Thursday, October 19, 2006

Don't Sleep with the Au Pair

Sometimes I'll be having a conversation with my husband, when I'll say "Oh, that's so funny. I'm going to blog about that." To which he'll reply, "Are you really going to blog about every mundane aspect of your life?" To which I reply, "Mundane? Believe me, in the blogosphere, my blog is on the cutting edge of excitement. A lot of blogs are like "I have not passed a bowel movement for four days. Maybe I will take a laxative," or "my dog Bruce looks a little off color, should I take him to the vet?"

Mundane indeed! My blog! I mean, really!

Today I'm performing a vital service to my readers. I'm dispatching some advice which may keep some of you out of trouble.

What I'm basically saying is: Don't Sleep with the Au Pair.

I don't mean from a moral point of view. Just that it could land you in hospital. My friend Cheryl, who coordinates au pairs locally, said they recently had an incident where a mother came home to find the au pair on top of the husband, and naked, obviously, and um, interacting with her husband in a non-verbal fashion. As far as I can tell, the au pair wasn't doing anything wrong. The girl was home. She was theoretically 'watching' the kids. It was the husband who should have been at work.

Well, apparently the wife didn't see it that way. She grabbed a baseball bat and started whacking the husband and the au pair. The police arrived and both the au pair and the husband had to be taken to hospital (don't worry, they have both made a full recovery!)

So the moral of the story is, if you must get an au pair, get an ugly one, preferably one with a moustache. Actually, talking of moustaches, Cheryl said they also have male au pairs on their books. I was quite tempted to get one actually. "Yes, I see," I said to Cheryl, "you can get me a nineteen year old Swedish male au pair to help me around the house." Goodness me, I was thinking, when she mentioned the price of hiring such a 'manny', that's cheap. And unlike a vibrator, he would never run out of batteries. "Hang on Sven," I'd say, "I just need you to do some heavy lifting in the bedroom." And he'd be awfully happy to help, because he'd be committed to helping the family, and he wouldn't want mommy to be bored.

And then my husband would arrive home and find me on top of the manny, and reach for a baseball bat.

No. It's not worth it, even to have a Swedish hunk on tap all day. And let's face it, he might not want to continuously perform, he'd probably point out some tedious section in his contract that specified that 'employees cannot be asked to perform services above and beyond the call of duty.' Like having sex with me could ever be a chore! But anyway, I'm just saying, the reality might not be as rosy as the fantasy.

So basically, I'm telling you, sleeping with the au pair, don't try it. Or if you do ...at least go to a hotel.

Another bit of advice I can give you is: don't marry a younger man. Mine is eight years younger (27) and while I don't usually notice the age difference because he is more mature than me (who isn't?), sometimes the age gap gets hammered home. There was one incident a few years back where a woman at a party mistook him for my son. I'm usually not that touchy, but that really got under my skin. Demi Moore look out! Today Ashton adores you, maybe he will always adore you. But sooner or later you will find yourself in a Dorian Grey situation. You will be the picture up in the attic, getting older and older, while your husband's portrait remains as unlined as the day you met him.

Take this incident. While the kids and I were away over the summer, my husband had been going to Lowes to buy supplies for a bathroom he's building. Yesterday he went there with our three year old daughter, Sausage. Apparently, some check out girl he's been chatting to over the summer, asked if Sausage was his little sister. He laughed and said, "No, she's my daughter." Apparently, the girl's face crumpled like a paper bag. Apparently she is Armenian and he thinks she was angling for an American husband (he's not even American). Apparently, she said, "I thought you were nineteen."

I believe everything, apart from that last bit. Come off it, he looks at least twenty-one!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A fun day out

Do you remember the days when going to a street festival involved a pleasant day of strolling amongst stalls, looking at antique bits and bobs, a delicious al fresco meal, washed down with ten pints of lager? I’m afraid I do. Which was why, when my friend Kira suggested we go to the Fell’s Point Festival last Sunday, I thought, yes, that would be lovely. A nice relaxing day on the Harbor. What heaven. What bliss.



