about that peanutty kiss of death…

My latest rant comes courtesy of my sister Mollie, whose own blog is very entertaining reading, by the way. Mollie clipped me an article from the Jan 2008 issue of Harper’s Magazine: Everyone’s Gone Nuts- The Exaggerated Threat of Food Allergies, by Meredith Broussard.

Broussard’s article has caused a lot of anger among parents whose children have food allergies, since she argues that “the rash of fatal food allergies is mostly a myth.” According to people living with food allergies, that is just not the case. Broussard does say that “there is no question that food allergies are real,” and I have several mom friends who could give personal vehement support to that statement.

But here’s what struck me about that article. Remember that story about the teenage girl who died after her boyfriend ate a peanut butter sandwich and kissed her? (That story had my mother-in-law so spooked that, after eating a handful of peanuts, she CHANGED HER ENTIRE OUTFIT before holding her grandchild, who DOES NOT HAVE a peanut allergy, by the way. “All I could think of was that poor girl!” she told me later. ) Well, guess what?

In the case of the peanut butter kiss, a coroner later ruled, to no fanfare, that the girl… actually died from an asthma attack.

OK. That was like finding out there was no Easter Bunny. That absolutely COULD NOT BE. But I’ll be damned if Broussard isn’t right. Right on cbsnews.com, there it was– Coroner: Peanut Kiss Didn’t Cause Death.

Here’s my problem with this. When the media whips us into a frenzy, and then it turns out they were wrong, why can’t they say “our bad” with the same bullhorn that they scared us with? If I did a poll (and perhaps I shall) I think I would find that about 80% of mothers had heard about the peanutty kiss of death. And about none percent of those moms would have heard that it was actually untrue. How are we supposed to keep our heads on straight when there is no voice of reason to balance out the fearmongering?

COULD an extremely peanut-allergic person die by being exposed through a kiss? Perhaps. But, apparently, this poor girl didn’t, since her boyfriend had ingested the sandwich nine hours before, and the allergens can only live in saliva for about an hour. We have to look to one another as our voices of reason. So tell your friends. The Jif Reduced Fat smooch was not deadly, after all. And, would you believe it- third grade boys do not have cooties.

ADDENDUM

I’m adding to this post, after receiving a comment what I was saying “could cost a teenager their life.” Ohhhkayyy, I thought, I’ve touched a nerve here. So I did a little more online research.

The blogosphere, I have found, is alight with commentary on Broussard’s piece, mostly from moms of kids with food allergies, who are ready to storm the offices of Harper’s with pitchforks and torches. There are many, many people taking exception to her suggestion that fatal food allergies are way overstated. I just wanted to clarify my own position on this, which is: I am no expert. I certainly think food allergies are real (and so does Broussard, for that matter). There is a kid in my son’s class who can’t eat dairy, soy, egg, gluten, wheat, nuts, or legumes, which honestly boggles the mind, wondering what could be left for him to consume. I understand that it is a modern epidemic– as to why, I’d like the experts to figure out.

The point I was making is that the famous girl who died from a mere kiss from a boy who had consumed a peanut butter sandwich– didn’t. That’s what the coroner ruled. And no one has contested that. But we didn’t hear about that part of the story, only the sensational, your-children-are-never-safe part. My point is that the media does everything they can to fan the flames and scare us, but does nothing to soothe our jangled nerves, when it turns out they were wrong. I don’t mean to belittle the entire topic of food allergies in our kids. I just want the media to report its dangers– and the dangers of cough syrup, and lead-laden toys, and Crocs, and Bumbo seats– accurately. Hope that clarifies things.

overheard: exchange from my son’s playdate

Seamus (returning from bathroom): Benny, do you have a penis?

(Blank stare.)

Seamus: Benny, do you have a penis?

(Pause.)

Benny: What’s a peentz?

Seamus: I show you.

(Seamus pulls down his pants for display purposes.)

Seamus: Dere, dat’s a penis. Do you have one?

(Pause.)

Benny: I don’t know, let me look.

(Benny pulls down his pants. They both scrutinize.)

Seamus: Yup. That’s a penis.

don’t sweat the nursery registry stuff

So I subscribe to Urban Baby Daily, which each morning deposits in my yahoo inbox information about some parent-related thing designed to pique my interest and open my wallet.

Sometimes these UB Daily missives have something wonderful to tell you about, and I am not being at all biased when I say so.

