Thursday, November 26, 2009

China Executes 2 for Child Abductions

from the Associated Press 11/26/2009

BEIJING – China has executed two men for abducting and selling 15 children, many of whom were taken as babies or toddlers and have not yet been reunited with their parents, state media said Friday.

The official Xinhua News Agency said Hu Minghua, 55, and Su Binde, 27, were executed Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Supreme People's Court.

Hu was convicted of kidnapping and selling nine children from April 1999 to Oct. 2005. He was detained in January 2006. Five of the children, all boys now aged from 3 to 6, have been returned to their families, while the parents of the remaining ones have not been found.

Su was convicted of abducting six children between Sept. 2005 to July 2006. Five of the children were rescued by police while a sixth remains missing.

Child trafficking is big problem in China, where traditional preference for male heirs and a restrictive one-child policy has driven a thriving market in baby boys, who fetch a considerably higher price than girls. Girls and women also are abducted and often used as laborers or as brides for unwed sons.

Thousands of children go missing every year though the exact numbers of victims are difficult to obtain. Earlier this year, Chinese police announced they had rescued about 2,000 abducted children as part of a nationwide crackdown on widespread trafficking of women and children.

In October, China's Ministry of Public Security set up a Web site — "Babies Looking for Home" — to reunite rescued children with their families.

State media have reported hundreds of rescues and arrests since the campaign began in April, and the new site had photos of dozens of children rescued from kidnappers but who had not yet found their families. The ministry set up a national DNA database earlier this year.

Happy Thanksgiving 2009

I hope you are all having a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

I opted to stay home alone and enjoy having my house all to myself. Of course, having three cats on medication and a car on its last legs helped my decision! But, I truly do enjoy being by myself and to celebrate the first Thanksgiving in my new house, I made a turkey dinner yesterday for my daycare kids and myself with the ulterior motive that today I would simply role out of bed, which I did at noon, and serve myself up an instant feast, which I did!

The menu included this lovely 12 pound turkey, cooked in the downstairs oven, while the pumpkin pie was cooking simultaneously in the upstairs oven, butternut squash, mashed potatoes, corn, gravy and cranberry sauce.

Growing up in a large family where it was common to make 12 pies and a 25 pound "bird," some of us would voice out loud our wish for a house with two ovens. For the first time, I finally got my wish and it was all I imagined it would be. Besides being very convenient, the house smelled delicious!

I ate my feast today sitting on my back patio swing in perfect warm, clear weather. Each cat got some turkey, which they loved. After eating, I played my piano for a little bit then started pottering around the house until a friend arrived. She's a new friend so I showed her the house and her little terrier dog visited with my cats. My cat Rose was very intrigued. I think she'd like having a dog which makes sense to me since she doesn't like other cats anymore, though she tolerates Henry well. Once the friend left, I hit the backyard, declaring war on the weeds. They came after the last rain with a vengeance, popping up between the bricks of the very back patio so thick that the bricks couldn't be seen. I took advantage of the absence of children, to spray some week killer after pulling out what I could and weed-wacking down the rest. It sure looks great back there now! Tomorrow's goal is to pull the weeds in the flower beds and harvest the last of the tomatoes. There are probably about a dozen of them.

I am thankful every day for my new home, good health, my pets and Henry's improvement, a means to earn a living, and many more obvious things. Today, however, as I enjoyed my yard and worked in it, I particularly felt thankful for my wonderful grandfather, who we called Pa, because he always kept his yard beautiful and looked like he enjoyed doing it very much. It was a wonderful example for me and each time I do yard work, I think of him and love him and feel so glad I had him. And every time I mow my grass I talk to him. I usually begin by saying, "Well, Pa, I'm doing it, hehe, even though I'm a girl," and Tuesday I said, "I can appreciate the fine lawn mower you had even though your yard was small. I'll get a better one in a year or two myself and I'll be sure to go to Sears."

Yesterday as I cooked, I was thankful for my grandmother, my TuTu, as we all called her. I spent many, many hours sitting on a stool in the kitchen watching her cook. I learned to make pies and jam and all kinds of delicious things and learned many things not even related to cooking. She loved to take care of her family. I said to her as I was cooking, "Look at me now, TuTu, I know you're proud of me and that I still amaze you. I think you'd have come to live with me long ago if I'd had this house back then. We'd have had a great time!"

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Crockpot Half Empty

Last night while I slept, my crockpot was slaving away cooking delicious jambalaya. I ate some for lunch and dinner then sat in the other room to knit. The cats joined me - very relaxed. At 9pm I went to the kitchen to get the cats' dinner ready and no one seemed hungry. Then I noticed the lid was off the crockpot. I peered in and they had eating HALF the jambalaya!

Friday, November 20, 2009

This & That

I'm ready for the weekend. The dishwasher is loaded and ready to run after I go to bed. I vacuumed everything (carpets, crevices, blinds) downstairs and just the carpet upstairs yesterday and also steamed all the hard floors.

I've been very successful with cooking ahead lately. It's so much cheaper to plan this way. I think my grocery bill will be almost half of normal so I need to make this my new normal. I have another recipe to post but the pictures aren't so good since I took them with my hand help video camera.

Yesterday, I started knitting Apple a dress. It's going to be lime green with dots of various sizes and colors. It will be a size 4. Pictures to come.

Henry has grown tremendously lately and it caused him to lose weight, over three ounces. But, he's gained it all back and then some and now weighs 4 pounds and 13.6 ounces. He's playing a lot more for him, but it's still not like a normal kitten. He's been having some funny breathing this week a lot, using more effort than normal, what I'd almost called labored breathing, but it doesn't last. I wonder if it's from eating so much more than he's used to eating and having pressure on the diaphram or if it's reflux into the trachea or both. I'll call the vet tomorrow and give her an update and mention it.

