Sunday, March 27, 2011

Precious cargo, and my first birth journey

I had a feeling of such utter control after losing that weight. Mind you, I never did get my body to the stereotypical magazine cover state I had always envisioned, but I was able to tie my shoes, and walk up and down flights of stairs without getting winded. I was able to buy clothing in regular stores again.

I loved the freedom this new 'lifestyle' afforded me. It was 1999, and lowfat foods were everywhere. One of my favorite meals, suggested by the Kaiser Permanente nutritionist was two small hamburgers, and a large chocolate shake from McDonalds. No fries.

Lots of Snackwell cookies, within my calorie limit for the day, of course.

Lots of skim milk, boneless skinless chicken breasts, egg white omelets and whole wheat bread.



I'm sure there were salads involved; I'm just remembering the good stuff, since this was a part of my life I remember as kind of a party. I was out of school, making a little money. We drove down to San Diego to hang out at the beach a lot and ate ceviche every chance we got. We had visitors all the time because we lived in a fun place.

Oh, there were a lot of avocados and oranges, because they were awesome and easy to procure.

I was working in vegetarian paradise, Loma Linda University Medical Center -- the origin of the research frequently cited by vegetarians as justification for their lifestyle choices. Loma Linda, California is a vegetarian city. Unless you bring in your meat (and as I mentioned before, I wasn't much of a lunch packer), you'll have to go to a neighboring town for your animal flesh.

Typically, I would have something like a smoothie for lunch, though occasionally the cafeteria would serve up a delicious meat loaf impostor called "Cottage Cheese Loaf." Once every week or two, a bunch of us would go to a local Indian restaurant in San Bernardino.

So, those are the kinds of things I was eating when I became pregnant with my first child, Everett.

I have to pause here and extend a big, heartfelt thank-you to my dear husband Erick, who immediately said that I needed to start drinking whole milk now that I was pregnant. You would think I would have known that, having studied neuroscience, but what I had read in books just wasn't translating well to real life.

Erick was worried about my nutrition when I was pregnant, and for good reason. I've always been somewhat obsession-driven, from the time I began cooking brownies weekly at the age of eight. So, I have always had something in my diet that has been a "thing" which I was unable to eat in moderation, crowding out the nutrition I would perhaps get from other sources. In one flurry of worry, he made me pasta with a tomato-sardine sauce. It was one of the only times I vomited during my pregnancy.

(A note to anyone out there cohabitating with a pregnant woman -- I think it's totally fair to maim or nearly kill anyone who opens a can of mackerels in the vicinity of a pregnant woman).

Working in a laboratory while pregnant was not easy. I really wanted to leave my job early on -- all the smells of the chemicals we were using regularly left me dizzy, and often gave me headaches. But, like many young families, we needed all the money we could save before the baby was born. We weren't even really sure I would be able to stay home, and our original plan was for me to go back to work when Everett was 6 weeks old.

I actually did try to find a different job, but I found job-hunting while pregnant difficult. Did I need to tell them? The immorality of it all left my stomach in knots.

I immediately researched the safety of working with said chemicals, and called the California Teratogen Information Service to find out if there was cause for worry. I was told, "With any of these things, the mother will have effects before there is risk to the fetus." I had decided to wait until I was three months pregnant before telling my employer about my pregnancy, so I had to work with everything I had been for that time. After that, all accommodations were made for me, which included having other employees step in and do the more risky parts of my job, and also purchasing a respirator for me to use for the less risky chemicals.

I worked in a very small department, and by coincidence, my girlfriend at work became pregnant about a month before me. She was an Adventist, and a vegetarian. She was well schooled in healthy nutrition, and her body was a temple. Or, at least she seemed that way when I compared her to myself. She became concerned that I was not eating enough -- she said my breath smelled like ketones (she was a chemist by training) -- and would regularly offer me handfuls of almonds.

Something was going on -- about once a week I had a very intense craving for meat, and would drive to nearby Redlands on a long lunch to get a Boston Market chicken sandwich. I had to cut back on eating out because we were trying to save up for my maternity leave, so I only ate out at the Indian restaurant twice during my pregnancy.

After the first time, I was extremely tired -- I went home and Erick noticed I was visibly larger from that morning. I weighed myself (I was compulsive about this as I had been warned by my obstetrician not to gain too much weight), and I had gained 10 pounds in just one day. The weight did not come off the next day.

The same thing happened the second time I went there.

Shortly after the second lunch, I became very tired. I was having regular problems with sciatica such that I could barely walk down the hall to the bathroom -- I had to prop myself up on the wall. I was performing tasks at work that ruined my appetite and distressed me. One night in late January 2001, I had a dream that my last day of work would be February 15th. I remember looking at the calendar in my dream and seeing the day. In the weeks before February 15th, in real life, I was increasingly tired in the mornings -- around 10 a.m. I would need a nap, and I had regular headaches. When February 15th really did come, I had an incredible headache that morning, and ended up going to see my obstetrician.

My blood pressure was 160/100. I was 30 weeks pregnant. I would be on bedrest for the duration of my pregnancy. So, February 15th really did end up being my last day of paid work.

Twice a week, I went into the hospital for a non-stress test. I was not allowed to drive, so Erick would take off work to bring me to the hospital. Fortunately, my blood pressure stabilized around borderline (140/90) with bed rest, so I did not have to take any medication. The worry about money was partially alleviated by the State of California's disability pay.

In retrospect, that time went so fast, though at the time, it went by so slowly. Days of watching A Baby Story on The Learning Channel and compulsively measuring my blood pressure crawled by in a lonely fashion. Weekends were spent reading and watching Erick play Gran Turismo 2. I have the soundtrack from that game burnt into my subconscious.

I was so tired of being pregnant. I really just wanted to get off that sofa and have my baby. My obstetrician decided to induce me at 39 weeks, but after a long night in the hospital with irregular contractions, I was sent home.

Several days later, I was told that I would likely be induced the following weekend, at 40 weeks, 2 days of pregnancy. However, at my 40 week checkup, my obstetrician informed me that she wanted me to check into Labor and Delivery for an "outpatient induction" -- she wanted to get my cervix ripened with some prostaglandin gel for the weekend. When I did check into L&D, the obstetrician on duty there wanted to induce me with a drug called Cytotec, which at the time was not approved for obstetric use.

I had done some reading about natural childbirth and risks associated with various interventions, but had kind of thrown in the towel when I was diagnosed with Pregnancy Induced Hypertension (PIH). I figured (and was correct), that I would be unable to walk around at all during my labor, and certainly I wouldn't be able to labor in water at all, and likely, I would have to spend the entire time on my left side.

When that doctor said, "Cytotec," however, I freaked out. He kept his composure -- and explained that the risks were very small, and he regularly used the drug without complication. "Besides," he said, "Prostaglandin gel didn't work for you last time. Do you really want another failed induction?"

No, not so much, I didn't. So I agreed, and around 11 a.m. a small tablet of Cytotec, also known as misoprostol, was placed on my cervix, and I got to spend quite a few hours chatting with Erick, laying on my left side, in the Labor & Delivery room.

(Knowing what I know now, perhaps I would have said "No" to the Cytotec, because the chances were a lot lower of having a failed induction at 40 weeks, with or without Cytotec).

It had been a long day, without any food, and we had regularly discussed going to the Stuart Anderson's across the street from the medical center on our many visits there. So, when I was checked at 4:30 p.m. and told that I had made no progress and would be discharged, I was excited to get out of there and have a nice big steak.

However, in waiting for the discharge papers, I felt a very strange kick. Well, more like a pop. "Wow!" I said. "I'll never forget how that kick felt!" And then... well, then, I knew that it hadn't been a kick, because I was fairly certain that I hadn't peed on the bed. And then I cried.

I cried because I knew I wasn't getting that steak, and I was hungry. I knew I wasn't getting to leave Labor & Delivery, and my baby wasn't going to be delivered by the physician I had grown to trust, but by some other who I had never met before.

After my water broke, things started moving along pretty quickly. Around 7 p.m. I was offered some drugs. All I remember is seeing the plunger go down halfway on the syringe the nurse was holding, and then I got some rest.

I can't even remember if I was on pitocin or not. After I awoke, I remember laying there on my side and shaking the bars on the side of the bed, shaking, shivering, and yelling, "Help me!!" I did not want anymore narcotics, because I wanted to be able to remember and experience my labor. I signed the consent for an epidural around 10:30 p.m., but there were multiple women in labor that evening, and it wasn't until after midnight that the anesthetist arrived.

After receiving my epidural (during which we nearly lost Erick), a new obstetrician came by to check me and discovered that I was fully dilated and effaced. Because I was so tired, she suggested that I sleep a little.

I was so exhausted, I knew I would need some sleep before pushing, but Erick couldn't sleep. "How can you sleep? This feels just like Christmas!" he complained.

I told him that I could sleep because I was exhausted. That was the finest half an hour of sleep I would have for several years.