I put on my best top. The one without any snot wiped on it. I was sassy, I was relaxed, I was going to walk around among the funky little stalls and not give a damn that I was the only one over thirty, who didn’t have a washboard stomach and tattoos and piercings and a waist the size of my wrist. And I think I would have got away with looking quite cool too, only there was one problem. Well, three really. We brought the kids. Scarlett, Sausage and Kira’s son T. who is three.

Firstly, because I hate driving, we crammed the three car seats into the back of my sedan. Then we drove to the festival accompanied by the radio and the kids doing an ear piercing rendition of Super Freak:

"That girl is pretty kinky!
The girl's a super freak!
I really love to taste her!
Every time we meet!"

Hmm, let's just hope they don't repeat those lyrics at pre-school.

Anyway, we eventually arrived at the venue and paid ten dollars for parking. I had a splitting headache and wanted to just lie down under a tree.



After that it was just averting one problem after another:

1. Getting the kids to stop climbing trees overhanging the filthy black oily water.

2. Telling the kids they couldn't go for a ride on a boat because neither mommy was going to fish them out of the filthy black oily water if they fell in.

3. Going to Kira's friend's stall who makes funny hats and having a near miss when Scarlett and Sausage nearly poured bright blue ice cream all over her funny hats.

4. Telling Scarlett it was all right to model a hat but not to put her sticky, ice creamy fingers all over it.



5. Finding a place that sold ice cream without milk for T. who is lactose intolerant. Eventually we settled on a snow cone.

6. Stopping the kids from running upstairs in a tattoo parlor where someone was being tattooed, possibly somewhere indecent.

7. Trying to stop T. from being frightened of a pantomime horse that was running rampant.

8. Trying to stop Sausage from peeing on the ground among a crowd of three thousand people.

9. Finally going to Super Fresh for food and trying to stop the kids ramming the shopping cart into the backsides of the shoppers.

What happened to the al fresco meal? The lager or the nice relaxing day out? It certainly didn't happen. But in a funny sort of way, it was a fun day out.

What event did you recently attend with kids that wasn't quite the same as you remembered?

Monday, October 09, 2006

And the winner is...



Today I am awarding the legendary Kevin Charnas a ROFL Award for this most hilarious post. For those who don't know Kevin, he lives in an apartment complex peopled by freaks. He believes it's his Howdy Doody face that makes his neighbors try to seduce him or try and show him their operation scars. Sometimes he wishes the wierdos wouldn't approach him, but knows that his abject humiliations can only lead to some of the funniest posts in the blogosphere.

Go on, check him out. If you don't laugh, check your pulse. You are probably dead.

Click the button below or go here to see a list of the other awardees.

ROFL button

Saturday, October 07, 2006

I pissed off the tooth fairy

A week ago, my husband said that enough was enough, that the kids were addicted to DVDs and that the TV was going to have to go ‘on holiday.’ This is where the TV disappears overnight and goes on holiday indefinitely. It’s only happened twice before and I don’t relish the memories of TV addicts throwing themselves on the floor and crying for the latest episode of Desperate Housewives. And the kids got pretty pissed off about it too.

I didn't want to go through all that again, so I begged my husband for a reprieve. How was I going to watch my obscure French black and white DVDs in which nothing happens save a lot of people staring out of windows smoking cigarettes and crying, not to mention my trash reality TV? And when I thought of all those hours training Scarlett to use the DVD remote. Such a terrible waste of my energies. She’d perfected it too, seamlessly pressing the buttons to forward, play and eject. Even three year old Sausage could put DVDs into the machine without getting her sausage fingers all over them. We were making progress with the concept of 'Mommy is old and needs a lot of sleep.' Some days I was having lie-ins to oooh, six forty-five, due to the finely tuned routine I had got them into, that they should creep downstairs and slot any old crap an educational DVD into the slot and sit there like zombies until I acclimatized to reality, the world, the fact that I had to get up.

But no more. I was told in no uncertain terms that the TV was going on a package tour to Cancun, and he wasn’t yet sure if it had booked a return ticket.

