Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Should adults get the Hep A vaccine...or not?

I was just thinking of the Hep A vaccine. Our pediatrician strongly encouraged us to get this one. Hep A mostly occurs in 3rd world countries with poor sanitation (and in instances of drugs & male-to-male sex). However, according to the info from the CDC, there can be an outbreak in any given location. Our doc recommended it more for my sake than my kids, indicating that it'll be similar to the stomach flu in the kids, but they will likely pass it to me & it'll cause liver problems, etc. for me. It sounds like it's terribly nasty in adults. I asked whether there had been an outbreak in our area and his response was that he wouldn't really know because he treats kids & he wouldn't know if it was Hep A or the stomach flu. After thinking this through I decided the better option was for me to get the vaccine. If I'm the one to worry about, why am I giving the vaccine to my kids? So I asked my doctor about it. He thought I was crazy. In all his years of practicing medicine, he'd never seen a case of Hep A. Unless I was traveling to a 3rd world country, there was no need.

Yet, the Hep A is required to get into preschool or daycare (at least around here). Logical? Or some drug manufacturer with deep pockets and political pull?

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's up with the allergies to antibiotics?

A couple weeks ago my neighbor's 5-year-old developed an allergy to amoxicillin. He was the 3rd kid on our street to have this allergy. It was the 2nd time he was on the antibiotic--apparently that is the norm when they develop this allergy.

Last week my 5-year-old had an ear infection and the doc put him on amoxicillin. It's the second time he's ever been on an antibiotic. (Do you see where this is going yet?) Indeed, late yesterday afternoon he comes out of the bathroom & says, "Mom, check out my tummy." (He thinks the red spots are cool.) Since I had the heads-up from my neighbor, I pretty much knew what it was. I called the nurse who told me to give him Benadryl (which I immediately forgot in all the chaos) and watch for mouth swelling & trouble breathing. Naturally I checked to ensure he was breathing during the night & the hubby thought I was being a worry freak.

This morning he looked even worse. The red spots are all over his body. My 23-year-old single cousin without kids says, "did you give him Benadryl?" Hello!?! I immediately ran to the store & I'm sure all will be well now. I will soon learn, but I think in 2011 it's not a big deal to have a penicillin allergy (so long as you don't give it to him). But, add this to the growing % of kids with allergies. Also add fuel to a mom who is convinced these things are a result of the junk in our food & our vaccines.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We are part of a movement!

I am totally getting philosophical today....

I started this blog with the idea, "let's see where it takes me". I've been overwhelmed with the great response. People who I hadn't expected have even stopped me on the street (literally) to tell me how much they are enjoying it. I started it thinking I was going to bring some issues to the minds of others. Have I done that? Maybe. What I've really found are that people are bringing additional and new information to me. And doing the blog is keeping me accountable. It has forced me to try harder keeping up with things and to take action. In the few weeks since starting this, I have joined a CSA, planted seeds in a garden (I've started with plants in the past), planted a blueberry bush, researched how to organically treat my not-so-healthy peach tree, watched Food Inc., read "Food Rules" and done additional research on a few issues.

When I was watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on Tuesday it hit me that there is a movement going on and we're part of it. We have a crises on our hands with the ever-increasing rise in diabetes, allergies, asthma  and autism, and people are standing up. Celebrities have joined in (Jamie Oliver, Shaq, Jenny McCarthy, Trace Adkins to name a few). And it seems every time I've gone to the internet to look things up, I find more out there. I'm even stumbling across organizations I've never noticed before. is one. It was founded because they believe we're eventually going to find that autism is really a form of mercury poisoning (both environmental & what we're putting in our bodies). Some of their research definitely makes you wonder. The National Vaccine Information Center seems to be growing & doing an excellent job of getting info out. And people are getting involved, whether it's politically, using their $ or by cooking and buying local & organic when they can. It is amazing and I am feeling very blessed to be a small part of it. It involves change and people are doing it! We are demanding transparency & better food, even if its at the cost of change (which is never easy). Jamie Oliver went to L.A. to bring change to schools there. They have tried to shut him down, I'm sure thinking he'd just go somewhere else and now they are going to have to deal with the repercussions of a major TV show putting their lack of transparency and refusal to change out there. I love it--it's movement. It's change. And now it's entertainment.

