To Swine Flu Vaccinate or Not to Swine Flu Vaccinate?

If you’re like me, you’ve been having an internal debate over whether to vaccinate yourself and any children you have. And perhaps you’re even finding yourself traumatized by the hysteria on the evening news. To counteract that, I provide you with the more mild-mannered medical perspective of Pediatric Alternatives, my expensive, highly respected, hippie-dippy alternative-medicine pediatrician’s office. This information made me feel far more calm while considering my options, and I hope it does the same for you. Here are their latest recommendations:

Don’t panic. Breathe. Wait, don’t breathe, you might catch a germ! Stay home! Wear masks! Wash your hands constantly! Remove your children from all public activities! Stay home! Build a flu bunker!

Well, you get the idea. There has been a lot of media coverage of the flu this week. Unfortunately, the media’s job is to obtain viewers, not to give you balanced, non-sensational medical information. We have been inundated with H1N1 flu questions this past week. Everyone seems much more nervous, due in large part to the escalating news coverage. Everyone remembers the one exception covered on 60 minutes, but let’s set some basic facts straight about this flu:

1. It is milder than typical winter influenza.

2. This is a very contagious strain, so it is likely that many members of our community will get it. The incubation period is 3 days. If you have no symptoms 5 days after exposure, you likely will not get the virus.

3. If you get the virus, 30% of you won’t even get a fever and will think you have just a cold. If you do get fever, it will typically be for 2-3 days. A few children have had fever for as long as 5-7 days, but this is very unusual in our patients who are treating their flu with natural means.

4. Most of the people who have gotten very ill have significant pre-existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease. In fact, proportionally, more “healthy” people get very ill with regular winter flu than have gotten very ill with this flu.

5. So far, our families that have had the flu have recovered quickly and easily, with little need for bloodwork, antibiotics, chest x-rays, etc. Even children with a history of asthma or wheezing seem to be less likely to wheeze with this illness.
We are very happy overall with how our patients are weathering this storm.

6. If you have had a flu like illness (fever, muscle aches, headache the first day, with runny nose and cough symptoms) then you may have already had H1N1! The CDC says unless you know for sure it was H1N1 you should still get the vaccine, but this is likely overkill and you probably don’t need it.

7. Initially we were quite concerned about the H1N1 vaccine because it was going to contain a controversial new ingredient that had not been used in regular vaccines in the U.S. Luckily, the CDC changed their mind and opted not to use this new adjuvant, squalene. As far as we know, the vaccine that will be supplied to us from the government will be manufactured in a manner similar to our usual preservative-free flu vaccine. So, we feel more comfortable with the idea of our patients receiving this vaccine.

We will have a limited supply of preservative-free H1N1 vaccine. We will prioritize vaccine for high-risk families such as those with pregnant women, or children of any age with a history of pneumonia or asthma. Once these families are covered, we can open up our supplies to any families that desire the vaccine. Adults should get their vaccine from their primary care provider. Pregnant women should be sure to ask for the preservative free version as it does not contain mercury.

8. Let us be clear, again, that we feel most people don’t need this vaccine. This is a mild flu and it may be better to get it now and have immunity for the next time it goes around, or next year’s strain.

If you do want the vaccine, please e-mail the office and ask to have the exact members of your family that you want to get the vaccine put on the list. When the vaccine comes in, we will call families in to get the vaccine. We do not yet know when the vaccine will arrive, or how many doses we will receive. The latest reports suggest some time in November.

9. When you watch the news, remember that they are not putting the information in perspective.

10. Please, do not call the office with general questions about the swine flu vaccine. We need to be 100% available to those families that are ill. If you need to talk to us about this or any other vaccines, please schedule a shot appointment.

And finally, we have a very few doses left of regular flu vaccine that will be saved for children with high risk medical conditions. Adults that are still interested in getting a regular flu vaccine should try their regular provider. Pharmaca is also having preservative-free flu shot drop in clinics.

Ultra Moist Butterfly Chocolate Cake Recipe

butterfly cake close up

I have very strong opinions about children’s birthday parties: Specifically, there’s no reason to hire pro entertainers, blow bucks on goodie bags, and break the bank on over-the-top festivities–unless you are doing it to please yourself. After all, the kids don’t care. Give them a patch of dirt and a shovel or chase them around the yard while screaming like a fool and they’re happy.

I live in the land of competitive mothers and refuse to follow the trend. For each of Viva’s three birthday parties I’ve invited her friends, made some snacks and a cake, and let the kids loose in the yard. No one has complained that our parties aren’t up to snuff and if they did they would simply be off the guest list next year.

I DO have some ideas on how to make parties run smoothly, and I’ll share those in another post. Bur right now I want to share the one thing I go gaga over each year: making an amazing chocolate birthday cake.

While I think it’s perfectly acceptable to buy or make a simple cake, I happen to love baking an elaborate edible masterpiece for Viva’s birthday. No surprise there. I was an entertaining expert and frequent party-thrower before bearing a babe. It only makes sense that I would parlay my passion into a relevant context.