I'm off to bed so I can make the most of tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Big Items Decluttered!

I forgot to mention that I had a very successful weekend of getting those cumbersome items out of my garage that were included when I bought my house. I gave them all away.

Huge chest freeze: Gone to Dan the Produce Man
Picture this: Me (small) and Dan (about 6' 4") getting the freezer over the grass using two handtruck-style dollies, lifting the trampoline and resting it on a ladder to keep it up so we can pass under it, then lifting the freezer up into the high bed of the truck! It took about an hour.

Victrola: Donated to the local museum.
I got it out of the garage, over the grass and nearly past the trampoline (which is in the driveway), then I noticed my neighbor pull up and he helped me get it into my station wagon.

Classic Stove: Gone last week to Apple Stoves (how's that for a meant to be thing). Old guy came to pick it up, me helping again, and it took a good 45 minutes to get it over the grass, under the tramp and into the truck.

My patio has the Feng Shui feeling again as I can see out into the backyard now since all the patio furniture and stollers can fit into the garage!

Also last week, I got almost all the daycare stuff that I'm currently not using up into the attic by myself. I rotate the stuff so getting rid of it is not an option. And I sold a dresser & nightstand to my friend's brother and put a little white armoire out on the curb and it was gone within minutes.

I Really Can't Believe It

It just doesn't feel to me that 31 months have passed since my dossier was logged in with CCAA in China. The time is flying by. I have so much I'm doing that is swamping me, all part of The Great Adoption Plan, but it's all coming together slowly, but surely.

I've finally gotten the bare bones of my functioning routine in place. I'm getting enough sleep - finally - after using some serious self-discipline to get to bed earlier. This has given me a fully functioning brain and enough energy to get as much done during the day as I can, leaving me evenings relatively free, which is when I'm tired.

Relatively free requires defining as this: There is always more I have to do, but only so much I feel I need to do before I can truly say I've finished working for the day.

I have categories:
Daycare work
New Conceptions work
Cat Care

Broken down, these categories overlap a little and look like this:

Daycare work -
Caring for the kids 9 1/2 hours a day
Meal prep, scheduling walks, outdoor play, tutoring, snacks, pick-up times, etc.
Housework pertaining to the downstairs
Dishes in the downstairs kitchen/counters, sink, table and chairs cleaned
Vacuuming/Steaming the floors
Outdoor care - mow the grass, check the bark in the play structure area, strollers put away, porch swept.

New Conceptions work -
Right now this business is getting very little attention beyond filling orders and getting them mailed. I really need to get in touch with my customer base through electronic newsletters again, but I'm having trouble figuring out how to work the program. I hope to solve this issue by the end of the month.

Cat Care
Medications for Henry (Reglan 3-4x daily, pepsid 2x daily, Clavamox 2x daily)
Medications for my hyperthyroid girls (1 pill each, 2x daily)
I have to cut the pills for all the cats and for Henry I have to crush it and mix it with liquid, each time.
Grooming (Trim their claws & Brush them)
Clean the poo boxes
Pet, love and play with each one during which time I pay attention to the feel of their bodies, make sure things are as they should be.
Burp Henry, feed him by hand as necessary
Poppy gets one bottle a day still for emotional reasons (she needs the extra nurturing or she gets a little wild)

Divided between upstairs, downstairs and outside front and back.
The downstairs and backyard always have priority since these are the daycare areas.
I don't try to do it all in one day anymore and it's working well. I am taking a more Fly Lady approach to zones, but I don't have a specifically organized method. It's all according to the moment. If the day is nice when I'm outside with the kids then I'll fill one grocery sack full of weeds or prune the apple tree or sweep the patio.

If the kids are playing well, I'll pull out the vacuum and maybe swish and swipe the toilet downstairs. I save steaming the floors until the kids are gone.

You all know the challenges of housework, I have the same challenges.

I have a fencing lesson on Thursday and gymnastics on Tuesday and I don't miss these. I should be actually fencing on Monday nights for sure and Wednesday nights most of the time. Before I bought the house, this was easy. Now, I use this time for the house stuff.

I walk with the kids often, but I can only walk as fast and far as the slowest child since some have outgrown the stroller.

By the time I have Apple, this will all be a smooth-running machine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

31 Months...

...any guesses as to how much longer I'll be gestating, I mean, gestwaiting, oops, I mean JUST PLAIN WAITING!

There actually has been a bit of news. CCAA has a new director. The former director retired.

Honestly, though, this wait has been long, but it's gone by very fast and I've accomplished so much and still have so much more to do in order to be perfectly ready. Mostly the house and building up my daycare business. If you would, please pray for me that I will get my daycare spaces filled soon. Thank you!

Happy Fall

Henry's Breakthrough!

Today Henry had three major accomplishments, things healthy felines and feline owners take for granted.

1. I had a box laying on its side with the bottom removed and Henry zipped through it, into and around it.

2. He pounced ON Poppy and when they wrestled, he WON! He flipped her over and pinned her and stood up the victor. This has NEVER happened. Usually, she grabs the back of his neck or whatever bit of him she finds, in her teeth and he cries like a wimp. He's not a wimp; he just hasn't felt well so it really hurts him.

3. He stuck his head and front paws down into the cat toy basket to have a look. Until now he's avoided inverting himself.

Here's a video I took a few days ago when he was having a pretty bad day. He was bloated and really not feeling well and snuggled down between Sam and Velvet. Velvet started washing him on one side and when she was finished, Sam washed him on the other side. The, Merlin washed Sam's face while Velvet washed Sam's tail, but that's on Part 2 toward the end. You can see how many times Henry burps and regurges. That night he threw up on my bed and he felt a lot better. I increased his dose of Reglan and put him back on Clavamox and he was feeling much better by the end of the day.

This second video shows Sam washing Henry at the same time that Velvet is washing Sam, then Merlin washes Sam and at 3:35 minutes you can hear Henry purring.

Young & Restless in China Documentary

Frontline: Young & Restless in China

Follow the reality of the lives of 9 young Chinese people for four years as they follow their dreams, suffer disappointments and solve their dilemmas and hope for a good life.

This was a very moving documentary for me since it could represent the lives of any of our children's parents.

Friday, November 13, 2009

My Recipes & a Look at Modern Non-Foods

You will notice in my recipes that I use cans and cheese frequently. As we come into winter, my recipes change from fresh, seasonal foods, to casseroles, soups and other one-dish meals. Back in the "old days" people had farms with extensive gardens. The garden size was determined by how much food a family or community had to produce to feed everyone and the animals. All season long, the people ate off the land. Once fall came and the food was harvested, the canning began. Kitchens were full of women preparing food for storing for the long winter.

Ideally, I'd love to grow enough food to can to last me a whole season, but I don't have enough land. So I shop and read labels and buy cans of food with low salt and no added sugar. As much as possible, I add fresh ingredients or frozen.

If you live in an area where fresh food is available and affordable all year long, you can substitute canned ingredients for fresh.

I am also cooking for a daycare. This means that I have a strict budget to follow and only a certain amount of time to prepare meals. This prep time has to include clean up, too. I cannot leave the children for the amount of time it takes to prepare certain fresh foods and I'm not willing or able to sacrifice my evening hours doing so (though I still frequently do).

Switching gears now, let's look at modern non-meal non-foods. This is what I call things that have made their way from picnics and parties and special occasions to the dinner table. Here's a quick list of those I think of right off the top of my head:

Chips (all kinds, including Chee*tos, etc.)
Things that squirt out of cans or tubes
Bread-foods (crackers, pretzels, etc.)
Sweet beverages, fad coffee
Cereal in boxes made with tons of sugar and white flour

Ever see those Lunch*ables? They are a few crackers, some low-quality cheese and some chemical-laden bits of meat, tons of salt. This is a meal for a growing child?

Chips. Chips. Chips. Used to be an hors d'oeurvres, barely an appetizer, somethings to nibble while waiting for the barbeque or something in a bowl in a bar to make you thirsty so you'd buy a lot of drinks. Now we call them a side dish or snack.

Ball park food. My TuTu (grandmother) loved to go to Burger K*ng. She'd practically curl her toes in delite every time she bit into the Wh0pper Jr. She felt so bad, so free. Because "in her day," this was ball park food, something they were allowed only at a game. They NEVER saw a hamburger or hotdog on their supper table. Ever.

What are hotdogs? Really cheap sausage, imitating the really nice kind you find in, say, Germany. It is possible to find good quality meat in hotdogs these days, but you really have to hunt and pay for it.

What did kid food used to be, like in the 1950s? Liver and vegetables (spinach) and a glass of milk with an apple for dessert. What is it now? Instant mac&cheese, nuggets of "meat," chips and juice. How about breakfast? Oatmeal for breakfast, without sugar-syrup swirls and tons of sugar with mutilated oats, as in the packet kinds common these days.

Remember that boy from The Medicated Child? His lunch was a microwaved corn dog, Goldf*sh crackers, Gator&de and a cookie. I'm willing to bet that this was a "good" lunch for him since the TV people were there.

Why am I so stuck on nutrition right now? I actually always focus on it, I've just not shared to much before. I work with babies and kids every day. I talk with their parents every day. They look to me for guidance. They want to know what I feed their kids and they are often surprised. One mom actually consulted a nutritionist after I made a comment because she wanted to make sure she did the best by her child and she and her husband have turned the way they eat entirely around and it shows. I love making this difference. I am so proud of that mom because she took positive steps to improve the health of her entire family! This will be passed down to her kids and I'm even popping over to her blog for recipes now and sharing her cookbooks. I'm learning, too!

I focus on keeping myself fit and healthy. I will most likely be my daughter's only parent and I want to do all I can to give myself the best likelihood of being around for a good long time in her life. I want to be an active mom, to be able to romp and play with her, to take her to fun places like jump-houses, ice skating, etc. and participate with her. I want to set a good example for her to follow, too, because these are things she will pass on to her own children in the future.

Lastly, I love to cook. I love to experiment, to create. I love to eat. I love the way my house smells when I cook.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Two Recipes with a Fringe Benefit

These are two recipes taken from different sources and combined and changed to suit my tastes. The macaroni and cheese recipe has two different purees added, something I just tried for the first time after reading the book Deceptively Delicious, though the recipe is not one from the book. If you click on any picture, it will open much larger so you can see the details.

Sizzling Macaroni & Cheese

Elbow Macaroni (1 pound bag or box)
Milk (any variety, non-fat, low fat or regular)
1/4+ pound grated Cheddar Cheese (extra sharp, sharp or medium)

*Optional Ingredients: (these were GREAT!)
1/2 cup cauliflower puree (steamed caul. put in the blender)
1/2 cup pureed garbanzo beans (if canned, rinse first, then puree)
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp. Salt
Pepper to taste

*To make the purees, steam the cauliflower then put it in the blender or food processor. The garbanzos can be used right out of the can or you can boil your own, or simmer them in a mini crockpot like I do). Instead of these pree options, you can add a can of Cream of Mushroom Soup or Cheddar Soup, but your sodium level goes up dramatically.

