Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Battle for Screen Time Rages On

The showdown at the OK Corral happened here almost two months ago. I really didn’t think they had it in them to hold out like this. My children have been without computer games for so long now, I’m not sure they even miss it. They could hold out indefinitely. I’m losing this bet, but I’m beginning to realize this may not be such a bad thing.

Two months ago I had a Mommy Melt Down Moment. I’m sure you’ve had one yourself, so I don’t need to make excuses (but I will anyway). I got up one morning and I didn’t know it but I had reached the breaking point. As I made a pass through several bedrooms picking up towels off the floor and tripping over the baskets of clean clothes yet to make it in to their drawers, my blood boiled over. When I encountered them in the kitchen where they had left their dishes on the table, pencils on the floor, and shoes abandoned in front of the door I began my assault. They retreated to their default positions of “It wasn’t me”, “I never touched it” and “I was going to do that when I finished (fill in the blank)..

When my verbal assault produced no action, I had to go for the heavy artillery. “No computer until you start doing your share!” I spelled out a lengthy peace treaty which involved them doing their part (i.e. the dinner chore assigned to them, putting away their clean clothes, picking up their belongings, etc.) and in return they would be given their computer privileges. Until then the computer would stay locked down.

As I said, that was two months ago. In the beginning they stubbornly tested my resolve. I fumed, they whined, but I didn’t weaken my position one inch. If they wanted this hill they would have to acquiesce to my demands. Which they didn’t. At first I was outraged – all I was asking them to do is not be slobs and pick up their own things! It’s not like I was asking them to scrub the kitchen floor or clean a toilet (or a chicken cage for that matter!). Ridiculously lazy! Who did they think was going to pick up their belongings? (Yup, the only person who cared that their things were strewn all over in the first place.)

So I did the picking up and I put things away, although I did hold the line on the laundry and hid my daughter’s clean clothes until she begged to put them away herself. And then a funny thing happened. My husband and I noticed that the kids were fighting less. They were playing together. They were exploring the woods again. They re-discovered the joy of the zip line. They wrote stories. They played games. They played legos. They talked to each other and to us. And they stopped even mentioning the computer and all the exciting games. They acted out their favorite fantasy game Balder’s Gate all over our property. It was as if a fog had settled over our battlefield and made all the soldiers peaceable.

My oldest son does use a computer for homework and I’ve taken to giving him 20 minutes before the others get home from school to play Balder’s Gate, but only because he’s finally putting his laundry away the same day I put it in his room and refraining from leaving his vast quantities of stray papers (he would say stories, theories, ideas, strategies, etc.) all over every surface of the house. It’s a very thin truce.

I write all this as a reminder to you – you hold the power as the parent. You decide what you allow and what you don’t. There is no constitutional law that says your children have the right to watch TV, play video games, computer games, whatever. You give them that privilege (and I bet you purchased that privilege) and you can take it away. That gives you tremendous leverage. Remember that you only have leverage if the child in question values the privilege you are holding over them. We don’t have TV or video games, so my leverage lies with the computer games.

If you don’t want to fight with your kids about what they eat – don’t buy it. If you don’t like the clothes your daughter chooses to wear to school – don’t provide them. If you want more help around the house create some consequences. If you don’t want your kids to spend endless hours in front of screens – don’t let them. I think we forget that, at least for now, we hold the power in these relationships. Everything is not negotiable. We have lots of opportunities to teach our children about dealing with frustration, boredom, personal responsibility, unfulfilled wishes, and shattered expectations. Handling inevitable disappointments and logical consequences are life skills many adults I know don’t own.

I know this might sound hard and you don’t really want to be the “meanest parent in the world”, but here’s your out - when you create and clearly explain consequences you can stop being the bad guy. That’s why my standoff over doing your part is working and no one’s holding it against me (well, OK, my daughter occasionally argues the finer details of “doing your part”). I think they’ll cave eventually. I know I won’t. There is peace in the land because there is no bad guy here. There’s just a set of decisions and logical consequences. They know that it’s within their power to regain their computer privileges and they know that the only reason they don’t have them is not that their mom is so mean (that’s a given), but because they don’t want to pick up their things. It might be frustrating, but it’s fair.

It might be shooting myself in the foot, but I’m hoping they never get their computer privileges back. Without the technologically induced emotions of the screen, they are much nicer children. And they have discovered how much fun they can have without electronics. It’s funny, since we took away the computer games I’ve hardly heard my kids say, “I’m bored” once. They’ve remembered how to create their own fun.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Homemade Dishwashing Detergent and the Emporers New Clothes

I’ve discovered an inexpensive, effective, homemade recipe for dishwashing detergent. When we got rid of the toxic chemicals in our house, dishwashing soap was one that still hung around. I didn’t know how to do away with it, unless I did away with the dishwasher and I’m just not ready for that. I love my dishwasher. It was the first dishwasher I ever bought and when the salesman told me it would be “quieter than bacon sizzling”, I bought it that day. I remember trying to yell above the racket of the dishwasher in our old house, so the noise level was my priority. I think it’s a little bit noisier than bacon, but still it’s one of my favorite appliances. The jury in my mind is out on whether it’s better for the environment to use the dishwasher or wash everything by hand. I’m guessing the amount of hot water utilized in either option is pretty much the same with the number of dishes we create (especially when you have children washing dishes). Anyway, back to the dishwashing detergent.

Dishwashing detergent as a genre is pretty tough. When you really need a powerful cleaner for a stain, you turn to the power detergent because it’s super strong stuff. It’ll burn your hands if you’re not careful. It’s great for soaking plastic toys or metal parts. I think it pretty much just eats the stain and grime away. Basically it’s dangerous stuff. Which is why I’m thrilled to tell you about the homemade version. Here’s the recipe:

Equal parts Borax and Baking Soda.

That’s it. I just got home from the store where I bought two big boxes of baking soda and a box of Borax for less that $6. This will probably last me six months. So it’s cheap, but does it work? We’ve been using my trial size batch for about a week. Just last night my occasionally skeptic hubby said, "I’m going to leave these plates really gross and see if the wonder detergent can handle it." The results? This morning everything was clean as can be.

The first go round with the homemade detergent got the dishes clean, but the glasses didn’t look sparkly. We decided to try the other cheapo all-purpose cleaner and added vinegar to the rinse aid dispenser. Wallah! Beautiful glassware! You can now stop paying through the nose for a teeny tiny bottle of rinse aid that’s filled with toxic chemicals and perfumes. Vinegar works just fine.

