29 April 2012

Nutella Has Fat and Calories? No Kidding

I count myself among the many moms out there who think the lawsuit Athena Hohenberg, California mother of a four year old, is beyond frivolous.

I, too, am the mother of a four year old (and 8 year old, 11 year old and 13 year old) and I, too, saw the advertisements for Nutella. The ads call the product a quick and easy way to give kids a breakfast they’ll want to eat. They say the product has quality ingredients. Of course they focus on the healthy ingredients, which actually make up only a small part of the spread, but it’s an advertisement! That’s what they do.

They left out the fact that one serving has 200 calories and 11 grams of fat, but guess what, peanut butter has even more, at 210 calories and 150 grams of fat!  The sugar content in Nutella far exceeds that in peanut butter, and therein lies the rub.  Nutella contains 21 g of sugar, but guess what, some brands of granola, considered a healthy breakfast by most people, exceed that!

It’s all about reading labels.  Hohenberg claims to not have time to read “all” the labels, but a mom really has to be naive to just count on the advertisements as her only source of information when buying food for her family.

I agree that the advertising changes mandated by the settlement will be helpful, but the $3+ million dollars going to consumers who claim their part of the class action settlement could really be better spent, don’t you think?  I can think of several ways right off the top of my head:
  • $3 million to a handful of food banks.
  • $3 million to nutrition information programs in under-served schools
  • $3 million to literacy programs so kids will grow up to read nutrition labels
I have bought a jar or two of Nutella for my kids over the years but I will not be claiming my $4 per jar.

Nutella DOES sometimes  play a part in providing a healthy breakfast for my kids.  The key word here is “part.”  Would I give my 4 year old a spoonfull of Nutella and call it breakfast?  No.  Would I spread in on a piece of whole grain toast and serve it with a glass of milk?  Yes.

Moderation is the key here.  Let’s use our heads.  We parents should not need a lawsuit to tell us what to feed our kids.  I can read labels for myself and I think other moms can, too.

I’m sure Mrs. Hohenberg is a great mom and wants to do what is best for her kids, just like most moms, but suing the company isn’t setting a great example.  It’s putting the blame on someone else.  I say it all the time:  Parenting is hard, do the job.  This includes reading food labels and making good choices for our kids.

I, myself, will continue to buy Nutella and serve it in the rotation of other breakfasts my kids eat.  Four kids, four breakfasts every day…  variety helps them get a balanced diet and the more choices I have to serve, the better.  If serving something chocolately on a piece of whole grain, whole wheat bread they would otherwise push away encourages them to eat it, I’m all for it.  Sometimes they eat omelets, sometimes they eat cereal, sometimes yogurt and sometimes Nutella on bread.  I’m the mom and I can decide what I provide for my kids to eat.

I’m happy when they go off to school with fuel in their furnaces, ready to learn.  That’s the important thing.

We, moms, work hard to do right by our kids.  Meal time is often a struggle.  I prepare the meals and and am happy when they eat them.

As I’ve said before:

24 April 2012

Dedicated Post: National Child Abuse Prevention Month: Phoenix's Story

The following is the story of my cousin Loren’s youngest son, Phoenix.  Loren is a single mom to nine, adopted, special needs children.  In honor of National Child Abuse Prevention Month, I helped her put her son’s story into words.

We hope you will read the story and remember it.  Sadly, Phoenix’s story is not unique.  In fact, child abuse is on the rise.  In the U.S., a report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds.  Five children die every day as a result of physical abuse or neglect.

Here is Loren's story:

This story is about my son, Phoenix, who will turn 5 this Sunday, April 29.  I met Phoenix two years ago, on April 29, 2010.

On April 28, 2010, I was given Phoenix’s sister, Tully, a 3-month-old little girl, as a foster baby, when she and Phoenix were removed from their maternal aunt’s house because of child abuse.
The case worker who dropped Tully off at my house told me that Tully had a two year old brother who had suffered a terrible beating at the hands of his aunt.  He was in his second brain surgery of the day and that he was not expected to make it through the night. I asked the case worker if I could call the hospital throughout the night to check on him. I wanted to, someday, be able to tell Tully what happened to her brother if he didn’t make it.

I called every two hours to find out that he remained in critical condition. The next day, I spoke to a nurse who referred to him as “a tough 3-year-old boy,” to which I responded, “He’s not 3, he’s two.”
She then told me that it was his birthday that day.  Hearing that, I took Tully and we went to the hospital to visit her brother. He was in terrible shape.  The doctors had no idea if he would live.  If he did live, it was unclear if he would be able to see, if he would ever walk or eat or have any cognitive function.

When we arrived in Phoenix’s room, he had tremors from all the tubes and wires – he was shaking all over.  Then, Tully started to talk to him, to coo at him, and his body became still.  I vowed that day that we would spend time with him every day to help his recovery.

The nurses kept referring to me as his foster mom and I kept telling them that there was no way I could take home such a physically sick little boy; I had 7 other children to think about. As time went on, though, I advocated for him with the doctors, nurses and CPS (Child Protective Services).

Phoenix’s condition gradually improved.   We found out that he could see, he started eating better and his motor skills improved.  When he walked down the hall with his physical therapist, I looked at the nurse and said “there goes my son”.  I called the case worker and told him that Phoenix was coming home with me.

