Monday, February 21, 2011


Oh yeah, one more fun, newsworthy thing!

Check out my first (paid) contribution to the Patch online newspaper!  (And Lilian's adorable face)

Dana Alison on East Hampton Patch

East Hampton Patch, View Finder 2/17/11

East Hampton Patch, View Finder 2/17/11

Veguary Guest Blogger - *Jody* - THE VEGGIE MOMSTER

Last week I wrote about my relationship with vegetarianism and being a mom.  Today, I present a different point of view, from a guest blogger friend of mine.  Jody and I met via Live Journal, where I had my previous blog for years, and she has been helpful towards me as a veteran (lesbian), vegetarian mom.  I hope we can get our girls together one day to meet.  So here goes:


Jody and her girls, Mya and Sylvia.
The Veggie Momster…

When Dana asked me to be a guest blogger for Veguary, in terms of being a vegetarian mom raising vegetarian kids, I thought to myself: “Self, what do you have to say on the matter?” And my answer to myself was a quite unenthusiastic, “not too much”. But the question lingered for a few days and I realized that it’s really been an amazing food adventure for the first 5 years of motherhood.

When I got pregnant, I had been vegetarian for about 5 years. And by vegetarian, I really mean pescatarian (you know, the occasional non-farm raised fish). I told myself, like every good granola crunchy pregnant woman should, that I would give in to my body’s cravings because my body knew best. Unfortunately, my cravings did not know best. The first fall off the veggie-hauling wagon was an order-in meal of teriyaki chicken wings. Followed by the worst, um, “digestive episodes” ever. The second was for a McDonald’s hamburger. Nothing crazy, just the hamburger. Apparently someone force-fed that cow some crazy steroids because I was a mean raging *itch for a day or two afterwards. I learned my lesson well enough that I didn’t make it to strike three.

Fast forward a few months to birth. I gave birth to two beautiful identical twin girls and I was as happy as could be. Until I realized they weren’t getting any nutrition from my nursing attempts. I went through a few weeks of doctor appointments, lactation consultations and crying until I finally accepted the fact that due to a hormonal imbalance, I was only producing milk from one breast, and not even enough to feed one baby, let alone two. I continued to nurse, but ended up supplementing with formula. The first push in regards to what my children ate was due to this nursing problem. From day two, the nurses pushed me to supplement with high calorie formula “until my milk came in”. Then, because the girls weren’t gaining quickly enough for the nurses’ liking, they became more adamant in their demand for the high calorie formula. Being a first time mom, I gave in and figured they knew best.

Things went well for about a year. I made most of my own baby food by processing different fruits and veggies and combinations of the two by hand. They were doing well and growing like little weeds. They were still tiny little babes, but were continuing on their own healthy path.

When the girls were a year old, we moved from Georgia to my home state of Connecticut, in order for my then partner – now wife – to have legal rights to our daughters. Unfortunately, this brought back a bunch of bad habits. My father, a meat and potatoes – conservative – Roman Catholic – Italian, began with the questioning. You don’t give them meat? How are they going to get protein? You’re depriving them! You’ll make them crazy. Ah, how I loved the judgments… *sigh*. By the time we ended up moving even closer to my parents’ house, the girls were basically eating anything they wanted as long as it didn’t have meat or gelatin. It wasn’t the meat part that made things difficult. It was the gelatin. Gelatin is found in some places that most people wouldn’t expect.

My dad loves to pour the junk food down their throats and candy and donuts are, to this day, his favorite way to show affection. And, what kid can resist the fun of gummy bears and jelly beans? So, from the ignorance of trying really hard to make my kids love him, he has fed my children animal bones.

I can’t lay all the blame on dear old Dad. And in his defense, he was trying and has turned his views around on my “different” family, so I do have to give him the benefit of the good ole’ college try. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough. However, a licensed day care provider should probably be more astute.

