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the Halloween candy experiment

November 13, 2012

I’m at the library with Peace Like a River in my hot little hands, scouring the shelves for all your other generous recommendations. (LOVED Glass Castle and anything Rick Bragg and David Sedaris is laughoutloud funny, and yes to Bossy Pants and Zadie Smith is a genius and I can’t wait for the new Anne Lamott, and now Beatrice and Virgil and Mark Helprin and Birds of a Lesser Paradise are on library request and, omg, there’s a NEW Barbara Kingsolver?).

Col’s lunch box, November 13th

Also, you’ve been asking about the Halloween candy? Okay, here’s how it went down. In the past our Halloweens have included a lot of C.I.A-type planning to keep crappy sugar out of my kids’ cavity-prone little mouths. We’ve had the Halloween fairy visit, whisking away piles of candy in exchange for wholesome art supplies and money; we’ve had a trading post in which the kids could trade out candy for gum, cheese sticks, tea bags and some little squares of free range dark chocolate blessed by monks.

This year, our original party line was (as always) to weed out the most sinister candy: the food coloring, lollipop sugar-baths, chewy little molar snatchers. And then let the kids go big on Halloween night, with the option to trade out pieces of candy for a quarter, and then move into a parceling plan of 2 pieces/day, in which they could choose the time.

And then, on day one, November 1st, Col and Rose’s friend Kiva was here for a sleepover and Rose asked if she could have some candy. I reminded her that she already had her 2 pieces (at 8am!) and couldn’t have anymore until tomorrow. Rose said, “ok” and skipped away. And then I realized that I didn’t want to be the candy police, I didn’t want to keep track of how much she had eaten, and I was curious about what sort of natural limits she would discover with complete freedom. So, at 4pm on November 1st, I announced the new decree: you are in charge of your candy, eat what you want and when it’s done it’s done.

And then Rose said, “I’d like to just go on having 2 pieces/day.”

Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

Rose’s eyes waxed like full moons and she asked politely for her candy basket, which became the object of play for the rest of the night. Col, Rose and Kiva played store and doctor, incorporating the candy; they made up bizarre elaborate games in which the candy had the starring role. The sound of wrappers being husked off tiny chocolate logs was the soundtrack of their night.

Meanwhile, I had to talk myself down many times from streaking into their room and blocking the candy basket with my body, forbidding them to eat another piece. I was way more jacked up on adrenaline and other funky chemicals than they ever appeared to be. They all fell asleep promptly at 9:30 and were totally well behaved.

I heard the first scrumple of a candy wrapper at 7:00 am the next morning and by 9:00 am, Rose’s candy was history. (She had generously shared at least half of it with Kiva. Sorry, Cody and Lianne). Col forgot about his candy for over a week and then declared that he only wants to eat his in school lunches (he goes to school 2 days/week).

The end.

I admit that I did hope that Rose would get sick or bored of so much candy, but apparently she didn’t (hello, mini me!). I honestly don’t know what the best answer is to the whole conundrum of Halloween candy, especially when some family members can practically hear sugar calling to them from the kitchen shelf. But I did find it interesting that these kids, who do not eat a lot of sugar, never showed any ill effects of eating so much candy all at once. And, like all experiments, hypotheses were tested and lessons were learned.

Speaking of experiments, this just in: when you put the silica gel (the humidity-attracting desiccant found in shoe boxes and seaweed packages) into water, it pops and you can hear it!

I may owe Mathew’s family some of my royalties, for how often he shows up on this blog.

Also, despite my babies being these huge, long-legged beasts, every other Monday I babysit these 3 sisters, one of which is not quite two, and baby Grace and I get to spend most of the 2 hours snuggling and talking about “birdies!” and “kitties!” while I pray that there’s nothing sinister happening in her diaper.

ps: Anyone interested in a pumpkin muffin recipe, (a very delish muffin which I happen to be scrumpling all over my laptop right now), or is everyone pumpkined-out already?



pps: do you guys use  “tags” in your blogs, you know like “mothers body-blocking candy” or “candy wrapper scrumple,” because I’ve gotten sort of lazy about that, but I’d hate for someone to be searching “silica gel espeerments” and not find this post.

33 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2012 12:48 pm

    I wholeheartedly want the pumpkin muffin recipe. and ps – you’re awesome. I love your writing.

  2. Beth permalink
    November 13, 2012 12:49 pm

    I understand the worry about children and too much candy (my kids are 30 and 26, step-grandkid is 13). At one time when they were much younger I read about how if you don’t make candy fascinating by forbidding it they won’t eat as much. Now think about that, we all have fruit bowls with tons of fruit free for the taking – they eat some when hungry but don’t usually over-indulge. Candy we lock away for special so they are always begging for some.

    The experiment is to find out what candy your children love, buy a huge amount and put it out in a bowl where they can have what they want when they want. Make sure you have enough to refill the bowl if it gets empty (and they know you have enough). The first few days they will eat more than is good for them after that they will have a piece now and then but won’t gorge on it. This worked for me and a number of other people who were totally incredulous that it would work.