And then, after some initial hystrionics, a surprising thing happened. It's actually better for all of us. I don't watch TV until the early hours, ending up with too little sleep. Scarlett has emerged as some sort of creative genius, making little picture books filled with stories of mermaids and girls who eat bugs. We play board games sometimes (yes, boring as hell, but the kids like them) and Sausage is not constantly pounding her fists on the floor crying, "Dora! I want Dora." She's also sleeping later. Usually she crawls into bed with me in the middle of the night and wakes up at six and screams, “I want movies!” She now lies there quietly until seven, muttering in a melancholy and deeply resigned voice, “TV gone holidays?"

Every morning the kids look downstairs to check on the TV and are always surprised to inform me it is "still on holidays." I hope it's getting a good tan.

So, things are going quite well, although I may have to get the TV back from Cancun for when schools close for snow closings as soon as one flake of snow flutters from the sky. Otherwise I may go nuts.

I also had a run in with the tooth fairy the other day. There's been quite a run of bad luck on that front actually. Scarlett lost her first tooth in the playground. The second one was lost by, er, me. She'd given it to me to look after. I put it in a Ziploc bag for safekeeping and then lost it.

Next, I found myself taking dictation from Scarlett. The note read:

Dear Tooth Fairy
My mother is an idiot who lost my tooth. I hope this will not jeopardize me receiving a quarter or more if possible.

Scarlett

Obviously, after this letter was written and put under her pillow, neither my husband or I woke up to exchange the note for the cash, and I woke to find her screaming her head off at five that I'd upset the tooth fairy with my note and that she hadn't left any money. I got out of bed and kind of smuggled a quarter in and said, "Whoops, it must have dropped on the floor. The tooth fairy isn't angry, really."

Whew, that was a close one.

For anyone who likes a good escapist read, I am posting a blog novel called Confessions of a Cake Addict here. It's about a cake addict with a lot of emotional problems who finally beats the bulge, and is not at all autobiographical. Check it out!

In other news, I said to my husband today, "Don't you find the day to day grind of marriage incredibly boring? Don't you ever have the desire to just run away from it all and indulge your wildest fantasies?"



I thought he'd say, "Yes of course, I've always dreamed of flying to Las Vegas on Hooters Air and staying in the Caesars Palace Hotel and watching the sunset in a jacuzzi with a bevy of topless beauties, before gambling away a hundred thousand dollars at poker. But I don't because I'm a mature, responsible adult."

Instead, he just said, "No."

Not to be put off, I said, "Well, how would you feel if I took some time off to travel round the world to find myself?"

He said, "Sure, that's fine, but don't be surprised if I've changed the locks by the time you come back."

I'll say one thing for him, he has some good answers.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A thousand lost kisses

I wrote this story the other day while I was feeling depressed. Thoughts? Comments?

A thousand lost kisses

It was embarrassing, thought Colleen. That’s what got to her more than anything. The fact that she, who had always thought herself above this sort of thing, had got herself into such an embarrassing situation.

She didn’t know how it had happened. One minute she was having a conversation with her son’s maths teacher, Steve, a man she had spoken to on maybe half a dozen occasions. He was a perfectly pleasant looking man, with dark blonde hair that grazed his shirt collar, green-brown eyes that were fixed on hers, and rather unkempt fingernails, with which he kept flicking through her son, Andrew’s, maths exercise book. He had been talking about the fact that Andrew was a talented student, that with a bit of application, a bit of effort, there was no doubt he could get into Cambridge. But the fact was that he didn’t seem to be making much of an effort. And the way things were going, well, it looked as though he was barely going to pass his Maths A-Level.

She nodded and promised she’d have a word with Andrew. Not that having a word with him was going to be easy. Andrew was hardly ever in, and when he was, he remained inconspicuous, sustaining himself on bowls of cereal eaten in his room. The only time she could be certain he was there was when she smelt marijuana smoke seeping out from under his door.

If she was honest, thinking back on the events of that evening, she’d been quite keen to get away from Steve. It was the end of a long dreary parents’ evening, and he’d been the fourth and last teacher to inform her that her son was a write off. She wanted to go home and just go to sleep. Maybe she’d have a word with her husband, Robert, a lawyer who worked long hours. Maybe she’d be able to make him see that if someone didn’t do something about Andrew, he would be a lost cause.

