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What in the World do I Feed my Kids? (Part I)

November 19, 2009

The other day, I took my one-year-old to a pediatric dietitian.  Over the last several months, her weight hasn’t been keeping up with her height, so the pediatrician thought it wise to get some nutritional guidance.

I got plenty of guidance at that visit, but how do I apply it? The dietitian thought I should:

  • wean the baby off breastfeeding and feed her plenty of formula
  • feed her every 4 hours (no snacks of any kind in between – not even fruit)
  • stay away from whole grains and opt for refined flours instead.

I left the office contemplating which one of the suggestions was the most bizarre.  On the face of it, the advice goes against everything we seem to know about nutrition. Whole grains are more nutritious than white, breast milk is preferable to formula, and many small meals better than three  square ones.

The last point really took me by surprise, but from conversations with several other people, including a registered dietitian, it seems that the extra fiber in whole grains interferes with absorption of certain minerals and causes babies to feel full faster, preventing them from eating more calories.

But as much as I didn’t welcome the idea of setting up a separate pantry for the little one, it was the first suggestion that left me clueless. Unlike our other four kids, this one has a host of allergies, including… milk, making milk-based formula a non-option. And as long as the jury is out on the safety of soy, I have no intention of pumping her with a quart of soy-based formula each day.

So now what do I do? Any ideas?


Is Israel Good Enough for Your Charity

November 18, 2009

Several days ago, Mother in Israel asked her readers to compare American and Israeli parenting styles. In response, someone mentioned Israelis’ lack of social graces, which has led one reader to make the following comment.

…let’s look at the effects of this aspect of Israeli culture. When tourists return from Israel with a bad taste in their mouth, will they return as often? At all? Will they tell their friends that they simply must go to Israel? Will those of us that are Jewish reach as deeply into our pockets when asked for money for Israel?

When you are asked for a contribution for Israel, and the first thing that pops into your mind is seeing an old man shoved aside by EVERYONE trying to board a bus. Or the many drivers that see by your rental car that you are a tourist and then gladly run you off the road, how does that affect your thought process? Every year North American Jews give millions of dollars to Israel, and yet it is difficult to see that Israelis appreciate it at all.

I think that it also makes it more difficult to defend Israel.

Don’t get me wrong. I still and will continue to donate money to Israeli causes, through the UJA, JNF and other avenues. I still and will continue to defend Israel as best as I can with the knowledge I have. My husband, as a professor on a campus with a very active anti-Israel movement, does so even more. But I am sure that there are others that maybe don’t donate as much or as often as they used to and maybe don’t speak up for Israel as strongly as they used to in part because of the interactions they have had with Israelis.

Nothing annoys Israelis more than the argument “it’s hard to donate to Israel when Israelis are so …” Every day, Israelis invest their sweat, blood, and tears into building this amazing country. So you can imagine how we feel when Jews from abroad tell us we are not good enough for their charity dollars or vacation budgets.

Truth is, Israel is not a charity case. It is a crucial component of contemporary Diaspora Jewish identity. A friend recently related his mother’s memories of growing up in Boston during 1930s and 1940s. While other immigrant kids had a sense of geographic belonging and could brag about the way things had been done in Italy, Ireland, or Greece, Jewish children experienced “a  deep level shame at not being able to point to a country (and not simply an area of land) on the map and say ‘that’s where my people is from.’”

Israel’s role in shaping Jewish identity was reaffirmed by a recent Brandeis study, which has shown that a single Birthright trip to the country can lower a person’s chances of intermarriage by almost one half. Over the past decade, the Israel government together with North American philanthropists has invested close to half a billion dollars in Birthright trips.

Israel appreciates all types of Diaspora solidarity. But as Shimon Peres has aptly put, the best gift one can give Israel is coming to live here.

Juggling the kids

November 4, 2009

Over at the Dumb Little Man, Ali posted an interesting piece on multitasking. The thrust of the article is the differentiation between tasks that lend themselves to multitasking and the ones that do not. Ali’s first choice for multitasking is childcare (followed by house work and commuting).

