found that the amount of water is CRITICAL to the end result. You need the mix to be consistently moist, but not fluid. It should dump into the mold and sit like cookie dough, not smooth out on its own like cake batter. When you dump the cement in to the mold, jiggle it back and forth to settle the mix in to the mold. It should even out and form a smooth, slightly liquidy surface. You do not want a lot of water sitting on top. This destroys the integrity of the cement and makes it impossible to write in legibly.

4. Press your mosaic tiles in to the mix about halfway. Once you have all of the tiles in the cement, jiggle the mold back and forth to settle them in. 

5. Make impressions of the kids hands/ feet if desired. *Note* One month is really too young to do this. Liam was exceedingly pissed about his hands and feet being pressed in to concrete, no matter how briefly. 

6. After about 30 minutes or so (it took me that long to get the tiles settled and the hand and foot impressions, so there was really no waiting time for me), you can either stamp letters in the concrete or write words using a stick. The stamps really worked well for me and the end result was great.

7. Let cure for 24 hours before trying to unmold or even move the stones. Doing it sooner will cause it to crack. The stepping stone mix said to let cure for 2 weeks before stepping on them. 

Our finished stones!
That's it! Grandma is going to love them!