Clorox. Green Works or Greenwashing?

Clorox has launched a new line of cleaning products known as Green Works. While I think using safe cleaners is extremely important, I am a little skeptical of what Clorox might produce as a “green” product. The company touts the products as being “at least 99% natural,” which raised more questions for me. First of all, the word “natural” is completely unregulated. And even if it was clearly defined, not everything that is natural is safe. Arsenic, lead, and mercury occur naturally, but you wouldn’t want to spray those around your house. Second, how much of the 99% natural consists of water? Third, what is in that 1% that is not natural? Some ingredients can be harmful even in small amounts. To give them credit, Clorox claims that they are listing all ingredients on the labels of the Green Works products, something they do not do with their conventional cleaning products. Still, some have criticized the Sierra Club for its unprecedented decision to allow Clorox to use their logo on the Greenworks products.

According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, that 1% of unnatural ingredients are derived from petrochemicals. Namely, the preservative Kathon, and the Milliken Liquitint Blue HP dye and Bright Yellow dye X. The dyes give several of the products a light green color. Not exactly necessary, in my opinion. Clorox claims that the preservative, Kathon, will biodegrade within 28 days. According to the MSDS for Kathon, the substance by itself carries the following risks: “irritating to skin, risk of serious damage to eyes, may cause sensitization by skin contact, harmful to aquatic organisms, may cause long term adverse effects in the aquatic environment.” This doesn’t sound like my idea of an ingredient in a green cleaning product.  Some individuals that have reviewed Clorox Green Works products have found the lemon scent too strong, and indeed, it may not be appropriate for people with respiratory problems or allergies.

 Clorox states that their Green Works products are not tested on animals.  However, their conventional cleaning products continue to be tested on animals.  Likewise, as mentioned above, while Greenworks products list all ingredients, other Clorox product labels do not list all ingredients on the label.  It also disturbs me to continue to see Clorox disinfecting products marketed to parents of small children, invoking their fears of “germs.”  But I believe that cleaner shouldn’t leave behind more toxins than the toxins you are trying to clean!  The advertising for both products is awash with images of mothers, babies, and children.  Both lines are promoted from a safety standpoint.  The Greenworks website points out that their products are free of strong fumes and leave no chemical residue.  Yet they also promote spraying chemicals all over your home and on your children’s toys to disinfect them.  I personally cringe whenever I see the commercials with an adult wiping the baby’s highchair tray with a Clorox disinfecting wipe while baby sits smiling and patting the tray, because I know those little baby hands go right to the mouth. 

When I am shopping for cleaning products, I use the following standards:

* Biodegradable
* Formulated without dye
* Nonflammable
* Contain no ammonia, acids, alkalis, solvents, phosphates, chlorine, nitrates, borates, or volatile organic compounds.

Compared to my favorite green cleaning products, Clorox Green Works line of primarily ready-to-use cleaners leave a heavier carbon footprint on the planet. They do have one product that can be diluted, although I am not sure what the final concentration is. For most of my cleaning I use fragrance-free Basic Household cleaner, which is a superconcentrate. You can make a whole bottle of cleaner for most applications with somewhere between 2 drops and ¼ teaspoon of the concentrate. One bottle of Basic H. can make literally hundreds of bottles of ready to use cleaner. Since this reduces the number of plastic bottles that need to be manufactured, shipped, and recycled, it greatly decreases the environmental impact of using the product. The cost per use is also a lot lower than almost any other product, just 25 cents makes four 32 ounce bottles (one gallon) of all purpose cleaner   Even vinegar in comparison, can cost 10 to 20 times as much per gallon, depending on what size is purchased and where.  Another green cleaning favorite of mine is Scour-it Off, which makes soap scum in the shower disappear like magic, and with which you need such a small amount that the container lasts practically forever. See all my favorite cleaning products here.

So what does “greenwashing” mean?  Some examples of tactics used by companies include:  seducing with images in ads, using environmental organizations to promote products,  distracting from destructive products, claiming to seek solutions while lobbying against regulation, using charitable endeavors to gain support, and the misuse of the word “sustainable.”  I really liked this quote from Jeffrey Hollender, and it sums up my feelings on the subject as well. ”“Green” is not something a company becomes because of a new product line, a marketing campaign, a decision to be carbon neutral or even the selection an enlightened new CEO. “Green” is about the inside, not the outside of a company. It’s about its DNA, its culture, and its very reason for being.”  Is Clorox Green Works really green?  What do you think?

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Baby and Child Safe Disinfecting

As a mother of two little boys, disinfecting is a topic that is quite important in our household.  Now I am not a germ-freak by any means, but I must say, boys are gross!  And once they are potty trained, the bathroom is just not as clean as it used to be.  But now with little ones especially, I am concerned about using highly toxic chemicals to clean and kill germs.  Both germs and chemicals can cause illness.  So I did a little research on some of the products available for use in the home, and here are my findings:

Disinfectants are usually phenol- or cresol-based and deactivate sensory nerve endings. They attack the liver, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and the central nervous system (CNS) and it takes over a year to eliminate the unhealthy effects of spraying 2 ounces, even with heavy cross ventilation.  Bleach, also commonly used as a disinfectant, is the number one chemical involved in household poisoning.  Hypochlorite (bleach) was the source of 54,433 poisonings in 2005.  Bleach may cause reproductive, endocrine, and immune system disorders.

Hazards of Select Disinfectant Ingredients

Alcohols- these are used as skin cleaners as well as a transport medium for other active ingredients, but nevertheless are irritant to eyes, nose and throat at high airborne concentrations and are highly flammable.

Aldehydes- glutaraldehyde is classified as a skin and respiratory sensitisor. Formaldehyde is a strong respiratory irritant and is also classified as a category 3 carcinogen.  Formaldehyde is commonly used as a preservative in cleaning products.

Bleach and Related Substances- Hypochlorite and organic chlorine-releasing compounds are corrosive in their concentrated form and are classified as eye and skin irritants even when diluted in a 5 to 10% solution.  In 1994, the Clinton Administration announced a Clean Water Plan that could eventually eliminate chlorine and chlorine-based products due to the many hazards they entail. Sodium hypochlorite is an oxidizer that has been implicated in many household accidents and/or deaths, according to the American Association of Poison Control Center’s annual reports. Improper use of bleach may result in mixing with acid-containing products such as toilet bowl cleaners or ammonia to create toxic gases which are dangerous or even fatal if inhaled. Furthermore, concentrations of sodium hypochlorite as small as .04% have been shown to elicit positive skin contact sensitivity responses in a clinically sensitized individual.