I’m guessing that way back when the first dishwasher was invented, the detergent used was Borax or another similarly simple soap. We uber-consumers are always looking for next best thing and if it has a catchy jingle all the better. In the end, though, we end up back where we started. I don’t necessarily want to do away with the entire dishwashing detergent industry, but it does seem a little like an emperor without clothes.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

For Anyone Who Takes Earth Day Seriously

I spent the day in beautiful Lancaster, Pennsylvania on Tuesday. I picked up my mom and headed to the Central Market in downtown Lancaster, said to be the oldest farmer’s market in the country. I bought delicate buttercrunch lettuce in picture-perfect heads for $1.35 a piece and a big bag of just-picked-this-morning spinach for $2. I couldn’t resist a scone from the pastry lady and spent too long considering the beautiful locally grown herbs before choosing a pot of chives. As we walked around and took it all in, I have to say I expected more Amish and I expected it to be easier to know which venders used organic and sustainable methods. I studied the signs, but only one booth proclaimed “no chemical sprays” which really could mean anything. I chose to believe the gentle man bagging the lettuce was a kindred spirit. Farmer’s Markets are a great idea, but it was obvious that even in this storied market many of the products were not from around here.

Our next stop was Roots Auction and Market, held every Tuesday. This place was something to see. Parking was a challenge as it seemed everyone in Lancaster County was at Roots (pronounced “Ruots”, but I never figured out why). Roots is a MASSIVE combination of flea market, farmer’s market, and bazaar. I am certain you could have purchased just about anything you wanted there. We saw just about every species of fruit and vegetable, but also leather jackets, Tupperware, imitation beanie babies, Egyptian Cotton Sheet Sets, plastic flower bouquet for tombstones, knife sets, incense, perennials, live turkeys, and pickles by the pound. And then there was the flea market that stretched as far as the eye could see. We ventured in to it briefly, but were quickly overwhelmed by the sheer mass of junk and shock that so many people were shopping for junk on a beautiful Tuesday morning in Lancaster. Roots is something to see and if you are ever in Lancaster on a Tuesday, I highly recommend the experience. I did end up walking away with a big plastic jug of garlic pickles (crispy and delicious – the kids loved them), a bag of pretzel ‘balls” (just had to try them), raw milk cheese, strawberries (from Florida), and local asparagus. I asked many of the vendors where their produce came from but some of them seemed annoyed that I expected anything to be local. The nice Mennonite lady who told me she’d picked the asparagus herself and her strawberries came from Florida won my business.

After the chaos of Roots, it was a treat to arrive at Breakaway Farms in Manheim, just north of Lancaster. I discovered Breakaway Farms ( through Gowild is a great place to start if you are interested in buying grass-fed meat and dairy products near you. I’d been e-mailing with Breakaway’s office manager for several weeks arranging this visit. She was very helpful and welcoming and encouraged me to come see the farm and meet Farmer Nate before I placed my order. When we arrived at the picturesque and remarkably tidy farm, we encountered two adorable children in barefeet (one dragging a tricycle and toting a fishing pole).

Nate met us and gave the tour. Breakaway Farms grows poultry, pork, beef, lamb, goats, and rabbits. Nate is a mechanical engineer by training and this was obvious to me (having grown up with engineers and married one) as he showed us the farm. I coveted his automatic watering system for his chickens (rigged up with hoses and the same plastic waterer I fill two times a day at home). He explained how the chickens were currently “grazing” the same area where the cows had been recently. His electric wire pens were completely moveable and relocated daily to take advantage of the previous tenants leavings,. Chickens do a great job breaking up cow pies and eating up the bugs that infest them, thus saving the farmer the trouble of picking up or spreading the manure which acts as fertilizer. Nothing beats nature for natural efficiency.

We watched the chickens for awhile and my mom remarked at how odd they looked –only partly covered with feathers and supported by enormous feet. Nate explained that chickens have been bred to be fast growing broiler birds and as such feathers are not really a necessity and are bred out of them. I’m guessing as they age they can balance their fast growing bulk on those enormous feet better than average chicken feet. Plus, everything I’ve read (and Nate confirmed) indicates chickens bred for meat can’t really even walk much by the time they are full-grown because they are designed to have unnaturally large breasts. (I know what you are thinking - seems the general population is partial to large breasts in chickens too). At this rate our poultry business will have completely feather free, obscenely large breasted birds ready to pop on the grill in just a few more generations.

Next we admired the beef cattle and Nate explained how they are moved from one field to the next periodically. We’re getting ready to do the same thing with our horses to prevent the pasture from being overgrazed. He proudly told us that these cows had been grass fed for several generations and he could trace the papa bull’s ancestry to England and further back than most people. We walked inside to see the pigs who had just moved in where the cows had been living previously. Their job was clear. They were to enjoy the muck. A job which clearly makes pigs very happy. They were busy happily rooting through the accumulated cow manure. Nate explained that what is left is piled up an allowed to compost and become “black gold” which will then be spread on the fields as super fertilizer.

Another area of the barn contained rabbits in eye level cages. I’m not a rabbit fan – not for eating and certainly not as pets – but I was amazed at the system they had going here. The rabbits manure fell down through the bottom of the wire cages and living under the cages was a flock of chickens to – you guessed it- consume the rabbit manure. Might seem disgusting, but in reality it is nature doing what it does best – recycling. Nate explained that if the chickens weren’t in here, the rabbit manure would be waist deep by now. He also informed me that lots of people disagree with me when it comes to rabbit meat – apparently there’s a great market for it.
After our tour, we purchased some grass fed meat products and nitrate free pork products. We talked with Nate about Breakaway’s buying clubs and his ideas of starting a home delivery business. A big part of Nate’s job is education. The general public doesn’t know enough about grass fed products. Grass fed products are much healthier for you (see my post Save the Planet – Eat Beef! On February 4, 2010), but more than that, they are better for the environment. Instead of raising their animals in feed lots and dumping the accumulated waste in such large amounts it poisons the land and water, Breakaway makes the most of their pasture by rotating the animals and allowing them to recycle and redistribute the waste, not only strengthening the land they graze on, but creating natural fertilizer for the farm land surrounding them.

