Friday, September 24, 2010

Our Bigtime Middle Schooler

So far Leo is doing amazingly well in his first year of middle school. I recall being so miserable this age! He is relaxed and confident, and at this point really likes all of his teachers, especially his homeroom. His personality immediately matured once school started, almost as if he was trying on this older persona to fit the bill. He really seemed to think he was a big shot.

He knows several kids in his class from elementary school (there are 5 feeder schools), and is now mentioning a boy from a different elementary school that he is "starting to become friends with." Yeah! His teachers seem really motivated and youthful and also parents themselves. Always a help!

Right away Leo memorized his schedule, didn't need to look at it after day one. He is amazing with directions and location, he never got lost. He seemed unfazed by having to switch classes.

The bus was our biggest concern - Leo did NOT like how long the ride was, and how it drove 20 miles an hour and stopped so many times. He had a huge headache the first couple days but now he's adjusted. He has learned how to move around to sit with friends as people get off, and keep himself entertained for the almost hour ride home. I said to myself that I'd give him 2 weeks to adjust, and if he still didn't like it I'd drive him. After a few days he loves it, a big social time for the kids. Recess and lunch is so short, the only real time the neighborhood kids can connect.

I loved helping him put together his multiple class binder with tabs and all of his grownup supplies. No more crayons! He loves that he needs a scientific calculator and is proud that he is in advanced math. Thankfully the school emphasizes organization - he writes in all of his assignments in a calendar and each teacher has a web page with links and the homework and even grades. Designed just for me and also Leo.

The math teacher is a classic math nerd, and seems to be one of our people. She is really dedicated and encourages kids to hang out in her class at lunch and ask for help. Leo really likes her, so I am happy that he can have fun with math again, his favorite subject and also his best strength.

Leo prefers to take lunch, although he is healthy enough to eat cafeteria food. He doesn't like a big production since there are always lines and cuts out of table time. He plays some kind of sport at lunch and that too is organized, so he is having fun.

Class sizes are big (28 in most classes, up to 50 for band and technology). We are looking at this year as a placeholder to see how he does. Will he thrive in large classes with so much independence? He qualifies for the "gifted" program (I really hate that word since all kids are gifted in different ways), so we can always look for those programs for next year if needed. Always hard to know what to do, but at least we are lucky to have choices. So, we went with a social decision - to have him go with the neighbor kids.

I do miss the emphasis on education from back east. There is less money per student here and so the schools are not as good as what we were used to. I do want him to have choices for college and really have a solid base to fall back on. I didn't, and had to take several remedial courses to be prepared for certain college courses. But I am getting too ahead of myself!

It's been a year since we moved from New England to the beautiful North West. Leo has friends, is identified still under the "jock" group. He has no best friend, just a few good friends. His best friend from back east visited this summer. They had a blast! We were so impressed how Leo was able to maintain a long-distance friendship at 11 years old. Phone and Skype. A true deep and lasting friendship.

Leo continues to play baseball, his first love, but is enjoying his Fantasy Football League and watching ESPN with his dad. He has also taken up hiking and camping with his dad, such a nature lover. He now walks with me on weekends up the hills in our neighborhood - a real workout for me!

Health wise, Leo is doing well. We continue to eat organic whole foods whenever possible, and eat gluten and sugar on occasion, usually for social reasons or going out to dinner. Unfortunately, Leo began having symptoms of Lyme disease back in February, so we started him on an anti-microbial regiment that includes antibiotics, and herbs/homeopathics for support. We are happy to be living out of Lyme Land, and are hopeful that by next year the microbes will be under control, including strep and mold. In some ways, he is no different than any other "normal" kid out there physically, except that he takes a boat load of pills.

I have seen shades of pre-adolescence, and recently Leo asked me to buy him deodorant. He is growing up! I no longer feel as anxious as I used to feel about going through puberty. I am confident he will maintain his functioning level, barring anything unusual happen with his Lyme. He has barely any symptoms - occasional facial tics that come and go when he is getting sick or nervous, or going through a die-off cycle with the Lyme.