“The problem is, he doesn’t seem to listen to anything I have to say,” Colleen said to Steve, who was looking at her expectantly. Her fingers were idly tracing the message, ‘Fuck School,’ which someone had scraped onto her metal chair, when he’d suddenly leaned forward and pressed his knee against hers.

“I can help,” said Steve, who was, she gauged, about ten years younger than her. “If you like.”

His knee was still there, butting against her naked flesh. For some reason, her body sprang into life. The knee against hers jolted her awake. A flush went through her, and for a moment she was perplexed, could not place the emotion. And then she realized it was desire, and she blushed and looked at the floor. And he was still staring at her, and she knew that he was up to something. Was trying it on, in point of fact. What a funny thought. She almost laughed. And yet at the same time she was, what? Flattered? It was years since anyone had flirted with her, and even then it had usually been some drunk at a party.

“Help?” she’d said, a little hoarsely, and glanced around the hall, where the other parents’ chatter made up a background roar.

He rested his fingers on her bare knee and again the blood swirled up behind her eyes. She thought she would faint. There was nothing about him that was exceptional. Maybe it was just the fact that he had noticed her, had noticed that she was something else, besides a wife, beside Andrew’s mother, besides a GP who looked down people’s throats and took their pulse rates and scribbled out prescriptions.

“We could meet up some evening,” he said, removing his fingertips from her knee. Her skin started to ache, it wanted the fingers back there. It wanted the fingers to move up her thigh and keep going until... “And talk,” he said, interrupting her fantasy. “About Andrew.”

“Um, right,” she’d said, jumping up. “Yes, if you like.” She’d thrust her card into his hand, then walked to the toilet and splashed cold water on her face.

When she’d got home, Andrew had been out and Robert asleep, and she’d lain there beside him, her face burning with excitement and fear.

And now, here she was, sitting in a pub, miles away from the town centre. Well, you couldn’t be too careful, could you? She’d thought about him for the four days since the parents’ evening. She didn’t understand what was happening. Was anything happening? Was she about to have an affair? How could that be? She’d never had the slightest desire to do so before, and okay, her marriage to Robert had become rather lacking in passion these past few years, but she’d never doubted that he loved her, and that she loved him in return.

When she saw Steve, she started to panic. She had half hoped that the moment of madness had passed. That the sexual charge she’d experienced at the parents’ meeting would have disappeared, and he’d have returned to the unassuming school teacher he’d been before, like a carriage turning back into a pumpkin at midnight.

But it was not to be. As soon as she saw him, she wanted to touch him. Wanted to put her arms around him, to bury her face in his neck. What would he smell like, she wondered? How would his bulk feel, on top of her? Would he be gentle, or rough, would he care if she came or would he keep pounding away until she either died of boredom or faked an orgasm, as she occasionally did with Robert?

“I can’t believe you showed up,” he said, his face ruddy from the cold outside.

“I said I would, didn’t I?” she said, as she remembered his phone call, which had been tense, exciting and abruptly curtailed when Andrew had walked into the kitchen. “I just don’t know what I’m doing here. I mean, setting up assignations with your pupil’s mother, it’s not exactly ethical, is it?”

He looked hurt. “I don’t make a habit of it.”

“I’m sorry,” she said quickly. Why was she trying to have a row? She hardly knew him.

There hadn’t been too much talking, about Andrew or anything else. Or maybe there had. It was hard to remember anything they’d said to each other. There was only the unspoken agreement that now there was no going back.

And now, here she was, in Safeway’s, two days later, buying mince for the family dinner. She was going to make lasagna. She was too much in a daze to contemplate tackling anything more complicated.

What had happened was that after a few pints, they’d walked down the street towards his car. They’d got in and he’d leaned towards her and brushed his lips against hers. He’d grabbed her arms, through her thin coat, and pulled her towards him.

It was like kissing underwater. She was submerged and her limbs felt weightless. She had never felt so free, so unaware of her body. For a long time, forever, they’d kissed, not coming up for air. His body had been warm and heavy against hers and suddenly she’d wanted him to fuck her, she couldn’t remember ever wanting anything so bad. And at the point where she thought she would die if he didn’t, he’d peeled off some of her clothes—it was too cold to disrobe completely—and had entered her. It was like in a dream, where everything fitted into place, without any awkwardness. It didn’t just feel like sex, more like something else entirely, a vacation from herself.

