Friday, November 1, 2013

I Guess I'm That Mom...

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love dressing up. As a child my best memories are running around my neighborhood Halloween night and being thrilled, excited, and a little scared. Living in NYC Halloween was epic; ridiculous costumes, watching the parade from a fire escape, and dancing the night away. As a parent it is a new excuse to enjoy the holiday, dress the kiddos in matching outfits. Then the parties and having fun with friends and their kids. Brilliant. Still one of my favorite holidays.

This year they are very much into deciding what they want to be (boo hoo) but, as my kids get older I dream of convincing them of the fun of coordinating costumes... pink ladies and t birds, Scooby Doo and the Gang, rat pack and hollywood icons... my list goes on.

Never have I cared much about the candy aspect.  I would hold onto that candy almost until the next Halloween, eating only a piece or 2 a week, mostly because I forgot about it. I would hide it from my big sister who loved to steal my best stash, so my hiding places would rotate trying to stay one step ahead of her. I would catalog my candy according to quantity to type. No doubt my love of spreadsheets began here as I would try to prove she was stealing it. Sibling fights and all, to be truthful I didn't really care about it I just needed to know it was being taken, and then I'd get mad that SHE took it. I'm sure a psychiatrist would have a field day with this fun tidbit.

Since becoming a mama, food and nutrition has become increasingly important to me. The more I learn about how the body is designed to utilize and process different foods and the affects of chemicals, pesticides, dyes, and sugars (to name a few); the harder it becomes to give them to loved ones as well as myself. I took my son and systematically the family off sugar maybe a year ago. He just doesn't handle it well. His eyes go blank, he looks like a zombie, he can't stop moving, and his behavior goes completely wacky. It was one of the few days that we allowed them to have dessert and we split an ice cream sandwich between the twins. About 10 minutes later Frankie started rocking and jumping and physically couldn't stop himself. I tried holding him and he still couldn't be still. He was so upset and kept saying 'I don't want to be wild anymore mama'; it broke my heart.  I promised him and myself to help him. So our quest of a no sugar lifestyle began. It's not perfect and I am still learning. I believe in moderation, and I can let it go once in a while I promise. I add something new when I am ready to experiment again and it has been a slow transition to find alternatives to what is forced upon us. I started with making no sugar ketchup. He eats a TON of it. Ketchup on his ketchup is an understatement. Then I added in a soda free of dyes and sugar; that is now affectionately referred to as "Jenny Pops". Then cookies. It took a few try's and involving the twins in the baking experience to even get Frankie to try them. Once he did though, he was hooked! I make a big batch once or twice a month and freeze them in small quantities. Then one or two nights a week we get cookies as a treat. To say I'm ecstatic that they love these doesn't even come close. So when Frankie's room mother requested a no nut, no dairy, no HFCS treat for the Halloween party I jumped at the chance to test them out on kids that were accustomed to what is considered normal cookies. I so wanted the kids to try them and love them, they are delicious! Whether the kids heard me say they were sugar free, or the look of them were different, or the domino effect of one kid not liking them; I couldn't say. Since we've cut sugar to next to nothing in our daily diets maybe our taste buds are skewed. Which ever reason they were a big fail on my part. Then, there sat Frankie with the biggest smile on his face loving every bite of his cookie. I could have run over and covered him with kisses. Don't worry, I restrained myself. Then after school as we were headed to the car, he says out of nowhere. "Mama, guess what? I love your cookies, they're the best!" I thanked him all the while choking back the tears. I was so incredibly proud of him. Since we had a bunch left over they get them for snacks and extra treats and every time now he says, I love these cookies mama! Such a sweet boy.

So my love of dressing up and wanting my kids to feel that excitement running around after dark getting candy runs deep. I don't want them to ever miss out on a great life experience. But my anxiety of them consuming that much candy (masked poison) kept me up at night literally. I was searching for a way around this pile of GMO, dyed, processed sugar, crap; when I found the Switch Witch (thank you FB!!) For those of you who don't know who she is, the Switch Witch LOVES candy, so much so that she is willing to trade prizes for it. Brilliant. I ran out to the dollar store the next morning and was ready to plant the seed when I picked them up from school. They tested her out after their Halloween party at school, each putting 4 pieces into a bag. They became worried about a witch being in their rooms so we settled on next to the front door so that she wouldn't know where they were sleeping. The next morning they ran to see what she brought them and were ecstatic to say the least, by Halloween night after consuming quite a few pieces they dumped their entire stash in for the Switch Witch. I was shocked and proud and so happy this worked. They woke up today to books and puzzles, and figurines and couldn't be happier. Brilliant.

So the other thing that was bothering me was actually handing out the masked poison to other kids. My husband had bought the usual goodies and I just couldn't get over the dread of personally handing out something I am so against. Again, I started looking for a way around this that was reasonable and affordable. To my kids a treat can be a new bouncy ball, tattoos, glow sticks, etc. All of which I had in mass quantities, left overs from various goody bag fills. I threw it all in a Halloween bowl and headed to a neighbors house to start the festivities. The kids had a blast running around the neighborhood, excited about what they got at each house and loving the freedom of such a wild night. I loved it. As we hung out with the littlest ones too young to brave the rain and wind, we handed out treats for 2 houses. I could be hated or not by the kids receiving an atypical treat, but I felt better that I was one less person giving out candy and making the holiday solely about that. I'm not judging anyone by saying this, I am just trying to do what I feel is right for my kids and those around me. I love a Reece's peanut butter cup as much as the next guy. But I've found a way to enjoy one without the GMO's, sugar, dyes, and chemicals that ruin the treat. My new indulgence when I have a craving... Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups! Made with organic, whole food ingredients; I can have my cups and eat them too. I would have no problem handing these gems out, but at upwards of $2 a pop, not a real option. So tattoo's and dinosaur squirt guns, glow sticks and bubbles, are my treat to your trick. Jokingly, (I think) my neighbors's teenage son heard about my "treats" and said "Oh, you're that mom." I certainly don't think I look like 'that mom' in my head but maybe it's time to reevaluate that visual. Well, yeah I guess I am. I hope that my kids will continue to look at me with that same proud look Frankie had eating my cookies. My next challenge is to figure out a way to make them look as good as they taste. Could take a while, but success will be sweet.