Tag Archive: parenting

The Grantham menace: I can’t quit you, ‘Downton Abbey’

Does Julian Fellowes use his cell or his landline when he phones in “Downton Abbey” each week?

Last night’s episode on PBS was markedly better than the season premiere, as I didn’t find myself coming up with ideas for new drinking games to get me through the experience.  (more…)

Bathe yourself in divine lighting

There are some new mirrors on the market that make you look like you’re well, Jesus Christ. And, much like him (according to some reports), they are everywhere at once.

At first, I was excited to see these frames that evoke a medieval or renaissance look. They’re in pretty much every store that sells anything vaguely decorative.

“Gee, that sacred mirror would look swell in my dining room!”

But then it dawned on me that it looked like any user would look like, well, an aspiring deity. (As far as I know, even Kim Kardashian has not made it to that level yet.)

According to Wikipedia, halos reportedly went out of fashion by the 19th century in Western art, but they’re back, baby. It’s the ultimate DIY project, and just perfect for the Internet:

“How to look divine in two easy steps.”

“You won’t believe this new saint life-hack!”

“I went to Crate and Barrel, and you won’t believe how holy I look now.”

So, despite the kooky “Game of Thrones” vibe they might give to an otherwise drab dining room or ungodly bathroom, I passed on getting a mirror.

I don’t need my already confident kids to get heads that big.

It’s probably somewhere in the kid manual that they not view themselves with halos at all times.

He’s making the world a better place, one M&M at a time

In case you haven’t heard, five-year-olds get homework now.

Yes, actual homework, the likes of which a 1977 kindergartner never saw. (She was too busy walking to school alone, breathing in leaded gasoline and avoiding cars on the road with doors tied on with twine.)

This week, my son’s homework includes writing a new year’s resolution. I found it amusing since my own resolution was already broken by Jan. 4. Yes, I got that far, and I’m quite proud.

I thought this assignment was a great exercise for him to think about all the (more…)

Mommy talks about fog a lot  

As I was driving along this morning on a busy street, I saw that a parked car was ahead in my lane. There was enough room, so I decided to merge into the next lane.

The lady at the wheel decided she was going to have none of that and sped up. To which I said, “Why are you fuh- …”

Oops, stop there. I didn’t actually say it, but I was close. And who did I have in the back seat but an eager 8-year-old, who wanted to know more. “Did you just say the F-word?”

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Top 10 questions about Santa you’re afraid your kid will ask

1. How does Santa get all those gifts all over the world in one night? I don’t believe the toys use little umbrellas to fly down, like on “Rudolph.” 

You know, it, um, happens. Like … magic. Yeah, magic. And aren’t you glad it does all work out?

You like getting the toys, right? I wouldn’t want anything to … happen … to slow Santa down, or impede him in his … mission. It would be a shame if you got in his way with these questions.

Do we have an understanding here?

2. Why does he look different sometimes? Why was he wearing a fake beard when I last saw him?

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Merry whatever — here’s your card from my delightful family

It’s December, so it’s time to put together some sort of stock greeting card with pictures of my kids on it so people don’t think we don’t love them anymore. The kids, that is.

 

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He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice … well, OK, that’s not true

“We’re trying to prove that Santa is not real!”

Oh, really? “Why would you do that?”

“Because the reindeer don’t die. Because he doesn’t die. How does he even stay alive for so long?”

Um, I don’t know, buddy. How is it that you’re 8 and still believe this stuff? And why don’t you ask me directly if he’s real or not?

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Sit down! This is P.E.

Twice this year, I received notes home that informed me that my child had refused to sit still and listen during his P.E. class. You know, GYM class.

The time when our children are supposed to get a state-mandated amount of running-around time at school, lest they grow up to be morbidly obese people who, say, sit still and listen all day. (And maybe work in five hours of TV, too.)

I know disciplining grade-school kids can be really tough for teachers, and I know my child is no angel, but I am pretty sure he’s entitled, by law, to be as active as he can be when it comes time to go to a course that exists so that children will grow up to be as active as they can be.

It’s his fourth year in school, and we’ve never had anything other than glowing reports. But this year, there is a new emphasis at his school on listening to painstakingly detailed game rules and practicing drills.

As one very talented soccer fanatic boy I know recently shared, “They actually found a way to make soccer boring!”

Are teachers now so attentive to getting our kids into shape that they are implementing rules and curricula that make it necessary for kids to hear lectures about how fitness is awesome, while getting almost no opportunity to get physically fit?

What a mistake. To sit and listen in their academic classes, kids need time to run like banshees. Or they’re going to be pure terrors when they get back to reading and math.

The solution? “If he won’t sit still,” I wrote, “you could try having him run around first.”

I’d love to hear what’s going on in other P.E. classes. What are your thoughts?

 

Frozen yogurt: This just got real

Nothing sets off my inner copy editor like a cheerful, brightly colored sign full of advertising nonsense.

And grammatical errors. (Oh, how I love to find those grammatical errors.)

“We use REAL ingredients because it’s better for you.”

(First off, is Menchie’s trying to tell us that its ingredients are better for us? In that case, the subject it was looking for is “they.” The ingredients are a “they,” not an “it.” Of course, this presumes that Menchie’s was not simply using an unclear antecedent in the signs that were posted at stores this fall.)

And I am glad to hear that the ingredients are real, and thus do in fact exist. I do hate when I buy food that is a figment of my imagination.

The company clearly wants to tell us that it uses “real ingredients.” Real ingredients as opposed to fake ingredients, I suppose. One could assume that if the ingredients are fake, that they do not in fact exist. Saying that an ingredient is “real” doesn’t give us a whole lot of evidence about what kind of ingredient it is. Just merely that it’s in there, and that it has, um, matter.

