Sunday, January 29, 2012

i thought i raised a white supremist

Olivia, ever the jokester, comes home from school the other day.

Olivia: "Mom, I have a joke."
Me: "OK.  Let's hear it."
O:  "It's racist," she says, giggling mischeviously.
M: "OK.  Then you shouldn't repeat it."
O:  "I know, but it's sooo funny."
M: "Olivia, racists jokes aren't funny.  You shouldn't repeat it."
O: "No mom, you don't understand.  It's sooo funny!"

In the battle of who gets to talk," Olivia always wins. The child, beautiful and charming as she is, cannot stop the words from tumbling out of her mouth.

She delivered her joke.

I'll take my own advice and not repeat it, but I will say it wasn't anything new. The gist of it:  there are too many Mexicans. 

We live in a diverse area, and Olivia's friends hail from a wide variety of backgrounds.  I've noticed that there seems to be a lot of friendly 6th grade banter going on lately regarding everyone's various "colors."  Olivia, for example, calls her bi-racial friend, L., "Hershey."  In return, he calls her "low-fat milk."  They laugh.  I'm glad they find difference normal instead of scary.

This is not the first time Olivia has repeated a racist joke, however.  She will tell me, "It's ok because L. told it, and he's black," or "R. told it and he's brown."  I admit that things have gotten murky.  What's the etiquette for a black person telling an anti-black joke to a white person?  Is the black person "allowed" to do that?  Is the white person supposed to laugh? 

I do know this:  It's NOT ok for the white person to repeat the joke.  When I explained this to Olivia, she knew it too, telling me, "Mom, I know.  I know.  L. and I are just joking around.  We're friends." 

They seem to have it worked out.  Do they really need my intervention?  Are they at a level of racial familiarity and comfort that my too-careful generation cannot understand?

But what about this joke about Mexicans?  It nagged at me even after we'd put the conversation to rest.  Olivia obviously thinks it's OK to tell a racist joke if you know your audience and acknowledge the racism.

I disagree.  There remains this underlying problem of why the joke is funny. And that's what I realized I needed to ask her about.

On the way to school the next morning:
M: "So...[not so casual segue]... Why do you think that joke about Mexicans is sooo funny?" 
O: "I don't know, it just is."

We go round a bit with similar answers until we get to:

M: "I'm not angry or anything.  I'm just trying to understand something.  Let's think about it."
O:  "Well, you know.  It's funny because there are too many Mexican people."

I admit, her answer surprises me.

M: "Really?  Why are there too many Mexican people? What's wrong with Mexican people?" 

I can feel the volume and pitch of my voice rise a bit in the annoying way it does when I feel emotional.  I take a deep breath, hoping to keep my tone as casual as hers.   I try to remember what I learned in Lamaze 1,000 years ago about focus, relaxation and breathing. Could that be useful here?

O:  "You know.  There are just too many!" 

Innocent of my distress, she speaks in a tone that is happy and disarmingly matter-of-fact.  It's as if she's telling me, "You know, Mom.  The P.E. teacher has hair in his nose.  It's funny!"  Plus, why does she keep saying I know?  What do I know?  Apparently nothing!

With help from a few strategic and breathless "hee hees" and "hoo hoos," emitted through the clenched teeth of a parent in the throes of something out of her control: 

M: "Well...maybe there are too many white people? What if your joke was about white people?"
O: "That would be dumb."

I sense we're getting somewhere now.

M: "Why?"
O: "Because."
M: "Well, when I look around, I see a lot of white folks.  Why doesn't that mean we have too many white people?"
O: "Because, Mom. It's our country! We own it!"

my reaction

My breathing turns to the desperate kind,  "you know," the kind that means the Lamaze training really isn’t working anymore. 

M: "What? How do you figure that?"
O:  "We took it over.  We own it."  Then, sensing my disagreement, she looks at me, "Don't we?"

And this, my friends, is when we arrived at kiss-and-ride. 

With a line of cars waiting impatiently behind me, I kissed my sweet little white supremist goodbye and sent her off to lord over all of her many colored minions for a fun-filled day of harmless racist banter between friends. 

