Thursday, November 12, 2015

What's in a Name? Patrick Ryan

Dear Patrick,

I am sure that the story of your namesake is one you will hear many times during your life.  I write it down here for you to read, and others in case anyone is interested.  I kind of have this idea that I’d love to name my boys after historical figures and my girls after literary characters, with the caveat that I also like the names’ meanings... and that Daddy likes them too.   So far it’s worked out.  Your sister's name, "Eowyn Grace" is from Tolkien’s The Two Towers (The Lord of the Rings), and we named your big brother "William Christopher" after your Poppy (my father-in-law) and your daddy’s good friend, as well as history’s William the Conqueror and Christopher Columbus, who at the very least had vision and initiative whatever their faults.  His name means “strong protector, bearer of Christ.”  So when I thought of names I’d love to give a second son, top of the list was Patrick.  As for your middle name… I think that one’s pretty obvious:  your daddy’s name.  I happen to think carrying that name is an honor any son will be glad to have.  it’s the name of a smart, compassionate man who works diligently to provide for his family, serve his church, be a faithful friend, and fight sin.  He is one who consistently befriends the least of these yet is unafraid to converse with those society calls great, and who genuinely cares about both.  He is brave and adventurous, a gifted writer and an innovative businessman.  He also happens to be able to make me laugh like no one else and is incredibly good-looking.  :)  Id love it if you, my boy, grew up to be "just like Daddy."

Both “Patrick” and “Ryan” have connotations of nobility, of royalty.  I hope to raise a son who carries himself as though he is of noble blood, in every positive sense of the word, with none of the arrogance.

So, Patrick…who was he?  Some Catholic saint?  Someone who loved to drink and looked for leprechaun gold?  Did he even exist?  I’m happy to say that yes, there really was a man named Patrick, and he had nothing to do with leprechauns or searches for treasure at the end of rainbows.  He probably loved a good drink like any shivering Briton of the 5th century, and as for Catholicism, he was a Christian—and that was the only kind of Church there was before the East-West Schism.  But the historical Patrick, originally named Sucat, was passionate for the Gospel; brave, compassionate, effective pastor, smart, poetic and a gifted evangelist.  (I think of him as his day’s William Carey, Tim Keller and John Piper rolled into one.) 

Most do not know his true history, so I’ll give my own biography of him here:  Sucat grew up on what is now the coast of England, son of a deacon, loved and well-taught in Scripture but unbelieving.  As a teenager he was kidnapped out his bedroom window by Scottish raiders (“scotti” means “pirate”), taken to Ireland and sold as a slave.  While there he was a shepherd, alone for most of each day in the wild green hills.  He had a lot of thinking time, just him and the animals.  All the lessons and prayers from his childhood came back to him, and he turned to the God he had long ignored.  Amidst the fear-filled druidic paganism and untamed beauty around him, he Believed and began to find joy in communion with the one Friend for sinners.  The other servants jokingly dubbed him “Holy Boy” as he began to spend each day in prayer and speak to them all of this kind God.  One night he had a dream that led him to escape.  Miraculously he made it home to England, where he was reunited with his overjoyed parents.  Years later he had another dream, this time of a man crying out in Irish “we beg you, “Holy Boy, come back and walk among us!” and awoke with the weight of thousands of souls on his conscience.  He began to realize "who better to take the Good News to the Lost of Ireland than one who knew their ways and spoke their language?"  After receiving seminary training and being ordained and commissioned as a minister of the Gospel, Patrick set out for the land where he had been enslaved, despite knowing that his escape from slavery would mean his old master could legally kill him.

What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.  Patrick’s simple teaching and faithful preaching began a complete upheaval in Ireland.  Hundreds, both wealthy –even nobility—and simple, left their old religion of fear and appeasement and turned to the One True God whose love cast out all fear, and whose wrath had already been appeased by His Own Son’s sacrifice.  The Good News spread through the network of bards God had sovereignly put in place over the centuries, both traveling singers and the officials who were responsible for keeping record of each lord & clan’s history and feats in song. Poetry and songs as only the Celts can write began to be sung in the praise of Jesus from one end of the island to the other.  Even the bard of the High King converted, and the man who once had been sent to diplomatically secure magical talismans from rival lords instead used his talent with words to compose the hymn we sing today as “Be Thou My Vision.”  Hundreds of young men and women came to Patrick desiring to become nuns and monks in devotion to God’s work for life.  All this occurred despite constant death threats against him from druids who did not appreciate the incursion into “their” territory.  Patrick refused any financial gifts, knowing these would tie him to a lord and a clan.  This left him essentially without legal protection, yet he fearlessly continued to teach and preach, believing he would only die when the Lord’s work for him was done.  By the time the Lord took him Home, the Irish church had been well established, with a rich Celtic liturgy all its own, quite distinct from that of the rest of Europe's, as Patrick encouraged his congregants and disciples to use their talents to write their own songs and hymns.  (Unfortunately under English oppression this liturgy was nearly completely lost.  Several tunes survived through oral tradition as well as a few prayers and hymns; however all record of the system the Irish Celts once used to notate their music was lost forever.)

