Saturday, December 20, 2014

Six Pounds of Sugar

I found these in the garbage this morning.

Lindsey had been saving the full-sized candy bars from Halloween for after our sugar challenge was done and planned to have them the day we were done.

Except she realized that if she ate them she would get all crazy first, then get sluggish and want to take a nap. And since it's the beginning of Christmas vacation she doesn't actually want to take a nap, she'd rather enjoy her time off than nap.  Her solution was to throw the candy bars away today so she wouldn't be tempted.

A couple of years ago I would've been the kind of person who would've fished them out of the trash (Hey I'm not above this, they were JUST thrown in, there was nothing burying them yet!). Except now the idea of eating them myself is quite intolerable.

What an educational two weeks it's been.

I learned that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Just start reading ingredient lists. It's hard to avoid.

I learned that drinking coffee without sugar is just fine. Not my favorite, and I really, really loved my sugar in my coffee, but I can live without to avoid the sugar roller coaster for the day.

Eating a sugar-free diet is nearly a gluten-free diet, because sugar and flour go together in most foods. Our family ordered pizza once during this two weeks, and Lindsey and I ordered a gluten-free pizza because that was the only way we could avoid sugar. I've seen friends of mine eat those unleavened cardboard-looking things in the past, and they always looked so unappetizing. But when you've adjusted your diet and aren't accustomed to how sweet and filling regular pizza crust is, it's actually quite delicious.

I've discovered that I actually have will power. When I tell myself I absolutely cannot have ANY, then I don't.  I get in trouble when I tell myself, "Just one bite," because I don't stop at one bite.

And I've been shocked and surprised to find that I lost 6 pounds during these two weeks. Six. Pounds.  That's crazy talk, because I've been thinking about those 5 pounds I want to lose, and I dropped six like that. [snapping fingers]

Lindsey learned that she likes wheat bread better than white, but she's excited to go back to white flour pasta. And dessert, but only every once in a while, because her energy was definitely more even.

For me, here's what's sticking:
  • Sugar free coffee
  • Wheat bread, not multigrain (which ironically has more sugar)
  • Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes
  • Non-sugary afternoon snacks
  • Sugar-free peanut butter
  • Wheat pasta (when I eat it with sauce I can't tell the difference)
I won't avoid white potatoes/white rice altogether like I've been doing, but substitute wheat and brown rice here and there.

It's been a great two weeks, and truly is the start of a new journey in healthy eating for me. Now to get the rest of the family on board...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Honey. Awww, Sugar Sugar.

Wow, I have rarely gotten so many responses so quickly on a blog post. Sugar is clearly on people's minds. I heard from lots of people who have done a sugar-free trial, eat low-sugar diets or otherwise watch their sugar intake. Lots of notes of encouragement and "good luck!"

We're a week in. How are things?

So far, awesome. This has not been as hard as I thought it would be.

Well, I have a confession. There is one item, okay, two, that we didn't cut out of this diet. Well, two and a half, depending on how you interpret the third.

One is bananas. On a sugar free diet you are supposed to stay away from bananas and pineapples, the fruits with the highest glycemic index (HGI) of all fruits. I put a banana in my protein shake at lunch, and haven't changed that plan. (Seriously, it's a banana. In a protein shake. I think we're fine.)

The other food we're still eating is corn, also a HGI food. We aren't eating corn as a side dish, but we bought blue corn chips to go with salsa, and if a food has corn starch or corn product in it we aren't staying away from it. Corn taco shells? Yes. Corn on the cob? No. That's our interpretation. She's a kid, she needs to eat something she likes, so that's what we decided.

Some resources said absolutely no alcohol, others said alcohol in moderation. I am doing the "in moderation" thing. They recommended red wine;  I am all over that.

There are my confessions. Not bad, I'd say.

One thing that I miss terribly -- sugar in my coffee. That has honestly probably been the biggest adjustment that I've had to make. But what a way to start your day, with a jolt of sugar to get your sugar roller coaster started. I have noticed my energy is more even without it.

Sugar for coffee has been relegated to the cupboard.