We've talked about racial equality: to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  We've talked about slavery and how wrong that was.  We've talked about Martin Luther King and what a great man he was.  We've talked about how things should be.  The thing we haven't talked about is how things are. 

I tried to sound casual when she got home in the afternoon, but I'm pretty sure I started talking before the door closed behind her--now who has words tumbling out of her mouth? 

During the day, I concocted a kid's version of the eco-racial history of the U.S.  It went something like this:  "Imagine if you and I play Monopoly and I cheat for 400 turns around the board (300 years of slavery plus 100 years of Jim Crow), refusing to let you buy houses or collect $200 when you pass Go.  During that time, I buy all the property and collect rent from you.  I get really rich and powerful.  After 400 turns, I decide to stop cheating by letting you collect $200 when you pass Go and letting you buy houses if you can afford them. I tell you things are equal now, but I keep all the money and houses I got while I was cheating.  Would the rest of the game be fair?"

"No way!" she says with indignation. 

"Right," I answer.  "Well that's kind of how it is now in America.  A lot of white people want to play fair, but even though there are lots of poor white folks, white people as a community still have most of the money and power that we inherited from all that cheating.  Plus, it's only been 47 turns around the board since we tried to stop the cheating."

She looks at me with wide eyes.  "Oh." 

Feeling all puffed up about how well I thought I'd handled this, I ask her: "So, do you understand why it isn't fair to say 'We own it,' or 'We took it over?' or why it's not funny when white people make jokes about who has (or doesn't have) money or power?"

"Yeah," she answers.  "I get it."  Then, "but mom, I didn't mean white people."


"I didn't mean white people own the country, I meant Americans.  You know, like British people own England. Mexican people own Mexico.  Americans own America."

Now it's my turn.  "Oh." 

Suddenly I'm all turned around.  First, I'm not sure that's true (that she didn't mean white people), but also, I realize this is one of those moments where, good explanation or not, I had spent a lot of time answering the wrong question.

Apparently, instead of a white supremist, I have some sort of xenophobic nationalist on my hands!

Is there a board game that will help us talk about immigration?  Somehow I don't think Risk or Stratego will achieve the desired effect.

Parenting is sooo complicated.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

tweens, teens and the empty nest

Walking into the grocery store the other day, Olivia slipped her hand self-consciously out of mine.

I sighed (or gasped?) inaudibly.  It was the first time she'd ever let me go.  You know what I mean, the growing up kind of letting go.

That's not all.  Skinny jeans, curling iron, and the worst:  an occasional stiffness to her hugs that tells me she's humoring me.


I have already been thinking about this:  about the beginning of the end.  It occurred to me at New Year's that we only have three Christmases left before Gareth leaves for college.


After that landmark, we'll still spend holidays together (I hope), but they will be different--not part of his official childhood.  I'm not ready for my kids to simply visit on the holidays, for our family traditions to become nostalgic reenactments of what we used to do instead of simply what we're doing. Will that happen?

What about the traditions I haven't gotten around to yet?  We never did make a paper chain for the tree, and what about the family heritage night I wanted to hold every year?   And the wooden eggs we were supposed to paint on Easter?  I thought we'd end up with a big beautiful basket of them.  I think we have just four.

How did I go from  deliriously rocking a 3 week old infant while holding hot compresses to my infected breasts at the mind-numbing hour of 4am,  thinking I'd never sleep through the night or watch a movie from start to finish again, to  packing up the Christmas ornaments with the empty nest looming ominously on the not-so-distant horizon?

I have always cherished my kids' milesones, feeling more proud than sad as they have moved through the various phases of childhood.  I didn't expect to feel this way.

Maybe this is why teenagers treat their parents so badly.  It's a gift!  They need to break the bond.  Well, not break it, but stretch it, make it more pliable.  By generally refusing to talk to us, scoffing at our every word, rolling their eyes, complaining incessantly, and setting world records for huffing noises emitted during a 5 minute car ride to school, they prepare us. 

Teens motivate parents to say things like: "College can't come soon enough!"  I admit I'm new to the teen years and am not quite there yet (more abuse needed, I guess!), but I hear prospective empty nesters say this all the time. 

If our children continued to press their pudgy cheeks to ours; if their feet always felt like cotton and smelled like powder; if they never ceased to bring us their artwork, jump into our arms from the school bus, or steal into our beds in the early morning hours wearing fuzzy footy pajamas that beg to be cuddled, how would we ever let them go?

The next time Gareth acts rudely, telling me, "Mom, you have no idea what you're talking about," or the more charming, "Whatever!" I'll have to remember to thank him for helping to prepare me for his inevitable departure! 

Meanwhile, by the time we finished at the grocery store, Olivia had forgotten that she'd grown up (I guess that's why they call it the "tweens").  We walked hand in hand back to the car, her unconscious of any change, me recording every detail of her fingers curled in mine, taking all I could get while the getting was still good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

save yourself; save the frogs

Have you noticed when you hear folks make claims to a past life, they always claim the life of a king, or a famous and heroic warrior?  It's never:  "Oh, I was a scullery maid in 19th Century England."  Or, "I was a rapist in 18th Century France." 

Maybe those kinds of past lives are simply more forgettable?

Well here’s one for you:  I think I used to be a frog.

I swim laps for exercise several times a week, and I particularly like the breast stroke.  It has a certain meditative quality about it that I can’t explain.  I’ve heard other swimmers make similar claims.  Is it the muffled sounds of lapping water and the vague feel of it whisking past? Or perhaps it’s the big kick that culminates in the quiet of streamline that doesn’t occur in other strokes.  More likely, it’s the whole sensory package of it that causes something to click in the brain.  I find it hypnotic.  

Except, (and this is why I’m so bad at meditating) while I’m being “hypnotized,” I’m also thinking: “I feel great, but I bet I look ridiculous.  I hope nobody’s watching me from the stair machines up there.  A video would surely crush my feelings of grace and fluency under the image of me, an awkward frog, gallumping my way across this pool.” 

Then it comes to me:  “I do feel like a frog.  How odd.”  And I ask myself: “Have my bi-weekly water forays inadvertently accessed an ancient genetic memory of aquatic origins?” 

Clear and unmistakable evidence of meditation gone awry.  

This is when your meditation coach would say: “acknowledge that thought and bring your focus back to your breathing.”  Well, I don’t have a coach, so I did the next best thing. I googled the connection between humans and frogs. “Just for grins,” as my father would say.  

Wouldn’t you know it!  I am not the only person wondering over this—although I admit, my evidence arguably lacks the kind of genome based science that other people collected while I was busy gallumping in the pool.  It turns out the human genome closely resembles the genome of the western clawed frog, better known to the scientific circles in which I now travel as: Xenopus Tropicalis. 

We also share a similar skeleton. 


I found an article In Nature: The International Weekly Journal of Science, called “Frogs and Humans are Kissing Cousins,” by Alla Katsnelson.   Interestingly, Katsnelson dubs the Xenopus Tropicalis the “prince of frogs.” 

So my past life hails from royalty after all!  I knew it!

If you were disappointed that I didn’t include an image of me swimming the breast stroke earlier, here’s one now:

Taken from:

See how happy and peaceful I look?

Here’s another, although I think this one makes my legs look fat.

Isn’t it fascinating that I can’t remember the appointment I should be at right now, or what I made for dinner last night, yet I can remember the frog’s life I lived in a pond millions of years ago? 

If this all seems completely ridiculous to you, it sort of is, but never fear, there's always some moral or underlying message/question to be exploited.  I could choose from several, such as:

--Exercise relieves stress through physical exertion and meditative focus. Well, most of the time.
--Do we really have past lives or genetic memories?
--Behold the beauty and interconnectedness of the web of life.
--We are all one.

I was wondering which of these I should use to wrap this up when I had a terrible thought.  It happened while helping Olivia study about fungus for an upcoming science test:  What about the multitude of frogs that are dying from fungus in countries all over the world?  Many species have been pushed to extinction. 

