Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I met my friend, Lauren, for coffee on the morning of November 1st, and listened patiently as she lamented about the “poorly reared children” who visited her home the night prior, ringing the doorbell in search of Halloween candy. “They didn’t even say ‘thank you.’ Half of them just reached in to the bowl and took a handful of stuff, even after I said go ahead and take one piece. What is wrong with these kids? Who raised those kids?”

My answer? Me. I raised them.
It was just before my son’s fifth birthday. He was dressed in a bright red dragon costume of his sister’s choosing. She was a pink poodle. At first, neither child understood the purpose of Halloween, and it took some cajoling to get the kids to walk up the first set of steps and ring the neighbor’s doorbell. An elderly woman appeared, holding a trove of candy in a bowl with a giant moving claw. My daughter recoiled in horror. Henry grimaced, then walked past it…past the woman…through the front door…and plopped down on her sofa. He stared at the evening news on the TV. “Uhhh…he’s new at this,” I offered, as I raced toward him.

House number two was no better. Knowing he would bolt through the door, I kept a firm grip on his hand. This time, a youngish woman with a baby in her arms came to the door with a bowl of DOTS. “Take one.” Henry grabbed a fistful of boxes, and settled down on the porch steps, tearing open one box after another and pounding them down his gullet. Again, I apologized. Profusely.

At this point, Dennis was skeptical. “Maybe we should just call it quits?”
Midori began wailing. “Trick or treat! Trick or treat.” I nodded, and said, “A few more houses. He’ll get the idea. He just has to try a few times.”
And so the night went on. One well-intended homeowner after another demanded a “trick-or-treat” from our son in exchange for his candy. A bewildered Henry would scream angrily, and grab for the bowl. When advised to say “thank you,” he would simply stare off in another direction. After this scene repeated itself over and over yet again, Midori took it upon herself to tell everyone her brother was hearing impaired. “He’s stone deaf. Never said a word.”
Finally, I countered, “Midori, your brother is NOT deaf. He can hear.”
“I know, Mom.  But what am I gonna do? Explain the whole thing? I can’t be at EVERY door that long. It’s just easier to say he’s deaf. Henry, tell people you’re deaf, okay?”
Moments later, Henry tired of his costume on the stoop of an older couple just down the block from our home, and so he simply stripped naked much to the horror of several onlookers.
See, Halloween is different when you are different. Asking a child with autism to choose one piece of candy out of a giant bowl is simply overwhelming. What looks like swimming across a kiddie pool is, to him, as if he were asked to breaststroke the ocean.

Our daughter had better social manners, but she struggled with fine motor skills. For her, grabbing a single small piece of candy from a giant bowl was not merely difficult, it was impossible.  Trust me when I tell you that I tried to contain her fistfuls, but children are part ninja…and I had one hand on the escape artist waiting to take up residence on a stranger’s couch…
Henry couldn’t, at that time, speak much at all. The tit-for-tat, “say ‘trick or treat’ for this piece of candy” routine was an insurmountable obstacle for our son. All he knew was that someone was holding candy out to him, but refusing to actually give it over…and then, he’d communicate his frustration with a high pitched wail, or he’d lash out with an angry fist and a jerk of the knee. He couldn’t thank the person for proffering the candy when they finally relented.

He was smothered by the crowds, the sounds, the darkness, and the frightening images of Halloween. He was itchy in his costume, which exacerbated his sensory problems. He was confused, unsure what to do, and frustrated. But he wanted to do what other kids were doing, he wanted to go to school and tell his peers that he, too, had gone trick-or-treating. He was trying so hard, and so were we all.

I told Lauren the story. I explained it in the way that only a mother who has felt the sting of judgment -who has risked embarrassment and ugliness so as to give her child the opportunity to experience the same things that hundreds of other kids experience without question or challenge – can explain.
Sometimes, what seems like “bad behavior” is disability in disguise. So, as scores of children come to your door and ring your bell, find your extra dispensation of grace. Open that door without judgment. Reserve your thoughts of “good” or “bad” parenting, “proper” or “improper” conduct and, instead, see that children (like the rest of us) come in all conditions, with all sorts of stories and all manner of ability and disability.

Monday, October 29, 2012

'Science is imagination in a straitjacket.’
American physicist Richard Feynman


As a young person, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So often, children are asked What do you wish to be when you grow up, and my only answer was contented.