Very few of Patrick’s own words survive to this day, however two documents do remain—his “Confession” and an open letter which he wrote—and several pieces of poetry are also attributed him by tradition.  The writings show a courageous, humble man passionate for God’s glory and deeply compassionate for his fellow man, especially those in Ireland. 

I am Patrick, yes a sinner and indeed untaught; yet I am established here in Ireland where I profess myself bishop. I am certain in my heart that "all that I am," I have received from God. So I live among barbarous tribes, a stranger and exile for the love of God. […] If I have any worth, it is live my life for God so as to teach these people; even though some of them still look down on me.”

How is it that in Ireland, where they never had any knowledge of God but, always, until now, cherished idols and unclean things, they are lately become a people of the Lord, and are called children of God; the sons of the Irish and the daughters of the chieftains are to be seen as monks and virgins of Christ.  […] I confess to my Lord and do not blush in His sight, because I am not lying; from the time when I came to know Him in my youth, the love of God and fear of Him increased in me, and right up until now, by God's favor, I have kept the faith.”

And one of my favorite bits of poetry, “the Lorica of St Patrick’” contains the verse:I arise today / Through the strength of Christ's birth and His baptism,/ Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial, / Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,/ Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.  Though we don’t know for certain that Patrick penned those words, they certainly fit in with the Gospel-centeredness of his life, to wake up every morning completely & intentionally in Christ.

Those are all words I would be glad to know my son could also honestly claim.

Patrick, my sleeping little son, you are awfully small to bear such big names.  I pray you grow into them and do them honor, "by God's almighty help and grace." 

St Patrick's Rune as used by Madeleine L'Engle
in A Swiftly Tilting Planet (one of my very favorite books)
With all my love,

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Letter to Liam, age 3

My dear little man, William—

You have been 3 for four whole months now… every one of those months I have meant to sit down and write you—something to help you know your own three-year-old self later one; something for me to read and remember these precious days.  Daddy and I agree that this age is so much fun; YOU are so much fun.  You giggle and are amazed by everything.  You make us laugh so much.  You are sweet, thoughtful, empathetic and caring.  You love to kiss and hug your baby brother, having dubbed him “Chubby” and giving me a play-by-play of his well-being if I have to leave the room.  Once I came in to find you just watching him, saying “I’m your big brother (“brozzer”); that’s why I’m watching over you.”  You’ve never resented him or shown anything but affection towards him.  I can’t wait until the two of you are fast friends, just like you and Eowyn already are.

If you are unkind and I explain to you how the other person was affected, even if at first you shout that you want them to be sad or that you like being mean (and yes, you do say those kinds of things), without fail, when you’ve calmed down, you will come to me or your dad and very sincerely apologize, and show that you are very sad that you hurt someone else.  You love to hug us and your little arms around my neck is one of my favorite feelings.  After naps –you still take a good 1.5-2 hour afternoon nap every day—you are especially snuggly.  I love the smell of your curly head, slightly damp from sleep. Today you lay your head down on Daddy’s shoulder completely unprompted, and he just melted.  You have our hearts, big boy. 

You are a sensitive little soul, correction often bringing you to cross your arms, drop your head and the whispered words “I’m embarrassed” followed by tears.  Or just tears.  Lately you’ve been crying a lot.  The phrase “threenager” applies very aptly.  I might ask you to do something very routine—come to dinner, or clean toys up in preparation for bedtime—and the response will be incredibly dramatic.  Suddenly, you’re on the floor screaming, or you’ve thrown your hands up and are shrieking “I HATE DAT!!” or are wailing that you weren’t done playing… as if eating and sleeping were totally unexpected, unreasonable events.  Liam, you are a small person of very big passions.

Bedtime continues to be our most difficult time.  You (and your sister) tend to pop out of bed repeatedly.  You usually come out quietly, crawling into my lap saying “Mommy, I just need some love” or “I just want you.”  It’s very hard to resist those hugs.  I usually snuggle you for a while and send you back to bed.  Othertimes there is great weeping and gnashing of teeth... on all sides.  Often at bedtime you’ll ask me to “stay with me just one more minute?” and I usually do.  I have to take off my glasses and you put your arm around me. You tell me, after about a minute “ok, Mommy, you can go now.”  You want me to say the Aaronic blessing over you, and sometimes will try and say it in turn to Patrick.  So sweet.

