Coco and calf have fun and games

The term free range child conjures up images of children running through fields of gentle white daisies and friendly cows (no mad cow stuff here!) with the smell of Jasmine softly beckoning – all in idyllic slow motion, of course.  And, of course, the free range child would have a free range mom who is in another field painting a master piece and humming away calmly to herself. She would never look up, she would never stop to go and check on her children.  Why would  she?  Hers is a perfect world where fear and evil have no place.  She trusts that all will be OK

CUT to my life…..picture my 3 beautiful children running through a field of daisies, wind in their hair, sun on their faces. Look a hundred meters to your right and you’ll see a tall figure in head to toe camouflage, kitted out with the latest technology in night vision, tracking devices and binoculars and you’ll know that that would be me – Sergeant ‘I’m in Charge’, Head of Security of the Kids Brigade.  The Me that swore I would give my children free reign to “develop” and “grow” themselves, the Me that thought I would be such a relaxed mom.  The me that, well didn’t actually materialise.

It has helped that we live in an idyllic small town where everybody knows each other (and their business!) pretty well.  It does help too that we tend to walk everywhere as most shops and the local school are within walking distance.  I sometimes let my son walk to his friend around the corner and to school on his own…but this does not come naturally – I worry until I know he is there (there are as many if not more moms-with-a-mission on their cell phones as there are psychopathically drunk drivers).

So, I concede the title of free range to the freer and braver moms out there and have found a term that more aptly fits my parenting style.  No, I didn’t consider DE Ranged Mama or Control Freak.  I will accept down to earth mom, though, for while I cannot let my children wander around our village to their hearts content, I can do the following:

  • teach them to be true to themselves and their dreams
  • accept them just as they are
  • teach them to live in love and not fear
  • teach them to accept and love themselves exactly as they are
  • teach them to  revere their differences and tolerate the difference in others.
  • teach them to lead with their hearts and everything else will fall into place.

So, sadly, the only free range stuff going on at our house is the 6 free range  chickens, 4 ducks and a calf  in the backyard.


Campaign for Safe Cosmetics : Pretty Scary: Heavy Metals in Face Paints.

Don’t put your hand in your mouth after a trip to McDonalds.  Cancer-linked BPA in Store Receipts.

Mmmm, the plot thickens….Another study links autism to vaccines.

As informed parents we tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to our children and their health (ok, ok hysterical caution at times!) . Well, that scenario implies that one is generally informed. I know I have major trust issues but even I assume that everyone, like me, has my child’s best interests at heart. In advertising we were taught never to assume anything as assumption courted danger. 

Well, did you know that a lot of the toys that we buy for our beloved kiddy- noos contain  lead, arsenic, mercury, pthhalates and other chemicals that are not only harmful but can actually kill a child? I certainly did not because, funnily enough, I don’t think they include this information on the label/tag. Which parent in their right mind would buy a toy that says WARNING: Contains enough lead to kill a child? (OK, OK we all know at least one…) Fact is, children’s bodies are far more susceptable to toxins, and even small amounts of a chemical or a mixture of chemicals can have an adverse effect on their health. I had  heard about BPA (Bis-phenal A) in baby bottles and other plastic paraphernalia, harmful chemicals in some paints and then the awful chemicals in shampoos, soaps, cleaning agents etc.  But I was flabbergasted when I read about what our toys contain….

Various tests on toys have been done and the Ecology Centre tested 1,500 toys in December 2008 and one out of three toys contained potentially harmful levels of toxic chemicals. It is believed that after the Consumer Product Safety Modernization Act was passed in February 2009 limiting (but not banning!) the amount of toxic chemicals used in children’s products, less toys out there are harmful, but how do we know for sure? Anyway, that’s in the States – I checked the laws in South Africa and there are very few deterrents to bringing harmful toys into the country. So, the laws don’t protect us and we can’t “see” what a toy consists of – so who do we trust – the integrity of manufacturers? Before you answer, note that a number of toys that tested positive in the tests were from huge toy companies and household brand names…Mattel, Barbie, Hannah Montanna…

More research done by a company in India in 2008 showed that almost all the toys coming into India from China and particularly Taiwan contained toxic chemical substances.  Only 2 out of the 19 toys tested were not known brands. Taiwan and China are known for their lack of regulatory laws when it comes to controlling harmful substances in toys.