A nurse came by and asked, "Is this your first baby?"


"Do you want to try to push?"


"With your next contraction, give a little push, okay?"


"Stop! STOP! STOP!! I have to go get a doctor!"

So, I waited for a while, and a new doctor came in to check me. "Is this your first baby?"


"Do you want to try to push?"


"With your next contraction, give a little push, okay?"


"Stop! STOP! STOP!!"

During the next 20 minutes, the nurse and doctor scrambled to prepare everything they felt they needed to catch Everett, and about eight thousand people filed into the little room.

"Okay, are you ready? Give us another push."

That was it. Everett was born on that third push.

He was so beautiful, so perfect. The joy overwhelmed Erick and I. We had waited so long to meet Everett. Never did I imagine how much this delicate yet strong being would change me. That feeling of control I had after losing that weight was short-lived.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I was in charge of my own destiny

In junior high/middle school, I became no better at packing my lunch. I think, perhaps, if my parents bought Lunchables I would "pack a lunch." No, what I preferred to boost my brainpower in the seventh and eighth grades was a trip to the so-called "Snack Cart."

This rolling beauty carried delicious salty, fried, crispy things, and chewy mouth-watering sweet things. Maybe soda pop, too. I can't remember. So, my lunch was typically Doritos and a Coke.

I started out the day with cereal pretty much every morning.

It's no wonder I can't remember much of that time. I don't remember much of class, for certain.

I hated P.E. Hated. It.

I hated the locker room and the mandatory shower. I hated any sport we had to play with the boys.  I pretty much only liked tennis. Actually, I loved tennis.

I enrolled for a couple of years through the parks and recreation department, but for both years, the tournament fell during the days my parents chose to take our summer vacation. So, even though I ended up being seeded pretty high, I never got to see how I would have done.

In eighth grade, I had a depressive episode for which I got to spend hours in counseling with the school's social worker.

High school didn't get much better. My parents started giving me a lunch allowance regularly. We had an open campus, so once a week I would cross the street to the Deli and get a delicious pastrami sandwich on rye with swiss cheese, tomatoes, mayo and mustard. It was expensive, so I could only afford to get it once a week. The other days, my typical lunch fare was a Snickers bar and a Coke.

I participated in three sports my freshman year - softball, swimming and tennis. I was terrible at softball and swimming (my aerodynamics continued to worsen after the fifth grade), and was pretty good at tennis, but I injured my knee, and as it turned out, I already had arthritis in my knee. So, I shifted to some other extracurricular activities - Model United Nations, Drama Club, Math, Engineering and Science Association, Odyssey of the Mind (OM)... I can't remember them all. Anyway, I became obsessed with OM, such that I would skip lunch entirely many days of the week, just to go work on the OM project.

I would come home at the end of the school day with terrible headaches. Many times my mom was there when I arrived, as she would get home from her job elsewhere in the school district around the same time my extracurricular activities ended. I was always in a foul mood. I remember her saying, "Well, did you eat anything today?" And then she would say, "Well, have some toast!"

And so, I began the habit of coming home and having four or six slices of toast, topped with margarine and then sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar.  Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time), we were out of the cinnamon in the shaker we would make up, so I would just use plain sugar and margarine on my toast.

We were very regular church-goers. This didn't help matters -- I went almost regularly to the Winchell's near church with my friends between services, and mainlined fake lemonade (that stuff has never seen or heard of a lemon in its life) and sandwich cookies pretty much every time I stepped through those beautiful doors, at least twice a week.

In my sophomore year, a girl in my dance class (my choice for fulfilling the P.E. requirement) asked me if I was pregnant. I wasn't obese; I wore a size 10 or so at the time, and I weighed about 155 pounds.

By the time I left for college, my taste in food was pretty much cemented. I did drink a lot of milk -- we went through several gallons a week, and I drank most of it. But otherwise, I was pretty messed up. I already had arthritis, regular headaches, hypoglycemia... I had a prescription for an antihistamine in case I came down with a mysterious allergic reaction (I had a reaction to strawberries that never re-occurred, and Benadryl only made it worse). And, I had another few visits to a psychologist, this time for certain depression.

In some ways, my diet in college was slightly better. I went to school in New Orleans, and our cafeteria had jambalaya, red beans and rice, and gumbo every week. However, I stopped drinking milk with meals, as the milk in the dispenser was usually soured. Never having developed a taste for water as a child, I switched to Crystal Light. Pretty soon, even though I was eating well, I was having headaches daily, and they started right after lunch. So this time, I knew I wasn't getting headaches because of starvation or low blood sugar.