You have a keen little mind, memorizing songs and spoken words very well.  You listened to The Big Picture Story Bible on CD as you went to sleep for several weeks, and often will quote passages of Scripture at the most hilarious of moments.  Once, while you were washing your hands alone, I heard you intone in a deep voice “Go! Wash in the Pool of Siloam!”  Yesterday you remarked that only Cesar Augustus was the king of the world—not your sister.  Another time you used “Do not make My Father’s house a house of trade!” in an argument with her… we aren’t sure how you thought it applied but it definitely had us laughing behind closed doors. 

Your imagination is amazing.  You often delve into a world all your own, complex and usually heroic.  You jump off our steps wearing goggles and begin flailing, waving a block and shouting.  In moments you are on your belly, groaning with faux exertion as you crawl along.  When I ask what you are doing, you explain very calmly that you dove into the water to fight a shark with your sword, because it was trying to eat your baby, and you will kill the shark even though it bit your leg off, and the doctor will put your leg back on.  Then you’ll be back in your play.  Your imagination always demands full-body involvement… It’s always detailed, extremely energetic, and often quite violent.  You love to be a superhero (usually Superman flying around with sound effects), Mike the Knight, a swimmer or occasionally a wild beast.  When you play with your sister, you like to be the “daddy” or “husband” (or her little boy).  Up until about a week ago you didn’t grasp the idea of play names, and referred to everyone by their title as you played.  We’d hear you shout out in your fake man-voice “Wife!” whenever you wanted her attention, and you responded only to “Husband.”  Lately you have assumed the name “Davis” whenever you play pretend.  Not sure where you came up with that one.

Another little quirk of late has been your obsession with what you call “up sleeves,” ie short sleeved shirts.  Despite the weather turning cooler, you insist that you do NOT want “downsleeves,” and especially that you do NOT want “downpants,” but only “upshorts.”  The past few days you have even further narrowed your tastes to Superhero-themed clothing, most especially the Superman shirt with a detachable cape you got for your birthday (from me), and a pair of navy blue knit shorts “with a tie (faux drawstring) on the front.”  You also want to wear your Batman pjs.  We finally have reached a compromise of you wearing various shirts to school or church (often “downsleeved”) or the Superman shirt with a sweater over it, and pants OVER your shorts (mainly one pair of grey fleece pants because they are “soft”).  As we leave, you assure us that “when I get home, I’m gonna change into pajamas!” and sure enough, there will be a trail of shed clothing as soon as you walk in the door.  This is quite a change from your prior attitude towards clothing; you loved making your own outfits and were always quite deliberate in how you (mis)matched them.  Well, I guess that’s the common theme:  you really do care about your clothes and shoes.  Even when you are freezing, you insist on your “upshorts”—though there have been a few times when you willingly put on something warmer with a sheepish grin!

You had your first haircut two weeks ago.  Your favorite Sunday School teacher ever, “Mrs Charla” from TCC, cut it at her studio and did an excellent job.  We kept your mop-top of crazy blond curls but tamed the back a bit so it gets less tangled and matted.  You look less like Einstein and your hair stays curly instead of becoming a blond frizzy halo.  You were so nervous about your haircut, even though you asked for one.  The day before, you asked if it would hurt, and were reassured as Eowyn and I explained to you that only the part of your hair still in your scalp could feel and your haircut wouldn’t hurt at all.  You were so stoic, self-conscious and then proud during your hair cut.  You wouldn’t hardly look up, much less talk to Mrs. Charla!! 

You love Legos and little figurines of all kinds.  I find play horses, Playmobil knights, dinosaurs, cars and dragons all over the house, often with weapons and in boxes of some kind.  You build very well and surprise me with your abilities.  However you still need your sister to assemble your Legos following the visual directions, or your Playmobil castle or train tracks which you regularly dismantle.  Yesterday you and she made a “hideout” behind our downstairs couch and you all have stocked it with all sorts of necessities.  I love to hear you play together and truly interact.  Your sister often has very specific ideas about how things should go, and you usually are content to go along with her.  You are a very sweet little brother, really you are!  Lately she has been learning (with encouragement) to let you have more input because your ideas are really good!  And… she does love you and doesn’t mind indulging you—she’ll come to me laughing behind her hand at how cute you can be.  She’s a good big sister… when she isn’t bossing you around or threatening to not let you play if you don’t do what she wants. :) When you are in trouble with Mommy or Daddy, 9 times out of 10 she will run in and hug you and comfort you.

