Sugar, sugar, sugar!

 

Browsing parenting magazines is a favorite hobby of mine.  Theres not many that I consistently agree with, but nor are there many parents I consistently agree with.  Some articles annoy me and occasionally some thoroughly piss me off.  But most of these are simply differences of opinion, and societal programming.   You know, stuff like “Americans let their kids cry it out and stop breastfeeding at 6 months because Americans value independence!”

…right.  I’m sure all the co-sleeping tribal kids that breastfeed til the age of four end up very insecure and irresponsible. 

However, this is the first time I’ve been driven to rebut something I read in a parenting magazine.  In the July Issue of Parents, they stated “Some studies have found that small amounts of sugar can increase a child’s focus and calmness (but it’s still smart to limit sweets since they’re typically low on nutrients).”  This is in a health Q & A with the question “Does sugar cause hyperactivity?”  Their answer is simply “No.”, stated as if there is no other possibilities, no matter what.

Okay, for a start.  It’s a known fact that people with autism and autism spectrum disorders (which includes such common disorders as ADHD), are sensitive to sugar, especially as children.  In these children sugar certainly does cause hyperactivity, as well as poor processing and even more limited self-control than usual.  They’re also frequently sensitive to artificial coloring and preservatives, substances that are often found in high-sugar foods and beverages.

foodforthebrain.com has a full list of disorders and the food sensitivities that accompany them, with lots of references to many, many different studies.  Many of the disorders, including autism, ADHD, bipolar, depression and schizophrenia are all listed as sensitive to sugar.

I’m aware schizophrenia is fairly rare in children (it normally manifests in the teen years), but the diagnoses of autism, ADHD, bipolar disorder and depression for young kids are steadily on the rise.  I’m not necessarily saying all these diagnoses are accurate.  I’m of the opinion that the pharmaceutical companies have a huge impact on diagnoses, and schools do receive money for each high-needs child they have enrolled, which might make things get rounded up here and there.

However, we must consider how many of these kids just had sugar sensitivities to start with, which resulted in behavioral issues and thusly, diagnoses of ADHD?  There is very few foods you can say across the line “These cause no behavioral problems at all!”  if someone wrote in asking about bread, I would expect any decent parenting magazine to put in a disclaimer saying that while many kids are not impacted by bread, there are also kids with wheat allergies who will exhibit behavioral problems if exposed to wheat.

In the magazine they say that the study saying sugar causes hyperactivity  was published more than 30 years ago.  What about the study published in October, 2009 saying children who eat candy on a daily basis were more likely to be convicted of a violent crime by the time they’re 34?  (you can read about that one here)

Yes, sugar is empty calories, but don’t try to say that’s the only reason to avoid it.  That just glosses (or should I say glazes?) over the problem.  The problem is that sugar and candy and soda are treated like such normal, natural parts of children’s lives.  They make candy EVERYTHING.  Candy bugs!  Candy jewelry!  Candy cigarettes.  Even (how cute) candy binkies.  Candy baby bottles.

Hypoglycemia (a disorder they now frequently call “pre-diabetes” because it’s very rare that someone with hypoglycemia doesn’t end up diabetic) is on the rise, especially among children.   It’s when your body cannot handle sugar properly.  So when you eat sugar, your blood sugar levels spike, causing hyperactivity, jitteriness and poor self-control.  Then your pancreas sends out a large amount of insulin, larger than needed, which makes your blood sugar plummet.  This results in lethargy, depression and disorientation.

Sound like your kid after a big sugar binge?  Every parent knows about “the crash”.  What they might not know is that this is a result of low blood sugar, which means your child’s body is releasing excesses of insulin, and after too many of these “crashes” that poor little pancreas is going to get burned out, and your kid is going to end up having to shoot up their insulin.

Now, I’m not doctor.  I’m not a scientist.  I’m a mother, and someone who developed hypoglycemia as a child.  (If you think you or your kids might be hypoglycemic, or want to know more about it, check out What Is Hypoglycemia which has good info, and a test.)  This is my blog where I use my right to free speech to put my opinions, life-experience and research out there.  Don’t base your opinions on what I say, look into it yourself.

