When I Questioned the Feds and Why You Are Needed Now

This week, CongressDaily published some of my conversation with Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak. I hope someone in power will read it and understand that we can’t just talk about the health of our children and invent new programs to “help” them.  It is a question of where we are putting our money.  All the jumping jacks and walks to school must be supported by healthy food!!!  The love of a fresh spinach salad with a whole grain roll will last long after they leave school.  Yes, walk to school, but many children are greeted by donuts and Fruit Loops.

Good quality food costs money and it is worth it to spend it on our children!  Please, please make your voice heard right now!  The easiest way is to go here to send an email where it matters most or to telephone the Capitol Hill switchboard at 1-800-815-3740 and ask to speak to your U.S. House Representative.  Tell him or her that you want an additional dollar per lunch allotted in the reauthorization  of the Child Nutrition Act,   that, in addition to the extra dollar, you want the following:

  • Increased quality of meals served in the school meal program; including less use of highly processed foods which are high in fat and sodium, increased fresh and high quality fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, and reduced overall sodium content.
  • Strengthened nutrition standards for school meal programs and competitive foods.
  • At least $50 million mandatory funding for Farm to School programs. (Healthy Schools Campaign)
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Why You Will NEVER See Me (Or My Children) at the Circus

New startling photographs prove what has been known for a long time, that Ringling Brothers tortures elephants.  It is not ok to torture animals for our amusement!  My children have never been to the circus, and will never go as long as animals are abused in this way.  Don’t shut a blind eye to this. Please look at these pictures taken by a former animal trainer for Ringling Brothers.

How to Live a Healthy Life (Book Review: National Geographic’s Green Guide Families)

Look Inside the book at Amazon.com (I don't have any affiliation w/Amazon other than the fact that I'm a customer)

Did you know that if you are good to our earth that you will also be good to yourself?  I don’t mean in an indirect way, that we’ll all have have a better place to live, etc.  I mean, if you, for example, use cleaning products that don’t pollute the earth’s water, then it just so happens that you won’t be polluting the air you breathe in your own home and the table you are eating your food off of will be safer too.  I’ve been “going green” ever since we adopted a dog in 1999 with severe respiratory problems.  I had to discontinue using those popular brand cleaning products which contained  bleach or ammonia in exchange for non-toxic, non-polluting cleaning products like vinegar and baking soda.   Because I am sensitive to chemicals and would suffer a sore throat whenever I cleaned with those toxic products, I was thrilled with the change!   When we moved into our suburban home a year later, we continued to protect our dog from harmful toxins by refusing to use artificial fertilizers and weed killers on our lawn.  Ten years later, our lawn may have  few more dandelions than the lawn next door, but it is still beautiful, and it doesn’t poison me, my dog, or my children.

Thanks to Chicago Moms Blog, I was given a copy of National Geographic’s Green Guide Families by Science Editor Catherine Zandonella.  This book’s secondary title, “The Complete Reference for Eco-friendly Parents” is, in my opinion, a misnomer.  It should be, “The Complete Reference for Healthy Families and a Healthy Planet,” because the information in this book should be of interest to all parents, not just the “eco-friendly” ones. This book makes it easy to protect your family and the earth from toxic pollutants because all the research and data is consolidated into this one easy guide.  Oh, how I wish I had this ten years ago.  Oh, how I wish I had this book when I was pregnant.  It would have saved me the countless hours I spent pouring over medical journals, magazine articles and books trying to make sure everything in our home, from the clothes we wear, to the paint we put on our walls, to the food we put in our mouths was as healthy as possible.  There is an amazing amount of information packed into this 400 page book and every parent should know what is in here, from  the hormone-disrupting toxins found in popular sunscreens( p.212) and endocrine disruptors in many baby care products (p. 208) to weighing the health risks and environmental impact of reusing carseats (p. 214).

I love that this book suggests that parents go to my favorite site for ratings on the health risks for make-up, cosmetics and sunscreen:  www.cosmeticsdatabase.com.   The guide explains ingredients such as sweeteners and preservatives in a way that is easy to reference and easy to understand.  It has ideas and guidance for healthy birthday parties, Easter, Passover, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.  The book even explains how to pick a healthier toy and a healthier chocolate treat (for you and the planet).  I’m so excited about this guide that I’m going to buy one for my brother who is expecting his first child.

How Do I Treasure My Children?

Read my latest post on Chicago Moms Blog here on the importance of living in the moment with your children.  We all know we should do it, but how?

