Friday, April 16, 2010

Agave Is The New Enemy: Can We Even Eat Healthy Anymore?

I am a conscientious healthy eater.  I've given up caffeine.  I drink mostly water and decaf green tea.  Having inherited high cholesterol, I've given up eating red meat on a regular basis, eat more whole grains, lean protein, yogurt, and fruits and veggies up the wazoo.  My only vice is dark chocolate which I know is a super food but probably not in the quantities I inhale eat it.  My fridge is always stocked with blueberries, my pantry with walnuts.  I'm making myself sick (not literally) by trying to eat healthy.  My only vice is an occasional glass of wine (i've cut back since the naming of my blog).

Truly, I really wasn't missing much eating whole foods and I discovered surprising treats like roasted kale chips.  Yum.   I didn't go totally nuts, allowing myself the occasional treat of cupcakes or such, so it really wasn't as bad as it sounds. 

I thought I was doing everything I could.  The do-gooder in me was proud.

Until yesterday...

When I saw this...

Agave?  The healthy alternative?  As bad for you as the sinister high fructose corn syrup?  WTF?

I have been putting agave in my tea, my yogurt, on my wheat toast, I practically bathe in the sweet nectar.  I've converted my kids from sugar to this supposedly healthy alternative.   

Now this?  How is a girl supposed to get her sugar fix these days?

The author of the above article also says too much fruit can have the same effect as high fructose corn syrup.  WTF?  One mango can bring you above the limit according to him.


Anyone else think this healthy living thing is getting out of hand?  Sheesh.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

California's Education Is Circling The Drain

It's tragic how accurate this fictional video is:

Please sign the petition and call Arnold.  Say you OPPOSE these cuts.  PLEASE.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Bullying - It Takes A Village.

I was interviewed here yesterday on the subject of bullying.  The producer of the show sought me out because of this post she found on my blog.  My son's aggressive behavior which was of concern to me in the post was not chronic (which I think would have better suited the show's purposes) but they liked what I had to say on the subject and how I said it so they invited me on the show.

Let's see...

Lisa Belkin/Motherlode blogger - ALSO LOVE
WNYC - hometown radio, LOVE

After initial jitters and concerns, I was in.

Since the interview, I've been reading the discourse from commenters here and here and here and it's obvious that bullying and the extent to which parents are responsible for it is a heated and thorny subject.  A majority of the commenters feel that having a bully for a child is solely the fault of the parent, whether through modeling or encouraging of bad behavior or through ignorance of their child's action or whereabouts.  I have more to say than was possible on the radio so I thought I'd say it here and then open up the floor for discussion.

First let me say, that though the radio show labeled me as the "mother of a bully" (I'm still wincing), what didn't get revealed was that, as a teenager, I was the victim of bullies (three different sets of them).  Once in summer camp where I was placed on trial in front of a jury of my peers who judged me guilty and then silently and wickedly tormented me (as girls do) for the remaining two weeks of camp.  Once in junior high when a group of my friends (including my very best friend who suddenly became popular) turned on me and made my life miserable causing me to fake illness many a day so I wouldn't have to face them.  And then again in high school when I joined in with a group of kids who spent more time hanging out smoking pot in the back of school than studying.  When I realized I'd rather get good grades than good weed I stopped hanging out with them and they took it as a rejection (which, I guess, it was). 

For most of my junior year I was verbally teased, taunted and threatened by them.   They called me J.A.P., snob, and scolded me publicly for thinking I was better than them.  For months, I found different ways to get from class to class and quiet places to eat lunch just to stay out of their range.  One Saturday night they called my house at 2am, drunk, threatening that if I showed up at school that Monday they'd push me into an open locker and lock me in.   My parents eavesdropped on the call and it was at that point that I finally told them what was going on.  Before that I WAS TOO EMBARRASSED to do so.  My father gave me a wrench to put in my purse and instructed me to hit them with it if they came near me.  They didn't.  But they continued their bullying and I made light of it at home not wanting my parents to get further involved and risk me additional humiliation. 

During the last days of school, during NY Regent Exams, I was exiting the building after a test and walking to my car alone.  Some of the girls, my ex-friends, appeared behind me and started in with the usual taunting.    What wasn't usual about this time, what upped the ante, was that they had with them a new friend, a six foot tall, heavyweight, black kid whom I'd never seen before, yet who seemed to hate me every bit as much as the girls did.  I said a few words, telling them to back off and stepped up my pace to the parking lot.  They too sped up and before I knew it the big guy was throwing eggs at me.  I made it to my car and as I pulled out of the lot covered in yolks and tears, I watched as they huddled, convulsed in tears of their own, of laughter.

So I know what bullying is about first-hand.    I am sensitive to it.  I do not role model this behavior for my child and I do not condone it.   Yet my son was acting like one anyway.  That is why I was so concerned at the first sign of his unacceptable behavior and why I sought help from my blog readers, our coaches, and some professionals.  That is why this argument from commenters about parents of bullies being bullies and encouraging bullying behavior incenses me.