We started the girls in out of home day care when they were 2 years old. For the first year we had an amazing director who showered our girls with too much love (is there even such a thing?) and was wonderful about using cloth diapers and making sure things were purely vegetarian. Then, after a year, she sold the day care. The new owner decided to let go the previous staff and restaff with her own family members. It wasn’t looking too good. Not a month into the switch, the girls came home talking of these lovely goodies they got to try called “fruit snacks”. What?!?!? First of all, I am in charge of what my children eat. I sent them with plenty of food and a specific written letter saying they were not to have gelatin. I checked with the owner and found that indeed the brand had gelatin in it. Ok, the first time was an honest mistake. The 5th and 6th times made us switch day cares. She obviously wasn’t listening to my concerns. And while a little gelatin will not kill my daughters, I felt completely disrespected.

Ever since then, I’ve been extra cautious when talking with the teachers and explaining that gelatin can pop up in unexpected places. I now ask for teachers to call me when they are planning to have food outside of what I send. The girls are in Kindergarten and have a full understanding that they don’t eat meat. Nor do they want to. However, they don’t have an understanding of things like “chicken broth” or “bacon bits”. So I can’t be 100% sure that when they go to school and have the grilled cheese hot lunch that they aren’t getting the vegetable soup. I mean, vegetable soup doesn’t have meat in it, right? Wrong. Beef broth. I encourage them to ask the server if they aren’t sure they can have something, but I usually just make their lunches or tell them exactly what to choose when they are in line. I guess part of the “letting go” process of letting them grow up is to trust that they listen to me in the morning and can make sense of it.

As they get older, I’m sure they’ll have a better understanding of the actual meat products. And I’m sure they’ll become little spokespeople for PETA (they already show signs of strong convictions). They often berate their other mom for being a carnivore. In fact, they amuse us by occasionally asking, “Mommy, is that meat?” “Yes.” “Is it BEAR?!” “No.” “It’s mean to eat animals.”

People will continue to tell me what they think is "right" and "wrong". People will be ignorant and disrespectful. All I can do is do what I do best, and that's to love my children the best way I know how, to raise my children the best way I know how and for now, I'm doing my best. I just hope my best is good enough.

-- Jody

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Veggie Kids?

