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

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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:   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.


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!

Of Course We Didn’t Get the Olympics

Picture after picture of Chicago fans with their mouths dropping open seemed so ridiculous to me. Our city is in crisis! The following is actually a comment I posted to my fellow Chicago Moms Blogger, Miss Lori’s article, Dead Children Walking. I was so worked up over it. Then I decided I liked what I said so much that I wanted to post it here too. You should read what she says about the terrible tragedies that have befallen our inner-city youth. My response was:

I remember volunteering at a charter school in Pilson and one of my duties was to stand outside to usher the teenagers in so that there was no loitering outside the school. “Loitering makes them targets for drivebys,” I was told. Believe me, my heart beat a little faster every time a car drove by during that half hour. I can’t imagine what these children go through every day walking around the neighborhood. The very fact that people (Daley especially) were “shocked” that we didn’t get the Olympics proves that most people, while they are quick to say, “Oh isn’t that a shame about all those young people dying?” Really don’t understand the severity of the problem. Of course we didn’t get the Olympics! While to the naked eye from all the cool tourist spots like Millenium Park, the Museum Campus, and Oak Street Beach, we look like the perfect city on the lake, we simply can’t hide the ugly truth about our children any longer. Generations have been and are growing up without parental involvement. We can’t put all the blame on the teachers, as those in the past like Valis and Duncan liked to do. We can’t rally the parents, because they are too busy struggling with addiction, poverty, lack of health care and gangs to pay attention to whether their young one has clean underwear or has a bedtime story to read. However, we can’t throw up our hands and give up! Something drastic and radical has to be done. If it means year round schooling with longer school days just so we can give the kids a few hours of supervised play on a playground, a place to do laundry and a decent dinner before sending them home to bed, then it has got to be done. Maybe we need boarding schools? If the parents won’t parent, then we’ll have to do it. Of course all of this would be very expensive, but if we don’t pay for it now, believe me, we’ll all pay for it later.

Getting the Flu Shot May Mean a Worse H1N1

When it comes to immunizations, especially new ones, I’m skeptical. Now Canada is reporting that getting a seasonal flu shot may make us more susceptible to the H1N1 flu. Anyone heard about this here in the USA? I was considering the flu shot for Eva and Charlie (not the H1N1, too new for me), but now I think I’ll just take my chances and bulk them up on vitamin D. Let’s all pray the for-profit driven pharmaceutical industry hasn’t sold us out yet again.

My First Mammogram: A Lump

I had my very first mammogram last week. Saturday, I checked my voice mail right after Torah Study to find that my Ob/Gyn’s office called. The nurse who took my return call informed me that they had found a lump on my left breast, and that the hospital should have already called me to schedule a diagnostic exam to take a better look at it. So, I waited all weekend for Monday, only to find out that I have to wait until next Monday for the diagnostic exam. “It’s ok to wait?” I asked the person on the other end of the phone, completely unaware as to whether she was a nurse or just a scheduling receptionist. “Yes,” she replied confidently. Deep down, I believe that she couldn’t possibly know whether it is ok to wait another week before finding out whether I may have breast cancer. Both of my grandmothers suffered from it.

Ten years ago, I had a lump on that very same breast. I felt it myself and they aspirated it immediately only to discover it was completely harmless. “Maybe it is just another of the same,” Gadget Man said reassuringly. I’m not going to tell my mother. She’s scheduled to go on a vacation and she already worries too much. I worry too much, or do I?

My breasts have really been wonderful to me. They nursed my children for four years. They also seem to be holding up pretty well for an old broad of forty. Will I have to let them go? Will they wind up being the end of me? I am worried and I’m scared. I just wish I could find out sooner. It is the waiting that is the most difficult part.

Say Bye Bye to the Health Care Insurance Industry, PLEASE

medical_clipart_stethoscopeIt is time for a Single Payer Healthcare System. Obama promised us something good when it came to health care, but he wants to keep the insurance companies satisfied. He’s selling out already. He admitted that if he were “starting from scratch” this is the kind of health care system we would have. Let’s start from scratch and kick those insurance companies to the curb. Lets see those kahones of yours Mr. President! I’ve been praying and voting for health care for everyone for as long as I can remember (no thanks to the Clintons, who promised universal coverage and failed). After watching a wonderful interview by Bill Moyers, I was convinced that the single payer system is the way to go. Read the transcript if you can’t watch the video. All of your questions are addressed candidly such as: Will there be long lines to see the doctor?” (Maybe. All docs will remain private, but there may be some longer waits for some of us) and “Won’t the government be deciding our medical care? (No. The doctors will be back in charge of treatment, not the insurance companies or the government. In fact, many doctors are already in favor of this plan because it will mean they can get back to treating patients instead of figuring out loopholes in insurance claims). Will it cost us more? (No. In fact, 95% of Americans will be paying less for medical care, and we’ll all have it!) The insurance companies are for-profit administrative jungles designed to deny us health care. That is the best way they make money. The billions and billions of our money put toward their administrative entanglements will go directly to medical care. Our libraries, police and fire stations are already functioning well under this same system. We need it now! The biggest problem is getting rid of the insurance industry altogether and this is precisely why this better system is not even being considered! This is wrong! Tell your representatives to put Single Payer on the table!!!

Meet Isa

isaimg_0322Isa is suffering from Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. Please read about her family struggles and see what you can do to help. Children should never have to suffer.