Preheat oven to 375 F. Cook macaroni, drain, set aside. In the same hot pot that you cooked the macaroni in, over low/med heat, combine the purees and about 2 cups of milk, 2/3 the cheddar cheese (all but what you are going to use on top), garlic powder, salt and pepper. Keep watch so the milk doesn't bubble or burn. When it's melty and creamy, add all the macaroni. Fold it into the sauce. Add more milk if it doesn't look creamy enough. Turn into casserole dish, cover with cheese. If you don't see creaminess along the bottom of the sides of the dish, add more milk until you do. If you include the garbanzos, you will need about 3 cups of milk. If not, less. Bake uncovered until sizzling and golden on top.

Not quite creamy enough, I added another cup of milk.

Look along the bottom outside edge of the dish.
See the level of the creaminess?

Sizzling and Golden.
I usually leave it in the over a little longer, but I needed to go to bed!

The fringe benefit of making the purees for the Sizzling Macaroni & Cheese is that you get a lovely puree for babies. This is roughly 2 tbs. cauliflower, 1 tbs. carrots and 1 tbs. garbanzo bean purees. Alone it's very good, but I also added about 1 tbs. of apple puree (the red specks are the apple skin) to stretch it further and it tasted very good, too). Both babies ate this today and loved it.

Foolproof Quiche

2 1/2 tbs. melted butter
5 Eggs
1/4c flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4+ pound Jack Cheese - grated
1c cottage cheese (lowfat)
1 small can diced green chilis
2/3c chopped fresh tomato - optional

Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt the butter in a little dish. Using a spatula, dip it into the butter and spread on the bottom and sides of your 9x9 baking dish (or round quiche dish). This will brown the bottom of the quiche. Beat the eggs lightly. Combine the flour and baking powder then add to the eggs. Blend just a little with the spatula! Add the rest of the melted butter, chilis, and both cheeses and the tomatoes. Blend well. Bake at 400 F for 15 minutes then lower the oven temperature to 350 F for about 25-35 minutes or until golden.

The buttered dish.

Eggs, flour and baking powder just blended.

Ready for the oven.

Done! Actually, a tiny bit past done,
I was vacuuming and didn't hear the timer.

Where Were You When the Berlin Wall Came Down?

I was actually in the home of a German family who I frequently babysat for. We were all riveted to the TV screen as people cut through that wall with heavy machinery and large sections were made to tumble over while others sprayed graffiti on the wall, climbed it, etc...

I was only 20 years old but I knew exactly the significance of what was occurring and I was astounded that in my lifetime I saw that wall come down. I never thought I'd live to see it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time for a Henry Update

My little man is starting to be not so little any more. He now weighs 4 pounds 12.8 ounces!!! That is a gain of 8.2 ounces in just 12 days. To put it another way, he's gained half a pound in just 12 days!!! And that's with a small loss around Oct. 30. Let's here it for Reglan!!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Insurance for All? I Hope So

House passes health care bill on close vote
By DAVID ESPO, AP Special Correspondent David Espo, Ap Special Correspondent

The legislation would require most Americans to carry insurance and provide federal subsidies to those who otherwise could not afford it. Large companies would have to offer coverage to their employees. Both consumers and companies would be slapped with penalties if they defied the government's mandates.

Insurance industry practices such as denying coverage on the basis of pre-existing medical conditions would be banned, and insurers would no longer be able to charge higher premiums on the basis of gender or medical history. In a further slap, the industry would lose its exemption from federal antitrust restrictions on price fixing and market allocation.

At its core, the measure would create a federally regulated marketplace where consumers could shop for coverage. In the bill's most controversial provision, the government would sell insurance, although the Congressional Budget Office forecasts that premiums for it would be more expensive than for policies sold by private firms.

How Efficient & Organized!

In Europe, most swine flu shots by invitation only
By MARIA CHENG, AP Medical Writer Maria Cheng – Fri Nov 6, 2009

LONDON – In Britain, there are no long lines of people seeking swine flu vaccine. Doctor's offices aren't swamped with desperate calls. And there are no cries of injustice that the vaccine is going to wealthy corporations or healthy people who don't really need it.

Here, and across most of Europe, vaccine to protect against the pandemic flu is mostly given by invitation only to those at highest risk for flu complications.

"That is one of the great advantages of the British health system," said Dr. Steve Field, president of the Royal College of General Physicians. "We have a list of all the names of patients who qualify to be vaccinated."

When Britain unrolled its pandemic vaccination program last month, it designed its campaign to ensure that priority groups — including pregnant women, health workers and those with chronic health problems like diabetes, cancer and AIDS — get the shots first.

Instead of advertising that vaccine had arrived and waiting for the lines to form, Britain's National Health Service sent letters, inviting all those who qualify to make an appointment and get the shots first.

Field said Britain's socialized health care system allows the country to target people who need to be vaccinated quickly: "It's not like the U.S., where it's the survival of the fittest and the richest."

Just this week, Americans learned that Wall Street giants Goldman Sachs and Citigroup got swine flu vaccine, even as many doctor's offices and community clinics still had none. The companies obtained the vaccine through standard procedures, and it was targeted to employees who met criteria for vaccination. But the perception of unfairness set off an outcry.