Some interesting facts:

  • Toxins such as lead are five times as likely to be found in children’s jewellery as any other children’s products.
  • Children’s toys carrying the Barbie and Disney logos had high levels of lead in them according to a California based advocacy group.
  • PVC containing phthalates in toys for children under 5 was banned in Denmark and a host of other countries  (Austria, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Norway, and Sweden) based on research  done in Denmark in the 1990’s using 10 000 children.  The study directly linked an increase in allergies and asthma to the amount of phthalates found in house dust.
  • Children under 3 are more exposed to these harmful chemicals because they suck and “mouth” most of their toys.  Also, their metabolic, endocrine and reproductive systems are immature and therefore particularly vulnerable to chemicals.

Do not buy toys containing the following ingredients (if you are unsure – stay clear!)

Pthalates are a range of organic liquid chemicals (often colourless and odourless) produced from petrochemicals essentially to make plastic (particularly PVC) more flexible and pliable eg. toy ducks and teething rings.  There are a host of different kinds of Pthalates of which 6 are considered to be harmful. Exposure to phthalates can damage reproductive systems, trigger asthma and allergies and impair lung functioning.  They have also been linked to pre-term birth in humans.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is one of the most widely used synthetic materials and is highly hazardous.  It’s entire lifecycle is toxic from production to elimination. Piping, flooring, windows, electrical insulation, toys, medical equipment (such as IVs used in neonatal units!), cloth and paper coating and some packaging amongst other things are just some of the things PVC is used for. PVC is a known carcinogen and a number of “green” groups are trying to have PVC banned.  Most flexible, soft plastic toys are made from PVC and are toxic when mouthed or when heated (like in the bath). Some PVC products show the number 3 used by the SPI resin identification coding system used to identify polymer types. 90% of all phthalates are used in PVC.

Arsenic is a natural extremely poisonous substance that has numerous industrial applications from exterior of decking wood, to playground materials and some toys. It has been directly linked to cancer, blood disorders, damage to fetal development and other side-effects like skin pigmentation, numbness and cardiovascular disease.

Cadmium is an extremely toxic metal used in a host of industrial applications and often used to stabilise plastic. It is often found in cheap children’s toys, jewellery and painted products and can cause serious kidney and lung damage. It is listed as a probable carcinogen. It has also been linked to a decrease on bone density.

Bromine  is a component in a family of fire-retardant chemicals known as brominated flame retardants (BFRs).  They are persistent toxic chemicals that build up in people and wildlife and contaminate breastmilk and umbilical cord blood. They are known to cause birth defectss and reproductive problems in humans.

Mercury is a metallic element that cannot be broken down.  It is used in fluorescent lighting, batteries, some antimicrobial paints etc. It is a neurological poison that causes symptoms similar to ADHD, such as hyperactivity and poor concentration. It is extremely toxic to the nervous system and can cause severe kidney damage.

Lead is used as a stabiliser and as a pigment and has been was connected with developmental issues, delayed growth and hearing loss in children..

Here are some of the things we can do:

  1. Stay away from any toys made in China or Taiwan.
  2. Ask the toy shops if their toys are non-toxic and do research to find out if the toy is in fact non-toxic.
  3. Stay away from plastic and especially soft, flexible and rubberised plastic.
  4. Buy unpainted wooden toys.
  5. Make your own dolls and other toys.
  6. Throw away all old PVC toys.  You wouldn’t let your baby or child eat chemicals which is exactly what they’re doing if they mouth or suck on PVC or other toxic toys.
  7. Start saying THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH to the manufacturers, the retailers, the government. 

Only three things are certain:

1  We know  that problems with cancer, reproductive issues, asthma and allergies particularly in children are on the rise.

2 A lot  of the toys we give our children are highly toxic and in some cases carcinogenic.  

3.  You can’t say you didn’t know.

Chemical Regulations and the Modern Mattress: The Stuff of Nightmares | Business | GreenBiz.com.