    My children never again whined about having candy and didn’t over indulge ever. Of course if your children have health issues this might not be the way to go but for most children this provides a learning experience about moderation.

    Good luck! Beth

  3. November 13, 2012 1:19 pm

    I love the idea that you’ve incorporated choice. Our paths sound very similar and I can happily report that at 11 and 14, the kids impose pretty reasonable limits on their own candy intake and my anxiety is in check! I’d love a pumpkin muffin recipe!

  4. coleen permalink
    November 13, 2012 1:21 pm

    Yes, please to the pumpkin muffin recipe!

  5. November 13, 2012 1:52 pm

    yes yes yes to pumpkin muffin recipe! Just roasted the first of three last night. I finally said you what you want on the weekend and now our candy is all gone too. I think I’m tempted to just go the complete and freedom route (along with the vast amounts of secret culling I did – I must have obliterated 50 or more pieces from each kits back and they didn’t notice)next year. Can’t take policing every bite anymore.

  6. November 13, 2012 2:04 pm

    I’d love another pumpkin recipe! Especially one that you stand behind :)

  7. November 13, 2012 2:52 pm

    i’m currently eating a slice of pumpkin coffee cake. there can never be too much pumpkin.

  8. November 13, 2012 3:40 pm

    Reading about Rose devouring her candy at dawn and Col parceling his out over upcoming school lunches reminded me so much of myself (sugar hound to this day!) and my brother growing up. Anytime candy would come our way, I would scarf mine down and he would delicately eat his, piece by piece, while I drooled in the background. I loved reading about this espeerment, though, and thinking about ways to reframe my kids’ thinking about the forbidden fruit.

    As for tags, I don’t use ’em. Then again, I know nothing of SEO and probably would not be anyone’s idea of a social media marvel.

  9. November 13, 2012 3:54 pm

    Oh I so hate the sugar dilemma. On special occasions I let my kids pig out for a bit. Then I snuffle it all away to the top of the cupboard. And surprisingly they tend to forget about it. I would feel ok about this if it only happened occasionally- trouble is there seem to be special occasions all the time – birthday parties and now here in Australia we’ve bizarrely latched on to the Halloween thing too.

  10. November 13, 2012 4:30 pm

    Oh, that ole Halloween candy conundrum. Aside from a few totally random outbursts, we generally have been where you have now landed: you’re-in-charge-of-your-own-candy-consumption Land, except that it may only be eaten after dinner (or lunch, if it’s a stay at home day), and you better eat it fast before your dad takes any. It results in a few fistfights, meltdowns and some heartwarming generosity. Also, they do seem to get sick of it, and few tootsie pops linger until the humidity drags their stickiness from inside the wrapper to outside and I throw them in the trash. Halloween–it comes once a year (along with Christmas and Easter and the fourth of July and Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and a thousand other high-fructose corn syrup-lobby-sponsored holidays), so why not go crazy with the sugar bugs?

  11. Chi-An permalink
    November 13, 2012 4:47 pm

    Hm, your kids’ school allows them to bring candy? It’s outlawed at our school, although the kids still report about so-and-so who gets a candy bar in their lunch *every day*.

    We used to put our kids’ candy stashes in a high cabinet and let them paw through to have a piece a day for dessert after dinner (and after lunch, if it’s a home day), subject to having eaten enough actual food. This has led to an annual candy cleanout in mid September, as I throw away the random sugar muck that never gotten eaten over the year.

    This year (9 and almost-6) I just stuffed their bags in a cabinet within easy reach. Oddly enough, this has not led to any surreptitious snacking (that I know of; maybe I should do a deep-search of all the trashcans in the house). The kids still stick to the little-bit-after-meals rule. I have to say I’m impressed.As an added bonus, it makes it much easier for me to root around their bags for Milky Ways…

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 8:09 am

      This is the wild west, here. We stand by our right to eat candy in school. We also, apparently, sing a patriotic song every Friday outside of said school while saluting the flag. My kids aren’t there on Friday, so I’ve only heard about this tradition. We recited the Pledge of Allegiance growing up (I went to an Oakland elementary school) through at least the younger years of elementary school. Is that still done in the Bay Area?

      (Sounds like your kids have some amazing self-control).

  12. Jennifer via FB permalink
    November 13, 2012 5:23 pm

    And you have to remember, Rose is what, four…five. Not an age known for self control. If you did the same thing next year, the results might change. I was a huge sugar fiend as a kid (I want so far as to pick up and eat candy from the ground if I found it and no one was looking when I was 6). But now, a small bite and I’m good.

  13. Danielle G permalink
    November 13, 2012 5:33 pm

    yes. share. recipe. please.

  14. Martha permalink
    November 13, 2012 7:59 pm

    I love the idea of choice! ….maybe next year, have them chart their physical, emotional, and mental bodies in congruence with how much candy they eat that day. Awareness AND empowerment. Boom.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 13, 2012 11:04 pm

      Fabulous idea!

  15. Maribeth permalink
    November 13, 2012 8:32 pm

    I’d love any pumpkin recipe that you have I just made 10 lbs. of pumpkin purée. My brothers and I were only allowed to eat candy on Sundays growing up. They would gather all they could carry and gorge. I would choose two things and eat them but none if us grew up to be big candy eaters.

