February 28, 2012

The Peanut Problem

Who would have thought such an innocent little legume could cause such problems? Let me just state that this post will be somewhat of a rant. I typically don't like it when people use blogs for ranting, but I think this pertains to real food and food origin and quality, so I'm going to talk about it. You may disagree with me; I'm fine with that.

Earlier today, I received an email from our school district stating that due to the "rising number of food allergies"...peanut butter is no longer welcome. If my child wants to bring peanut butter in his/her lunch, they will sit at a separate table.

I have a problem with this. On SO many levels.

One of them is, does anyone ever ask "WHY" there is a rising number of peanut allergies? Because they don't seem to. Some statistics say they have tripled in the last ten years. I have many theories for why this is, ranging from overexposure (peanuts used as fillers in a multitude of foods) to the possibility of the allergic reaction REALLY being to the pesticides/chemicals used in the peanut growth cycle. There's also underexposure (many pediatricians now recommend avoiding peanuts until age 4) and over-diagnosis of peanut allergies. I have no idea what the cause is. But I'm pretty sure it isn't just a coincidence.

Next problem? We don't eat school food and homemade peanut butter is a staple in my kids' lunches. One of them probably has it in there 3-4 times a week. So that would mean he/she has to sit at a separate table almost everyday, to protect a child who may or may not be in the lunchroom (or school!) at the same time. Typical government policy here...take away the freedoms of the 99.99% to protect the other .01%. Tell me, why don't the allergic kids sit at the peanut-free table?

That said, let me state that I LOVE our school. I mean LOVE it. Our kids have had absolutely fabulous teachers and our principal is phenomenal. We've never had any problems at all. We just don't eat the food. And even then, I'm aware the school has very minimal funds to work with in the lunch program.

I also understand considering the health of all the children, and I certainly have nothing against any child who suffers from a serious peanut allergy or any other allergy. However, I do not believe making the other kids responsible for it is the right solution. Our daughter is severely allergic to certain types of dogs. But I do not make anyone else responsible for her health, or expect that kids with those types of dogs will play elsewhere because they may have dog hair on their clothing. I educate her about her allergy and she knows how to avoid dogs and when she needs treatment. Interesting side note, she also tested positive for a peanut allergy and we were given an epi-pen and told to avoid all peanut products like the plague. However, she does not now, nor has she EVER had a peanut allergy.

My next issue is that suggested alternatives for peanut-free classroom treats included fruit roll-ups, Gogurt and juice boxes. That translates into sugar, sugar and sugar, with added artificial color and flavor. Really? This is better than peanut butter? I beg to differ. I know kids with allergies to corn, soy, shellfish and seafood. Are we going to make everyone work around those too? Because if so, all those listed treats are out - there's soy or corn in most of them.

All of that aside, the root cause of this problem is still a mystery. We should spend less time putting bandaids on the symptoms and get to the real issue. I'm curious what the incidences of allergic reactions are with organic peanut butter...or corn...or soy. Is this just another thing we're bringing on ourselves because we continually fail to consider how our food is grown? Like I said, I don't know. But I do know banning peanuts is not going to fix the problem.

A few hours after the first notice, a second notice from the superintendent was issued: "after receiving feedback from concerned parents, I have decided to hold off the implementation of this decision until after the March board meeting." Apparently, I'm not the only parent who doesn't like this idea. I plan to attend that meeting.

Let's work together to keep our kids safe and healhty in a way that does not infringe upon the freedoms of others.

February 18, 2012

Breakfast of Champions

All the experts seem to agree that breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day. Of course, when it comes to food, I tend to assume that "experts" have no idea what they're talking about. They're sort of like guilty-until-proven-innocent in my opinion. When it comes to breakfast though, the "experts" and I might have a little bit in common.

I believe breakfast is necessary for growing children. And at our house is a fairly important deal. If my kids skipped it, they'd go about five waking hours before lunch at school, and when four of those hours are spent in the classroom, it's imperative that they're able to focus. Yes, they sometimes get a snack at school, but it's not provided by me every day which means that probably 95% of the time it isn't too nourishing or filling.

So if you haven't guessed, we aren't talking about Wheaties here. Most people would probably consider Wheaties one of the healthier cereal choices and it probably is, amongst standard cereals. I will admit, it's not the worst thing you could eat. But it's FAR from the best. The second ingredient is sugar, the third is corn syrup and the fourth is trisodium phosophate. What is trisodium phosphate? It's a cleaning agent, stain remover and degreaser. Oh, and a food additive! Just in case you need to degrease your mouth. Yum. Ok, enough picking on Wheaties.

Our favorite breakfast around here is oatmeal. Looks and sounds boring, right? Oatmeal definitely CAN be boring. Like instant, microwavable (tastes-like-cardboard) oatmeal. But that's not what we're talking about...we do REAL oatmeal here. Steel cut oats.

Steel cut oats are extremely versatile and delicious. While I love old fashioned oats too, steel cut oats yield a much thicker, nuttier texture when cooked.

Steel cut oats (on the left) are basically the whole oat groat (kernel) cut in half (or sometimes thirds) with steel blades - hence "steel cut oats." Because the groat is left mostly intact, there's minimal nutrient loss from processing. In contrast, rolled oats (on the right) are the flattened oat groat. They're much thinner so they cook quicker and yield a texture that's not quite as coarse.

Oatmeal is an incredibly nutritious food and boasts many health benefits including lowering cholesterol, boosting immunity and stabilizing blood sugar. It also contains antioxidants called avenanthramides, which prevent free radicals from attacking good cholesterol and help reduce the risk of heart disease. One cup of oatmeal is a good source of fiber and contains significant amounts of vital nutrients manganese, selenium, phosphorous, magnesium and zinc. And all this for about 150 calories.

But I love it for it's versatility. At our house, we like to have what we call an "oatmeal bar."

You can put pretty much anything on oatmeal. It's like the perfect carrier for adding even more healthy, whole foods. I put it all on the table and let the kids load it up with whatever they want. The options usually consist of dried cranberries, raisins, coconut chips, peanut butter, pure maple syrup, ground flaxseed, cinnamon/sugar, blueberries, bananas, toasted pecans, toasted walnuts, mini chocolate chips, brown sugar and whole milk or cream. But that's just the beginning. You could try fruit preserves, almonds, goji berries, cashews, other nut butters, pepitas, pureed pumpkin, honey, yogurt, strawberries, even a sunny-side-up egg with cheese. Seriously, think of something and try it on oatmeal. It will probably be good.

My personal favorite: bananas, toasted pecans, cream and a drizzle of maple syrup. I really could eat this EVERY morning.
Jon's breakfast this morning - peanut butter, blueberries, coconut and cinnamon/sugar

The only drawback to using steel cut oats is that they take about 30 minutes to cook so it's definitely not as quick as using rolled oats. Since I try to soak grains when I can to reduce the phytic acid content, I soak them overnight and this significantly reduces the cooking time.

Stir 1 T lemon juice into 2 cups water in a glass bowl
Add 1 cup steel cut oats
Let rest on the counter 12-24 hours, covered with a towel
To cook, transfer oats and water to a pot, and add 1 C. more water
Bring to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
Remove from heat, stir and serve.
**For creamier oats, you can cook them in milk. I find they tend to boil over VERY easily when I do this, so sometimes I simmer them in the original 2 cups water until they're about half done, then add 1 cup milk at the end instead.

This stuff sticks to your ribs. It keeps my kids (and my hubby!) full and energized all the way until lunch time. Plus, since they get all like peanut butter on theirs, they get a well-balanced meal with whole grains, fruit and protein.

Now that's a REAL breakfast of champions!

February 12, 2012

China It Is!

We've experienced a lot of things so far with the adoption process that are completely new to us emotionally and physically, including but not limited to medical tests, injections, being asked very personal questions by near strangers, checking boxes to determine what type of child we'll accept, training on attachment disorders, etc. None of these are necessarily good or bad, just part of the process.

We've also experienced a few things, that while not exactly new, are certainly good. Supportive friends and family. Financial gifts. Committed prayer partners. And a truly faithful God.

When I first felt God telling me that someday he'd ask us to adopt, I immediately thought "definitely a caucasian child, so they'll fit in." After beginning to pray about it, it didn't take long at all before God made it very clear he had an Asian child in mind for us instead. I continually felt like He was telling me 'China,' but neither of us were closed to the idea of other countries.

Last Fall, when we finally decided it was time to start the process, it was like God opened the door and shoved us through. China has many, many requirements (more than most countries) for prospective adoptive parents; including but not limited to: mental health status, body mass index, income, age, children in the home, length of marriage and net worth. There were three we didn't meet (you can probably guess two!) but the one they will not budge on is age. Both parents MUST be 30. Between January and June (my 30th birthday) of last year, the first two requirements miraculously fell into place, making the day I turned 30 the day we met all the requirements for China.

When we met with Bethany, we discussed all the options, including domestic adoption. By the end, although we qualified for 6 countries, it was easily narrowed down to two that were "good fits." Not surprisingly, China was one. The other was Ethiopia, and they require both parents to travel twice for 2-3 weeks each time, often on very short notice. With three kids at home and limited vacation hours, that just didn't seem like a viable option. And by this time we were so in awe of how God so clearly orchestrated everything for China, we had no reason to consider a different option.

So here we are, trying to learn as much about the Chinese culture, country and people as we can, in between paperwork and waiting. And we're still just amazed at how clearly God led us to this point. And praying that He continues to be clear with us as we choose things like age, special needs and gender, because making decisions is just a lot easier when He's obvious ;)

February 5, 2012

Home Study Visits Complete!

Last Thursday was our third and final home study visit. Water temps were checked, fire extinguishers located, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors tested, guns inspected and bedrooms discussed. After it was all said and done, we're pretty sure it was determined that our home was safe for child.

While I completely understand why we have to go through such a process, it still just strikes me as being completely ridiculous in some ways. We literally had to pay thousands of dollars for the agency to interview, question and inspect us and our home...just to determine whether or not it's a safe and appropriate place to raise a child. And all the while, we have three healthy, intelligent, well-adjusted children living here with us. Ugh...

It's hard not to yearn for a simpler, quicker and cheaper process when there are SO MANY children waiting for a family to love them. But the long process and high costs keep many children out of the hands of those would abuse and exploit them and assures us that when we are finished, our child will be 100% legally and completely ours.

In addition to inspecting our house, our social worker also interviewed our children and Madie. I imagine those were some fairly interesting conversations! I'm not sure how everything on the agency works, but I'm willing to guess that they were especially interested in what Madie had to say. As someone who isn't related to us, but lives in our house and sees our day-to-day lives, she probably gives the most accurate description of what it's like to live here. Hopefully she gave us a positive review ;)

Next our social worker will write up what she's learned into 'report format' and it will be approved by the local office, then sent to the national office. When they approve it, we'll receive a copy to approve, a final draft will be made and we'll have another step done! Immediately upon receiving the completed version, we'll send the I800-A (we need the home study report for this) to the government. And then, I will be madly applying for every adoption grant I can find...so if you know of any, feel free to pass the info our way!