I’m not going to say that my kids never have sugar.  I use sugar occasionally when baking, I just usually cut in half from what the recipe says.  if someone else makes a sugary treat, or offers The Wizard a piece of candy, he always asks me if it’s okay, and 90% of the time I say yes.  But those times don’t happen all that frequently, and he doesn’t have any disorders or issues that seem to be triggered by sugar.  So why do I limit him?

Much like peanuts or eggs, sugar is something your body can develop a reaction to.  With peanuts or eggs, it’s exposure in early childhood that can cause an allergy to develop, because your immune system reacts to them, and after early exposure, sometimes a childs immune system can see them as a serious threat, and over-react as an allergy.  After your child is a certain age, the immune system is mature enough, and allergies don’t usually develop.

However, with sugar, it’s not the immune system reacting, it’s the pancreas.  So there’s not a time when the risk ceases to exist.  It really depends on the individual person, the individual pancreas and liver, as well as the frequency and level of exposure.  As with most things though, the highest risk is in infancy.  Also, a “sweet tooth” is something that’s developed.  If you don’t give your baby sweet foods, they won’t have the same taste for them as a child who was raised on sweets, and you’ll have a much easier time keeping sugar out of them later on.

I’m not trying to make anyone feel guilty.  Like I said, my home is not a sugar-free zone.  I try to limit it though, and I think saying that sugar cannot cause hyperactivity in children is very closed-minded and irresponsible.  It might take a little extra work to cut back the sugar in our children’s diets, but there are lots of alternative sweeteners.  (And no, I’m not talking about Splenda.  It’s made from sugar, and the only real difference is a cut in calories.)

Personally, I like agave.  There’s also stevia, or fructose.  Many, many options.  Search it online.

And congratulations to Parents magazine for an awesomely irresponsible FAIL on giving out researched, thorough and concise information to their subscribers, some of whom are likely parents of kids with sugar-sensitive disorders.  Way to suck at life.  Feel free to criticize them at Parents.com!

-Domestic Anarchist

Walking with Children

now that the weather is beginning to warm up a bit, we’ve started making a regular habit of walking with the kids.  The Squid and I often go for walks during the day, with her either in her sling or mei tai, either napping or observing.  she loves being outside.

The Wizard, on the other hand, is becoming less interested in just walking for the sake of walking, and now for him it’s all about exploring and challenging himself.  any hills or bolders we encounter he must conquer before we can move on.  and he always looks for the most complicated way to do so.

this is doing more than just getting out of the house and getting exercise.  as humans in our culture, we’ve become so accustomed to being in houses, places we seldom leave except for set activities, such as shopping or soccer games, and then we travel in a car.  we’re disconnected from the reality of the world.  we don’t think of it as a huge interconnected organism, we think of it as a number of places, conveniently attached together by roads.

getting out in the wild, exploring the world around us, gives children a sense of not just the earth, but themselves and their place in it.  that place should be a connected, living space.  a space where they’re aware that while we’re part of a much bigger picture, we contribute to it.  we’re part of it.  finding frogs and climbing trees and splashing our way through rivers and creeks, picking up contributions from beavers, we find ourselves reconnecting to the truth of what we are and what’s around us.  in lands that have no ownership, we have the same right to be there as every bird, deer or bug that crosses our path.  we are all equal and we all belong.  our heads lift, our breath becomes deeper.  when at last our bodies begin to tire and we push through, we learn of our own strength, the hidden strength within us and the power we can draw from the universe around us.

Proof! That all my encouragement of Freethinking is paying off!

Okay, so The Wizard had some homework the other day.  His first grade class had been studying sea life, and he came home with a sheet about crabs that he was supposed to read, write a brief synopsis at the bottom, and then circle the answer-words to some questions.

So while he was reading it, he stopped and said “this is wrong.  This says crabs have 10 legs.  Crabs have 8 legs and 2 claws.”  When I asked him why the claws did not count as legs, he said that they used them for grabbing, not walking, therefor they were arms.  Checking his hypothesis, he went on line and googled “Do Crabs have 10 legs or 8?”  The answer?  Crabs are decapods.  They have 8 walking legs, and 2 claws.  so that is what he wrote on his paper.  he underlined the part that said “crabs have 10 legs” and drew an arrow down to where he wrote “8 walking legs and 2 claws”, and in the answer-circling section he crossed out the “ten” answer and wrote “8” by hand, and circled it.