This isn’t new. This is the way farms used to be run, before the concept of a factory farm even existed. This is the way farmers fertilized their fields before the toxic insecticides and chemical fertilizers rendered the ground sterile. But it takes more time to raise a grass-fed animal for market. And time for a farm is money. Although farmers like Nate save on the cost of traditional fertilizers, they spend more on organic feed, man-power, and the number of days it takes to bring an animal to market. Not to mention, they don’t have the marketing power the major meat producers control. I’m here to tell you that sustainably run farms are not making their fortune by charging you higher prices; they are simply trying to stay alive. I have yet to meet a farmer who is in this for the money.

If Earth Day means anything to you, I beg you to consider patronizing farmers like Nate. Farmers who care for the animals and the earth, and not just making a buck. They need our support. They need us to vote with our pocketbooks for more sustainable farming methods. This is a win-win-win situation. The farmers win when we enable them to make a living, the earth wins as we support farming methods that heal it, and we all win when we consume grass-fed, chemical free products that make us healthier.

Conscientious buying is not easy. I’ll be the first to admit it takes time. It also takes effort – you need to think before you buy. It might mean visiting more than one store, farm, or market to get the things your family needs. It might mean doing a little homework and asking a lot of questions. But it’s the right thing to do.

As I thought about Nate’s ideas for home delivery of homegrown vegetables, meats, and dairy, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, I thought this is great – people always complain that eating this way is too hard and too inconvenient. So many times I hear from people, “I wish I had time to do what you do to feed your family.” And here is the answer – home delivery! But on the other hand, home delivery of organic produce, and grassfed meat and dairy products will be expensive. I’m not sure whether people are willing to put their money where their mouth is. But I hope they will. I hope Nate’s business becomes the standard for how we buy our food.

Note: If you are local and interested in forming a buying club here in Southern York County with me to purchase products from Breakaway Farms, let me know. If you’ve got questions or need help finding grass fed, sustainably grown food, I’d be happy to chat with you, too.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Wonders of Lemons

I’ve been thinking about lemons lately. Partly because I was remembering all those little tiny lemon trees everyone seemed to have in their foyer when I was growing up. And partly because I read recently about some uses I’d never heard of for lemons. I’m not sure why lemons are synonymous with faulty equipment and grumpy people, because in reality they are incredibly versatile and amazingly useful. There are many more uses for lemons beyond keeping your guacamole from turning brown or the water in the fancy restaurants from tasting bad. I’ve uncovered all kinds of information on and uses for lemons, so read on.

First, buying a lemon. A lemon with some green on it is not a bad thing. Temperature change is what makes a lemon’s skin turn from green to yellow, so just because it’s showing some green, doesn’t make it a bad lemon. Lemons should feel heavy in your hand and give a little when you squeeze them. You don’t want a lemon with thick, hard skin – it will be less juicy.

Lemons are powerful sources of Vitamin C. If you eat a whole lemon (not just the juice), you’ll have your day’s supply of vitamin C. The juice contains only about a third of the days supply. I remember making myself drink the juice of 2 lemons dilluted with water as a part of scheme to cleanse my system. It was not an easy feat, I made all kinds of odd faces and noises, but I did it. I'm not sure I felt particularly "cleansed", but I did feel a sense of accomplishment. I've never tried it again.

Lemons contain citric acid. If you’ve ever done any canning, you’ve probably used lemon juice as a preservative. (Maybe that’s why it’s so good for you – maybe it preserves us too.) It’s good for keeping raw fruit from turning brown. Spritz a little lemon juice on apples when you pack them in your kids’ lunches and they won’t turn brown by lunchtime.

Lemon peel is a great way to liven up a salad, dessert, sauce, or soup. When a recipe calls for lemon zest, it’s best to stick with real live lemon rather than the dried version in a bottle. The taste just doesn’t compare. Same goes for the “real lemon” you see in the store in those green bottles or plastic lemons – it’s juice that has been reconstituted and mixed with preservatives. The taste is not the same at all. Stick with real lemons or your recipes will suffer. If you’re going to eat the rind, you should opt for organic lemons whenever possible.

And here’s a tip for juicing. To get the most juice out of your lemon start by rolling a room-temperature lemon under your palm to break down the fruit a little inside. If it’s really hard, heat it in your microwave for 20 seconds. Another trick is to freeze the lemons overnight and then thaw them out. Each lemon should produce 2-3 tablespoons of juice.

When cooking with lemon juice, add it at the end of the cooking time or after the dish has cooked to minimize the loss of vitamin C. Here’s a completely aesthetic use - when cooking fresh vegetables, squeeze lemon juice over them to keep their colors bright.

Love this tip from If only a few drops of lemon juice are required, poke a toothpick through the skin of a lemon and squeeze out the small amount needed. Insert the toothpick back in the hole and place the lemon in a plastic sealable bag. Refrigerate to use at another time.
Another beauty from For fluffier rice, add lemon juice to the cooking water. (Fluffy rice is not generally a concern of mine, but maybe you like your rice fluffy. Just trying to be helpful.)

Lemons will keep about 2-3 weeks in your fridge. If you think your lemons might go bad before you need them, consider juicing them and freezing the juice in ice cube trays. You can then pile them in a bag and keep them in your freezer for future use. Before you juice those lemons, you can also grate off some zest and freeze it in an airtight container for future use.

Now, on to the lemon’s amazing cleaning abilities!

1. Cut a lemon in half and dip it in salt for a gentle abrasive you can use on brass, copper, or stainless steel pots, pans, and sinks.

2. Rub a lemon (without salt) on aluminum to brighten it.

3. Lemons tossed in the disposal will deodorize it.

4. To remove stains from a Formica counter top, squeeze fresh lemon juice over stain to cover it and let it soak 30-45 minutes. After soaking, sprinkle spot with baking soda and scrub softly. Rinse with clean water.

5. Remove food stains and odors from hands by rubbing with a cut lemon.

6. To remove laundry stains from whites, mix 1 part lemon juice to 1 part cream of tartar and apply the mixture to the stained area. Let it stand for a few minutes and then remove with a wet sponge.

7. To remove rust from a surface, sprinkle the area with salt and then squeeze fresh lemon juice over it. Allow to sit for several hours (over night if necessary).

8. For rust on washable clothing, apply salt and lemon juice to the rust stain and then place it outside in direct sunlight. Expose it to the sun until the stain disappears, keeping it moist with lemon juice during this time.
9. Add 3-4 tablespoons to your humidifier to deodorize it.

