I’m 40! It’s Fabulous!

You guys, it’s my birthday! I MADE TO 40!!! I was hoping to have a big blow-out birthday like I did for 30 (rounded up my girlfriends and went to Mexico on a cruise–man, dual income no kids was a good time, amiright?) but of course I’m back in chemo world again, so that’s not possible. But I thought of something better anyway, because back in 2006 I didn’t have a blog, and I hadn’t founded a grassroots organization committed to changing the landscape of metastatic cancer through direct action. 

So here’s my big birthday wish, and I need all of your help to make it come true. I want you to go to metup.org, and click on the donate button. It’ll take you to a donation page for METUP’s fiscal sponsor, Social and Environmental Entrepreneurs. (We’re proud to be a project of SEE and very glad they’ll be filing all the tax paperwork for us next year instead of us having to file it!) And then I want you to donate, but not just any donation amount because it’s my 40th birthday. 

So, donate $4. Your latte costs more than that.

Or $40. That’s like 4 bottles of wine. I know it’s a sacrifice but I also know how much wine you drink.

Or $400, #bestdocever who just got back from a vacation to JAPAN.

Or $4000. Yeah I see you tech worker high roller driving a Tesla to work in my husband’s office. Don’t pretend like you don’t have the cash

Or $40,000. Hi Joan Lunden’s staffer who is so nice when we DM on Twitter! OK, at least retweet this one, will you? 

Or $400,000. Shut up, it could happen. No YOU’RE being delusional.

You get the idea. 4’s. Because 40 is FABULOUS. Or it will be, if you make my birthday wish come true!


On Assholery

I am kinda pissed off right now. And when I say kinda, I mean I AM FUCKING PISSED OFF RIGHT NOW. I am pissed off enough that I am going to move beyond cursing and into the realm of blaspheming. Which, if you know me, you know that means that my frustration level is now at 11. And after you read this, you’re gonna be like “Damn, that Beth sure has a temper…but she also has a point.” Get the popcorn, because here I go.

Here’s the scenario, and you’ve probably seen this happen too: the Facebook page of a major retailer announced coupons on formula. Which is a good thing because formula is so ridiculously expensive. I mean seriously, is it made of Jesus poop or something? Why the hell is it so expensive? Anyway, of course because it has to do with feeding your child, a bunch of pompous windbags start commenting on the post that breast is best and formula is poison and anyone who feeds their kids formula is a horrible mother because they just didn’t try hard enough to nurse.

I CAN’T EVEN WITH THESE PEOPLE. Who the fuck do you think you are, Jesus Joseph and Mary? Seriously, what gives you the right to tell other parents how to care for their children? Do you honestly believe that calling someone a bad mother is going to make them change their ways? No really, I want to know if someone called you a bad mother for feeding your child a particular way, would that asshole’s behavior be the thing that made you say “I am going to give up breast feeding and buy some expensive formula?” Really?

I am not even going to go into the whole part about how there are lots of reasons that are completely beyond the control of a mother that would make her avoid breast feeding. Oh wait, yes I am. How about cancer treatment? Taking medications that are unsafe for baby? Milk production problems? Nipple trauma? HIV? A traumatic birth experience that made nursing impossible? Tuberculosis? Hepatitis C? Or, how about the kid is adopted? Shall I go on? Oh, you say, but that’s only a handful of people, you say, everyone else should be nursing, you say. A handful, really? How about one in 9 babies are born premature in the US every year, for a starter? Holy Mary mother of God, are you kidding me?

But that isn’t really the point. Because, this isn’t actually about breast vs. bottle, is it? The point isn’t whether a mom has a good reason to feed their baby a certain way. The point is, YOU have no good reason to be judging someone else for making choices about how to raise their own children. And this is the part where I go all libertarian liberal on you: how you choose to raise you kids is NONE OF MY BUSINESS. If you’re not abusing or neglecting them, or raising them in a way that harms my children, then who the hell I am to tell you how to be a parent? I am nobody, that’s who. AND SO ARE YOU. Speaking of blaspheming, how about a little judge not lest ye be judged? You think Jesus, or Buddha for that matter, would get on a message board and say “That is a bad mother right there, she feeds her kid formula”? REALLY?