And speaking of Lyme, I heard Leo recently tell his friend about his sister's condition (she has Chronic Lyme and was very very ill, but is now pain-free and doing well). Leo said "Can you imagine, having a headache that never goes away for 2 years?" Not to mention all her other 17 symptoms she had of pain. His empathy and deep understand of what our family goes through and had to go through really moved me. Such empathy, in a kid that used to have autism!

Sydney, Leo's 9 year old sister is doing very well. She is now pain-free, losing all her chronic symptoms this summer. Pretty exciting! She does get flares each week, but they are minor, and are only one or two symptoms that last about 4 to 5 hours. Her pathogen load is very low, and we feel we are close to remission. She will continue on her Chronic Lyme regiment for at least one more year. Lucky for us, we have great doctors that we see each month and she is steadily improving. She plays soccer and has 4 dance classes a week, not to mention lots of play dates and playing with neighborhood kids. She is really enjoying her newly found endurance, and is rebuilding her strength and stamina. She is free from pain, and we are all overjoyed.

Lastly, I should mention we had a great end of elementary school. I never got a chance to post about it. I was a blubbering mess as usual. I couldn't stop thinking about how much he has gone through, and now today he lives a normal life and has just "graduated" elementary school. He is in line with the other kids, laughing and joking around, high-fiving the teachers. So much pain and suffering, so much chaos long ago. Incredible.

Leo did get a little homesick for his old school the last couple weeks, and regretted not being able to graduate with his friends. He was positive but realistic about graduating with kids he didn't know every well. He prefers our current life, and is very wise about the dangers of Lyme and his weak immune system. He had a great summer - lots of site-seeing and hosting friends and family. Their turn to visit us instead of visa-versa. He loves having his own room and enjoys a more urban experience.

I make sure to tell him how much I love him and how proud of him every day. This is usually right before he waves me away while he meets up with the neighbor boy to go to the bus in the morning.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The First Autism Child

This is a very fascinating article in The Atlantic about the "first" adult with Autism. He sounds like an incredible person that has been through so much.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

NY Times: Genetically Engineered Salmon

The New York Times
September 21, 2010

F.D.A. Hearing Focuses on the Labeling of Genetically Engineered Salmon

ROCKVILLE, Md. — So what do you call a salmon that is genetically engineered to grow fast?

If it is allowed to be sold in supermarkets, some consumer and environmental groups want it to be labeled as just that — so the engineered salmon cannot be mistaken for the regular fish. But the Food and Drug Administration says such a label might not be possible under its regulations.

The labeling issue was the focus of a daylong hearing here Tuesday as the F.D.A. considers whether to approve the sale of the genetically engineered salmon, which grow to market size in about half the time as regular salmon.

If approved, the salmon would be the first genetically engineered animal to enter the American food supply. The F.D.A. made no ruling on the labeling, but officials made clear that the agency was not permitted to change the label on a food merely because it was genetically engineered. The food itself must be different — in its taste, nutrition or safety, for example. For the same reason, no labels about genetic engineering appear on the many foods now sold that contain genetically modified corn and soybeans.

The consumer groups, which do not want the salmon approved at all, disputed the F.D.A.’s interpretation of the regulations. The groups also said that in an era in which people pay more attention to the sources of their food, they had a right to know when a product was genetically engineered.

“The least you can do if you put these products on the market is to let consumers decide for themselves, and you need labeling to do that,” said Patricia Lovera of Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group. “Every trend in the food industry shows consumers want more information, not less.”

But AquaBounty Technologies, the Boston-area company that developed the salmon, suggested that a “genetically engineered” label would be akin to a skull and crossbones, killing sales. Elliot Entis, a founder of AquaBounty, said critics were trying to “delegitimize the product through labeling.”

Some representatives of the food and biotechnology industries supported the F.D.A.’s policy about labeling. “The food label is not a playground for every bit of information someone wants to know,” said David B. Schmidt, president of the International Food Information Council, an industry group.