My parents were both well educated and had high standards when it came to schooling and the pursuit of a career but, in their own lives, neither was particularly successful. I was raised in the extremes of privilege and then in poverty, and neither seemed to much matter in terms of my happiness.
It was by pure accident that I found my way to science. I like a good story. I’ve always been a dedicated bibliophile, and I have done my share of writing. Science is much like the process of authoring a work, except that in the context of the sciences, we are constrained by all the things we know to be true, and we have the facts and the tools to dissect the story we are trying to tell.

I also like to travel but, on the earth, there is no landscape we have not yet discovered. There are, however, an endless numbers of new things to learn about the world and the way it works…the way our bodies work. In that regard, too, science takes us in to the foray of the unknown.
My work in microbiology and genetics became my life when I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.

Diabetes usually happens because a person doesn’t have enough of the hormone insulin, which is the only hormone capable of lowering blood sugar concentration after a meal. Every time you eat a Mars bar or Hershey bar, your blood sugar will begin to rise and that insulin will call to your cells, depart the pancreas, and cause the blood sugar to be lowered. It’s a beautifully orchestrated event that comes together like the tiny pieces of a little jigsaw puzzle.

I spent a long time after my diagnosis interested in the mystery of how that insulin begins to rise, and what makes it know to beckon the cells. It’s actually a fascinating event. A single protein acts like a tiny hole in the cell membrane, and when this little pore opens up, it allows ions to pass through it. Those ions are an electric current, and their movements based on that single protein triggers a series of events that determine whether or not insulin is secreted, and in what amount. Proteins, amino acids, are the stuff of bone and tissue and life itself.

In the same way, the miracle of exogenous insulin is no less impressive than the wonder of that protein, the current of electricity that ignites the body’s insulin, or the processes by which those mechanisms fail. In 1922, Dr. Frederick Banting could never have imagined how drops from a vial would translate into millions of lives saved.
Each time I hold an insulin pen or pump in my hand, I remember that I am holding life itself.
My friend Chris Scully (http://canadiandgal.blogspot.ca/) posted about the realization that the whole of her health was contained in a tiny insulin vial, and the reaction from others with diabetes ranged from the frightened, “I try not to think about it,” to the fascinated, “Isn’t it amazing that once upon a time, this simple serum didn’t exist?”
Today, there are scores of dedicated scientists researching newer insulin technologies, closed loop systems, the artificial pancreas and, yes, a cure for diabetes. There are fundraisers and parents who work, tirelessly, to advocate for new treatment applications and, in the process, refuse to allow diabetes to become “someone else’s problem.”

Most importantly, there are 350 million of us living with diabetes, finding the strength to do all over again for another year.
As we head into November and Diabetes Awareness Month, I want to pay my gratitude to all those who work to keep me alive, to make my life better, to let me ride my bike and run a marathon and to enable me to see my children grow up. Thanks for all you do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I used to avoid disclosing to anyone that our family was vegan. Ever. My reasoning was two-fold: 1) Vegans have a reputation for being dogmatic missionaries, who will try and convert any person in earshot to the total rejection of all animal proteins; and 2) I didn't want to answer the litany of absurd questions sure to follow my disclosure.

To the first point: Do I wish everyone were vegan? Maybe. Do I have the desire to try and solicit from others a commitment to a vegan lifestyle? No. Food habit is a very personal choice, and while I obviously believe that a diet of plant foods is most ethical, most environmentally sound and most healthful, I also accept that there are other eating habits which might be moral, environmentally sustainable and generally healthy. Most importantly, however, I understand that demanding everyone become a vegan is a gross over-simplification of culinary habit, and is bound to be irksome to those who don't wish to adopt the lifestyle.

I do, however, believe in being honest. This beckons back to the second point, about being roped into the vegan Q&A session sure to follow any discussion of a diet without meat and dairy. From the ridiculous, "How do you get enough protein?" to the forgivable, "Why are you vegan?" I answer with the truth as it relates to my system of belief. This, of course, hearkens back to animal abuses and factory farms, e.coli and contaminated groundwater, heart disease and cancer and diabetes. Those reasons can seem like an indictment of another's food selections or an effort at a vegan conversion - that there is some veiled attempt at guilting meat-eaters into shunning animal products - but that is more a reflection on the person making the inquiry in the first place, which is to say that those who feel some smack of invisible judgement do so because they are disquieted by their own personal decisions. There is, simply, no "right" answer to many of the questions posed, and all interrogations are really headed toward defensiveness from both parties.

My least favorite bit of lunacy is the question regarding fairness to my children. I'm often asked if being vegan isn't somehow unjust to Henry and Midori, who don't get to eat meat, who are having our beliefs "forced upon them," and who are "missing out" on a cultural norm.

And so, again, I can answer honestly. I can observe that all parenting is really rooted in the instruction of the adult's belief system and world view, that we don't give our kids the freedom to choose in all circumstances and especially not with regard to food (or else we'd have piles of kids eating cake for supper), that my children are healthy and certainly well-nourished, and that omnivorous parents are not giving their kids the option of, say, going raw, either. I can turn the question around: If a vegan is "forcing beliefs" on their children when they teach them to respect animals, then isn't a non-vegan "forcing beliefs" on their children when they teach them to exploit animals?

But really, I've learned that people who ask "why" or assert to want to know about the impact of a vegan diet on our kids are not really asking at all. Sure, sure, there exists a small segment of the population with a desire to transition away from a diet of animal protein and toward a more plant-based eating habit, and they may have some legit inquiries. But the overwhelming majority of people who ask about vegan living are really in the "vegans are nuts" camp, trying to elicit debate or make a point about vegetarian diets more generally. Veganism is a rational choice that most people are capable of making. Or not making. The point, however, is that quibbling over vegan versus not rarely creates change on either end of the spectrum.

So, I used to go through life just bringing vegan fare to potlucks, politely turning down non-vegan foods when offered, and generally steering clear of any vegan chatter. At some point, I realized that this was both inconvenient and disingenuous. It made lunch meetings with colleagues a challenge, and it meant leaving many a dinner party with an empty belly. As my kids have gotten older, they've started doing their own explaining with a kind of candor that makes it necessary for me to, at times, elaborate on our diet. Now, I'm good with it. I tell people right away that we are vegan when it is relevant, and I am quick to offer help in menu planning or to bring food if the occasion necessitates it. And when I get those questions? I'm still honest. I still tell the truth. I'm still polite. But I am also aware - aware that the questions are not always as innocuous as they might initially appear, and that there is no objective answer satisfactory to the context of the question.

Monday, October 8, 2012

I woke up the other day to FREEZING Colorado temperatures, looked down at the empty bowl which once held my sticky toffee pudding cake, and thought to myself, "Sweet fancy Moses, this is the off-season!" You know the feeling: You just want to go into hibernation after logging into Training Peaks and seeing the stats from the last month or two...and then, all of a sudden, that one hour recovery spin at an easy heart rate feels like a two and a half hour threshold sufferfest.  This is the time of year when, historically, I loosen up on my training and my diet...and my belt. Sometime around early March, I fly into a panic, start hitting the bike with some serious intention and drop a good seven or eight pounds.
Well, not this year.

I'm firmly committed to keeping myself in good order through the winter months. No more sticky toffee pudding. No more excuses.

So, I hearken back to distance running as a winter staple. Running is awesome because it is 1) cheap, 2) efficient & 3) does not require me to be confined indoors, to the gym. I don't actually like to run. I do it because I really believe it is the best all-over conditioning and because it nicely elevates my heart rate and burns a crap load (actual measurement) of calories very quickly. In a typical week, I get in about 25-30 miles on foot. For my runner friends, that's mere change. For my cyclist buddies, that's a lot of time spent pounding the pavement.

Anyway, I run a lot...at least by any matrix that counts. So, I was a little shady on registering for a 5k. On a typical morning, I run at least six or seven miles. The thought of PAYING to run a race a mere three miles in length seemed, well, silly. My friend and sometimes running partner Allison talked me into it: "Short distances rock because all the sudden you realize how FAST you are relative to everyone else." I was dubious, mostly because I am NOT fast. (It's actually the earth's fault that I'm slow. Don't believe me? http://news.yahoo.com/climate-change-slow-marathon-times-183543262.html)

But, well, ok.

I registered for the Race for the Cure in Denver, despite having some real issues with Komen. (That's a topic for another day.) Mostly, I chose it for the 1-mile kids race, which meant the tots could come along and I wouldn't have to hear about my dereliction of motherly duties at the finish line.

The plan: I get up Sunday morning early enough to eat my oatmeal and bolus my insulin so that I have little on board when I run, pick up my packet at 6:15, make it to the start line before 7:00 so I don't get screwed with a lousy start position, and prove Allison right. Then, I wander through the expo for an hour before heading to the one-mile start line with Dennis and the kids.

