Archive for May, 2009

23andMe and My Family: Why Won’t They Spit?

Several months ago, I had my genome sequenced by 23andMe as part of becoming a founding member of their online pregnancy community.  (Ok, Ok, I explain this every week, I know.  Have you figured it out yet?  It’s a disclaimer:  I work for them.  If you think that means I can’t write honestly about them…well, you’re wrong.  Just deal with it.)

ANYWAY – I spat – and videotaped it – because I was paid — but also because I was curious.  What would I learn about myself?  What might it tell me about my kids?   Was I really related to Harry Connick  Jr.? And it has been fascinating: I have an increased tendency toward addiction — so maybe my wimpy fear of trying drugs was really my genes protecting me.  Reassuring: I do not have the Breast Cancer gene, though my mother has had BC.  Entertaining:  I share 74% of my genetic sequence with a Nigerian man! Who knew?  And also enlightening:  I have an increased sensitivity to Warfarin, an anti-clotting drug my father has taken every day for the last 50 or so years. Plus, I am at genetically increased risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, so I know to watch my weight, diet and exercise for more than my usual vanity reasons.

My family was right on it: what did I learn?  What did it say about them? When was I going to stop all this blogging and do something worthwhile?  (Well, you know, once the questions got started, they weren’t gonna let a chance to ask that one slip by.)

So I did what any good daughter/sister would do:  I signed them up, too. (The discount benefits of freelance employee status – yeah!) I could only pick three people.  My father said he wasn’t interested.  My sister wasn’t sure.  My kids were too young.  My husband’s philosophy is “what I don’t know can’t hurt me.”  Only my mother wanted in.

Until they all changed their minds.  First, my sister:  I’m nervous, but I think I should know things…in case they impact my kids.” Ok. Sister in.  Then, my father: “I’ll do it.  I’m curious about the technology, to see how it all works.  Sounds fascinating.”  Then my husband: “What?  I never said I didn’t want to do it!  I want to do it.”  Too late.  Mom, Dad and Sis were in.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the spittoon:  none of them spat.  On Passover at my parents, I saw their 23andMe spit kits sitting unused on the counter.  At my sister’s one Sunday afternoon, I saw her spit kit buried under a mound of mail on her desk. What happened to the fascination?  What happened to the interest?  What happened to their NERVE?

Sure it’s scary to find out about your innards.  You might learn something you’d rather not know.  But you also might find out something valuable to know – something that makes you change your lifestyle to avoid a heart attack, or Type 2 Diabetes.

I’ve dived right in – joining forums, comparing genes with total strangers, exploring my origins.  I didn’t think it was scary at all.  I thought it was exciting.

Now if I could just get my family to spit, I could learn even more….


May 28, 2009 at 8:00 am 3 comments

Sleepaway Camp for Families? You Bet.

traveling-mom-logoSo last week on Traveling, I wrote about camping.  Or, to be more honest, about NOT camping.  It’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that — well, I don’t know how so I don’t want to.

So this week, I started looking for alternatives.  And here’s what I came up with: Family Camp.

Family Camp is sleepaway camp for everyone:  the bunks, the campfires, the mess halls, and games of spin the bottle (oh, well, maybe not.)  In any case, it sounds like fun to me.  Sleepaway camp was great.  I made lifelong friends, (I had dinner with one last night), I had my first kiss, my first lead in a big musical (at 11, I was Mary Poppins! Whoo!). I learned how to use a potters wheels and lost my virginity to a lake when I attempted water-skiing.  I even I found out that it was possble for both of your counselors to get knocked up by the same guy in six short weeks. (OK, so maybe it wasn’t ALL positive)

This time around, I’ll be Mommy.  No first kisses– and clearly the virginity thing is WAY over.  But I’ll be Mommy in shorts, no make-up, and using a communal shower.  Don’t ask me why- but I think I”m gonna like it.

Read more about Family Camps on my post on Traveling

May 23, 2009 at 9:08 am 1 comment

Genes vs Jeans

IS093-053They either make my butt look too big, or too broad. They accentuate my gut or give me muffin top.  They are jeans.  The bane of my existence.  My dream is to be able to look good in a white t-shirt, a pair of jeans, and some flip flops.  But it seems that my genes won’t let me look good in my jeans.

If any of you have been paying attention, you’ll know that for the past several months, I’ve been writing for 23andMe as one of their founding community members in the Pregnancy Community.  (And no, I’m not preggers.  I just have been – thus, I qualify.)  According to my genes, I am at a slightly elevated risk for obesity.  According to my genes, I will never look good in the aforementioned jeans, t-shirt and flip flops ensemble.  According to my jeans, my genes are correct.

I find it almost impossible to buy jeans.  If they’re “classic cut” they make my butt look like North Dakota – wide and flat.  If they’re low cut –  well, where do I begin?  How are you supposed to wear underwear with those low-cut jeans?  And if you’re not supposed to wear underwear (yuck!), then what are you supposed to do with your – ahem – furry bits?  Brazillian?  I don’t expect to rhumba any time soon.  Plus, I find it more than slightly offensive that men – with their hairy backs, fuzzy butts, and occasional ear hair, deem it “sexy” for a grown woman to be hairless “down there.”  Call me crazy, but that smacks of pedophilia to me.

Then there’s the question of how to keep those low-cut jeans from falling down.  Many’s the time I walked behind a teenage home-boy, wondering how he does it.  It truly is a miracle of fashion physics.  Their pants stay up, even with their waistbands way down.

SO I was already worried enough about my jeans, when suddenly my genes had to complicate things.