Your typical day starts around 7:30.  Some mornings you start playing in your room, others you come crawl into our bed… often you beg to look at our phones, and we usually let you look at our pictures and home videos.  You usually are the one to let Alina (the cat) out of the laundry room.  We get up around 8 to make you breakfast, usually yogurt, sometimes eggs, or if we are running late, a banana and milk (two of your favorites!).  Mondays we go to CC, Tuesdays and Wednesdays you go to preschool in “Miss Kassie (Kathy)’s class.”  Usually there is at least one meltdown involving not wanting to eat or wear something.  After school we come home for lunch and usually Levi is with us.  You two really are best buds.  You usually play outside while I make lunch and then we eat together—I read sometimes while you eat, usually from the Bible, sometimes from picture books.  Then it’s a nap for everyone (Mommy too!) and afterwards you and Levi (and Sis sometimes) play until he’s picked up.  On Thursdays and Fridays you like to do some school with me and Eowyn.  In the late afternoons you might get to watch a show—your favorites now are Super Why, Jake & the Neverland Pirates or the WildKratts.  You also like Mike the Knight, Diego and Kipper the Dog. Daddy comes home & we eat dinner together—these are some of my favorite times as now you and Eowyn are old enough to really talk to us.  You tell Daddy about your day, and we laugh and laugh together.  Daddy reads a Bible story and a chapter or two in “Johnny Chuck”, we sing a song (your usual requests are "Jesus Draw Me Close," "Be Thou My Vision," and "Jesus, what a friend for sinners") and pray together, and then you are tucked in bed with your Bobo & Baby and a music CD on. You still have a bit of a hard time sleeping alone in your room since Eowyn moved out, but the penguin night-light pillow helps.

Spiritually you are sensitive.  You love to memorize Scripture and remind me to read our devotional every morning and to drill you on your catechism.  At night when you’re scared you ask me to “pray for Jesus!” and draw comfort from knowing that while you can’t see God, “He always sees me!” and that He is stronger than any bad guy.  You are quite aware of sin and your own part in it, yelling angrily that you KNOW you are disobeying and you WANT to run away from God.  This makes me so sad, but also I have to smile because your words are exactly what my own heart screams when I tantrum, too.  Daddy and I pray that you learn to see the Enemy’s lies in those words!  I’ve been surprised at just how much you grasp—last night I asked you a question after our Bible story, not expecting you to know the answer, but you did!  You really are listening and absorbing everything you hear.  Oh, I pray that these seeds bear good fruit!!

I love you so much, my wild-haired compassionate, passionate little hero!  You always have my heart.  Im so glad right now you still need hugs and kisses and snuggles from me.  I love that you still want me to hold you, and that my arms are still strong enough to do it.  I love that you are spirited and funny but also tender-hearted and teachable.  You forgive easily and are a loyal friend.  

I cant wait to watch you keep growing up into a heroic man but it also breaks my heart to imagine you being any older than you are right now.  I love you dearly, William Christopher, and thank God every day for the blessing of being your mommy.

Love, hugs, kisses, and every good story I can tell,


Friday, June 05, 2015

Strikes Against the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)

For those who question the wisdom or evidence in support of the schedule currently recommended by our CDC, there are generally many layers of questions.  Many question the schedule itself; with yet another dose of flu shot being recommended this year and the HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine recommendations being expanded again-- our vaccine schedule seems quite full to many, especially in the first two years of a child's life (at least 25 shots by age 2, a total of 36 doses).  It certainly is more aggressive than most of the rest of the world.  (google a few and notice just how widely they vary from nation to nation, both in schedule, frequency, and diseases vaccinated against.  For example, Japan's schedule- which recommends 22 doses by age 2, or the Swedish schedule- which recommends 21 doses by age 2 as opposed to ours)

Then there are many who question the one-size-fits-all approach instead of considering each child's environment, personal health history, current health, family history (genetic predisposition) and even weight/body type (there is no dosing difference between a shot given a 5 lb or 10 lb newborn, for ex).

Then we come to questions and concerns about individual vaccines.  Many families feel more comfortable with certain shots than others, and their concerns may vary from shot to shot.  Their concerns may be ethical, practical, or medical in nature.  This is why so many feel insulted and frustrated when all vaccine questions are answered with a pat "oh, don't worry about autism!  That's been disproved so many times."  Whether or not it has, that generally is not the sum and total of a parent's concern on this issue.

Lately one vaccine seems to keep popping up in my life, whether it's reading yet another online story about the "horrible measles outbreaks", or an article in a magazine in which parents are encouraged to speed up their child's doses in preparation for travel, or in an admission form for kindergarden... that vaccine is the MMR.  The issues with the MMR are myriad, and I would like to list them one at a time.  My purpose is simple: to explain clearly why parents may desire to delay or omit this vaccine.  I am not a medically degreed individual, just a parent who enjoys research, can stomach reading medical studies until her eyes start crossing, and desires to empower other parents to make their own decisions, in discussion with their own trusted care providers.  Perhaps this list will be a good starting point for a conversation with your own medical care provider.  I certainly hope so!  As always, please follow the links in order to read primary sources on your own.