10. Dab lemon juice on a cotton ball and place in your fridge to deodorize it.

11. Use a cut lemon half and rub it over your cutting boards to deodorize and help sanitize them.

12. To get rid of ants in your house, squeeze lemon juice on your thresholds and window sills and any cracks or crevices where the ants are getting in and scatter lemon peel outside your door.

13. Here’s another great one from Reader’s Digest: Lemons are effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice of 4 lemons (along with the rinds) with 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water and wash your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee. They hate the smell.

14. Remove underarm stains by rubbing them with equal parts lemon juice and water.
15. To remove rust and mineral deposits from cotton t-shirts, add one cup lemon juice to washer during wash cycle. Heck use it as a whitener on any laundry – it’s safe and effective and better for the environment than bleach.

The things lemon can do for your health and beauty:

1. Use as a cough suppressant, mix 1 part lemon juice and 2 parts honey. Do not give to children under the age of 1 (that’s a honey thing).

2. To sooth a sore throat, drink honey and lemon tea. (also helps a cough)

3. To create highlights in your hair, add ½ cup lemon juice to ¾ cup water, apply to hair and then sit in the sun. (this seems like a much better option than chemically highlighting your hair. Plus it’s a heck of a lot cheaper!)

4. To lighten dark spots on skin, apply lemon juice directly and allow to sit for 15 minutes before removing.(If this works you could save a lot of money on the dermotologist!)

5. Clean and whiten your nails by soaking them in a lemon juice bath (juice from half of a lemon with 1 cup of water).

6. Use as a mouth wash. Swirl lemon juice around in mouth. Swallow it if you’re game for longer lasting fresh breath and lots of vitamin C.

7. For poison ivy, apply directly to affected areas to reduce itching and rash.
8. Apply lemon juice directly to warts for several days. The acid in the lemon juice will eat away at the wart and remove it.

I’m not sure all of these modern lemon miracles work, but lemons are cheap and won’t hurt you, so it’s worth a try! Anyone have some more lemon tips?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Five Cheap and Easy Plants Worth the Time and Effort

Five plants worth buying, even if you don’t have a “real” garden:

1. Basil (you can also easily start this from seed) – summer recipes always call for fresh basil and it’s silly to buy it when you can have some growing in your flower garden (they have pretty white flowers) or in a pot growing on your porch or in a sunny window. A packet of seeds (will last for years) or one small plant will cost you less than one bundle of fresh basil in the grocery store. Basil is an annual, so unless you cultivate it indoors, you’ll have to start over each year. But basil is so easy to grow it’s no trouble. You can freeze basil (pureed with a little water and frozen in ice cube trays works great, then you can just drop an ice cube in sauces or soups) or dry it to use throughout the year. There are lots of different varieties of basil out there – I really like Thai basil for the little kick, but cinnamon basil and lemon basil are also fun. And here’s the added bonus – Basil repels insects! I like to put some in my flower pots on the porch to keep the bugs away. (most strongly scented herbs repel bugs – thyme and lavender also work well, and of course, citronella). Harvest basil as soon as the leaves are large enough and it will keep producing all summer.

2. Silver Dollar Eucalyptus. Bet you didn’t know you can grow eucalyptus! It grows as annual in my time zone, but it does that beautifully. One small plant (I bought mine in the herb section of the nursery today for 1.99) will turn in to a huge bush that produces lots of fragrant stems. I grow it and cut some all summer to scent the house. When cold weather threatens, I cut the whole thing down and dry it in the basement before refilling several stashes I have around the house to keep it smelling nice. Note: in warmer climates Eucalyptus can be come invasive and harm nearby plants, also its bark is very flammable, so it’s not a good choice for fire prone areas.

3. Dusty Miller – if you want a cheap splash of bright white that lasts all spring, summer, and fall, choose dusty miller. It’s really just white leaves that give the color, but it can be counted on through heat, drought, and even the first few frosts. Last year mine was still blooming when the snow hit. It looks gorgeous as a border or add individual plants to your baskets and pots to add variety and dress up herbs.

4. Zinnias – the happy, bright flowers bloom summer in to fall and right up to the first frost. You can cut them to create beautiful bouquets and they come right back with even more blooms. One packet of seeds will create an entire garden of pretty blooms. They like sun and are forgiving when you forget to water them. I like the Cut and Come Again variety, but they come in all shades and sizes. Great flower to get kids started. It’s also incredibly easy to save their seeds for the next year. Wait for the flower to truly die (turn brown) and then cut them off and put them in paper bags to dry. When they are dry, just shake out the seeds. One packet of good heirloom seeds could last you a lifetime!

5. Zucchini – you really only need one seed to grow enough zucchini for the neighborhood, so one packet will last you for years. These squash grow practically overnight. They create a nice-looking “bush” of giant leaves and yellow flowers, followed by more zucchini than any family can ever eat. Zucchini is a great vegetable to hide in your kids’ food. It sweetens when it cooks and is pretty much undetectable in pancakes, brownies, chocolate cake, spaghetti sauce, and salsa. I puree it so no one finds the telltale green skin or heaven forbid – a lump! A zucchini among your foundation garden will look exotic. This is a great one for kids to grow.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Day In Our Dangerous Life (added bonus: My Insurance Company Rant)

Do you know what to do in an emergency? Good, but do your kids know what to do if you’re not there? These are questions we were forced to consider these past few days. I thought we were pretty prepared and we were, as long as the person handling the emergency knew to pull off all the other extraneous papers thumbtacked to our bulletin board to uncover the emergency information with phone numbers and addresses for hospitals and Urgent Care.

My oldest son had a swing accident. He wouldn’t want me telling you that, but since he doesn’t read my blog he’ll never know. He was swinging on our playset on Sunday morning, going very high and fast, as 13-year-olds are prone to do on a swing, when the swing broke. I’m sure your first thought is that he went flying through the air and cracked his head. This was my first thought too when my younger two children tracked me down on the neighbor’s property where I was riding my older horse and ponying (leading) my in-training horse. (It was very good that my in-training horse didn’t freak out when two children in pajamas and boots came running through the woods yelling at the top of their lungs and waving their arms wildly or we would have had two emergencies instead of one.)

