Wrongful Birth

I heard this news story earlier in the week, and I can’t get it out of my mind. A couple sued a doctor and ultrasound tech because they missed a severe disability in the baby. The couple claim they wouldn’t have carried the baby to term had they known he was disabled (he is missing both arms and one leg). They weren’t awarded the full $9 million in the claim, but were awarded $4.5 million.

What breaks my heart, what won’t let me stop thinking about this, is that there is a child, Bryan, who will grow up knowing that his parents wish he had never been born. In no way do I discount the physical, emotional and financial cost associated with the boy’s disabilities. Not at all. It will be a very tough road for this family. But I think it adds insult to injury, to put it very mildly, for him to believe that his parents regret having him.

I think of my place in my own family. The situations are really not comparable, but you’ll see why I bring it up.

I came along later in life to my parents. My own siblings are quite a bit older than I am, to the point that I grew up more like an only child than a youngest child. My siblings were all out of the house by the time I was six. All my life, whenever someone found out how much younger I am than my siblings, I would hear comments like: “Oh, someone was an oops baby!” “I guess you must have been an accident.” “A new baby, when their family was practically grown up?!”

Keep in mind, this was coming from outside my family, not from my parents. Even so, it begins to wear on a person. Even though I never heard it from my parents, I began to question whether they had even wanted me, whether they might wish they never had me. Just imagine how it would feel if my own parents flat out said that they wished they hadn’t had me. Terrible. Awful. If that didn’t cause a major crisis in self-esteem and identity, I would be shocked.

In my case, to make matters just a little worse, guess what ~ I was not born with perfect health. I had what I suppose you’d call birth defects. Not only was the timing of my arrival inconvenient, at least by the standards of most people, but I also came with a few medical complications. Not as severe as the boy in this news item, but not the perfectly healthy child that all parents hope for either. One issue was diagnosed and treated when I was a toddler. One remained hidden for many years. I was inexplicably “sickly” as a child, and when my heart condition was diagnosed and treated at age nineteen, my mom figured she finally knew why.

I want to say it again, to make sure you hear me loud and clear, I do not compare my medical issues to Bryan’s. Whatever expense involved for my problems was probably a drop in the bucket compared to what Bryan’s family will face. Day to day care for me was pretty typical, whereas Bryan will need a lot more help.

The bottom line of this, for me, the thing that makes me so sad for Bryan and so grateful for my own parents, comes down to knowing I am wanted and loved in my family.

When I was younger, probably twelve or thirteen, I finally had to ask my mom. Hearing for years about how I was a mistake, an accident, an oops, a burden, I had to ask my mom if that was true. What she told me was just about the nicest thing she could have said. She told me that she and my dad had always hoped for four children. They just had to wait longer than they thought they would to have me. And you know what? I believe her. Her answer is consistent with the way she has always treated me ~ as a loving mother.

I really hope that Bryan’s parents, regardless of what they would have done if they had known of his disabilities before birth, give him the love and acceptance that every child needs. I hope they were just saying whatever they had to say to get needed financial help for his care, and if so, I hope they make that abundantly clear to their son. I hope that Bryan not only receives the physical care he needs to live his life to the fullest, but that he also receives the emotional nurture that we all neeed.

I know that I am lucky in so many ways. I’m not perfect. My life is not perfect. I’ve gone through tough times, like everyone does. But I am a lucky person. I am a blessed person. I thank my mom and dad for welcoming me into the family, even if I came along later than they expected, even if I came with some complications.

Dear Mom and Dad,

Thanks for loving me.

Melissa

Banana-Squash Bread

I have a recipe to share with anyone who is still working their way through their summer squash.  I concocted a hybrid sweet bread yesterday using one banana and finely diced summer squash, enough to approximate the size of a banana.  It tasted like banana bread – I didn’t mention the squash, and no one said anything about it tasting different.  That was convenient for me, since my children claim not to like squash.

Here’s the rundown:

Banana-Squash Bread

Ingredients

1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 t salt
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t baking powder
5 1/3 T unsalted butter, softened but not melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 very ripe banana, mashed
Finely diced summer squash, in an amount similar to size of a banana

Directions

Mix first five ingredients.  In a separate bowl, mix butter and sugar on high speed with electric mixer.  Add flour mixture and continue to mix.  Add eggs and thoroughly mix.  Fold in banana and squash.