Phenol-Based Disinfectants- In 1994, EPA classified ortho-phenylphenol (OPP) as a carcinogen, and many studies have shown its cytotoxicity and genotoxicity.  OPP is irritating to the skin and eyes. There have been reported cases of allergic contact dermatitis, contact urticaria (hives) or of depigmentation of the skin. Residue on surfaces can cause hazardous injury to tissue or mucous membranes.  Phenol-based products used in hospitals are banned from use on infant contact surfaces.

Safer Disinfecting for the Home

There is a great product recommended by Dr. Doris Rapp, author of “Is This Your Child?” and an environmental medicine specialist, which kills germs and cleans in one step without alcohol, ammonia, chlorine,  phenol, or gluteraldehyde.   EPA registered Basic Germicide is what we use in our own home. A much safer choice to use where you need a germicidal cleaner.  Basic Germicide provides a balance of product strength against the type of ingredients used in the product. It is a concentrated quaternary ammonium-based germicide and cleaner with the main active ingredients derived from quaternary ammonium salts.  Basic Germicide is tested and shown to be effective against MRSA, a form of staph infection which can be deadly, as well as over 40 other microorganisms.  It is safe to use on all nonporous surfaces.

Most chlorine bleach products are used for general sanitizing purposes and cannot make any specific claims of effectiveness as they are not EPA-registered products.  Basic Germicide is effective against more types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses than most household disinfectants.  The product is composed of ingredients whose effectiveness has been verified by stringent performance testing in accordance with EPA requirements.  As a highly concentrated disinfectant, the ingredient functionalities of this product are much stronger than is the case with ready to use disinfectants. While Basic Germicide is toxic in a concentrated form, it has a high dilution ration of 256:1 and is non-toxic when diluted according to directions.

Basic Germicide is very affordable with a low cost per use when diluted according to the package instructions.  One quart makes enough solution to clean and disinfect more surface area than 482 17-oz spray bottles of full strength Lysol disinfectant.  To disinfect and clean surfaces, we mix 1/2 teaspoon of the concentrate with 16 ounces of water in a spray bottle. For maximum effectiveness, use the standard procedure for EPA registered disinfectants:  spray on, allow a contact time of 10 minutes, then wipe away. Rinse any food contact surfaces or toys after disinfecting.  The product has been used by environmentally conscious organizations such as the Cousteau Society, the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, NASA, and the Biosphere 2 project.  We also use Basic Germicide to clean toilets, generally 1/2 to 1 ounce full strength applied around the inside of the rim, allow to stand 10 minutes, then we clean the toilet with a brush.  Note: for mineral deposits in toilets try a pumice stone. 

You might be familiar with some of the experiments in Doris Rapp’s books “Is This Your Child” and “Is This Your Child’s World.”  In one of Dr. Rapp’s studies, she tested the effect of bleach on six-year-olds handwriting.  Before a bottle of bleach was opened, students wrote their names fairly well. Then, with just an opened bottle of bleach in the room, the children wrote their names again.  The difference was dramatic!  Some wrote messy, some too small to read, and one even wrote backwards.  One mother tried this test for herself at home:  ” I didn’t  tell my kids what I was doing. I only told them to write as neatly as they could. They printed their names on a sheet of paper. Then, I told them to hold up their papers while I wiped the table off with a Clorox wipe. As soon as it was dry enough, I had them put their papers down and write their names again. I was
shocked! My daughter’s writing was visibly messier; instead of letters being tight and connected, they were loopy and crooked. My son was completely distracted by something while he was writing his name! (This is uncharacteristic of him. He has no attention difficulties.) When he realized that he was talking about something else, he stopped mid-sentence and said:  Wait, I’m supposed to be writing my name!   The next letter he wrote was upside-down (which my son had never done before). I took it to the next level and had my children move to another room where there were no Clorox fumes. They wrote their names again and proved that without being under the infuuence they could write just as neat as the first time. I could clearly see that the chemicals were affecting both writing ability and focus.”  So in my opinion, based on this unofficial test, the Clorox wipes should also be avoided.  It is quite simple to spray something like Basic Germicide on surfaces and wipe down with a clean rag or a paper towel.  But if the wipes are desired, the same manufacturer does make safe disinfecting wipes, fragrance-free.   So since we have lots of safe choices for our homes, a clean and safe home should be our goal.  Do it for your health and your children’s health.
 

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Phthalates and Other Toxic Ingredients in Baby Care Products

A recent study published in the February issue of Pediatrics looked for detectable phthalate exposure in the urine of 163 infants born between 2000 and 2005.  Over 80 percent of the infants studied had measureable levels of phthalate metabolites in their urine!  Commonly used products among infants with higher levels of phthalate metabolites included baby lotion, baby shampoo, and baby powder.  No correlation was found between high urine phthalate levels and the use of baby wipes and diaper creams.  While in Europe phthalates are banned from use in personal care products and some toys, in the US manufacturers are not required to even disclose the presence of these widely used chemicals in their products.  That’s right, they aren’t listed on the label, making it extremely difficult to measure levels of exposure and study the effects of phthalates. 

Phthalates are often used in fragrances.  They are also used in manufacturing, to make plastics such as polyvinyl chloride softer and more flexible.  According to Greenpeace, phthalates are suspected as human cancer-causing agents, and could damage the liver and kidneys, interfere with the development of the reproductive organs, and mimic the hormone estrogen in the body.  Some authorities suspect a link between phthalate exposure and early onset of puberty in girls.  In animal studies, rats exposed to certain levels of phthalates experienced adverse health effects, some of which included shortened life spans, weight loss, low level cancerous cell changes, liver enlargement, and even liver tumors.    One study in humans found an association between phthalate exposure and male reproductive problems. 

In the instances that phthalates do happen to be listed on a product label, you won’t find the word “phthalate,” although a few products may be labelled “phthalate-free.”  There are a few abbreviations that you might find on product labels.  As I mentioned before, manufacturers are not required to list these ingredients, so I give the following caution:  These ingredients may still be in the products even if you don’t find them on the label!  Some chemicals that are classified as phthalates include:  DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DMP (dimethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate or Bis-2-ethylhexyl phthalate), and BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate).  The last two ingredients are found primarily in PVC plastics.  DEHP is sometimes found in medical devices.