Most people will be excited by that and assume that this unregulated and meaningless term “REAL” means that the ingredients are “pure ” (another term meaning nothing), or from organic milk, or more healthful than other kinds of frozen yogurt.

You see, Menchie’s never actually does make that claim, in a legal sense. But the company’s chest-pounding about realness sure does make you feel like you must be doing something healthy as you eat your candy-covered frozen dessert.

But any ingredient that is present in any concoction, anywhere, is “real.”

Even, if it’s, say, artificial flavors. Yup, they are in there. Up near the top of the list for the flavor cinnayumm bun. “Natural & artificial flavors” are on there, right next to modified food starch — perhaps another favorite of the crowd looking for real, healthful ingredients?

These are listed before the third last ingredient, which is … artificial flavor. Apparently, Menchie’s stuff is so real they had to put in artificial flavors twice, in two separate listings.

But I have to give the chain a break, because the company wasn’t making a claim that really goes against any laws. Menchie’s was simply stretching the boundaries of language, and praising the virtues of a product that does, in fact, exist.

Unless, that is, the company wants to make us believe that frozen yogurt flavors full of artificial flavors and covered in commercially produced candy are in fact, from nature (you know, REAL ingredients).

Now that might be misleading.

After all, Menchie’s only said it uses real ingredients. Not that all of its ingredients are real.

Did you read that sign wrong?

Comments welcome.

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Cinnayumm bun ingredients:

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/195 

Here are ingredients for the flavor pineapple cake, which bears an impressive badge telling us it contains “real pineapple cake batter.” The ingredients also list the very real “natural & artificial flavors” and later, “natural & artificial flavor,” as well as Yellow Lake 6 and Yellow Lake 5. All real. (On another day, I will discuss how natural flavor is no guarantee of anything close to nature, either.)

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/231

The flavor harvest pumpkin boasts natural & artificial flavors, as well as the very real food colorings Yellow 5, Red 40 and Yellow 6:

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/213

Trick-or-cheaters: It’s chocolate, now with less chocolate!

Halloween is a time when we let go of long-held standards such as “no candy bars for breakfast” and “no slasher-movie imagery for 18-month-olds.”

And most parents look the other way when another parent steals all of a child’s Almond Joys and pilfers a Twix or two.

But you might want to think twice before sharing in your kids’ take, or letting the kids eat it, because this stuff isn’t entirely made of food anymore.

Some major chocolate brands have taken out the cocoa butter and replaced it with … well, the derivative of a product that sometimes serves as a laxative (like those times Mussolini used it as a way to torture, embarrass and occasionally kill prisoners) or an outright poison, like when it’s used to make ricin, Walter White’s poison of choice on “Breaking Bad.”

Do you want food that comes in close proximity to it? It is made from the very useful castor bean plant, which is widely considered one of the most dangerous plants in the world, and also makes really nifty biodiesel and lubricates machines and engines well. This exciting ingredient is called PGPR, Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate. (See? It even has ricin in the name.)

The FDA knows about it, and deems it all OK. PGPR didn’t kill any rats or give them cancer in the 1950s and 1960s. (And we know how advanced detection of rat cancer must have been in the 1950s and 1960s.) It also helps manufacturers use more soy lecithin. If we eat more of this filler, candy companies can have a better bottom line, and we’ll get less … cocoa butter. I love when companies remove a major component of an item and sell it to me with less of it. Don’t you?

That’s OK, right? You may enjoy eating a viscous, yellow product you would never even touch as a raw ingredient so the company can alter the candy’s thickness for less. And then they can leave out those pesky ingredients that occur naturally in chocolate production, like cocoa butter, that are just so expensive and gooey and hard to use for the beleaguered chocolate company. Wouldn’t you rather they got some extra money by selling off that ingredient to cosmetic companies for other products, rather than giving you the stuff you think you’re already paying for and eating?

On its Web site, Hershey’s explains that it uses PGPR “to improve processing characteristics of chocolate.” It also helps in molding chocolate. Right. Because we know that there were such difficulties with that before 2006, when Hershey’s altered the formula by giving us less cocoa product — and more chemicals that had to be studied in many labs so companies would know how much they could safely feed to us.

It makes you think. How did Hershey’s ever manage to mold chocolate for the 106 years before that? It couldn’t have been that difficult.

It’s merely more expensive.

Hey, chocolate makers: How about you not add products that are fantastic for greasing engines to your products without checking with us first, OK? Maybe you could add a little tag that says “Now, with even more emulsifiers!” or “Rich in ricin derivatives.”

I suppose it is reassuring that the FDA has labeled PGPR as GRAS, Generally Regarded as Safe. An even better idea might be to lobby to change that label to “Generally Regarded as Chocolate.” You know, generally. Or “Now! Even more like chocolate!”

That might be a good distinction to make, since studies that say that chocolate has great health-enhancing qualities all count on it being, you know, made from actual chocolate and actual cocoa butter, and not just the FDA legal minimum of each, along with a substance created in a lab.

As usual, my mother was horrified to hear the news about this quiet switcheroo. “Why are theyputting that in there?”

As usual, the answer was not uplifting. “Because it’s cheaper,” I told her. “Because they can.”

And, finally, they can do this because only a few buyers are reading ingredient labels and asking questions. If you see an acronym, look it up. You may not like what you find.

Some products that do contain PGPR:
Hershey’s
Hershey’s with Almonds
Mr. Goodbar
Krackel
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
KitKat
Twix
Cadbury Fruit & Nut
Cadbury Dairy Milk

Some products that don’t contain PGPR:
Nestle Crunch
Butterfinger
M&M’s
Hershey’s Kisses
3 Musketeers
Theo chocolates
Newman’s Own
Ghirardelli
Lindt

Previously posted on my consumer protection blog, The Old Shoe (oldshoemag.com)

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