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Memoirs ’ Category
Thursday, April 24th, 2014
Could you live for a year without sugar? What about you and your family? That’s exactly what Eve O. Schaub did and then wrote about in her new book, Year of No Sugar. Sound like torture to give up hazelnut flavored coffee creamer and Girl Scout cookies? Well, it’s even more than that–sugar lurks in breads, deli meats and so many other places. Check out this list–you’ll be sugar shocked. So Eve is here to help. She gives 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting including grocery shopping lists and recipes. Read more about her successes and setbacks below:
KK: How did you get the idea to go sugar free? Why did you extend it to the whole family?
ES: I got the idea to do a Year of No Sugar after watching a YouTube video my husband happened upon. It was a 90-minute medical lecture by Dr. Robert Lustig entitled “Sugar: The Bitter Truth”It’s not exactly the kind of thing you’d expect to go viral, but that’s just what happened: It’s been viewed over four million times to date.
After watching the video, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that sugar was hidden in plain sight everywhere we went. Once I had the idea to do a Year of No Sugar, it seemed natural for us to do the project together as a family. After all, I do most of the family cooking, and we eat most of our meals together. Additionally, I felt that while one person can do any old crazy thing, a whole family eating a particular way would represent something far more interesting and meaningful.
KK: What were the kids reactions when you told them?
ES: Ohhhhh, not good. We were driving home from a visit to my mother’s and as soon as my husband and I started explaining it they instantly knew that this was a terrible, awful, horrible idea. They immediately started wailing and gnashing their teeth: “What about Christmas? What about Halloween? What about Birthdays?” It wasn’t pretty.
KK: Did you go cold turkey or gradually reduce sugar?
ES: Our project began on January 1, pretty much cold turkey, which isn’t to say we didn’t make any mistakes. Immediately we began experiencing a very steep learning curve as to what was going to be involved in our Year of No Sugar, for example: We went to a pancake house for breakfast on New Year’s Day. Now, surely, I might have realized that simply avoiding the maple syrup container on the table wasn’t going to be enough (there’s sugar in the pancake and waffle batters, in the bacon, in the sausage) but at that time I really didn’t. It would take weeks before we got into a groove of understanding how to best ask questions in restaurants, how to efficiently read ingredients while grocery shopping, how to plan ahead for times when we’d be out and need to have some food on hand.
KK: I’m very interested in doing a version of this for my family of six. Do you have 3-5 tips for getting started? I don’t even know if I can do it!
ES: You can totally do it! I firmly believe that anyone who wants to avoid sugar can do it, even in our super sugar-saturated society. In many ways I think our culture’s addiction to sugar is as much an issue of convenience as it is of taste; Americans love convenience, and sugar is one of the ways the Big Food companies have been able to give it to us. Consequently, avoiding sugar is often simply a matter of becoming more aware of what’s really in our foods, and being willing to spend a little extra time searching for alternatives. That said, here are 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting:
- Don’t drink sugar. This is our society’s biggest sugar-culprit, from soda and sports drinks to bottled teas and, yes, juice. Stick with water, milk, unsweetened coffee or tea. Wine contains a vanishingly small amount of fructose (the bad part of sugar), and is way preferable to alcoholic drinks mixed with syrups, juices or sodas.
- Read ingredients. Always. If I learned anything in our Year of No Sugar, it is never to assume I know what is in a product. You’ll be amazed the places you will find sugar once you start to look: crackers, bread, tortellini, chicken broth, peanut butter, salad dressing, cold cuts, baby formula. Even if you can’t imagine why sugar would be there, check.
- Know Sugar’s Aliases. Today there are so many bizarre laboratory-born ingredients that it’s tempting to give up trying to know what is in our food. On my website, you can check out my list of sugar’s popular aliases as well as the list of things that sound like they might be sugar but aren’t.
- Don’t make it a big deal. The last thing a kid wants to hear, or many adults either for that matter, is how good for them something is. Sugar in our culture is synonymous with fun, so saying something is sugar-free is tantamount to saying it is fun-free, not to mention probably taste-free. I find the best strategy is not to mention that the Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting you brought to the potluck has no added sugar and then watch as the entire thing disappears, down to the crumbs.
KK: What’s the challenging part of sticking with it?
ES: The most challenging part of our year caught me by surprise: It wasn’t the cravings or the temptation to cheat, it was the social isolation that comes with eating differently than everyone else around you. I never realized how heavily our culture relies on food to make things official, and in our culture food means sugar. From birthdays to funerals to fundraisers to the last day of school picnic: we often found ourselves existing in some inexpressible way apart from our friends, acquaintances and neighbors… celebrating next to them, rather than with them.