Thank you all for all the support, ideas and thoughts. Keep them coming!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Pork Burgers & Fish Tacos (note: they don't go together)

My 2 favorite recipes for this week are below. Also, if you haven't seen it yet, Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is on tonight. I missed last week's season opener, but watched last season. Very enlightening to learn what's in the school lunches. I'm so glad he's trying to make a difference!

Pork Burgers
(sounds odd, but we LOVE them & so has everyone who has had them at our house!)
BBQ Sauce (If you don't have time to make the sauce, Jack's Stack Original works well. If you do make the sauce, you'll have plenty left over for other uses or for the next time.):
2 T butter
1/2 chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
small can tomato sauce
1 T soy sauce
1/4 C coke
3 T Worcestershire
1/2 C cider vinegar
1/2 C brown sugar
1 T chili powder
1/2 t hot pepper sauce
Saute the onion in the butter, add garlic & cook another minute or so. Add everything else & simmer for a bit. (Detailed, I know.)

When the sauce cools:
The Burger:
1.5-2 pounds ground pork
1/4 C fresh breadcrumbs (I freeze the heels from homemade wheat bread & chop it in the food processor)
1/3 C of the BBQ sauce (as mentioned, use Jack's Stack if you don't have time for the sauce)
salt & pepper
Make the patties & grill approx. 6 minutes per side.

Coleslaw to top:
2 C cabbage
1/4 C carrot (optional)
2 t fresh lemon juice
3 T mayo or to taste
Kosher salt & pepper
(we have another recipe for slaw that I normally like better, but this one really goes best with the pork burgers)

I normally make roasted sweet potatoes to go with this. Chop them into cubes, coat with olive oil, salt, pepper & parmesan & bake 350 for 30 min or so, stirring once.

Fish Tacos
(Bare with me on this one--it's the hubby's recipe & he cooks out of his head. This is my attempt at getting it in ink. These are really good though!)
It's mainly about the sauces:
Mango Salsa:
1/4 C red onion
1 jalapeno
2 T cilantro
1 T lime juice

Chipotle Tartar Sauce:
2 T canned chipotle chiles
1 C mayo
1/4 C sweet pickle relish
1/4 C minced onion
Discard chile seeds. Blend in blender.

Marinade the fish filets 60-90 minutes & grill. We've used tilapia, mahi-mahi and orange ruffie (sp?).
lime juice (1/2 lime per filet or so)
1 jalapeno, seeded & chopped

Serve with corn tortillas (though since I don't like corn tortillas, I eat mine in flour tortillas) and chopped red cabbage. (tortilla, fish, cabbage, sauce)

Let me know how it goes if you try to make these. Enjoy!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mercury-Free, We're Worth It!!!

During our routine 18-month check-up with our little one, the doctor recommended we give him the flu shot. She indicated that since he had RSV when he was 6-months, he was at an increased risk for the flu. I actually had done a small amount of research before the doctor visit & read that some flu shots still contain mercury. Frankly, I thought my research must be wrong. But, I asked her about it anyway. Her reply was that the previous year their practice ordered some vaccines with mercury & some without. They gave the ones without mercury to infants & younger kids. They gave older kids the shots with mercury. But that year they ordered all mercury-free vaccines. It was 2007 and this was a pediatric practice connected to one of the best children's hospitals in the country! Needless to say, I was shocked.

I cringe when I see the "flu vaccine clinics" that are now being set up all over town. I wonder what's in them and does anyone ask? I'm really not here to debate whether or not you should get the flu vaccine. I am saying that if you want the flu vaccine, shouldn't it be safe? We know mercury is harmful to our bodies. We know we can manufacture the vaccine without it. Why aren't we all important enough to do that?

You may have seen this, but one of the principal researchers for the CDC on the ties to mercury-based vaccine preservative and autism was just indicted for fraud and money laundering.  It sounds like there are some big questions about his ethics and the research he pushed. You can read more by clicking here. Again, shocking!

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Menu

I finally put together our menu for the next few weeks and I'm sharing it below. A couple things to note.... With most everything we also have a veggie & starch, but I don't put those on the menu as it depends on what produce looks good at the time. The two kitchen gadgets I can't live without are my breadmaker & food processor. My kids have 2 choices at each meal: eat it or don't. I try to have at least one thing they'll eat and those are homemade rolls for most meals. I sometimes hide veggies in food, but I also put them on their plates so they get used to the idea. My kids don't eat really eat them, but everyone says to keep doing it & eventually they will. I have noticed the 5-year-old has actually voluntarily tried a few lately. I'm hoping that's a sign of more to come. Also, we really end up with left overs more than what I have on the list. When I get to slide in an extra "left-over" night, it's a bonus!