If there were no requirement to label the fish, AquaBounty or companies that market its fish could voluntarily label it. It is more likely, however, that other fish companies would want to label their products as not being genetically engineered.

But the F.D.A. has said even that labeling could run into roadblocks. Labeling must not be false and misleading, such as by implying that the nonengineered fish was in some way superior to the engineered fish. The agency has stopped some milk producers from labeling their product as coming from cows not injected with bovine growth hormoneunless they include a statement that the F.D.A. had found that there is no difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.

The timetable for approval of the salmon is not clear.

In a meeting Monday, F.D.A. advisers faulted some studies the agency used to conclude that the salmon was safe for people and the environment, though they did not say the fish was dangerous. If the F.D.A. were to now order AquaBounty Technologies to do more studies, any approval could be delayed by months.

What's for dinner? Frankenfish or cloned cow? So many things to choose from that isn't studied and without a doubt will change our DNA and destroy this generation.


Oracle Growth Plans Worry Rivals and Customers

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Friday, September 17, 2010

WSJ: Herbal Supplements Face New Scrutiny

by Laura Landro

Elderberry extract and acai to boost the immune system. Black cohosh to lessen the discomforts of menopause. Soy capsules to prevent bone loss and prostate cancer.

Many botanical supplements—made from the seeds, bark, leaves, flowers and stems of a wide range of plants—have been widely used as folk remedies for centuries. Americans have been consuming growing quantities of the supplements in hopes of warding off disease and easing symptoms of various conditions. But there is scant scientific evidence to support their health benefits.

Usage of botanicals is growing.

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Milk thistle

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St. John's wort

Now, the federal government is stepping up research into the safety and effectiveness of a wide range of over-the-counter supplements, including plant oils, garlic, soy, elderberry, licorice, black cohosh, St. John's wort and the Asian herb dong quai. The aim is to better understand how compounds in the plants affect health and to help consumers make more informed choices about supplements, which can interact with prescription drugs, cause side effects or lead to new health risks. Sales of botanical supplements in the U.S. topped $5 billion last year, up 17% from five years earlier, according to the non-profit American Botanical Council.

"Sometimes people assume because a product is natural, it is also safer. But these compounds can have both benefits and potential side effects and we need to understand both of those," says Floyd Chilton III, director of the Center for Botanical Lipids and Inflammatory Disease Prevention at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Chilton's center received a $7.5 million federal grant to study botanicals, including whether plant oils such as echium and borage can help play a role in preventing cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

"People are using supplements for purposes for which they were not intended," such as treating health conditions they have self-diagnosed, or using multiple supplements in combination with prescription medications, says Marguerite Klein, director of the Botanical Centers Research program at the National Institutes of Health. One concern, she says is the heavy use by women of black cohosh to treat menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes. Limited research seems to support the black cohosh's benefit. But it isn't known how the botanical works. Black cohosh has been linked in some patients to liver damage, and breast-cancer patients are often advised to avoid using it because its effects on breast tissue are unknown.

Helping to spur the research initiative are the Office of Dietary Supplements and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, both part of the National Institutes of Health. The agencies last month awarded grants totaling about $37 million to five dietary supplement research centers, expanding a program that has already awarded more than $250 million in research grants for herbs and botanicals since 2002. The NIH is also funding research into botanical products through the National Cancer Institute, which is interested in how components in botanicals might influence cancer risk and tumor growth.

The Powers of Garlic


Adding garlic to your diet has several health benefits including assistance in warding off cancer and boosting the immune system. Video courtesy of Fox News.

Studies funded by the federal grants have so far shown that chamomile capsules may help reduce anxiety compared to a placebo and that an extract from the milk thistle plant can interfere with the life cycle of the hepatitis C virus. They also have refuted some purported benefits of botanicals, showing, for instance, that ginkgo biloba does not prevent heart attack, stroke, or cancer, or stem memory loss and that St. John's wort was no better than a placebo in treating symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children and teens.