It took five weeks for him to be released from the hospital, and I took him home.  He was missing part of his skull for 3 months, in order to leave space for swelling.  Phoenix had no language and very little mobility.  He was still very sick.  But, with the help of all his siblings and with his amazing spirit, Phoenix has made a full recovery; he can walk, run, talk, eat, think and play like a wild man.

Phoenix and Tully today

Thankfully, he has no memory of what happened to him. The only evidence left from his abuse is a huge scar that runs around his head.  He is one very lucky boy and we are so lucky he is a part of our family. We continue to send pictures to the firemen who saved his life and to the doctors who worked on him in the hospital.

During the process of making Phoenix officially part of our family, I learned that he first suffered abuse at the hands of his mother’s boyfriend, in February 2009.  The boyfriend brutally beat Phoenix, who suffered broken bones and a spinal cord injury that left him temporarily paralyzed on his left side.  He stayed in hospital for three weeks following that incident and CPS placed Phoenix with his maternal aunt.  The boyfriend is currently serving a 10 year prison sentence.  Phoenix’s mother served 10 months in prison for “Failure to Protect,” and is now on probation.

It was a year later that the aunt, while on crystal methamphetamine, threw Phoenix into the wall or onto the tile floor after getting angry with him.

When Paramedics arrived on the scene, Phoenix was clinically dead.  One of the fire fighters later told Loren that Phoenix’s condition was so bad that he had worked on him so that they’d be able to harvest his organs for donation.

We are so happy that Phoenix fought hard to recover and is now a sweet, happy part of our family.
Phoenix’s aunt was never convicted of her crimes, due to lack of evidence of her guilt.

Click this link to see last year's news story about Loren and Phoenix. 

It's best to click the thumbnail of Phoenix's face to watch that video first, then the one with the firefighter.

21 April 2012

Security at Home

When we moved into our home, my husband said we needed to get a security system installed. 

He felt family security was the most important thing we could do for our home, before we could do any other projects.  He reminded me that he'd be deploying the next year and wanted the peace of mind that we'd be safe, in our home.

So, I searched the net, researching sites, like homesecurityfamily.com, and systems and found ADT to be the best option out there.   I set it up with the company and got-the-job-done.  The system was installed by a very helpful, knowledgeable guy: doors, windows, motion sensors, smoke alarms, the works, and let me tell you, I am SO happy we did it.

Horatio has been gone for nearly 17 months now and every night, I rest more easily seeing the red light on my security system key pad, indicating the system is armed.  Of course I always check to make sure my doors are locked, but feel secure knowing my home is monitored for security.  They also gave us stickers for windows and a sign for the front yard, indicating our house is protected.

You can't put a price on peace of mind.  That's what I always tell my friends when they are considering whether to get a security system or not.  What could be more important to spend money on than something to keep your family safe? 


It's only about $1 a day when you break it down.

Knowing an alarm will sound if anyone ever tries to get into our house, uninvited, keeps me calm and allows me to be free to worry about anything else that might be on my plate.  It's nice to have at least one responsibility left for someone else, while I shoulder everything else these days.

08 April 2012

What's For Dinner?

Meal time is a struggle in kitchens across the country, if not across the globe.  Mine is no exception.

I've been preparing meals for my children for 13 years and almost every evening, I dread the question, "what's for dinner?"  I don't like to have to make the decision of what to make, I don't like to cook, and I really don't like it when my kids reply to my response with, "eww," or "awwww," or "again?"  Doing it all on my own, night after night, during Hortio's long 21 month deployment is tiring.


I've instituted many policies, with regard to mealtime, over the years.  Some have been successful and some have failed.  The one I stick to, no matter what, is: "dinner is dinner.  Eat it or don't, but don't complain about it."

I have found there are a few key elements to successful mealtime with picky kids.

First and foremost, ban the complaints.  In my kitchen, if you complain about the meal, you get one chance to back down, after that, the offender will suffer consequences, such as loss of dessert, which follows dinner. (More on dessert, later.)

Require a "No Thank-You helping."  Kids should have to try what is served to them.  Trying new things is good for expanding their tastes and teaches them good manners for when they are not at home.  If they try everything at home, they are likely to make a good impression when served something new while out to eat.

Always include one acceptable item.  I make sure that each meal includes at least one item each of the kids will eat.  This way, I know they won't go to bed hungry.  If I am serving a new recipe, I might also offer rice on the table. All of the boys like rice, so even if they don't like black bean meatless loaf, after their no-thank-you helping, they can fill up on rice and satiate their appetites.

Dessert follows dinner.  Dessert is not tied to what or how much the child eats.  It is not a reward, it is just part of the meal.  It took me many years to get to this point.  We tried making the kids eat everything on their plates to get dessert.  We tried making them eat at least so many bites to get dessert.  You get the picture.  None of these tactics worked.  They only served to make it a mind game for everyone at the table.  It drove us all crazy.  So, now, as long as the kids eat a no-thank-you helping of each food served at dinner, without complaining about it, they get dessert.

Sticking to these guidelines helps make meal time enjoyable for my family and it can for yours, too.  With so many tasks to juggle, as a temporarily single mom, making the rules clear and constant makes my life easier and the kids' life more predictable in a time of uncertainty during their Dad's deployment.  It doesn't always go smoothly, but usually it does and we are all happier for it.