A few other ingredients of concern which have been found in infant care products include formaldehyde or formaldehyde donor preservatives, mineral oil, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, and sodium laureth sulfate, to name a few.  Mineral oil, which is basically synonymous with “baby oil,” is made when gasoline and kerosene are removed from crude petroleum by heating.  Then, using sulfuric acid, absorbents,  solvents, and alkalis;  hydrocarbons and other chemicals are removed leaving the final product, mineral oil.    Parabens are an estrogen-like compound, albeit a very weak one.  These are used as preservatives in many types of personal care products and cosmetics.  Sodium lauryl and laureth sulfate, foaming agents,  primarily present a risk as skin and potential eye irritants.  Formaldehyde and formaldehyde donor ingredients are considered potential carcinogens.  The five most common formaldehyde donor preservatives are quaternium-15, dimethyl-dimethyl (DMDM) hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bronopol).  The concern in baby products as well as products for adults, is that toxic ingredients can be rapidly absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream, especially with the formaldehyde donor ingredients .  In some cases this occurs in as little as 90 seconds.  To make matters worse, toxins absorbed through the skin bypass the liver’s first pass metabolism.  Because of this critical difference, many substances are more toxic when absorbed through the skin than when they are ingested.  

Even without the potential for phthalate exposure, the use of baby powder carries several risks in and of itself.  Talc is recognized as a potential carcinogen, especially for lung and ovarian cancers.  These powders can easily be inhaled if they become airborne during use.  If a cornstarch baby powder is used in the presence of a candida-associated diaper rash, especially on broken skin, it can aggravate the condition by providing food for the yeast microorganisms causing the rash.  So powders are probably better to avoid entirely. Coconut oil makes a great natural and safe protectant for the diaper area. It also has natural antimicrobial effects.

There are safe products available that you can use for baby, including baby bath/shampoo and lotion.  You can purchase phthalate-free baby wash/shampoo, and lotion here.   This lotion is also free of formaldehyde-donor preservatives, mineral oil, alcohol, parabens,  sodium laurel sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, and colors/dyes. The combination baby wash and shampoo protects the skin by preserving the natural acid barrier that is normally present, and which is removed by most soap based products.  It is thick and long lasting, we find that we only need 1/3 the amount compared to when we were using Johnson’s baby shampoo.  The products are not tested on animals. Safety is verified by an independent dermatologist.

 If you ever have questions about ingredients in personal care products, visit the website of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review for more information.

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No cold medicine for children under 6: Are You Ready for Cold and Flu Season?

Are You Prepared for Cold and Flu Season?

Now that the FDA has issued an advisory stating that children under 2 should receive no cold medicine and an outside expert panel states that no cold medicine should be given to children under 6, it is a good time to plan ahead and look for safe alternatives.   Recently, the FDA completed a review that found, between 1969 and the fall of 2006, there were 54 reported child deaths from decongestants with the active ingredients pseudoephedrine, phenylephrine or ephedrine and 69 deaths from antihistamine medicines containing diphenhydramine, brompheniramine or chlorpheniramine.  Most of the deaths occurred in children under 2.  In addition, a Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention report that found more than 1,500 toddlers and babies required emergency room visits over a two-year period because of the drugs.  Fourteen children’s cold medications have been recalled: 

  • Dimetapp Decongestant Plus Cough Infant Drops
  • Dimetapp Decongestant Infant Drops
  • Little Colds Decongestant Plus Cough
  • Little Colds Multi-Symptom Cold Formula
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Drops Decongestant Cough (containing pseudoephedrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant (containing phenylephrine)
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Long-Acting Cough
  • PEDIACARE Infant Dropper Decongestant & Cough (containing phenylephrine)
  • Robitussin Infant Cough DM Drops
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant
  • Triaminic Infant & Toddler Thin Strips Decongestant Plus Cough
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold
  • TYLENOL Concentrated Infants’ Drops Plus Cold & Cough
  • CVS is also pulling their generic equivalents off store shelves
  • In addition, the FDA is recommending new warnings on flu drugs like Tamiflu and Relenza, after abnormal psychiatric behavior has been observed in both children and adults.  Several fatalities have been associated with these psychiatric episodes after the use of the prescription flu medications.

    Is there a safer alternative?  Some of us have used nutrients like zinc and vitamin C to help us fight off or get through a cold or the flu.  Our family has had much better results with natural remedies than with over the counter cold medications.  Most nutritional products that help fight colds and relieve symptoms work best when given at the first sign of illness, so it is important to purchase them before you or your children are sick.   It is also important to have nourishing foods and rehydration beverages in the house in preparation for cold and flu season.  Vitamins combined with good nutrition can help us be more resistant to illness in the first place.   Here are some of my favorite products:

    Defend Yourself and Resist Illness  Here is a great supplement to take when you notice the first signs of a cold coming on. It contains FOUR natural ingredients to support your immune system: echinacea, black elderberry, larch tree, and zinc. Most people are familiar with zinc and echinacea. You may not have heard of larch, which contains the active ingredient arabinogalactan to stimulate the body’s natural resistance. Black elderberry is a rich source of polyphenols and anthocyanadins, powerful phytonutrients that help maintain the immune system.   We use the following rule of thumb for herbal dosing:  Take the child’s weight and divide by 150 to find the percentage of the adult dose to give.  For the smaller ones I break the tablets in half and give just half at a time.  Often, my children only need one dose.  These can be chewed, sucked on, swallowed, or crushed and made into a soothing tea.  (It tastes great with honey!)  We are amazed at how well they work for our whole family!  They can be purchased here

    Probiotics  Most people are familiar with beneficial bacteria, such as lactobacillus acidophilus, used to make yogurt. Another “good bug” is called bifidobacterium. Did you know that having beneficial bacteria in your intestines can help you fight off illness? Sixty percent of your immune cells are located in your gastrointestinal tract. The type of bacteria that inhabit your intestinal tract have a profound influence upon your health, including your immune system. Commercial yogurts may not contain enough live bacteria to do the job. Probiotics are vulnerable to being destroyed by the stomach acid, so I prefer this triple encapsulated probiotic pearl with guaranteed live delivery of beneficial bacteria to the colon. This is a great product to take when you are showing early signs of a stomach bug.  The probiotic pearls can be given to children, but they work best if they are swallowed without chewing.  My 3 year old is able to swallow them in a spoonful of applesauce.  Homemade gelatin (preferably made with fruit juice) might work too.  For tiny babies, some parents have had success softening the pearls in water before giving them.  Babies don’t have very strong stomach acid, so the probiotics survive in their stomachs better without the encapsulation than they would in an adult’s stomach.  Some mothers have been able to place the tiny probiotic pearls in the back of a baby’s mouth, then offer the breast to help baby swallow them.  I would caution against this method as there is a risk of baby aspirating the pearl into his or her lungs.

