Book Club

books

I went full mom, as my writer friend said when I told her the news that I joined a book club. Although I have always loved reading, a book club was never something I considered until recently. The work-life hustle had taken me away from reading for the past few years, unless of course you count US Weekly or InStyle magazines, but in the past few months I had started reading more consistently. This led to a new friend suggesting I join her book club, and in the spirit of trying new things I soon found myself ordering the chosen book on Amazon and diligently budgeting time to read each night. Now in the second month of book club, despite a less engaging read on the docket, I am excited about continuing this new, albeit yes very 50’s housewife, tradition.

Here are the things I am learning to love about book clubs:

1. Finding a new community of women. Making new friends as an adult is hard, so having a small group of women from my neighborhood who I can have dinner with once a month is an easy entryway into making new friends. Our book club meets at local restaurants rather than in our living rooms, which makes it feel more urban cool than the stereotype I had imagined.

2. Reading books without pictures. I read all of the time. Usually board books, Dr. Seuss, lift-the-flap, and of the Where the Wild Things Are variety though. So it feels great getting back into some good literature and popular fiction. Actually it feels like returning to a room of old friends.

3. Me time! The limited time squeezed between my children’s bedtime and my own is easy to fill with chores, mindless TV, and internet shopping. Book club has encouraged me to instead carve out time for reading that truly feels dedicated to myself, centering and grounding the end of my day.

4. Discussion. In many of my circles of friends, discussion tends to gravitate to a few common topics: husbands, work, and children. It feels great to have outlets where I can vent about or celebrate these various topics, which in reality are the three most important parts of my life. However, it also feels great to meet up with a group of friends and not significantly talk about any of these things and rather focus on the themes from the book. A little academic discourse over a plate of pasta, without having to feed anyone other than myself or retrieve crayons from the floor, is like time traveling to six years ago and feels great for a few hours.

5. Reading outside my niche. I tend to gravitate toward similar types of books and authors, so having others make my reading selections for me is a great way to be exposed to books I might otherwise not read. Some will be successes and others will not be finished, but I am learning along the way.

I fancy myself to be a writer, so it is important to remain an active reader. Also, I teach about the importance of reading at every patient well visit encounter and give out new books through the Reach Out and Read program. I read with my children every day and encourage them to read on their own too. And although there are books in nearly every room of my house I was not doing much reading of my own. Previously feeling like somewhat of an imposter, I am now ready to recommit to modeling the literate life I want all children to lead.

 

Recent Reads:

Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed

The Restaurant Critic’s Wife by Elizabeth LaBan

Lust and Wonder by Augusten Burroughs

Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

Talking to Parents About Guns

Alice

I had a talk about guns with another parent. It was awkward to initiate but in the end I was so glad I did it. A few months ago my four-year-old was invited to a drop-off birthday party, his first party at someone’s home without me. The party hosts were a family I have known for a few years, but not well enough to know their stance on gun ownership. I have also met enough gun owners to know that I can’t presume who may own a gun based on appearance, religion, or any other demographic. Therefore, I knew I would have to ask them, but I dreaded doing so for fear of offending.

About six months ago we were at another party and as my son and a boy played upstairs out of my sight, I heard them talking about holding a gun. My heart nearly stopped and I sprinted upstairs to find them pointing a small, plastic water gun. It was then that I realized that I must ask playmates about guns in their home, possibly even when I am with him. I ask about guns at every new patient well visit, so why wouldn’t I ask it of my children’s friends? The importance of gun safety has been reinforced over and over as preventable gun injuries and deaths flood the media headlines.

So in contemplating dropping my preschooler off at a birthday party without my close parental supervision, I knew I had to think about what potential risks may be there and face him. The following is an excerpt from my email to the host parent:

As a pediatrician mom, I have to ask two questions though: does anyone smoke in your home? and do you have any guns? I hope you don’t take offense to these questions, but in my line of work I have decided that these are two issues that I need to screen for when my children are out of my care.”

I was so relieved that the answers to these questions were no and that the mother applauded my asking and decided that she would also start asking others the same questions when her children were out of her care. Some have asked me though what I would have done had the answers been yes. This is a trickier situation and I think the decision about how to handle this is personal for each family. For me, gun ownership itself is not immediate criteria for defriending, however, I would want to know that they responsibly kept the gun and ammunition separated and locked up out of reach of children. If these criteria could not be met, I would definitely not let my children play in this household. As for smoking, I would not allow my children to sleep over a household where there were smokers. For a limited time period like a birthday party, I would ask that no one smoke during the party or near the children. If these accommodations could not be met, I would have to decline the party invite.

Fortunately, my son was able to attend this party without any friendship lost and no risks to his health or safety. I am also glad I was not afraid to ask these important questions. I know that as I continue asking in the years to come, the answers I receive will not all be so easy and I am ready to handle those challenges. If only I could offer him a similar level of protection as he goes off into the world without me.

 

Gun Violence Facts and Statistics, from CHOP

Gun Violence Prevention by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Firearm-Related Injuries Affecting the Pediatric Population, AAP Policy Statement

Gun Safety, from CHOP

 

[The above opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.]

Healthy Meal Ideas from Produce for Kids

This is a sponsored post.