Without further adieu, here's the menu:
Fri 4/15: thai peanut noodles
Sat 4/16: pizza (it's the 5 year old's birthday celebration)
Sun 4/17: fajitas
Mon 4/18: left overs
Tue 4/19: pot roast
Wed 4/20: pork burgers
Thr 4/21: tomato-basil soup & grilled cheese
Fri 4/22: whiskey steak
Sat 4/23: pecan chicken
Sun 4/24: fish tacos (is that traditional Easter fare?)
Mon 4/25: banana pepper steak sandwiches
Tue 4/26: chicken fried rice (it's a healthy version, not really fried)
Wed 4/27: left overs
Thr 4/28: beef macaroni stuff that the hubby loves
Fri 4/29: cajun fettucini
Sat 4/30: lamb stew
Sun 5/1: chicken wild rice casserole

I am anticipating the next question is "will you share your recipes?" I will share as I go, but some aren't that special & it'll be fairly time consuming so I don't plan to share them all. If there's a particular one you're interested in just let me know.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Food Inc.

I finally watched Food Inc. this weekend. Wow! Enlightening, disturbing and overwhelming. It has taken me this long to really absorb it. If you haven't seen it, it's well worth it. It really gets back to change. The overwhelming part for me is where do you start?

I've decided the first thing we're doing is signing up for a food co-op. I thought about this last year, but didn't do it for various reasons. This movie was just the thing to get me fired up again. If anyone else is interested, this is the best site I've found to identify the best co-op for your particular needs: It's really not that expensive, in fact I feel like we may save money and we'll end up with produce that I might not normally buy, which means ...wait. for. it... trying new things! The downside is that if the particular farm we buy into doesn't produce a crop this year (weather, etc.), we'll be out the money. After watching the movie, it's worth the risk. The farmer's market is another great option. Unfortunately the ones close to us are just far enough away that I can't seem to make it there on a regular basis. Life happens!

So, I am tackling the food co-op and I will keep you posted on how it goes. If anyone else is already doing it, I would love to hear your comments.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Out with the hot dogs

Some time ago my mother-in-law read some article and was concerned I was giving my toddler too many hot dogs. I considered hot dogs a staple. The little guy was still dealing with the milk allergy so it was one easy thing he liked & could eat. I had no interest in learning these were bad for him. Plus, I wasn't really feeding him hot dogs. They were turkey dogs, which are surely ok.

To appease her, I reluctantly googled it eyeing the positive articles. It seems they contain sodium nitrate which is the real concern. It's also in deli meat & I suspect, the reason they tell pregnant women not to eat deli meat. I wasn't convinced. After all, I'd been living on turkey sandwiches most of my life. Then I ran across a study that indicated children who ate 1 or more hot dogs a week were at a significantly increased risk of childhood leukemia. GASP! Out go the hot dogs!

I am very happy to report that a number of months after grilled cheese overtook our love of hot dogs, Oscar Meyer introduced nitrate-free hot dogs. The hubby won't eat the beef ones, but you really can't taste much difference with the turkey dogs.

I also just figured out you can cut the dogs about 3/4 of the length, twice to create an octopus. I add raisins for eyes. Now we eat "octopus" for lunch some days.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Chemicals Most Dangerous to Children

My friend Elizabeth clued me into this other blog post on a list of chemicals most dangerous to children based on data from the EPA. They describe each chemical & why it is used. And yes, they are still widely used in things we all use everyday.  Click here to see the info. As it relates to the food dyes, I've long wondered why products aren't offered here without those contaminants. They've been outlawed in many other countries so manufacturers are already producing dye-free versions (think Kraft Mac & Cheese that's not orange & color-free M&Ms). Why not put them on the shelves here & let us choose?

There are a couple additional things I've started trying to avoid that I'm surprised didn't make the list. Those are sodium nitrate (hot dogs & lunch meat) and paraben (cosmetics, lotion, hair care & I've now started finding it in medicine & toothpaste). Again, I'm no scientist, but more on those later.

Off the subject, this weekend I'll be putting together our menu for the next month. I'll be sure to share once it's complete.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do Corn Flakes come from corn?

