Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Cheetos Are NOT Poison and The Candy Corn Story

I was having some fun on Facebook about a friend who loves Cheetos and made a tongue in cheek comment about her proving Cheetos must be addicting because of the amount she consumes. Par to course someone came along all dark shroud like and posted a link to a study that proved sugar was more addicting than cocaine because when rats were given sugar water and a SYRINGE FULL OF COCAINE  they preferred the sugar water every time.  

The conversation went like this:

FB Post: I was talking to Monty about online discussions about food choices and children and how inevitably someone compares KFC, Doritos, Cheetos, Snickers bars, Skittles, etc. to poison or cocaine. He said, "That's Godwin's Law. Or in your case Chester's Law." Now I know there is a name for that thing that happens in online conversation.

Monty:  Chester's Law made me laugh.

Me: Chester that poison peddling pimp. 

Me: I think Savannah is living proof that Cheetos aren't poison. Although, she might not make a good case for them not being addicting. ;) That girl loooves her Cheetos!  Then again, she'll throw down on a salad when there are Cheetos's in the house so...

Cue in Debbie Dower music:

Anonymous:  That's because increasingly, the evidence shows that processed food is as addictive, or more so, than street drugs.

Here's a link to the actual study, showing the changes in brain chemistry when fed candy and processed foods: http://www.foodaddictionsummit.org/docs/Lenoir_Serre_Article.pdf

Waaaa, waaaa, waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa....
Monty: It's all the fashion to tag "addiction" on just about everything these days. However, equating sugar with cocaine is a bit dramatic (I love sweets but I don't require more and more sugar to satisfy my "needs" and I don't suffer the unpleasant symptoms of withdrawal).
The study finds that rats prefer the taste of saccharin water over intravenous cocaine. Wow, me too! But, in any case, thanks for the wet blanket. :)

Anonymous:  I'm not saying I buy it! I think it's probably a lot easier to keep kids from sweets than it is to keep a heroin addict off drugs. I'm just saying that's why everyone keeps comparing the two -- because the science says they're very similar. I have no idea if it's good science or not, or whether it's true. But it's the "in" concept right now -- that Cheetos are a gateway drug to the hell of obesity. Or whatever analogy you want to use!

The conversation went on and on and on.  I get it because I used to be there.  Or rather somewhere in the ballpark of there.  I didn't read crazy studies that equated sugar water to syringes full of cocaine because that's just fucking nuts.  But I knew it wasn't healthy and therefor limited junk food. 

But limiting candy and chips and soda didn't have the desired effect I was going for.  Instead it created great desire in Austin to have candy and chips and soda and LOTS of it whenever he could get his hands on it.  I have a story that I like to tell whenever someone insists that they HAVE to control sugar or their kids will go nuts. 

The Candy Corn Story

I would never, ever, ever buy candy corn. It’s crap, junk, has nothing nutritional to offer. A couple Halloweens ago, we went to a friend’s house that had a bowl of candy corn. Austin asked our friend if he could have some. She lovingly replied, “Sure! Have as much as you want!” Austin then proceeded to shovel candy corn into his mouth and put what wouldn't fit into his mouth into his pockets. I saw that and I knew something was wrong. It wasn't addiction, it was desperation. I was able to see that and recognize that there was something I needed to work on. I don’t want my kid to be desperate. 

Our friend sent Austin home with a bag of candy corn just for him and I started to buy it when he asked. It did not take long for the novelty to wear off and once it wasn't forbidden Austin told me that it didn't taste very good. He said it tasted like wax. I can tell you that since that Halloween I have thrown away bags of candy corn because they went stale.  By changing the way I looked at things and looking at my real child, standing in front of me, not a child from a study, I took away the appearance of addiction. 

Since then we have provided an abundance of candy and chips and soda in the house.  We have played with it, having a homemade vs. store bought candy contest and a "name that soda" blind taste test.  I've taken Austin to candy stores just for the heck of it, to try new candy or get some favorites.  These things are always in the house now.  He can go get a Twix bar whenever he wants to, and yet there the bowl of Twix sits.  Full.  When he wants one he'll eat one.  When he wants four, he'll eat four.  He feels no fear or shame about that Twix bar. 