I am happy to be a woman and I do like to smell and look nice.  I do not wear a lot of make up but I do like to don on a little mascara and lipstick  when the time is right and the mood needs it!  But lipstick with lead and fish scales in it.. ?!?  I’d rather put cowdung on my lips thank you very much (pssst! did you hear chocolate brown is the new (moo!) black this winter)  

Harmful chemicals in my moisturiser, worse still in the suncream I’ve been told to lather on my kids religiously the moment the sun peaks out from the clouds as the danger of getting a melanoma is imminent?  The soap, bubble bath, shampoo and conditioner has cancer forming ingredients in it? The products I wash our clothes with have the same? 

 So there I am thinking I’m doing ok, I manage without too much fuss to bathe (they do come out of the bath relatively clean on occasion), feed (we haven’t started mentioning pesticides yet) and educate (so we don’t get all our homework done All of the time)  my children. Uh Uh not so!  

The products I put on my children and myself contain chemicals such as sodium laurel sulphate (sls), parabens, mineral oils and pthalates and lead, most of them known carcinogens.  That means they’re not suspected of causing cancer…they’re known to cause cancer, amongst a myriad of other problems like  skin irritations, hormone disruption and eye problems.

My insidious journey with these revolting man-made chemicals started a number of years ago when my husband started mentioning the fish scales in lipstick every time he bent down to kiss me (yeah, yeah, I hear you!).  He’d also been telling me for years that my R700 tube of Dermalogica (something I absolutely cannot live without…I mean think of the wrinkles!) had so many carcinogens in that I should bury myself immediately.  It was only when I typed the name of my moisturiser into http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/ that I could ignore the truth no longer: – the stuff I used so religiously and paid so much money for was so bad it was considered a 7 out of 10 (1 being good and 7-10 being considered extremely hazardous). I studiously typed in all our cosmetic and skincare products and was amazed to find that 95% of them were hazardous ie. contained cancer-forming ingredients.  That means that even the baby creams, lotions and soaps made by leading manufacturers contain the big baddies that are all absorbed straight into our bodies via our biggest organ – the skin.  Add to this the fact that these chemicals are also used in most household cleaning and laundry products….you do the math of what this does to our children’s immune systems.

Companies like Safe Cosmetics have done a fantastic job of creating awareness of the chemicals we find in cosmetics.  Take a look at the videoclip ‘The story of safe cosmetics’ https://downtoearthmom.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/the-story-of-cosmetics  as it sums up the problems, lists the bad chemicals and gives a brief overview of why these chemicals are bad for you. 

Try and send it to as many people as you can.  The US govenment is currently reviewing the skincare laws but it needs to hold companies responsible for what they put in their products.
We need to ensure that we keep our finger on the pulse and we get all governments on the same page. There are companies out there that are responsible and delivering toxic free cosmetics and soaps – use them.  Try the Still Pure range of soaps and shea butters, the soaps are rich and lathery and 100% natural.  The shea butter is the best ever.  Go onto their website and check it out for yourselves. www.stillpure.co.za  
I have made a brief list of the baddies that you can print out and carry in your bag.  Start reading labels, put pressure on companies like J&J and Procter and Gamble to clean up their act.  One thing is clear, if we do not look out for our children, no one else is going to.
The cosmetic/petrochemical consortium may dress up like everyone’s favourite granny, but it really helps to know that (under all that paint and lead red lipstick) you’re dealing with a big bad wolf. Take the time to see them for what they are. Because you’re worth it …
Your NO NO List (Read it, cut it out and use it!)

SODIUM LAURYL SULPHATE (SLS) SLS is  is an inexpensive, strong and harsh foaming or emulsifying agent, used in about 98% of all cosmetic and personal care products e.g. creams, lotions, shampoo, bubble bath, bath gels and soap.

MINERAL OIL Mineral oil is a by-product in the distillation of petroleum. Mineral oil SHOULD NOT BE USED IN ORGANIC PRODUCTS. Almost all baby products contain by-products of the petrochemical industry (baby oil is 100% mineral oil!) These are listed on product labels as petroleum jelly, mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffin oil as well as many others.