Here is the thing, I’m gonna take a deep breath because clearly I am pissed, and screaming at you isn’t helping things. Iiiiiiiiinnnnnnhale, and exhaaaaaaaaalllle. OK. When you shit on another parent, what you are doing is keeping all of us, all moms, from moving forward. Your comments keep us from advocating for each other. Because of you, another mom will hide the truth of her life, out of fear that someone will tell her she is a bad mom. In short, it is your fault we don’t have universal preschool for our children and paid maternity leave. Because unless we stop shitting on each other and come together to fight for the things we need, we’re gonna keep right on working to pay for preschool for our kids when we should be on maternity leave with their younger sibling, which makes it much harder to breast feed, WHICH WAS THE THING YOU WERE TRYING TO PRMOTE WITH YOUR ASSHOLERY IN THE FIRST PLACE. THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

Christ on a cracker, I can’t even with these people. Just, everyone stop it. Stop trying to convince the world that they should live YOUR way, and parent YOUR way, and just handle your OWN business. Just, STOP.

I am Judgy McJudgerson

Recently I had a conversation with a friend whose kids are grown. By that, I mean they are out of college, and working. But like many people of their generation, they are still financially dependent on their parents.

There’s been a lot written and said about the Millennial generation and how they just can’t seem to “grow up” and act like adults. Why are they living at home? Why aren’t they working harder? What is wrong with them?

I am going to confess something right now: I have been Judgy McJudgersoning the parents of Millennials. I have been “blaming” them for what is “wrong” with their children. But the more I think about it, the more I realize I am an asshole for that.

The story I had bought into about Millennials is this: their parents were a generation of helicopter parents, indulging them in everything they could possibly want, protecting them from the world, never giving them an opportunity to take risks, never making them work hard, helping them with everything along the way. So, now they are a bunch of entitled assholes who mooch off their parents instead of taking responsibility for their own lives. That is to say, Mommy fucked them up.

Just writing that out, I mean, what kind of a judgmental asshole am I for thinking that about someone? Let alone a whole generation?

Let’s start over. First off, as usual, when we talk about Millennials finishing college and not becoming self-supporting, let’s remember we’re talking about the ones who came from families who could afford to send them to college and then support them financially after they graduated. Is that what’s happening in poor communities? I think not. Poor Millennials are living a VERY different life than the ones we read about in the paper.

Then there’s the part where we don’t talk about the Great Recession killing off middle class jobs. It is not easy to work at Walmart (the job you can get these days when you have little work experience beyond whatever part time work you did to help pay for college) and pay off your student loans. Also, let’s remember that tuition costs have EXPLODED. When I graduated from a private college in 1998, tuition was around $20,000 a year. It’s more than twice that now, only 15 years later. Tuition at the public law school I graduated from in 2001 has TRIPLED, in just 12 years. It makes sense that middle class parents, who are much more likely to have good paying jobs than their children, are helping their adult children financially.

Also, is it so bad that the Millennial generation values things other than financial success? Like their relationships with others? And a sense of doing something good in the world? Why is any of that a bad thing?

See, The Cult of Perfect Motherhood tells you that you are damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Be completely dedicated to your children, read every study, apply every parenting tip, because if you don’t, you are going to ruin their lives. But if you DO apply every parenting tip, give them all your attention and meet all their needs, you are smothering them to death and they will never learn to stand on their own two feet.

Fuck that noise.

My friend is doing what she thinks is best for her kids. I am doing what I think is best for mine. We might make different choices, but we are living in different circumstances. And most importantly, we both love our children. She is not a bad parent and neither am I.

So, I am going to stop Judgy McJudgersoning the “helicopter parent” generation. I will keep talking about why I parent the way I do, and why I think parenting from a place of fear and guilt is not a good idea. But I will not put down other moms who made different choices than me, because just like me, they are doing what they think is best for their children.