Secretary of Agriculture Vilsak Not Serious Enough about Child Nutrition Reform

I just got off the phone on a conference call with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak and my “sisters” at the Silicon Valley Moms Group where I blog for Chicago Moms Blog.  He claimed to be seriously concerned about childhood obesity, confiding that he was overweight as a child.  However,  when he was asked whether high fructose corn syrup (“HFCS”) will be eliminated as an acceptable ingredient in child school lunches under the soon to be revised Child Nutrition Act, he said, “I honestly don’t know if we would be as prescriptive as eliminating this . . .” and suggested that there would be a “push back” from Congress or a “push back politically.”    I had the opportunity to ask him why government surplus food with high fructose corn syrup and dairy with artificial hormones and antibiotics are being “dumped” on our schools.  I also asked him why it is more expensive to buy an organic apple than a cheeseburger at a fast food restaurant.  His response showed me that he is not really serious about reducing the obesity rates and that it is more important to support and subsidize powerful corporate groups like the Corn Refiners Association, the American Corn Grower’s Association, the National Corn Grower’s Association and the like.     He said that we will always be growing corn in our country and “we won’t stop providing resources to those who grow corn”.  He said nothing about the dairy industry (perhaps my question was too long anyway).  I wish I had a chance to follow up on his praise of corn and corn farmers.  I would have suggested that we turn to a much better, much more nutritious and hardier crop — hemp.  Yes, hemp oil contains wonderful omega 3s to feed our brain, while corn is a grain to bulk up in our tummies and feed to cattle which should be fed grass anyway.  Growing hemp (which is illegal in our country)  can also  help with our deforestation of the globe as it is a hardy fast growing  plant (no need for pesticides!) to use for making paper products and many many other useful things.  Indeed, the Declaration of Independence is written on hemp. Vilsak had some promising things to say about the USDA’s plans to help to improve school lunches, but it all comes down to business as usual in politics.  Those who have the money (corn lobbies) will always win over those who don’t (children receiving free lunches).  Who will pay the cost?  All of us.  If any of these politicians will just look to the bigger picture here.  What cost should we bear?  The cost of losing the money from the corn growers or the cost of losing human lives to obesity and diabetes?  There is no middle ground here.  We need a Secretary of Agriculture who is committed to the people of the United States of America not to the corporations of America.  Mr. Secretary, I implore you, stop the U.S. tradition of catering to our corn industry.  Give our children healthier food and give our farmers a better crop to grow!

Comedy of Errors: Shakespeare for Children

The Chicago Shakespeare Theater was kind enough to provide complimentary tickets for me to bring my family to the opening day of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. While I usually dread going to Navy Pier because of the steep parking tab, I jumped at the opportunity to introduce Eva, age 7, and Charlie, age 4, to Shakespeare. Even though I have a degree in English Education and therefore have studied and taught Shakespeare, I could not recall this particular play. No matter, the synopsis is provided in the program. Just before the performance was to begin, I read and explained the story to Eva. When she responded with a, “huh?” I became worried and told myself that since it was a mere 75 minutes long, it would not matter so much if she understood it. As for Charlie, I just prayed he would be able to sit still and behave.

As soon as the performance began, the laughs came simultaneously and my anxiety quickly disappeared. This play had it all — slapstick physical comedy, romance, jugglers, cross-dressing, and drama. Yes, I did have to lean over to Eva a couple of times to explain, “You see, she thinks he is her wife, but he is really the wife’s husband’s twin brother, ” and, “No, the two servants have the same name and they look alike.” She really seemed to get the hilarity surrounding confusing the lookalikes. As for Charlie, my four-year-old, I don’t think he understood one bit of the story, but he enjoyed it on his own level nevertheless. He laughed at all the right times. When I asked him to tell me his favorite part, he exclaimed, “All of it!” As for Eva, she liked the mustached man dressed up as the wife of one of the twin brother servants (Strangely, this was my husband’s favorite part as well). As befitting a children’s performance, the lights go up after the show and the audience is encouraged to ask the cast members any questions they may have. Following that, the cast members mingle with the audience in the lobby.

I was especially amazed that the children did not complain about the Shakespearean language. Before the show officially began, one of the actors wisely “warned” the audience that the language would seem difficult at first but to give it a chance and rely on the context instead of getting hung up on understanding every little word. During our lunch following the show, I asked the children whether they had trouble understanding what the actors were saying. They looked at me curiously and answered with a resounding, “No!” I’m so happy that this was their first experience with Shakespeare. They had fun! When I told them that William Shakespeare was one of the greatest storytellers of all time, I think they really believed me. Try telling that to a group of high schoolers faced with reading the stuff and you get a room full of eye rolls. Oh, and as for that supposedly steep parking tab, the theater validates and it only came to $14.40. Thank you Chicago Shakespeare Theater!

Passing Strange: Enjoyed It!

Passing Strange Soundtrack available at Amazon (sadly, not at my library)

I was up late last night and turned on PBS (or is it WTTW’s) Great Performances and Stew‘s Passing Strange was on. Passing Strange is a rock musical with high energy, great music and amazing talent. Now I have a crush on the talented writer/composer/narrator “Stew.” I am in awe! The musical was on Broadway for a spell and Spike Lee directed a “movie” of it which is really just a taping of the show. This is what was on Great Performances last night. Don’t miss it as the public television broadcast stations always replay these kinds of things. Can’t believe this didn’t make it to Chicago. Stew, won’t you please come to Chicago? This must be performed here!