Category Archives: Chocolate

#6 Enjoy (don’t Endure)

Are We Having Fun Yet? That is the title of the first parenting book I’ve read in 2012.  Okay, so it’s the first one I’ve read in 2011 too.  And no, I’m not really having fun.

Those who know me have heard a lot of complaints about parenthood from me.  I started this blog to help me change that, to focus on the positive.  I thought maybe by writing about the things I can do, rather than the things I can’t, might help me start feeling adequate as a mother, and maybe even happy.  You may notice that I haven’t written many posts here.  I guess the complaints are winning.

Reluctantly, I picked up this book at our local, amazing, toy library.  Are We Having Fun Yet?  The 16 Serets of Happy Parenting by Kay Willis and Maryann B. Brinley.  Sometimes the cheesy sounding books really are just that, cheesy.  They are surface and too simple to be useful in what I consider a complicated life.

The book however, really is perfect for where I am right now.  It’s short and sweet, and not preachy.  It really all boils down to how you can change your attitude to enjoy, rather than endure, parenting.  Of course, there are some other good tips in there as well, and lots of stories about how Kay raised then children, and how successful she was at that.  I do find myself feeling a little guilty at times while reading it though.  Kay has always wanted to be a mother, since she was nine years old.  Ever since I was nine years old I have wanted to be single, and to be childless.  Of course I changed my mind momentarily… but that desire does come back now that I am a mother.  I’ve read a lot of great articles this month though that have been helping me change my bad attitude about mothering.

The best resources will meet you where you are, and present an honest picture of mothering: it’s incredibly hard (an understatement), but has unimaginable and heavenly rewards.

The first suggestion in this book was that happy parents enjoy each developmental stage their child is in, instead of enduring it.  So, I’m trying to take that to heart.  Instead of hoping and planning for that next stage that will be so much better, so much easier, I am trying to notice the sweet things that my children are doing in the stages they are in.  Instead of saying, “It will be so much easier when she stops wetting her pants!”  I’m trying to focus on “It’s so fun to see the delight she takes in making it to the potty on her own initiative.”  Someday soon it won’t seem like an accomplishment at all, but just an unconscious part of her daily life.

When you are in a crisis moment and are crying on the couch, don’t pick up this book and feel guilty.  Just eat some chocolate and be kind to yourself.  Allow those moments.  But when you lay in bed and night, thinking over the day, wanting some ideas for how tomorrow could be better, read this book.  Try making a list of all the things you enjoy about your child, and tomorrow, try to cherish them.

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#3 Chocolate

Craving chocolate?  You’re not the only one.  I eat a little everyday.  I like it in the afternoon, in place of coffee or tea.  I like it in the evenings, when I’m trying to relax and unwind from the tangled day.  I like it when I’m feeling emotionally low or physically drained.  I like it all the time really.

When I went through my first real struggles with depression at 19, my first advice came from Dad: “Chocolate always makes me feel better.”  And while chocolate didn’t quite carry me through that rough year, it did its part.

While chocolate shouldn’t be your only coping mechanism, it can be an accepted one.

Chocolate is Healthful: We’ve all heard that chocolate is chalk-full of antioxidants, having significantly more per ounce then any other food or beverage.  This means that chocolate helps you detoxify and fight aging.  Some researchers chocolate can reduce cholesterol and blood-pressure, as well as balance your hormones.  Of course, the sugar and additives (like hydrogenated oils) in your chocolate are not so healthy.  So, for the tastiest, most beneficial boost, go for dark chocolate with recognizable ingredients: cocoa liquor/solids/mass (same things), sugar, (you need some), cocoa butter (left over from processing cocoa beans into cocoa powder), vanilla (not the artificial vanillin), and soy lecithin (to make it smooth and solid).  This is what makes Hershey’s superior to Godiva.

Chocolate is Fascinating: A little history: Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cocoa tree.  Seed pods are harvested twice a year, by hand, and fermented underground.  The seeds are then sun-dried, roasted, smooshed, and then turned into something yummy.  Chocolate’s first documented use is by the Mayan in 200-900 AD.  Mayans drank chocolate (though they didn’t have sugar so it was mighty bitter), used it in ceremonies, and it was their currency as well.  The Aztecs adopted the practice, and it was exported to Europe via the Spaniards.  Currently, the U.S. is only the eighth largest consumer of chocolate, at 11 pounds annually per person. Switzerland, whose citizens consume more than 21 pounds per person each year, is in the lead.  But it wasn’t always eaten purely for pleasure.  Chocolate has always been used and viewed medicinally, so let me reeducate you on it’s properties in modern scientific terms.

Chocolate Feels Good: Chocolate really does make you feel better when you are stressed, and has been shown to decrease stress and the “flight and flight” response.  Pure chocolate contains over 380 known chemicals.  Here are a few responsible for its feel-good effects:

  • Anandamide, a lipid naturally found in the brain, can bind to the same receptors as THC (The active chemical in marijuana is called tetrahydrocannabinol)and thus release dopamine.  But you’d have to eat 25 lbs of chocolate to have as much dopamine released as THC does, and even then THC affects much more of the brain than anandamide does.   Chocolate produces more of the naturally-occurring anandamide, and releases other chemicals to prevent the short-lived lipid from breaking down. The name anandamide comes from the Sanskrit ananda, bliss.
  • Opiates: chemicals, such as those found in opium, that produce a feeling of well-being (euphoria). Eating chocolate causes the brain to produce natural opiates, which dull pain and increase feelings of well-being.
  • Amphetamines: Chocolate also contains phenylethylamine.  Like amphetamines, this chemical causes blood pressure and blood-sugar levels to rise, resulting in feelings of alertness and contentment. Phenylethylamine has been called the “love-drug” because it quickens your pulse… which hardly seems the same as love to me.  But I do LOVE chocolate.
  • Caffeine in chocolate is minimal (12 Hershey bars = 1 cup coffee), but lovely.
  • Theobromine is another stimulant found in chocolate that can, in addition to acting similarly to caffeine, lead to mental and physical relaxation.  It can increase alertness as well as cause headaches. Other stimulants in chocolate include methylxanthines.  Theobromine comes from the Greek theobroma, “food of the gods”.
  • Aphrodisiac? Combine phenylethylamine’s ability to quicken the heart, the feelings of euphoria from anandamide, theobromine’s power to cause relaxation, and the other neurotransmitters sending pleasurable feelings throughout the brain.

Chocolate Tells You To Slow Down When you crave chocolate, you may be stressed, tired, or overwhelmed.  If you are really self-aware as you dump that handful of chocolate chips into your mouth, you might want to think about activating some other coping strategies.  You need a break.  What can you do to help you slow down, check in, and de-stress before you erupt?  Try some of the other suggestions on the blog to help you manage stress and stay grounded in the long-term.  And do keep enjoying the chocolate.

Warning: Please don’t share chocolate with your littlest ones. Just two ounces of chocolate can be fatal to a dog because it can not digest the theobromine. Chocolate can also make some small children sick and cause migraines for the same reason.

Three chocolate candies and one glass of red wine were consumed during the writing of this post.

Sources and Links:

Neuroscience of Chocolate

College Biology Paper on Chocolate and the Brain

Chocolate and Your Health

De-Stress by Chocolate