Ever read this?

Sometimes you just have one of those days where you set out to do something and the forces combine to eff up your ess so that you have the worst day imaginable as one thing after another goes wrong. Yesterday was one of those days for me.

For starters, I started feeling sick on Saturday night thanks to my two kids and their snotty little noses. So sick, that I finally hit the Nyquil. Like, a lot of it. So much, that I dozed off without setting my alarm. In my drug-induced Nyquil stupor, I awoke at 6:18. I threw back the covers and did the reasonable thing - I started screaming at Dennis: "Jesus effing Christ, why didn't you set a freaking alarm?! What the f%$ am I supposed to do now?? Get the fricking kids and get in the damn car!!"

Dennis, still half asleep (thank God, because he might not really remember this tirade), suggested that I just go without him and the kids, and they would meet me for the start of the one mile race hours later. So, I grabbed a Warrior Bar that tasted like a vitamin and smelled like cat pee (seriously, those things are God-awful), and ran to the car. Of course, my windows were freaking FROZEN because it was 20 degrees outside and dark as night, so I wasted another ten minutes scraping those.

I was pulling into the parking lot and checking my blood sugar at the same time, all the while focused on the line at packet pick up. I glanced down at my meter, and saw the following string of digits: 379. Fricking cold. Anytime I get even the slightest bit sick, my blood sugar goes through the roof. So, I give myself a couple units to come back down to earth...but, of course, I don't generally like to shoot up before I run. On the one hand, it's only a 5k. On the other hand, I don't really want to go low doing a 5k. So, I made the decision to take a late start time.

Late starts suck because it means running through a sea of slower people and throwing elbows all the way to the front so that I can get a good pace, taking out a couple moms with strollers so that I don't get stuck behind the race walkers. Still, I felt like this was the best that the universe had conspired to offer.

The bright note? I ran into my buddy, Danny, who just got a slot on the United Health Care Pro Cycling Team. He was leading out the races, and he positioned me nicely toward the front. (Thanks, Dan.) I still had a bunch of chicks in pink standing before me, but at least I wasn't behind the stroller women.

I stood there freezing for the next half an hour, until the start. I know, I know. I don't like people who bitch about the weather, either. Generally, I feel like worrying about Mother Nature making things difficult means you need to harden up. It’s not your tempo runs or your weekly mileage or your chia seeds or your stupid toe shoes (I was wearing mine, and yes, Miranda Fort, I love them) that will get you across the finish line. It’s your willingness to do whatever you gotta do. And, you know, it's three miles. Everyone has to deal with the weather on race day...but 20 degrees is frickin' cold.

Once I was running, I did warm up and I ended up having a great race despite all the ridiculousness of the morning. I managed a 8:12 pace, which was surprising because my first split was terrible - approaching nine minutes. (Probably because I wasn't willing to stab the pack of women jogging in one long, solid, horizontal line directly in front of me, making it impossible for me to pass.)

I crossed the finish line, hugged my kids, told my husband I was sorry for the string of bad names I called him earlier in the day. I then called him a whole other string of bad names as I was dashing frantically with he and the kids to the start line of the one mile race. My late start left only minutes between the two races, and we had to make it a good half mile from where we were standing. Dennis was taking his time.  Henry was screaming and crying about the cold the entire way. "Go INSIDE. Inside. It's so cold. I hate this. I hate you. I HATE YOU." Midori was busy watching Andy the Armadillo.

Running with kids is both a chore and an adventure. My son is like some kind of kamikaze ninja on a race course, so trying to keep up with him means yelling a lot of "I'm sorry's" to the unsuspecting people mowed down by my boy, and getting a lot of evil glances in return. My daughter really just wants to run a bit and look around at scenery and chat with other people...many of whom don't want to know about the time her brother decapitated her dolly and filled her belly with water and threw it at the neighbor boy riding his bike. Given that, running with the kids requires a "man-to-man defense" in our family. Even though Dennis has not been medically cleared to run, I told him he had no choice.

I ran with Henry who, true to form, was the third kid across the line. Once he was actually running, he forgot about the cold and was pleased to be faster than everyone else. Midori and Dennis finished a few minutes behind us. My daughter was all smiles as she crossed the line.