In the United Kingdom, the general population will be offered the shot after priority groups have been taken care of, probably in about two months. For now, only children with health problems are a priority; healthy children are not.

Similar programs are being carried out in other European countries, all of which have socialized medicine:

• In Germany, doctors have also been contacting high-priority patients to come in for their swine flu shot, though other people who have asked for one have not been turned away.

• In Sweden, Denmark and Finland, some local governments are sending invitations to people in high-risk groups or posting information about vaccine availability on their Web sites.

• So far, France is only vaccinating health care workers. Its health minister said 6 million people in priority groups would start getting invitations to be vaccinated next week.

In North America, swine flu vaccination has largely been a free-for-all, although some U.S. states have recently beefed up their screening process to ensure pregnant women, children and people with health problems get shots before healthy older people.

In Canada, which has a form of socialized medicine, health officials began an investigation this week after professional hockey and basketball players got the vaccine ahead of thousands of children.

Another trend has also affected the trans-Atlantic vaccination picture: While Americans and Canadians appear to be clamoring for the vaccine, many Europeans appear indifferent.

Verona Hall, a London-based midwife, said that among her dozens of pregnant patients none has accepted the invitation to take the shot. The reluctance among pregnant women stems in part from fears the vaccine could hurt their babies, but other priority groups have also shown little interest in the flu shot.

Hall herself recently received a text message asking her to book an appointment to get the vaccine. She declined. "It just doesn't seem that serious here," she said. "Maybe if there are a lot more cases, more people will consider having it. But right now it isn't a priority."

British officials estimate there have been more than 600,000 swine flu cases since the virus was identified in April. In the U.S., experts say there have been millions.

In the U.S., the federal government is paying for the vaccine and rationing supplies to each state. Then state and local health departments decide where it goes next — from schools to doctor's offices to community health clinics and even some large companies with health directors.

On Thursday, the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wrote to local health departments, asking them to ensure the vaccine is getting to high-risk groups first. Dr. Thomas Frieden warned that decisions that appear to send vaccine beyond high-priority groups "have the potential to undermine the credibility of the program."

Lenny Marcus, a public health expert at Harvard University, said the anxiety among Americans about vaccine shortages may have a snowball effect.

Early on, U.S. officials predicted there would be 120 million vaccine doses available by October. They later slashed that estimate, and as of this week there were only about 38 million doses in the country.

"When people believe there's a shortage, that increases demand," Marcus said. "The images of people lining up for hours to get the vaccine, which is in short supply, has a big impact. ... Parents with kids may suddenly be desperate to get them immunized."

In contrast, there are no pictures in the British tabloids of crowded clinics. And the Department of Health won't reveal how many doses are available, saying only that enough vaccine to cover the entire population — 60 million people — had been ordered.

For now, the biggest problem confronting Britain's vaccination effort is not a shortage or public demand. In recent weeks, postal strikes have delayed delivery of about 35 million letters. Health officials worry that high-risk patients waiting for their swine flu vaccine invitation letters might never get them.

"The timing isn't great," said Field, adding doctors would also be telephoning or sending patients text messages if they qualified to get a swine flu vaccine. "So far we have not had a lot of terribly anxious people here."


Associated Press writers Kirsten Grieshaber in Berlin, Ian MacDougall in Oslo and Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.

Friday, November 6, 2009


I finally sewed something for the first time since moving into my new house. It's for Apple, of course, a very simple smock that I made from some pretty fabric scraps after making the pattern and grading it up a size for one of my daycare parents.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cookbook Review: Deceptively Delicious

This is the book I mentioned at the beginning of my previous post; it's by Jessica Seinfeld. I do still take exception to the belief that veggies must be hidden and that getting children to eat well is difficult, but I did like the recipes because they bolster the nutritional value of simple foods.

Today I made pancakes with sweet potato puree mixed in (also about 1/8 left-over banana, which was a GREAT combo with the sweet potato). I had three sweet potatoes and sliced them into about 1" thick slices, put them into my rice cooker/steamer for 30 minutes and they came out perfect. After they cooled a bit, I pureed them in the VitaMixer to smooth, creamy perfection like I've never seen. For the 1 yr. olds lunch, I mixed cottage cheese into the sweet potatoes and added a pinch of cinnamon. He LOVED this!

For the older kids, I made the pancakes. It was going to be quiche, but I misread the cooking time and ran out of time since I promised them a trip to the park today, so it was pancakes with the sweet potatoes mixed in with the batter. They loved it and so did I.

The next recipe I'm going to try in the book is homemade macaroni and cheese with cauliflower and white bean puree mixed with the cheese. I used to buy soy macaroni but can't find them anymore and I don't like the carbohydrate content of this dish so adding the bean will give it a great low-fat protein boost.

I love having purees on hand since I need to feed babies every day, but couldn't use them up fast enough, even frozen, because I only feed the babies one meal a day, and only 5 days a week. Now that I have some ideas for using them in my regular cooking, I'm looking forward to having a puree field day!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Unseen Veggie

A friend has loaned me a cookbook. I read the back cover and I'm already up-in-arms. Here's part of what I read with abbreviations added by me in parenthesis:

"As a mother of three, (J.S.), like many busy parents, used to struggle to get her kids to eat right. (In her cookbook) she shares her solutions: easy, mouthwatering recipes that even the most overwhelmed families can make - stealthily packed with unseen veggies, pureed so kids will never suspect."

Why is it a struggle to get normal "healthy" kids to eat right? Kids will eat what is available. Don't have junk available. Simplistic? Just try it!