    Garlic  Garlic has natural antibacterial and antiviral properties. A recent study found that one of the active components in garlic is effective against MRSA.  While it is most effective consumed raw, most of us have not developed a taste for raw garlic! My favorite garlic complex is gently dried to prevent loss of the sulfur-containing compounds such as allicin. The garlic is not aged, as aged garlic is not consistent with how garlic is consumed in it’s natural state. The company does not try to convince consumers that it has a specific amount of one or more of the many sulfur-containing compounds that naturally result from garlic ingestion, because many of these are formed during the digestive process. Instead, each two-tablet serving provides the amount of garlic that you would get from a clove of garlic. Once you ingest the tablets the biochemical process starts and the full range of sulfur-containing compounds are then formed. In this way it is the closest a garlic supplement can be to consuming fresh garlic. Contains spearmint, which may help prevent odor.  Diane Petoskey recommends the following dosages for children:  Under one year, give a total of two tablets per 24 hours, crushed and mixed in liquid and administered with a dropper at least four times in 24 hours.  For ages 1 -3, use 3 tablets per 24 hours, divide for at least 4 doses per day mixed in food or liquid.  Ages 4-6, give 3-4 tablets per 24 hours.  Age 10, 4 – 5 tablets per day, Ages 11 – 16 and older,  4-6 tablets per day.  Divide doses to give 4 times per day for all ages. 

    Rehydrate  Often when we are sick, we get dehydrated. Of course with the stomach flu this is obvious, but keeping yourself well hydrated is important even with a simple head cold. It is a good idea to be prepared with good tasting beverages that will encourage children to take in more fluids without ingesting unhealthy artificial colors and flavors.  Hydration thins excessive secretions and makes it easier for the body to clear them. When fluids are lost, especially during a bout of the stomach flu, electrolytes are lost as well. It is important to replace both fluids and electrolytes.  For example, your body cannot absorb fluids effectively without adequate sodium. A good rehydration formula or sports drink should contain:

    1. All six electrolytes (minerals) – Calcium, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, Phosphorus and Chloride
    2. A sodium / potassium ratio of approx 2.2 to 1, for proper function of the sodium/potassium pump
    3. At least 100 mg of sodium, for effective absorption of fluids
    4. At least 20 – 25 grams of carbs in a mixture of these 3 types – fast burning – like glucose so you get immediate energy – a medium burning carb like fructose – and a slow burning carb like maltodextrin
    5. No artificial colors or flavors
    6. Should not have any “natural” herbs or performance enhancers.

    Unlike most sports beverages and pedialyte, this lemon lime drink meets all these criteria. A small canister of makes 19 servings of rehydration beverage, convenient to store in a cupboard in case illness strikes unexpectedly. Also available in orange.  No dosage limits for this, children and adults can drink as much as desired.  Sipping the lemon lime or orange drinks frequently is adviseable, especially for the stomach flu.  You can make the drinks into homemade popsicles as well, a good way to encourage taking fluids slowly when a child has been vomiting or experiencing diarrhea.  For small babies, breastfeeding on demand is best during illness rather than offering other beverages.  In most cases, breastmilk is better tolerated than any other food or beverage, even during diarrhea and vomiting.

    Vitamins For Immunity  This Immune Building Formula contains the six most important vitamins for healthy immune function: vitamin A in the form of beta carotene, vitamins C, E, B6, B12 and folic acid. Also included are 3 important minerals for the immune system: copper, selenium, and zinc. It helps maintain your first line of defense, your skin, with zinc, vitamins E and C, and beta carotene. A great product to take throughout the cold and flu season. Antioxidants and rosemary extract maintain the nutrient potency in these softgels.  Nutritionist Diane Petoskey recommends this starting with 1 capsule at ages 4-6,  2 capsules around age 10,  2 – 3 capsules for 11 – 16 years and up.  Email me for more information about Diane Petoskey’s Children’s Nutrition lecture.
     

    Natural Interferon  If you are catching everything that comes around, this is the product for you! Here is a well-researched blend of natural plant extracts from pumpkin seeds, safflower flowers, plantago seeds, and Japanese honeysuckle flower buds, which have been clinically proven to support and stimulate the natural immune response. This product was created by Dr. Kojima, the world renowned immunologist who discovered interferon in 1954. He spent over 40 years searching for a way to increase the body’s natural production of interferon, which is activated by the immune system when a virus attacks a cell. Interferon serves two important functions. It signals neighboring cells and triggers their resistance mechanisms, and it activates other immune cells that kill invading pathogens. This is a great product for school-teachers, postal workers, health care providers, and anyone else that is exposed to a lot of germs in their line of work.  Recommended for children over 12 years and adults.  Learn more about natural interferon here.

     Stock the Freezer and Protect Your Health  The canned soups, dried soups, and bouillion cubes as the grocery store all contain MSG, a neurotoxin. Rather than consuming MSG containing foods when you are sick, it is best to use homemade. Having experienced illnesses severe enough to prevent me from preparing soup for several days, here is my solution. If you made homemade chicken soup for lunch or dinner occasionally, freeze the leftovers each time. Make a little extra each time if you need to. After I bake a chicken, I often use the leftovers for a soup base. Simmering the bones slowly in water releases extra nutrients. Cut most of the meat off before starting to simmer them, as it will retain the best flavor and texture when added near the end of the cooking time after the bones are removed. Even just broth is great to have in the freezer for sickness. Then when you need a nourishing meal to get well, you can walk to your freezer instead of driving to the grocery store.

     If you want to make homemade gelatin using fruit juice, here is a recipe.  Mix one tablespoon unflavored gelatin powder into just enough hot water to dissolve completely, add enough cold juice to make a total of 2 cups of liquid.  Clear juices work better than pulpy juices.  Pour into a shallow container and refrigerate until firm.  You can dilute the fruit juice a little if desired.

    I hope you have a healthy fall and winter.

    The preceding information is not intended as medical advice.