In the spirit of Veguary...
Even as far back as my pregnancy and Lilian being just an embryo, both concerned and curious people wanted to know: will my child be a vegetarian.  And the short answer was always "how would I know, I haven't met her yet!"
As I've said before, I've been a vegetarian of varying degrees since I was 12.  I've gone years with NO meat, periods where I have the occasional poultry sandwich or chicken soup, a brief stint in veganism (my college experimentation), etc.  But for me, vegetarianism isn't so much a choice, as just part of who I am.  People ask if I "miss" meat.  I don't, and that's why it's easy for me.  I don't like meat.  Both morally and actually.  I would however miss cheese, yogurt, and dairy, and that's why I'm not vegan.  Morally, I'd love to cut dairy out of my diet, but I just "can't."  More on me another time though.
I did not have an entirely vegetarian pregnancy.  My meat-eating wife joked "when you're preggers, you're totally going to crave meat."  Well, that didn't happen either.  But I did have the occasional chicken meal both to keep my own health up (I suffered severe anemia while pregnant) and for the fetus's health.  I also explored other protein and iron sources too though, I had for the first time both quinoa and Japanese seaweed salad (both recommended by my midwife) and found both to be delicious.
But when Lilian was ready to start eating foods, people wondered, would I impose my vegetarianism on her?  I don't.  Do I hope she chooses my same path one day: yes.  But it'll be when she's old enough to know, understand, and make informed choices.  When Lily was still in baby food, I never once fed her meat baby food.  The thought turned my stomach - even homemade.  Meat in a blender, really?  But when she moved onto solid finger foods, she was given chicken breast pieces, meatballs, turkey coldcuts, hamburger, etc.  Things that Missy was eating for dinner, she got too.  But now that she's old enough to order in restaurants, we let her choose, and more often than not, her choice is grilled cheese, mac and cheese, broccoli, salad, soup.  She's actually not a big meat eater.  However her favorite meal is Chinese food: chicken and broccoli.  90% of the time, if you ask her what would you like to eat, she"ll reply "broccoli chicken... and rice."  Her favorite part is the broccoli and rice, but she'll have a few bites of chicken.  She actually really loves vegetables.  Broccoli is her #1 favorite food.  Carrots rate high too.  Just last night after work, I stopped and bought some baby carrots and dip to have as a snack before dinner.  I told her I got her a special snack, carrots and dip.  She lit up and replied "and broccoli" more as a statement than a request.  When we go out to dinner, if I order pasta/broccoli and salad and Missy orders chicken, or hamburger, or steak with a potato side, Lilian is much more likely to pick off of my plate in addition to her own.  So while she has vegetarian tendancies in her choices, she does eat meat. 
One day, I will tell her what meat actually is.  She's an animal lover.  Animals are her "thing", how some kids are obsessed with trains, dolls, or cars.   90% of her toys are animals (the remainders either Disney or Dora/Diego pretty much) and she carries around a few animals wherever we go.  Petting zoos are her idea of the "best day ever" and I've never seen her happier than when she's riding a pony, even if it's a mechanical carousel one.  One day, she'll put two and two together that the chickens she sees at the petting zoo/farms is the same chicken she requests for dinner.  And maybe she'll be OK with it, as many people are.  Maybe she won't.  But she's too young to understand now the killing and eating of animals.  She has no concept of death, and she lives and sleeps with animals (chihuahuas) and I'm sure she can't fathom eating them.  But at some point it'll all click, and the choice will be hers.
I've known two vegetarian kids (and by kids, I mean aged 10 or under).  One was a little boy I knew growing up.  He was Indian and his family's vegetarianism was religious.  But at age 6, he didn't have the same emotional attachment to the religious beliefs of his family as they did.  And birthday parties that served burgers/hot dogs, even when the parents provided veggie options for him, were stressful.  It made him different and maybe even weird.  Maybe it made him resentful.  Who knows.  The other was a 10 year old girl for whom I was her nanny for a while.  For her, it was a moral/health choice imposed on her by her mother, and it was lifelong.  She, however, had no desire to eat meat.  She was taught it was disgusting, and quite frankly she was preachy and rude about it, which isn't really my style either.  Both scenarios are not what I want for my kids.  I'm sure there are many well adjusted vegetarian kids out there, but I want it to be Lily's choice.  If it weren't for Missy, i'd probably never purchase it and bring it in the house (I didn't before her), but if Lilian wanted it out of the house, or asked for it, then she'd get it.
I really appreciate the fact that I was allowed to make choices as a kid & teenager.  My parents respected my choices and judgments and I think that helped build independance, free thinking, and confidence.  After one year of religious after-school classes I wanted to stop going, and they allowed me that choice.  My dance and music lessons lasted as long as I wanted them to, I was never forced to continue OR stop going.  And when I refused to eat meat as a kid, my parents said "ok," which I think some parents might not have been so agreeable to.  I grew up to be an intelligent, educated, and opinionated woman.  Though some of my opinions differ greatly from my family's, it is because of the choices they allowed me, that I was able to develop beliefs of my own.  I want the same for Lilian.  I'll certainly share my beliefs with her, and so will her other mom, and so will a lot of other people I'm sure.  But ultimately, I will respect her enough as a human and a girl to let her make her own decisions.  (Though I hope she'll choose broccoli over hamburgers forever...)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Check M or F?