The theme at preschool this week is "the farm". Today my oldest came home with a book he made. It started with corn growing on the farm & ended with corn flakes. It even features the 'corn flakes plant' just before the corn flakes conversion. This is particularly profound because I just finished reading "Food Rules" by Michael Pollan. Rule 14: Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature. I'm not sure corn flakes qualifies, but according to this homemade book, they do. We're teaching them early!

If you haven't read the book, it's good and a very easy read. He boils the food rules down to three overall themes: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. I'll share my favs:

Rule 2: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. (My great-granny Duck is my only living grandparent. She lives on a mountain in TN & I wouldn't be surprised if she still only eats the food she grows. She likely still mows her own lawn too, while chewing snuff. I love her!)

Rule 9: Avoid food products with the wordoid "lite" or the terms "low-fat" or "non-fat" in their names. (We've gotten fat on non-fat foods).

Rule 11: Avoid foods you see advertised on television.

Rule 37: The whiter the bread, the sooner you'll be dead.

Rule 39: Eat all the junk you want as long as you cook it yourself. (Ever made french fries?)

Rule 41: Eat like the French. Or the Japanese. Or the Italians. Or the Greeks.

Rule 46: Stop eating before you're full. (New way of thinking: stop when you have no more hunger vs. when you're full.)

Rule 57: Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does.

It really is a good, simple read. A good reminder of some of the things we know, but forget or forget the importance of. I also learned a few new things, particularly related to how we eat. Maybe next I'll tackle one of his deeper books.

Along the theme of "mostly plants", I tried swiss chard for the first time last night and it was surprisingly good. My hubby (who is not a big veggie eater) even liked it. Here's the recipe I used. Enjoy!

Shots Do Not Come with a Side of Shrilling Screams

I've already told you how much screaming my child did the first few months of his life. On vaccination days, it was way worse! He would spend the rest of the day totally conked out or screaming like he was in terrible pain. I spent these days rocking him in the hammock next to the waterfall in our pool (I miss that back yard!) which was all I could do to sooth him. The second day after the shots wouldn't be a whole lot better, but he would be back to his normal screams by day 3. He was my first child & I assumed this was typical. If anyone is currently going through this: it's not normal!

I researched vaccines before I gave them to him. I skipped a few and I followed the manufacturer's schedule. I think it's interesting that vaccines are supposedly studied & determined safe at a certain age, but then it seems the CDC (or pediatricians) end up recommending them at an age earlier than what's been studied by the manufacturer. Last time I checked, MMR was approved at age 2. At 18 months it was on the list for us (though I waited). Later they started recommending it at 12 months and I'm not sure what the current recommendation is. I've also noticed this is done with medicine. Our pediatrician has recommended over-the-counter stuff for our little guy before the age it's approved on the box. Am I just anal (perhaps) or should we wait to give them stuff until it's tested to be safe in their little systems?

The latest book I read had me in tears. More & more they are linking long-term vaccine "issues" with under-developed immune systems. My little guy definitely had an immature immune system. I believe it was pure prayer & a little luck that he doesn't have an auto-immune disorder.

There is a new research study out indicating that there may be a link to vaccines and Autism. Not surprising, right? It does mention hypersensitivity and giving so many vaccines in such a short time as possible culprits. (I read somewhere else that what we give our babies is the equivalent to giving a grown man 70 vaccines at one time.) Here's an excerpt from the study:
Ratajczak also looks at a factor that hasn't been widely discussed: human DNA contained in vaccines. That's right, human DNA. Ratajczak reports that about the same time vaccine makers took most thimerosal out of most vaccines (with the exception of flu shots which still widely contain thimerosal), they began making some vaccines using human tissue. Ratajczak says human tissue is currently used in 23 vaccines. She discusses the increase in autism incidences corresponding with the introduction of human DNA to MMR vaccine, and suggests the two could be linked. Ratajczak also says an additional increased spike in autism occurred in 1995 when chicken pox vaccine was grown in human fetal tissue.

This gets me back to my original post: we want vaccines. Is it so impossible to make them safe?

I also wonder at what point this researcher will be determined to be a quack? That seems to be the growing trend for vaccine whistle-blowers.

Here's the link to the article:

Monday, April 4, 2011

Processed food: how much is too much?