Why hide the vegetables? When these kids grow up never seeing one, how are they going to know to puree them and stealthily pack them into their diets?

This summer in my new house, I planted tomatoes and two kinds of squash along with strawberries and, of course, my fruit trees were bountiful. I had to have a rule: Do not pick anything! Otherwise, my bounty would be eaten before I ever saw it. Even the kids who supposedly didn't like tomatoes loved them when they came off the plant. In fact, each day when let them out to play, the kids would check on how much growing and ripening had occurred and report to me, sort of like, "I see a red one. Do I get that red one for lunch?"

In my house we celebrate the vegetable and the fruit. I've taught the kids that they will grow strong and healthy when they eat right. They love the VitaMixer. When I get it out they are very interested in what delight they are about to receive. Squash in smoothie? They think that's normal. Because it is to them. What have you made the norm in your home?

If there is a strong and steady dislike to something, then I won't give that child that food. If a particular child has a lot of dislikes, then something is wrong and it needs to be addressed.

I recently had a child linger over her lunch. She's 2 1/2, the youngest of three girls. I asked her why she was taking so long and she said, "I don't eat those," and pointed to her peas. I didn't blink and replied, "Oh, well at my house you do." And she did, with a SMILE. Turned out she liked them, which most kids do, and I'll bet that next time she has them at her house she'll eat them.

Now our adopted children do have issues around food that stem from many things. Hopefully, adoptive parents have educated themselves on how best to recognize and deal with this special circumstance.

But right now I'm talking about the average American kid. If you find yourself struggling to get your kids to eat right, here are some suggestions:

1. Cut out snacks. A hungry child is more likely to eat a meal.
2. Toss out all junk food and replace it with the good stuff.
3. Junk is packaged conveniently, so package your good stuff conveniently in reusable containers.
4. No juice, with one exception, pure orange juice, only 2-4 oz. per day. PURE orange juice, not the fake tropical stuff.
5. Lots of water, but not late in the day.
6. Add snacks as needed once healthy eating habits are in place.
7. At meals, the veggies must be eaten before anything else. This works great on the reluctant ones. No seconds until all firsts are eaten.
8. Follow through!
9. Make treats special, like an ice cream date.
10. Be matter-of-fact, explain briefly that certain foods are good for us and others are not, and that some, in little bits, are special treats.

Here is my typical schedule for my daycare kids, 8 months to 4 years:

8:15am they arrive, already having had breakfast, usually oatmeal, the 8 mon old just had a bottle.

9:45am I mix the baby some cereal with real pureed fruit. The older baby, 12 mon., who already had cereal at home, gets a bottle.

10:15am Snack for the toddlers. It's usually something breadish and a piece of fruit, like wholewheat toast with melted cheddar cheese and 1/2 a banana or apple. They get 2-4 oz. of milk or orange juice or smoothie. Juice if they have cheese, milk if not. Sometimes they get 1/2 a natural cereal bar or a homemade muffin. Sometimes it's melon or another fruit, but it's basically bread-like and fruit.

10:30/11am and it's nap time for all.

I get them up around 1:30pm and it's potty, beds and bedding away, then lunch. Lunch is always balanced, usually with a lot of veggies. They get milk if they haven't had any and water if they have. So lunch really happens about 2pm. The young baby gets a bottle, the older baby a solid lunch with a bottle around 3:45pm.

No more snacks so as not to ruin dinner, but they get water when thirsty. If we are having an outing, I give a much more substantial snack and another one later, sort of like a two part lunch. If it's hot, they get a frozen yogurt/fruit snack made in the VitaMixer, this hydrates and replaces electrolytes.

Today's lunch was grilled cheese and apple/strawberry sauce. The bread is always wholewheat, not the soft fluffy stuff, but the real nice dense stuff, and the cheese is always real, nothing pre-sliced. The sauce was homemade using fresh apples and frozen strawberries. No veggie today because this was what I consider fastfood. Oh, crust is not wasted but eaten. Tomorrow they are having quiche.

Yesterday they had whole grain brown rice with quick beef stroganoff with peas. As a child this was and still is one of my favorite meals. I call it peas and meat sauce on rice. I'll post the recipe next time I make it so I can take pictures. The ingredients: ground beef, or turkey, peas (entire bag), can of mushroom soup, sour cream, worchestershire sauce, mustard, rice. No salt, the soup is more than salty enough.

Last week it was shepherd's pie. I guess I'll have to post that recipe later, too. This meal is super quick, but, admittedly, comes from cans or frozen veggies, but you can do fresh, too. Remember, I'm making lunches, not dinners, for a daycare, not my family, so I do take a few shortcuts, but not at the expense of health. Ingredients: green beans, tomato soup, ground beef or turkey, mashed potatoes, and cheddar cheese.

I guess in between we had homemade macaroni and cheese, a nice sizzling baked one, and broccoli.

The older baby ate everything ground up except the sandwiches. The macaroni for him was mostly broccoli and the stroganoff needed extra milk because the rice is binding, but the shepherd's pie turns into great babyfood all by itself.

In just a couple minutes, I found these links that I would use. I'd use some for snacks, but most as part of a lunch:

American Dietetic Association: Healthy Snack Recipes
American Heart Association - For Kids
Wholesome Babyfood

I am going to look at the cookbook that I mentioned above, but with an eye of using her ideas to fortify foods for my daughter, who may need extra nutrition for awhile. I'll leave you this from the American Heart Association:

Top 10 Ways to Help Children Develop Healthy Habits

1. Be a positive role model. If you’re practicing healthy habits, it’s a lot easier to convince children to do the same.

2. Get the whole family active. Plan times for everyone to get moving together. Take walks, ride bikes, go swimming, garden or just play hide-and-seek outside. Everyone will benefit from the exercise and the time together.