You cannot just blame the parents.  Remember Hillary Clinton and IT TAKES A VILLAGE - well it does.  It takes the parents, the school administrators, camp counselors, after-school coaches, and any other adult your child comes in contact with in their busy life.  If you have this kind of support you could be in good shape, but even with it, I feel that the argument the commenters are making forgets one very important thing - the influence of your child's peers.  Notice how I don't say friends.  A teenager is often more influenced by a kid they don't like - a more popular kid, better athlete, dangerous kid - than ones they do.  Teens operate out of wanting to belong and out of fear.  So while I think parents have "control" over their kids when they're young, they lose it as the children become teens and their actual hands-on, day to day involvement becomes less, and the outside influences of their peers becomes more. 

I believe as parents it is our job to teach them to be good moral people with compassion, empathy, sensitivity and respect.   But I also believe that as they grow older and gain independence we have to (to some extent) cross our fingers, hope they listened, and hope for the best. 

Your child is a part of you, they are OF you, but they are NOT you.  Even the best parents cannot be with their children at all times, nor should they, and even the best parents do not have ultimate control over their child's thoughts and behaviors.

It would be wonderful, comforting, and easy to think we do but we don't.   I am not arguing that some parents in some situations are, in fact, responsible for their child's bad behavior for the reasons mentioned by some commenters.  But I do argue with the statement that ALL parents of ALL bullies are bullies themselves and I think that those who believe this are wrapping themselves into a nice, warm, cocoon of false security.  It can't happen to me because I'm not like that. 

Obviously I am passionate about this.  What about you?  Share your opinion but please be civil.  We are all adults here, not bullies.  :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Merlotmom On The Radio!

(Sorry, the link doesn't seem to be working.  Click on the Takeaway link below if you'd like to hear the interview.)

 You guys know how much I love NPR and PRI so when the radio show, THE TAKEAWAY on WNYC asked me to speak with Lisa Belkin, author of the NYT blog, The Motherlode (also a favorite), how could I refuse?

They'd read this old post of mine and in light of the Phoebe Prince tragedy, asked me to comment.  I think I sound okay considering it was 3:45am my time.

BTW, is that really what my voice sounds like???  Strange.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Teach Your Children Well

I try to instill confidence in my children every chance I get.

Not to the point where they don't deserve it or start to feel entitled but coming from someone who had little confidence in herself until she hit middle age, I'm particularly sensitive to my kids feeling good about themselves as early in life as possible.

On the surface, my son appears to be confident.  He's social, smart and a good athlete.  In spite of this, I know he is not.  He is sensitive, uncertain, and easily defeated and angry with himself when he does not perform well at something. 

He refuses to play team sports.  Over the years, we forced him to play but little by little we gave up.  Basketball, Baseball, Soccer.  He still plays at school and at home but playing on a team made him (and us) so miserable with the screaming and crying that we finally gave up.    (Though we have held fast on martial arts despite the temper tantrums.)

My husband would like for him to play on teams again.  I would too but don't want to ruin his love of the sport  (or deal with the madness.)   But recently, he played with a pro basketball player who, I was told, took him aside and told him how good he was.  The coach asked why he wasn't playing competitively and gently chided him for wasting his talent, encouraging him to join a team.  When I pressed my son about it, he said "the guy only said that 'cause everyone else  playing with me sucked."

After telling him that was not true, I stepped back. 

His words sounded vaguely, disturbingly familiar...

Then today, I got an email from a radio station wanting to interview me based on one of my blog posts.  My immediate thought was to say no.  Why would they want to talk to me?  I asked myself.  I'm no expert on anything.  After talking to my husband and a friend, I called.    The producers didn't want an expert.  They wanted a parent.    Great.  Fine.  I thought.  I can do that.  I'm one of those.  But, later, as I let my insecurities seep in,  I couldn't help but wonder, why me?  Did they have so few choices?

A few years ago, I sent an essay in to Newsweek on a whim.  I expected a formatted, impersonal rejection to arrive weeks or months later.  The next day I received an email saying they wanted to publish my essay within the next three weeks.  (Which they did here.)  After jumping up and down and screaming with excitement, my next thought was "I guess they didn't have many submissions this week."

Vaguely, disturbingly familiar... 

Friday, April 2, 2010

Checking For Toilet Paper

I'm on my way back to the OB/GYN today.  Just for a routine check-up but you can be sure this time I'll be making sure my lady parts are free of any wiping detritus.  Ugh.  It still makes me a little nauseous thinking about it.

Anyway, so sorry I haven't been around the blogosphere of late.  I know everyone else manages, I guess I'm just one of those people who can only focus on a few things at a time and lately it's been my kids, my writing, prepping a Passover Seder, etc.   It seems like I'm on a once-a-month blogging schedule these days.  Pathetic.  I really have to do better.

The seder was great, thank you for asking.  I am a pretty good cook when I put my mind to it (cooking, too, falls of the grid, like blogging.)  At least now I have frozen matzoh ball soup to last me the next few weeks.  Thank g-d.  Something my kids can eat that doesn't produce dirty pots and pans.

I do want you to know that regardless of my physical absence from the webz,  I do miss you guys a lot and check your blogs frequently to catch up on your comings and goings.

I'm off now to spend a day with the family (and get my hoo-ha probed).  Sounds like fun, no?  Full day, for sure.  I'll let you know if anything mortifying happens.

Have a great holiday weekend.  We are back to school on Monday.  Boo/Yay!

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