And I will hope that the economy is less insane when it comes time for my kids to take flight.

Cocktails with the Cult: Beth’s Dirty Martini

I’ve decided to start a new recurring series on booze. So, here’s how drinking works for me now that I am in my late 30’s: if I drink during the work week and then have to get up in time to get the kids ready and then commute to work? Yeah, that’s not happening. Also, if I drink more than 2 drinks on a weekend? I am going to be hung over, in fact, 2 is pushing it most times. There is no amount of water-drinking that will prevent that hangover. A couple times a year, I let loose and get completely sloshed, and the next day is always a disaster, which is why I rarely do it.

What this means is, because I don’t drink much or often, I am a lot more choosy about my booze. Since my only drinking is one cocktail on a Saturday, I don’t want to waste that drink on crap like I did when I was a college student. So, my days of Popov vodka and OJ are gone, and replaced with higher quality cocktails.

Of course, I am too tired to be going out for cocktails. I haven’t had more than a couple of nights of decent sleep in a row since before The Girl was born, and today is her second birthday. Once in a while, The Hubs and I will get a babysitter and go out, but honestly, my cocktails are mostly made at home. It costs less money that way too. So, we have a pretty good selection of quality booze in our pantry, and I am always on the lookout for new cocktail recipes. Recipes that I will share with you in this new recurring series.

Oh hi Judgy McJudgerson, are you worried about my kids becoming alcoholics because they have seen me drink? Or that they’ll raid my liquor cabinet? I’m not. I firmly believe the dumbest thing you can do is shelter your kids from the world. I think teaching them about safe non-binging ways to drink, like a single cocktail, and explaining to them about how booze affects people, especially kids, especially teenagers who are driving cars, is the right way to raise my kids. You disagree? Great, then you do it differently. I will be over here with my cocktail.

Alright, onto today’s recipe: my version of a dirty martini. You may have figured out by now that I am a vodka drinker, not a gin drinker. If you are a gin snob, I will understand if you never read my blog again after this post. You can go hang out with the Glenn Beck fans who stopped reading after I shared that article from Al Jazeera.

My dirty martini is a simple drink, with not a lot of ingredients, so you want those ingredients to be of good quality. I have my own favorite brands of vodka–Crater Lake is my new favorite, but may not be available in your part of the world. I used to drink Stoli because it’s not bad and it’s readily available, before the whole Russia-hates-gay-people thing happened. Just buy a vodka that tastes smooth to you, not like rubbing alcohol. What I mean is, don’t buy cheap vodka. Buy a middle-level or top shelf vodka. And for the love of god, store your vodka in the freezer. Room temperature vodka is just wrong.

Next, you need some dry vermouth. I use Boissiere. There may be better brands out there, I don’t know that much about vermouth. I cannot express how disappointed you will be if you try to make this drink with sweet vermouth.

And then there are the olives. You want green olives, and you want them to come in a jar with some brine, and you want them to look yummy, not all shriveled and sad. If you want to be really fancy, get some stuffed with blue cheese (OMG SO DELICIOUS) or hit the olive bar at Whole Foods. I personally get a fancy looking jar from my regular grocery store.

So here’s how I put this drink together, and my apologies to the bartenders of the world who will certainly tell me I am doing it wrong. You can go read some other blog with the gin snobs and the Glenn Beck lovers–or better yet, perhaps you could come over and mix me one? Because, that would be awesome too. What I do is, I take my martini glass (don’t have one? Pretty sure this would work out OK in a kid’s plastic cup from Ikea–I can hear bartender brains exploding even more) and I put in a splash of the dry vermouth. Just a splash, not a shot. Then I put in a splash of the brine from the olive jar–this is what makes it “dirty.” If you like it very dirty (snicker, I said dirty), put more brine in there. Then I pour in some vodka to fill the glass–not up to the rim, because there’s gonna be some olives in there.