KK: What was good or bad about the year?
ES: Some of the results of our Year of No Sugar were easier to anticipate: It made us feel healthier, the kids missed fewer school days, and we all became expert sugar sleuths. Other things took us more by surprise – not to be indelicate, but we pooped more. Whereas I had once been a recipe-slave, following every instruction to the letter, I learned to enjoy improvising and experimenting. Also, our palates began to change, and we found ourselves disgusted by the taste of once-beloved treats.
For me, the down side of doing a Year of No Sugar was that once we stopped, I felt adrift: How do we go on? What are the rules now? Figuring out how to have some small amount of sugar in our lives without going overboard was yet another significant challenge.
KK: Are you glad you did it? Are you still on the no-sugar diet?
ES: Everyone in our family is glad we did our Year of No Sugar. The kids are proud of the fact that we accomplished something that plainly horrifies their classmates. By the same token, everyone is glad that the year is over and that we don’t have to be quite so strict as we were during that Year, for example, we now eat mayonnaise and ketchup with impunity.
We are now what I’d call “High Level Sugar Avoiders:” We eschew sugar in most things, make our own breads and sauces and cook as much as we can at home. It still makes me irate when a product contains sugar needlessly like crackers and salad dressing. As for dessert, we save it for special occasions, not more than once every week or two.
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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014
Are your kids a-holes? Be serious for a second. Sure, you love them a lot. But sometimes, don’t they act like scumbags? Mine do. Just yesterday, I was coming home from a very long day at work. As I walked in the door, I caught my 8-year-old daughter unplugging my iPhone charger in the kitchen. And replacing it with her iPod charger that does not work.
I know you know. And so does author Karen Alpert who just released her first book, I Heart My Little A-Holes. She also runs the funny and candid website called Baby Sideburns, a popular site dedicated to tell the truth–the whole truth–about raising children.
Karen just wants us all to get real about parenting–and laugh our asses off. Exclusively for Parents readers, she wrote the following letter to her future 18-year-old daughter.
A Letter to My Daughter in the Future: Minus that sappy crap you see on Huff Post
by Karen Alpert
‘To my daughter when she turns 18 (many many years from now):
Well, hey there, kiddo. Remember me, the mom you used to love but now probably hate with every bone in your teenage body? If you’re anything like the little shit I was at your age, you’re barely speaking to me right now, much less listening to my brilliant words of wisdom.
The way I see it I’ll be hitting menopause at about the same time you’re in the thick of puberty, so basically we’re F’ed, so I figured I better write you this letter now before we’re not speaking to each other. Then again, if I’m wrong and we’re like totally besties, I’ll just tell you this shit over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and give you this letter so you’ll have it in writing too.
Before you move away from home (at which point I’ll be locked up in the bathroom, drowning my tears in a bottle of vodka), I wanted to make sure to pass along some words of advice to you. Here are a few things to do in your early adulthood before life sucks the life out of you:
1. Get shitfaced once in a while. Some of my best bonding moments were when I had one (translation: four) too many cocktails with my girlfriends. Just don’t do any of the following while you’re shitfaced: Walk home alone, drive drunk or sleep with a guy. Even if he’s like ridiculously hot. No, not because he might turn out to be fugly when you’re sober. Consider this shit: If he’s that attractive, guess what else might be attracted to him? Herpes, genital warts, and crabs. Going home with a hangover the next morning is doable. Going home with the Red Lobster menu crawling all over your hoo-ha not so much.
2. And while we’re on the subject of bonding, try to make a lot of great friends in your 20s. Here are a few things that happen when you’re a young adult: You go out a lot, you drink, and you hang out on people’s couches. As you get older these things happen less and less. Not that you can’t bond with a friend over a stinky diaper change. It just doesn’t quite bring you together the same way dropping your pants to pee in an alley does. Not that I’ve done that.
3. And speaking of dropping your pants, let’s talk about your career choice. Yeah, picking something you love is important, but here’s some shit the career counselors won’t tell you. You know how you say one day you want to get married and have babies and all that junk and give me little grandbabies I can cuddle and love and hand back to you when they take a shit? If you can, pick a job that’s going to be flexible with hours one day and let you work from home. There’s no such thing as a part-time investment banker. Or a part-time cardiac surgeon. They’re fabulous jobs, and yeah, I’d be proud as hell to say my daughter is doing a heart transplant, but I’d also be watching your kiddo all day, and I’m not sure how cool it would be for me to walk into your operating room and say, “Here, take your rug rat. He just made a doodie and I ain’t changing it.”