Fortunately, because by this time I had chosen my major (psychology with an emphasis on physiological psychology), during a trip to the library to do research for my physiological psych class, Erick ran across a book entitled Aspartame (NutraSweet):  Is it Safe?, which we read together. There were numerous references to aspartame and headache in the book. We immediately discontinued our consumption of Crystal Light and all aspartame, and within a day, my headaches ceased.

I wish I could say that was a turning point for me, and perhaps in some small way it was. It was the very first time I recognized that a food I ate could affect how I felt. For the rest of my freshman year, I continued using the meal plan, so I was still eating lots of "sneggs" (our shortened name for "It'snoteggs" after bad experiences on a cross-country trip with "free" continental breakfasts) topped with fake maple syrup for breakfast, and soft serve ice cream (hide your kids, hide your wife!) when the machine was working.

Due to the expense of the meal plan, Erick and I decided to "cook" for ourselves (think: bags of bagels, freeze-dried coffee, pizza, and lots of Zatarain's Jambalaya). Don't worry; I still drank lots of milk. Only my  boyfriend-soon-fiance' was rightly concerned about my food choices and that I might gain weight, so we switched to skim milk. Then I really did gain weight.

Hmm. Another depressive episode during my last year. Not much of a surprise, really.

I remember walking down the main road on campus, and having some guys yell out of their car window that I was a fat cow. I think I was a size 14 at that time. But definitely not the size of most of the other girls on campus.

Erick and I got married shortly after graduation, and we moved to the midwest where we began our graduate study. We actually had our very own kitchen for the first time, so we cooked pretty nourishing food for ourselves, though we did rely heavily on a low-fat Cajun cookbook. When we weren't sitting in lecture, teaching, grading papers, or doing research, we were either fishing, cooking, quilting (well, I was -- he played video games), hanging out with our rabbits, or watching the Food Network. I began to bake a lot. Each week, I would make brownies, a chocolate sheet cake, and lemon bars, and I would eat them mostly myself.

After three years, I had gained 60 pounds. I didn't really realize it had happened, because I wore leggings and long sweaters a lot in those days (mid-1990's). I don't think I even owned a pair of jeans. Ironically, I was pretty happy. At one point, I did try taking some St. John's Wort, and decided I didn't like it because on the second day I jammed my toe badly, and kind of laughed about it, because I didn't care. In retrospect, if I had just left my apartment and gone walking more often, I probably wouldn't have even felt like trying the St. John's Wort.

When we left graduate school and the midwest, we moved to Southern California and tried to get pregnant. I remember trying for about eight months unsuccessfully. I ended up visiting the doctor because I was having 90-day long cycles. I was told that my excessive weight had caused an abnormal amount of fat buildup on my ovaries, which was probably keeping me from ovulating. Something about hearing that I had fat buildup on my ovaries clicked in my head, and I realized I probably had it surrounding my heart, too.

I took a class through Kaiser Permanente, which espoused a low-fat diet. During that time, I began walking twice a week with a friend and followed a very strict low-fat diet (less than 25g fat per day and 1200 Kcal). My cycles returned to normal (still very heavy and long - 10 days or so, but every 30 or so days), I lost about 45 pounds, and I returned to a size 12.

Success! (Or not).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not so glossy

I mentioned at the beginning of my earlier post that I get uncomfortable when people say their kids aren't self-starters, not brilliant, etc. Here's why.

I focused in that post on the things my kids do well. I actually had composed the story as a response to Peter Gray's Freedom to Learn blog solicitation for stories of how children had taught themselves to do things. Only I was a year late. So, I figured since I had worked so hard on it, I would, rather than pass it along to someone else to use, finally own something I did. It was most certainly not about being perfect.

I'm trying, since I felt so compelled as a child to do everything well, to focus on what they do well, and not worry so much about what they don't. It's one of the things with which I struggle in my day-to-day life. I don't really know who I am. I think of myself as a Jack-of-All-Trades, Ace-of-None.

I don't want my kids to feel like they have to do everything well. We all get enough of feeling like failures on a day-to-day basis without that pressure. We, as the old saying goes, are our own worst critics.

When is it that we had to become so good at everything?

I remember thinking when I was not even in middle school yet, that I was becoming a Renaissance Woman. What really happened is that I sort of learned a little about a lot, but never developed my talent in any one area to actually be successful in any of those areas. And, I never spent enough time working on one thing to feel self-confidence in any one department. And I never really developed a strong passion for anything. Mostly, I ended up confused.