Afterwards, she didn’t want to get out of the car and leave him. But she did. The street was so cold, and for a moment she forgot what she had to get home for. And really, what did she have, just a sullen Andrew, demanding money or asking whether she’d washed his jeans and a hundred other pointless little demands that made being around him such a terrible strain these days. And Robert, of course. But he had always been married to his career, she’d known that when she’d met him. That had always been okay. But she wondered if it was now.

And since that night in the car, she’d carried her mobile with her always. Steve was always phoning. It was so exciting, when he’d call while she was at work. He’d be saying something really obscene and if someone else was in the room, she’d just reply as if he was a patient, “Yes, that does sound nasty. I’d take her straight to the emergency room if I were you.” Their conversations caused her no end of amusement.

Now she stood at the chilled meat section, smiling to herself as she thought of him, when a toddler ran into the back of her leg, and she swiveled round, holding a package of refrigerated mince, and glanced down at the boy. His hands were smeared in chocolate and were bunched up in her clean beige skirt.

A young woman with glossy chestnut hair with a tired, anxious face ran up and said, “Come on now Jake,” while trying to prize the child’s fists from her skirt. “I’m so sorry about your skirt. Do you need a wet wipe? I think I have one somewhere.”

“It’s okay, it’ll come out in the wash,” she said, anxious to get back to daydreaming about Steve.

And then, while she was standing there, her hand now numb from the meat, Steve was suddenly there. He was coming towards her. What a delight. What a thrill! She stepped towards him.

But he did not see her. He simply bent down and grabbed the boy. The child squealed and giggled, but eventually let go of her skirt. And now Steve was carrying him off.

Steve handed the child to his mother, who was now trying to jam him into the trolley and attempting to fasten the seatbelt against his squirming body.

Only now, finally, did Steve notice Colleen.

“Oh, hello,” he said, flushing.

As Colleen stood there, trying to take in the situation, the child began to wail.

Why hadn’t she realized that Steve might be involved, might have a child, might have a life outside of the sex they’d had in the car?

“Hello,” she said brightly, finally finding her voice. “I didn’t know you were married.”

“I thought I mentioned it?” Steve said, stepping towards her. “Didn’t I?”

“No, you didn’t,” she said, coldly.

“I’m sorry, I should have. Oh, what difference does it make?”

And even as he spoke, she realized what a terrible mistake she’d made. He was right of course, what difference did it make if one or both of them was married? And yet, somehow, inexplicably, it did.

And as she stared, she could have sworn that the glow that had radiated from him ever since they’d become involved, seemed to have disappeared. He was no longer the lover, the desired, the man who had brought her unexpected pleasure.

He was just a man. And she was a fool.

“I’ll call you later,” he said, giving her a sly little grin, before moving off towards his wife and son.

But she knew she would never take his call.

She was still holding the icy package, which she now dropped into her shopping trolley with a thud. And as she walked away, pushing the trolley, she felt the sharp stab of regret. Regret for all the kisses that would never be kissed, the promises that would never be made.

Monday, October 02, 2006

While the cat's away, the mice will play

While my friend Daisy’s husband Darren is in Australia buggering up his interview for dental school, Daisy is getting lots of very strange thoughts into her head.

Daisy and Darren have one daughter, but since her birth six years ago, they’ve failed to procure another child, even after utilizing IVF, Clomid, Viagra suppositories and many joints, all to no avail. Daisy finally cut soy milk and wheat out of Darren’s diet, which apparently made his libido come back with a vengeance. But it was too little, too late. They have failed to make a little Darren.

The doctors can’t really find anything wrong with either of them. So while Darren is away, she’s started having odd ideas about going to a nightclub and seducing someone while she’s ovulating and seeing if she can produce a baby. But she’s scared about this option. Not scared of the moral implications of sleeping with someone behind Darren’s back, after all it is for a good cause, providing a sibling for their daughter.