3. Limit TV, video game and computer time. These habits lead to a sedentary lifestyle and excessive snacking, which increase risks for obesity and cardiovascular disease.

4. Encourage physical activities that children really enjoy. Every child is unique. Let children experiment with different activities until each finds something that he or she really loves doing. They’ll stick with it longer if they love it.

5. Be supportive. Focus on the positive instead of the negative. Everyone likes to be praised for a job well done. Celebrate successes and help children and teens develop a good self-image.

6. Set specific goals and limits, such as one hour of physical activity a day or two desserts per week other than fruit. When goals are too abstract or limits too restrictive, the chance for success decreases.

7. Don’t reward children with food. Candy and snacks as a reward encourage bad habits. Find other ways to celebrate good behavior.

8. Make dinnertime a family time. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much. Get the kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.

9. Make a game of reading food labels. The whole family will learn what’s good for their health and be more conscious of what they eat. It’s a habit that helps change behavior for a lifetime.

10. Stay involved. Be an advocate for healthier children. Insist on good food choices at school. Make sure your children’s healthcare providers are monitoring cardiovascular indicators like BMI, blood pressure and cholesterol. Contact public officials on matters of the heart. Make your voice heard.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Support for Nutrition Against Depression

I saw this news headline yesterday and read it today:

"Processed Food Link to Depression: Research
Mon Nov 2, 10:54 am ET

LONDON (AFP) – A diet heavy in processed and fatty foods increases the risk of depression, according to research published on Monday.

Researchers at University College London also found that a diet including plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit and fish could help prevent the onset of depression.

They compared participants -- all civil servants -- who ate a diet largely based on "whole" foods with a second group who mainly ate fried food, processed meat, high-fat dairy products and sweetened desserts.

Taking into account other indicators of a healthy lifestyle such as not smoking and taking physical exercise, those who ate the whole foods had a 26 percent lower risk of depression than those who ate mainly processed foods.

People with a diet heavy in processed food had a 58 percent higher risk of depression.

The researchers put forward several explanations for the findings, which are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Firstly, the high level of antioxidants in fruits and vegetables could have a protective effect, as previous studies have shown higher antioxidant levels to be associated with a lower risk of depression.

Secondly, eating lots of fish may protect against depression because it contains high levels of the sort of polyunsaturated fatty acids which stimulate brain activity.

And they said it was possible that a "whole food" diet protects against depression because of the combined effect of consuming nutrients from lots of different types of food, rather than the effect of one single nutrient.

The researchers concluded: "Our research suggests that healthy eating policies will generate additional benefits to health and well-being, and that improving people's diet should be considered as a potential target for preventing depressive disorders."

The study was carried out on 3,486 people with an average age of 55, who worked for the civil service in London.

Each participant completed a questionnaire about their eating habits, and a self-assessment for depression."


Of course this is NO suprise, is it? Again, a model of good healthy living helps prevent illness - any kind of illness! Now, does this article lend more weight to what I said in THIS post?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Sick Around the World

This Frontline PBS documentary was very informative and can be viewed online HERE. It's a look at medical care systems in five countries: Great Britain, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, and Taiwan. Each system is slightly to greatly different, but each has three elements in common. These three crucial elements are the stumbling blocks in America where we tend to want our own piece of the pie, forget sharing the pie with the others. The following is an excerpt from the program's transcript, which is available online HERE...

"T.R. REID: What I've found is that it's not all "socialized medicine" out there. Many countries provide universal coverage with private insurance, private doctors, private hospitals, using market ideas that might work for us.

But here's the thing. These capitalist countries don't trust health care entirely to the free market. They all impose limits.

There are three big ones. First, insurance companies must accept everyone and can't make a profit on basic care. Second, everybody's mandated to buy insurance, and the government pays the premium for the poor. Third, doctors and hospitals have to accept one standard set of fixed prices.

Can Americans accept ideas like that?

Well, the fact is these foreign health care ideas aren't really so foreign to us. For American veterans, health care is just like Britain's NHS. For seniors on Medicare, we're Taiwan. For working Americans with insurance, we're Germany. And for the tens of million without health insurance, we're just another poor country."

Let's look at those three things up close.

1. Insurance companies must accept everyone and can't make a profit on basic care.

This means that you cannot be denied coverage if you have a pre-existing condition. It also means that they are essentially non-profit. They can profit from elective care, for instance, cosmetic surgery not related to an injury, condition or defect.

2. Everybody's mandated to buy insurance, and the government pays the premium for the poor.

American's don't like to be "mandated" to do anything. We feel threatened by it; sense a loss of freedom. Well, we are mandated to pay taxes and we're paying through the nose and not getting much. My state can't manage money to save it's life. Our roads are pretty bad, at least in my area, our schools are pretty bad (compared to other industrialized nations), we don't have universal health coverage, thousands of children die each year in America do to basic neglect, etc...

What if the amount we're "mandated" to pay was actually less than what you pay now? What if it meant that you can never go bankrupt due to medical bills? Each of the five countries listed above think it's scandalous for anyone to go bankrupt due to medical bills; it's unheard of in their countries! Yet thousands and thousands of people in America are losing their homes DAILY because they can't pay their medical bills.

An overnight hospital stay in Japan costs just $10, $90 for a private room. Now, it is true that in these five countries, hospitals are in the red. But guess what? Hospitals in America are, too, and many are closing! The difference? We are spending a TON of money and we're in this condition. The other countries are spending far less. But, the quality of care is equal or greater in the five other countries!