We have our rough days around here, for sure. This is most likely not going to be a blog where I post glossy pictures of some awesome dinner I made, some incredible project I sewed, my new Martha Stewart-esque desk arrangement.

There is no perfect. I see traits in every single kid I meet which fill me with wonder and appreciation. Maybe it's because the kid decided to bring his used books to the park to sell. Maybe it's that a kid is so interested in cooking that he cooks for his family on occasion at a young age. Maybe she's really great at riding a bike. Maybe she's got encyclopedic knowledge of Greek Mythology. Maybe she's excellent at gymnastics. Maybe he's really outgoing and can strike up a conversation with anyone, or make friends at the park on any day of the year. Maybe he's really into numbers and is years ahead in mathematics. Maybe the kid has a really active imagination. Maybe the kid is resolute in her convictions.

I worry about my kids. I am a mom. I worry a lot. I could write an equally long blog post about my worries, but that would be a disservice to my kids. Maybe rather than concentrate on our kids not getting black belts, not becoming budding Monets, not becoming the next Wolfgang Puck, we should look at the full part of the glass. Chances are, someone else is.

We did the piano lesson thing. The piano teacher actually told us to "come back when you feel like making music a priority in your lives." Uh, SNAP! That happened during a time when both the kids were taking lessons, and neither wanted to practice without significant amounts of nagging on my part. We had a discussion about it, which went something like this: "You haven't been practicing the piano. The lessons are expensive. Are you tired of it?" Yes was the answer. "Can we take a break for a while?"

At that time, I was doing a lot of driving around doing things I felt obligated to do. I felt very tense a lot of the time. And tired. And I yelled a lot. I dreaded going to those piano lessons, feeling judged by the teacher, knowing that she knew that I could play the piano, and I wasn't sitting down with them and walking them through the lessons daily. Because that's not what they wanted. They wanted me to take them to the park and read them stories.

They were four and seven years old.

Why did I start them in piano so young?

Probably because I was five when I started.

Besides, George Gershwin didn't even have a piano until he was twelve years old.

We did the dance class thing. Lucy hated being told what to do. She still doesn't care for it much, but I've learned that she loves to help me, and she loves it when I use my good manners. She rewards me for my good manners.

We did the soccer thing, too. We don't have the energy for that. So many of my other friends do. Or they do Tae Kwon Do. Or Guildmasters. Or church. Or choir. Or art lessons. Or fencing. Or Irish Step Dancing. Or raising rabbits. Or designing costumes. Or robotics competitions. I can't even think of all the things they do.

Right now, we like to be. We like to read, hang out with our dogs, try to cook nourishing and hopefully edible meals, play on the computer, play board games and hang out with our friends, who do all sorts of amazing things we don't have the energy or passion to do.

It's not about being perfect, at all, because nobody is.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

As the Yo-Yo Bounces

Part 1:  The Early Years

In the past few, oh, maybe 6 or 7 years, I've developed a certain notoriety in my community. I'm never sure whether to think of it as a good or bad thing. See, I'm obsessed with food. Yes, I'm obsessed in the sense of always looking for something good to eat, but also obsessed in the sense of making absolutely sure that I'm making the right food choices for my health and that of my kids. I wasn't raised like that at all. This isn't some sort of fancy I have to occupy my time. No, the reason is because I teeter on the brink of health and disease.

I'm a canary in this coal-mine world. I've had symptoms of allergy, arthritis, cancer, chronic fatigue, depression, diabetes, hypertension and hypothyroidism, and that's just A through H. Every time I've gone to the doctor to get things under control, throw in the towel, get a prescription, my lab results have been normal. There's a certain sense of relief that comes with normal lab results, but also a growing frustration as I struggle with those symptoms. It's a frustration that keeps me reading, gathering knowledge, and questioning everything.

How did I get here? I ask myself this question all the time.

When my mother was growing up, she was regularly fed things like liver and cod liver oil. She grew up in poverty (the daughter of a painter and a bookbinder), but from what she has told me, it sounds like her parents did an exceptional job feeding her. Perhaps it was the way most baby boomers were fed; her parents were older, born near the turn of the 20th century, before vegetable oils and hydrogenation became commonplace. As an adopted child, she was fed formula made with PET evaporated milk. In fact, back in 2003 when Erick's mom gave me my copy of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, my mother marveled that there was a published cookbook containing real food.

Due to a blizzard in Brooklyn, my dad was born in an uncomplicated fashion at home, without a medical professional in attendance. He was the youngest of four children and grew up in a very small town in upstate New York. His mother shopped at the local co-op, and when they could afford it, they had raw milk from the local dairy. He also was not particularly privileged; his father was a brick mason, and his mother was a nurse.

Neither one of my parents needed orthodontic intervention, and grew up with perfectly straight teeth. Neither needed glasses until they were in college. Their parents did not need these things, either.

My mother, however, was not allowed in the kitchen, so she did not know how to cook. A couple years before having me (her first child), she was diagnosed with Graves' Disease (which is ironic because Graves was her maiden name) -- autoimmune hyperthyroidism. She took antithyroid medicine for some period of time before I was conceived.

She had an uncomplicated pregnancy. When the time came, she had a four-day long prodromal labor.  She was turned away from the hospital multiple times before she was admitted. After being in labor for so long, she was given narcotics, and I was delivered by forceps. Unlike many babies in the 1970's, I was fortunate to be breastfed for the first year of my life. She claims that I immediately slept through the night. Maybe that's true (uh, narcotics!), but my parents are deep sleepers, so I doubt the reality of that claim.

There were a lot of Cheerios in my infancy, starting around six months, and continuing well through high school. We were purists and did not put sugar on them. My mom didn't "do" baby food. She had a baby food grinder and took it with her everywhere. To all the restaurants, I mean. She didn't cook -- so that meant we ate out several times per week. McDonald's was a treat; typically we went to sit-down restaurants. I had favorites at each restaurant and never deviated in my order. Paisan's (an Italian restaurant on Colfax) was the wide spaghetti with meatballs. Village Inn was the barbecue, bacon and cheese chicken sandwich with fries for lunch or dinner, french toast and hot cocoa for breakfast. La Bola was the chicken chimichanga. There was a Domino's Pizza around the corner from our house, so we had plenty pizza.

At home, our fare was pretty simple. I remember really liking braunschweiger sandwiches on white bread with mayonnaise.  I would not eat whole wheat bread. No way. My mom always bought a loaf of Roman Meal bread for herself -- that's what she had eaten growing up. Another regular meal was tuna fish tacos, which was simply canned tuna with melted cheddar cheese made in the microwave. My mom made spaghetti with meat sauce quite often, which I detested (those noodles were terrible compared to that freshly-made pasta at Paisan's). A favorite meal was Fettucine Alfredo, made from a mix. My parents would kick it up a notch by adding shrimp (which my sister would hoard before passing the bowl to the next person at the table). We ate very little in terms of vegetables. Dad hated them.

I loved to "cook" as a child. When I say "cook" I really mean "bake." I was about seven or eight years old when I made my way around the kitchen. My favorite thing to make was a brownie recipe out of my mother's USDA cookbook. It called for shortening. We went through that stuff like gangbusters, because I made those brownies all the time. Maybe once a week.

I remember feeling pretty sad for my friends, because their parents seemed overly concerned with making them eat "healthy food." I remember walking to the bus stop with a friend who had to pack her own lunch (she was one of three kids at the time), and her mom had strict rules that she have a fruit or vegetable in her lunch box. I don't remember any rules like that for me -- and most of the time I did not pack a lunch, unless Spooky Spaghetti was on the menu (I swear one time mine had a maggot in it). I liked many of the school lunches, and I particularly liked the chocolate milk (If you don't want your milk, I'll drink it for you).

We didn't have candy around the house. And we very rarely had pre-made cookies or desserts in the house. The only sugary cereal we ever had were Golden Grahams, and those were an occasional treat. There was no alcohol, either, and my parents, at that time, did not drink. They were teetotalers; their fathers had both been alcoholics.

We didn't play outside much; I grew up in a house with a small yard near a busy one-way street, surrounded by rentals. We watched a lot of television. Many of my friends' television time was limited.

I was in ballet class until I was about eight years old. It was not too long before I noticed I looked different than the other girls. I remember the dance teacher complaining that I would not suck in my "tummy."

In first grade, I got glasses. I was the only kid with glasses, until junior high, when I had a quick relationship with the other kid with glasses.

When my teeth came in, I was missing a central lower incisor.  I never did get lower wisdom teeth.

I sucked my thumb until I was eight, so we always blamed my giant overbite on that.

I was the first girl to get breasts in the fifth grade. I remember being singled out during P.E. that year, being told that I was overweight. I probably went home and made a pan of brownies after school that day.

My sister was always thin. She still is. She ate all the shrimp. I ate all the brownies.

Genetics, my arse.