In all, it wasn't a bad day. Not the race I had planned, but good enough to earn a nice finish and, as promised, remind me that I am fast. Faster than I remember.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A few weeks ago, I posted the video of my teammates, Jon Obst and Ryan Jones, running the Leadville 100. That same weekend, the team of ESPN Videographers did a little clip of the kids and I. Thanks to Connor Boals and Jessica Scott, Zach Monette and Alex Kaminsky!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

Let me begin this post by giving you a gleaning into my true self: I hate holidays. All of them. Except labor day. I'm cool with that one. The rest of them, however, really just translate into more work for my otherwise busy self, and often involve a moral dilemma of some sort for yours truly. It's hard for me to get over the waste produced by a stream of paper Valentine's Day cards, all of which are printed using toxic inks and are emblazoned with commercial cartoon characters. Add to that the copious amount of sugar disseminated in said crappy cards and, well, it's a tough thing for me to fully embrace. Christmas? Aside from the fact that we are Buddhist, which means we are really just celebrating American consumerism so our kids don't get ostracized by their peers, it is a holiday that also involves millions of tons of trash, reckless spending on the part of a credit loving nation and the destruction of trees. Easter is less of an issue, since it nicely coincides with the Buddhist celebration called Hanamatsuri, but suffice it to say that we are not dyeing any eggs in my vegan home. I could go on, but I'm trying to get to the real point of this post without too many diatribes.

Halloween is upon us. I didn't always hate Halloween. Once, when I was a kid, I dressed up in my Wonder Woman undies and a bunch of construction paper, and went door-to-door looking for candy. The police were called - probably because it was June. Still, though, I loved it. That's probably why I make a genuine effort for my own kids. We make caramel apples for the neighborhood tykes, bob for apples in the backyard before heading out to jack a bunch of adults for candy, make our way through corn mazes and haunted fun houses. I'm even busying myself paper mache-ing a pit for my daughter's avocado costume. True story.

Time, effort and pit-making aside, my real issue with Halloween is the candy. Not just the amount of it, or the fact that kids eat way too much of it without the holiday as further excuse, or the wasteful nature of all the mini wrappers and whatever.... But the fact that it was made by slaves.  That's right. Much of the Halloween chocolates sold this year will come at the expense of slave labor. In fact, more than 40% of chocolate sold in the US are tainted with slavery.

Slave traders in Africa, where most cocoa is harvested, seek out young boys ranging from the age of 6 to 16 and are sell them to cocoa farmers in Cote d’Ivoire. They work on farms throughout the country, harvesting the cocoa beans day and night, under inhumane conditions. Most of the boys come from neighbouring Mali, where agents hang around bus stations looking for children that are alone or are begging for food. They lure the kids into traveling with them, under the guise of headmasters and teachers looking to provide the boys with food and an education, and then the traffickers sell the children to farmers in need of cheap labour. The Ivory Coast is the top supplier of the world’s cocoa, and the center of chocolate slavery. These children are forced to work long hours without any pay. They must carry backbreaking sacks of cocoa; they are often starved, beaten and locked up at night without toilet facilities. They are held against their will, bound and tortured and, in many cases, killed.

Hershey, Mars, Nestle and the US division of Cadbury have all been implicated as profiting from chocolate harvested with slave labor. While industry representatives and company spokespersons have claimed that they "are doing their part" to buy slave-free chocolate, independent human rights organizations and third party watch groups disagree. It's outrageous and disgusting.

What's most shocking, however, is the New York Times report on the exploitation of workers right here, in America, by Hershey. Yes, for real: These people came to the U.S. as Ph.D. candidates and were forced to work “physically arduous” jobs at $8 per hour with “steep deductions from their paychecks for housing, transportation and insurance.” They were kept isolated and poor, and the program’s sponsor ignored the students’ requests for help for months. Horrifying.

So, what does one do? If you are going to ply your trick or treaters with chocolate, buy Fair Trade Certified. These suppliers do not use cocoa harvested by child slaves:

  • Sjaaks makes some awesome chocolates, with some vegan options. All are Organic and Fair Trade...and tasty! They are well-priced, too. A 1.5lb tub of their individually wrapped peanut butter bites will set you back a mere $30 or so, and that should take care of about 100 rings of the doorbell.
  • Divine Chocolates is another personal favorite. A half pound tub with about 50 pieces of 70% dark chocolate costs $14.99. More importantly, though, the chocolate is really good. "The cocoa is grown in the shade of the tropical rainforest, and slowly fermented and dried in the sun by the farmers, who take great pride in the chocolate company they co-own."
  • Endangered Species sells bags of Fair Trade Milk and Dark chocolate mixes at retailers like Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage. If you want to forgo the milk and purchase just the vegan varieties, you can do that through their online store. They also sell in larger quantities than the bags, for those who live in areas where the doorbell rings all night long. Not only is this chocolate Fair Trade, but the farmers also co-own their product, and the company adheres to strict environmental standards. A portion of proceeds from the sale of their chocolates are donated to organizations that work to preserve natural habitats for endangered animals.
Of course, there are plenty of non-chocolate treats, too...just make sure that you are not buying candy from the parent companies that support the use of slave labor. (Kraft, anyone?)

Or, you can skip the candy altogether. We've taken to that approach in recent years. My husband did have a conniption the year I tried handing out mini boxes of raisins, insisting that our home would be egged by morning if I continued with the execution of my plan...but we've had good success doling out glow in the dark bracelets and necklaces, boxes of crayons, bubbles, mini paint and brush sets, or healthier food items like individual packages of organic animal crackers, pretzels, trail mix packages and granola bars.

Like it’s not enough to make the crappy chocolates from corn syrup and cow’s milk...the major candy companies force foreign engineering students and little kids to make the crappy chocolates, too, and terrorize them in the process. Hershey’s, you are the worst. Fair Trade, you guys. It costs more because it isn’t made by slaves.

Monday, October 1, 2012

To hate the player or the game? That is the question in Minnesota, where Blue Cross Blue Shield recently produced an anti-obesity campaign that many alleged is centered around the shaming of fat people. Instead of addressing the issues surrounding the prevalence of cheap, non-nutritive foods and the need for urban planning initiatives that support active living, or the obesegenic nature of the American landscape, the campaign examines the role of parents in modeling food choices that promote weight gain. Here's one snippet:

I get a little squeamish when people start talking "personal responsibility." Not because I don't believe that, on every level, people are obliged to take control over their health and their body, to have some kind of agency that permits them to seek proper nutrition and exercise and, yes, to model good things to their children...but, rather, because the rhetoric smacks of something ugly.  It evokes language of blame, weakness, and vice and is a leading basis for inadequate government efforts, given the importance of environmental conditions in explaining high rates of obesity. The shaming of fat people and the process of assigning blame is cathartic at best, but does little to afford real solutions to the impact of childhood obesity and looming public health crisis encompassed therein. It's not as if all this chatter about "owning your choices" is placing priority on legislative and regulatory actions, like improving school nutrition, menu labeling, altering industry marketing practices, changing farm subsidies or even controversial measures like the use of food taxes that create healthier defaults, or the regulation of food coupons as they are employed to purchase only those most nutritive foods. Instead, it basically tells fat people what they already know: You should eat well and manage portion sizes while getting the requisite physical activity.

This brand of shaming is also a bit classist. After all, it assumes that people have a choice in the food they eat. For the 7% of Americans who rely of food pantries or provisional meals at shelters, there is no such opportunity to negotiate the nature or quantity of calories consumed in a single meal. Same goes for the children who receive free lunches in the public schools. Moreover, it neglects those who live in urban food deserts, where grocery stores are scarce and food purchases are made at bodegas and convenience stores. It assumes that people live in safe places, where children can go out of doors, or women can safely lace up their shoes and head out for a run.

Mostly, though, I'm not sure that the kind of pejorative language and imagery surrounding these campaigns is effective. While the confrontational tactics employed in the ads does its share to stir up dialogue, it might do little to inspire...and it certainly doesn't supply alternatives or provide the tools and resources people might need to better manage their health.

All that aside, I do believe in the power of parents. I believe they should absolutely exercise discretion in the feeding of their children, and I personally know many women who for reasons of laziness and personal food preferences rely on fast foods and processed convenience foods to feed their families. While one can argue that the ubiquity of marketing messages and junk foods makes it harder for parents to say "no," or to prepare and present quality foods, it is the job of mothers and fathers to preserve the health and safety of their kids. A pantry full of Hoe Cakes does seem negligent when your child is already overweight. I've seen more than a few sippy cups filled with cola, toddlers cut teeth on chicken nuggets and mothers stash grocery carts full of sweetened juice beverages and chips. I'm just not sure that shaming these parents will change their behavior. The answer is, as always, far more complex. It's a careful cocktail of agency, ownership, information and, yes, regulatory reform.