According to my genes, I am also at greater risk for developing diabetes.  Yet this doesn’t phase me.  Genes only slightly influence diabetes.  I figure that if I exercise and eat right, it won’t be a problem.  But obesity?  I’m a girl who watches each cookie I eat deposit itself as fat on my upper thighs.  I am a girl who almost always buys the size large.  I am the girl with back-muffin-top.  You know, at the bra line?  This obesity gene – is serious business. IT’S FREAKING ME OUT!

And because of that diabetes risk, I can even have a pint of chocolate chip mint to soothe my worried mind.

Darn you, jean-etics!

May 21, 2009 at 12:01 pm 2 comments

Can I Have Mothers Day Off?

Here’s a typical day for me:

Wake up. Check mirror. Cringe. But realize there’s no time to shower. I’ve got to get the kids to school no later than 8:25. Since this is NYC, I do not have the option to get in my car in my pajamas, drop off my kids, and drive home before anyone notices me. I have to get dressed and try to achieve some semblance of presentability before leaving the house. I also have to get my kids ready, which means endless repetitions of “get dressed, brush your teeth, put your socks on, where’s your homework, sit down while you eat, you have to go to the bathroom now?, where’s your other shoe, hit the elevator button, and do you have your Metrocard?” Once we finally achieve the impossible and leave the house on time, we have to walk the four blocks to the city bus stop, hope the bus comes, hope when it does come the dispatcher doesn’t hold it there while he yacks about the Yankees with the driver and leaves all us parents and commuters seething, ride the bus across town, walk the six blocks to school from the bus stop, climb five flights of stairs to their classrooms, and then do the whole thing in reverse. All before 9am.

Once I’m home, do the breakfast dishes, make the beds, pick up their toys, check my email, look in the refrigerator for something to eat, try to get some writing done, procrastinate by cleaning out the linen closet (really just a few shelves in my bedroom cabinet, but it makes me feel better to call it a linen closet), realize that the crack in the living room ceiling is getting ominously bigger, make mental note to do something about it…eventually, open the refrigerator again as if expecting new food to have magically appeared since the last time I opened it forty minutes ago, run some errands, go to the gym, shower (finally), prepare dinner, prepare snacks, pick up kids, serve snacks, help with homework, greet the husband, serve the dinner, clean the dishes, tuck in the kids, pay some bills, do some online shopping (my son is growing at an alarming rate), knit a few rows of the sweater I’ve been working on for three years, collapse in front of the TV, converse with husband, (monosyllables, at best), wash up, put on pajamas, get into bed, and try to get enough sleep so I can do it all again the next day.

So you know what I want for Mother’s Day? A day off. I want to wake up in a nether world where my kids don’t want anything from me other than to shower me with praise and love. I want to live in an apartment where the beds are made by invisible imps who don’t come to you with their problems, don’t put away your favorite jeans somewhere you can’t find them, and never ever ask for a raise. I want to go to the gym and not worry about how soon I have to be back, or whether or not it’s fair to my husband to have to stay home with the kids when he’s been working all week and I’ve been able to go to the gym whenever I want to (Ha!). I want to shower in the morning, and have time to blow-dry my hair. I want to make one thing for dinner and have everyone eat it. Or better yet, have someone else make it, and do the dishes afterward.

It’s not that I don’t realize that I’m lucky. My children are healthy. We are not poor, or starving, or displaced by war, or floods, or fire. I have a loving husband, a caring family, a comfortable home. I am not ill, or in peril. I get it: I’m one of the lucky ones. Which makes me feel all the worse that all I really want for Mother’s Day is a day off.

I want a Mother’s Day Off. A day off from the guilt, and the worry, and the responsibility. A day off from the whining and complaining, and instant refusal to try any new food, even if it’s just a different brand of chicken nugget. I want to have a day where no one talks back, everyone does as they’re told and my breasts miraculously return to their pre-I’ve-breast-fed-two-kids state, and pass the pencil test with ease.

I want a bouquet of freshly picked flowers, sunshine and warmth without that

New York

humidity. I want to be like a character in an old Fred Astaire movie, burst into song, know all the words, have a full orchestra accompanying me, and dance the foxtrot like nobody’s business.

Ok, well, maybe I’m getting carried away.

How about I just knock it down to wanting to sleep in and not have to do the breakfast dishes? Oh, and if I do decide to burst into song, I don’t want anybody to laugh.

Hey, it’s Mother’s Day. Is that really so much to ask?

May 10, 2009 at 7:00 am 2 comments

Leave Carrie Prejean Alone!

carrie-prejean-photoSo Carrie Prejean, the controversial Miss California USA (not for long?) once posed for nude photos.  Is anyone out there surprised?  Let’s face it, these days, there are LOTS of girls sending nude photos of themselves out over the internet.  One of them is even being prosecuted for distribution of child pornography – for sending out photos of herself!

The real problem here is not posing topless, not being anti-gay, not even Carrie Prejean herself, but the fact that our daughters are being told – through beauty pageants like Miss USA, that pretty is all that matters.  You can be a homophobe, you can be borderline incapable of literate speech, you can be stupid enough to do something that has the potential to ruin your life’s dream…but if you’re pretty: here’s a crown, here’s some money, here you are being put out there as a role model to girls across the country.

Wanna read the complete post?  Check it out (and please leave a comment, if you do) at

May 9, 2009 at 10:31 am 1 comment

Wanna Share What? Genome sharing on 23andMe

Wanna Share Genomes?

I wouldn’t share my sandwich with a stranger.  I wouldn’t tell even a close friend what I weigh.  I’d never disclose my annual income, or the secret ingredient that makes my vinaigrette’ so great.  Yet here on 23andMe, I share my genetic code with total strangers.

I mean, really.  What’s more intimate than that?

To read the rest of this post, go to

May 1, 2009 at 11:50 am Leave a comment

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