Luckily my son didn’t go flying across the yard and land on the metal fence posts around the herb garden or the wooden corner of the fort or the sharp edge of the garage - all things I pictured in the brief moment before the kids caught their breath and clarified what they meant by, “Brady’s hurt, the swing broke, Daddy took him to the hospital!” No, he didn’t crack his skull or snap his spine because he had his arm wrapped around the chain of the swing, so when one side gave way he was entangled in the chain of the other and the momentum of his 70 pound body and the speed with which he was swinging cause the rubber coated chain to gauge out a big chunk of his arm. I’m very glad I didn’t see it.

Brady ended up with 20 plus stitches at the juncture of his arm and body and as my husband said when they were finished sewing him up, “He looks like somebody sawed off his arm and then reattached it.” He was lucky. I’d post a picture, but you really don’t want to see it. Yes, we do have pictures. My hubby, being an engineer who works in quality, needed to document it so he can send it with the bolt that broke to the company that built our swing. (No we’re not looking for millions; he just thinks they’d want to know.)

The one thing that this episode brought home, besides the fact that Insurance Companies are stupid (more on that later), is that we need to have a clear plan in case an emergency like this happens when there is not a parent home. We leave our kids home in the care of our 13 year old sometimes and they all need to know what to do if someone gets hurt. (Or if their crazy mommy gets thrown off the young horse she’s attempting to train). As I am prone to lists, here’s some of the things I’m going to do to prepare for the next inevitable emergency:

1. Post 911 in large clearly visible numbers on the top of the kitchen bulletin board and near each phone. Remember that even if you and your kids know to call 911, in an emergency your mind can go blank and you should have the actual numbers written somewhere near all of your phones.

2. Post a list of who to call in a near-emergency in a clearly visible spot and explain this list to the kids. We do have numbers for grandparents, neighbors, family doctors, and poison control posted, but over time they have been buried under more important information like the birthday party invitation for next week (plus the three or four that were last month), the coupons for free movie rentals, and several political pins. We’re making a new list and resolving to keep it clearly visible. We’re also going to number the list in the order in which the kids should call. Like, the first number to try is the neighbor who is also an EMT. The second number to call is the neighbor most likely to be home and to remain calm. Then we’ll list 6-8 more numbers because people are just never home when you need them to be. (side note: using the phone is a skill your kids should be comfortable with. If they’re not, get them used to it by asking them to make calls for you and allowing them to talk to their friends on the phone.)

3. Talk to the kids about when to call 911 versus the neighbors. Lots of blood, unconscious person, fire, etc., call 911. Dog bite, broken bone, smaller cuts, call the neighbors (and Mommy’s cell phone). We also need to talk to them about being safe when parents aren’t home. Of course, we all would consider swinging on a swing safe, wouldn’t we? We can prepare all we want, but life is unpredictable, as apparently are the bolts that hold swings together.

4. Have a good first aid kit available. Some items you should have are saline wound wash (do not use tap water if you can avoid it, you want to use something sterile like saline), betadine antiseptic scrub (just like at the hospital), small, medium, large and gigantic sterile pads, kling gauze wrap, butterfly bandages, and triple antibiotic ointment. These are some of the things that were necessary to care for Brady’s injury, but we didn’t have many of them on hand. We do now.
5. Know where the closest ER is located and also the closest Urgent Care center. You might want to do more than write down the address; it might be a good idea to drive to it (and save it in your GPS, if you have one). Remember what I said about it being hard to think clearly in an emergency.

This is the end of the useful information. You can stop reading here or you can listen to me rant about Insurance Companies for just a paragraph or two.

I consider the insurance we receive through my husband’s work pretty good. At least comparatively speaking I’m sure it’s as good or better than most people’s insurance. So I’m guessing that we’re not the only people who have spent hours on the phone or sleepless nights stewing over the stupidity and waste of insurance companies. When my son was hurt, my husband took him to the ER. He paid our $200 co-pay and waited to have a doc stitch him up. I’m sure there are plenty more bills coming our way, plus a few thousand letters explaining how the insurance company is going to bill us, what exactly he was treated for, who treated him, and the letter bragging about how they negotiated a great deal, plus then the actual bills from the doctor, hospital, and a few other extraneous people who eye-balled my son. Those will be followed by more letters that state “THIS IS NOT A BILL” from the insurance company until we are thoroughly confused. We’ve taken to not paying anything until the doctors, hospital and insurance company come to some kind of agreement and the collection agency starts sending notices. It’s ridiculous and I feel kind of guilty about it, but if we don’t do it this way, we end up paying for things we weren’t supposed to pay for and having to fight to get our money back. Much better to let them work it out before our check book gets involved. OK, that’s annoying, but it’s not the part I need to rant about. Here’s that part:

At the ER my husband was instructed to bring our son back in two days for a “wound check” so they could assess its condition and change the bandage. He was also told to have the stitches removed in 12 days. Then he was given minimal instructions plus a prescription for an antibiotic and one for pain. Once home, my husband just shook his head when I asked questions like, “Can he take a shower?” (just in case you don’t have one of your own, 13-year-olds smell) “Can he play soccer next week?”Should we change the bandage?” “Shouldn’t we take off the bandage and let it get some air at some point?” and lots more. The ER wasn’t forthcoming with much of this information and we decided they must be planning on telling us at our follow up in two days. I had a lot of questions for the doctor at our follow up visit. Just to be sure we were on the same page as the insurance company, my husband called them to find out if the visit in two days falls under “follow up”. We learned that because the wound check would not be on the same day as the original claim, it doesn’t count as “follow up” and we would be required to pay another $200. This seems crazy, does it not? Aren’t we “following up” on the injury they treated just two days ago?

After multiple phone calls to our pediatrician, Urgent Care, the insurance company, the hospital, these were our options: 1) sneak in to the ER and walk right past the registration to the trauma center and tell them we’re here for a wound check (and hope no one asks us to register) 2) go to Urgent Care and pay $100 co-pay for them to check the wound (but they weren’t willing to treat the wound when it happened on Sunday, so we’re doubtful about their capabilities) 3) check it ourselves, hope we don’t yank out a stitch when we remove the bandages or infect it when we put the new one on, and take him in only if it looks infected.

I found it ludicrous that these were our only options. Why do we have insurance? What, really, is the point? Does it really cost $200 to change a bandage? I’m assuming it costs much more since that’s only the co-pay. Lucky for us, late last night I realized we have another option! A dear friend who lives nearby is an emergency room nurse! So that’s the option we’ve decided on. We’ll take him to Sue and pay for it with fresh eggs and gratitude. As far as our insurance is concerned, we never followed up. Do you think anyone will notice? Do you think anyone will care? I’m not holding my breath.

