you got your salmonella in my peanut butter!

Once again, mothers dear, we are faced with a slightly ridiculous but perhaps quite scary and real threat to our children, and as always, I don’t know which way to play it.

This time it’s peanut butter, and I kind of feel sorry for it, don’t you? It’s already being wiped out from our children’s existence. No traces of peanuts in anything, ever. My sons’ school is “nut-aware,” which means they will take no legal reponsibility for being nut-free, but my God, they’re trying their darndest. And now it has salmonella in it, to boot. I’m not sure peanut butter will ever be the same.

A few weeks ago (before the salmonella scare) it was “J” week in kindergarten, and as on every Monday morning, Cooper was tearing through the house at five minutes to eight looking for an object beginning with the Letter Of The Week to bring to school with him, a task which could easily have been accomplished during the first 63 hours of the weekend.

Now, “B” week, for example, was easy, he took the Bagel right out of my hand and was out the door. But “J” was a tough one, tougher than you might imagine. As the minutes ticked by, Cooper panicked, and I was totally out of ideas– until I opened my cupboards, had a eureka moment, and sent Cooper to school with our jar of Jif.

Later that day, I was met with one long face at pickup, along with our Jif, in a sealed Ziploc bag.

“You can’t bring PEANUT BUTTER to SCHOOL,” he hissed at me, as if no one had ever been so stupid. Well, for 14 years, all I did, every single DAY, was bring peanut butter to school, so excuse me for forgetting myself, for a moment, and thinking that a jar of peanut butter, UNOPENED, sitting in a cardboard box with a jump rope, a juice box, and a tiny facsimile of The Joker, would be in any way acceptable.

I rolled my eyes at the sealed Ziploc bag surrounding the Jif, that additional level of security, as if it were live nuclear waste. This was a sign of our perhaps excessively cautious times. I am certain I would have felt differently if I had a child with a peanut allergy. But I didn’t, and neither did anyone in Cooper’s class. Therefore, peanut butter was cute, harmless, and much maligned, in my opinion.

But now, actually Mom, it’s quite dangerous, having sickened hundreds and killed almost twenty people in the US during the last month. Here’s a list of everything that’s been recalled, so far. I could roll my eyes at the Little Debbie recalls, since those aren’t in my supermarket. (I didn’t realize they were still in ANYONE’S supermarket.) But the list has grown, and now that Trader Joe’s is on there, I probably need to go in my pantry and throw the Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels out.

And why does that feel like a defeat to me? When it comes to these hysteria, I feel like I can’t win. If I give in to the hysteria, and worry about avian bird flu or deadly spinach or whatever the Scare of the Month is, I feel like a sucker. If I DON’T give in, however, I can’t totally ignore those nightly missives from the evening news telling me the danger is growing. People ARE sick, people HAVE died, maybe peanut butter really is bad, maybe I’m a bad mother for NOT having freaked out about it.

So I’ve created a somewhat ridiculous compromise: I am telling all of YOU that precautions may need to be taken. However I have not yet taken any of those precautions myself. I can’t quite bring myself to toss my precious Jif. For me, it is such a potent symbol, justified or not, of simpler times, and Childhood Lost.

the tale of two mommies

Well, my Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was very yell-y, and how was yours? My 2009 resolution to be Good Mommy, instead of “The Other One,” is, after a three-day weekend with my children 24/7, not off to a very good start.

I try to be patient. I try to model the behavior that I want my own children to exhibit. And yet, when Fergus has ignored my seventeenth exhortation to clean up the toy room NOW, after the timers and the stickers and the threats to withhold Max and Ruby have all proven to be utterly toothless, I can’t help it.


To which Fergus can be counted on to respond in one of two ways:

“Mommy, I ungry.”
“Mommy, I urt. I bweeding.”

Both diversionary tactics, patently false, which do not involve any picking up of alphabet puppets, you will note.