And then there are other days. Meet inbloomny.com. This is a consulting service for new mothers and mothers to be, and their motto states that they are all about “giving you time to enjoy motherhood.” A noble cause, to be sure. But here are some of the suggested tasks that they can take off your exhausted hands:

* Announcing your pregnancy in a unique and special way to husbands or family & friends

* Creating and managing your registry lists including store walkthroughs and product education

* Researching, purchasing, delivering and setting up products such as strollers and infant carriers and cribs

* Push Present, and Babymoon coordination

* Designing, installing, and organizing your nursery

* Registering you for all the classes in preparation of the arrival of your baby and after

* Personal Maternity Shoppers and Image Consultants

* Preparing your family pet

Wow. Just- wow. Is announcing your pregnancy to your husband in a “unique and special way” really so exhausting that you need to outsource it? Will you even be home when they tell him? Or will you be doing a “store walkthrough” to maximize your “product education” on $500 crib duvets?

Admittedly I could have used a Push Present/Babymoon coordinator, myself, since my husband does not know what either of these things even are. My bag has been packed for a secluded corner of St. Bart’s since 2002, but no plane tickets yet, and no bling bling for my three episiotomies, either. Pathetic.

But are there some women who are really so helpless that they need a consultant to set up a stroller for them? Or is it the mere existence of such consultants, that makes them fear that they will be utter failures without their help? “Heavens to Betsy! I need a consultant to register me for ‘all the classes in preparation of the arrival of my baby and after!'” That’s right, Mommy to Be. Without professional help, who knows what Maternity Image you will be projecting? Sign up for the Prepare and Pamper Gift Package now! Quickly! Before Rover and Meow Meow start to notice that something is up.

here’s the story, of a girl named Maddie…

Sorry I haven’t been more communicative lately. I haven’t had time to write here because I have been much too busy composing my daughter Maggie’s theme song. Here it is so far:

Who is the puff
With the funky stuff?
She’s Maddiemaddiemaddie,
Maddiemaddiemaddie…

Well. It’s probably losing something in translation. Imagine a tune from a commercial for a new Parker Brothers game, one that involves the players madly shimmying their shoulders during the wildly catchy refrain. See, there you go. Pretty good, huh?

At least, my kids think so. “Sing the Maddie song!” they cajole. So I do. Then Fergus says, “Sing more parts!” and I have to confess… that’s all I have, so far.

I have made up ridiculous theme songs for each of my children, some of which are still in the Top Ten at my house. This was the opening stanza of Cooper’s theme song:

Who likes looking at the light?
Who likes staying up all night?
Cooper Edward Wilson Flaherty!

That one was particularly successful in its “Must be Santa” question-and-answer construction. It has many verses, too numerous to print here, and most of them were about what an absolutely awful newborn Cooper was. I had lots of middle-of-the-night time to work on that one.

For Fergus, I cribbed from the folk hit “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt,” since that name has the exact same number of syllables as “John Fergus Wilson Flaherty.” (If you aren’t familiar with the tune, I strongly suggest you follow the link above, to some truly excellent musical instruction on the matter.) Still, that was kind of a copout, since I just changed the eponymous part and left the rest of the lyrics exactly the same.

So then, I began to craft him a song based on South Pacific‘s “Bali H’ai” that was all about his ostensibly pew-y toes. But I never got past the first line there.

I was determined to really hit the jackpot with Maddie’s song. This was my first attempt:

She’s got two older brothers,
One’s cuter than the other,
They really, really love her,
She’s Maddie Flaherty!

That is, of course,The Addams Family. I don’t know why I didn’t stick with it. I guess the triple rhymes are a little hard to work with on the fly. And it wasn’t my own composition, entirely. But the Parker Bros one has its own limitations, and now I’m considering scratching both and starting over yet again.

Now that I’ve finished humiliating myself, I’m wondering: Does anyone else spend their midnight feedings crafting theme songs for their children, or imagining their interior monologues in a high-pitched voice? Or is it just me?

this year, I will…

On this cold and gray January 3rd, I hereby make my New Year’s resolutions for 2008.

–I will work on the muffin top. Which is, after three kids, more like an entire souffle hanging down over my waistband.

–I will actually get down on the floor with my kids and play Rescue Heroes, or Diego Animal Rescue, or Killer Whale Rescue, or K’Nex Space Rescue. I’m not talking every day. I mean at all. This year. That would be good.

–I will stop finishing my kids’ dinners. Even when it’s Annie’s Bunny Macaroni.

–I will spend more time interacting with actual, real female friends, than I do with the anonymous frenemies on urbanbaby.com.

–I will get Maddie to sleep through the night. Since she will be 14 months old by December 31, 2008, I am hoping that’s not setting the bar too high.

–I will do, like, five Kegels, at some point this year. Maybe even in January, and five more in June or so. I will also remember to take my vitamin at least once a month. (Like I said, I don’t want to set the bar TOO high.)

–I will see a movie. At a movie theater. And my children will not be with me. (A mom’s gotta dream.)

What are you going to do in 2008?