Austin is a happy, healthy ten-year-old. Limiting his choices to only food I approve of would diminish the happy part of that sentence. It would make him feel small and incapable of making his own decisions. It would diminish the partnership we have going on.  It would cause him to go behind my back to get the things he wants.  I don't want any of that for us.  I'm looking at the big picture here. If letting him eat Cheetos now without shame makes him a happier adult capable of making his own decisions because he is so used to doing it, well then I say eat away because food guilt sucks.  I have enough for the two of us.
The reality in our home is that Austin gets to eat what he wants to eat. He is being raised by a health conscious vegetarian so there are tons of healthy options in the house. Austin rarely chooses to eat a greens or fruit, but they are there. We talk about food and health. He's not ignorant to the advantages of eating broccoli and apples. He just doesn't like them right now. Maybe he never will.  Who knows? I have a hard time with the idea that making Cheetos terrifying makes a salad look any more appetizing though. 

I love this quote from Sandra Dodd, ""Just because there is no one truth doesn't mean there are no things that are better or worse. There are MANY bad things. Some people like to choose sugar as their devil, and build a little religion around vanquishing that Satan."



Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eleven Years Ago Today

Eleven years ago Austin came into the world 9 weeks early and with significant health problems. Time slowed down. Moment by moment. Minute by minute. Hour by hour turned to day by day then week by week. There was some talk at times about not making it, but he did. He's strong. He's amazing and funny and so full of life and personality that it touches and inspires people around him to laugh and play.  His presence is known when he walks into a room. He is a fighter . Today he turned eleven.

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Change Of Perspective

When I say things like what I'm about to say, I either get looked at like I'm crazy or full of shit.  I can assure you I am sane and honest when I say that I have come to a place where I can clean up a messy room and not be resentful.  It's true! All it took was some perspective.

We had a friend over this weekend and there was much play and creativity that happened.  All. Weekend. Long.  As Austin slept in this morning, no doubt recovering from what has got to be the 10 year old equivalent of a a hangover, I took the opportunity to set the house back in the order that I like to keep it.  As I walked around the house picking up I couldn't help but notice the substantial amount of plates in every room with pizza crusts and little bowls of ranch on them or the empty ones with just crumbs left over.  Soda cans, empty candy wrappers and lots and lots of glasses of water were everywhere.  Pillows in disarray and pallets on the floor that needed to be folded and put up.  Swim clothes and towels were hung from every available hook in the bathrooms.  Paper and cloth scraps left over from art projects and lots of Lego creations.  Hoops and swords were everywhere!!   Oh, my!   I can say with all honesty that the whole time I was cleaning up I was smiling and my heart was soaring with joy and here's why: The scene in my house on a Monday morning showed a full weekend filled with kids playing.  One that was too full of epic adventure to worry about housecleaning.  Because as soon as one thing ended another began and there really wasn't anytime for picking up.   And that is where the perspective went from resentment about a messy house to gratitude that I could provide the space for such adventure. *

As I picked up I was reminded of ...

this happening...

and this...

and Oh My God! the sheer awesomeness of this!!

The quiet, cozy times like this...

to the not so comfortable looking times like this.

And the opportunities for me to work my mad Monkey Platter skills like this, when game play is too enthralling to go downstairs for a meal.

When I look back and remember all of the wonderful things that happened this weekend I couldn't be happier to clean up what was left over.   

*There was no resentment to start off with today, but have in my life been resentful of a messy house that I didn't have help cleaning.  Change is good :)

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Garden At Krause Springs

Krause Springs is an AMAZING place to be.  If you live in or around the Austin area you have GOT to take the drive to visit.  The spring is cool and feels oh, so good when the weather is Texas hot. 

But the spring isn't even the coolest part of this place.  They have an enchanted garden that you can walk through and hang out in.  Great, monterous windchimes hang and sway to their own music above.