…Did I break to him the information that Deca means “10”, and pod means “foot”?  No way!  It’s not his fault that the technical terminology is wrong!  Really, if they use their claws for grabbing, they’re more of arms, right?  …ahem.

So, anyway, I was worried that he would get discouraged for filling out his paper “incorrectly” when he brought it to school.  But instead, he was given a piece of candy for bringing up a valid point.  …candy.

At least he’s receiving his pavlovian rewards for standing up to authority figures.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand the public school system.

-Domestic Anarchist

reactions vrs. responses

The Domestic Anarchist here!  posts have been few and far between, dealing with maternal health issues (my mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a masectomy a few weeks ago), and some marital bumps (valentines day was a complete fiasco, but we got a do-over the following weekend, hurrah for sushi!), but I’ve still been studying life and parenting as I always do, and noticing things in my interactions with my children.

so.  Reactions vrs. responses.

when our child demonstrates any kind of behavior, we can A. react to it, or B. respond to it.

to refer to my trusty dictionary.com

a reaction is:  “a reverse movement or tendency; an action in a reverse direction or manner”

alternately, a response is defined as “an answer or reply, as in words or in some action.”

we react to situations, and respond to people.   a reaction is instinctive, mechanical, immediate, based on what’s going on with us.  a response is calculated, considered and evaluated, based on what’s going on with the other person.  as examples, I give you two instances from my week.

1.  The Squid, while playing on the floor, got into clean, folded laundry, and pulled out a bunch onto the floor.  I could have

a. reacted to the situation.  I was trying to clean the house, and folding the laundry was one of the few things that had been completed.  “oh my god, what are you doing?!  get out of that!  I can’t get anything done with you getting into everything!”

or.

b. responded to my child.  she is crawling very early, and exploring and learning.  obviously she doesn’t understand the difference between folded laundry or piled laundry, or even the difference between clean and dirty.  “oh, wow, look what you’ve found!  let’s find something else for you to explore.”

in this instance I chose b.  I responded to my child instead of reacting to the situation.  I put away my frustration at least til The Husband got home, and I could vent to him.  I made my child the priority.

responding to babies is much easier than children sometimes, since babies haven’t learned to hide their feelings.  children are already learning different ways to communicate.  The Wizard, when he feels nervous, ashamed or confronted, tends to first try and alleviate things through humor, joking and distraction.  he does realize when things are serious, he just prefers to pretend that they’re not, because it’s less stressful.

2.  I opened The Wizards backpack in the morning and realized he hadn’t done his homework while he’d been with his dad.  my choices:

a. react to the situation.  we didn’t have time do get anything done before the bus came, and I was stressed about all the extra work.  “dude!  this is rediculous.  did you do ANY of it?”

or

b. respond to my child.  “you’ve got extra homework.  let’s think of a way to make it fun so you don’t get frustrated with it.”

this time, sadly, I chose a.  my reaction led to a reaction from him, which was to deflect by acting like it was no big deal.   I reacted by stressing to him the importance of school, and telling him to tell his teacher he’d bring some in the next day.  he deflected by saying “if I remember”.  I took this as being a smart-ass.  and reacted with  “that’s not acceptable!  you’re going to do it if it takes all night.”  at which, he started crying, saying he didn’t want to go to school.  so once again I reacted, this time not to just the discomfort of my sons tears, but the sound of the encroaching bus, which was picking up kids one street over.  so, voila, in an effort to stop the tears, and keep my son from missing school.  “oh, I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault.  don’t worry about it.  if you go to school you can have a big bowl of ice cream when you get home!”  …oh lord.

it’s amazing the things that come out when we’re reacting to circumstance and situation, instead of responding to our kids.  during the day while he was at school, though, I did have an opportunity to think on things.  I went to our local game store, which remarkably has free three-day rentals of certain games, found one that The Wizard would like (which is amazing, and is going to make it on as my first video game review), and made up a sticker chart.  each extra piece of homework, earned him 15 mins of video game time.  I also called his teacher, forewarned her that she had a bit of an emotional crisis entering her classroom, and asked her to not mention homework to him.

so, in closing, just because we react, does not remove our ability to respond.  everyone reacts.  it’s impulsive.  it’s our ability to step back and examine the true issues, and respond to our children, which makes us good parents.