Put into greased loaf pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes.  It’s done when a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean.

Allow to cool a few minutes before cutting and serving.

Enjoy!

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When autumn arrives, it feels like baking weather to me. Have you done any baking lately?

Don’t Wish Your Life Away

My mom always told me, and her father always told her, “Don’t wish your life away.”

I can’t wait ’til Friday!

I can’t wait ’til spring!

I can’t wait ’til (fill in the blank)!

Don’t we often find ourselves thinking these kinds of thoughts? I know I do, especially around January or February, when winter is getting really old. Or during a particularly busy week, I might be longing for Friday to hurry up and arrive. Or even when my children are in the middle of a difficult phase (I can’t wait ’til she starts sleeping through the night, for example). When I was younger, I often yearned for school breaks to come quickly, and it seemed like I would be in school forever.

I’m hear to tell you, even when the days go slowly, the years pass by so quickly. I am far removed from the schoolgirl I once was, and now I measure the years rushing by in the changes I see in my children.

It’s true, my daughter was almost a year old before she slept through the night, and I longed for us all to get better rest at night. You know what though? She’s eight now, and I don’t know how my baby girl slipped away so fast. She’s growing more independent all the time. That’s a good thing. And she’s a great kid. But I can’t help but miss the littler girl she used to be.

My son is six, and he LOVES to spend time with me. Whereas his big sister enjoys having some time on her own, he would rather play with someone, and that someone is often me. How lucky am I? Sometimes, though, I have other responsibilities and can’t play right then. Go figure. Sometimes I catch myself wishing for the time when he learns to be a little more independent. Be careful what you wish for. I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m asking, ‘Where did my little boy go?’

Maybe I’m finally old enough to think like my mother and my grandfather. Now I’ll pass their advice on to you. Don’t wish your life away. The time will pass more quickly than you think. Cherish the good in each season of your life, for soon that season will give way to the next.

Working on the new normal

Whew! I’m waiting for this new normal to feel normal. We’re finishing up our second week of school, along with adding in our other activities bit by bit, and I am one tired woman. There are two kinds of busy, I think. One kind, the kind we experience in the summer, involves having somewhere we have to go everyday, but we often have a good chunk of free time on any given day. The kind of busy that we have now, our school schedule, doesn’t always require us to leave home, but keeps us occupied for a greater portion of the day (like, all of it). I realized that I seem to feel busier with each season of transition, and I had to stop and think how that could be. Either summer is busier or the school-year is busier, right? That’s when I realized they are just different types of busy. Apparenty I need to adjust to each type every year. I feel a little better just realizing that.

This has been a fun week. In addition to the routine school work that my kids have, we went on a field trip to an apple orchard. We all love going to the orchard! We make at least one trip each fall, usually a few trips. This was a new apple orchard to us, and it was so fantastic for kids! They had goats, cows, pigs, and chickens. We were able to hold baby goats and chicks, and my children were delighted to do so for quite a long time. We also went on a wagon-ride tour of the farm. That was fun too. We went home with a bag of Sweetango apples. Delicious!

This Friday also marks our first day back to our Cottage Classes. It’s exciting to be taking on new classes with other homeschooling families to supplement what we are doing at home.

I got out for an evening with some girl friends on Tuesday. Some of my book club friends and I saw The Help. It was one of our book club books last year, and we were interested in seeing the movie. I’ve mentioned before that I almost always prefer the book, but this movie did not disappoint. I thought it was well done. If you haven’t read or seen The Help, I recommend it. The discrimination portrayed in the story will probably anger you (at least it did me), but the courage displayed by the main characters will also inspire you. Good good story.

As a new gardener this year, we had a brand new gardening experience this week. A frost advisory sent us wandering through the darkness attempting to cover over as many plants as we could with tarps. They seem to have survived the cold so far. We have several watermelons still in the works and a lot of tomatoes. I hope they grow quickly! We will need to bring them in soon!