Also, there is one little snack that Lindsey and I are both missing; it was a nasty habit, but oh so good. Here's how you make it.

The Evil Duo
What You'll Need: A jar of peanut butter and a bag of chocolate chips.

  1. Pour a small amount of the chocolate chips on the countertop. 
  2. Get some peanut butter on a knife, then dab the peanut butter on the pile of chocolate chips until some chips stick to the peanut butter. 
  3. Eat the peanut butter/chocolatey goodness off the knife. 
  4. Repeat. 

(By the way, you don't ever want to come to our house and let me feed you a peanut butter sandwich after the number of times a knife that has been licked has been put back into the peanut butter jar. Just saying.)

This had become our after-school/work snack. And worse, we could never get the proportion of chocolate chips to peanut butter exactly right, where you don't have leftover chips or peanut butter, so you are always getting just one more little dab of peanut butter for the 3 chips that are left. Except now you've got too much peanut butter so you spread a few more chips out there...oh now there's not enough peanut butter for that...

You get the picture. Even worse, it's wicked easy to "make," so it's incredibly accessible.

By the way, we replaced our peanut butter, too. Found several options that have a really short ingredient list: peanuts. No sugar, no high fructose corn syrup, no nothing but peanuts. You have to stir them and they are not sweet, but tasty all the same.

Move over, Skippy "natural," you've been replaced.
Now when she gets off the bus she's snacking on some gluten-free crackers (no white flour) or some cheese and sausage. One day she came home from school and had absolutely no energy, as she hadn't eaten enough at school. She ate some veggies and a piece of toast and pretty soon she pepped up.

I am loving eating sweet potatoes instead of white -- they are more flavorful, in my opinion. And if you're looking for a "sweet" recipe to try, this is one way I prepared them.

  1. Skin and thinly slice sweet potatoes (however many you need)
  2. Place in a ziplock bag and toss with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
  3. Put them on a roasting pan or jelly roll pan, bake at 350 degrees until tender but not brown, about 15 minutes.


We'll see how week two goes, I may extend this challenge, and there may be some foods that I keep permanently out of my diet.

Lindsey and I both agree, though -- we are having coffee cake Christmas morning.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sugar Free and Care Free

About a week ago Lindsey told me she'd like to go on a sugar free diet, and asked me to join her.

What 11-year-old asks this? One who overheard me quoting an article (with infographic) about how much sugar Americans eat, around 130 pounds per year. In the Forbes article they stated that The American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons per day. The average American adult eats 22 teaspoons per day; more disconcerting is that the average American child eats 32 teaspoons per day!  Think about the affect of those 32 teaspoons on little bodies and brains that are a fraction of the size of adults, and you start to understand where our country is heading healthwise, and why ADHD diagnoses are on the rise.

I digress.

As long as Lindsey was not asking out of some misguided idea that she needs to lose weight, I was all for it.

So....what does it mean, to not eat sugar? I mean, sure, I've got a sweet tooth, but a sugar-free diet has to mean more than just skipping dessert, right?

Boy did I get an education.

I learned that you can be as strict or as liberal on a sugar-free diet as you wish. It is naturally occurring in fruits and some vegetables, some dairy and in all leavened breads in some shape or form. The resources I read said to cut out white foods because the point is to cut out foods with a high glycemic index, so no white potatoes, no pasta (unless it's wheat pasta), no white breads, etc.

Oh boy. This is my pasta-loving, white bread sandwich-eating kid. Hmmm....

We made a list of the foods we couldn't eat and those we could, and headed out to the grocery store, where the practical application of our education began.

It took us two hours to get $100 worth of groceries because we spent so much time reading labels. First Lindsey began by looking for sugar in the list of nutrients, but then we realized that naturally occurring sugars are listed there, too. So we started looking for sugar and its relatives in the ingredients list.

Sugar is in EVERYTHING. Holy cow.

All yogurts contained sugar. Ironically the ones that were marketed to kids contained more sugar than the regular yogurts. Now I understand where that 32 teaspoons per day comes in.