The garden is filled with places to sit and relax to soak up the beauty.

Every place they have put out to sit is comfortable and invites relaxation.

And snuggles :)

View from hammock.  I could live here.

This place just sighs "chillin'".

*I didn't get any pics of the actual spring so go here to see it in all it's glory.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Ethan Saga

Austin and Ethan met when they were both about four years old and immediately hit it off. I remember walking Austin in a stroller while he held onto his Batman action figure and Ethan walking right beside him while they chatted it up about whatever it is that four-year-old boys chat about.  It was SO sweet to witness.

We were Ethan's first exposure to action figures. His mom was worried about introducing violent characters into Ethan's world. Ethan was our first exposure into the world of homeschooling. I don't think without his family we would have become homeschoolers. (Maybe. I don't know. Austin was pretty unhappy going to school.)

Over the years Austin and Ethan grew close and moved apart like friendships sometimes do. They always seemed to come back to each other at some point and become friends again.

Until one day. Well, it wasn't actually one day. It had been an accumulation of incidents and Austin became increasingly impatient with Ethan. We were at Ethan's house before we moved to San Francisco and Austin and Ethan were having a hard time getting along. At one point Ethan told Austin, "I wished you never came over." And that was more than Austin could handle hearing from his best friend. It broke his heart; it made him mad, furious even. Austin came in the room in tears demanding that we leave. So, we left. 

That was almost three years ago. Since that day Austin turned Ethan into a monster, his arch-nemesis. Ethan has become all the evil that is wrong in the world... and I have listened to it for three long years. I tired many different ways to approach this. Empathy, sympathy, reason, anger, frustration, threat of punishment. None of it stopped me from hearing, "I hate Ethan!" out of nowhere. 

Some time went by. I don't know how much time, but I did notice that I hadn't heard Ethan's name for a while. I didn't think Austin had forgot about him, but was glad not to be dealing with a problem I clearly didn't know how to deal with. Yesterday while I was writing Austin a secret message he out of nowhere started talking about how he hates Ethan. I lost it. I told him he is no longer allowed to mention Ethan's name in this house ever again. NEVER! Then the next morning he said something about Ethan again. I lost it again.  I decided we were going to end this Ethan fiasco today one way or another.

I decided we were going to go to Ethan's house.

P. Terry's burger joint was giving away free t-shirts today so it was known the plan was to go get one.  We got in the car and started driving. I didn't say anything about my plan. I just drove. As we got closer to Ethan's house Austin said, "This neighborhood is freaking me out." I asked him why. He said, "because it looks like Ethan's neighborhood." I knew he would remember. We spent a lot of time at Ethan's house over the years. When we turned down his street he started to get really anxious. I told him we were not going into Ethan's house, we were just going to sit outside his house, in the car, and talk. I put the car in park, looked at him, and said, "This is the house where a little boy, who one day got really frustrated and said something mean lives. He's just a little boy. There are no monsters or bad guys that live there. Just a little boy and his family." He told me he was scared. I asked why. He said he was worried Tina (Ethan's mom) was going to come out and see us. I asked him what would happen if she did. He said we might go in and I asked then what. He said he would see "that terrible thing" and I asked, "then what". We went on for while talking about what would happen if we went in. Even if going in was the worst thing that could happen, we would still go home and live our lives. I told him we don't have to live a life where Ethan exists. His existence doesn't have to affect our day in any way.

After a while of silence, just looking at the house Austin unbuckled and said, "Let's go see if he's home." I told him if he was ready to talk to Ethan I would call his mom and set something up, but that knocking on the door, unannounced, after not talking to someone for three years wasn't the right thing to do. He said okay and told me he thought maybe he could let go of his hurt. I started to drive. Austin started to cry, but not a cry I had seen before. I pulled over and asked if he wanted a hug and he said no, he just wanted tissue. So I gave him some. He took these deep breaths and exhaled with a "woo". He was having an emotional release. I asked him how he was feeling and he said sad and scared and hopeful. I asked him about each of those emotions.  He said he was sad that he had been mad for so long, scared that Ethan wouldn't want to talk to him, and hopeful for the future. 