I made an interesting discovery today.  The mom that I nanny for left the baby's birth certificate on the table (she was recently taking him to get a passport), and I noticed that the parent lines say "Mother/Parent" and "Father/Parent" and have check boxes next to them with M and F to check.  This is just like the marriage licenses in Massachusetts that don't say Husband/Wife, just party A and B or something like that, with sex selection boxes.  Why is this important?  Lilian's birth certificate says "Mother": me. "Father":________
So, some back story.  You can go here and read the "long story" of our two marriages... . But the relevant part is, that even though we had a legal civil union in 2007 in New Jersey, we got a legal "marriage" in Massachusetts in 2008 just 5 days before Lilian was born.
And here's why... the way I understand paternity laws is that if a couple is married, it is automatically assumed that the husband is the father of any child born during that marriage.  So even if they use a sperm donor/bank, the husband is automatically listed as the father on the BC (birth certificate) with no need for proof.  Even if it's obviously impossible (if a man loses his fertility due to illness or injury), he is legally the father.  And so in 2008 when the governor passed the law that New York State will recognize ALL legal marriages with all the same privledges, we assumed (and hoped) that this one would count.  Since Missy and I were legally married, in the hospital I listed "Melissa HerLastName" as the "father", since that's the terminology they used.  When Lilian's BC came a month later, I appeared alone.
Can we get Missy on the BC?  Yes.  Through adoption, which is legal in NY (same sex adoption), but that requires lawyers, court visits, social workers, etc.  And most importantly, money we don't have or WANT to spend on that.  The BC should have come that way, for free, and we shouldn't have to deal with this hassle.
But now that the New York BC's look different, maybe it is more standard.  Maybe since Lily was born just one week after the law was changed, someone in town hall just messed up and didn't know better?  But I want it reissued, and I want it for free.  I believe we're entitled to it.
I plan on calling/writing to the city hall where she was born, or Albany if I have to.  I hope I can get it cleared up easily.  But if not, I want to fight it in court.  I don't want an adoption, I want the original BC reiussed.  And I think any other couples in our situation should get the same.  So my next step will be to find a civil rights lawyer that would like to take this on, pro bono.  Hopefully it won't come to that.  But tomorrow I'm going to start making calls.
If anyone knows anything about this that I don't, i'd love to hear your feedback.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Moms Talk: East Hampton, NY Patch

I was asked to be on the Moms Council for one of our local online news sites.  Wednesdays are "MomsDay" at Patch and will feature a series of family oriented articles, many of them about local places and bargains.  But the MomsTalk section is going to be a weekly conversation about parenting in general, and I invite YOU to come and participate.  The premiere MomsTalk article is up, please show your support and visit and leave a comment!

Monday, February 7, 2011

New Car???

A few days ago I posted about car shopping and my difficult decisions Well, on Friday I had one of those totally cliche "used car salesman" experiences. 
I had already put a deposit on a black 2007 Jeep Liberty, but Missy found online a black 2008 with less milage for the same price.  We called, he said "I'm lookin' right at it," and that I better come down ASAP because it wouldn't be there for long. So the next day, we drove an hour and a half to go see it.  We got there and we were "passed off" to a salesman who said "let's go and find the Jeep."  So we walked around the parking lot on the ice until we found the black Liberty... but it had a sticker on it that said 2009, but the same mileage as the one online, so we asked if it was the same one.  He told us "yeah yeah, just a discrepancy" and so I asked if it was the same price and he didn't give a straight answer.  So we sat in it, checked it out, etc.  Then we went inside to fill out an application and I asked again if it was the correct price.  It seemed too good to be true.  He went and got keys and plates and took us for a test drive.  He made me drive alllll around, on the highway, etc.  Compared to the loaner Hyundai Sonata I've been driving, it drove like a dream.  He schmoozed us, talked about the Hamptons, his dog, fishing, etc.  We went back to the showroom and filled out more paperwork.  We were there for about 2 hours.  Finally, he comes back with a number on a slip of paper, and it was the monthly payment.  I take a peek, and it's DOUBLE what it should be, and so I told him that.  He smugly said, well, that's what it costs!  But I said, you said the price was X.  And he said, well the price varies depending on your credit (and mine is not great).  I told him, no it doesn't!  The price is the price, then the interest rate varies the monthly payment based on credit.  So I asked what the sticker price was and he avoided the question for a fourth time.  I finally had to say "are you refusing to tell me the price of the car?" And he said, well, no, it's X+4K.  What!!!  $4,000 more???  But even so, the monthly payments shouldn't be double.  I asked the interest rate and they refused to tell me. Needless to say, the whole thing was shady.  When things seem too good to be true.... usually they are.  I got so annoyed, angry.  Not because the 2009 car cost $4K more than the 2007 I looked at, that seemed fair.  And not because I couldn't afford it.  But because at that point they had wasted FOUR hours of my time.  Lilian was still at her grandma's house, and after a long work week, I wanted to see her.  I told him I was furious he lied and wasted both of our time.  He said "he didn't see it that way."  And then I got up to storm out and he said "I'm sorry" and I blurted out "you should be"... LOL.  We all know used car salesmen lie... it's the cliche, but he blatantly lied to direct questions and refused to answer others.  He wasted almost 6 hours of my Friday evening, and I nearly left in tears.  Ugh.
Generation Kia in Medford, NY, shame on you.
So the next morning Missy did lots of research before I even woke up, and she came in and told me she found a dealership with 6+ of the car I wanted on the lot in Westchester county (about 3+ hours away).  So we decided to make the trip, but the good news being that since it was only 20 minutes from my dad's house, he met us there.  We looked at the listings for the available cars and narrowed it down to the two with the lowest mileage... one was a 2007 in bright silver and one was a 2008 in classic Jeep green.  We test drove the 2008 and had to make a decision.  My dad "had a bad feeling" about the silver one and I didn't like the color, so we decided to go with the green.  It's not 100% a done deal yet, they are finalizing the financing, but my dad surprised me by offering to co-sign if he had to, so it's probably close to a done deal.  We'll be able to go pick it up in 7-10 days.  I already paid my down payment, and I'm super excited.  Having my dad there made it SO much less stressful because I trust his judgment, and I knew he wouldn't let me hand over my hardearned money on a shady deal.  So hopefully within 2 weeks we'll be driving our new car!  Yay!