Where does that leave me, the frog princess?  Over the years, I’ve put a lot of effort into worrying about the trade deficit, the national debt, climate change, resource wars, a flu epidemic, even a stray asteroid, but never once did I consider that we all just might itch ourselves to death due to a lethal and global fungal infection contracted through our genomic similarities to frogs!

Man, I wish I never went swimming.  Who wanted to be a princess, anyway?!

Suddenly, my “we are all one” message of global harmony has a completely different spin:  something along the lines of: “if you want to save yourself, save the frogs.”  If you do happen to believe in an interconnected web of life as I do, it makes sense, sure, but it’s unexpected isn’t it?  Not where I started out at all. 

Monday, January 16, 2012

the great junk food compromise

Remember when you were a kid, how you loved to hang out at certain houses because they had all the food?  They had the chips, cookies, the soda, and a mom who worried little about who should eat what, and when. 

I always wanted to be that cool mom. 

I didn’t anticipate that I would grow up to be a little obsessed about the quality of the food I would provide for my kids.  I also didn’t anticipate that Olivia would develop allergies to gluten, wheat, dairy eggs and peanuts—and a hypersensitivity to white sugar.  These limitations only reinforced my conviction that we should eat local, organic, whole grain food.  No white flour, no white sugar, no preservatives or artificial ingredients.  Better for us.  Better for the environment.

A kitchen full of vegetables and whole grains shouldn’t be so strange, but in these days of bagel bites and brownie mix, it makes me pretty much the most uncool mom on the planet.

When the kids were younger, their friends wanted chewy granola bars, Kraft Macaroni ‘N Cheese, and BBQ potato chips when they came to play. 

Determined that these 8 year olds would not push me around in my own kitchen, I offered PB&J on whole wheat bread, pistachios in the shell, fruit leather, and enough buttered whole wheat noodles to build a ladder to the moon. 

Since Gareth began high school, the ramifications of serving only healthy snacks have grown.  If you want to stay connected with the teenager in your house, the one who wants to hang out with you about as much as he or she wants to spend the afternoon doing laundry, you need to make your house into the hangout for his or her friends. 

How?  Well, I love ‘em, but I have to say that teenagers are a little like rats.  They reside in all neighborhoods; they’re a little too greasy; they leave a trail of trash behind them wherever they go; and most important for this conversation: they congregate around a fixed set of factors.  If you put food, shelter and water in close proximity to one another outside, you will attract rats to your neighborhood.  Similarly, if you put video games, a couch, and food under one roof, you will attract teenagers to your house. 

The difference?  Teenagers are a lot more fun to have around than rats.  Most of the time anyway.

When Gareth goes to friends’ houses, they wow him with Costco-sized boxes of Cheetos,Poptarts, pizza, soda, Oreos. 

How can I compete? 

Would those growing boys like some Asian tofu and black beans for the playoff game?  Perhaps a little gingered rice on the side?   

I have to face it, serving apple slices and almond butter for a Super Bowl snack would be something akin to forcing an 11 year old to wear plaid coolats to school when everyone else is wearing Levi cords (yes, that happened to me). 

Even I'm too cool for apple slices during football. 

I figure that after years of my harping, Gareth knows what’s healthy and what’s not.  He’s also a typical teenager who wants to do everything in exactly the opposite way that I’ve taught him.   

In some ways, I have to let him; otherwise he’ll just end up further and further away—simply eating junk food at his friends’ houses instead of at mine.

So when Gareth invited friends over to watch the playoff game yesterday, we made chili and homemade chicken wings—no objections there, but still, against all my convictions, I found myself in unfamiliar aisles at the grocery store: purchasing root beer, chips and dip.  Why?  So that Gareth’s friends will like hanging out with us, yes, but also to give him the room to choose the healthy and green eating habits we’ve laid out for him. 

I hope that's how it will work anyway.

I like to think that small-house-big-picture is about our hope that the shape and function of our family can influence the world around our little home in some small way.  It is about that, but we don't create our lives out of a vacuum.  We also must account for the ways the world around our little home shapes us--and that when necessary, a little compromise never hurt anybody.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

composting: the whole truth and nothing but the truth

For years I wanted to compost.  After all, why should we send our biodegradale trash away on a gas guzzling truck? Every time I read about it, however, the science overwhelmed me (it doesn’t take much science to curdle my literature minded brain). 

