Milk_04_2Dear Horizon Organic,

Thanks to America's popular growth-hormone scare, Freelance Mom has us buying exclusively organic whole milk for Little Guy these days, despite the fact that it costs 75% more than the stuff we were raised on (and still drink), so we frequently pick up your products at our local grocery. Now, we know that you boys love America's children, its cows, and its environment, but we've got a pair of gripes, both packaging-related, that we'd like you to see if you can't address:

1. We appreciate that you're probably accomplishing six kinds of reducing and reusing by intentionally making your half-gallon cartons as flimsy as possible without actually dispensing the product to us in funnel-shaped newspapers, but here's the thing: If the carton leaks, then the milk spills out, or goes bad quickly, or, worse, needs to be transferred into a glass container that will eventually need to be washed, using up vital natural resources. Further, when a consumer encounters one of your leaky cartons, as this one does on about a weekly basis, he's much more likely to crumple it up and shove it in the trash in a burst of righteous fury than to properly rinse and recycle it. So, all things considered, it'd probably be better if you used cartons that can, you know, hold liquid.

2. We love a good prank as much as the next guy, but when we bought a plastic gallon container of Horizon Organic labeled "Milk" the other day, we naturally assumed it was whole milk, which is what the toddler drinks, because the label DIDN'T say "Non-fat," "Skim," "1%," or "2%." Last time we checked, the Geneva Convention for Dairy Labeling stipulated that whole milk and ONLY whole milk should be sold in containers labeled plainly "Milk." So imagine our surprise the next morning when we took the container out of the fridge to pour Little Guy a bottle and found, in tiny yellow letters on the back "Nutritional Information" label, "THIS IS NONFAT MILK." Horizon, is this something you do every once in a while just to amuse yourselves—teasing the consumer because you know that any single grocery probably sells only one brand of organic milk and if a family's all a-scared of the hormones, they're going to purchase your goods no matter how cruelly you mislabel them? We think that's likely, so don't forget the old saying, "Fool us once, we buy another brand."


We've noted many times that autism-related issues are not our expertise, but we feel it's worth passing on potentially significant news reports when they come along. And so this item from the AP the other day:

Autism cases in California continued to climb even after a mercury-based vaccine preservative that some people blame for the neurological disorder was removed from routine childhood shots, a study has found. . . Doctors said that the latest study added to the evidence against a link between thimerosal exposure and the risk of autism and that it should reassure parents that vaccinations do not cause autism. If there was a risk, the doctors said, autism rates should have dropped from 2004 to 2007.

In a related story, despite emotional protests from parents of autistic children, the state of New Jersey is likely to mandate that all children who attend preschool or day care in the state be given an annual flu shot.


H_frontline_2If anyone out there made it to the end of "The Medicated Child," this week's "Frontline" special on the rise of AD/HD diagnoses and psychotropic prescriptions in children, please fill us in on how it all turned out, because we had to turn it off in a cold sweat about 15 minutes in. This is honestly terrifying television for any parent. Watching as the producers track both skeptical and credulous moms and dads on their parallel, inevitable journeys into the heart of pharmaceutical darkness is eerie and tragic and one hopes the program will inspire more parents and policy-makers to ask tougher questions about the use of antpsychotics on pre-psychotics.

You can watch the full program online—and you should. Online, it's broken up into chapters so you can take a break between segments and, you know, watch an Andy Griffith rerun or something to soothe your nerves before diving back in. The Frontline site also has a scrupulously responsible "Parents' Guide" well worth a few minutes of your time if you've ever worried that it was time your child got with the program, stepped up, and collected his diagnosis and psychotropics.


The active video games played on the Nintendo Wii console may provide more exercise than its Microsoft rival the Xbox 360, a small British study has found, but they are not a substitute for the real thing. Researchers studied six boys and five girls ages 13 to 15 . . . . At rest, the children expended an average of about 72 calories per hour. Playing the Xbox game increased the average to 107. Wii tennis consumed 179 calories per hour, and Wii boxing 174 — both significant increases over the Xbox game. But a game of doubles tennis in the real world used 318 calories per hour, and punching a boxing bag 382. . . . “Wii gaming actually turns over more energy than sedentary gaming, but not as much as authentic sports,” said Gareth Stratton, a co-author of the study.