4. Notice how in that last paragraph I said one day you want to get married? I didn’t say you want to find a husband. Yeah, if you’re a lesbian, just tell us. Don’t beat around the bush. Wait, yes, beat around the bush, but tell us you’re beating around the bush. It’ll actually make us feel better, especially your dad, who has a gun ready for the first guy who asks for your hand in marriage.
5. Which is a great segue to dating. Whether you’re into men or women, you’re going to date a bunch of assholes along the way. They might break up with you in a text message or cheat on you with their ex who they broke up with in a text message. And they’ll probably make you cry and feel like crapola. Just know that they are not a waste of time. They are all there to teach you what you DON’T want in a partner.
6. Because one day your boobs will droop so low they touch your ankles, and your elbows will make you wonder whether you’re one-quarter elephant, and your eyesight will be so bad you’ll fail to notice your one-haired goatee until it gets tangled in your necklace, and that’s when you’ll want a partner who’s not going to throw up in their mouth a little when they see you naked. You want to end up with someone who thinks you’re more gorgeous than the day you first met.
7. And one last thing. Even if you’re not talking to me right now, know that you can always tell me anything. ANYTHING. I’ve probably been there myself, even if I never told you about it. I might want to kick the shit out of you and lock you in a room forever, but I won’t actually do it. I will always be there for you (with a bottle of something hard if you’re twenty-one or a pint of something chocolatey if you’re not). I love you.
Mommy (Of course I realize by now you’re probably calling me Mom. Or Shithead.)
For more funny stories, you’ve got to flip through this quick and organized little book, I Heart My Little A-Holes. Oddly, it will make you appreciate the sh!theads you have at home.
What career is your child destined for? Click to find out.
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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
For Autism Awareness Month this April, I want to take a second and recommend a beautiful memoir called Know the Night by Maria Mutch. Her son has Down and also autism. She has a lot of heartful advice for all of us:
KK: How common is a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and Autism? MM: The presence of autism in people with Down syndrome has really just started to be recognized in the last dozen years or so. The thinking used to be that a person with Down syndrome somehow could not also be autistic. Now there’s a better understanding of autism and its incidence alongside other major diagnoses. My son Gabriel’s autism diagnosis didn’t happen until the age of six because it was difficult to tease apart his characteristics. When his diagnosis was finally made, I went through all the typical emotions, including being angry; in the end, however, the diagnosis proved to be a relief because there was less mystery surrounding what was happening to him.
KK: Why did you write this memoir about your son and his special needs with a backdrop and parallel story of a historical narrative?
MM: I wrote about the polar explorer and aviator, Richard Byrd, and the time he spent alone in a hut in Antarctica in 1934, in part because I came across his book, Alone, and loved it. During the two year period when Gabriel developed his sleeping disorder, I was pretty much at loose ends and found that in reading Byrd’s book there was something like solace. The story had some parallels with our own, if only figuratively, and there was the presence of night in Byrd’s book as well, as he was in Antarctica during the part of the polar year when the sun doesn’t rise. The other very important reason for writing about Byrd was because I noticed, in the unique stories of isolation of both Gabriel and Byrd, a universal narrative about fearing being alone and longing to connect. I could enlarge the story of Gabriel and me by talking about Byrd, and then go beyond that. We all know what it is to feel isolated, regardless of our life circumstances.
KK: How do you think music—especially jazz—has been therapeutic for you, your son, and for your whole family?
MM: Discovering that Gabriel enjoyed jazz was a marvelous thing. It gave us the opportunity to connect with him and see another side of him, and it gave us a language, in a way, when he had lost all of his spoken words and signs. Gabriel does not have the auditory sensitivity that is common to children on the spectrum, and so we were able to maximize his tolerance. Listening to live jazz, in particular, gives us another way of getting Gabriel out in his community in a way that seems really meaningful. Jazz musicians tend to be very accepting of him in the audience and he has often rewarded them with some nice rocking or clapping (although, as he is now a more grown-up teenager, his response is more tempered than it used to be). This experience also taught me to love jazz—I had certainly been a listener prior to Gabriel’s introduction to it, but listening with him taught me to listen more closely and to tolerate some of the more dissonant forms. His willingness to sit with some pretty complex music showed us that his response to the world is also deeper and more complex than some people would guess.