If you want to do it right, it’s all about balance:  nitrogen, carbon, brown stuff, green stuff, water, sun, shade; turn it, stir it, shovel it, layer it, love it. 

Forget it.

Then one day someone gave me their old composter.  Taking it as a sign, I threw my composting caution to the wind and started tossing stuff in there.  My only rule: no animal protein. 

What could go wrong?

Nothing, really.  Well, except the smell.  Oh, and the rats.

This particular composter had no bottom—it was just a dome you secured over the ground with a lid on top.  For several years, I happily watched our food-waste dissolve into the earth.  Granted, the smell would blow your hair back, but only when you opened it—so we did that with lightning speed, not daring to breath as we tilted the lid and slid our potato peels in, like slipping a raw steak into a lion’s cage.

Thankfully, I didn't have to go up there often.  I could always find a child who deserved to take the compost out.   I just deemed it an educational experience: a learn-to-be-green-in-a-hands-on-small-house-big-picture kind of way.
My neighbor had a similar experiment percolating in her backyard; only her composter was self-contained.  Without the benefit of an earthy bottom to help gobble things up, hers eventually filled and required: emptying.  One fine day, her fearless husband dumped that wretched container into their backyard where it released such a stench that another neighbor came over to inquire if perhaps a septic line had burst. 

She told me this in a hushed whisper over the backyard fence—how mortifying, we agreed, to have created such an odor as that, no matter how you went about it!  We laughed and blushed and layed our hands across our chests.  “Oh my! “ she exclaimed, “I’ve never smelled anything like it in my life!”

“Perhaps,” we speculated, “it has something to do with that layering thing we were reading about?”

Meanwhile, my family continued with our proven method of coordinated exhalation.  Then one day, I noticed a big hole in the muck. 

“Hmmm…What could that be?” I wondered moronically.

I shifted the debris around with a stick, shoving a grapefruit rind into the hole as a plug.  The next day, the grapefruit was gone.  The hole: round and clean.  And I knew.


I also knew that word about this unattended cornucopia would travel fast among our slithery intelligent friends.  Still, we thought we’d try to trap them “in case” there were just a few.

I set a trap that night.  The next day? No need to explain. 

What do you do with a dead rat?  Remember, no animal protein in my composter (unless it’s in there having breakfast, of course).  I had to get rid of the revolting thing, and quick, before the neighbors discovered me.  No one wants to be the one who invited the rats to dinner. 

So, with a combination of stealth and nonchalance (think Robert Hanssen stashing a package under a bridge for the Russians) I tied my secret rodent friend up in a newspaper bag and snuck him into my trash for collection. 

Then I reprimanded myself, thinking, “let me get this straight: it’s offensive to send leftover carrot sticks to the landfill, but it’s totally ok to tie dead rats up in plastic and throw them out for pick up?”

How is that green? 

Several days and the same number of rats later, I couldn’t take it anymore.  We clearly wouldn’t "get them all,” and an aura of ghastly macabre had settled around our composter turned  death chamber.  Given such fodder, Edgar Allen Poe would have produced another classic for sure.  I began to imagine movement in the shadowy bushes surrounding it; I could feel my gag reflex flexing as I approached it.  I feared I might hear a tapping from inside it in the dead of the night, or find a raven perched upon it in the morning light.  

Finally, I said to myself, "Nevermore!"

For the next and final trip, I sent Steve.   

He undertook his secret mission reluctantly, trudging into the backyard armed with work gloves and another plastic bag.  I waited with consternation, mulling over our next move.  This trapping plan had clearly failed.

A few minutes later, as I washed the breakfast dishes, I sensed something out of the corner of my eye.

I turned.   There stood Steve, pressed against the picture window with a grin that said both “ew!” and “wow!” as one gloved hand pointed victoriously to the other, where dangling stiffly from its tail, hung the biggest rat I’d ever seen (and by then I’d seen a few).   Steve held it up to the glass like a prize large-mouthed bass, poised on the stringer for a photo op.

I gasped in horror--and not just because it was nearly the size of a racoon. Did he walk all the way from the back of our yard holding up his catch ? For all the neighbors to see!?!

I think I said something like “Oh dear mother of god!!” and I’m not catholic—never have been.

He just said, “What?”  like he’d done exactly as I’d asked. 

Needless to say, we quit composting long enough to send our unwelcomed guests away.  While they searched out a new buffet, we saved and bought a new, rat-proof composter. 

Feeling seasoned, we also started mixing nitrogen and carbon, layering green and brown.  It’s not such a big deal! Every time we dumped food, we threw in a handful of weeds, twigs or leaves.  No smell!  

We managed this for a few years, until this past August, when somehow, we ran out of brown stuff.  No more weeds. How could that be?  Things started to fester in the August heat.  I tried to get leaves into it as they began to fall from the trees, but a sort of futility had come over us; it was happening again!

Since nothing really decomposes over the cold of winter, necessity insisted that we empty the bin now.  Otherwise, it would overflow before spring. 

So, if you happened to drive by this past Sunday, you may have noticed that another sewer line apparently went blotto in our neighborhood.   

If anyone asks, we know nothing.  We just walk around casually, checking the mail and getting the paper (like the guy who cuts the cheese then insists he doesn't smell anything).

I’ve decided that composting is sort of like meditating.  When you stray, you shouldn't get discouraged.  Just bring your focus back and start again.

The moral of this story?  The truth?  You too can make a slimy putrid pile of goo! 

Or, if you're particular and would rather have a nice rich source of odorless organic matter for you garden, stick with these simple guiding principles: no animal protein, buy or build a rat proof container, and follow kitchen waste with yard waste (green stuff then brown stuff).

(and green).

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

cookie rehab: a january tradition

I love January.  Most notably, I love it for its contrast with December.  As much as the holidays bring joy and light and all that other hopeful stuff I’ve gushed about, January brings simplicity—which in this context means a refreshing lack of clutter and excess. 

The tree marched out the door in needle dropping indignation; the lights, winking and failing as they were, tangled themselves into a useless ball; the presents integrated themselves into our closets, drawers and bookshelves as if they’d always belonged there, and the bakery, well the bakery warrants further discussion, but suffice it to say that the bakery succeeded in immortalizing itself, as usual, in the cellulite currently erupting on my ass.

Sorry for that.

When it serves me (and only when it serves me), I’m a woman of tradition.  By this I mean, I don’t feel inclined to honor “traditions” like the woman’s “traditional” role in the home, or the “tradition” of confining African Americans to the back of the bus.  But a tradition that involves flour, butter, and sugar?  I’m lined up like a regular soldier of confection, armed with my stainless steel beaters and bowl. 

My grandmother baked, and she baked well.  Every Christmas: nut roll, strudel, tarts, cookies, cinnamon buns, and something beautiful called a butter ring—all in the tradition of her Bohemian heritage.  She did it, so I do it.  These kinds of rituals connect us to our heritage, to our family, to ourselves.  Food is love, right?

Here are this year’s tarts.  A literal sea of them. 

And that's not all.  Cookies galore.

That's not all either.  But that's enough pictures of stuff I don't want to think about anymore.

Since my mother only served these irresistibles on holidays when my grandmother brought them, their limited availability created a sort of feeding frenzy: a dangerous “better get it while you can” mentality.  Since my unreasonable teenaged desire to look like I belonged on the cover of Shape magazine left me prone to binge-type behavior anyway, I fell easily into this pattern of eat it all now, eat nothing later.  I mean, if you’re going to binge on something, better to make it something good like batches of back-home bohemian bakery!

I’ve long since eliminated (well, almost eliminated) refined sugar from my diet.  As a life-long sugar addict, I couldn’t believe how amazing I felt after the first three months without that fine white powder.   

An unexpected side-effect of how good I feel off sugar, however, is how bad I feel if I revert to my old sweetened ways.  That means by New Year's, I pretty much feel like a sugar-laden, butter fattened, flour dusted bird, waddling around waiting for slaughter at the next big holiday--midwinter's feast, perhaps?

