Archive for the ‘ Q&A With Authors ’ Category

Stop Eating Sugar: 4 Tips for Getting Started with Sugar-Free Parenting

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 SugarSound 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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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This Passover and Easter, Many Parents are Raising Kids Without Religion

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

As you know, we’re coming to the end–and the pinnacle–of Holy Week. Much of the world celebrates Passover and Easter–but not everyone. Deborah Mitchell, author of Growing Up Godless: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids without Religion, is part of a rising demographic that is not teaching her kids about any tradition. She prefers science over what she cannot see or prove. Is that okay with you? Or maybe that is you. (On the other end of the spectrum, here’s a great article on How to Teach Your Kids About Religion.)

It’s an issue that a lot of parents just don’t want to discuss. But not Deborah. She has a lot to say about raising kids without religion. Her book is informative, thoughtful and answers as many questions as it raises. I just had to talk to her to find out more. Check out her views below.

KK: What does it mean to grow up godless?
DM: It means that you’re not trying to convince your children (or yourself) of myths and concepts that don’t make sense to you. For example, kids want to know how the soul goes to heaven. What exactly is a soul and how is it transported to heaven? It means that you’re not teaching your kids to be fearful of an intangible deity in the sky, a God who can hear every thought and see every action. (God is the original Big Brother!) It means that you are teaching your children, instead, to answer to their own conscience. It means that kids won’t look to a prize at the end of their lives; they’ll find the gifts along the way, in every ordinary day, in every ordinary person. These realizations make us live with a lot more awareness and the feeling that we are in control of our destiny.

KK: What percentage of parents are forgoing religion now?
DM: It’s difficult to measure. Do we include those parents who reject religion but still believe in some sort of god-force? Do we include those parents who identify as Christians but reject church? What about secular Jews and mixed-belief families? There are also people who, due to a negative perception of atheism and pressure from society, disassociate themselves from the atheist movement.

Regardless, it’s clear that parents who want to raise their kids outside of traditional religion and belief is a growing demographic. We need to advance the awareness that not everyone believes in God, and we definitely don’t want religion forced on our kids. On the other hand, it’s also important for our children to know about the world’s various religions and to have respect for other belief systems.

KK: Why are more people passing on religion now?
DM: There are several factors at play. One thing I realized when I started writing about this topic was that parents have been quietly forgoing religion for years. A lot of moms and dads with grown children told me they had raised their kids without god (and they turned out just fine!). Some parents don’t like that religion has become so political, that it judges and preaches intolerance. I think people have responded to the rise of the religious right by speaking up and saying, “You don’t speak for me.” They are starting to come out of the closet now because they’re tired of being bullied. Another factor is that parents are choosing intellectual honesty over unwavering faith. People have questions about God, and they can find answers that make sense. Now, instead of blindly following what the church teaches, people are choosing “boutique spirituality,” skepticism, humanism and atheism. Finally, as parents become aware that religion is not important in raising happy, healthy, moral kids, they feel comfortable “leaving it behind.”
KK: What other ways can we teach our kids morals and good ways to live life?
DM: Morality doesn’t come from religion. It doesn’t come from a distant God who doesn’t communicate with us. It’s a social construct that we learn first and best from our parents. We must teach our children self-awareness, reflection and empathy. They have to understand that their actions and words can harm others, physically and emotionally. When your child hits you, tell her it hurts and show her the mark it leaves on your arm. Use words to explain your feelings. Show her appropriate ways to ask for attention. Children naturally want to please us.

As humans, we have a responsibility not to hurt others and to help when we can. Let your children see you helping; ask them to join you in helping your community through volunteerism. Positive acts and words will inspire others to respond in a similar way. This is how we make the world a better place for everyone.

KK: Why do you care if kids or teachers talk about their church at school?
DM:
Unless students are part of a world religion class, there really isn’t a need to discuss church business at school. It places undue pressure on students of different faiths and views. There is a special place and day for worship and prayer. There is also a special place for learning. We don’t bring chemistry and English classes into church on Sundays, so it just seems fair that we shouldn’t bring religion into the classroom.

KK: How do you explain that the universe came from nothing? If there is no God, how do you explain to children how we got here?
DM: 
I’ve always told my kids, “I don’t know” a lot. And I don’t know and won’t make up answers. I told them what I know about the origins of life, according to the body of knowledge we have right now. One day, they may know much more than I do, or they may have different answers.

Science is not always right, but it admits to its errors and its uncertainties, and makes adjustments. It can be updated, recalculated and rewritten. Religion doesn’t have that same sort of flexibility because, if religion says it’s wrong, it may no longer exists.

KK: Do you teach your kids that religion is bad?
DM: No. I don’t teach my kids that religion is bad. I teach them that belief is a choice. Our family doesn’t find that there is any proof for the existence of God but others feel that there are reasons to believe and that’s okay. We can still find a lot of common ground with those who believe. We’re all on the same page, in reality, and we all can work together to make the world a better place, regardless of what we believe.

 

 

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‘What Am I Going to Do With My Life?’ Author Richard Shell Brilliantly Helps Answer This Question

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’ Oh, good. Then we all have something in common. This new book, by a brilliant author, helps you answer this question. Finally. For real.

The book is called Springboard: Launching Your Personal Search for Success. The author, G. Richard Shell, turns your world upside down to help you answer your questions and find meaning and purpose in whatever it is you are doing–or want to do. The paperback will be released this month.

First and foremost: You’re not too old to make your dreams come true right now. Shell spent his 20s unemployed and didn’t start his career until age 37. Today, he is a professor at Wharton, consultant to the Navy SEALS and creator of the Success Course.

You’ve got to read his great book and the Q&A with him below. He will tell you how to see success differently: He says, “The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing.

He also gives tips on how to get started on a new path if that’s the direction you want to go. His advice applies to SAHMs just as much as high-profile lawyers. Read my Q&A with him below:

KK: Why do women tend to question themselves and what they’ll do with their lives right after they have kids?
RS: Of course, let’s first note that not all women feel this way. Many are absorbed with raising their children and have no regrets whatever that they have made the choice to focus on the family aspect of social life. But most of us take our perceptions of what it means to be “successful” from our surrounding culture and, for better or worse, our society does not publicly celebrate being a “mom” as much as it does being a celebrity, high-status professional or high-tech entrepreneur. When a woman who has been socialized to aspire to status-based success finds herself spending all her time changing diapers and going to the playground with her kids, she may naturally question if she is on the right path. She loves her children and is ready to sacrifice for them – but it feels like a “sacrifice” exactly because she is thinking about all the other women who appear to be racing ahead on the “fast track” to professional success while she is not. It is much harder for her to imagine the feelings of regret and frustration that high-status professional women sometimes feel about either not having a family at all – or allowing hired help to do the heavy lifting of caring for their kids day-to-day.  You need to remember that, from the outside, most people look like they have life all figured out when, from the inside, they actually have significant doubts, bad days and feelings of inadequacy.

KK: How do we get back on track or on a new track of being successful after a break from office life?
RS: Just the way this question is asked contains an assumption I would like to challenge.  The people who are able to unplug from professional life, spend time with the people they love, and gather new, inspiring ideas about what to do next with their lives, may be every bit as “successful” as those who stay on the “track” of an advancing career without asking themselves what they are really accomplishing. When people really sit down to think about what a successful life actually consists of, they often conclude that it feature three things: good health, meaningful work and love. If a break from the office routine can help you make progress toward one of more of those three targets, it is time well spent!

Assuming you are going back to work you find interesting and challenging, however, you may need to give yourself some time to make the transition back to the pace of an office job.  That is really about energy – so you should be sure to get exercise, sleep and “down time” whenever possible so your battery does not run too low too fast in the first few months of a transition to the office routine. Also, it is very important to seek out some assignments that spark your imagination so you get your motivation locked in. Finally, you’ll need to make time engage with the people around you – not just the tasks. The better your social support system, the more likely you will be able to bounce back quickly when you have the inevitable setbacks and frustrations that come with office politics, people who do not deliver what they promised, and the biases that always seem to creep out to bite you just when you get your confidence back.

KK: How can moms figure out what they want to do?
RS: Moms are no different from anyone else when it comes to figuring out what they should do next. Think of people coming back to the civilian workforce from being in the military or someone who has just had a serious illness or accident that makes it necessary for them to change direction in life. They may face major transitions that feel as daunting as climbing Mt. Everest. But everyone who is urgently asking “What’s next for me?” needs to follow a very similar path in terms of their planning process. In many ways, these are just the people I wrote Springboard for – and the books lays out step-by-step guidance for thinking this question through.
You need to start by surveying your genuine capabilities – what do you do better than most people around you?  Can you write, cook, engage with children or young people or organize social events? There are substantial careers in each of these areas of competence (indeed in every single area of competence you can imagine) – from helping people write their resumes to starting your own wedding or event planning service. Target work that uses your talents – at a realistic level for someone just starting out.