-Domestic Anarchist

Scheduling

you wouldn’t think “scheduling” would be such a major problem for an anarchy-loving housewife with only two children.  but holy hell!  the squid has basically gone completely nocturnal.  I have no idea how this happened.  she was doing quite awesomely, and now it seems like all day long she’s fussy and wants to sleep, and no matter how much I try to keep her up during the day, she goes to sleep about 11 or midnight and is still promptly up between 1-3am, cooing and giggling and squirming and grabbing and HOLY HELL.

again.

the worst part is that she’s so damn cute about it I can’t even be pissed.  just tired.

actually, no, I take it back.  that is in no way the worst part.  the worst part is simply this:  after being up til between 4 and 6am, I have to get up promptly at 7.15, in order to get the Wizard breakfasted, and ready for school.  now the Wizard, is also somewhat of a night owl, in his own bizarre right.

IE: he’s not really tired in the evening.  no matter what time we put him to bed, he’s awake til between 10-10.30 (unless we actually put him to bed at 10, in which case he is awake til 11.).   however, no matter how late he stays up, he doesn’t sleep in.  except for school days.  and dragging that child out of bed to go to school… is kind of hard to do when you’re going on 2 hours of sleep yourself.  this morning I slept straight through my alarm, and fortunately the Wizard himself awakened at about 7.30, asking if he could watch cartoons.  he made it to the bus, with a couple minutes to spare, but lordy-lordy.  close call.  plus, not having a car means if he DOES miss the bus, I’ve kinda screwed the pooch.  and have to resort to calling inlaws and mooching rides which is… embarassing to say the VERY least.

also, I tend to awaken very gradually.  I need to wake up at least a couple hours before I have intentions of doing anything, so I can get myself thoroughly caffeinated and functioning.  so.  after being up til 5, waking up again at 7, staying up til 8 to get the Wizard on the bus, and then til 9 to get the Squid changed, fed, and back to sleep, and then sometimes 10 just to get myself settled and back to sleep, the odds are I’m not waking up of my own volition before 1:30.  that give me about enough time to caffeinate and shower, and then the Wizards back from school and lo and behold: I have accomplished nothing.  BLAH!

-Domestic Anarchist

Intergenerational Communcation

last night, my 5-day-old daughter had a panic attack.  I wonder how many times I’ve seen infants have panic attacks
(especially when I was working in daycare) and never realized what it was.  we just have this acceptance of “oh, babies cry!” without questioning the drive or emotion behind it.  she went from what appeared to be fairly calm (which I’m thinking now was actually attempting to shut things out) to a screaming shaking franticness, where she was acting like she wanted to nurse, but was too panicked to latch on, in a manner of minutes.

once we realized what was going on, it was something we could deal with.  I’ve had panic attacks since I was 11, and I’ve realized the best way to deal with them is just lowering the stimulation level as much as I can.  so we did the same for her.

it made me think further though, about something that has already been on my mind.  communication between grown-ups and children.

this thought process had been stimulated by two things.

one was an article in Parenting magazine (a magazine I normally despise, but peruse occassionally, and sometimes has random gems) about ‘Mommy Guilt’, which mentioned the concept of using a ‘safeword’ with kids, to let them know that you’re at the edge of your rope, and about to lose your temper.  or, alternately, if your kids catch you losing your temper, and they feel frightened or uncomfortable, they can use the safeword to remind you to… well, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

it was a fascinating concept to me, because you rarely hear people talking about how to empower children during conversations.  the majority of articles written about communication with children seem to be about… well, manipulation.  how to get your kids to do what you want them to do without them realizing it.  the idea of giving a child a tool so that they can make a choice about the emotional scaling of a conversation or situation is brilliant, especially coming from a magazine which is usually writing about how to get your kids to do what you want them to do without realizing it.

the second thing which got me thinking along the lines of communication with children is the movie Martian Child, with John Cuzack and a kid I strongly suspect is The Littlest Culkin.  there’s a couple scenes in here that are amazing grown-up/kid communication (and a few that absolutely fail on that point), but the one that really jumped out at me is where the kid is doing a series of repetitive movements (that seem mostly based on pinky fingers), and gets John Cuzack to join him, watching his movements and mimicking them, even though they don’t necessarily make sense to him.  afterwards, the kid looks up at him, grins, and says “nice talk”.