No, she’s worried that the average specimen that can be trawled from one of Baltimore’s premier night spots might not be all up there on the IQ points. Since Darren has it all on paper: a PhD, full head of hair, as well as being an alumni of Cambridge, she’s keen to draw from a similar bank of egg heads. And the problem with men in nightclubs is that they will say practically anything to get you into bed. I mean, they might tell you they have an MBA from Harvard, when really they just have a qualification in plumbing. How on earth do you separate the wheat from the chaff? The last thing she needs is a good looking guy who ends up with having the IQ of a functional retard. She might as well sleep with George W Bush, although he’s hardly good looking. Well, he’s not too bad, I suppose, compared to his mother.

Oh yes, Daisy’s set her heart on her own baby genius. She finds herself surfing the Web looking at strange sites called Egg Heads Donate Sperm and Genius Sperm, where genius’s post their photos and qualifications and you can choose whichever genius you want to father your child. They then send you their genetic material in the post for self-insemination at your own convenience. These sites even give you stats on rates of insemination per sperm donor, and whether the child usually ends up looking more like the father or the mother. So she’s looking at all these photos of geniuses and trying to find one that looks like Darren. And wondering if she should send off for sperm in a bag.

Since Daisy is South American, I said, wouldn’t you be better off hanging around a building site and seducing a Hispanic for a quick game of hide the salami in the Port-o-Potty, or failing that, if you really have got your heart set on a genius, and are worried about your embryo being infected with venereal disease or HIV, how about going to some dreary freshman disco at Johns Hopkins and then popping the cherry of some physics, engineering or math student (so many swotty, four-eyed, pus faced men to choose from, so little time). The advantage is that because 99% of incoming freshmen have never been anywhere near female flesh, they will be sure to ejaculate in seconds. As far as I can tell, it’s a win-win situation.

I’m just trying to be practical. Darren is unemployed, and they can hardly afford to get one of those adorable babies from China for $40,000 a pop. Lest you think I make fun of her too readily, I’ll turn the discussion back around and make fun of myself. It is a little known fact that, at one point, I was even more obsessed with having a baby than Daisy.

It was back when I was twenty-eight. Suddenly I couldn’t look at babies without crying. I wanted one so, so bad. So, okay, I didn’t have a boyfriend, but that wasn’t going to hold me back. No way. So I asked for opinions about what to do. A lot of the suggestions were too disgusting to mention in such a clean and family orientated blog. In the end I just asked all the guys I knew whether they wanted to father a child. I knew them all quite well, I knew their IQ points, good points, bad points, knew essential things that I needed any child of mine to have, practical things like the ability to make cordon bleu meals, play violin to concert standard, drink excessively without having a hangover and not having a small penis. So I asked around these friends for interested parties, and I was actually about to procreate with the violinist, when I started to have doubts about the whole dubious plan. And a few weeks later I met my husband and everything fell into place. I even managed to get pregnant while we were living in separate countries (although we did admittedly meet up occasionally). All I’m saying is that I am not condemning Daisy for her bizarre cravings regarding baby making. I’ve been there.

One day you’ll be able to buy genetic material at Superfresh, but until then, I’ll watch and wait and see whether Daisy ever gets her hand on some genius sperm. One thing that's wierd about this particular genius website is that they send you the vials of sperm for free. They claim it's because a charitable foundation is footing the costs, but who knows who's behind it all? It could just be Dr. Frankenstein himself, trying to fill the world with evil geniuses

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Guest Post: Blog Exchange Debate

The following pieces were written for a Blog Exchange Debate wherein we take opposing views on controversial parenting topics and debate them on each other’s blogs. Our topic is organic food.

Anti-Organic Argument:
Why organic food is a con
by Emma Kaufmann

When people ask me if I buy organic food, I say, "No, it's far too expensive." Which it is, of course. But the main reason I don't buy organic food, is that it isn't organic.

Of course I'm not happy about the way conventional produce is grown - with soil pumped full of chemicals, vegetables that are often tasteless and covered in pesticides. But if you think you are doing something ethical by buying organic or are getting a superior product, think again.

Let's leave aside for a moment, the small scale farmer who sells his stuff at the Farmer's Market, and investigate the huge companies that produce and manufacture organic foods. The results aren't pretty. Organic products are almost as chemically ridden as their conventional counterparts, workers are mistreated in the same way as those working at conventional companies, and the impact on the environment from the waste products from organic farms is not as negligible as it appears.

