Sunday, February 05, 2006


I'm sure this is an issue that has been raised before (it almost sounds like the lead-in to some stand-up comic bit, like "And what's the deal with airline food?") but why do all children's pajamas come with some giant disclaimer regarding their flame retardency? Do we gauge all children's clothing on its conflagratory potential, or is it just sleepwear? And why? Are kids more likely to catch fire at night? Are we Amish, reading by candlelight? Are we smoking in bed? Barbecue-ing in bed? Eating Bananas Foster in bed?

If someone could please clear this up, I would be grateful.

* * *

So it seems as though Cal got the memo, because these past two mornings, he has slept in until 6:30am, which, for us, constitutes "sleeping in." It's not quite daylight at that hour, but there's just a teeny speck of light, like someone took the big old dimmer switch in the sky and put it on the lowest possible setting.

These past few days have been a festival of domesticity. Feeding baby, playing with baby, washing things, going to Bed Bath and Beyond for new pillows. See, I saw this thing on the news the last night I was on call about COULD YOUR PILLOWS BE KILLING YOU? and the report said that if you don't change your pillows, like, every few months, they could be harboring MOLD and DUST MITES and EVIL HUMORS that could kill you in your sleep. So of course I totally buy this and start freaking out, because we haven't changed our pillows in something like three years (some of the pillows are more like five or six years old) and Cal is already showing something of an atopic tendency, possibly related to the killer pillows, but more possibly because he's related to me, the most allergic person on the planet. So yesterday I went to Bed Bath and Beyond and got all new gimmicky ALLERGEN-REPELLENT PILLOWS and threw out the DEATH PILLOWS and now the dust mites and mold will have to find a new home. Sorry, guys.

The thing is, for a few weeks, I've been convinced that Cal is allergic to something, but I just couldn't figure out what it was. Sometimes he would break out in these blotchy red patches and the skin around his eyes would look kind of swollen, but I just couldn't for the life of me figure out what the allergen was. We already use fragrance-free detergent and the rashes didn't seem to be coinciding with anything that we were feeding him during the evening hours at least, so what the hell could it be? (In the corner of my mind, I had this fear that he might be allergic to the dog, which would precipitate some horrible "Sophie's Choice"-type scene at the train tracks--but I didn't think it was the dog either.) But anyway, yesterday I was feeding Cal some rice cereal--RICE CEREAL, the first solid food that Pediatricians recommend that introducing into a baby's diet, RICE CEREAL, which he has been eating for a MONTH--and at the end of the feeding, his chin and neck and his wrists and basically anywhere that the rice cereal touched had become red and blotchy and swollen, with wheals. WHEALS, I say.

But even then, I couldn't quite believe it, so I sluiced off the rice cereal and looked more closely at his neck. Red, swollen, but the intertriginous areas (the parts of skin hidden in the folds) were spared, which to me seemed pretty classic for a contact dermatitis. The kicker of it was that during the feeding, Cal had grabbed the spoon and started rubbing rice cereal into his hair, and a few minutes later, his scalp where the rice cereal had touched was similarly red and splotchy. I suppose to be fully scientific about the whole thing, I should have done a skin test--put a dot of rice cereal on his leg or something and watched to see what happened, but I think I'd already done enough damage that day.

See, the thing is, Cal gets rice cereal in the morning while Joe and I are at work, so I have no idea at what point he started to react to the stuff in this dramatic way. Certainly I'd noticed some low-level allergic signs in the past few weeks, but not with the SWELLING and the WHEALS and all that. Even last weekend, when I fed him rice cereal, I didn't see anything near this kind of reaction. And certainly, Georgia never mentioned anything, even in just these past few days. Still, I felt guilty. If I were home more often, feeding him myself, surely I would have noticed sooner. It's not like he was anaphylaxing or anything like that--if anything, he was just a little itchy--but still, for a few moments, he looked like a clinical picture in an immunology textbook.

So I switched him to oatmeal this morning, and while I won't say that he's definitively not allergic to that (after all, it seems like it took him a few weeks to build up those rice cereal antibodies) he certainly enjoyed it. So I guess we'll just wait and see.

As for the larger problem--how it will be for him to grow up in a half-Chinese household ALLERGIC TO RICE--that we will have to deal with later.

Currently reading: "My Friend Leonard," the sequel to "A Million Little Pieces." Eh, I am liking this book less than its predecessor. I mean, I know they're both fake, but this book reads more fake than the first. Also just very quickly re-read "Brokeback Mountain" during Cal's nap (it's very short, obviously), because I just wanted to digest the story a little better the second time around. So sad. Why couldn't they be together? Why? Stupid scared Ennis del Mar.

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