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    Macular Degeneration: Important Vitamins and Nutrition

    February is Macular Degeneration Awareness Month

    Macular degeneration is an issue that has personally affected our family.  My paternal grandmother has macular degeneration and she has lost much of her sight due to this disease.  My father also has some early signs, drusen, which are yellow deposits under the retina that a doctor can find using a dilated eye examination.  The kind of macular degeneration that occurs with aging is abbreviated AMD, which is short for Age-Related Macular Degeneration.  AMD destroys the central vision necessary for activities like reading or driving.  A recent study from Prevent Blindness America and the National Eye Institute has shown that women are at twice the risk of losing their sight, compared to men.  My grandmother’s AMD is severe enough that she cannot see clearly to look at pictures of my children.  She can grasp vague and general details when she sees the children in person, such as their fair hair and complexion.  She can no longer read, or pay her own bills.  She needs assistance to shop for her groceries.  So AMD affects many of the basic tasks that an older adult needs to perform in order to maintain independence.  So with a strong family history, I felt it was prudent to research strategies to prevent macular degeneration.  Here are my findings.

    Many researchers have found a link between poor nutrition and macular degeneration.  The Beaver Dam Eye Study showed an increased risk for macular degeneration in  patients with the lowest levels of the antioxidant lycopene, found in certain fruits and vegetables.   In the Eye Disease Case Control Study higher serum carotenoid (beta carotene) levels showed a protective effect against macular degeneration.  In patients with high antioxidant blood levels, the Macular Degeneration Risk Factor Study found less of the most serious type of macular degeneration.

    A study published by Dr. David Newsome in the Archives of Ophthalmology in February 1988, showed vision was less likely to deteriorate in macular degeneration patients who were treated with zinc supplementation. Zinc was studied because retinal zinc concentrations are usually high, and zinc is an important cofactor in retinal enzymes (such as retinol dehydrogenase and catalase).  Another study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (9 Nov 1994) showed that consumption of foods rich in the specific carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin resulted in the most reduced risk for macular degeneration. Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as collard greens and spinach, are especially rich in these carotenoids and were specifically linked to substantially reduced risk. This study controlled for smoking and other risk factors. Smoking appears to increase macular degeneration risk.

    According to the AREDS Study (Age-Related Eye Disease Study) vitamin supplements can have a protective effect against the advancement of existing macular degeneration.  Patients were given one of four treatments of zinc, antioxidants alone, a combination, and a placebo.   The specific daily amounts of antioxidants and zinc used were 500mg of vitamin C; 400IU of vitamin E; 15 milligrams of beta carotene, which is equivalent to 25,000 IU of vitamin A as beta carotene; 80 milligrams of zinc; and two milligrams of copper (see multivitamin below). In the AREDS study, this combination reduced the chance of developing advanced ARMD by 25% and preserve vision by 19%.

    Harvard researchers have found that patients consuming 5-7 servings of green, leafy vegetables which contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, have a lower chance of developing macular degeneration. They comprise the two dominant yellow pigments in the macula, the center of our vision and the site where macular degeneration occurs and filter out visible blue light which may cause photodamage. Here, and also listed above, is a high quality supplement containing a rare blend of alpha-carotene, astaxanthin, beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, and zeaxanthin delivering of a broad spectrum of carotenoids.   A sufficient dosage should be taken to provide 25,000 IU of beta carotene, per the AREDS recommendation.  Since oxidation and free radical damage is thought to contribute to ARMD (Age Related Macular Degeneration) supplementation clearly has it’s value.

    The National Eye Foundation also encourages the use of daily multivitamins because they provide other essential nutrients not contained in the AREDS formulation.  These quality multivitamin formulas are well balanced and provide the 2 mg of copper that is recommended to prevent copper deficiency anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.  The amounts of the key nutrients recommended by AREDS would be very difficult to obtain from diet alone.  Remember that no amount of vitamin supplements will take the place of a healthy diet, but they can be an important tool to increase nutrient levels and provide extra insurance.   Be aware that multivitamins that state they contain 100% of the minimum daily requirements: vitamin C 60mg, beta-carotene 5000 IU; vitamin E 30 IU; and zinc 15mg, are not sufficient.  These doses are far below that used in AREDS. Patients with AMD may need far more than the 100% daily requirements.  A multivitamin complements the AREDS formula, it does not replace it.

    It is very important to recieve regular eye examinations from an eye care professional.  Early detection of macular degeneration is crucial in order to preserve vision.  For “dry AMD” the most common early sign is blurred vision. It becomes more difficult to see details in front of you, such as faces or words in a book. Often this blurred vision will go away in brighter light.  As AMD advances there becomes a blind spot in the middle of the field of vision, which will enlarge over time.  For “wet AMD” the classic early symptom is that straight lines appear crooked, caused by fluid from the leaking blood vessels behind the macula. A small blind spot may also appear resulting in loss of one’s central vision.  For more information, visit the Macular Degeneration Foundation.

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    How Sucralose (aka Splenda) Is Made And Why You Want To Avoid It

    I wanted to comment on Splenda.  Splenda, also known as sucralose, was created accidentally when some chemists were trying to produce an insecticide.  Here is the process by which they produce the formula sold in stores:

    “1.  Sucrose is tritylated with trityl chloride in the presence of dimethylformamide and 4-methylmorpholine, and the tritylated sucrose is then acetylated with acetic anhydride.

    2.  The resulting sucrose molecule TRISPA is chlorinated with hydrogen chlorine in the presence of tolulene.

    3.  The resulting 4-PAS is heated in the presence of methyl isobutyl ketone and acetic acid.

    4.  The resulting 6-PAS is chlorinated with thionyl chloride in the presence of toluene and benzyltriethylammonium chloride.

    5.  The resulting TOSPA is treated with methanol in the presence of sodium methoxide to produce sucralose.”  (Note that methanol, wood alcohol aka paint remover,  is one of the questionable ingredients in aspartame.)

    In addition, the bags and packets of Splenda commercially available are not pure sucralose.  They also contain bulking agents.  All artificial sweeteners use bulking agents.  Do you know what they use?  Sugar.  Dextrose, sucrose, and maltodextrin.  (Maltodextrin is corn syrup solids composed primarily from fructose and glucose in a starch form.)   All sweetener packets are at least 96 percent sugar.  Splenda is 99% sugar.

    The packets are labelled calorie free as a result of manipulating a loophole in the food labeling laws.  The product can be described as sugar free if a serving contains less than 5 grams of sugar, and calorie free if a serving is less than 5 calories.  So they set the serving size on bags at .5 grams  and the packets contain a serving of 1 gram.  A one gram packet contains 4 calories.   This can be confirmed on the manufacturer’s website in the FAQ section:  “Like many no and low calorie sweeteners, each serving of SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener contains a very small amount of common food ingredients, e.g., dextrose and/or maltodextrin, for volume. Because the amount of these ingredients is so small, SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener still has an insignificant calorie value per serving and meets FDA’s standards for “no calorie” sweeteners. ”

    To make matters worse, when sucralose was shown to not raise blood sugars, it was the pure substance that was tested, not the mixture that is sold to the public.  Dextrose, sucrose, and/or maltodextrin are definitely going to raise a diabetic’s blood sugar.  There is also a great deal of evidence that artificial sweeteners actually cause an increase in appetite, causing people who consume them to take in more calories than they would otherwise.