Next, you need to think back and re-connect with your sources of self confidence. Go talk to people who believe in you.  Think back to times when you have overcome obstacles and lived to fight another day. With your confidence renewed, set up interviews with people who are successful doing whatever you think might be fun or exciting to do yourself. People are often very, very generous in helping others think about how to get started in their professional area. Maybe you’ll need to go to school or get specialized training. Maybe you’ll need to apprentice to a skilled person for a time. The most important thing is to start doing things related to the area you are targeting. Once you are in motion, good things happen.  You meet people who know other people. You gain experience.  You can get a “lucky” break.

Basically, after that, it is a question of trial-and-error. You need to learn from what happens, adjust, and keep moving… Be humble. Be willing to learn. But be persistent.

KK: It’s fascinating that you started your career at 37. What advice do you have for those of us who think we’re too old to aspire toward a new dream?
RS:
The first half of Springboard is designed to help you get over the idea that you are “too old” or “too young” or “too ordinary” to have an interesting life. Indeed, as the saying goes, tomorrow is always the first day of the rest of your life. If you have a “beginner’s mind” about everything you do, then no job is too menial or too basic to get started in a new direction that excites you. The main thing is to pay attention to your inner sense of excitement and fun. I have been a restaurant waiter, a social worker, an improvisational actor, a house painter and a university professor. I love what I do now, but I am using a lot of what I have learned about at earlier stages of my life. And I would probably feel the same way if I reversed the order of my working life. There is a great book called How Starbucks Saved My Life by a guy who went from being a high-status professional to working at Starbucks serving coffee – and he actually got more out of his Starbucks job in terms of personal fulfillment and satisfaction than he did when he had a corner office in a high-rise office building. If you learn to think about life from the inside-out – applying your own true measures of what “success” really means to you, you’ll be amazed at the opportunities that come along compared with living a life in which you let others (or the media) define success for you.

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Autism Plus Down Syndrome: One Mom’s Memoir for Autism Awareness Month

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!
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.

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Author of ‘Parentology’ Says A Dirty House is Healthier

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

You know better than anyone that one-size-fits-all parenting doesn’t work. While Cry It Out is a savior to one mom, co-sleeping works best for someone else. Author Dalton Conley, Ph.D., decided to use scientific methods to “study” these and other popular parenting ideas on his own children. (i.e., They kept their house dirty to see if germs were good or bad.) The result is his refreshingly honest, funny and relevant book called Parentology. We asked Dalton, a sociologist and professor at New York University, some questions:

KK: What is Parentology?
DC: It’s feedback parenting using the traditional scientific method but applying it to your kids. You read about a particular issue, something like, ‘Should I feed my kids their dinner after it fell on the floor?’ You inform yourself with the latest research and then try a little experiment. It’s less haphazard than straight trial and error.

KK: So should let kids eat food that fell on the floor?
DC: For a long time, it’s been thought that we want to minimize kids’ contact with germs. But research shows we’re not getting enough of them, and there’s been a recent increase in autoimmune diseases and inflammation. Kids with dirty floors have fewer of these issues. So we continue to have a very dirty house and not worry about it. So far, so good.

KK: So what is your verdict about Cry It Out versus co-sleeping?
DC: We came down on the side of the Sears family bed. In our case, our daughters had been in the NICU for five weeks. We felt, by the time we got her home, we wanted to maximize the level of physical, emotional and verbal contact with her. Her circumstance led us to make a choice that was against the recommendation of everyone else in our circle of family and friends. This illustrates the fact that even though we think of science as abstract rules, for each kid, what works is going to be different.

KK: What is the takeaway hypothesis of your book?
DC: We’ve heard a lot about Chinese parenting and French parenting. These are cultures without a lot of immigration with long histories and traditions. We’re an immigrant country. We reinvent things. We make up religions such as Mormonism and Unitarianism plus sports like baseball. I believe our haphazard parenting methods are fine. We’re not going to stop worrying about our kids ever, and it’s all just one big experiment.

Plus: Are you ready for another child?

Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do
Manners & Responsibility: Chores Kids Can (and Should) Do

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