I grew up on processed food. I can't tell you how many times a week I ate at McDonalds. Staples at my house were Kraft Mac & Cheese, Spaghetti-Os and Campbell's soup. I also grew up with a single mom. Looking back, I don't think it was that she didn't necessarily have time to cook (though it was limited), it was more that she had a very stubborn daughter who would rather eat the junk. I imagine she plain didn't have the energy to fight me on what we were having for dinner at the end of the day. So by the time I was living on my own, I didn't know how to cook. Every once in a while I tried, but I really didn't know where to start.

Fortunately I married a man who can cook. And he has supersonic taste buds. He can taste something at a restaurant & re-create it. This totally came in handy when we discovered our child had so many allergies. I couldn't have done it without him. He cooked everything from scratch, substituting things that I couldn't eat & it was all unbelievably good. He taught me to cook. Except, he tastes & tweaks, I read recipes & follow directions. Here's what I figured out in all this: it's not that hard. It's really more a matter of doing it. The more you do it, the more comfortable you become. Most things really don't take that long. And it's typically so good.  

Planning is key in cooking things from scratch. The thing that helps me most is that we sit down once a month & decide on the menu for the entire next month. Then we go to the store & buy everything (except some of the perishables). This saves money & it keeps me from having to think of what we're going to eat each night. If I had to decide what we were eating one day at a time, I wouldn't. Dinner would arrive & I'd be running to a fast food joint or grabbing a box of something pretending to be food. I love waking up & simply checking the list.

Back to the "how much is too much" processed what you can. I know some people who make a bunch of stuff on the weekends & eat it during the week. Also, don't be afraid to freeze things. I also previously had a fear of the freezer, but I've since learned that most things freeze fairly well. Make a bunch & freeze some of it for another time. A new trick I just figured out: freeze soups in single serving sizes. So easy to pull one out & stick it in the microwave! The point is, do what you can & make it work for you & your schedule. You won't be a good mom (or a fun person) if you make unreasonable demands on yourself & are stretched too thin.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vitamin D or sun safety?

I was made more aware of the benefits & issues surrounding vitamin D when my child was an infant. Since I nursed, our initial pediatrician (yes, the one who asked if I had ever heard of colic) recommended I give him TriViSol supplements for vitamin D.

I researched it (that's what I do & I already was leery of this doc) and learned you mostly get vitamin D from sun exposure. Hello!?! I lived in Florida! And I took said child on a walk every morning so that he'd take a nap without the back breaking effort of rocking this 95%-for-his-weight infant. However, scientists hadn't figured out how much vit D a mother passes through breast milk so they were recommending it for every breast-fed child. I really don't care if "we've" figured it out or not. I can't imagine that God would somehow overlook this detail. I was still in awe of the details involved in the whole process of creating a child. I didn't give him the supplements.

Don't get me wrong--vitamin D is clearly very important. It naturally comes from the sun and your body builds up reserves. Get all you can in the summer I say. I used to have what I call my "March Mood" every year. It was the season when I would clear the bad out of my life (mostly bad boyfriends). Now I wonder if that was about the time I used up my vit D reserves & some sort of small depression would set in. It's noteworthy that my "March Mood" was virtually nonexistent when I lived in Florida.

This week I searched how to strike a balance between absorbing vit D and protecting yourself from harmful rays. The experts state that 5-30 minutes of prime sun twice a week should give you enough. First, so specific (not!). Second, it seems this is something they have totally pulled out of the air. And, if you get your vit D levels checked the results are skewed to the active levels at that moment. The test doesn't account for the reserves. Also it looks like they don't plan to conduct any studies on sun exposure for vit D because of the skin cancer risk. Humpf!

So, the result of my research is: we definitely need vit D. From there its ambiguous. I will likely still spend a few minutes in the sun most days during the summer without sunscreen and use SPF for longer exposure (as I've been doing for the past number of years). Perhaps I'll supplement in winter. If my March Mood returns, I will definitely supplement. (Did I mention that too much is toxic & you can't get vit D toxicity from the sun?)

As for the kids--they spend a lot of time outdoors & I don't slather them up really early morning or late afternoon or for really short periods. Peak times they definitely get slathered up! They also drink milk which is fortified with vit D so I think they are ok. They will absolutely not be laying out in their teens with the baby oil on. If I'm lucky they will also never choose to visit a tanning bed.

If you want to read more about vit D for yourself, I found this article a bit scientific, but thorough: