Bread and Consequences

So, I'm thinking I should probably update this thing since it's been about a year since my last post.  Life has gotten a little hectic. Sometimes I'm so busy making sure I've got all the various moving parts I'm juggling in the air, I look around and realize my son has been wearing the same pair of pants for three days in a row and the laundry resembles Mt. Aararat.  Hmmm, maybe I shouldn't be advertising that last part.  Let me clarify. Despite the overflowing baskets, it's not that my son doesn't have clean clothes to wear, it's just that he loves these particular pair of pants.  Like he wants to marry them...or get married in them.  One of the two.  Anyway, I don't think you need to hear any more tangents about my laundry.  Or my pity-party about the laundry.  What I mean to tell you is this....

Molly is now a vibrant, bouncing 8 year old.  Going on 9 the beginning of April.  If you look up the word "personality" in the dictionary, I'm sure you will see a picture of her smiling face, crinkly nose, and one missing tooth.

Second grade moved along nicely without incident.  I stopped writing, probably because there was nothing of interest to report.  No news is good news, after all.  We got into the routine of school.  In October 2012, her 504 plan was renewed with no changes.    I made the request that Molly be allowed to chew gum during class after her teacher complained about her excessive talking.  This was out of the question.  If you give one student gum, they will all want a piece.  I shrugged.  The teacher could continue to deal with Molly's talking and I put it out of my mind.

She stopped swimming every day in the middle of winter (we were both bored out of our minds) and quit playing soccer. Since exercise is like medicine and Molly is naturally an athlete who loves to climb trees and hang from the monkey bars, she started gymnastics with a private coach who was patient, kind and encouraging.  Molly excelled and the instructors commented on her physical strength.

The 2nd grade teacher, whom we will call Mrs. Patience had little communication with me after the 504 plan with the exception of a few emails regarding homework completion.  The only indication of a problem were comments Mrs. Patience would occasionally make about Molly's behavior to my oldest son, her student the previous year, who stopped by her room sometimes to say hello while walking Molly to class.  I found these comments somewhat inappropriate but decided not to address them in order to gain a small glimpse of this teacher's real thoughts about my daughter.  Things weren't too bad I thought.  We've got it made.  I've got this food thing down.  I've got the 504 plan in place.  I've got the school doing what I want.  No problem.


At some point, shortly after Christmas, my complacency reached an all time high.  I think I was tired all the time.  I ran out of bread.  Not just the regular Food Lion bread, but the $7 a loaf Spelt bread on The List.  I was too tired to drive to Wegman's and lunches had to be packed.  So, I sent Molly to school with her standard turkey and cheese on slices from the $2.50 loaf made with pan spray, preservatives and other unreported chemicals.  No problem.  No noticeable differences whatsoever ( you think I would learn about off-list brands, but apparently I have to do everything the hard way).
 Great!  More money in the bank I thought.  I was going to permanently switch her to this brand.  On the fourth day, she morphed into "Mean Molly."  She was unbearable to be around.  Her brothers wailed. She irritated everyone.  Loud and abrasive is an understatement. She spent much of the week in her bedroom.  I didn't like her.  I know I'm not supposed to say that.  I'm supposed to say I didn't like "her behavior."  But really, Molly is so much behavior so much of the time, sometimes it's hard to separate the two.

A week after eating the bad bread, I got a call from the Mr. Principal.  Molly had kicked a boy on the playground with her cowboy boots her Dad had brought home for her after a week long trip out of the country.  She was so proud of those boots! The boy turned around and punched her in the mouth.  The boy was being suspended even though Molly was the instigator.  I think his punishment was too harsh since the boy was just defending himself but nobody asked me my opinion unfortunately.  The Principal encouraged natural consequences and stated Molly would miss out on a week of recess. The boots were confiscated the second she walked through the door and have yet to be returned.  Needless to say, I made the trip to Wegman's and worked harder to stay on-list.  Molly insists that the boy punched her so she kicked him.  I guess we'll never really know and I'm not sure it matters.

Three days later, I got another call.  This time from Mrs. Vice-Principal reporting that Molly had been cursing in the cafeteria.  In my bleary-eyed state, after being woken up to my equivalent of 4 o'clock in the morning after 2.5 hours of sleep, I heard that Molly had told a joke to her friends at the lunch table and had spelled out S-H-I-T.  The joke did sound vaguely familiar since I had originally heard it from my eldest a few days prior while driving somewhere.  I didn't tell Mrs. VP that we had all found the joke extremely hilarious in an early elementary sort of way, and had been laughing our heads off.  Of course, the joke didn't involve any profanity at the time.  I am really not one to get uptight about profanity.  I do keep it away from my kids which I am able to do easily after a lifetime of clean vocabulary around my family of origin who probably don't realize that I curse like a drunken sailor with a stubbed toe when I'm at work.  I think I was more upset about being woken up.  However, I didn't think that would be the right lesson to impart.  Molly maintains to this very day that her classmate told her to "spell out the word 'hit" and put an 'S" in front of it."  Molly maintained quite innocently that she didn't even know what that word meant, for which I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  For that terrible transgression, she spent the next day eating all by herself.  She would have rather laid on a bed of nails.

You think we would be done.  She had gotten two referrals in one week.  She had been in her bedroom.  She had missed out on recess and time with her friends at lunch.  Nobody was happy.  But the following week, I got another call.  Molly had walked up to two boys who were standing in line in the cafeteria facing each, talking amiably while waiting for their class to leave like normal second graders.  She grabbed each surprised boy by the back of the neck and clonked their foreheads together like two watermelons.  I think one boy cried (which secretly makes me smile because my girl didn't cry even when she got socked in the mouth and no I'm not proud to be smiling about a little boy crying).  When Molly was confronted about her behavior, her only explanation was "I thought it would be funny."  When Mr. Principal called to talk to me about it, I had to suppress my strong urge to put my hands on my hips and say in a sing-songy voice "see?  toldya so."  I had told him several times when she was in kindergarten if she didn't have something constructive to do in the cafeteria, she would continue to have problems.  I tell Mr. Principal and everyone else that will listen that my daughter is not malicious, just impulsive.  I hope they believe me.  Molly spent a whole week at the lunch table alone.  She came home sad each day and needed extra hugs. I was desperate just to reach the end of the school year since I had been informed that one more problem would result in an in-school suspension.

Molly doesn't really know about the bread.  It's not that I kept it a secret.  We talked about it.  It's just that in these situations, from Molly's perspective, I place the responsibility squarely on her, not the food, not even myself (of course I blame myself).  These are her choices after all, although there are some mental health professionals that would argue that it is her brain, her frontal cortex and dopamine levels, that are responsible for her impulse control.  But, I have seen the consequences of children who grow up using their diagnosis to deflect personal responsibility.  It's never pretty.


Where Dreams Come True

In one of my early posts, I talked about our trip to Disney World when Molly was three and how difficult her pre-Feingold behavior had been to manage.  Then recently, I was chatting online with a fellow Feingolder and blogger about Disney World, the biggest rainbow of food dye on the planet.  We were discussing what it would take to convince Disney World to offer non-dyed candy at their theme parks and I contemplated drafting a form letter that could be sent as a form of protest and advocacy.

Before doing that, I decided to contact Disney World to discuss my daughter's dietary needs to see what they would have to say.  They say it's the place "where dreams come true" after all.

It didn't take me but a couple minutes to find their special diets link.  There I was able to send an email with my dietary request.  I explained Molly's needs and included the Feingold website.  Instantly, I got a response that my email had been received and that a Cast Member from the Special Diets Team would contact me within 5 days.  It would be much easier to copy and paste the entire thing right here and let you read it.  Unfortunately, there is a privacy and confidentiality clause at the bottom.  It is also quite lengthy.  Instead of getting myself sued for copyright infringement, I will summarize:
  • Someone with four or more food allergies or intolerances (us Feingolders) should email or fax a completed Guest Allergy Dietary Request Form with a list of restaurant names, reservation numbers and dates where you plan to eat.  The Chefs and Managers will be contacted for you. 
  • At dining reservation booking, advise the Cast Member of special dietary restrictions. 
  • If you book online, make sure you include dietary restrictions on each reservation. 
  • If you have already booked and forgot to do so, contact the Disney Resort Center at 407-939-3463 
  • You may also speak with the Chef or Manager on duty when arriving to a dining location. 
  • WDW can't guarantee introduction of the allergen of concern during another stage of the food chain process and do not have separate kitchens to prepare allergen-free items or separate dining areas (I assume this is speaking to folks with severe or life threatening peanut allergies). 
  • A list of "Quick Service" eating locations is provided that can accommodate specific menu or ingredient requests. 
  • For pre-packaged items, they suggest guests read the ingredient labels.  (As if labels mean something!) 
  • Great news!  You can bring your own food into the parks!  Reportedly, you can tell security at the gate that you have an allergy.  You must however, bring your food in a "small, soft-sided cooler."  No glass containers are allowed.  I would also bring a copy of your email with this section highlighted, in case you have any problems.
  • If you bring your own food into a restaurant, they will even provide you with a plate! 
  • They will not be able to touch, prepare or cook any of your food due to Florida law. 
  • And finally, you can order groceries from the Garden Grocer on the property or from goodings.com.
So, I am totally satisfied with this.  Planning another trip to Disney World is a distinct possibility now that we can eat like we normally do.  I don't see how eating in a restaurant there will be much different than going out to dinner here.  Obviously, it will happen sparingly, if at all.  I don't know that I will contact any restaurants, managers or chefs.  What I will do is bring food into the park for lunch daily.  Not only will we be able to know with certainty we are 100% Feingold compliant we will also save ourselves from going bankrupt.  Last time we were there, we snuck in all our lunches in the stroller basket.  It wasn't Feingold motivated but an attempt to protect our pocketbook, since a junk meal of cheeseburgers, fries and cokes for one family of four cost well over $50.  Staying in a condo that provides a stove, refridgerator, and microwave is a necessity obviously.  I'm pretty sure we could have an entire Disney World Vacation without eating out at all by eating a cold breakfast in the morning, packing sandwiches and other lunch items, and cooking in for dinner.

If wishes really do come true at Disney World, we should be able to convince the powers that be to open one dye free store, in Magic Kingdom perhaps, where we could buy those approved goodies.  I imagine a store filled with Unreal Candy, Ghiradelli and stuff from Squirrel's Nest.

I think Tinker Bell would approve.


Food is Half the Battle

So much of my focus is on food:  acceptable food, the Food List, reading labels, blogging about Feingold, checking in on the Feingold website and Facebook page, talking about food dyes and additives to my friends and family, grocery shopping, menu planning, always thinking, thinking, thinking about what Molly can eat.  Sometimes I forget that food is only half the picture.  The other half?  Exercise.  As I explained to her gymnastics coach yesterday, for Molly, diet and exercise are medicine.

All winter we took swim lessons.  Molly has always been a little fish in the pool but by the end of March, she passed her swim test.  It was her idea.  Before I knew it, she was swimming laps in the deep end during her brothers lesson.  We watched flip turns on youtube and she got the hang of those too.  At the beginning of April I registered her for the swim team at our summer pool.

Swim practice began every morning as soon as we returned from Myrtle Beach.  She was clearly not the best swimmer in the pack but no emphasis was placed on winning, just fun, and nobody cared whether she came in first or last.


The Price of Sleep

Around Christmastime, things got a little dicey at work.  I got distracted for a few months and stopped blogging. After that, things were going so well I thought we were in the clear and didn't have much to talk about. Molly finished out her first grade year with a rainbow of greens and yellows and very few oranges and reds.  The plan was working.  The teacher's stash was a key component to her classroom success.  Molly remained committed and didn't sneak food at lunch.  I didn't have to explain things at birthday parties.  We were on easy street.  We sailed on into the start of summer without a care in the world and kicked things off with a 10 day trip to Myrtle Beach.

When we got there I was suffering from intense sleep dep.  Getting ready to take everyone out of town and working nights had taken its toll.  Oh, and did I mention I was taking 6 kids with me?  William, Molly and Sam and my three teenage nephews for some summer togetherness I started calling a few years ago "Sarah's Summer Camp."  I signed up for it and was happy about it, I was just really craving sleep by the time we got there.  So my beloved husband let me sleep in the first morning at the hotel and took everyone to breakfast, including Molly, who with her father's permission, helped herself to a HoneyBun.

Just one couldn't hurt, right?


Birthday Cake Pop

You know how small those things are.  I think they are a buck fifty.  Here are the ingredients that go into one of those bite sized suckers.  I love Starbucks just as much has the next sleep deprived, caffeine addicted kid-totin' mama, but for goodness sake, keep them away from your kids.  Notice the BHT is listed as an antioxidant.  If you trusted the label, you would think this would be one of the more healthy ingredients.

Birthday Cake Pop
White coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, whey powder, skim milk powder, soy lecithin, monoglycerides, titanium dioxide, natural flavor, vanilla), sugar, water, flour (bleached wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), soybean oil, liquid whole eggs, powdered sugar (sugar, cornstarch), liquid egg white, butter, palm oil, candies (sugar, cornstarch, confectioners glaze, carnauba wa), skim milk powder, palm oil (with soy lecithin), invert sugar, corn syrup, baking powder (sodium acid pyrophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, corn starch, monocalcium phosphate), modified food starch, salt, vanilla extract, natural vanilla flavor, emulsifier (water, sorbitan diglycerides, polysorbate 60, citric acid, BHT (antioxidant), natural flavor, and carmine.


Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

I think my blog went off on a tangent.  Not hard for me to do at all, ask anyone.  I'm so far behind with blogging, laundry and just about anything else you can think of I neglected to wish all you United States folk a Happy Thanksgiving.  So, Happy Belated Thanksgiving!

For the eighteen at our table, it was a semi-organic, fully Feingold gathering and quite scrumptious.  The 20 lb. frozen 100% range free organic turkey arrived the day before, just in time to thaw.  It was cooked to perfection by the Master Chef (not me obviously) and was enjoyed by all.  More than several said it was the best turkey they had ever tasted.  Molly had helping after helping.  In fact, I don't think she ate much of anything besides the turkey.

My family is the warmest, happiest place on earth.  My parents have always had the philosophy "the more the merrier" with an open door policy.  Friends and acquaintances are always welcome, especially on holidays.  If you come over on Christmas, you better believe you will be treated as part of the family which includes getting presents from everyone and pitching in to help with chores like washing dishes or peeling potatoes.


Our Farm

After watching Food, Inc., I went right out and bought a deep freezer.  It was destiny, if you believe in that sort of thing, because the Frigidaire freezer at Lowe’s was big, on sale for a $100 off a ridiculously low price and included free delivery.  It arrived the next morning following a phone call from the warehouse reporting that it had some dents in the front and we should inspect it before accepting.  Sure enough, the freezer had three cosmetic nicks that I had to use a magnifying glass to examine.  We accepted it for another $60 off, thanks to my husband The Negotiator. 


Controlling the World's Food

The World According to Monsanto

Roundup Label - Keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin. Remove clothing if contaminated. Spray solutions of this product should be mixed, stored and applied only in stainless steel, aluminum, fiberglass, plastic and plastic-lined steel containers. This product or spray solutions of this product react with such containers and tanks to produce hydrogen gas that may form a highly combustible gas mixture. This gas mixture could flash or explode, causing serious personal injury, if ignited by open flame, spark, welder’s torch, lighted cigarette or other ignition source. Avoid direct applications to any body of water. Do not contaminate water by disposal of waste or cleaning of equipment. Avoid contamination of seed, feed, and foodstuffs. Soak up a small amounts of spill with absorbent clay. Do not reuse container for any other purpose. 


The Matrix

"What is the Matrix?" is the question that "Neo," played by Keanu Reeves, begins to ask at the beginning of the trilogy.  By the end of the first movie, he is able to see things for what they really are.  The world as he knows it --businessmen traveling to work on the subway, kids shopping at the mall and everything else familiar --is an illusion, craftily designed to keep the masses at bay by hiding the truth with a picture of normalcy and happiness. Reality is a dark planet dominated by machines feeding off of mass produced human babies.  The scene that finally reveals this truth is a shocking one for the first time viewer.  The Matrix is the illusion perpetuated in the human mind with futuristic technologies.  The plot follows a small group of renegades who have been able to lift the veil and are waging war against the machines in order to save humanity.

Food, Inc., a documentary about the ramifications of the industrialized food supply isn't fiction, but like the Matrix, it has broken down the illusion and given the audience a peek behind the curtain.

I watched it a couple days ago and found it riveting and emotional.  I feel like I have entered the real version of the matrix and instead of human babies being harvested, I have seen the food chain industry exactly as it is:  the mass production of cattle, chicken and other livestock produced in feedlots by the giant automatons known as Tyson, Smithfield, Perdue and Monsanto who are getting fat off our collective ignorance and making billions on the poison we consume.


You Are What Your Animals Eat

by Jo Robinson

In my investigation into pasture-based farming, I've stumbled upon an alarming state of affairs: few animal scientists see any link between animal feed and human food. "Feed animals anything you want," say the experts, "and it makes no difference to their meat, milk, or eggs." Because of this mindset, our animals are being fed just about anything that enhances the bottom line, including chicken feathers, sawdust, chicken manure, stale pizza dough, potato chips, and candy bars.

Here's a glaring example. A 1996 study explored the desirability of feeding stale chewing gum to cattle.(1) Amazingly, the gum was still in its aluminum foil wrappers. Wonder of wonders, the experts concluded that bubblegum diet was a net benefit---at least for the producers. I quote: "Results of both experiments suggest that [gum and packaging material] may be fed to safely replace up to 30% of corn-alfalfa hay diets for growing steers with advantages in improving dry matter intake and digestibility." In other words, feed a steer a diet that is 30 percent bubblegum and aluminum foil wrappers, and it will be a more efficient eater. With a nod to public safety, the researchers did check to see how much aluminum was deposited in the various organs of the cattle. Not to worry. The aluminum content was "within normal expected ranges." As always, there was no mention of the nutritional content of the resulting meat.