3. Doctors and hospitals have to accept one standard set of fixed prices.

This one would really sting American doctors and hospitals because they are, after all, businesses, and want to make a profit. What was that? Yes, doctors and hospitals in America PROFIT FROM OUR ILLNESS! Hello, where is the incentive in that to practice preventative medicine!!!

But, guess what? By the time you take out administrative costs and malpractice insurance costs in the U.S. model, the doctors make about the same as the doctors in these other countries!

"A family doctor (in Germany) makes around $120,000 a year, about two thirds of what she'd earn in the U.S. But then, she has a lot lower overhead. Her malpractice premium is just $1,400 dollars a year, about a tenth of what she would pay in the U.S. And medical school didn't cost her a penny."

Simple facts:

1. Doctors in the U.K. are paid a bonus for keeping their patients healthy.

"...So when Dr. Badat does a good job of caring for patients with diabetes and heart disease, he gets paid more. How much more? (AHMED BADAT, M.D., "It works out about 90,000 pounds.") So that's increasing your salary by $180,000 a year. ...The result, Britain has become a world leader in preventive medicine."

2. The U.S. spends 16% to 24% or more on administrative costs. These other countries spend 6% to 8%!

"High-tech Taiwan designed its new health system using state-of-the-art information technology. Everybody here has to have a smart card like this to go to the doctor. The doc puts it in a reader, and the patient's history, medications, et cetera, all show up on the screen. And then the bill goes directly to the government insurance office and is paid automatically.

So Taiwan has the lowest administrative costs in world, less than 2 percent. Compare that to the endless paperwork and all the denied claims we get with for-profit U.S. health insurance.

The smart card can also be used in other ways.

TSUNG-MEI CHENG: If a patient goes to see a doctor or hospital over 20 times a month, or 50 times in a three-month period, then the IT picks that person out and then gets a visit from the government, the Bureau of National Health Insurance, and they have a little chat. And this works very well.

T.R. REID: That may be too much like Big Brother to get by in the U.S., but surveys show the Taiwanese are highly satisfied with their health care.

[on camera] How many people in Taiwan every year go bankrupt because of medical bills?


3. The American health care system is not really a system. It's a market.

On a personal note. Several years ago I had a bad case of the flu. I got dehydrated. When one is severely dehydrated, their gut cramps up like crazy and it's very painful. I had a friend take me to the ER at my local hospital (Northern California). I did not have insurance at that time. My treatment was this:

Vital signs taken
Blood/urine taken and run through the lab
2 bags IV ringers lactate
1 potassium pill
1 dose IV anti-nausea
1 dose IV morphine

The bill totalled over $4,000!

About four years later, still without insurance, I was in the desert and found myself dehydrated again. I went to the ER at the local hospital, which was in the middle of the Mojave Desert in Southern California. I had the same treatment and my bill was $500.

Another personal example of our strange insurance workings... When I began my adoption, I had to prove I had medical insurance and could provide it for Apple. I bought Kaiser at $176 per month. I was 37 yrs. old at that time, I'm physically fit, don't smoke or drink or have any health problems requiring medical intervention. I've never had surgery. For nearly two years I didn't even use the insurance and then I finally went for my "womanly check-up." All was well. When I turned 40, my insurance automatically increased to $256 per month! It will continue to increase as I grow older, regardless of how much money I make or how healthy I am.

We all have experiences and stories like this. You might even know someone who lost their home due to medical costs, or other outlandish situations. You might be a health care provider struggling to give your patients quality care, begging insurance companies to pay for certain life-saving procedures or treatments. My challenge on this front is to educate yourselves so that when you have the opportunity to affect change, you can do it fully informed!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Nanny Sam

Sammy takes great care of the kittens.
I half expect him to roll belly-up and start trying to nurse them!
He gives Henry a bath every day and Henry knows this and has learned to approach with his head down like he's bowing.

Poppy and Sam, taken Oct. 28, 2009. Poppy's got green eyes now.

Remember this? Poppy and Sam on June 21, 2009.

Happy Halloween 2009

Halloween was pretty fun this year. Of course it was my first in my new home, but what made it special was that my neighbor from my old apartment came over, and my best friend and her parents, and we all sat and watched the parade of children and handed out candy. The weather was perfect, but got a bit nippy towards the end. There was no way I was inviting kids in cumbersome costumes and masks to come up my stairs so I came down and it was great.

Henry chose his own costume this year.
Turns out it was a very popular one with a lot of little boys.

My neighbors told me to have 1000 pieces of candy but my budget stopped around 600. I was jumping on my trampoline in broad daylight, well, late afternoon/early evening, when I spied the first trick o' treater across the street and she spied me. I quickly went inside and changed and started getting the lights up. The little girl made it to the end of the street and across and to my house and when I came down with the candy she had huge eyes and said, "Trampoline!" instead of trick o' treat. It was too funny. So, I began handing out the candy just before 6pm and stopped at around 8:30pm or so. I went through all of my candy and a bag that my neighbor gave me. They were very sweet thinking I'd never done anything like this before. I had, but this was the most kids I'd seen, though I expected it since I now live on a main street.

My former neighbor and I decided that this would be our new tradition, that she'd come over to my place next year and we'd do this again. She mentioned that she'd also bring some candy next year. I'm happy to say that the kids who came almost always said "trick o' treat" and "thank you." Many kids and parents wish me a Happy Halloween, too. It's so much more enjoyable when I know the kids appreciate and enjoy the festivities.