Friday, February 4, 2011

This Is So Unlike Me

I'm usually really "good" at making decisions.  Not that I always make the "right" decision, because I have been known to, on occasion, make mistakes.  But I am usually an efficient decider.  I see my choices, I know what I want, and I choose.  I'm not wishy washy, I know what I want/like and I'm usually so secure in my decisions.
At the end of October, my beloved Joan Jetta (my 2003 VW Jetta) had her engine catch on fire, and it was more money to replace than she was worth, and so I chose not to repair her.  We've been driving my FIL's Sonata while he has been in Europe, but he needs his car back and I've procrastinated enough, and so we need to buy a car, ASAP.  We've been a one car family all along, and we will be for a little while more, so it's a big decision.
We need room - for carseat(s), luggage, shopping trips, hauling furniture purchases, etc.  We need something good in all weather, this winter has taught us.  But we don't want something enormous or a gas guzzler.  We want something reliable, but still cute and sporty. 
We went shopping last weekend and we were shown a 2007 Jeep Liberty and we loved it.  It's the "compact" SUV of the Jeep family, and gets good gas milage. Seats fold down for hauling.  Backseat is way roomier than my Jetta, and it has 4 wheel drive.  It's compact, cute, and curvy.  And most importantly, it's affordable!  (It's the black Jeep in the photos).  But today, we're going to test drive a 2008 Jeep Liberty.  Newer should be better, right?  Well, in 2008 they changed the whole design.  It's boxier and more utilitarian looking.  I prefer the mosre feminine design of the 2007.  (The 2008 is the silver one in the photos).  But obviously, a newer car is bound to last longer.  So, longevity vs. the cute factor?
And am I 100% positive the Jeep Liberty is what we want?  No.  But it seems to be the best compact SUV in our price range.
Normally, I can just make a decision.  I bought my Jetta on the spot and signed off same day.  Same with most of my furniture, and even my wedding rings.  I'm good at making decisions!  But this time, I'm afraid to just say "ok, this is it!  Let's go for it!"  I need this car to last us 5-ish years, and I'm terrified of a bad decision.  I've gotten at least 5 people involved with helping us decide, and got so-so advice from some.
This is just so unlike me...