This week’s CSA box included: red and yellow onions, Italian garlic, watermelon, canteloupe, tomatoes, sweet peppers, purple Viking potatoes, baby bok choi, mini red lettuce, baby red beets, green top radishes, chard, and raspberries.

We got a pretty big bag of baby beets. Until the CSA, I didn’t EVER cook beets. I’m not exactly a fan. My husband likes them, and I’ve learned to appreciate them a little bit, but I am still not excited about them. If you have some good beet recipes, please send them my way!!! Maybe I’ll even become a beet fan if I learn to make something phenominal with them. 🙂

So I must ask, of course, what do you do with beets? What are you doing to enjoy autumn so far?

Have a fantastic weekend!!

Dystopian Fiction or Sad Reality?

A year or so ago, I read a book that was probably the saddest and most disturbing I’ve ever read. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood portrays a dystopian future, a story in which we can read about how everything has gone wrong and the resulting state of the world.

I guess I’m just dark enough that I sometimes enjoy that type of book. I enjoyed 1984, for instance. I found Brave New World very interesting, but wouldn’t necessarily say I enjoyed it. Oryx and Crake took the cake, though. In this story, genetic modification has been taken to the extreme and has caused horrible problems. I can’t say I recommend this book. It was just too sad and disturbing to recommend it to others. (Thank goodness my husband read it, so I could talk about it with someone.)

Why do I bring up a book that bothered me so much that I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else?

Fair question.

The reason is the latest non-fiction book I’ve read ~ The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.


I’ve been meaning to read this for so long. I read In Defense of Food last year, another book by Pollan, and I just knew I would find this one interesting. I certainly did find it interesting.

I was reading about a farm raising organic chickens, and the description (sadly) reminded me of Oryx and Crake.

The Cornish Cross represents the pinnacle of industrial chicken breeding. It is the most efficient converter of corn into breast meat ever designed, though this efficiency comes at a high physiological price. The birds grow so rapidly (reaching oven-roaster proportions in seven weeks) that their poor legs cannot keep pace, and frequently fall. (from The Omnivore’s Dilemma)

That was reality. Here is the fiction that it brought to mind:

“This is the latest,” said Crake. What they were looking at was a large bulblike object that seemed to be covered with stippled whitish-yellow skin. Out of it came twenty thick fleshy tubes, and at the end of each tube another bulb was growing.

“What the hell is it?” said Jimmy.

“These are chickens,” said Crake. “Chicken parts. Just the breasts on this one. They’ve got ones that specialize in drumsticks too, twelve to a growth unit.”

“But there aren’t any heads,” said Jimmy. He grasped the concept – he’d grown up with sus multiorganifer, after all – but this thing was going too far. At least the pigeons of his childhood hadn’t lacked heads.

“That’s the head in the middle,” said the woman. “There’s a mouth opening at the top, they dump the nutrients in there. No eyes or beak or anything, they don’t need those.” … The woman gave her jocular woodpecker yodel, and explained that they’d removed all the brain functions that had nothing to do with digestion, assimilation and growth. (from Oryx and Crake)

When I read In Defense of Food last year, I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea that we should be advised to “eat food.” Um, yeah. No problem. Well, the more attention I have paid to the various things available for my ingestion, the more I have come to realize that the advice to “eat food” may be more necessary than I had thought. I had begun to refer to typical chicken available at the supermark as ChickieNobs (the above mentioned chicken-like creature from Oryx and Crake. I can’t really call it a joke, because it really isn’t funny. It’s pretty sad that our actual agricultural system resembles that in a dystopian novel.

While I don’t recommend Oryx and Crake, I do recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma without hesitation. It, too, is sad at times, disturbing at times, but I think it is better to be informed than to avoid unpleasant information. Particularly when this is about the real world, the real food we eat. Learning about the way food is produced, along with the impact farming and food production can have on our health, our economy and the environment may affect our choices. Maybe not, but it’s better to have the information so we can make informed choices. I doubt food would have become so confusing, at times unrecognizable, if enough people were paying attention. (Don’t believe that it’s confusing? Read a few more ingredient lists. Sometimes I think I should have a chemistry degree in order to decipher ingredient lists.)

