Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Food Allergies != Fun

Sarah and I grew up without allergies and in allergy-free homes with allergy-free extended families and mostly allergy-free friends. That’s why it’s so strange to us that Maya has unpleasant sensitivities to so many different foods.

The confirmed list of banned foods includes:

  • Tomatoes
  • Pineapple
  • Blueberries
  • Dairy

And some recent probable foods:

  • Soy
  • Corn

In case you haven’t checked a food label recently, that means she can’t eat anything. No cheese, ice cream, ketchup, fruit salad, anything sweetened with corn syrup (e.g. almost everything), anything with soybeans or soybean oil (everything else), or anything with butter in it.

Maybe I’m being a little dramatic—she’s not going to starve—it’s just very difficult to get used to and impossible to eat meals prepared by others. She gets by on a solid diet of delicious home-cooked meals, supplemented with scrambled eggs and peanut butter.

Fortunately, Sarah’s taken this all in stride. She bakes all of our bread and sandwich buns (you cannot find buns that are safe for her to eat at a regular store—it’s crazy), and somehow prepares three meals a day for her and dinner for us without the above ingredients…and they’re good.

So as you might imagine, we’ve become quite good at reading food labels. We love that labels are often very clear, including nice bold statement like “contains milk, soy”, but sometimes they hide ingredients behind phrases like “natural flavors” and “spices”. As a parent trying to figure out why my almost-two-year-old daughter is sensitive to a dish it’s very helpful to know what’s actually in it. Concealing ingredients behind groupings like those is very frustrating for us.

imageA recent example of our struggle is Progresso chicken broth. What’s in chicken broth you say? According to the product label, the website, the toll free number on the back of the box, and the letter they sent us, this is what’s in there:

Ingredients: Chicken Broth, Sea Salt, Sugar, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Carrot Puree, Natural Flavor, Salt, Chicken Powder, Chicken Fat*, Celery Juice Concentrate, Onion Powder, Chicken Meat, Carrot Juice Concentrate, Spices, Onion Juice Concentrate, Garlic Powder. [underlining added]

Oh, so the first ingredient in broth is…broth. That makes sense. So Sarah emailed and called Progresso to find out what exactly are: chicken broth, natural flavor, and spices. I’m wondering what chicken powder is, too, but that’s for another day. Their response: we don’t know (i.e. they don’t tell us so we can’t tell you). I called again and pressed further and was simply told to stop buying Progresso Broth if I was worried about it because they can’t tell me what’s in it.

Well that was frustrating. This as a great example of a company failing to win a customer. There’s probably a dozen reasons not to tell us what’s behind those ingredients but I can’t think of one that really stands up to scrutiny. It’s not like we’re going to start making our own broth. Plus, if I was a real competitor, I would think more scientific approaches to figuring out what is in the box would be more fruitful. Instead of giving us a complete, uncensored list of ingredients like Superior Touch did for their Better Than Bullion product (they were awesome—completely answered our questions in a single phone call), they took our name and promised a call back. Days later, the callback was unhelpful. Weeks later, we received a package from General Mills, Progresso’s parent company. This contained a letter with the same unhelpful answer: we won’t tell you what’s in there, but thanks!

As expected, they included some coupons for more broth (which we can’t use in anything Maya touches because we still don’t know what’s in it). Unexpected, though, was the reason for the package: they included a bunch of General Mills-themed matchbox cars. Seriously—we have four of these things:

IMG_6340 IMG_6337
(Charlotte pictured, not Maya) 

Maya loves them. So, Progresso, thanks for the coupons and the toys—I guess we’re even. I wish I could feed your product to my child, though!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

To Fail Or Not To Fail; Plus Bonus Ruminations

A hilarious meme popular in my social group right now is that of the fail. This is inspired by many popular sites, the most notable being FailBlog. a “fail” is an act of failure concluded with the (typically third-party) exclamation “fail”. Some examples:

While trying to refill a honey bear, I over filled causing quite a mess. Upon seeing my error, a witness is right to proclaim, “Fail!”. This is also increasingly popular in photos. For example, FailBlog is full of sign fails and science fails like these:


But you already know this. Why would I spend so much time defining a fail? Because apparently it’s not so obvious to a certain group of BabyCenter moms. Here are a few Fail fails:


What’s the fail? Are they not girls? Is one of them not yours?

image But they do match. You don’t get how this works…


Is it because the kid isn’t smiling at your song? Or is this a song lyric grammar fail? Sigh…

Sometimes, it’s a genuine fail, but needs a much, much shorter title (e.g. “Fail”):


The problem is that a true fail is self evident and most of these are not. Adding extra words to the caption should only carefully be done to add an extra punch.

In the spirit of all things fail, here are a few pics I snapped on the way to work recently:

Commute Fail

Fire Fighting FTW

On my way to work the fire truck pulled out in front of me and while I waited at a traffic light, they extinguished the flames shooting out of that car. Good work guys!

Here’s another encountered while trying to start up a VM on my Windows 7 machine (for those lucky enough to not be familiar with this, it’s the BSOD—what you see when your computer decides to suddenly stop working):


If you want some more funny pics, check out some recent protester signs.

While I’m dumping photos off my phone, here are some non-fail ruminations.

Once a year, Starbucks seduces its coffee loyalists (warning: avoid mental image!):


And on the other side of the same easel, we’ve got a number of problems. We’re missing an apostrophe, it’s already well after 2pm, and what does that mean about the tax? It’s applicable some places but not here, where I am?


Impressive hand-writing, though!

Pictures don’t do this next one justice. It was the saddest water feature I’ve seen in a long time:


Despite its imposing size, it had just one little stream of water which did not do well to cover up the pump or wires powering the thing.

On to more serious matters: getting busy. Here’s family prevention section at Target:


A few observations:

  • The top two shelves are only necessary if something from a lower self has let you down or wasn’t in use
  • A purchase from the lower shelves is probably always done with a smile (thus the cool product names)
  • Purchases from the top shelves, however, are undoubtedly nervous buys (even if you’re trying to become pregnant), and thus the professional product names (peeing on a stick never looked so…idk)
  • This could be a nice (i.e. hilarious) way to bring up the pregnancy topic with your significant other. Simply peruse the aisle and instead of reaching in for some family prevention, pick up some family detection

Anyone remember Microsoft Bob? Here’s a kid’s version available today:


And finally, I leave you with something that rarely happens as planned: