Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 04.06.05
Stanstead, Quebec


Why drinking 'milk' that smells like feet is a good thing

Do you ever wonder what word or phrase you repeat most during the day? For me it's "Abby, drink your milk."

Sometimes it's in rapid succession, as in "Abby, drink your milk. Abby, drink your milk. Abby, drink your milk. Abby, drink your milk." Etc.

Sometimes it's a variation thereof, either "Milk, milk, milk, milk…" or "Abby, Abigail, Abigail, ABIGAIL!"

The latter is specifically for when she's blithely ignoring us on the milk front.

Actually, it's not really milk but a milk-like formula, which is actually why this is a problem. As I've written before, Abby has a genetic condition that requires us to restrict her intake of protein. To make up for the shortfall in her diet, she has to drink 600 ml of powdered formula a day. If it tastes as bad as it smells, I don't blame her for ignoring us.

The last time I wrote about this, Abby was going on four years old. Now she's nearing six and it isn't getting any easier, for her or us.

Four glasses of formula a day and we have to tell her to take every sip. There is often screaming. And not just Abby.

The worst is in the morning when we're trying to get a glass into her before school while getting ourselves and the other kids ready to head out the door.

"Abby, are you drinking your milk?" I'll ask from the top of the stairs as I step out of the shower.

"I will drink it."

"That's not exactly what I asked."

I get dressed and call out, "I'm coming down. That better be gone."

"No! Don't come down!"

A couple of weeks ago we had a particularly bad morning. I put my foot down and said she wasn't going to school until her glass was empty. There were tears. And not just Abby's.

When the dose was finally gone and we had both calmed down, I decided to explain why it was so important that she drink this gawdawful formula. We had tried to explain to her before about her condition -- tyrosinemia - especially those times when she asks if she will be able to have hamburgers and hotdogs when she gets big. (Short answer: no.)

Our dietician suggested we try explaining it to her in terms she could relate to, like a jigsaw puzzle with a lost piece or a hockey team with a missing player. I decided to give it a shot.

"Abby," I said that morning as I got her into her snowpants. "You know we don't make you drink your milk to be mean, right? Why do you have to drink your milk?"

"I don't know."

"Yes you do. Think. Why?"

"Because it's important."

"That's right. And why is it important?"

"Because my body doesn't work."

"Well, part of it doesn't work like other kids. There's a piece missing. You know when you do one of your puzzles?"

"What puzzle?"

"I don't know. Your pony puzzle."

"The pink ponies?"

"Yes, fine. Anyway, you know how you can put a puzzle together and you get to the end and there's a piece missing? It's still a good puzzle and everything fits together. It's just missing a piece."

"What about my Winnie-the-Pooh puzzle?"


"It has two pieces missing."

I tried a different tack.

"You know when you go to school, sometimes there are kids missing…?"

"I like school. Cameron's my friend!"

"I know, I'm glad. But say you go to your class and one of your friends isn't there…"

"Cameron wasn't there yesterday. He was sick."

"Okay, then. Well, even though…"

"He pushed me in a puddle."

"Abby, listen…"

"Are we driving?"

I gave up. We were late for school.

It's hard to explain a complex health issue to five-and-a-half-year-olds. Their brains haven't developed rational logic. At the same time, they can forget all about the tears they were spewing five minutes earlier.

This is a good thing, especially when it comes to dealing with milk that smells like feet.