    Stevia, on the other hand, lowers blood sugar, making it a much better choice.  If you have tried stevia in the past and did not like the flavor, you might want to try another brand.  SteviaClear is a good brand which will sweeten beverages and some foods using just a very small amount.  For sweeting hot liquids, you might prefer KAL stevia powder. For baking, recipes are a little harder to convert because sugar in baked goods liquifies when heated.  To replace sugar with stevia for baking, you need to find a way to add extra liquid to the recipe.

    Parents, if you want to be sure your children are avoiding sucralose, remember to check their medications.  Many over the counter medications, prescription medications, and even chewable vitamins contain sucralose or other artificial sweeteners.  If you are looking for whole foods vitamins without artificial sweetener, colors, or flavors, here are some safe choices.

    Information about artificial sweeteners is available in greater detail in Dr. Mercola’s book, Take Control of Your Health or through his website, sweetdeception.com.

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    Calcium and Other Important Nutrients to Prevent Osteoporosis

    Calcium and Related Nutrients for Bone Health 

    Many individuals make the mistake of thinking that calcium is all that’s needed for bone health. However, bones are made of more than calcium. Bones also contain several minerals as well as protein. The protein serves as a matrix to which the minerals necessary for bone formation attach.

    While many perceive osteoporosis to be “not enough calcium in the bones,” osteoporosis is more complicated than that. Insufficient calcium in the bones is called rickets, which is caused by inadequate vitamin D. Osteoporosis involves both low levels of minerals as well insufficient protein in the bones.

    So, simply taking calcium by itself will not help bone health. Other minerals, vitamins, and protein are also needed. The intestinal tract also needs to be healthy and fully functional as the site where dietary calcium is absorbed into the bloodstream. Several studies have shown that both prebiotics and probiotics such as these, improve the absorption of calcium by improving intestinal health. Because hormones also play a significant role in bone health, the risk of osteoporosis increases with age, especially in females. Treating hormone deficiencies with the appropriate bioidentical hormones is important for older adults. Lastly, weight-bearing exercises cause the bones to signal the body’s need to increase bone density.

    When considering a calcium supplement, it is important to be aware of the supporting nutrients necessary for calcium absorption. Vitamin D is one of these nutrients. The body manufactures its own vitamin D under the right conditions. The first ingredient required is natural oils on the skin. Your body forms vitamin D in these oils. If you take frequent, warm or hot showers with soap, these oils may not be present on your skin in sufficient amounts. Secondly, you must have sufficient exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light. During winter, in northern latitudes, in areas with smog from air pollution, and when our skin is protected by sunscreen, we cannot form adequate vitamin D from sunlight. Also, be aware that if you shower too soon after sun exposure you may not have the opportunity to absorb the vitamin D from the skin into your bloodstream. Most of us need some extra vitamin D from supplements.

    There are still other supporting nutrients required. Vitamin K is a nutrient supported by new research as necessary for modifying osteocalcin, a bone protein, so it can properly bind minerals and hold them in the bone matrix. Magnesium is another important nutrient, which we need to take in proper balance with calcium. To be incorporated into bone, calcium needs the help of certain enzymes, which require magnesium to work properly. We tend to be more deficient in magnesium than calcium. The proper calcium to magnesium ratio is approximately 2:1. Phosphorus is also required for calcium absorption. The American diet tends to be overly abundant in phosphorus, in contrast to calcium and magnesium. Yet another necessary, but little known nutrient, is boron. Boron has been shown in recent studies to aid bone metabolism when taken in the proper amount. Lastly, manganese, copper, and zinc are co-factors that activate enzymes to help build bone mass. Here is an excellent example of a balanced calcium supplement.   Calcium supplements should always be taken with food that includes some fat, because dietary fat increases calcium absorption.  You can also use a complete protein supplement to provide the extra protein necessary to form the bone matrix.

    It is also important to know, that while 99% of the body’s calcium in contained in the bones and teeth, the remaining one percent has other very important functions in the body. One of these crucial functions is the conduction on nerve impulses. Undersupply of calcium also can cause irritability of the muscles, resulting in cramps and even spasms.

    Pregnant mothers should be aware of the importance of an adequate calcium intake, along with its supporting nutrients. A unmet high demand for calcium during pregnancy or lactation can result in future bone loss for the mother.  During both my pregnancies, I found that a good quality calcium supplement with magnesium, such as one of these provided relief for my leg cramps that I sometimes experienced at night. This also greatly reduced my extreme tooth sensitivity to hot and cold.

    Gift Ideas for Kids with Sensory Integration Dysfunction

    Over the past year or two we have shifted our focus with gift giving for our children to therapeutic items.  The kids really enjoy them and they provide play with a purpose.  If you are more organized than me, you can use them to develop daily sensory diet for your child.  Here are a few of my favorites: 

     We put a jumpolene in our basement, gave it to my 5 year old last year for Christmas.  It can be used as a trampoline for children, with a recommendation of two kids at a time and a total weight of 150 pounds or less.  Instead of using it as a trampoline, we bought ball pit balls for it in Kmart, $15 per 100 balls, though we did get some of them on sale for $10. I managed to wheedle his grandparents and his uncle into buying some of the balls because you need a lot and they do add up. Our OT has 1,400 balls in her Jumpolene.  Be careful where you buy a Jumpolene.  I bought it from California Fun Toys and they only offered a warranty of one month.  The manufacturer, Intex, told me that they offered a “courtesy replacement” should the Jumpolene start leaking within 3 months.  Unfortunately, they didn’t bother printing that information on the box so we didn’t know to call them in time.   But I understand Abilitations has a great warranty and will replace it if it starts leaking air before you have it one year.  Our OT has had hers replaced free by Abilitations more than once.  I can tell you by experience, it is worth a few extra dollars to have the peace of mind of the one year warranty.  Be careful if you need to move your Jumpolene, don’t pull it by the top chambers because that tends to break the seams.  We also have a mini trampoline, the boys love to use it to jump into the ball pit.  Trampolines are good for heavy work, proprioception, and vestibular stimulation.  The vestibular sensation, which comes from the inner ear, is responsible for balance.  Overstimulation of this sense results in a feeling of dizziness or vertigo, which you may be familiar with from various amusement park rides.