We read bread labels until we found a whole wheat one that had an acceptable amount of sugar in it.

We read cracker labels until we found a few with no sugar. (They are quite yummy, too.)

We bought whole wheat pasta and bread.

The cereal aisle proved to be the most daunting. We knew the obvious ones -- we could spot them from a mile away.
19g of sugar per serving. Excludes the milk.
But the healthy ones? All had sugar. The only two we found that met our guidelines were Grape Nuts and Nabisco Shredded Wheat. Luckily Lindsey eats and likes both of those.

Most surprising was when we decided to make tacos one night and were looking through the ingredient list for taco seasoning. We usually buy Ortega taco seasoning, but just to make sure, I read the label.


I start picking out other brands. The only one we found that did not have sugar in it was Old El Paso.

While we were doing this picky sugar-free shopping, the store was packed with ingredients to make baked goods for the holidays. We even picked up chocolate chips because Wayne asked me to make a batch of cookies for him to take in to work the next day. (Which I did and totally did NOT snitch any of the batter OR eat a cookie!)

After reading so many labels to try to avoid sugar, the sight of a pallet of sugar was almost disgusting to us.

And so our journey began. Lindsey asked to do this for two weeks, because she doesn't want to miss out on coffee cake on Christmas morning. I couldn't agree more.

We're nearly a week in. Check back soon for an update on how we're doing after a week of sugar free eating.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Were We Swindled?

We've migrated to become an Apple family.

It started with the iPhones, then with the ease of syncing the phones to a Mac. Now it's two Air Mac books, two iPhones,  two iTouches and an iPad.

One of the big draws has been the lack of viruses and worry about suddenly having your PC compromised or infected. We were confident in this, until this past week.

One Sunday, Lindsey tried to log on to the Mac only to get the following message when she opened Safari:

"Your computer has been compromised. Please contact Apple Support immediately at 1-800-XXX-XXXX."

You could open other programs but could not access the Internet. So Wayne called the 800 number, was on hold for about 10 minutes, and then got through to a person who identified himself as an Apple support person.

Wayne gave the person the IP address for our machine and the person took control of it remotely. He noticed immediately that our firewall had been disabled, and after some searching on our hard drive determined that we'd been hacked and that someone had access to all of our logins and passwords.

Meaning our financial security was at risk.

He gave Wayne two options:
  1. Take the Mac to an Apple store. They would need to send it away to get it scrubbed and put virus protection software onto the computer. It would cost about $149 and we would be without a computer for an estimated two weeks.
  2. Allow their personnel to install this software remotely right at this instant. It would cost a little more, $199, but would be done immediately, security would be restored and we wouldn't have to go without our computer.
Of course, given those two options, Wayne opted for #2. The Apple support person transferred the call to a third party that would do this work for us.  The Mac spent the next several hours running scrubbing software, resetting security systems and being worked on by someone who I can only believe was in a time zone halfway across the world, because at one point during the chat the person said, "Good Morning," even though it was nearly 11 o'clock at night.

Three hours and $200 later, the Mac was ours again.

The next morning, I questioned the validity of this whole process. how hard would it be to install a program that makes a message pop up saying your PC has been compromised, and give a false 800 number for you to call? Then have the person on the phone give you the worst possible scenario and offer to charge you $200 to "fix the problem?"

And really, when is it every more expensive for someone to fix something remotely, and cheaper to send it away? Usually it's the opposite, as companies don't want to have to spend time and money on the logistics of shipping and tracking their products to get them fixed.

It reminds me of bullies who offer to "protect" weaklings from bullies. Meaning from themselves.

But no matter, we have the virus protection software, we're out $200, and our peace of mind has been restored.

Kind of.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Giving Up

A quick photo before all the clothing changes. (Note the stocking feet on Marissa.)
 Today was supposed to be a celebratory day.

This morning was the Girls on the Run 5k run. Marissa has been in the program all fall, all 10 weeks of it. While they train for a 5k, they also do great activities promoting good self-image, anti bullying, and other confidence boosting messages. That's rather ironic, considering what happened today.