Thank goodness David was there to swoop in and say, “Take a break, Aim,” and tag me out. I felt very guilty until, five minutes later, I could hear him from upstairs hollering, “Fergus you pick up those alphabet puppets NOW or else there is NO DINNER FOR YOU AT! ALL!!” Then, of course, I felt much better. If I was a Bad Parent, I was not alone.

Still, Yelling Mommy is not who I want to be. Once the toy room was picked up and dinner was served, I said to Cooper and Fergus, “I’m sorry that I yelled a lot today.”

No response.

“Does it bother you when I yell?” I offered.

“Not weawwy,” Fergus said, tucking in to his ziti.

“A little,” Cooper offered, sensing that this was perhaps what I wanted to hear.

“Should I try hard not to yell and you guys try harder to listen?” I said, hoping to steer the conversation in a productive direction.

Cooper looked up and shrugged. Fergus was like, whatevs.

And, see, there’s the REAL problem. I hollered until I was purple, and I’m sure they didn’t LIKE it, but they are quickly learning to ignore it pretty much completely. They can tune out my yelling. If it worked, it would be harder to stop doing it. Since it is clearly ineffective, I need to move on to more effective techniques.

Perhaps it is time to return to Scream-Free Parenting, a book I bought last year with high hopes, but abandoned by about p. 85 because it was still trying to convince me that yelling at your kids is bad. Um, I know, that’s why I bought your book. How about some solutions?

I’ll start reading at page 150 this time. I’ll let you know what it says.

(photo courtesy of


Cooper, upon gorging himself with popcorn while watching football, had this to say:

“Daddy. The only thing better than a handful of popcorn? Is your family.”

If pressed to choose, frankly, I’m not sure he’d pick us.

how to single-handedly save the retail industry

Last Saturday, I went out with Cooper and Fergus for a busy morning: an “open gym” play time and an 11 am Sippy Cups concert. By noon, they had not only exhausted themselves completely, they had also lost three out of the four gloves we had left the house with.

I brought home the one remaining glove and put it away. Does anyone else do this? Clearly, it is now completely useless, and clearly, I will never find its mate, but I cannot bring myself to throw that fuzzy red mitten away. Part of me still hopes that deep in a pocket I haven’t checked carefully enough yet, its mate might still be lurking. So I’ll save the mismatched mitten for three years and then throw it away, in my spring 2012 fit of home organization. That’s the way I roll.

Since the boys are now down to one pair of mittens/gloves each, I hit the stores yesterday looking for a few replacements to get me through April 1st or so. Surely, I thought, I’d find a large selection; it’s not even mid-January, and it’s the coldest week of the year yet.

I went to three stores: Gap Kids, Children’s Place, and Gymboree. SALE! BIG SALE! NEW REDUCTIONS TAKEN! they beckoned.

But NONE of the three stores had ANY gloves or mittens. “Sorry, they’re all gone,” the salesperson would say, not really at all that sorry, as she folded piles of Easter-themed sweaters and sundresses.

I found this hard to believe. There are at least 8 weeks of winter weather left, and let’s be honest, March doesn’t go out like a lamb, it goes out ass-cold. And all I could see around me were mounds of taffeta, short sleeves, and white knee socks, which NO ONE WAS BUYING.

I keep hearing how these retail chains are suffering, how they’re hemorrhaging money, how they’re struggling to stay alive in this economic environment. So this is an open letter to children’s retailers everywhere:

if you would just sell the clothes kids need NOW, not six months from now, you WILL stay in business. Sell swimsuits past July 1st. Sell mittens until it hits 60 degrees. If I have a 3 month baby, I want a sweater she can wear TODAY. I don’t KNOW what size she’s going to be in six months. Same for maternity clothes. I want something that I don’t look huge in that I can wear TONIGHT, I’m not interested in pareos in JANUARY.

If just one store would step forward and say, this is our new policy, wouldn’t that be the only place you shopped for your kids?