KK: It’s April and Autism Awareness Month, do you have any advice for other families dealing with a dual diagnosis that includes autism?
MM: The first thing that comes to mind is that they are not alone. Getting a second major diagnosis can feel overwhelming because just when you think you’ve read your last book about the original diagnosis, you discover there is this whole other world you have to attend to; and meanwhile you still have to care for your child, possibly other family members, and also care for yourself. So my advice is to start very, very small, and also to recognize the need for fun—something that I think people with ASD can be robbed of in the name of therapies and developmental charts.
KK: Anything else you’d like to say about your book?
MM: I was on a search for answers but quickly discovered that answers are not the point, only better questions. The search for meaning is central to life, and maybe one of the benefits of having someone like Gabriel in our family is that he gives us plenty of opportunity to philosophize and to ask questions. He deepens our experience; hopefully, in some fashion, we are able to do the same for him.
KK: Mother’s Day is coming. Tell us what’s special about your son please in your own words!
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MM: Part of the answer to this is contained in my previous response; another part of it is that he is a wildly powerful person. I have seen him, almost routinely, change people, including those who were reluctant to interact with him or work with him; he turns people into friends and advocates. The children who befriended him in elementary school where he was fully included in the typical classroom are still benefiting from having known him and he from knowing them. Every year when Mother’s Day rolls around, it feels like a sacred day to me. Gabriel changed me most of all by making me a mother.
Friday, March 21st, 2014
Did you see author and world-changer Jenny Bowen on Good Morning America this morning? If so, did you get weepy like I did? Oh my goodness. That was sweet. The story goes like this: Jenny Bowen, a former documentary filmmaker, adopted a little girl from China several years ago. The girl was emotionally void–a victim of neglect and abuse at her orphanage.
Jenny simply said she wanted to do something. So she created the organization Half the Sky to improve these facilities all over the Far Eastcountry. She went against Chinese bureaucrats, and she’s still hard at work. She emphasized that if we–you or me–see something in the world that bothers us, we can get out there and do something about it. Big or small, in one house or in one country.
Her new book, Wish You Happy Forever: What China’s Orphans Taught Me About Moving Mountains, chronicles her journey of adoption, rehabilitating her daughter and adopting another, and her current job to work inside the Chinese government to bring a loving and caring adult into the life of each orphan. This is a book to uplift you and reaffirm your faith in humanity. Pick it up!
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Wednesday, March 19th, 2014
On the Edge of Insanity by Valerie Smith is a deep memoir about a mother who was sexually abused and really struggles to raise her children. Read about her story in her own words, below. Note: Valerie Smith is a pseudonym–you’ll understand why. And read more here about how to protect your child from a predator.
“This book is a journey of myself. I was middle-aged single mother who had a mental breakdown which was brought on by the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. My children were 3 and 6 when all hell broke loose, and I believed that with therapy I would be able to help My family progress emotionally and all move on to a better life.
It did not happen that way–regression therapy took 19 years. By the time I was given a clean bill of health, my children were in their twenties.
Before therapy, I had a desire to sexually abuse my baby boy. It’s true. But I didn’t want that to happen. It took immense strength not to harm him. Looking back, it was the biggest hurdle I had to bear. Therapy helped me get through it and never touch him inappropriately.
During those years of treatment, I was put in solitary confinement three separate times. First for two weeks, then three weeks and then finally a stay of three months, starting with being thrown into a padded cell and a new course of medication, all in psychiatry units. I was diagnosed initially with schizophrenia and then as a psychotic depressive in remission. In addition to regression therapy, I had a course of a six-week sex abuse therapy, and then I came to terms with the fact that I had been sexually abused by my father. I was always aware that my uncle and neighbor had sexually abused me, but it took longer to admit that my father did it to me, too. With this knowledge , my fight for survival intensified and, as my father was dead, I was unable to confront him.
Being raised in a large family, I longed for affection and emotional fortitude. I tried to discuss my findings with my family, but on my older brother showed compassion.
Finally, after those years of struggling to care for my children, I achieved mental fortitude, and my goal of becoming a good mother in every way.
If you’ve been abused, this is real. You need help with your darkest and most depressing thoughts. Ask someone. Find help. Reach out.
If you notice signs of sexual abuse in any child, speak up. Talk to someone, anyone. Most importantly, always go with gut feelings.
Let’s stop sexual abuse right now.”
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