Do it.  Put me out of my misery.

Where does that leave the tradition of holiday baking, and my happy tradition of hiding in the closet with secret stashes of it? The easy answer:  “everything in moderation” falls a batch of frosted cashew drops short of understanding that this stuff is like crack in a cookie for me.  I simply cannot resist the siren call that beckons so alluringly from the line of cookie tins assembled on my December counters.

OK, then the solution is: don’t bake any of it to begin with, right?  Easier said than done.  I’ve already indoctrinated my family.  I've practically handed out free needles!  After eliminating refined sugar from our household at other times of the year, is it fair to cut them off just because I can’t control myself? 

Besides, what do I tell my deceased grandmother?  Do I send a little prayerful message up explaining, “Sorry Grandma, thanks for handing down your great-grandmother’s recipes, but I’m too much of a junkie to tolerate them, so unfortunately for you, my children, and my children’s children, the bohemian bakery buck stops here.”

I know I’m not the first to find conflict between family cooking traditions and health.  How do you honor both? 

In my annoying way, I’m going to answer that: compromise, right?  I suppose I will work on that for next year (which is how long it will take me to disappear the evidence of this year’s debauchery).  

In the meantime, the code word for why I love January is, "simplicity," but it actually means: "cookie rehab."  If the holidays amount to a period of excess and enslavement to that fine white powder, then January offers respite in the purge. The purge of holiday stuff, holiday obligations, and most importantly, holiday baking (figuratively, of course!).

Monday, January 2, 2012

in which i pretend not to complain about our xmas trip to florida

I said I would buck up.  Now I can say that I tried--am still trying.  But perhaps I was just a fish out of water?

It pretty much went down like this:

We listened to The Hobbit in the car as we drove.  Nothing makes the time pass like a good book!
Good thing since 14 hours of driving left us still to contend with the scores of cars that swarmed the four Disney exits on I-4 like so many shiny roaches on a dirty kitchen floor.

We avoided the “tournament recommended” hotel with its $35 breakfast and stayed in a house with friends.  Money saved, privacy, our own pool.  It doesn’t get better than that!
Good thing, since the road to our neighborhood looked like a Las Vegas strip with spinning and flashing neon signs that, instead of “Flamingo” and “Riviera,” read “Gift Shop” and “Barbeque Buffet.”   

We took the whole family to SeaWorld for a fun-filled evening of aquatic entertainment.  Featured events included the Manta rollercoaster, the dolphin show, and the shark aquarium.  Gareth and Olivia had a blast!
Good thing since it required a multitude of sharks and dolphins to swim dumbly in the maddening circles of captivity for our amusement.

Olivia got picked out of 30 people to reenact a wand pairing at Olivander’s in Harry Potter’s Wizarding World.  The wand selects the wizard and when one selected Olivia, it made her trip!
Good thing since the wand that selected her cost $30 and I’d already paid $85 for her ticket into the park. 

We arrived at Universal Studios early on the busiest day of the year and lined up for Olivander's before the wait topped 90 minutes.
Good thing since the park reached capacity later that day, creating 2-3 hour lines and the uncomfortable feeling that we belonged to a frenzied mob.

Gareth’s team did well in the tournament.  I watched as he scored the tying goal in a game against an arguably superior team.  As a defender he doesn’t score often, so it was a bonus that I was actually there to bear witness.
Good thing since, well, you know how I feel about soccer tournaments.  A little familial glory can go a long way for an ornery mom like me.

On our last night, we gathered with friends for dinner, grilling Portobello mushrooms, eating out-of-season salad and drinking more than our share of wine.
Good thing since I ate only French fries for dinner the night before (SeaWorld special), a pop tart for breakfast that morning (rushing to beat the crowds at Universal), and butter beer and onion rings for lunch later that day (a la Universal Studios).  A discerning vegetarian has no business foraging in Orlando, FL. Nosiree.

Happily, we spent a lot of time with my brother and his kids, ending the week with the cousins playing together for a rejuvinating afternoon on the beach: the sand between our toes, the breeze in our hair, the bright cool sunshine overhead.   
Good thing.