  16. April Young permalink
    November 13, 2012 8:37 pm

    I love reading about your family and all your adventures! It reminds me of all my funny family moments… What treasures! They grow up way too fast! I hope you enjoy the book. I felt like I had received a gift the whole time I was reading it. Maybe it was just me?

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 8:03 am

      Thanks for the recommend, I am so looking forward to reading it.

  17. Melissa permalink
    November 13, 2012 9:11 pm

    I applaud your restraint in the whole candy experiment. I would have given myself a seizure trying not to step in, but being the candy police wouldn’t be any fun either. I have some mellowing to do over the next few years, I think.

    As for pumpkin, I just bought some more this weekend with no specific plans. Recipe please! :)

  18. November 13, 2012 10:05 pm

    We did a very mixed experiment this year. First, I didn’t want them gorging on candy on a school night, already up too late, so they could only have a piece each after trick-or-treating. (before you feel sorry for them, they’d already both had candy at school, after school, from a neighbor) After that, we had a couple days of candy after lunch or dinner and then I let them pick a number – find your favorites!- and threw out the rest. (Oh, the horror of throwing out ‘good candy.’) They each get to choose how/when to eat these few remaining pieces.

  19. November 13, 2012 11:11 pm

    I’ve been waiting to hear how the candy experiment went. I introduced the *idea* of the switch witch to Juniper this year (she didn’t have enough candy to really worry about it) and the idea alone sent her into a worried frenzy. Even today she told me, “Noooooo, mama, I don’t want that witch to come!”

    You can never have enough pumpkin recipes.

    Tags? What tags?

    A new Barbara Kingsolver??? It’s a testament of how much I adore your blog that I’m leaving a comment before immediately going on the interweb to check into this supposed “new” Barbara Kingsolver. On that note……

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 8:01 am

      Duly noted and much honored.

  20. November 14, 2012 7:29 am

    We once had a halloween fairy but now I just limit it before meals so they’ll actually eat some real food. Basically they’ll eat a zillion bites on halloween night, but not the entire piece of candy. Just a bite out of it to see what it is. 3/4 of it gets wasted that way but I don’t feel guilty because it isn’t even real food. The the rest gets used as currency. Every time I turn off a bedroom light I get to steal a piece of candy from that kid. If you forget to flush a poop I get to steal a candy. For a few weeks lights are off and toilets are empty!

  21. November 14, 2012 9:23 am

    I’ve actually encouraged mine to eat as much as she possibly wants Halloween night and the day after. There was one year where she & her trick or treat companion actually complained about how they felt they were being forced to eat candy until their teeth hurt.
    Mine will gorge on it Halloween night (but still not eat half of what I do), a few pieces the next day and then she limits herself to a piece a day until it’s gone….usually sometime next summer. She even asks if it’s okay if she has a piece.
    I have no idea where this trait comes from, as her dad & I are still both gorging ourselves on her candy on a daily basis….and trick or treat master that she is, we have barely made a dent.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 9:37 am

      Limits herself? Wow. That is a very cool trick. Be proud, Mama.

  22. November 14, 2012 1:12 pm

    we trade the super sugary food coloring crap for money from the sugar sprite aka candy fairy and then the rest was gobbled in a week…. i like this approach :) especially because we put the peanut butter cups in the freezer and they share with me. yes on pumpkin muffins… always :)

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 5:25 pm

      mmmmmm, frozen reeces….

  23. Emmanuelle permalink
    November 14, 2012 8:26 pm

    Well, you know what is great about espeerments? Instead of dwelling on “what if” and “however” – you actually Find Out What Happens! This is what came to my mind when reading your story, as related to a big experiment that I am happily about to lauch: leave behind the constraints of my 8-year job spending too much time on a computer, to find out what happens if I take up a more enjoyable, part-time job and dive into my beloved, long-waiting illustration projects.


    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 14, 2012 8:49 pm

      You are so right! I love the way you put this my Canadian friend!

      But most of all, I am hoping for so much luck and courage and success and patience for you, and for creativity and inspiration to easily follow the rightness of your decision.

      And send me some photos of your beloved illustration projects when you can.


      • Emmanuelle permalink
        November 14, 2012 9:01 pm

        Thank you so much, dear Rachel – you are in fact one big source of inspiration for me, and my endeavor feels even more right and nourishing with your generous blessings to sustain me along the way.

        I will definitely send you some pictures when it takes shape :o)


  24. November 15, 2012 3:46 pm

    Rachel, just received your beautiful magazines in the mail – we devoured them before bed that very night. As far as the pumpkin recipe is concerned, Thanksgiving was a month ago up here so keep them coming!

    PS: We sang the national anthem (at least, 20 years ago when I was there) in elementary school and there was a photo of the Queen in every classroom. I am pretty sure candy is still allowed in lunches although peanuts seem to be a no-go most of the time.

    • Rachel Turiel permalink*
      November 18, 2012 11:17 am

      Yay, glad you liked the magazines!

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