most often, when seeking “quality conversation” or “nice talks” with our kids, we are trying to have adult conversations.  we may not be asking them adult questions, but we’re trying to fit them in adult formats.  kids don’t talk the way grown-ups do.  their conversations are much more faceted, and move beyond the shallow, “how was school?” or “how was work?” where adults attempt to describe their reality.

kids worlds are not dominated by reality, so neither are their conversations.  kids converse through allegory, through fantasy, through play, through art, through tickling, through cooking.  and if you let them lead the conversations (which may or may not fit in your description of ‘conversation’), when they need to talk with you, they will come to you.

when Israel first started art therapy, I admit that I thought that they were going to be doing alot of talking.  asking about his emotional standing, his struggles at home and at school… but he was leading the conversation.  and if the conversation was “making a cake out of dried beans, paint and blue glitter”, so be it.  the conversations that children seem to get the most absorbed in are the ones they have with other kids, deep within the realms of fantasy.  they will talk at great length, about the things that frighten them, the things that empower them, what’s most important to them, who they look up to, all the things that parents try to pump them for in “nice talks”.

when we force kids to participate in parent-led conversation, we can often squeeze out the information that we’re seeking, frequently with our kid waiting patiently, ready to run off on their next adventure, which, if we knew how to listen, would tell us more than the strained “so, how was school?”  that we drug out during the dinner process.  at the end of our conversation, we release them, feeling proud for knowing where our kids are coming from, and having such positive, teaching and affirming talks together.  we love to dig for any kind of life frustration, so that we can offer them advice, and dig for any part of their character we can help make more well-rounded.  for our sake, they tolerate this pretty well, for a period of time.

eventually, they end up tired of doing their obligatory communication, and we end up with monosyllabic responses.  “Good.”  “Fine.”  “Yeah.”  “‘Guess so.”  which leaves us frustrated and wondering, “why don’t my kids want to talk to me?”  well, they tried to.  our conversational gaps are just too large.  we’re having talks that we lead, for our benefit.

when Israel comes home from his dad’s house, or from school, I’ve missed him.  often I start pumping him for information right off the bat.  “how was school today?”  “what did you learn?”  “what’s your favorite class?”  “did you have any problems with the other kids?”  the responses are often a “I don’t know”, with his eyes not connecting, one tentative buttcheek already sneaking off the couch as he inches away towards play.

while I’m digging for reality, for him that was just the obligatory part of the day.  he’s already been there, and doesn’t want to relive it, now that he can get on to the business of being a kid.  however, if I ask about the meaningful part of the day, “what did you play at recess?” the stories come pouring out.  stories about battles with knights and aliens and how he was a kitten with super-powers and a Ben-10 Omnitrix that could transform into any other creature.  cartoons, video games, stories, and his own imagination brew up powerful fantasies, in which he can be strong and powerful and decisive in a world that doesn’t hold him a back or limit him.  and my brain fogs over.  frustrated that he won’t talk to me about anything “real”.

when we learn to participate in child-led conversation, we learn to really listen to their stories and fantasies.  we can learn what it is that drives them, what’s important to them, and appreciate their imaginations and creativity.  our children feel fulfilled, because we have an interest in them, in the things that really matter to them, and not just the random factoids that surround them, and contribute so little to their actual experiences of their realities.  we accept them.  our instincts may be to still try and fit in some adult conversation, but watch how quickly your child shuts down when mid-lego or mid-teaparty you try to bust out some “so, how’s school?” or try to sneak a moral into battling pirates.

instead, we have to break out of our grown-up programming.  once we have the ability to get down, be in the moment, and lose our mindless drive to ‘accomplish’, we’ll realize that playdough, pirates, dress-up and fantasy are communicating with our kids.

the question may still remain: what in the world does this have to do with my daughters newborn anxiety?

we do the same thing with infants as we do with children.  there is this tiny little being who through their very existance recreates your universe and we are desperate for a connection with them, for acknowledgement.  very few people seem to think of the emotional needs of a newborn.

