December 8, 2011 § 8 Comments
Let me tell you- this whole Christmas in a No Sugar household business? It is not for the faint of heart.
But before I begin, I’d just like to issue a formal declaration to all friends and family members: you may not, repeat NOT use the following information as ammunition to forward your argument that I am off my gourd and have been for the last, oh, say, eleven months or so. If you are helpfully wondering if I would like to talk about this, the answer is no. If you make the ill-advised decision to taunt me with quotes from this essay, I promise to sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” loudly until you cease and desist. Listening to me sing, as many of you already know, does not promise to be a very pleasant experience. You have been warned.
But… the holidays are coming– and I mean this in the most ominous way possible. Sometimes, it feels like we’ve been in training for the month of December this entire year. Christmas– the mother of all sugar holidays, the most fructose-laden of them all: more than Thanksgiving, which is a limited, one-day-only gluttony, more than Halloween, which focuses almost exclusively on the kids, more than birthdays and Easter and Valentine’s Day combined… As the dozens of mail-order catalogs arriving at our house every day clearly confirm, Christmas, for many of us, is about celebrating the birth of Jesus through a month-long marathon of sweets, treats, cookies and cake.
But that’s not what bothers me. What bothers me is the dread that my children are already expressing at the prospect of facing a sweet-restricted Christmas. Sure, we’ve discussed that Christmas itself will be the day we have our “special dessert” for the month, and that otherwise we can use dextrose to make versions of our favorite traditional treats… but on this account my daughter Greta refuses all attempts at consolation.
“Oh help me… I feel so helpless like I have know will or say in anything,” she wrote in her journal tonight. “Like my mom’s & Dad’s say & will com(e)s first and overpowers mine.”
Her entry goes on to lay the blame for her situation on David Gillespie, the author of Sweet Poison, from whom I’ve derived so much inspiration. (Sorry David!) As we were getting ready for bed I tried telling her that Mr. Gillespie is actually a very nice man, and remind her that he has six children of his own who also avoid fructose, including one daughter just her age. But Greta isn’t having any of it.
“I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!” she explodes, pounding her fists on her mattress. Her eyes are shining with tears.
Now, you may not be aware of this, but my eleven year old has a bit of a flair for the dramatic. (Perhaps it’s our retribution for naming her Greta- as in Garbo.) But, believe it or not, this is by far the most displeasure she has expressed with our No Sugar Year to date, and I have to admit I was a bit taken aback. Of course, I hate the idea that “my” project is causing them angst, sadness, ridicule at school… but I knew there had to be that side of it, didn’t I? Didn’t I?
While Greta’s outburst worries me, Ilsa worries me more. Ilsa is six. The other day we were buying sandwiches at a local shop when she reached out her hand curiously to touch a bowl of something on the countertop near the coffee carafes. When Greta suddenly warned her “That’s sugar!”, she actually flinched.
Then tonight, as she was using a magazine for a craft project, she showed me an ad for Haagen Daz ice cream. “Mama, I’m glad we’re not keeping this.” she said. “It hurts me.”
“Really, honey?” I stopped what I was doing and looked at her closely.
“Yeah.” She looked at me a little seriously, a little incredulously, as if to say, What, you didn’t know?
SO it’s been a busy night around here tonight! (What with me color coding my Mildred Pierce coat hanger collection and everything…) Directly following the “I hate it” episode, I took a de-e-e-e-e-p breath and asked both girls to look at me from where they sat, half-tucked into their comforters in their parallel beds, each with it’s own sizable coral reef of stuffed-animal life-forms.
“Listen. I want you to know. I know this year has been really, really hard. And I want you to know how much I appreciate the fact that you’ve gone along and done this project with me all year long. And it’s almost over- the really strict part. It’s almost over.” I feel like a broken record, even though I mean it. Is there really nothing I can do to assuage this sadness/anger/pain I have willingly invoked in them? Will words- in which I put such complete faith- really fail me?