If you’re idea of fun is spendind a few hours in the kitchen, you truly must try this recipe for the ultimate moist chocolate cake (plus step-by-step instructions on how to make a butterfly shape cake).

I’ve used it two years running–and decorate it based on my girl’s desires–and everyone, parents included, can’t seem to get enough. Incidentally, if you’re pregnant and not yet thinking about festivities, consider this cake a great chocolate craving remedy.

butterfly cake

Ultra Moist Chocolate Cake Recipe
This cake rocks because it’s so moist you can make it two days in advance, keep it covered on a counter, and it’ll be amazing when you serve it. (A huge plus if you don’t want to sweat the details the day of your event.) This recipe is for a sheet cake, but you can easily make a round layered cake or any shape you like or make two sheet cakes and stack ‘em for extra height.
32 Servings

4 cups skim milk or low-fat chocolate milk
2 cups butter
10 oz unsweetened good-quality baking chocolate
4 cups sugar
4 cups white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 large eggs, beaten

1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
2. Line 1 half-sheet baking pan with parchment paper and generously butter and dust with cocoa.
3. In a pot over moderate heat warm the milk, butter, chocolate, stirring occasionally until completely combined.
4. Stir in the sugar and transfer to a mixing bowl.
5. Beat in the flour, salt, baking soda, and vanilla.
6. Add the eggs and beat until the batter is smooth.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
8. Bake for 1 -1/2 hours until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pans and the middles spring back when touched.
9. Cool in the pan, then invert onto a platter. Cool completely before frosting.

Fast Cream Cheese Frosting
I like cream cheese frosting because it’s got a great tang to it and is stupidly easy to make.

1 package Philadelphia cream cheese (I like the flavor of this brand)
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 box powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Throw all of the ingredients into a bowl and whip with an electric mixer. Viola!

Cake Decor Notes

1. This cake is REALLY easy to cut with a serrated knife. Before you cut to a custom shape, get a piece of paper that’s the same length and width of the cake and draw the shape you’d like the cake to be. Then cut the paper into the desired shape. Place the cut paper on top of your cake and sprinkle its edges with powdered sugar so you have a stencil and then cut the cake…like this:

butterfly cake stencil

2. After you cut the cake, frost it with a thinned layer of frosting (frosting mixed with milk) and let it harden overnight. Then frost the cake the next day with regular frosting; do this and you won’t battle crumbs in your frosting.

3. Add any decorative embellishments before the cake frosting hardens–right after you frost it. It’s a good idea to draw it first. I freehanded this one and realized it would have come out better if I’d created a visual plan to follow first.

4. If you don’t love the look of your cake, surround it with pretty things. I found my cake looked infinitely better the minute it was surrounded by flowers.

5. Consider other toppings. Candy pieces would be cute. Basic white frosting with more childlike polka dots would have rocked, too. It even looks pretty with a simple outline of a darker frosting. I also initially was going to go with muted colors, but the lady at the cake store discouraged me. I should have gone with my gut; go with yours when you attempt this cake and no matter what it looks like people will love it because it IS that good.

Required Viewing: The Business of Being Born

Listen up, Ladies. If there is one thing you should do while pregnant, it’s see this movie.

It may mean nothing to you if your idea of birthing bliss is having major surgery (aka a C-section). But for gals like me, who were excited to experience the empowering miracle of childbirth and ended up in the operating room, it’s a genius piece of work that answers questions as to why many of our birthing experiences didn’t follow our desires and how we might have prevented unnecessary medical intervention.

It’s an unnerving piece, to be sure–kind of the “Prego” to Michael Moore’s “Sicko”–but all very important and alarming stuff that rang completely true for me given my experience.

My only complaint is that “The Business of Being Born,” which was produced by Ricki Lake, was not available when I was pregnant. If it were, I would have followed a very different path.

Watch it and tell your pregnant friends to watch it, too. Whether you are pro natural childbirth or the “too posh to push” club, we women deserve the right to choose how we bring our children into the world. Ensuring we get that right begins with educating ourselves on ALL of the birthing options and making sure that other people know about them, too.

The Latest on Caffeine and Pregnancy

While reports suggest that around 80 percent of miscarriages happen because of chromosomal abnormalities, a recent study by Kaiser Permanente suggests that women in early pregnancy who drink a cup and a half of coffee each day have a greater risk of miscarriage than those who don’t drink the stuff.

Although there is no proof that the occasional dose of caffeine is harmful, there’s no evidence that it’s completely safe, either. So if you’re the precautionary type, you might think twice before downing that morning latte.

Other reasons to curb the habit: Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic, so it inspires a lot of trips to the ladies room and stops you from snoozing when you need to.

FYI, you’re not out of the woods if you eschew coffee. You can get just as jacked up on certain types of soda and tea.