Here’s why I need to rant – most people don’t have those options. I’m an educated, assertive, insured parent. If I had to, I could fork over the $200, but that’s not the point. Doesn’t the insurance company want patients with serious wounds to have them checked out? Charging that patient another $200 to have it checked does not encourage this behavior. If I didn’t have the money or an ER nurse friend or the wherewithal to argue with my insurance company, I might end up with a kid with an infected arm. And that’s going to cost the insurance company a lot more than a quick ER visit. It is ridiculous that as people with “good” insurance we were even considering sneaking around the registration desk at the hospital and conning our way in to treatment. Maybe if they didn’t send out 15 first class mailings for every phone call or strep test, they wouldn’t need to charge me $200 to have the Band-Aid changed. Maybe if they made decisions based on what’s best for the patient and what will prevent larger expenses in the long run, we’d be healthier and they’d save money. Maybe if they incentified preventive procedures and behaviors, they’d reduce the number of ER visits in the first place. Maybe if they had someone with a brain and a conscience running the place things would make sense! UGGGGGH. OK, done. Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Everyone Has a Story

Do you know who Charlie Villaneuva is? Unless you are a hard-core professional basketball fan (especially a fan from the midwest) or you attended the University of Connecticut, he’s not necessarily a household name. Unless your household includes a person with Alopecia Areata, like ours. Charlie is the spokesperson for the National Alopecia Areata Foundation. He’s also a power forward for the Detroit Pistons and Tuesday night we got to watch him score 25 points in Detroit’s pounding of the Philadelphia 76ers. Before he did that though, he stopped by our seats to sign my son’s basketball and pose for a picture with him.
It’s taken us awhile to realize that having the autoimmune disease, Alopecia Areata, does come with some benefits, like meeting Charlie. For those of you who don’t know, here’s a quick recap. My 7 year-old son, Ian, has Alopecia Areata. Alopecia is a non-contagious autoimmune disorder that causes the body’s white blood cells to attack the hair follicles. This causes the hair to fall out. It’s like being allergic to your hair. Ian has no hair anywhere on his body (except a few renegade eye lashes on one eye). He developed this disease when he was 4 years old. Prior to that Ian had a full head of red, curly hair. The kind old ladies like to touch in the grocery store and of which young women always say, “I wish that came in a bottle”. Ian handled losing his hair much better than his mother did.

After extensive research and visits with doctors at both Hopkins and Hershey medical centers, all we learned was that not much is known about this disease. Alopecia Areata affects about 4-5 million Americans (and similar percentages of people in other countries). It does not discriminate for age, race, ethnic background, economic situation, or gender – anybody can get it. No one else in our family histories has ever had it. The most common cases involve only small amounts of hair loss (about the size of a quarter) which normally grows back, but only a fraction of those develop Alopecia Areata Universalis which is loss of all the body’s hair. So you could say that my son is very special (and you’d be right). There are some theories, but no one knows for sure what causes Alopecia. It’s been around since biblical times, but the research is pretty thin. Basically, no one knows what causes it and no one can cure it. Faced with that knowledge, I did what any good mother would do. I set out to fix him myself.

That’s what led to this organic life. And while Ian still has no hair (he says he wouldn’t want any because then he’d have to wash it and brush it and he might get nose hair “which would be gross”), our whole family is much healthier both physically and emotionally. If it weren’t for Ian’s Alopecia, I might have never discovered how good life feels without chemicals and additives. I might never have learned that when you eat real food from grass fed animals, vegetables grown the way nature intended, and food created by your own hands, you think more clearly, feel lighter, have more energy, and fewer mood swings. My oldest son suffered from frequent asthma attacks until we got rid of all the chemical cleaners in our house. My husband’s cholesterol was headed through the roof until we ditched the processed food and started adding flax seed, whole grains, and grass-fed dairy products to his diet. If Ian hadn’t lost his hair, I might never have known the joy of chicken-keeping (and there is joy in it, as well as delicious fresh eggs, natural pest control, and rich fertilizer).

Perhaps the biggest lesson comes from having suffered through the pain of adjusting to living with a mysterious disease over which you have no control and no explanation. That’s when I learned that everyone has a story. Everyone has something that they must overcome. No one gets off scott free in this life. It’s very tempting to look at someone’s life and think that they’ve got it so good, there’s no reason for them to be grumpy or difficult, until you’ve spent a year living with your pain exposed and your emotions fresh. Then you realize you don’t have any clue what’s going on in other people’s lives and hearts. Alopecia Areata helped me to re-prioritize my life. Early in this adventure my mother-in-law said to me, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to him, be grateful.” At the time I wanted to smack her, but now I completely believe that with all my heart. Everyone has a handicap, a weakness, no one’s perfect, and if Ian’s weakness is that he simply doesn’t have any hair then Hallelujah.

Now when someone looks at me funny or is rude or disrespectful or even downright mean, I let it go. I remember that I don’t know what’s going on inside them. I don’t know what kind of pain they are facing. I don’t know why they are hurt or fearful or sad. So I can forgive their moodiness, their ill temper, their criticism. Instead of being hurt or angry, I simply wonder how tangled their life is and let it go. I can’t tell you the freedom this had given my own life.

When Ian was first diagnosed and we went out in public, people always assumed he was a chemo patient. They were compassionate and kind and gentle with him. I remember watching a complete stranger carefully spotting him as he climbed through the tunnels at Port Discovery, making sure he didn’t hurt himself. A security guard at Hershey Park gave Ian a giant Hershey Bar and the ladies behind the fudge counter at the farm market always offered him a free piece of fudge. Once a waiter comped our entire check at Pizza Hut. In the beginning all I could do was nod thanks because every one of these encounters reduced me to tears. Now that I can talk about Ian’s condition more comfortably, I still don’t correct the kind strangers. Another parent of a child with Alopecia said, “Don’t correct them. They feel good because they did something good for someone. Let them have that.” So for the most part I don’t say anything. I also don’t say anything because my son doesn’t realize why these people are so kind to him. He just thinks people are nice. I want him to believe that as long as possible.

Imagine how kind our world would be if everyone treated everyone else like they were terminally ill, injured, or in pain. No one would yell at anyone. No one would curse the slow driver in front of them or snap at the grumpy cashier or be rude to their waiter. We would go out of our way to help other people and be generous with our money, our time, and our words. Having a child with Alopecia has been a great blessing. It’s taken me some time to reach that conclusion. But I know our lives are better and Ian’s life is better because of this disease.

I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about when I started this post. I thought maybe I’d talk about why I started the organic life and discuss the fact that we can’t force anyone else to embrace an organic life no matter how good it might be for them. But I guess I had something more important to say. Live gently among your neighbors – give them the benefit of the doubt and your kindness, nothing more and nothing less.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ready, Set, Garden!

I started the garden this weekend. What a great feeling. I planted eight rows of lettuce (which is crazy I know so make plans to stop by for salad in June), a row of hot purple radishes, 2 rows of spinach, 2 rows of carrots, one super long row of sugar snap peas, and one row of swiss chard (which I’ve never planted before and hardly ever eaten, but the picture in the catalog was too much to resist and swiss chard is supposed to be good for you so I’m going to learn to eat it.). The onion and broccoli plants have a few more days to adapt to real sunlight before they will be installed, but they’re moving in this week.

I haven’t been able to clip the wings on one of our roosters and yesterday I caught him in the garden digging up and eating the seeds I’d just planted! Hugely righteous anger. The kids got water cannons for Easter from their grandparents so I appropriated one to keep on the porch so that I can shoot the rooster whenever he makes his way to the garden (which is twice so far this morning). I’m not sure you can train a chicken, but I’m certainly going to try. All the chickens have been sentenced to living in the chicken pen once again since the garden has begun. It’s a tough adjustment after 7 months of free range life. Some are able to fly over the fence (yes, chickens really can fly- but only about 5-6 feet up and they do much better if there is a hill to give them a running start and a gravitational advantage.) To remedy this problem, we clip their wings which doesn’t hurt and isn’t even visible (their “flying feathers” are hidden behind their “standing around looking like a chicken feathers”). Only problem is none of us can seem to catch the big rooster. It doesn’t help that his spurs are huge and he just looks mean. He’s never hurt anyone and he has the wimpiest crow around, but still. I’m going to try to do it tonight when he’s sleeping.

How do you know when to start your garden? The weather’s been beautiful and it’s very tempting to start tucking in all your seeds. For sure there is still cold weather to come so I wouldn’t chance a tomato or a pepper yet and the soils not warm enough for cucumbers or squash. Seeds need the soil to be about 55 degrees to germinate, some need it warmer. Lettuce and peas like it cold. Tradition says you should plant your peas on St Patrick’s Day, but we were still under snow cover on St. Patty’s day this year.

Another good way to know when you can start planting is the texture of your soil. You want your soil to be like chocolate cake not chocolate fudge. So that’s basically it – chocolate cake that is about 55 degrees and you’re good to go with lettuce, carrots, radish, peas (all kinds), spinach, broccoli, onions and any other seed whose packet lists “as soon as the soil can be worked” or “early spring” as the planting time.

If we get a forecast for a serious frost and freezing temps overnight, I sometimes cover my rows with plastic. But sometimes I forget and they do just fine. Here’s a few other tips for planting that I’ve learned the hard way.

The distances between plants suggested on the seed packets are for real. Sometimes I read them and think they’re being overly cautious. I always live to regret this and end up stepping on plants as I try to weed and performing acrobatic feats just to water the veggies.

Mulch or cultivate the soil between rows on a regular basis. This is how you keep weeds from getting ahead of you. A great tool for keeping the weeds in check is a stirrup hoe (looks like a stirrup on the end of a stick). There is no shame in mulch. If you can save leaves in a pile each fall to use for this task you’ll save money. Straw works OK too, but things creep in. Newspapers are good if you can get them weighted down with water and maybe some stones until they start to disintegrate. (Check to be sure your paper uses vegetable based inks. For you locals – the York Daily Record does use vegetable based ink.)

Don’t plant too deep. I’ve committed this crime many times. It usually happens when I’m planting a lot of seeds in a hurry and use a hoe to fill the row back in. The general rule of thumb is to cover the seed with soil as deep as the seed is big. Most seeds are pretty small. You don’t need much soil over them. The best way to do this is by hand and carefully, patting down the earth over the seed as you go. If you plant too deep you’ll wait much longer to see any action and some seeds won’t make it at all.

Put up big signs. You think you will remember where your rows are. You think you will be able to see the little popsicle stick markers. You assume that digging the seed packet in to the soil at the end of the row will help you remember what’s planted there. Here’s what I know – my memory is fading (I don’t know how old you are, but odds are you are no longer a teenager, so yours is on the downward slope too). Popsicle sticks quickly become camouflaged by the dirt, upended by the trampling feet of children and pets, or blown away when the soil begins to dry. Seed packets disintegrate almost overnight and the wind tends to blow them away. You need big signs – I use scrap wood and paint stirrers (free at the hardware store!) and use paint pens to label them. My daughter and I like to write inspiring things on the backs of these signs too. (See my post April 15, 2009 “Planting Seeds and Inspiration”). If you don’t label your rows well, you may mistake newly sprouted lettuce for a weed (lettuce basically is a weed so this is understandable).

Stay on top of the weeds. Don’t wait for them to overwhelm you. Pull a few EVERYDAY and it won’t seem too bad. If you enlist your children’s help (and you should), supervise their weeding or you may lose more than the weeds. Personally, I haven’t had a whole lot of luck putting the kids to work. They are happy to pick, but weed only under duress for large sums of money. Wish I could tell you different, but I have to be honest.

Plan your walkways as carefully as you plan your planted rows. You need to have somewhere to walk – remember that tomatoes get very bushy and pushy, cucumbers and squash can sprawl all over, and carrots and onions will keep nicely to themselves (but don’t handle being stepped on very well). I’m hoping to make some homemade stepping stones this year with the kids using small pizza boxes and a bag of cement. We don’t order out pizzas, so we’d love some donations from those of you who do (hint, hint).

Put up posts on all the corners of your garden to keep the hose from being dragged over your plants. After all that hard work and diligent weeding, it would be a shame if a hose snapped your almost ripe red pepper plant in two. This is a MUST do. We put four foot tall metal fence posts on the corners (shorter stakes tend to do more damage to my shins).