My Egg Dilemma

My first Veguary post regards the poultry industry, more specifically eggs.  Eggs are an off and on dilemma for me, and i went years without eating them, but started again a few years ago.
I have yet to tell my vegetarianism story, so the short version is that i've been a vegetarian of varying degrees since i was in 6th grade, so i think about 1992.  That's almost 20 years already.  Strangely enough, that's also the year i decided to stop my religious education and declared myself an atheist (which is, of course, a topic for another time), but twenty years later i stand by both decisions, and neither are a "choice" anymore, but rather just who i am, my lifestyle.  Whereas eating the flesh of an animal goes against my beliefs and choices, in a perfect world, dairy (in minimal amounts) and eggs seem "ok" in my moral barometer.  (And i know that this differs from person to person, and that is why there are SO many types of vegetarianism).  The issue is, in my perfect world, the milk and eggs would be collected in the pasture by a woman wearing a bonnet, and carried back to the farmstand in a wicker basket with a gingham napkin lining it, where i'd purchase it and wave to the friendly cows and chickens who made them for me.  And sadly, the truth couldn't possibly be more opposite.  And that's where my moral dilemma lies.
This is not a cruelty-free blog and i do not subscribe to the PETA newsletter.  I'm not here to preach, and i respect everyone's right to make educated decisions... but "educated" is the part i'm not sure everyone is.  I believe if more people knew where their grocery store eggs came from, they would be outraged.
What's the problem with eggs?
It's not my intention to shock and disgust people with graphic descriptions and images of egg "factories".  They're out there, but you're not going to find it here.  Below are some sources where you can read about the inhumane treatment of laying hens.  But did you know that each hen is allotted a space smaller than a standard sheet of paper?  That doesnt even allow them to turn around, let alone spread their wings.  Did you know that female baby chicks (that will become laying hens) have their beaks cut/burned off so they cant fight in the enclosed spaces?  And do you know what happens to all the male chicks (about 50% of the ones born)?  What do you think happens to sick/injured, or even deceased laying hens?  I imagine that some people have never thought about this, and i invite you to not only ask yourself, but to research the answer.
And then there is the "cage-free", "free range", "organic", "vegetarian" labeled eggs.  If you look at my photo (discreetly snapped with my camera phone in my local, small town grocery store), you'll see that even my tiny grocery store offers a variety of these.  And i know that i've been guilty of buying these and believing the labels.  When i hear "cage free" or "free range", i picture a flock of hens inside  a fence, next to a cheerful red barn, with pastures behind.  Maybe i'm silly, maybe i just play too much Farmville, but these labels bring images to mind.  The truth is, that there is very little regulating what these labels are allowed to say or imply.  A factory with room for 1,000 hens with 2,000 crammed inside can still count as cage-free.  But the hens dont have more space or more favorable conditions.  These lables are purposefully misleading, and i ask you to research them, and ask yourself if it's OK that the industry is trying to "trick" you.
An obvious solution = buy local.  Of course.  But we dont all always have the option as readily available to us.  Working moms sometimes grab groceries on the way home.  Not everyone lives near working farms, farmstands, etc.  Do i think i could find "morally ok" eggs near me?  Probably.  But have i made the effort yet, no.  Because i'm busy being a mom, a wife, and working.  And so every time i buy a dozen eggs at the grocery store, i'm racked with guilt, and my dilemma comes to light: when will i stop buying factory produced eggs?
So my first pledge for Veguary is to research and find a local place to buy cruelty-free eggs.  And i ask you to educate yourself on the egg industry, so you can make an informed decision next time you purchase eggs. 

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts on eggs...

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Lil Family Blog will be celebrating Veguary this month, with a series of articles about vegetarianism, animal rights, nutrition, etc.  What is "Veguary", you ask?  It's a cry for vegetarianism awareness and a request for people to try it out for one month.  You can "pledge to be a veg" to help the environment, save animals, or for health reasons.  "But I don't want to stop eating all meat," you say.  You don't have to!  You can pledge to be a Flexitarian, eating no red meat for the month.  Or a Pescatarian, eating only fish.  Or a Reductatarian, simply reducing your meat intake. Every bit counts.  Imagine the impact if every family ate just ONE less meat meal a week.
I invite you to visit and read all about it.  And I ask you to make a pledge!
I look forward to sharing my reasons for vegetarianism, some causes I believe in, recipes, and stories from some interesting guest bloggers this month.  And I promise not to preach!  If you know me in real life, you know that I am NOT a preachy vegetarian!
Are you a pledged veg?  Let me know!  I'd love to hear your reasons.
Have any vegetarian recipes you'd like me to try out and perhaps share/feature?  Send them my way!
Run any related organization or blog and would like to contribute or be featured?  Send me an email.
Would you like to share your story (contrasting opinions always welcome too)... i'd love to give it a read.

Please leave comments below or contact me at: LilFamilyBlog at gmail dot com.

Stay tuned...
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