1. The MMR is a live vaccine-- that's how it is classified according to its Merck packaging.  According to the CDC's Pink Book, "Live attenuated vaccines are produced by modifying a disease-producing (“wild”) virus or bacterium in a laboratory. The resulting vaccine organism retains the ability to replicate (grow) and produce immunity, but usually does not cause illness."   A few of the main concerns regarding live-virus vaccines:
- Live vaccines seem to be better at provoking more immunity (because they are more like the original disease), and they unfortunately have more side effects for the same reason. The US has therefore traded the live oral polio vaccine (OPV) for the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).  Again quoting from the Pink Book:
"The more similar a vaccine is to the disease-causing form of the organism, the better the immune response to the vaccine.")  "When a live attenuated vaccine does cause “disease,” it is usually much milder than the natural disease and is referred to as an adverse reaction. [...] Live attenuated vaccines may cause severe or fatal reactions as a result of uncontrolled replication (growth) of the vaccine virus. [...] A live attenuated vaccine virus could theoretically revert to its original pathogenic (disease-causing) form. This is known to happen only with live (oral) polio vaccine." 
The CDC states that live-virus vaccines are only a danger to those with certain immunocompromisation (HIV etc), however many parents wonder if those listed sources of  are the only potential sources-- could family (or personal) history of autoimmune disorders indicate susceptibility?
- encephalitis (brain swelling)-- Travel of a virus into the brain is a rare complication of several viral illnesses, including measles, and is a topic of ongoing research.  Unfortunately, it seems live virus vaccines also carry this risk, as this case study illustrates and as the vaccine inserts themselves state (see all three types of encephalitis listed under "Adverse Reactions").  According to the Mayo Clinic, "Secondary encephalitis often occurs two to three weeks after the initial infection. Rarely, secondary encephalitis occurs as a complication of a live virus vaccination." this in turn can be a factor in developing autism or other learning disabilities.  Encephalitis/encephalopathy is listed as a "Table Injury," meaning it is recognized as a possible vaccine reaction that will be compensated by the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program.  Two children were compensated for it this earlier this year.
- live virus vaccines "shed," meaning they are able to be passed on from a recently vaccinated person.  The NVIC's report is here.

2. The MMR is a combination vaccine- by that I mean that it is not a shot for a single illness, but rather for three:  measles, mumps and rubella.  The technical name is "polyvalant." It stands to reason that giving the body three separate pathogens to identify and mount antibodies against would be more taxing than giving one at a time. One recent study (published in Human & Experimental Toxicology) analyzed reported adverse vaccine effects by number of vaccine doses given at one time, and found
"Our findings show a positive correlation between the number of vaccine doses administered and the percentage of hospitalizations and deaths reported to VAERS. In addition, younger infants were significantly more likely than older infants to be hospitalized or die after receiving vaccines."
(Interestingly this is also being discussed among vets and dog-owners, as multiple vaccines at once is linked with higher adverse reactions, especially in small dogs. Example here.)  Many parents (myself included!!) would like the option of monovalent (single dose) vaccines, but separate shots for each MMR component are no longer available in the US though they can be found in parts of Europe and in Japan.

3.  The MMR is a viral vaccine- viruses are very very very tiny, so small they can only be seen under an electron microscope.  So, when they are cultured, there is no way to isolate just the viruses.  Rather, infected tissue (of whatever animal the virus is being cultured in) is used.  While many efforts are made to purify and test the tissue for harmful substances, there is no way to test for every possible contaminant:  you can only test for what you know might be there. Viral vaccines therefore are most at risk for being contaminated.  Several examples include the contamination of several batches of past polio virus vaccines with simian virus-40, now implicated in numerous human cancers (I explored this topic more thoroughly here.), or pig virus contamination (PCV1) of the rotavirus oral vaccine in 2010.  The FDA suspended the use of the vaccine during investigation and determined that the viral contaminants would not harm humans.  However, the very fact that it was unexpectedly present in a vaccine is a bit alarming.  (Was 4 weeks really long enough to evaluate long-term effect on children?)  There have also been findings of contaminants in measles virus cultures and a monkey virus contaminant in RotaTeq.

4.  Measles is not a dangerous disease in healthy children- contrary to what our media would have us believe, measles is neither deadly nor risky in healthy children.  Sure, the typical symptoms are not exactly pleasant:  high fever, cough, runny nose, watery eyes, and a rash (according to CDC), but even when measles infection in childhood was nearly universal, with 3-4 million cases per year, the number of deaths was approximately 500/year (source: Pink Book).  That works out to a 0.017%- 0.0125% death rate, or between 1 in 6000-8000. (If you got the measles, you had about a 1 in 7000 chance of dying of it, and if you survived, you were immune for life.  No more chance of dying of measles ever again in your life.)  Just for perspective, in 2015 in the US our odds of dying in a cataclysmic storm or from heat stroke are around 1 in 6, 700.  Our odds of dying from choking on food are double that (1 in 3000), and our odds of dying in a car accident or poisoning is about 1 in 110. (All numbers from the National Safety Council.) The odds of dying of measles are about the same as dying in a tornado or hurricane... way less likely than dying of choking, and even less likely than dying from poisoning.

There have been no measles deaths in the US for the past 10 years.  In other countries, where malnutrition and poor sanitation are concerns, measles complications can be fatal (which isn't surprising, given that anything is life-threatening for a malnourished person)-- however even then, the WHO says:
All children in developing countries diagnosed with measles should receive two doses of vitamin A supplements, given 24 hours apart. This treatment restores low vitamin A levels during measles that occur even in well-nourished children and can help prevent eye damage and blindness. Vitamin A supplements have been shown to reduce the number of deaths from measles by 50%.
The virus is quite contagious due to coughing but is fairly easy to eliminate from surfaces, "rapidly inactivated by heat, sunlight, acidic pH, ether, and trypsin. It has a short survival time (less than 2 hours) in the air or on objects and surfaces." (Pink Book)

5. Mumps is not a dangerous disease in healthy children- similarly to measles, mumps was once viewed as a childhood rite of passage (my mom remembers getting it as a child).  Like measles, mumps infection confers life-long immunity.  The options for supporting the immune system through the infection with vitamins, nourishing foods, rest and herbs are myriad when the patient is a healthy child. Mumps symptoms typically are swollen glands under the throat, headache, fever, tummy ache and malaise.  Even the CDC FAQ on the disease states:
Almost all people with mumps fully recover after a few weeks. During the illness, many people feel tired and achy, have fever, and may have parotitis. Some may feel extremely ill and be unable to eat because of pain around the jaw, and some may develop serious complications. Men and adolescent boys can develop orchitis, which rarely results in sterility. Women and adolescents girls may develop oophoritis. Meningitis and loss of hearing can also occur, and in rare cases this hearing loss can be permanent. The most serious complication is encephalitis, which can lead to death or permanent disability, although rarely.
As with many "childhood" diseases, disease complications tend to increase with age; in this case, only males that have gone through puberty are at risk for potentially developing sterility.  It is worth noting that with vaccination, formerly childhood diseases such as mumps have shifted to diseases which adults or babies are more at risk for (due to moms not being able to pass on natural immunity via breast milk, and vaccine protection wearing off in some individuals).  This is concerning to many.  As far as the encephalitis risk, see point #1 which points out that this is also a danger with vaccination-- arguably more of a danger than it was with the natural disease itself.

6. Rubella is a danger to unborn babies of moms who've never had rubella- it is not a danger to healthy children, nor even to unborn babies of moms who have had rubella.  So the question is whether or not routine vaccination of children is the most effective, most risk-free way of avoiding infection of moms during pregnancy in order to avoid CRS (congenital rubella syndrome).  Would it be advantageous to allow children to contract it naturally, allowing girls to then convey that rubella protection to their own infants later on via breast milk? Vaccine immunity can wear off in many individuals, and doesn't transmit as well via breast milk. Perhaps a vaccination for girls who show no immunity to rubella by age 12 would be a better option?  (This study on CRS in women in Saudi Arabia discusses just this, mentioning that immunizing children seems to limit CRS in younger mothers while increasing risk of it in older mothers as immunity wanes, while selective vaccination does better at allowing for life-long natural immunity but doesn't lessen the incidence of rubella itself.  However this is not necessarily a bad thing, as the study describes rubella as a "mild, self-limiting viral infection.")

7. Concerns with the measles component include many indications that it compromises gut health- Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (MD) has written extensively about this in her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome, where she describes the findings of live measles infections-- of the same strain in the vaccine-- in the guts of certain patients, causing extensive gastrointestinal problems, and surprisingly, a host of chronic and neurological conditions, among them Autism Spectrum Disorder. Read one study finding association between measles virus in the gut and developmental disorders here.  The gut dysbiosis-autism link has begun to be studied from several angles, among them the use of probiotics to reduce symptoms of autism (especially after this study in mice- here summarized by Autism Speaks).

8. Concerns with the mumps component include indications that the vaccine is ineffective and falsified data was used to obtain FDA approval- this article summarizes the current 3 court cases well.  Essentially, the concern is that Merck used one form of the attenuated mumps virus in testing in order to show 95% efficacy, when in practice that efficacy has not been true since at least 1999.
"Merck fraudulently represented and continues to falsely represent in its labeling and elsewhere that its Mumps Vaccine has an efficacy rate of 95 percent or higher. In reality, Merck knows and has taken affirmative steps to conceal -- by using improper testing techniques and falsifying test data -- that its Mumps Vaccine is, and has been since at least 1999, far less than 95 percent effective." (Read more in the court documents for Chatom v Merck. )
There is evidence supporting the idea that the mumps component is not efficacious from India as well.

9. Concerns with the rubella component include its origin in tissue taken from aborted babies, which raises ethical concerns for many, and health concerns due to the presence of foreign human DNA. - From the MMR insert:  the rubella component contains the "Wistar RA 27/3 strain of live attenuated rubella virus propagated in WI-38 human diploid lung fibroblasts." As this 1964 paper entitled ""The Limited in vitro lifetime of human diploid cells" explains, "WI-38 and WI-44 [came] from female human fetal lung. All embryos were obtained from surgical abortions and were of approximately three months’ gestation."  (And as I understand it, the numbers refer to the number of cell lines that were "tried" before this cell line worked... so many many more than two babies' bodies were used to develop just those cell lines.)  The cell lines used to culture the current rubella vaccine came from a healthy human child whose life was ended by her mother at 3 month gestation for no medical reason-- many parents who believe abortion to be murder find any connection to aborted fetal tissue abhorrent-- even those who believe in the efficacy of vaccines.  Until a new medium is found for the rubella vaccine line (as the pope has urged Christians and pro-life individuals to clamor for), many parents find it reprehensible to use the current rubella vaccine (as well as other vaccines using human tissue obtained through abortion), and as such would object to the MMR.
- Those who may find no ethical dilemma in the use of cell lines originating in aborted human babies still may have concerns about the medical consequences of the injection of any tissue containing foreign human DNA-- recently, researcher Helen Ratajczak implicated the use of human (fetal) DNA in vaccines in the rise of autoimmune diseases, among other factors (published in the Journal of Toxicology).  Here is part of her explanation of why this may be:
"Because it's human DNA and recipients are humans, [...] That DNA is incorporated into the host DNA. Now it's changed, altered [... and the] body kills it. Where is this most expressed? The neurons of the brain. Now you have [the] body killing the brain cells and it's an ongoing inflammation. It doesn't stop, it continues through the life of that individual"  (source)
Another analysis of vaccine safety data has implicated the human tissue in the varicella, Hep A and second dose of the MMR in rises in autism disorder.  (Article from the Journal of Public Health here). Levels of human tissue in vaccine samples were found to be far above the current "safe" level.  The human tissue is implicated in a rise in childhood leukemia and lymphoma as well. (quote from study author Dr. Deisher here.)

10.  Childhood infectious diseases involving fevers (such as measles, mumps and rubella) may actually be beneficial in healthy children.  
- There is evidence that infectious diseases in childhood are protective against chronic or autoimmune diseases later in life, reducing the risk of cancer, asthma & allergies.  Fevers have even been used as part of cancer treatments and infectious diseases (including measles!) were found to cure disorders of the kidney in the past.
- Other research has collaborated the "old wives tale" that fevers always come before growth spurts, perhaps because the stimulation of the immune system by disease provides a "push" that allows the child to then grow.
- The protective/positive effects seem to be due partially to the effect fever/infection-suppressants has on the gut flora of children, and partially due to the need for all aspects of the immune system to be balanced and properly developed (Th1- cell-mediated immunity which includes the use of fevers, Th2 - antibody immunity).  The same mechanism that will kill tumor cells gets trained to "clean up" by killing viruses using fevers.  Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was reported to say:  “Give me a medicine to produce a fever and I can cure any disease.” Maybe he was on to something.

My point in summarizing these 10 "strikes" against the MMR is not to suggest that anyone who uses the MMR is stupid, uneducated, or irresponsible-- no, my goal is to explain that the reasons why SOME parents choose not to use this particular shot are varied, not one-size-fits-all.  If you hear that a friend or patient, client or family member has chosen to skip this vaccine, remember that they may not be worried about "that guy who said the mercury in the MMR causes autism."  They likely have multiple reasons for their choice, based in ethical, medical, or personal reasons!

Monday, June 01, 2015

Looking Forward to First Grade (2015/2016 School Year)

Wow.  I can't believe that.  Wasn't I just pregnant with her?  How is she already in "real school?"

