Posts Tagged ‘Health’

What’s in the kitchen pantry: Sweet and low priced

Friday, January 31, 2014
No Gravatar
Beauty and the beast.

Beauty and the beast.

During the crisis that left 300,000 West Virginians without tap water, I began making mental notes about the products I use and the ingredients I eat or drink.  I started this little internal survey after opening a box of facial lotion and reading the active and inactive substances that are supposed to make me look 10 years younger.  I held up the box and told my husband, “This may be a good example of the pot calling the kettle black.”

I color my hair three or four times a year, and I bleach my teeth every six months.  I’ll rub an apple on my shirt and then take a huge bite out of it, and every so often, I’ll sneak a few grapes out of the bag and eat them…unwashed. Last summer, my daughter got a chemical burn from swimming in a local pool that had just been treated with a sizable load of chlorine to make the water crystal clear. But our worst offense, one that makes every cancer survivor wince, is the amount of artificial sweetener poured into our glasses of iced tea and mugs of hot coffee … every day.

I know. This stuff has been reported to cause cancer in lab rats, yet I rip, pour, stir and sip anyway.  But I’m trying to do better for myself and for my family, so I’ve taken to the Internet and to culinary magazines to find a solution that won’t sacrifice taste or our lives.

It’s called….agave nectar.

This amber liquid, a type of syrup, is expensive.  This is probably the reason why I’ve ignored it on grocery store shelves.  However, celebrity chef Giada DeLaurentiis swears by it, and if she can wolf down bowls of pasta and chase it with cups of sweetened cappuccino, then I’ll have what she’s having.

During a recent shopping trip, I rediscovered gourmet foods and spices at Home Goods in the kitchen department. I used to walk by these shelves and assume the food was old or so bad the stores had to ship products to outlet centers for a quick sale.  I learned that most of these items are simply overstocks — it’s perfectly good and well within “best by” dates.

And whaddya know? Home Goods at the Shoppes at Trace Fork sells all kinds of agave nectar! Cheap, too!

I forked over $2 and change for a pretty bottle of sweetness and raced home to try it in a cup of Starbuck’s Mocha.  I wasn’t sure how much to use, but the famous chef from Italy tells us to use “just a little bit — just a drop to sweeten it up.”  So I squeezed just a little bit, swirled a spoon to release the color from jet black to chocolate brown, and then I sipped. I waited.  I sipped again.

Maybe just another squirt.

A few seconds later, I had used half the bottle.

Agave nectar may be called “honey water” by our friends in South America, but this girl from Charley West calls it Karo syrup. Conscious consumers rightfully feel better about using natural products as opposed to “packets of poison”, but experts say a dollop of agave contains 60 calories. White table sugar contains 40 calories.  Perhaps less is more.

The Art of Acceptance

Tuesday, December 31, 2013
No Gravatar

As I write this by pecking the keyboard with my left hand, a little booklet titled Acceptance Therapy sits on the table next to me. I bought it after the death of someone I loved, and it is full of reminders about coping with situations that are beyond our control.acceptance

That book has become particularly meaningful over the past couple weeks after I lost the control and independence I’ve always treasured.

I was walking my German Shepherd on a snowy Saturday morning when I fell on ice and shattered my right wrist. (If you are interested in that story, you can read a full description of the incident in my personal blog: The Ice Gods Are Laughing).

After two nights in the hospital and surgery, I was feeling guilty that I hadn’t been able to help my son finish his science fair project or to hear my daughter sing a solo at church. That guilt, combined with my complete lack of independence at the hospital and my need to get back to work, made me more than excited to be released from the hospital and back to my life.

I should have known better.

I didn’t grasp the impact the injury and subsequent hardware in my right arm would have on my life. I wasn’t just being forced to use my left hand for everything (yes, I am right handed), I was being forced to do everything with only one hand. I couldn’t drive. I couldn’t open containers. I couldn’t write, or wrap Christmas presents or cook, I couldn’t even put my contacts in my eyes. Worst of all, I, a person who is constantly in motion and thinks sleep is a dirty word, was too tired to do much of anything once I got home from work.

Friends rallied to help. My husband took time off work and did everything he could. And I went to work, came home, slept and felt guilty and frustrated.

Then I received an early Christmas present in the form of a comment on my personal blog from my friend Sarah: Trina – in the sense that God can make something good result out of something bad, perhaps this unexpected “slow down” will in the end be quite the gift to you and your family. Just “be” – and worry less about the “do.”

Sarah was right. I couldn’t change my circumstances, but I could make the best of them. That’s when I dug out Acceptance Therapy and took on a new challenge – one I could tackle with no hands: the art of acceptance.

My accident was two and a half weeks ago, and I’m doing more every day now. I’m dressing myself and putting in my contacts; I’m preparing simple dishes; I’m getting better at typing. I’m even driving (short distances only.) And I’m learning to accept my circumstances.

Yesterday, I went to the doctor and discussed the possibility of more surgery. That would be a  temporary set back to all the progress I’ve been making. At least it will set back almost all the progress I’ve been making. Because the one thing I did really, really well during the appointment was accept what the doctor told me. And that’s a skill that no accident or surgery can ever take away.

 

Sweating the small stuff

Monday, June 17, 2013
No Gravatar

Have you ever felt like you weren’t supposed to do anything more than sit in a chair? And not for long, either, because a child will call your name if your rear end grazes a seat of any kind.  According to a few humorists, a chair cushion contains a silent alarm that only kids can hear.  If they see you sit or even sense that you’re sitting, they’ll find a reason to request your presence.

Yesterday afternoon, I had one of those moments.  All I wanted to do was work out for 30 minutes.  I just needed to sweat off some stress and spaghetti. I just wanted a half-hour to exercise!  Was that too much to ask?

Yes. Yes, it was.

Do you remember my blog post about committing to lose 40 pounds by my 40th birthday? Yeah, well…that didn’t happen.  And it’s not for trying, I assure you.  The minute I started a program, my teaching schedule didn’t mesh with the gym’s hours.  Then, the girls finished up the school year and I wasn’t able to take them along because it was a private facility.  So that contract had a short shelf life.  After that, I decided to try to lose the pounds on my own.  I went to the track and walked at least four miles, four days a week, until I got busy with a writing project that took up every daylight hour.  I began to wonder, “How do working people – with children – stay fit?”

I’ve got it figured out now. They have exercise equipment in their own homes and they rely on DVDs like “Biggest Loser” and “Insanity”.  But I also found out that simply trying to get to the basement to turn on the TV was more challenging than being screamed at by Jillian Michaels.

Here’s a clip:

* I went to my Auntie’s house to move her flat-screen TV to our rec room.  But first, I had to trip over the cord and bend the prongs on the plug end.

* I got the TV set up in my basement area, but the electrical outlet was fried from the last storm.  I had forgotten this.

* I moved the TV to another outlet, which worked, but it was located too far away from the nearest table.

* I found an extension cord and got everything hooked up, but then I noticed I didn’t have the remote control.  Back to Auntie’s I went — sweating (at least I got some exercise).  The remote control was no where to be found.  Thirty minutes lost.  Curse words spewed.

* I bought a universal remote and figured out how to coordinate the TV to the gadget, but the internal DVD player wasn’t able to recognize the brand new video.  I turned it this way and that, but had no success.

* I drove to Target and picked up a cheap DVD player, brought it home, hooked it up, and then discovered that I didn’t have two AAA batteries for that remote control.  From here, I drove to the pharmacy at the bottom of our hill and bought enough Energizers to electrocute the bunny.

* With the TV on and the video playing, I couldn’t keep my feet planted squarely on the hardwood floor, because I had cleaned the heck out of it anticipating my new exercise routine.  I needed a yoga mat for stability — but it was far shorter than it used to be because the Beagle ate half.

* Three minutes into the five-minute warm-up, I was met by my youngest daughter, who was crying and complaining of what was most certainly swimmer’s ear.

* I gave her Advil for pain until the pharmacist (at the same pharmacy) could fill a prescription.  Maryn curled up on the couch, whimpering, while I wondered what some guy named “BOB” was doing in Phase One: Cardio.

* When she settled down with Sour Patch Kids and Phineas and Ferb, I raced downstairs to finish my workout.  That’s when the telephone rang and my husband announced that he would be late for dinner.  Dinner?

At this point, I turned off the DVD player and the TV, rolled up the yoga mat that could’ve been used to open a stubborn jar of pickles, and kicked off my (new) cross-training shoes.  I was exhausted and I needed to sit on the couch, where the alarm would sound as soon as my ample rear end brushed the fabric.

Frustrated and out of steam, I flipped channels and discovered a fitness show on PBS.  “Sit and Be Fit.”  I inched to the edge of the couch cushion and began flexing my foot, toward the ceiling and down toward the floor.  Repeat.  Ceiling. Floor.  Ceiling. Floor.  Other foot.  Ceiling. Floor.

“That’s all for today,” the instructor chirped.  “See you tomorrow!”

Sigh. Five minutes is better than none, I guess.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll aim for 10.  Or, I could strap a pedometer to my shoe and walk around the house until I get to 10,000 steps.  I’ll have that knocked out by lunchtime.

Vamoose!

Monday, April 23, 2012
No Gravatar

Trying some rice cream.

If you’ve been reading my blog posts for the past few weeks, you know that my kids suffered the stomach flu and they endured hours of car sickness on Spring Break.  I keep bringing it up (that’s a pun, people…) because I can’t seem to get over the shock of it.  As the family janitor, it’s as if I have some sort of post traumatic sickness syndrome.

In David Sedaris’ book, Holidays on Ice, the author shares his experiences working in Macy’s Santa Land, where children throw up in nervous anticipation of meeting Kris Kringle. When this happens, Emergency Exit Elves shout “VAMOOSE!” in unison — a battle cry that warns store associates that they have a puker in line.  Vamoose is also the name of the cleaning agent that helps return The North Pole to its seasonal freshness.

But I have bigger problems than that.  Weeks of vomiting for various reasons have caused my daughters to become lactose intolerant.

“You’ve got to give those kids a break,” our pediatrician told me. “Their guts are worn out.”

What could it be? The Hershey’s chocolate milk?  Reese’s peanut butter ice cream? Easter eggs? Cheese omelets? Yogurt smoothies?

I’m a practicing portion controller, and my girls are not allowed large quantities of sweets or junk food.  They’re given these treats on occasion, such as weekends, Spring Break, or in celebration of impressive report cards.  But even in moderation, some little treats can still cause big problems.

Looking back, I remember how hard it was to find a formula suitable for Maryn’s sensitive digestive system.  We went through can after can of Enfamil until we finally discovered that Gentlease was the right combination for our little one.  Her acid reflux could have been worsened by my daily intake of Zantac 150, which would raise eyebrows today after new research warns of potential, long-term side effects.

I told a friend of mine that our girls can’t hold down anything milk-based anymore, and she told me that her son couldn’t drink from the cow for years after repeat stomach viruses.

With respect to the flu, the invading virus and immune system’s response cause damage to the cells lining the intestinal walls, according to Bridget Coila, a writer for livestrong.com.  ”If the child has severe diarrhea as a result of the infection, lactose intolerance is even more likely to develop. In adults, these intestinal cells would rapidly heal themselves, but an infant or young child has an immature digestive tract that cannot fix itself so easily. The damaged cells include ones that normally produce the enzyme lactase, which leads to a temporary condition of lactose intolerance until the intestinal lining heals.”

Symptoms of lactose intolerance can be mild to severe, depending on how much lactase a child’s body makes. Gastrointestinal symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after they eat or drink milk products — and milk is considered a solid.

Experts say the best way to test for lactose intolerance is to avoid eating all milk and dairy products to see if symptoms go away. If they do, then you can try adding small amounts of milk products to see if your symptoms come back.

So while I wait for my girls’ tummies to return to normal, I asked fellow Mommyhood blogger and registered dietitian, Amy Gannon, to help me change my evil ways:

“You can always try substituting soy milk such as Silk,  or Lactaid milk.  Often, people can tolerate cheese and yogurt much better than milk because much of the lactose is consumed by bacteria during the fermentation process.”

My milk-a-holics have discovered alternatives, such as the Green Valley Organics line of yogurt, and Breyer’s lactose-free ice cream.  While we’ve tried to get calcium into their diets in other ways, I’ve started them on a Flintstone multi-vitamin that contains calcium.  Most lactose-free or dairy-free products can be found in your grocery store, or in the organics aisle.

As for Vamoose? You’ll have to go online for that one.  Take it from me:  the carpet and fabric stain remover works.

 

 

‘Tis the Sneezin

Monday, September 26, 2011
No Gravatar

I know how you feel.

I’m what doctors and nurses call a “Nervous Mother”.  I panic when coughs linger, when throats blister and when heads throb. Despite knowing better, I jump online to Google my children’s symptoms, which is hazardous to their health.

This week, I was hit with “I don’t feel good” complaints.  My youngest daughter went to bed early due to a tummy ache, and the oldest daughter (not to be shown up), woke up with one. When I gave Ava two Pepto Bismol tablets and told her she would feel better in a few minutes, she burst into tears.  Was she really sick or really dreading school?

And I know how it feels to dread school — my stomach muscles used to tighten into wicked spasms.  I hated school when I was a child, but Ava loves her teacher and her class. She just hates Mondays.

It’s too early in the year to start taking a day here and there for mental health purposes, and I can’t let my kindergartner learn from the third-grader’s dramatics. However, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she was really coming down with something, and if I was being unreasonable.   But then, I remembered the advice of my daughters’ pediatrician, who told me to hold my ground when they can’t hold their emotions:

“If you don’t see sick, then you can’t let them be sick,” she stated.

True.  No child in my house had a fever, a case of toilet trouble or unbearable pain.  While Ava looked pitiful, she really didn’t look ill.

“If you’re wrong,” our doctor added, “You’ll get a call from school, and then you’ll know.”

But that’s the issue: I have been wrong before.  Very wrong.  I’ve also been wrong in a good way, if that makes sense.   When I thought Ava had ringworm, it turned out to be dandruff.  When I thought she had an allergic reaction to formula, her rash turned out to be heat related (long sleeves in June will cause this).  When I thought she had a broken arm, it turned out to be Nursemaid’s Elbow.  And when I barged through the double-doors in the emergency room, announcing that my child was running a 104.5 fever and I feared she had H1N1, I was escorted back to the waiting room until our name was called at 4:30 a.m. She had a bladder infection.

Then, Maryn came along, but I wasn’t a tad bit smarter.  I called our pediatrician’s office three different times worrying that she was allergic to milk, because she spit up like a barnyard animal.  She wasn’t lactose intolerant as we learned three formulas later, but she had acid reflux most likely due to my ingestion of Zantac 150 for eight months of pregnancy.

And then there were the times when I assumed something was nothing, and proven wrong in ways that I’ll never be able to forget.

When Ava was in kindergarten, she suddenly stopped paying attention in class. At home, she seemed to be ignoring us, not even turning our way when we spoke to her.  I assumed she was adopting behaviors witnessed at school, but I wasn’t going to put up with it.  ”LOOK AT ME WHEN I TALK TO YOU!” I’d shout in sheer frustration.

I spoke to her teacher about it, and she confirmed that she had to repeat herself  a few times during the course of a normal day.  What I didn’t know was that Ava had double ear infections that produced temporary hearing loss.

Now that was a bad day in parenting.

As for Maryn? Well, Epic Fail Part II aired during her second season of life, when I brushed off a set of flushed cheeks that I associated with teething.  After a year of ignoring the rosy hue, we learned that she was allergic to anything orange. That explains the projectile vomiting that I chalked up as acid reflux.

So, we all make mistakes — letting our kids stay home when they aren’t really sick, and sending them out when they need to be on a gurney.  However, I’m sure in my daughters’ medical records there is a statement written in blood red ink:

Diagnosis:  Parentitis

Prognosis: Hopeful

Seeing the Light

Monday, August 8, 2011
No Gravatar

Does this card look blurry, or is it just me?

During a phone call with one of my clients, I begged him not to fire me anytime soon because I had my eye on a 2012 Cadillac SRX.  He burst out laughing and then asked how old I was.

Well, you know…I’m in that 35-44 age range like most of The Mommyhood readership.

After our conversation, a text appeared on my cell phone reminding me of my standing appointment for hair color. Without giving that much thought, I moved on to writing my blog post for the week, which had to do with being of Advanced Maternal Age.  Still paying little attention to the giant elephant in the room, I went to my mailbox to find my AARP card and membership welcome packet.   I posted a picture of it on Facebook and asked if someone knew something I didn’t…(LOL!).

But a few days later, all of the joking and elbow jabbing seemed to hurt instead of humor.  My eye doctor informed me that I had a cataract.

Earlier in the week, I had walked out of Books-A-Million with my daughter and commented that something was on fire.  ”Something’s burning,” I told Maryn.  ”The smoke  is terrible.”

Maryn looked at me with a confused face.  ”I don’t smell anything,” she replied. Don’t you see it? I prodded.

So, I closed my right eye.  Smoke.

Then, I closed my left eye.  Clear.

Right eye. Smoke.

Left eye.  Clear.

Holy smoke.

I got in the car and dialed my husband’s office.  ”I’m seeing a white light,” I stammered.  ”Do you see Jesus?!” my joker of a spouse asked.

“I’m serious. Something’s not right.”

I “watched it” over the weekend, blaming it on another migraine or a sinus infection, the possibility of conjunctivitis, too much pool chlorine, possibly pulling something loose when I worked in the yard, and every other culprit that could be fixed with minimal care. But when it didn’t go away, I knew I had to call my eye doctor.

After a round of tests, he sat back and announced that I had “quite a nice sized cataract that requires surgery”.  Immediately, tears filled both eyes.  ”I’m a non-smoking, infrequent drinker who eats kale and salmon three times a week.  I don’t go to tanning beds and I wear a hat in the sun. “

This was the genetic kind.  The kind my mother had.

I remembered what she went through 14 years ago, and I  remember how scared she was when she went in for pre-op tests.  ”They’re going to stick a needle in my eye,” she said.  It sounded bad back then, but now….it sounds horrible.

When I left the doctor’s office, I didn’t think about the surgery ahead of me, dubbed “a piece of cake that takes 30 minutes at best”, but of the condition I had inherited … and the one that I feared was still to come.

My mother died of cancer in 2000, which might not have happened had she told someone about the lump in her breast.  Instead, she hid her fear and pretended it didn’t exist.  When it spread throughout her body and made its hateful resting place in her brain, we knew that she had been keeping a secret for a long time.  By then, it was over.  She was diagnosed the week of Thanksgiving and she died the week of Christmas.  She was 67.  I was 27.  We were both far too young to lose each other.

There is a touching line in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, in which Jimmy Stewart’s character is seated at the dinner table with his father, discussing his ambitious goals for the future.

“You were born older, George,” his father announces.

Ditto.  I was born older. Perhaps it was because my parents had me late in life, or perhaps it was because I was an only child who “played” with adults.  I’ve worked in an office setting since I was 16 years old, and I have always had jobs that were about a decade ahead of my time.  Looking back, being so mature now seems so premature. Growing up fast became a characteristic that served me well in college interviews, in managerial interviews and in television interviews. Now that I’m seeing gray hairs and white lights, I wish I had allowed myself to be a kid a while longer. But since I can’t turn back the clock, I can insist that my daughters take their time.

So… I have a cataract.  It’s not the end of the world. I’m not going to die, and I’m not going to go blind (I hope).  But, I’m going to pull on my big girl panties, as a good friend says, and do what needs to be done so I can see my children’s sweet faces.

When it’s all over, I’m buying that Cadillac SRX.  And I want the black wrap-around sunglasses to go with it.  But they will be Chanel.

I told her not to grow up so fast…

Thursday, May 12, 2011
No Gravatar

The baby and I went for her nine-month check-up yesterday. She did great (except for a naptime fit). She got one shot and barely flinched. Me? I didn’t do so well.

She’s always been a tall, skinny baby. She comes from tall, skinny people, so it shouldn’t be any kind of surprise. At her six month check-up she was something like 90th percentile in height and 50th in weight.

This time she was about 50th in height – so, not so tall anymore — and fifth in weight. FIFTH.

The doctor showed me two growth charts. The first, the one we’d been using since she was born, was the one that had her at fifth for weight. But he said that one was a little outdated, so he showed me a new one that the World Health Organization has come up with. On that one she’s 20th for weight and 50th for height.

So when you factor in babies from third-world countries she shoots right up to the top of the bottom quartile. Great.

OK, I don’t actually know if it factors in babies from developing nations. The doctor did tell me that it factors in more breast-fed babies.

The doctor isn’t worried, and he told me not to either. (He’s very calming. The friend who recommended him to us said that he really understands that when you’re caring for babies and children, the real patients are their parents. So true.) He said she’s healthy and developing well, she’s wetting and dirtying diapers (that’s code for “peeing” and “pooping”), and she’s got a good appetite. She’s just petite.

That’s not the first time I’ve been told she’s petite. I hear it all the time.

Stranger: “She’s beautiful! How old is she?”
Me: “Almost nine months.”
Stranger:
“Oh wow, she’s tiny!”

Until yesterday I always replied, “Actually, she’s really tall.” As if saying it made it true.

It’s not that I need her to be tall. I mean, I’m tall and always registered in the 90th percentile for height, but my husband isn’t excessively tall, and so far she really seems to be built like him and his side of the family. One of his sisters is so petite that when she was a baby the doctor thought she might have failure to thrive. But she’s fine! She’s short, but she’s perfectly healthy! THIS IS GOING TO BE FINE!

My paranoia comes from breastfeeding. I’m constantly worrying about my milk supply, even though all indications are that it’s fine. Plus, the baby eats actual food now. But when you can’t see the milk in the bottle and measure exactly how much she’s getting, any indication that the baby isn’t going to be Paul Bunyan (no, Word, I don’t mean “bunion”) can be a test. This is one of the myriad reasons women don’t breastfeed, and I totally get it.

The doctor also suggested she might have a growth spurt in another week and get right back on track. So as I take deep breaths to calm down, that’s the hope I’m secretly clinging to.

Please, moms, tell me about your tiny children and how they’re perfectly healthy.