Next, I take a martini pick (or a toothpick if you don’t have martini picks) and I put 3 or 4 olives or 5 on it. And I use that martini pick to stir the martini. I do not shake my martini with ice because that just waters down your martini. Also, because almost all of this drink is vodka that has been in the freezer, you don’t need ice. It’s already cold. This would be part of the genius of vodka over gin.

And that’s it! You now have a little taste of heaven to help you unwind on Friday night. Cheers!

Why You Should Never Let Your Husband Touch Your Breast Pump

When I was pregnant with The Boy, my plan for feeding him was at I would nurse until he grew teeth, and then I figured I would be too freaked out at the possibility of my nipple being bitten off to want to stick it in his mouth anymore. I also planned to pump when I went back to work, and I wasn’t really sure if I would keep pumping after I stopped nursing.

Then, I have written before, The Boy ended up being born 13 weeks early. Babies that premature can’t eat right away. They just don’t know how to suck, swallow, and breathe the way a newborn does, because their brains aren’t ready for something that complex. So, instead, The Boy got his first nutrition through an IV, and after that it came through a feeding tube. And what they put in that feeding tube was my breast milk, mixed with a calorie fortifying formula, to help him bulk up.

I started pumping on the day he was born, using a loaner pump from the hospital. It was a ginormous thing and it took me a while to get the hang of getting the flanges arranged on my breasts and working the controls on the pump at the same time. So, my first pumping session home from the hospital, I asked The Hubs to adjust the suction while I held the flanges on. I kept telling him “A little more, a little more” and that’s when he decided it would be easier to start at the maximum suction and dial down instead. (Exhaustion makes even smart people do stupid things.) The string of swear words that came out of my mouth at that moment would have made Ava Gardner blush. He was not allowed to touch my breast pump ever again.

Once he was big enough to try feeding by mouth, he both bottles of his breast milk-formula cocktail, and we also tried nursing. Now, most preemies tend to do better nursing instead of bottle feeding–it tends to make their heart rates and breathing stabilize. The Boy, however, was the opposite, and he would desat horribly when I tried to nurse him. After a couple of attempts that didn’t go all that well, I decided maybe it was best just to feed him bottles until he got home from the hospital, and then make an attempt at nursing in the comfort of our own home, where we no longer needed to worry about him desatting. So I kept on pumping.

But at home, the few times I tried to nurse him, he screamed bloody murder. The Boy wanted nothing to do with my boobs, period. Holding a screaming, unhappy baby who was rejecting me felt pretty damn shitty. It felt like the opposite of bonding with him. It felt like torture. We both cried. And I quickly decided that I would just keep on pumping. And I did, until he was a year old, when I decided I had had enough of the pump and I stopped.

I didn’t choose to exclusively pump, if you really think about it. My son’s prematurity made that choice for me. It was one of the many times that I had little control over how I could parent my child during the first year of his life. His prematurity was driving the train pretty often.

What I took away from the experience of feeding The Boy is that feeding your baby is a super emotional thing for moms. It was one of the biggest surprises about becoming a parent for me, just how emotional a thing feeding is. How much it hurt my heart when The Boy refused to nurse. How powerful it felt to be able to provide him with breast milk even though my body couldn’t carry him to term. Feeding you child is just a very emotional thing.

And this is why it is so important to be extremely careful when you talk to other moms about how they feed their child. Because it is so emotional, it is very easy to come off as a Judgy McJudgerson when you talk to other moms about how they feed their baby. It’s easy for well-meaning comments to be received as judgment. Especially because, for many moms, what they planned for feeding didn’t work out for reasons beyond their control, and so the judgment they feel about their feeding method feels especially unfair.

And because it is so emotional, that is also why I think it is so important to help women feel supported in whatever feeding method they use. I honestly believe that most American women are aware of the benefits of nursing. They know breast milk’s benefits, or if they don’t, someone will tell them about it at some point in their pregnancy. Most women are not stupid. They gather information and then make a decision about how they will parent based on that information…or, the realities of their situation dictate their decision.

So, I think the best approach to discussing this topic with other moms is to ask open ended questions, and then to LISTEN to them. Listen to them talk about why the feed the way they do. And then tell them “I support you.”