Suddenly, as if on cue, Greta raises her index finger in the air, in a dramatic professor “Aha!” pose.
“My First Biography!” she declares with an impish grin that has- at least for the moment- erased her tears. “My Terrible Childhood!”
I smile. Now, that’s more like it.
December 5, 2011 § 1 Comment
There are times when I think we live in our own little small-town Vermont oasis, cushioned from the crazy things that are going on in the modern world. And then there are times that I know we do.
Take last Friday night for example. We took our kids to a city forty minutes away in New York, because we had see the Muppet Movie… and that was the closest place to see it. We had to navigate the run-of-the-mill-mall, of course, that post-apocalyptic wasteland of crap you don’t need and stuff to eat that isn’t food. It was fine- we have yucky malls in Vermont too.
Then there was the theatre: each movie was allotted what I would call a large walk-in closet of a seating area, presumably so that they have room to show forty-seven different movies simultaneously. I was surprised to be treated to an incessant stream of commercials jabbering away on the screen, instead of the customary silence before the previews start, or the local powerpoint slide show that graces our local two-screen theatre in Vermont.
Then there were the previews. A full half-hour of them. Huh. Would they show commercials during the movie too, I wondered?
At long last we got to the part in which sky-scraper-sized containers of Coke and monster-truck-sized boxes of Sour Patch Kids float cheerfully through space, alterting audience members to something they have surely overlooked: that the football-field sized counter in the lobby- you know, that sensory assault of colors and chemicals you walked past to get in here? Yeah- you can buy “refreshments” there.
It was there, I noticed, that you can now buy a tub of popcorn larger than your head– it’s about the size of a horse’s grain bucket. To go with it, you can buy a soda of Brobdignagian proportions that takes two hands to carry.
Lucky for us, we had already eaten. But after the movie ended my older daughter Greta really REALLY wanted a drink, so I approached the neon counter and ordered a small bottle of water.
“That’ll be $4.75, please.”
“Greta honey, we’re going to have to have to find you a drink somewhere else.” On the way out I explained to her the definition of the phrase “captive audience.”
Is it me, or is the world just getting too obscene to believe? Since when does a bottle of water cost nearly five dollars? (The large, in case you were wondering, was $6.75) Using this principle, a shower should cost about a thousand dollars.
And speaking of general societal insanity, let’s talk about the holidays. At our house, we’ve been inundated with reams of Christmas catalogs, a good third of which exclusively feature pornographic desserts- A cheesecake composed of fourteen distinct flavors! Brownies with caramel dipping sauce! A pudding inside a cookie inside a cake! The copy features slogans like “Chocolate: Happiness that you can eat!” and “Have one of each!”
But the craziness doesn’t end there: it’s also at school. Holiday fundraising catalogs come home featuring “great gifts” such as cheap chocolates, chemical-laden soup packets, and mixes for cakes and cookies which aren’t hard to make in the first place. Flyers supplied by the local supermarkets encourage us to buy certain name brands to “Help Our Schools!”: “Bagel Bites,” “TGI Fridays” appetizers, and “Yoplait” yogurts filled with high fructose corn syrup. I love our school, but I resent the fact that I’m being encouraged to buy crap for our kids in the name of school spirit.
How are we supposed to eat healthy when so many forces are conspiring to make us just go along with the status quo? When a bottle of water costs five dollars? When the celebration of Christmas- or anything, really- is equated with eating dessert? When getting a snack from the concession stand requires the use of a hand-truck?
It’s one of the hard questions that never goes away… how do I raise a healthy child, in every sense, in mind, body and spirit? If we focus too much on good nutrition, will it backfire? How much are we willing to pull back from society at large, in order to eat healthy? For my part, I can only hope that our Year of No Sugar hasn’t backfired terribly, turning my kids into life-long sugarholics just to get back at me for it. We’ll see.
But I have hope. Just before the movie began, as the giant-junk-food-in space floated across the screen, Greta leaned over to me and whispered with a conspiratorial gleam in her eye, “Hey- It’s Sugar Heaven!”