The US organic industry is now worth $14 billion, and is dominated by huge food processing corporations. General Mills owns the organic brands Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen. Kellogg owns Sunrise Organic. Seeds of Change, an organic company that sells rice, grains and complementary sauces, has been owned by M&M Mars since 1997.

And if you think that organic's profitability means that their workers get a fair wage, think again. The profits go to retailers and wholesalers higher up the food chain.

According to a report published last year by researchers at UC-Davis, a majority of 188 California organic farms surveyed do not pay a living wage or provide medical or retirement plans. In fact, most organic workers earn the same as those in conventional fields.

As to the question of whether it is better for you, there is no scientific study that proves that organic foods are healthier or better for you than conventionally grown foods, and a recent study states that organically grown foods have about one-third of the pesticide residues of conventionally grown foods.

Part of the problem lies in inconsistencies in labeling. A product with the USDA Organic label on it is not necessarily organic. This article highlights the fact that the United States Department of Agriculture does not know how often organic rules are broken and has not consistently taken action when potential violations were pointed out.

"The USDA has failed to enforce the regulations," said Jim Riddle, former chairman of the National Organics Standards Board and an appointed adviser to the USDA when the organic standards were enacted in 2002.

Additionally, much organic food is produced overseas, where there is even less oversight. Mr. Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association in Finland, Minn. states that consumers buying soy milk or tofu, "have no clue that in the case of soy milk and tofu, it's actually coming from China, where organic standards are dubious and labor standards are abysmal."

But what about environmental impact, isn't it better to farm organically? An article in the magazine Nature, tells us that organic farming is frequently as damaging on the environment as its conventional counterpart:

"Competitive organic farmers keep their fields clear of weeds through frequent mechanical weeding - a method that damages nesting birds, worms and invertebrates - and high use of fossil fuels, which greatly increases pollution from nitrogen oxides. A single treatment with innocuous herbicide, coupled with no-till conventional farming, avoids this damage and retains organic material in the soil surface. Similarly, although use of manure means higher, beneficial levels of earthworms in organic fields, there are numerous problems with the use of manure, including possible effects on human health."

What about if you care about how eggs, meat and poultry are produced, isn't it better to eat organic? Well, yes, but you need to be very, very careful and research the company you are buying them from. Because the labels on them are misleading.

This article makes clear that in an instance where the USDA labeled hens "free-range" the animals were crammed in “wall to wall — 6,800 chickens with one rooster for every hundred hens. They never set foot outside.”

Similarly, the USDA cautions consumers that the “organic” label is not to be confused with or likened to the “natural” or any other label, and it “makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food.”

Like the “free-range” label, the “organic” label does not indicate that animals were treated any differently while being transported or slaughtered than animals raised on factory farms.

What's the point of labeling it organic then? No point at all, really.

So what can you do? Buy locally grown produce.

Buying organic food is such a powerful lure, isn't it? You think that by buying it you are somehow making the world a better place. Well, chances are, you're not, because the majority of organic food is produced by big business. Whatever the ingredients or processing methods, and whether or not it is organic, food from distant, anonymous producers is really nothing more than a commodity, in that the only relationship between the producer and the consumer is a monetary one, forcing the producer to cut costs at every corner. For example, regulations stipulate a minimum cage area per hen for organic eggs, so a producer motivated strictly by cost minimization will pack them in to that limit, regardless of whether that is sufficient for the hens’ health and well-being.

If you really want to be an ethical consumer you are better off eating locally grown produce, even if that produce is not organic. Buying locally grown produce has become the latest mark of the consumer who wants to conserve fuel and reduce pollution created by shipping food internationally.

But probably for you, as it is for me, doing that would not be very convenient. Far better to run down to Whole Foods and grab yourself a bag of pre-bagged organic spinach. That is, if it's back on the shelves yet!


Pro-Organic Argument:
Numbers Don't Lie: The Case for Organic Foods by Izzy of IzzyMom

I am a huge proponent of organic foods and farming. If I could, I would buy organic food exclusively. There are dozens of reasons why, however, to delve into each of them would render this little blog exchange post as lengthy as a term paper. Thus, I am only going to focus on the primary reasons that I prefer to buy and consume organic foods which would be my children.