Some things lend themselves brilliantly to multi-tasking. These tend to be activities which are purely physical, or which by their nature take a set amount of time to complete – however well you focus. A few examples are:

Childcare. You need to be present for a set amount of time – interacting intensely with the kids won’t make that necessary time any shorter!

    First of all, Ali clearly doesn’t know the first thing about childcare. Paying half-hearted attention to a child is the sure fire way to protract the interaction. Parents’ or caregivers’ attention and validation are top priorities on any child’s list, to the extent that Dreikurs described attention-getting (along with power struggles) as one of the main types of unbalanced parent-child relationships.

    Here’s what happens when people decide to multitask childcare (you do not need to understand Russian to enjoy this):

    I pity a child whose mother wants to “be present for a set period of time.” Children’s emotional, physical, and intellectual well-being requires close interactions. Granted, I too talk to my children while doing laundry, cooking dinner, or sending an email, but this is not childcare.

    Childcare means listening to a child closely to discern her real needs. Childcare means giving the child genuine warmth and unconditional love, critical for building a well-adjusted person. Childcare means taking advantage of teachable moments to help her develop intellectually. Childcare means finding creative and appropriate means of dispensing discipline to help the child integrate into society.

    Childcare is not a physical task that takes a set period of time. It is an intellectual and emotional journey that lasts decades. Its effects play an important role in every aspect of a child’s life well into adulthood. The impact of the “all-important” tasks, which according to Ali require full attention (writing documents, reading, and online research) is not even on the sample scale as the repercussions of good or faulty child rearing.

    Ultimately, 30 years down the road nobody will recall the crucial proposal or the urgent research report in which we’ve instead so much time. But our children will always carry warm childhood memories and hopefully enjoy a close relationship with us, which had evolved during those precious moments of one-on-one interaction.

    Torah as a self-help book

    November 4, 2009
    tags: ,

    Are you looking to make your life more fulfilling?

    Shell out $20 or mosey over to the synagogue near you.

    Turkey neck bean soup

    October 29, 2009

    As we woke up to gray skies and chilly air this morning, I decided to treat my kids to turkey neck soup – their favorite. Turkey is an excellent source of iron, but my family is not very fond of it. The only part of turkey everyone loves is the neck

    If you are looking for a substantial and satisfying yet economical meal to warm your family’s bodies and hearts this winter, this recipe will fit the bill.

    Turkey neck bean soup

    The dangers of Chinese (food)

    October 29, 2009

    Following the Chinese infant formula scare last year and other reports of unsafe foods coming out of China, I decided to keep all products from this country away from my kitchen. After growing up in a totalitarian country, I knew that human life was worthless in the eyes of the Beijing government and I certainly was not going to rely on them to safeguard the safety of my family’s food.

    At the time, it didn’t seem like such a big challenge, since for the most part, we buy locally-made products anyway. The reality hit me on my very first visit to the supermarket. While holding a packaged side of salmon, I noticed that it had been imported from none other than China. Quick perusal of the entire fish freezer left me speechless. With the exception of Nile Perch (a questionable nutritional and ecological choice too) all other fish products either hailed from China or were completely unmarked.

    Undeterred, I tried my luck at the fishmongers. There, nothing was marked, so everything hinged on the salesman’s integrity. After looking high and low, all I could come up with was one brand of Norwegian salmon and one brand of local tilapia.

    Just in case you think I am exaggerating, this week I came across an extremely disturbing photo report of pollution in China (some pictures are gruesome so view with care).  After seeing this, I am not going near another package of Chinese fish ever again.






    The great hummus war

    October 25, 2009

    A group of 300 Lebanese chefs got together to beat the Israeli Guinness record for the largest hummus plate in the world and prepared a 2,056 kg (4,523 lb) plate, complete with a Lebanese flag on top.

    If you think this is a simple celebration of national cuisine, think again, According to the AP report, Lebanese businessmen are looking to sue Israel for marketing hummus as an Israeli food. Thankfully, Israel is not relying on its exports of hummus to hold up the national economy. We have a few other things to sell, like world’s smallest medical camera and dew-based irrigation systems.

    And though the new record-setters told Israel “to keep its hands off hummus,” here is a great hummus recipe from my friend Simona.