Yunice Kotake's twin daughters in San Bruno, Calif., would be fast friends with Little Guy. Ms. K recently purchased a Fisher-Price "Knows Your Name" Dora Cell Phone for the girls, she told the Times, but:

. . . a few days later, she returned the play phone to a local Toys “R” Us, after she found that the girls seemed to prefer their parents’ actual phones. “They know what a real cellphone is, and they don’t want a fake one,” Ms. Kotake said.

This is not a groundbreaking revelation, but it seems to take children about four months to figure out that there's a vast difference between their bulky, primary-color play phones and mom and dad's sleek silver Palms and Pods. In fact, Litte Guy has developed a very special Sixth Sense, albeit one that's vastly less spooky than the kid in the Bruce Willis picture had: He finds hidden remotes.


A musical based on “The Diary of a Young Girl” by Anne Frank is to open next month at the Calderon Theater in Madrid . . . . It is adapted from the account written while Anne and her family hid from the Nazis in Amsterdam during World War II. Jan Erik Dubbelman, who heads the international department of the foundation, said: “This production respects the message of tolerance, within the tragedy, that we want to keep alive.”

We just hope there's not going to be a chorus line of Dutch collaborators high-stepping outside the window of the Secret Annex while singing, to the tune of "Be Our Guest":

    She's up there!
    She's up there!
    Put our theory to the test
    Grab yoursleves a blunderbuss, Herren,
    and we'll provide your guest!


We've already vented at length in this space about the intellectually dishonest school "grades" the NYC Dept. of Ed foisted on an unsuspecting public last month. But here's another example of the contempt the department's leaders have for its parent constituents and the educators who serve them:

James S. Liebman, the schools’ chief accountability officer and the architect of the report cards, said that he welcomed the dialogue. “I have a number of e-mails that start with, ‘How could my school get this grade?’” he said in an interview. “And that’s exactly the right question.”


At this point, it isn't news that a lack of sleep has a direct correlation to childhood (and grown-up) obesity. But note anyway the conclusion drawn by this study, which found that "[a]fter controlling for sex, race, maternal education, sleep problems like nightmares and other variables . . . for every hour that sleep time declined over the three years, children were about 40 percent more likely to be overweight":

The protective effect came mostly from earlier bedtimes rather than later wake times.

You know what that means, don't you, moms and dads? That's right: It's on you. Get 'em ready for bed and get 'em into bed, if you want them to retain their sleek 5T figure.

Although it's tough when you're up against the likes of Fellow and Tiny. Here's a story: The other morning, we decided to be nice to the kids and drop a couple of candies in their lunchboxes. Checking the "snack bag," we found the sandwich bag where he had put a trio of leftover packs of Chanukah gelt a couple of weeks back. But now they were gone. Odd, that. Later in the morning, in our own bedroom, we found a pile of familiar gold wrappers in the trash can. When interrogated, Fellow—confident (as it turns out, rightly so) that his ingenuity would trump our desire to punish him so long after the fact—freely admitted that he had secreted the candies in his room the day before and then shared his booty with his little sister after we leff them in bed. Though we shouldn't have been too upset, he advised us, because he had re-brushed his teeth after devouring the sweets . . .

Img_0077It's been said that we're sometimes a little hard on Small Fellow on these pages, but we're truly quite fond of the boy, and sometimes even proud. To wit: We've been shlepping him to chess tournaments around the neighborhood for a year-and-a-half, watching him consistently win about half his games, eagerly awaiting a breakthrough that would put him in trophy contention. Well, this past Sunday, he finally did in fact win all four  games he played, equaling the best record of the day in his K-3 group, though finishing in third place after tiebreakers (based on the relative strength of opponents played by the players who registered perfect scores). And for all his loudly expressed hopes of winning all four games earlier in the day, when it came time to claim trophies, he was actually much cooler about it than we were. Truth be told, we were pretty much a bawling mess by that point. But we did manage to snap this photo of Fellow with his individual trophy and his team's first-place plaque.

January 10, 2008 | Permalink | Subscribe to RSS


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