it is a transitory time.  coming from a realm where everything is muted, and gentle, the womb is very much a sensory deprivation tank, which they need, for their senses are only newly acquired.  imagine experiencing going from complete black and silence, with no feeling whatsoever, to a stimulating sensory world.  it would be virtually intolerable.  therefor, the womb functions to allow slight stimulation, as their senses develop in utero.  once they can hear, they hear muted sounds.  once they can see, they can see muted light.  once they can taste, there are diluted flavors (did you know amniotic fluid takes on the flavor of what the mother eats?  interesting fact.).  though they can feel physical sensation, they are suspended in liquid, with no direct contact to their skin, though as they grow larger they can kick and feel the uterine wall around them, and those who choose to interact with them from the outside.

then when they come out, we should let them slowly adjust from this soft, silent world, to the stimulation of lights and sounds and touch, and interaction.

…but with our need for interaction and connection, it’s easy to forget.  it’s easy to say “oh, babies just cry sometimes.”

this is why I think my 5 day old daughter had a panic attack.  she was sleeping.  Ethan got home, and my tits hurt, since she hadn’t nursed for hours.  I decided to wake her up to nurse her and change her diaper.  both of us were excited to interact with her, since she’d been sleeping, and Ethan hadn’t really seen her all day.  we pressed in, as I was changing her, talking to her and touching her face and body, laughing over her expressions and movements.  Ethan turned her, so he could see her eyes, and within moments she had a full-on baby meltdown.

I held her over my heart and rocked her until she was calm enough to latch on.  and even then she just lay in my arms, her eyes tightly closed, breathing with rapid panic breaths.  and that was when I recognized what was happening.  she’d been trying to communicate with us, trying to tell us she’d had enough, that she couldn’t deal with any more.  but we were desperate for interaction,  and didn’t notice her cues.  I went and googled “infant overstimulation signs” today, and she was using all of them.  flailing arms, looking away, rapid breathing.

when babies are born they get passed around like hot potatoes.  everyone wants a piece.  everyone wants to get to hold them, squeal at them, play with their toes and fingers.  we think about what we want.  what we need.  we don’t think of their precarious position, or their emotional needs.

even with infants, our communication should be lead by them.  when they look at us, when they make eye contact, we should respond, but we cannot force our children to communicate on our terms.  they are their own creatures, and their own entities, with their own personalities.  we must, in all stages of their lives, let them be themselves, and communicate in their own ways, according to their needs.

-Domestic Anarchist

Trying to Remember What Matters

We’ve been trying so hard to move, but it seems like anywhere that’s actually in our price range is either a slum, an  undesirable area, or is ancient, and hasn’t had lead paint testing done.

new baby + lead paint = bad combo.

it looks like I may have to accept that we’re going to be in a one bedroom apartment when Sydni’s born.  …really, at times, that doesn’t phase me at all.  it’s already kind of crowded with just the three of us, but children and parents having separate rooms is a very american mentality.

it’s cultural programming, really, that makes me uncomfortable.  trying to get outside of “what should be” and what other people think, and just accepting what is, is what it comes down to.

and what is… honestly, is pretty good.  we live in a good area, everything is easily accessible to us, we’re on the bus line for Israel’s school.  and most importantly.

I have a happy, creative, intelligent child, who is perfectly content having a bunkbed over ours, and a happy, creative, intelligent husband, who may not be completely happy with our living situation, but is always there to remind me that sometimes things just don’t work, and eventually they will, with the confidence that was part of what made me fall in love with him.  the quiet calm under his chaos.

we have a new member of our family coming.  I have never rejected someone on the basis of “not having enough room”.  nor, whenever I had someone coming to visit, especially family, have I gone, “oh god, where are we going to put them?”

we have always had the mentality that as long as there was floor space, we had room.  …not that we’re going to put a baby on the floor of course, but Israel and I, and Israel Ethan and I, have slept in a large variety of different places, without suffering any kind of damage.  it’s not like Sydni’s going to come out and be like, “well, you guys certainly didn’t plan this very well did you?”

although, I must admit, that’s probably a very common mentality around us right now.  but since when have we ever been ones to worry about what the people around us thought?

-Domestic Anarchist