    Another great sensory item is “Super shape changers” from Oriental trading company. A size large is only $20. These look almost exactly like Body Sox but they are about 1/3 the price.  I think these are good for proprioception, which is the sense of where the various parts of the body are located in relation to each other as well as where the body is in space.  If you want the brand name Body Sox, I recently found those for $37 at www.allegromedical.com.  Oriental Trading has nice tunnels for crawling through, for about $20.   Crawling is good for developing upper body strength and as “heavy work.”  Finally, they have some cute pop up dome tents for indoor use, also inexpensive. 

    Swings are a very commonly used item for kids with sensory integration dysfunction or autism.  We have an Ikea Ekorre hanging swing and we love it. See ours here, next to the ballpit:  Swing and Jumpolene Ballpit  These don’t seem to be available from Ikea any longer, but there are lots to be found on Ebay and they aren’t too expensive. Many of them can be purchased as a “buy it now” rather than going through the hassle of bidding.  The hanging swing is grey canvas with a round, red bottom inside into which their round air cushion is inserted.  It is enclosed on three sides, offering a safe cozy retreat for the child.  Incidentally, Ikea has a lot of great furniture ideas for sensory kids, such as the items listed here. I like the swivel chair with the pull down canopy for a relaxing retreat from a too-bright world. We don’t have it yet, but I’m hoping sometime in the near future. Ikea also has inexpensive pop up tents and a tunnel.  Their colorful car rugs with roads on them are a nice item as well, it encourages imaginative play and some crawling while pushing cars around.  

     Another great sensory swing is the Cuddle Swing from Abilitations or Sammons Preston which are both made of a soft and stretchy material.  They are similar to the one recently featured on Extreme Makeover Home Edition, though I never have been able to determine exactly which brand was featured.  The Cuddle Swings enclose the child like the body sox do.  

     I made some crash mats shortly after we got the jumpolene/ballpit, giant (Like 4′ x 6′) pillowcases filled with chunks of furniture foam. You can use clearance priced fabric to do this.  Don’t make the mistake I did and buy the foam brand new. Try to find a mattress or furniture company that will give you scraps. My son likes to crawl under these mats like you would with a weighted blanket, as well as jumping onto them.   He goes into the ballpit with a flashlight and pulls the crash mats over his head so he can play with the flashlight in the dark.  We sit on them together to read books.  I also use place one under his feet when he practices piano.  It gives him something to rest his feet on and keeps him from kicking me and from resting his foot on top of mine while I try to tap out the rhythm for him.

    For weighted items such as vests, blankets, and lap pads at a reasonable price, visit hugsnstitches4u.com    She makes very nice handsewn items, you add the weights to save on shipping.  She can even make the items with your child’s favorite character.   I just got a vest for my 5 year old and it is sewn beautifully. 

     I like to choose stocking stuffers from http://www.therapyshoppe.com.  They have sensory fidgets, oral motor items, fine motor, small games, and much more for very reasonable prices compared to other therapy catalogs.  We have purchased many items, such as the motorized wiggle writer, little critter massagers, lots of fidget balls, whistles and string pipes, cute animal mini tape measures, chewy tubes, wikki-stiks, triangular crayons, short jumbo crayons (love these!), and lots of other small items.  We also bought the weights for our new vest there, they were very reasonable too.  Here is a nice list of other stocking stuffer ideas for sensory integration.  http://specialchildren.about.com/od/sensoryintegration/qt/sistockingstuff.htm

    Another great item that is helpful for proprioception as well as vestibular stimulation, is a hop ball.  Did you ever have a hippity-hop ball as a child?   My 5 year old has been enjoying his red hop ball, sized for children 5 and up,  for over a year.   He is very tall, and loves the color red with a passion.  Our 3 year old is just getting big enough to use one.  We are giving him the yellow hop ball, which is sized for a children 3 and up, for one of his Christmas gifts this year.   How fortunate that his favorite color happens to be yellow!  There is also a blue hop ball, for children ages 9 and up, that supports up to 300 pounds.  I really like the Gymnic brand, the hop balls have been very durable.

    Here is a list of other items in the gross motor category. For balance and coordination there is the Monkey Balance Board or Ducky Balance Board, approximately ages 3-6.   EZ Steppers are a good item for both balance and bilateral coordination.  We are giving our 3 year old both a balance board and stompers for Christmas.  For upper body strengthening, the Twizzler Twist and Spinner Bar or a Trapeze Bar with Rings would be a good choice.   Since it is winter here right now, I plan to buy one of these in the spring, probably for my 5 year old’s birthday. 

    More to follow…

    McDonald’s Advertising on Children’s Report Cards

    Free Happy Meal For Good Grades?

    McReportCardMcDonald’s Ad on Children’s Report Card envelope

    McDonald’s has now hit a new low in their practices of marketing to children. As if it weren’t enough that fast food restaurants spend $3 Billion dollars a year on advertising directed at children, they now adorn report card envelopes in Seminole County, Florida with the message “Reward Yourself With A Happy Meal From McDonalds.”  So what happened to McDonald’s pledge to reduce its advertising to children under 12 by January 2008?   Yet the coupons were for children from kindergarten through fifth grade.  This slick advertising campaign is scheduled to run through the end of the 2007/2008 school year.   So what do the parents think?  In a press release from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, one parent states “My daughter worked so hard to get good grades this term and now she believes she is entitled to a prize from McDonald’s.  And now I’m the bad guy because I had to explain that our family does not eat at fast-food chains.”  The school district sold out children and parents for the mere $1,600 cost of printing the report cards.  For the bargain rate of less than 6 cents per family per year, McDonald’s is able to send their advertising to all 27,000 elementary school kids in Seminole County at least three times.  Doesn’t print advertising usually cost more than this?

    This promotion really begs the question, is it appropriate to reward good grades with junk-food?  Is this what we want our children to reward their own achievements with when they grow up?  What kind of reward would send a better message? What about something that involves a parent spending time with the child?  It doesn’t necessarily have to cost money.  For a younger child, a trip to a favorite playground could be a good motivator.  Or going hiking together.  In warmer climates or in warm weather a trip to the beach could be a good incentive.  In the winter, maybe a drive to a location that has a good sledding hill.  For a small amount of money, the child can be rewarded with a trip to a children’s museum on a Saturday or to see a movie during the inexpensive afternoon matinee.  Parent and child can choose an project from a craft store to make together.   Take a trip to the bookstore and pick out a new book together.   Wouldn’t a reward that stimulates the mind and provides a bonding experience send a better message?