Life Skills:  with a new little brother or sister coming in the Fall, Lord-willing born at home, she will be getting a very detailed course in Infant Development, Home Management, Surviving Without Mom, Independent Foraging/Cooking, and Self-Entertainment.  :)  Honestly for the first few months, this may be the bulk of her education, lol.  At least Liam will be enrolled in a local 2-day preK program.  But assuming we get past the sleep deprivation and correct whatever tongue tie issues this child has (I'm just assuming it will have them, considering all the grandkids on one side have it and all but one on the other side have too.)... here is our slightly more academic home education plan for 2015/2016.

Math:  Saxon 2, with workbooks like Littlest Pet Shop Math Practice and Grade 1-2 Everything for Early Learners for extra practice.  I actually find the "Everything for Early Learners" series to be really good as far as workbooks go!  We are using it through the summer to reinforce and practice too.

Language Arts:
- Spelling: All About Spelling 2
- Grammar: First Language Lessons, level 2 (This book has both levels in one book which is very economical and good for crowded shelves)
 - Handwriting:  Cursive First, Prescripts (Classical Conversations)
- Writing:  Bible Heroes from Institute of Excellence in Writing, and a daily journal.  Each day she'll have a prompt and write & illustrate her answer in this book (My Picture Story Book by millerpadsandpaper).  I think we'll use our well-loved Q & A a Day for Kids questions as her prompts.
- Literature:  First Favorites Guides Volumes 1 & 2 and More Favorites by Veritas Press.  I'm not really sure we "need" these since we tend to talk about books as she reads them and she gets plenty of reading comprehension practice that way, but since I know my time and brain power will be seriously curtailed by "Baby Blue"'s arrival early in the school year, I think this will be helpful, as anyone who is helping me (Daddy, grandmas, friends) could use this.  I also got them second hand at a good price, which helps. :)  I'm hopeful that this book - Reading Roadmaps- will help me handle literature from here on out to a good ways.  We will be reading tons of good quality kids books (thank you local library) as well as readers from Christian Light Publishers:  I Wonder and Helping Hands.  They are beautifully illustrated, well-written readers that are both edifying and interesting.

History:  Ancient History-- finally buying the full Classical Conversations Acts & Facts Cards set!! Woohoo!! Bede's History of Me is a fun little book we'll be trying too.  (Ebook available from Veritas Press) I have accumulated many coloring books that tie into Egyptian, Roman, etc. Ancient History, from Miracle Hill (local thrift shop w books for 50 cents), friends whose homeschooled kids have graduated, and yard sales.  We will be going through Story of the World Volume 1.  I actually have the Activity Book for it too so that will be fun. :)

Geography: CC

Science: maybe Nutrition 101: Choose Life from Growing Healthy Homes.  I hope to use this on a rotating schedule throughout all our homeschooling years!  It combines Nutrition and Anatomy in a comprehensive, Biblically-sound curriculum adapted to both older and younger students.  I'm just not sure I'll be able to handle it next year... we will see.

Fine Arts:
- Music- Suzuki violin? Suzuki piano? lessons. We are exploring options but she will for sure have SOME kind of instrument lessons. (Summer participation in 2nd Presbyterian's Musical CAT Kids, May-Aug).
- Visual Art- ArtPac 1 by Art with a Purpose, also CC
- Ballet

PE- ballet!!

Bible:  Truth & Grace Memory Book #1 and an intro to Hebrew with Purple Pomegranate's kids CDs Yeladim for Y'shua and You Gotta Jump, as well as their book Walk with Y'Shua through the Jewish Year.

Foreign Langage:
- Spanish:  I'm seriously considering this 3-DVD series, Foreign Languages for Kids by Kids, which is immersive in its approach, and from all accounts is quite popular with kiddos.  I watched a few clips and was so relieved that the kids all have GOOD accents!  However, the $25/DVD price tag is quite steep... I may wait another year until they start being sold used...

Liam will be in a K3 class at a local church school two mornings a week (along with his bestest buddy Levi), mainly to give him a chance to obey a non-parent and learn to function in a group, and to give me the chance to get two full mornings of school in with Sis, I do hope to have plenty of learning opportunities available for him, especially while I'm working with Eowyn more formally than ever before.  I was so impressed with the book The Homegrown Preschooler especially as a former preschool teacher myself-- it is so reassuring, empowering and non-stressful, not to mention pedagogically sound and downright beautiful to look at.  Imagine my joy when I found out that the authors have now published a full curriculum, entitled A Year of Playing Skillfully.  It is just as well-laid out, beautiful and doable as their book!  While the book makes it very clear that you don't need a formal curriculum, with a new baby coming I am in favor of anything that minimizes need of brain-power for me. :)  I plan to use this both this year and the next for our little preschooler.  As he desires to I will also start some phonics/reading with him too-- he's already pretending to sound things out, recognizing letters and wanting to do everything Big Sis does, so I think he may be ready.
- Dance... he really really wants to try it.