On October 30th we had the practice 5k, which didn't go well. Actually, it didn't go. Unbeknownst to me Marissa had planned to walk the whole thing. Since we didn't get started until 5:00, I didn't have an hour to walk around the lake, as my husband was traveling and I had to pick up my eldest from Minneapolis Kids by 6 p.m. We ran for a little bit, then we walked, I cajoled her to run, she responded by refusing to move. In 20 minutes we had gone approximately a quarter of a mile. So we turned around and left. We walked back to the start, which was also the finish line, and could see and hear other girls finishing. In the time that it had taken us to walk a half a mile other girls and their running buddies had run 3.1 miles. Marissa was so embarrassed that we didn't do it that we intentionally walked a path around the finish so they couldn't see us ducking out.

The next session the coaches asked the girls how it felt to run the practice 5k. Girls talked about it being exciting, fun, challenging. Marissa's response was that it was embarrassing and disappointing because "my mom didn't want to walk it."

So it's my fault.

I felt awful. I felt horrendous. I felt like the worst mom in the world. I thought to myself, "I'll make it up to her for the 5k. If she wants to walk the whole thing, we'll walk it."

That race was today.

Of course it was all of 10 degrees this morning, and snowing. Rock star weather to have a bunch of 9-11 year olds run a race. But this is Minnesota, we're hearty people, and we know how to layer like nobody's business.

It began by Marissa refusing to get out of bed. "Why is this so early? I'm not even up this early for school." she complained. 

She got dressed. She didn't like what she was wearing. She changed her pants. She changed her shirt. She put on snow pants. Then decided not to. Then took off a layer of pants and put the snow pants back on. She put on running shoes. Then took off the running shoes and put her boots on.

We were 20 minutes late leaving the house, and we were already planning on not being there right when the activities were supposed to start. At this rate we were barely going to make it in time for the start, assuming we knew exactly where the start was and drove right there.

Which, of course, we didn't. I knew the race was at Como Lake in St. Paul, but had missed the message that due to the inclement weather they had moved the pre-race activities to Como Elementary School, just a hop skip and a jump from the lake.

But which side of the lake? I drove all the way around the lake at least once. We stopped and parked at the rec building on the lake, but it wasn't there. We got back in the car and drove around some more. In the meantime, Coach Kristi was texting asking where we were.

Well fuck if I know.

Once I found out it was at the elementary school I started driving towards it, but they had already left the school to walk down to the lake. We drove around the lake some more. Finally I saw some Girls on the Run volunteers, parked near there and figured we'd get to the start from there. They informed me that the start line was about a half a mile down the path and pointed us in the direction of the start.

We began walking to the start, me texting/talking to Coach/Aunt Kristi as we walked. We could see all the encouraging words and sayings printed in chalk on the race course. We got a ways down the path and then Marissa sat down on a bench.

What a 5k run is not supposed to look like.
"I don't want to do this," she said.

We talked about how she had trained for weeks, had spent lots of time with her teammates, how her friends were expecting to see her. We talked about finishing what she'd started, and that this was the BIG FINALE. 

She would have none of it. Finally I said that we'd wait there, when the runners started coming by we would find her friends, get in the pack and then pick up the race from there. Because of the weather they had already said that if you only wanted to do one loop around the lake instead of two you could. 

"Let's just walk the one loop," I said. She said nothing.

We could finally see the first runners coming our way. "Come on!" I said. "Let's go!"

"No, let's wait until they go by," she said. 

"What are you talking about? C'mon, let's join them," I said.

"I'm too embarrassed. No one else is wearing snow pants. Let's just go home."

Eventually that's what we did, both of us in tears. 

I am frustrated. I am angry. I am disappointed. And she is all of these things, too. We both talked in the car on the way home how disappointed we both were in the day. 

After a while she went up to her room, and a little later I found her sitting on her beanbag chair, crying. She said she was upset about missing the 5k, disappointing her teammates and disappointing herself. And she blames it all on my not knowing where to go for the start line. 

It's my fault. Again.


She needs to take responsibility for not wanting to do the race. She had plenty of opportunity to still do the run/walk, even though we were late. Those were her decisions to not participate, not mine. We talked, she got mad, and she told me to leave as she curled up in a ball, sobbing.

"Now you know what it feels like to give up," I said. "It doesn't feel very good. I don't recommend doing it again." And I walked out and shut the door.

Maybe it was harsh. I don't think we are harsh enough at times. She needed to hear it, better to learn this lesson now.  Later on she came to me in my room as I attempted to nap away the bad feelings from this morning, curled up and snuggled up to me, tears still on her face. 

We're still sad and disappointed. Everything that Girls on the Run is not supposed to be.

Rock star day.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fabulous Fall

Fall has come to an abrupt end today, but it's been an amazing one.

The trees turned color slowly, seemingly one species at a time, lengthening how many weeks we had to enjoy their colors. The wind stayed calm, so the leaves stayed on the trees until when they finally fell, they made that satisfying crunching sound when you stepped on them.

We have a majestic maple in our front yard that we planted years ago for its spectacular color, and it did not disappoint.

This year the girls were able to hold their tradition of "helping" with leaves one day so I could get lots of pictures of them. Raking leaves into a pile only to throw them about and leave them in random piles isn't exactly "helping." Last year they never got to do this because it rained the entire month of September. Who wants to play in wet soggy leaves that acts as camoflage for hidden dog poop? Yeah, no.

But this year it stayed dry all September and October, so we headed out.

I am now awaiting a collage that I made of the various pictures I took, which will adorn our wall upstairs. At least until I get the snow pictures taken.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Flower Girl Times Two

When Marissa was in 1st grade she had a nanny who would come in the morning,  spend time with her and take her to school. We were quite lucky to find her; I had met her through social media networks and she had babysat the kids a few times. When we were left with a gap in morning coverage before school started, we couldn't think of anyone who would be willing to nanny for just 1 1/2 hours five days a week.

Then we discovered that Katie was happy to do it.

Katie became a big part of Marissa's life, and even after the school year was over and she wasn't nannying anymore, we stayed in touch and she often would come and take the girls to the Holidazzle parade, or to Caribou for a treat or other outings. Katie eventually moved to England, fell in love, and came back to get married before moving overseas for good. (At least that's the plan.)

I was honored that she asked Marissa to be a flower girl in her wedding.

One of Marissa's friends from school was also asked to be a flower girl, so Marissa was super excited to have a friend to hang out with during the activities.

What a week it was.

Katie's fiancé's family and friends trickled in over the course of a week. They planned activities all week long so everyone could get to know each other, and of course Marissa was invited to every part of it. We pulled her out of school early on two days for the rehearsal and the wedding itself, which was a Friday evening affair.

This one gets me teary-eyed just looking at it.
Throughout the week, I learned what a loving and generous family Katie comes from. I learned about her selflessness in putting others first, and her love of children (not just our own kid). I also learned how much she enjoys social media, expressed by the Twitter bird on her wedding cake.

Marissa gloried in the affair, in being in the spotlight (as much as flower girls are), in being in a pretty dress with flowers in her hair.

Guests blew bubbles on the happy couple for their first dance.
Unfortunately Lindsey came down with a miserable cold the day of the wedding, so she and Wayne ended up staying home for the wedding itself while Marissa and I were off for the evening. I hardly saw the girl all night, she was having so much fun playing with Eleni, the other flower girl, and the ring bearers in the wedding party. They had so many kids in the wedding party that they actually had a kids table just for the kids in the wedding.

Now that's a kid's table.
I sat at a table with neighbors of Katie's parents and Nicole, the woman who had introduced me to Katie through social media, and her 17-year-old daughter.  Not shocking, we managed to have a blast. Nicole even got to keep the fabulous British hat of the mother of the bride, who insisted on finding someone in the United States to give it to so she didn't have to take the thing back with her on the plane.  Hats that size aren't normally her style, but she said she wouldn't be a "proper English mother of the bride" if she didn't wear one.

Me and "Astronaut Abby," Nicole's daughter, both wearing the hat of the mother of the bride.
It was large enough for two.