I’m sure there is more to say, but I’m watching a rooster making his way towards my pea row, so I’ve got to fill my water cannon. Happy gardening!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

MSG By Any Other Name Is Still MSG

I am a label reader. Nothing goes in my cart until I’ve examined its label. I try to be sure I recognize all the ingredients. This seems like good practice. Turns out some ingredients can sound completely innocuous but in reality be something downright scary. Take MSG. Even if you aren’t in to healthy eating, organics, or very particular about what you put in your body, you know MSG is bad. Everybody knows that. The problem with MSG is that it never says “MSG” on the label. That would be like saying, “We use cow poop to make this food,” which may be true, but you never want to say it so obviously. Same for MSG. It’s in there, but no marketing department in its right mind would actually tell you that. Doesn’t mean it isn’t in there.

What about all those labels that say “Contains no MSG”? That’s because they don’t always call it MSG. There are lots of other names for MSG. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I want to figure out what’s so bad about MSG. The FDA says that MSG is “generally recognized as safe,” which is the most ridiculous statement ever created. Riding in a car is generally recognized as safe, but I would clarify that statement by saying Riding in a car is generally safe, unless the driver is drunk, teenaged, or texting. Vacuuming is generally recognized as safe too, but that didn’t stop me from nearly bashing my head in recently when I tried to vacuum the stairs. Generally recognized as safe is simply a term the government is using to cover their posterior. I just want to be clear on that. So the FDA site told me nothing about the safety or danger of MSG.

On to the Mayo Clinic site which was uncharacteristically vague also. They said “MSG can trigger headache and other symptoms in some people”. No specifics on the other symptoms or the some people. So I had no choice but to head to the deep dark recesses of the internet where all the paranoid crazy people hang out. Here is only a partial list of the symptoms of “MSG Complex” garnered from various sites that seemed generally recognized as safe:

Facial pressure or tightness
Numbness, tingling, burning in face, neck and other areas
Itchy rash
Rapid, fluttering heartbeats
Chest pain
Violent diarrhea
Anaphylactic shock
Sleep Disturbances
Vivid Dreams
Restless Sleep

With the exception of anaphylactic shock (and perhaps violent diarrhea) lots of people have these symptoms occasionally for lots of reasons. MSG complex looks suspiciously like a catchall.

So what is MSG? Monosodium Glutamate is a white, salt-like substance made from amino acids. It has little flavor of its own, but is used as a flavor enhancer to accentuate “meatiness”. Glutamic acid is a nonessential amino acid that occurs in meat broths and fermented products (think soy sauce). It’s what makes broth feel so satisfying and rich. Glutamate is the glutamic acid created by cooking broths and fermenting foods. It occurs naturally and is not toxic. In fact, it’s wonderful. That’s why your grandmother’s soup makes you feel so much better. The science behind it is that glutamate is a excitatory neurotransmitter that increases the rate at which neurons fire.

Where the glutamic acid in MSG goes so wrong is when it is unnaturally created. A process discovered in the 60’s allowed manufacturers to create monosodium glutamate artificially by breaking down and changing naturally occurring glutamate in to various free forms that are not found in nature. These modified glutamates enter the bloodstream 8-10 times faster than natural glutamate. This heightens the taste experience (and maybe your heart rate?). Many researchers believe this can also create an addictive quality to MSG which can cause people to eat much more than they should.

Some dieticians have promoted MSG enhanced foods for people who struggle to maintain their weight or eat what’s best for them (like people on diabetic or low salt diets). Their logical argument is that if it makes the food taste better and will get people to eat correctly, what’s the harm? What is the harm? The research is officially inconclusive. Perhaps there is some truth to the marketing campaign “You can’t eat just one.” Maybe the MSG in junk food makes it addictive. John Erb, in his book The Slow Poisoning of America, will tell you that MSG is a direct cause of obesity, diabetes, autism, and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. He can’t necessarily prove this, but researchers can’t prove him wrong either.

So how do you avoid MSG? Unless you eat a completely raw, homegrown diet you can’t. But there’s no reason to avoid naturally occurring MSG in cooked broths and fermented substances. Skeptics of MSG complex are quick to point out that Asian culture has been consuming MSG for centuries and they are some of the healthiest, longest lived populations in the world. True. But the MSG they consume occurs naturally in their cooking methods.

The MSG most of the rest of us consume can be found in the processed foods we eat. In most cases this is not naturally occurring glutamate, but manufactured monosodium glutamate. I wanted to give you a complete list of the most likely places you will find MSG in foods you buy at the grocery store, but this post is already too long and MSG is found in nearly everything you buy. Even in my “organic” cupboard, I found products containing MSG. As I alluded to at the start, MSG goes by many, many names, the least used being “MSG”.

MSG is found in most processed and prepared foods like chips and soups. But I also found it in chocolate sauce, wheat crackers, ice cream, salad dressing, and spaghetti sauce. Nearly every fast food chain uses plenty of MSG in all their foods.

According to

These ingredients always contain MSG: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein, autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed oat flour.

These ingredients frequently contain MSG: malt extract, malt flavoring, bouillon, broth stock, flavoring, natural flavoring, natural beef or chicken flavoring, seasoning and spices.

These ingredients may contain MSG: carrageenan, enzymes, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate and whey protein isolate.

The one that really gets me is “natural flavoring”. I don’t understand how the government gets away with that. Especially when it doesn’t define “natural” or have any kind of testing or requirements for foods that claim to be “natural”. It really should just say, “and anything else we felt like putting in” instead of “natural flavoring”.

So what is the average consumer to do? I’ve come to the conclusion that you can’t avoid MSG. Our food system makes that impossible (again unless you can move to a desert island somewhere and eat only raw foods). MSG is like so many other things that aren’t good for you but aren’t necessarily going to kill you by themselves. The problem is when you have too many of those things like MSG, transfats, sugar, caffeine, etc. All of them together can weaken your system and make you more susceptible to all manner of bad things.

So the only conclusion I can draw from all this rambling research is that here is one more reason to eat more vegetables, fruit, grass-fed dairy and meat products. It’s one more reason to make your own food and buy food from people you know. MSG can easily be found in organic foods, so if you want to avoid MSG don’t think you can do that by sticking to organics. Many organic foods contain MSG under the guise of another name, like the ketchup in the picture above of foods I found in my cupboard that most likely contained MSG. Read labels and know what you are eating. The foods most likely to contain MSG are junk food, fast food, processed food, and cheap food. Limit the junk you eat and you’ll limit the MSG you ingest. Oh, and it might make you healthier, too. Just saying.