On the way over to Ethan's I was scared,worried and hopeful. I was scared of what Austin's reaction would be. I was worried that I was doing the wrong thing. I was hopeful that seeing Ethan's house would trigger something for Austin and help him move out of this place of being stuck in hate and resentment and into a place of acceptance and peace. I can't say with any certainty that what I did was the best thing to do. I hope I helped him move on. I hope that for both of us. Holding his hand and helping him move is a better choice than threats and resentment so I too am hopeful for the future. 

*I emailed Ethan's mom when we got home and asked if they would like to come over. About a week later Ethan and his siblings came over and played Minecraft for a little bit while Tina and I caught up. Turns out they are moving to New Zealand in a couple weeks. 

After Ethan left Austin talked to me a bit about how the visit went. It went well, but not great. There were no disagreements or anything. It was just that they have both grown so much and in different ways, that there wasn't a lot of connection.

Knowing  they will be moving so far away soon, I am glad that they got a chance to see each other, as friends, before Ethan left.

We haven't heard, "Ethan sucks!" since :)

Denver With My Gal Val

My dearest and bestest friend Valerie has had some hard times come upon her this last year. She was understandably needing to get away for a bit to breathe and refocus. We found a deal on Southwest Airlines for around $300 to escape to Denver. It sounded like a perfect, quiet, chill get away. We booked our tickets and waited for the day to come to head to Denver!

Our first day there we mostly hung out in Denver. We shopped and we ate and met my friend Jill Parmer and her daughter Addi for lunch. (Blasted! I didn't get a picture of all of us!) During lunch, we talked and ate and laughed about crazy adventures we've had in our lives. Afterward we decided it would be fun to take a hike together. So, we busted out the guide book and picked a place nearby to go hiking. Then we got separated.  And couldn't find each other. And Valerie and I discovered how horrible mobile phone reception in when you are surrounded by mountains. :-/

Valerie and I ended up at Red Rock Amphitheater, which, is not where we were supposed to meet Jill and Addi. After a bit of searching we decided to go ahead and hike at Red Rock. You gotta check this place out: http://www.redrocksonline.com/. It's amazing! We climbed to the top of the amphitheater and looked around and took some classic touristy pics.

Then back down, down, down; which, was SO much easier than going up, up, oh my god, will this ever end, up, and drove around the park.


The next day we headed out to the Rockies for some hiking! Our plan was to do a 3.5 mile hike around Bear Lake. We called and got the clear from the park ranger and headed on our way.

Oh, did I forget to mention that we drove for about three hours lost the day before? I must have been trying to forget that part. We drove around lost for three hours the day before. We were relying on our mobile phone's GPS to get us to where we needed to go, but when surrounded by mountains it's hard to get a signal. We stopped and got a real paper map on our way Estee's Park, but after driving for a bit felt we should have exited and saw no exit in sight. Val tells me to pull into a warehouse park to ask for directions.  As we pull in, the conversation went like this:

Val: "Ugh! This looks like something from the Hills Have Eyes."
Me: "Geeze, Valerie! There is no way you are getting out of the car then! Wait, what's that? You can go in there. Those K's look like pot leaves. It's probably some harmless hippies in there."

Yup, harmless medical marijuana-dispensing, direction-giving, friendly hippies.

As we started to get close, we wanted to get something to wake us and warm us so we pulled into a small outside shopping center and got some delicious Mexican Mochas. Yum! And kind *wink, wink*

Bear Lake

We get to Bear Lake and are ready to go hiking.

Funny thing. The ground was slick with ice. We noticed lots of hikers with poles. Now, I called the park ranger and he said that although there was 22 feet of packed snow, as long as we had good snow hiking boots, we'd be fine. I double checked and asked if we needed anything else and he said, "Nope. Just good shoes."