What’s for dinner? This is the question that plagues us each night. We go through spurts of creativity in our cooking but then fall back into a rut again of repeating the same recipes over and over. My children fall into the same broken routine too, demanding the same foods, typically carbohydrates, and therefore eating a limited variety of fruits and veggies. So when Produce for Kids asked me to partner with them to promote their new campaign to promote healthy foods and recipes while raising funds for food banks, I thought: yes!

PFK-Logo-webProduce for Kids is launching a campaign with ACME Markets from April 29-June 2, to raise funds for local Feeding America food banks and offer ACME shoppers healthy meal solutions, recipes, and tips. Last year’s campaign raised more than $17,172.50 for local food banks. ACME stores will display the Produce for Kids and Feeding America logo next to products supporting the campaign, such as Mexican Hass Avocados, Earthbound Farm®, Eat Smart® Fresh Cut Vegetables, Fresh Express® Packaged Salads, Kings River Packing California Citrus, Maries® Dressings, RealSweet® Vidalia® Onions, Setton Farms® Pistachios, To-¬Jo Mushrooms, and Wholly Guacamole®. Buying these items will support the campaign and then you can find recipes that use them at ProduceForKids.com.

Impact GraphicAfter browsing the recipes, I found a simple one for Sesame Chicken and Broccoli that caught my eye. I chose this basic recipe because it solves two problems for me. First, my children are very picky vegetable eaters, but they love broccoli. So a recipe that uses broccoli is one I know will be readily accepted by them. Second, as a dual working parent household, there are nights that we do not have much time to grocery shop or cook a healthy meal. This recipe uses only a few ingredients and things that are often already in our refrigerator. It is so quick to prepare that we can have time to play at the park after school and work and still have time to eat a nutritious dinner rather than ordering a take-out version.

Sesame Chicken and BroccoliSoft colored abstract summer light  background for design

(courtesy of ProduceForKids.com)

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups broccoli florets
  2. 1 tablespoon olive oil
  3. 1 cooked chicken breast, chopped
  4. 2 tablespoons Marie’s® Sesame Ginger Coleslaw dressing
  5. 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender. Add chicken and heat until warmed through. Add dressing and sesame seeds and stir to combine.

We tried this recipe for the first time as a weeknight dinner when we were exhausted and out of ideas for dinner. The kids called the sesame seeds “sprinkles” and were delighted by their new dinner option made out of their old favorites. We do not have a clean plate rule around here, but we do try to prevent food waste and encourage eating “growing foods” before treats. With the Produce for Kids recipes though, I may be able to turn some growing foods (like avocados) into treats (like dark chocolate avocado brownies) for my picky eaters. With healthy food choices that support a good cause, this campaign gave us many reasons to feel good about what’s for dinner.

 

Follow Produce for Kids on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat (ProduceforKids) for more recipe ideas and healthy eating tips all year long. Share your own healthy recipes and ideas during the campaign using the hashtag #produceforkids.

[This is a sponsored post. I have no affiliation with Produce for Kids, Acme, or Feeding America beyond this campaign post. All opinions are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.]

 

The Non-uniformity of White Coats

costume

Every time I see a medical student with a short white coat walking down the street I smile. The shorter version of the standard doctor lab coat looks almost silly to me now, but I remember wearing it proudly years ago. Hemmed to the hip, this version of the coat is meant to symbolize both membership to the profession but caution to the patient about the limitations of the wearer. I remember fondly my white coat ceremony, a rite of passage at the beginning of medical school where the white coats are first donned. Mine was ceremoniously given to me by my step-dad, who is also a physician, passing down of the icon of our profession and all that it symbolizes from one generation to the next. Over the next four years I would stuff the pockets with cheat sheets, patient lists, reflex hammers, tuning forks, and granola bars. I would pin a pink ribbon and the AOA honor society emblem to my lapel. I wore it with eagerness for its longer counterpart that would come with successful graduation and matching in a residency.

However, I chose one of the only specialties that does not favor the white coat. It is known that the white coat can be anxiety provoking for many patients, most of all, children. Therefore, most pediatricians opt for stethoscopes and ID badges adorned with stickers and animals instead of the starchy stiffness of a white coat. So my few long white coats lay neatly folded in closets, only to be worn for show on occasion.

But you worked so hard for the coat, some have said questioning the practice of avoiding the white coat. And there are some pediatricians who do still wear it. Some residents, tired of constantly being mistaken for the nurse, restarted wearing their white coats to counterbalance gender stereotyping. Others like to have the extra big pockets for stashing supplies. Some practices wear them uniformly, pun intended.

Although I spent four years in the short white coat dreaming about being a “real” doctor, eligible to wear the long white coat, I do not miss it. As students, we constantly sought validation that we belonged and that we were good enough. The short white coat seemed to call out that we didn’t and we weren’t. Once becoming a doctor, the coat just became a coat. I am trusted by patients after earning it, not simply on the iconography of my uniform. In terms of my own sense of belonging to this profession, my colleagues and patients fashioned this over time.

 

Further Reading About White Coats:

Doctors debate safety of their white coats, Boston Globe 11/19/15

The doctor’s white coat– an historical perspective, AMA Journal of Ethics 4/2007

A doctor wrestles with whether to keep wearing his white coat, NPR 11/21/15