Our McDonald’s Experiment

i'm not lovin' it

To some it may be hard to believe that our 3 kids have no McDonald’s memories.  Our oldest was diagnosed with Celiac Disease when she was 2 so she doesn’t ever remember eating there.  We don’t have cable or satellite TV so they don’t see the commercials either.  Since the diagnosis of both my daughter and my husband we never eat there so the kids have no idea what it’s all about.  We have nicknamed the restaurant McGluten’s.  I am aware that they do have a couple of items on their menu that are gluten free but it is things like salad and yogurt.  Ummm, no thanks.   So when I found  myself out doing errands a couple of days after Christmas with my 4 year old (who has never shown any reaction to the limited amount of gluten she has eaten in her life) I decided to do a little experiment.  My daughter was complaining of being hungry.  No problem.  I never leave home without something to eat in my purse.  Well never except for that day.  I had been sick so I guess maybe I wasn’t thinking clearly.  Maybe that was why I took the easiest option and took her to McDonald’s.  Millions of other parents do it so why not?  As we got into line I asked her what she wanted.  She said “What do they have here?”  The guy in front of us looked back at us, laughed and said something about being surprised that she didn’t already know what she wanted.  I told her what the choices were.  I had to explain what a McNugget was.  She finally decided on those with fries and an apple juice.  We took the kid’s meal to the table and sat down.  She was so excited to get her lunch in a colorful box.  She immediately asked if she could take the box home.  You can imagine her reaction when she opened the box to find not only her lunch but a toy.  She shrieked loudly that “Someone put a toy in here!”  The two tables near us giggled over her excitement.  I told them that it was her first time there.  They  looked at me like they couldn’t decide if I was joking or not.   I wondered for a moment if she would now be begging to come back regularly.  Had I just opened a huge Pandora’s box?   Once the excitement of the toy subsided she remembered she was hungry.  She dug in.  She ate a grand total of one and a half nuggets, one taste of the sauce, one solitary french fry and all of her apple juice.  I asked her why she didn’t want to eat anymore and her response was one that made me proud.  She said, “I don’t like it.”   Yay!  Score for REAL FOOD!  Since that day she has asked to go back once.  She wanted another toy but not the food.  

I have said it before and I will say it again.  Celiac disease has been a good thing for our family.  Prior to CD I never once considered what I put in my mouth.  I assumed that all those things that I couldn’t pronounce on the ingredient list were food and were safe and benign.   I loved McDonald’s.  We ate out every day, sometimes more than once a day.  I had absolutely no idea of the close relationship between food and health, both physical and mental health.  While CD does in fact make life far more complicated at times and it certainly would be better not to have it, those are things that I can not change.  I choose to focus on the many positive things that have come of it.

Ditching TV Among Other Things

In the last week of December Ron and I made a decision to discontinue our satellite service. This is something that I have been wanting to do for some time and I had suggested it more than once. But like most North Amercians, we are a teeny bit addicted to TV so Ron nixed the idea. I let it go. Then in the beginning of December it became his idea. Then of course it turned into a great idea. I was fully supportive of “his” idea but really didn’t think he would do it. First he started with the TVs. We had an embarrassing 6 flat screen TVs. One in nearly every room and even in the kids rooms (which we had always said we wouldn’t do). He started selling them off on Craigslist. I love Craigslist. Soon enough we had just one left. The he cancelled the satellite service. I was stunned and more than a little impressed. First he kicks gluten without even a flinch, then dairy, then aspartame, then TV and now he is working on soda in general. Since he has no other “real” vices he is on a fast track to becoming perfect. So you might be asking yourself, why would we do this? No, we’re not starving or having trouble paying the bills. This is really all just a part of a bigger picture. There is a lot to gain by ditching TV. First, the most obvious, is the cash you dish out every month for 7000 stations (and none of them are worth your time). Then there are the countless hours you can reclaim that can go to important things, like your family. We find we are spending more time as a family. We are playing games together, reading, making things, building things, going for walks, cooking, hanging out outside etc. Ron and I are talking more. Ron has started reading again. Him and I are both getting more sleep. Both of us had the habit of turning on the TV when we are tired to “just watch a couple of minutes.” Hours later we are still staring blankly at the TV. Then we wake up tired the next day and our patience is short with the kids and sometimes with each other. Then we’d miserable and lazy and only want to, guess what’s coming… watch TV. The TV was on in the background all the time whether or not anyone was watching. Since it has been off there is a beautiful calm in the house. I am enjoying the lack of the constant din. The girls are more often playing with each other. They are pretending, creating, learning and running. None of those things are done in front of the TV. We are spending more time outside and our attention is more fully on the present moment. How many times have I wished that the kids would just be quiet for a bit so I could hear or see something on the TV… TV is an escape, a drug, a diversion. I don’t want to be diverted from my life. I want to live it. At the end of our lives, will we look back and think “wow, I remeber that one TV show….”? We want our kids to have great memories of the time we spent together. Memories aren’t made waching TV. Life is so short and I want to be present for all of it. I don’t want to waste my precious time being told how I should look or what I should want (also why I don’t buy magazines anymore). I really don’t care what the Hollywood stars are doing, saying or wearing. I love the fact that my kids have no idea what a BRATZ doll is or who Hannah Montana is or what High School Musical is. I love that they adored the castle that Ron made for them at Christmas and that it wasn’t MADE IN CHINA or made from plastic. As I get older I find myself deploring the consumerism that defines American life. Everything is disposable, everything is about appearances and having the right car, handbag, hairstyle, jewelry, cell phone, clothing, body shape and bra size. I think that we have all lost sight of what really matters. Have have have get get get buy buy buy does not make us happier. Maybe it feels good for a minute but why? Because we have one upped the Jones’, or because we are one step closer to looking just so? In the last few months we have tried to reverse our years of that mindset of having and getting. We are constantly selling stuff we don’t use or need. Our entire focus is probably the exact opposite of most people here in Scottsdale. And you know what? It feels good. Really really good. We aren’t just selling stuff but we are giving stuff away too. I have discovered freecycle. This is an online group (probably one near you) that is all about the giving and receiving of free stuff in an effort to keep things out of the landfills a while longer. Right before Christmas we went through the kids toys and gave away everything that they didn’t use regularly. The whole lot of it went to a foster mom of 3 girls for their Christmas gifts. Even Sage felt good about that. So, to those of our friends and family who know about us ditching our TVs and selling all of our stuff: No, we are not starving or even having financial difficulties we are just trying to make the most of our lives.

Okay, I will step down from my soap box now.