This was so not the case. As we headed off into what looked like the woods to Narnia, I could not keep my footing. I was slipping and sliding all over the place and the place we were heading into had no signs marking which way was which. Hiking around Bear Lake was starting to feel like a bad idea. I could just see this turning into an episode of I Shouldn't Be Alive.

After much discussion and Valerie telling me to quit being a wussy we decided to turn back. There was a family close by who heard us talking and agreed with our decision. We asked if they would take our picture before we turned around. 

This is me moments before I busted my ass. After we took this cute pic, I turned around and lost my footing.  I came down hard. Real hard. The family rushed over to me (more in a minute about where Valerie went) and asked, "Are you okay???". I honestly didn't know; my whole body felt pretty rattled. They (not Valerie) helped me up and dusted me off and Valerie and I went on our way to find an easier hike.

As we were walking away, I told Valerie I thought I was going to be okay. My hand hurt so bad that I was certain that I had caught myself and not gone flying and flailing like I had previously thought. She said, "Oh no. You went flying. Your feet were up above your head before you fell. I had to walk away because it was pretty funny." WTF, VAL!! That's right. As her nearest and dearest is flying through the air my sweet friend got the giggles!

I think she's still laughing at me here.

(Monty's favorite picture from the trip.)

We found as easier, less slippery and comical hike to take and still got to see lots of Bear Lake. 

I bet that water feels nice in the summer.

As we were heading out of the park, we saw a sign for Alberta Falls and pulled over to check it out. We were both getting a little hungry and didn't want to go too far. We asked someone who was coming down the trail if he went to the falls and about how far they were. He said about half-a-mile. Sweet! We could do that. So, we headed up to see some falls. After a hiking for about half-a-mile and not seeing or hearing any falls we asked some more people coming down the trail if they had been to the falls. They exclaimed, "Yes! And it's SO worth the hike!" Cool! How much farther we asked?  "Oh, about half-a-mile." Valerie and I looked at each other and both agreed we could do another half mile in order to see some falls. (Yes, this happened several times.) So, continue a hiking we went. Up, up, up and we could hear falls. So we hurried up to where we could hear water and this is what we saw:

Pretty, but there was no water fall. We could hear water and see way, way down below a stream, but no falls. So we asked some people coming down the trail if they had been to the falls and how much farther.  Another, "Yes! And it's SO worth it! Just another half-a-mile!" We both looked at each other and then sat down. We had been hiking at this point for about an hour and a half in search of the ever elusive falls a half mile away. We had no water with us and were no longer a little hungry, but very hungry (this is how people end up on I Shouldn't Be Alive). We both really wanted to see the falls, but at this point decided that without a map and without water it was best to turn around. We sat down for a minute longer to enjoy the sight and listen to the falls that were somewhere around us then got up to head back.

On our last day there we wanted to see more mountains, but were done hiking. Our waiter suggested we head over to Breckenridge to see some "real" mountains. They were only about "oh, an hour away". So away we went with our paper map and water to see Breckenridge. Two hours later we arrived. 

As we were getting close, we could see the ski lifts and decided that we would take one as high as we could and have something warm to drink. After we parked, we walked on up to the ski lift like we knew what we were doing and hopped on! It was all fun and games until it took off, fast, and we were suspended in the air, in a pod, on a wire. Things got real quiet while Val and I made mental plans to get off this death trap as soon as we could. 

Once we settled in and realized we were not going to actually die, we started talking about... well, dying. Like, "Oh if we fell from here we would definitely die.", "Nah, we'd be busted up, maybe some serious head injuries, but not dead.", "I don't know. We're pretty high up.", "Okay, definitely dead from here.  For sure." We got off at the last stop and opted out of going up in the exposed ski lifts. One near death experience for the day was enough.

Our view with lunch

After lunch we did a little shopping and walking then headed back to the hotel, two hours away. That night we both collapsed into bed and were snoring by 9:30. 

The fun thing about traveling with a fellow "just along for the ride" gal is the misadventure we found ourselves in. This trip would not have been the same without it.