Unlike drugs, which must be tested in clinical trials and approved by the Food and Drug Administration before they can be marketed, botanicals and other supplements don't require regulatory approval. The FDA in June began requiring all supplement makers to follow strict quality manufacturing standards, but the agency only periodically inspects plants.

An investigation published in May by the General Accounting Office found deceptive marketing practices at a number of online retailers, including claims that supplements could prevent or cure conditions such as diabetes, cancer, or cardiovascular disease. The investigation also found trace amounts of potentially hazardous contaminants, such as lead or bacteria, in 37 of 40 herbal dietary supplement products it tested.

Tod Cooperman, president of, which tests supplement brands for quality, says the group finds problems with about 25% of all supplements, and especially with herbal products, many with ingredients from overseas. A recent review of supplements made from ginseng—commonly taken to boost energy and vitality—found that 45% failed quality tests because they didn't contain the advertised amount of ginseng or were contaminated with lead. Test results and other information are available to members, who pay $30 annually.

Consumers also can find information about potential uses, benefits and risks of dietary supplements at federal websites and Another government site,, grades scientific evidence on a variety of supplements.

William Cefalu, director of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, says researchers are only beginning to understand how thousands of different compounds in a single plant may interact, and how the concentration of a particular plant chemical affects its potency. For example, peppermint tea is considered safe to drink, but peppermint oil, often taken for irritable bowel syndrome or indigestion, is much more concentrated and can be toxic if used in high doses.

Because the potency of wild plants can vary, some researchers are cultivating their own. At the Center for Botanical Interaction Studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia, 600 types of soybean seeds are being cultivated to study different concentrations of the same compounds in the plants and how they might work to prevent prostate cancer. The center is also growing 60 types of elderberries to study the plant's possible role in boosting the immune system against infection and fighting cancer and inflammation in the body. Center director Dennis Lubahn says there may be variations in individual plants that will make a difference in how well they fight disease. "We've come a long way from the traditional medicine woman sampling leaves in the forest," he says.

Petal Power?

Researchers are studying if plant-based supplements on the market can help treat many diseases and conditions.

Black cohoshPrevention of hot flashes and other menopause symptoms, may help improve bone density.No long-term safety data on breast tissue; may cause liver damage.
Soy(phytoestrogens)May lower risk of LDL ('bad') cholesterol; reduce hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.Possible role in development of breast, uterine cancers.
Milk thistleMay promote growth of liver cells, improve symptoms of liver disease; possible treatment for hepatitis C.May lower blood-sugar levels in diabetics; allergic reactions, gastrointestinal side effects.
GinsengMay lower blood sugar, boost immunity, increase stamina.Headaches; allergic reactions; sleep and gastrointestinal problems.
ElderberryAnti-oxidant, may lower cholesterol, boost immune system, improve heart health.Diuretic effects; no scientific data on benefits.
Cranberry (extracts, tablet, capsules )May prevent urinary tract disorders, stomach ulcers, dental plaque; anti-cancer benefits.Could cause GI upset; may interact with blood-thinning drugs.
Evening primroseModest benefits for eczema; may be useful for rheumatoid arthritis and breast pain.May cause gastrointestinal upset, headache.
St. John's wortMay help treat mild depression.May limit effectiveness of prescription medications; unproven as treatment for major depression.

.It is plainly obvious why the government and their special interest groups (pharm. companies) are spending millions of dollars looking into natural treatments. As always, it's the money they are losing to this new market - 5 billion to be exact as stated in the article. I also noted there were no deaths or serious complications using these alternatives mentioned as an anecdote or otherwise. The Possible Risks column are filled with symptoms that "may" appear. Symptoms that are similar and common to prescription drugs. And actually, they do not look as bad as a whole in comparison. We read daily about newly uncovered risks from prescription meds and even deaths. I am hopeful this is a sign we are moving in the right direction now that money is going into different pockets. There are choices out there and so are answers to chronic illness. We just have to be in charge of our own health and get it done.