    Our 3 year old begins Headstart

    I enjoy homeschooling.  But this year I am feeling overextended with teaching Jamie for kindergarten, working my internet business, working as a nurse, shuttling around to appointments, and keeping up with the house.  And the sibling rivalry is getting to me!  I have the “bully” and the “screamer” here.  I was fully expecting my 3 year old to qualify for the local school district’s preschool with an IEP this year.  He had received birth to 3 services since he was 6 months old, and though he has made huge gains his speech is still difficult to understand and he has low muscle tone.  So when we had his PPT last spring, I was surprised to find out that he was unlikely to qualify.  He has lost all of his delays!  We are thrilled with his progress, of course, but I was looking forward to some quieter mornings with our “screamer” in preschool.  He did qualify for speech therapy.  The school district suggested Headstart.  So I decided last spring to apply to enroll Samuel in the half-day program.

    First of all, I must say that Headstart is the worst bureaucracy that I have had to deal with in quite some time!  I should have known when I left messages initially and calls were not returned, what I was dealing with.  I met with their family advocate and put in his application early in the summer.  I needed to hand in a few missing things afterward, like a copy of my husband’s social security card, and a recent physical.  I wasn’t told that the his application would not be processed until all of this was in.  When I did turn it in, the physical was not on the proper form.  The form that they never gave to me.  Once I turned that in, I didn’t hear anything for over a month.  Calls were not returned.  We met with the school district and arranged for speech testing for our follow up PPT as Samuel turned 3 and exited the birth to 3 program.  We had the PPT, and it was decided that Samuel would receive speech therapy.  But I still had no start date for Headstart.

    Just before we went on vacation in mid-September, I found out that Samuel was accepted into Headstart.  They asked for a new physical, so I called to schedule it for the last week of September after our vacation.  We could not get an appointment until mid-October.  I called back Headstart.  He cannot start without the physical.  Meanwhile Samuel is only sporadically receiving speech therapy, as the SLP keeps wanting to know when he will start preschool so she can pull him out for therapy.  She doesn’t want to make appointments for me to bring him in.  But no one at Headstart could give me an answer about the start date, nor did they return my phone calls.  We got in for the physical, and I drove straight to Headstart to personally hand in the form and try to speak to an actual human.   By some miracle, I was able to meet with the family advocate.  Now we need clearance from the nutritionist about what Samuel can and cannot eat due to allergies.  And the fact that Mommy has much higher nutritional standards than the program does. 

    So there goes the rest of the week, and no speech therapy.  However, on Friday I do get a “tenative” start date.  The following Tuesday.  First they have to make a home visit.  Then I have to attend the first two days with him, for 2 hours each day.  9am to 11am, then 11am to 1pm.  But we have an 11am appointment 30 minutes away on Tuesday, so after explaining this several times we went with Wednesday.  (They actually said “Do you want 11am  to 1pm on Tuesday then?”  DUH!)  Of course, my 5 year old isn’t allowed in the classroom so I have to have my parents watch him.  More shuttling around.

    As far as the food, I think Headstart’s standards are extremely poor.  I did manage to negotiate sending in my own milk for my child, fresh milk from grass fed Jersey cows.   But apparently it takes an act of Congress for me to send in food.  In order to avoid another month’s delay, I negotiated that he will only be allowed cold cereal twice a week and only Cheerios.  No toxic, GMO, Kix corn puffs or sugary Berry Berry Kix, Raisin Bran, etc.  He can have muffins, bagels, or french toast.  I give him a healthy breakfast at home and consider their breakfast to be a snack.  Looking over the menus, their breakfast is nearly all carbohydrates.  The only protein included is the skim milk.  (another reason to send our own milk in)   When I looked at a recent menu, lunch seemed ok on the surface.  Until I was there and looked at it.   The first day he went directly for the bright red Jello with Cool Whip and rainbow sprinkles.  He ignored most of the other food.  The other items were turkey in a dubious gravy (MSG?), mashed potatoes from a powder, canned fruit (most of the fruit they serve is canned), a white dinner roll, and corn AS A VEGETABLE!  Umm, basic nutrition here, corn is a GRAIN.  Although his propensity to the Jello is foolish but typical, my otherwise intelligent 3 year old chose to ignore the potatoes, turkey, and corn.  Instead  he kept asking for, and receiving, more milk until he was full.  The teacher dutifully continued to refill his cup whenever he asked for more.   Since it was our good quality milk from home, and the food was so nutrient poor I didn’t have much of a problem with this. 

     On Friday he went for the 4 hours without me.  I was running late so he missed breakfast.  No big loss there.  I asked when I picked him up, “What did he eat for lunch?”  Although they had checked off “Yes” for eating lunch on their little form, the answer was “Basically nothing.”  He had his milk, some raw carrots, one bite of pizza, and a fruit popsicle. (They were careful to mention  that it was made with fruit.)  I think I will be asking every day what he is eating, so I can give him a proper lunch at home if needed.  For some reason they could not give me a menu until the next cycle starts.  I want to look ahead, there may be some days I just show up early and take him before lunch starts. 

    In a perfect world, I would drop him off after breakfast and pick him up before lunch everyday.  But I’m sure that would ruffle some feathers BIG TIME.  I did observe that he would be missing little of value in the program if I did so.  Lunch is followed by toothbrushing and quiet time.  That’s it.  All the circle time, play time, storytime, etc is between breakfast and lunch.  Here’s to seeing how much I can get away with!

    Update:  After two month’s I have had enough of this program.  It may just be this particular Headstart, but I think my child is better off without these people.  My husband likes to refer to the head teacher as “the warden.”  My child has been clinging to my leg when we arrive at the program in the morning.  I am able to leave without him crying, but I’m not sure he is completely happy there.  His behavior at home is worse.  And to top it off, when my husband picked him up for the first time last week, he was informed that we were going to be charged a $5 fee because he was 1 minute late!  (Hence the term “the warden.”)  He thought at first that she was joking, but after hearing her tirade decided she was not.  He told me he felt like he was returning a video late, not picking up his child from preschool!  I also wonder if the processed meats they often give for lunch and the bleach they constantly spray on the tables is not affecting his behavior.  So I called the teacher Tuesday morning, after the MLK holiday.  I told her I would be keeping him home this week, and that I suspected that something there, such as the bleach and/or the foods provided, was affecting his behavior.  I arranged to bring him in to the school myself for his speech therapy and physical therapy he is starting this month.  I am adapting our homeschool program to include several activities for him, probably better that what he was getting at Headstart.

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