Wednesday, October 29, 2014


this post is a story that i experienced and it is also a conversation that i am curious about. it might be an emotional terrain that has lots of sensitive parts maybe even land mine areas too. it's about our children and parties. it's also about freedom, how we define freedom with food, how we nourish a celebration, how we create fun for our children and what it looks like for the village to care, to supervise, to make sure our kids are "ok." i want to hear your ideas, put it all on a wood board and explore the foggy landscape of what this looks like in our day to day world; caring for kids at a party and what that means. here is the story...

my son was invited to his classmates birthday party. he was really excited as he knew a lot of his friends were going to be there. we had another birthday party across town later that day so i had told the mother we would need to leave earlier than expected. on the way there, my son was telling me that the birthday boy's lunch at school doesn't really look like healthy food. my son said "he gets chips ahoy cookies everyday in his lunch box and trades them in for healthier snacks." my heart sank as this is a story i hear inside my clients food stories.

all of this to tell me that he wasn't so sure about the kind of food that would be offered at the party. we talk about food a lot as you can imagine. we talk about how we feel about food and with soccer game snacks, school and parties we chat about what foods feel good in our bodies and so forth. we talk about the source of food a lot as i want my kids (and all of us!) to know where food comes from.  

when we arrived at the party, we didn't see many parents around because this was a 'drop the kid off' kind of party which was a first for me because my son just turned 8! i guess this is the time that it starts to happen. upon our arrival, the dad answered the door inviting us into a dark living room that lead into a kitchen which then lead us outside to some cushioned chairs, two balloons, a blue cooler filled with ice, fresca soda, minute maid soda and water. there was a grill with oscar meyer hot dogs, hot dog buns, frozen hamburger patties and a big block of cheddar cheese. there were red and blue themed plates and napkins too. 

the kids were all running around after each other playing a game called infection. it was fun to see them laugh and enjoy. after a few minutes, they came to get something to drink out of the cooler. they all reached for a soda and started to laugh about drinking the soda. they were toasting each other harder and harder so that the fuzzy bubbles would fizz over the top and spill all over the table. they were like a pack of wolves, surrounding this round ottoman hitting the cans together like irish men in a pub (a few beers in). it was as if i were watching them drink their first beers in college trying to get into a fraternity. there were boys that were quietly drinking and their were boys trying to get attention, hoping to be heard, to be seen with taking another soda out of the cooler, showing off and making the other boys laugh. here is the thing, i was the only parent watching them. this was not a big home where they could be easily lost or not seen and heard. the hosts were drinking wine and close by to everything. finally, after many long moments, one of the hosts said to a boy to stop spilling on the furniture. a lot of those boys had 2 sodas as i was sitting there in a 10-15 minute period. 

then lunch was served. they had a choice of hot dog or hamburger. the ketchup and mustard was on the fold out tables in the yard. i watched the kids douse their meat with pools of ketchup. this was another moment where the stand up comedy came in to effect  for those kids making fun of how much they could pour on their meat. 

no one was watching them except me & my confusion on what to do, my passion for this conversation with our kids, my love for our bodies, my grief for so many things. i watched myself like a hawk as i did not want to offend the hosts or say anything out of turn. i was acting super calm just sitting with my daughter, drinking water asking about the remodel of their home. the other part of me was screaming inside me to get up and say something. my brain said "sit down!" and my body got up, walked over to one of the boys and asked if he was ok if i called his mom just to make sure he is allowed to have the 2nd soda. i have no idea how the words even came out of my mouth. my brain was still sitting down with my daughter watching the rumpus slash lord of the flies happen. 

i knew one of the moms as she has asked me about my work and is a fan of the little miracle i do in the class. i just felt she probably wouldn't be into what was happening with her son. i guess my biggest fear is that she would get him back totally drugged up and out which is so hard to deal with as a parent. i felt so many things at that moment as i am the freakin' kitchen healer! 

at this point in the story, we have 2 sodas and probably a 1/2 of a cup of ketchup swimming around in a 50 pound boy, plus whatever is in the meat and the high fructose corn syrup & sugar in the bun. it's been less than an hour.

then my son comes up to me asking if we can stay for the piƱata. i say yes as we will leave after that. all the boys run to get in line, with colorful bags in hand, to hit the alien ship with a baseball bat. after a few rounds, all the candy comes out, sweet tarts, gobstoppers, mints, lollipops and so forth. the boys are opening up wrappers as though they have never eaten before, one candy after the next after the next. we left after that, but i believe the next thing to do was to sing happy birthday and have a cupcake. 

i can hear all the voices in my head as i write this post. i will share them with you:
what's the big deal? it's a 7 year old birthday party let them enjoy. it's a once in a while occasion. who are you to tell them what they can and cannot put in their body? it's not your responsibility to tell other kids what they can and cannot put in their bodies? if the parents say you can drop your kid off, what does supervision look like in our modern day lives? what do the parents expect? does anyone even care about this? i am sure we all care about our kids bodies and we want the best for them and those around us. i could go on and on. 

i would love to hear from you. what do you think? what would you have done? bring it on beautiesxxxx

fyi: the total sugar in one can of minute maid lemonade is 27 grams of sugar with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. the fresca has little to no sugar (grams) with aspartame and other ingredients your grandmother would not know what to do with! the meats, well you know that one.  the buns, the candy, the cake. i mean... maybe 100 grams of sugar or a lot more.. in a two hour period. the daily amount for a kid from 4 - 8 years old is 12 grams per day.


  1. Hi Jules,

    Wow! Well this is one I have had the headache of experiencing myself as I have an 11yr old and 9yr old boys and for whatever reason boys are nuts!!! First I want to say from all of your amazing and personal posts I know that you are an an excellent Mom and you have been giving your children a love for life, living and the knowledge to make positive and healthy personal choices, which lets face it, has your kiddos in a very good place. I have found that what other parents allow in their home is a slippery slope and not a fight anyone can win. Now because you are the kitchen healer the only way to open the eyes of the kiddos parents would be for you to do something about it. Now that's also tricky but you are actually better prepared than most because of what you do. I say have a free class at your home or at the kids school if possible and invite the parents of your babies friends and show them how to throw and tackle parties and the holidays in a fun healthy way that they can do.

    Jules, you are going to have to teach them! If you bring it up any other way someone is going to be hurt, offended and it could affect your kids ability to get together with friends and that is not the outcome you want. But a lot of people figure "we ate it and we are fine" or "I cannot afford to feed all those kids in a healthy manner". These are real fears for them but you my dear old friend have the best resource to teach them just how amazing and remarkable eating well is and how it can be fun and simple as well as cost effective for them. Jules, throw a party, give them the tools and ideas on everything from the food to decorating and how the kids can help. It might be the only option...

    Good luck and Happy Halloween!
    Love you xxx

  2. i think every thing in moderation

    i think a birthday party is the time for all these foods which should be deemed "special treats"

    i also have not sent my children to any birthday parties because in theory it all seems fine and nebulous and maybe even "good" to let these tots run aroud and saturate in sugar . . however it is so beyond the antithesis of what i want for my family

    i am confused by the celebration of birthdays ALWAYS meaning pizza juice boxes cake exorbatant presents misbehaved children and this all being at the cost of what should be family time on a weekend

    i am reacting to a childhood where parties were events with actual papparazi and the next day my mother put pictures of my double chin on the fridge

    we bring a party in a box to our dearest friends, a home made card from maev, a poem from lasi maybe even a homemade treat (with sugar and white flour sometimes BUT from my kitchen!) and it is personal

    i have a repuatation for never having playdates or going to birthday parties

    i like the way my kids are turning out so im dealing with my "bad rep"

  3. horrendous. i've been there with you sweating with my hair on end while every seems to be enjoying themselves. I wonder whether my stress is worse than JUNK food. I certainly don't eat it, I feed my kids before we go so they are not hungry and chat with them about choices etc. There, I remind them that they don't have to finish their pizza or cake and work to limit the candy they come home with - "share some with daddy, i sneak some into the trash. and move on - broccoli and salmon for dinner.

  4. All that comes to mind is the word primitive! Your work is so needed in our community in our world!! You are invaluable!

    Great and upsetting story. I almost laughed out loud at your description of brain body experience! I'm proud of you for managing to not say anything to those parents, although they needed some schooling! I Ha!

    love you so much!

  5. Oh my gosh! It was terrible - and wonderful reading what you wrote. I have LIVED that scenario so many times! As of late, I've actually thrown in the towel. And yet, the guilt continues. Guilty for yammering on about the contents of those items -spoiling my kids happiness. Guilt for separating my kids out from their peers with food restrictions. Guilt for NOT separating them out from their peers with food restrictions. I don't know WHICH way to go!!!

    Sarah and William are now back at Waldorf which is helping - by the mere fact that their are more "like minded" parents. Fewer instances of Lunchables and doughnuts being sent to school as school lunches. Then there is the world outside, like Softball. How red - or blue, can their lips and tongues turn as they gulp down the Powerade Zero?? How many emotional meltdowns and bouts with depression can William and Sarah withstand before one of them kills or is killed?