When you stop to consider that asthma, autism, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders (ADD and ADHD), childhood brain cancer and acute lymphocytic leukemia have all increased over the past 30 years and babies are born with industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in their cord blood, it's not a stretch to wonder if the pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals used in all aspects of food production are at least partially to blame.

Regarding the health risks of pesticides residues in food, remember that the EPA approved many pesticides and fertilizers long before research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Today, however, the EPA considers 90% of all fungicides, 60% of all herbicides, and 30% of all insecticides as potentially cancer- causing.

Furthermore, determining the safety of a conventional pesticide may take thirty years or more. For example, we now know that some of the older pesticides, such as DDT, caused serious health problems in children but this didn't become evident until thirty years after the substance was banned for environmental reasons. We may not see the full effects of the newer pesticides we're putting on crops for a long, long time and I'm not willing to let my kids be guinea pigs.

And in case you were wondering how organic and conventional produce stack up, the Organic Center reports that conventional produce is eight times more likely to contain pesticide residues than organic.

I find the aforementioned statistics to be chilling and of course, I would never spoon feed these chemicals to my children so why would I feed them food that is loaded with them when safer organic options exist?

Some people that are not convinced of the benefits of organics but the numbers don't lie.

A 2003 study conducted by the University of Washington tracked a group of preschool children to determine if their diets affected their pesticide exposure. The study was based on 18 children with organic diets and 21 with conventional diets. Researchers analyzed their urine for evidence of exposure to five different kinds of toxic pesticides.

They found that the average total was six to almost nine times higher for children with conventional diets than for children with organic diets. The researchers concluded that consuming organic fruits and vegetables is a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children's pesticide exposure.

Young children are developing brain function and internal organs intended to last a lifetime and they are more vulnerable to developmental damage from pesticide residues on foods. This is partly because of their fast growth and speedy metabolisms and partly because of their smaller size, which means they eat more fruits and vegetables in relation to their body weight than adults do.

In 1993, a congressionally-mandated study by the National Academy of Sciences expressed concern that existing methods of risk evaluation for pesticide exposure were not suited to children. More recently, the Consumers Union and the Environmental Working Group released studies confirming that children are over-exposed even if their exposure is within legal limits.

Bearing all those facts in mind, I firmly believe that re-assessing our priorities and making room in our tight budget for organic foods is one of the most important things I can do for my children's long-term health and I strongly urge others to do the same.

Babies consume about 60 times more fruits and vegetables than adults. This fact combined with undeveloped digestive and immune systems, put young children at the greatest health risk for pesticide residues. To minimize the effects, you might buy organic for those foods that your children eat regularly.

If you have to limit what organic foods you buy because of the cost, it is recommended that you buy organic animal products first, like milk, eggs and meat.

In produce, pesticides levels vary. Here are some common fruits and vegetables that are high in pesticide residues. Because of the high levels, you might consider buying organic for these foods:

Apples
Bell peppers
Celery
Cherries
Grapes (imported)
Nectarines
Peaches
Pears
Potatoes
Red Raspberries
Spinach
Strawberries

Conversely, these fruits and vegetables are commonly found to have the lowest levels of pesticide residues so it's not critical to choose organics when buying the following:

Asparagus
Avocados
Bananas
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Corn (sweet)
Kiwi
Mangos
Onions
Papayas
Pineapples
Peas (sweet)

(Source - The Environmental Workers Union)

You don't have to dive in and go organic all at once but every little bit helps, especially when it comes to your children.

About the author

I'm Izzy, a thirtysomething WAHM of two young children. I'm married to computer god/music producer and the resident concierge & butler to our three cats. I was a graphic designer/corporate slave in my previous life. Now I practice bad housekeeping and butt-wiping, sometimes at the same time, and work at home as a webmaster & blog designer. During naptimes, I can usually be found blogging here or here.

Click here for the other op-ed pieces (and their opposing sides) today. And if you'd like to participate next month, send an email to kmei26 at yahoo.com