The description of the chickens that can hardly stand is just one small piece of the information offered in the book. That section really stood out to me for a few reasons: 1)Chicken is the meat I most often eat. 2)I thought that by purchasing organic “free range” chickens, I would be supporting farm practices that I would be comfortable with. Apparently not. 3)It immediately reminded me of the ChickieNobs in Oryx and Crake.

I can’t and won’t try to tell anyone else what or how to eat and don’t presume to know what’s best for anyone else. I don’t even claim that Michael Pollan is the final word on food production. I do urge you to give it some thought, though, if you haven’t. With soaring rates of obesity and food-related health problems, how can we not?

On that note, if you’ve read any books on food production or nutrition that you’d recommend, please let me know! I always welcome book suggestions, and if you’ve read something that disagrees with Pollan’s books, I’d be interested in reading a different perspective.

My second half

I ran my second half-marathon on Saturday ~ The Dick Beardsley Half Marathon in Detroit Lakes, MN. You might be surprised to hear that. I talked about my training a lot for my first half-marathon in May. If I’m not mistaken, I didn’t say a peep about the second. The reason is that I didn’t decide to do it until fairly close to race-day and didn’t put in the training that I did the first time. I suppose part of me thought if it was a total flop, no one had to be any the wiser. 😉

I can confirm that it was a different experience from the Fargo half-marathon in May. I wasn’t as prepared, and I felt it. Whereas at Fargo, I jogged along feeling great and grinning the whole way, for the Dick Beardsley, my legs felt pretty sore when I still had several miles to go. Not an injury, nothing I couldn’t live with for a few more miles, I just had sore legs.

I ran this half-marathon with my sister-in-law. It was her first half, and I hoped that having company along the way would be helpful. I know it meant a lot to me having another of my sisters-in-law running with me at Fargo.

Now she can check half-marathon off her list, and now I’ve got two of them under my belt. (Still dreaming of a possible full someday, but I’ve got a long way to go in training…)

Here we are with Dick Beardsley himself at the end. That’s me on the right with the dopey grin. I think I must get a little of that runner’s high that we hear about. Or maybe I was just that happy to be done. Or that happy to meet Dick Beardsley. Probably all of the above. 🙂

Running the half on Saturday has renewed my enthusiasm. Now I’m kicking myself for not signing up for the TC10. I’m not sure if I’ll have any more races in 2011, but I want to keep running and working toward 2012!

Fellow runners, do you have any big events still coming up in 2011? Do you typically run throughout the winter or take some time off?

Let the new (school) year begin!

Wow! It’s been a busy week! We had a very nice holiday weekend then jumped right into the new school year. It’s been an adjustment, but I’m finally coming up for a little air. This has been the first week of third grade for my daughter and first grade for my son. This has involved a lot of reading aloud on my part (and I do a lot of that anyway, just for fun). I actually have a sore throat from all the reading, but I think I’ll adjust. We do get to read some really interesting books, and I very much enjoy sharing in this process with my children. Next week we will also start our co-op classes, so that will be another adjustment as we are at classes all day on Fridays and adding homework from those classes into our daily routine. I expect that soon enough it will all feel normal again. As long as the load is reasonable, we always seem to adapt, don’t we?

Speaking of adapting reminds me of a favorite line from the movie my husband and I saw last night. Thanks to Bliss.com, we got to see a pre-screening of the movie Moneyball. Without giving too much away (I hope), it was about a Major League Baseball team working to build a winning team in a new way. That favorite line I referred to was, “Adapt or die!” Another favorite line for me was, “Baseball thinking is medieval.” The movie was entertaining; the whole theater burst into laughter quite a few times. (I thought Jonah Hill was great in this movie.) It also showed what can happen, good and bad, when we decide to approach an old problem in a new way. They say the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Sometimes we just have to turn everything upside-down and try something totally new. Something to think about, eh?

I better get back to work. My daughter asked to take a little break, so I thought I’d stop in and say hello here and catch up a bit on my email.

I hope to get on a little more next week. I’m dying to talk about a book I’ve been reading (finally). Have a great weekend!

~Melissa