PARABENS Parabens are very common preservatives. A study in 1998 showed that parabens mimic the hormone oestrogen in the body. Sperm counts have fallen by half over the past 50 years and breast cancer has increased by more than 30% since 1980. In 2004, Dr. Darbre of Reading University showed that parabens were present in breast cancer tumours. Most breast cancer tumours need oestrogen to grow.

FRAGRANCE / PARFUM Most deodorants, shampoos, sunscreens, skin care, body care and baby products contain fragrance. Many of the compounds in fragrances have been linked to the possibility of immune and nervous system toxicity. “Fragrance” on a label usually indicates the presence of 50 to 200 separate chemicals. 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum.

PROPYLENE GLYCOL PG is a synthetic compound derived from petroleum. PG is the active component in antifreeze. There is actually no difference between what is used in industry and what is used in personal care products.

PHTHALATES (Pron: Tha-lates) Often listed simply as “fragrance” on labels, these chemicals have been cited as potential carcinogens. They are used to extend the life of perfumes, and to enhance the penetration of skin lotions. One phthalate, DEHP, has been linked to premature breast development in girls. Growing evidence suggests they contribute to allergic disease, including asthma. Phthalates are also suspected hormone disrupters, chemicals that may mimic oestrogen and interfere with systems in the body that regulate sexual development and fertility.

The Story of Cosmetics.

Mommy does Spain

Soccer is not my thing or rather, let me be absolutely honest: soccer WAS  never really my thing.  That is until the 2010 World Cup Mania and Diego Forlan entered my life… 

Our house and its neatly constructed schedules that kept everything and everyone nicely but rather tightly in check all went flying out of the proverbial window…

No more Mr Nice Guy Mommy between 4:30 and 10:30pm when matches were being played.  Oh no!  Mom was generally found sprawled out on the couch, remote and a very big pitcher of Sauvignon Blanc tightly in hand. Suicide hour (between 5 and 7pm) was no longer a pact between mom and child to get absolutely mad at each other as quickly and for as long as possible but knowing it was all for the good of the family. No! Suicide hour during World Cup time meant if you asked for a healthy snack, or for mom to bath you at a reasonable hour or worst still actually asked for one on one time your head was gently lifted off your body by a stream of noooooo, nooo, noooooos!   

I found the Bafana Bafana games exhausting and draining, the first game in particular as I had no idea whose goals were whose and thank goodness it was a 0-0 draw as I may have shouted in jubilation when Mexico scored.

The game against Uruguay was probably  the most difficult for me to watch as a patriotic 43 year old-who-just-happened-to-think-Forlan-was-quite-cute.   My jumping up and down as Forlan seized the opportunity and scored a goal against my country was met by a very cold and exasperated “can’t I take you anywhere these days” stare from my husband… My meek apologetic  muttering that I thought Bafana Bafana was wearing blue was met by an even icier…how does the saying go? …quit while your ahead.

Spain against Germany put soccer firmly on this mommy’s map.  I could see strategy in the game for the first time ever.  I was so excited to watch Spanish poetry in motion.  Ok, ok it wasn’t just the moves,  there were a few good looking boys in red and blue.  Seriously though, they did seem to know when and how to do it.  Not detracting from the Germans, I do think they need to work on selecting boys with better surnames – I mean with surnames like Schweinsteiger where do you go from there?

Cameroon and Ghana’s last games respectively left me feeling forlorn and depressed.  These players have to work so hard to sustain themselves let alone their sport that I thought this itself would have justified a semifinal position.   Imagine playing against opponents who take coaching and more specifically food for granted.  Imagine how hard these players had to fight to get away from their subsistance existance and how well they had to play just to make the team.  Imagine if they’d won the World Cup….and Mother Theresa was the president of FIFA.  Imagine….

Sauvignon Blanc, imagination and good bods aside, the World Cup brought with it an obligation to get behind our country and its players as we watched the dissipating negativity of our turbulent past replaced by a glimpse of our beautiful, optimistic future.  

P.S. Did I mention I love soccer..