    I'm anxious to see what your other readers will say.


  6. I care

    it's insanity out there..
    it's also insane when the school doesn't care if the food is organic and no corn syrup etc.
    I don't care if my kids think I am crazy or to much with not having alot of sugar..
    I care!

    I am the "switch witch " on halloween.
    I will let them keep 3 pieces of what they get and they give the rest to me for "healthy" candy from whole foods.
    I don't want to feel deprived, moderation in everything..

    I feel you Jules, that story was and IS heartbreaking.. but there is so much sleepwalking going on.
    I think it's ok to say something, I think we have to .. "they" are unaware.

    live and let live, yes BUT let's help them live longer eh?
    I love what you are doing..
    starting the conversation or keeping it going.
    happy to scream ( or sing) about it.

  7. The first thing I want to say is, I feel your pain!
    Awkward situation on so many levels, one especially being the sole often has this happened? Can only say thank heavens you were there to monitor on some level. But it is not left to their own devices.
    We were at a pool party and thankfully my (Mr. Safety) husband was keeping vigilant watch on the pool All the other adults were close, very close, maybe 10 feet away from the deep end. But only my husband witnessed the little girls tumbling off the rolled up cover into the deep end and within seconds jumped in and pulled her from 8 feet deep....really! No one else even saw it happen, only heard his giant splash. Thank God, right. Although your experience was not life threatening in the moment I still feel that birthday parties like you described are in the long run very detrimental to our children's well being. Kids have no filters, no brakes, the cooler was full, why not partake? I think it is a sign of our culture, that all this sugar, a sweet innocent celebration. But I would venture to say that unfortunately many parents don't care that in one birthday party their child may be imbibing on up to 500 grams
    So what do I do? Well, first off I stay at parties. By now because I work in the classroom most of the kids see me as a figurehead for rules...ha....but now they even come to me when someone needs help, when someone is being mean, etc. What I do is let my daughter enjoy getting a piece of cake with the others, but we save most of it, put it in the freezer and it's over. Of all the pieces we've frozen most are forgotten....(only that really fabulous homemade one was truly relished and even tasted better frozen) Pinata's are my nightmare, mostly because my kid isn't pushy and never gets any candy, but ends up in tears. Nice thing is that I can pick and choose a very few things from kids who do push and have an abundance. And I do allow her to eat one piece at the party. I try to live what I call my 80/20 rule. meaning 80% of what I put in my body is 100% healthy, nourishing, etc. The other 20, well, parties happen. Life must be lived, birthday's celebrated. But I teach my child that too, and I always say when I am moderating, it's not my body that is going to feel yucky, I'm just the voice of reason what do ya think honey? And sometimes it means we skip the Safeway Cake and go hit the lovely Companion Bakery on the way home for a gluten free brownie with warm goat milk....I mean, we love little Johnny, and we're so glad he's 8 today, but eating GMO cake with horrible food colors doesn't help either of us grow big and strong, now does it?

  8. You speak of my world! My daughter just attended a 5-year-old's birthday party where there was ONLY beer and soda in the cooler. the party was later in the evening and it ended with a big piece of cake with a lot of frosting and ice cream. Mind you, it was two days after Halloween. On Halloween, at school (at school!!!) she got a piece of browny, capri sun, chocolates, AND a big whole chocolate covered donut. For students' birthday, the school principal does not allow parents to bring cupcakes and red juices, not because of the sugar and coloring, it is because "they stain the carpet in the class room". What do parents do instead? They bring "goody bags" (don't get me started with this awful - to me - tradition...) full of candies and little things. My daughter is in Transitional Kinder which means that all students in her class have birthday between September and December. My daughter brings these goody bags 2-3 times a week!
    I am also very careful about speaking up about this issues especially because this is my daughter's first year in school and she is only 5. 5-year-olds can be pretty cruel. I do talk to my daughter before going to the party, and since we have been talking about healthy food since she was very little, she does understand. But other kids? I kind of mentioned to one of the moms at the party this weekend that we do not let our girls eat too much sugar so we did not let her eat any sweets until the party (because we knew there would be cakes), the mom had a pause... and did not know what to say to me.
    One thing I notice, though, is that my daughter is starting to be a spokes person for healthy food. She does not tell anyone that their food is "yucky" or "unhealthy" to their faces, but I hear her say to her friends, "you know, vegetables and fruits make you very strong and smart", "I love cauliflower when it is grilled", or "I don't drink soda because it has too much sugar". I am very grateful of this girl who is independent and confident about who she is because she is what she eats. :)