Tuesday, May 12, 2015


A thing of beauty cake is a joy forever for the 3.2 seconds it takes me to snarf it down.

John Keats Autumn

Why yes, that is a fork on the cake plate.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day

I'm going to keep this short, since I'd rather be spending time with my children than sitting in front of a computer, but... I feel like I'm becoming a worse mother as my sons get older. I feel like I started out so great. Patient, kind, wise... But now that I have a three year old, who does what all normal three year olds do, and a baby, who does what all normal babies do, I feel like I'm slipping. Not as patient, not as wise. I'm regressing, guys.

I love being a mom. I love, love, love it. I don't regret, for one second, leaving behind a corporate job with a great salary for my new life as a stay-at-home-mom. Sure, the hours are crap, and the pay sucks, but the benefits are outstanding. Hugs and bedtime stories and the smell of freshly washed hair. "Sing it again, Mama." 

Having said all that, I don't always like being a mom.

It's hard! I don't go to the bathroom alone. Ever. I have to gulp down food when I can, and try to be kind and patient while also setting rules and boundaries. I fail. A lot. I succeed sometimes, too, but the failures weigh heavily on my heart. I should have said, "I don't like when you make that face" instead of, "I don't like that face." I should have used a gentler tone of voice. I should remember that he is three, not seventeen. I want to be someone who can say the same thing over and over again and never get screaming, pull-out-my-hair, lunatic angry after the 3,972,438th time. 

My parents have an old friend who was a huge part of my childhood. He raised five amazing boys (with some pretty amazing women), and is the kindest, most gentle man I know. I never once, in the 38 years I have known him, ever heard him raise his voice. Not once. He is loving and sweet, and every time I am having a bad parenting moment, I try - oh, how I try - to call up his face and take a deep breath, and ask myself what he would do in this situation. My own parents have shaped much of my parenting style, both in what to do and what not to do, but this friend is the parent I aspire to be. He is the gold standard in parenting, and right now I feel like I'm hovering somewhere around aluminum... Shiny and useful, but not exactly a precious metal, you know?

On this Mother's Day, and every day, I will forgive myself my faults and mistakes, and try to remember that I have another day to try to get it right. I will never be perfect, and I will fail many, many more times, but I will also never stop trying to be better. And I'm okay with that.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas out there. Give yourself a little extra love and forgiveness today.

Monday, May 4, 2015

My new mantra.

"The days are long but the years are fast with kids."

I came across this article in my Facebook feed today: Breaking Up with Guilt. It's an important piece about letting go of guilt and regret. How no one ever says "I wish I'd spent more time at work" or "watching TV" or "on twitter", and how we should be living the lives we want, rather than guilting ourselves out of them. It's all around good advice, though not necessarily as easily achievable as dropping everything and moving to the country. But still. I try to live my life guilt-free (in terms of how I spend my time, at least), and I'd say I make it about, oh, say 10% of the time. I clearly have some work to do...

But this one line caught my attention. It is such a short and simple sentiment, but captures everything I feel about raising children in a small, neat package. The days are long, but the years are short. I am living that, daily. It seems like just yesterday that my second son was born (5 months ago), and last week that my first was born (3 years ago). Some days fly by - those are the really good days, when everything just flows and works - and some just seem to drag. Those are the tired days. The days where everything goes wrong and I just. Can't. Even. But how has it been 3 years since I held that little marvel in my arms for the first time? Almost four since the second little blue line on the pregnancy test stick? More importantly, how do I slow it down? How do I let the tears and tantrums and every day frustrations roll off my back, and focus on the big picture? The hugs, the kisses, the smiles, the laughter. Knowing that in 20 years time, I won't remember any of the bad moods or tantrums; I'll only remember that time we went to Disney World, and how much fun we had. Or the overwhelming feelings of love and fierce protection. The bedtime stories. The songs. Listening to Winnie the Pooh in the car.

I don't think anyone is exempt from monotony, and there are things we all have to do every day, whether we'd like to or not, but I think there is room in my life to rearrange some priorities. The problem for me is that I don't know where to start, or how to achieve these lofty goals. Ideally, I'd love to live overseas, in Europe, or Japan, or New Zealand, have a big enough piece of property for a garden, maybe a few animals, and a cozy little house. Somewhere close enough to amenities to not be daunting for day trips, but far enough away for some peace and privacy. But how to achieve that? No idea. There is only so much you can accomplish without an income stream, and since I don't foresee becoming suddenly independently wealthy in our future, I guess one of us will need a job. So I suppose it starts with finding a job...? Or maybe it starts with deciding where we'd like to be?

I do know that right now we are focused on getting our lives organized - maximizing the space in our small house, getting rid of stuff we don't need. It's taking longer than I'd like - there are never enough hours in the day - but it's an important job that needs to be done. Maybe part of that process needs to be figuring out how to set aside some money for trips, or a possible move? All I know is that right now, we are working our asses off, hoping that the pay-off will be that we get to do whatever we want at the end, when we retire. But why waste the prime years of our lives just trying to survive to retirement? What if we spent this time doing exactly what we want, instead of waiting for some mythical time in the future? I can't think of a better gift to ourselves, and our children.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Thug Kitchen: A review.

This cookbook is amazing. I didn't bother marking the recipes I wanted to make out of it because I wanted to make every single one. And every one I've made has turned out delicious. And you should absolutely, unequivocally, never, ever buy this book.

First, the review. This book is amazing. I had heard, obliquely, of the Thug Kitchen blog*, but never looked it up. I also heard all about the controversy surrounding the cookbook when the authors, who had previously been anonymous, went public to promote the book. If you missed any of it, you can read about it here and here, and a very nuanced and important critique here, by Bryant Terry, a prominent African-Amercian vegan chef and cookbook author. (Honestly, you can stop reading what I'm writing right now and just read Terry's piece. He says what I am trying to say, and says it beautifully.) Up until this point, I had not seen the website or cooked any of their recipes. After the controversy came out, I looked up the site and gave a few of the recipes a spin, to see what all the fuss was about. (And falling prey, no doubt, to the old adage, "there is no such thing as 'bad' press.") But back to the cookbook itself...

The book caught my eye amidst a display of cookbooks as I was wandering through a big box bookstore. I picked it up and flipped through - literally fanning the pages - and every recipe that caught my eye made me think, "Yum! I want to try that!" I tend to get into food ruts, and I've been feeling a little monotonous lately, so I am constantly on the look-out for new ideas. And, given that I have two young children at home, anything that is fairly fast, nutritious, adventurous, and will withstand the "help" offered by a three year old while cooking is fairly high on the "must-try" list. The first recipe I made was a lemony red lentil soup that is outstanding. I rapidly made 4 more meals out of the book, including Vietnamese style noodles, ramen style noodles, a sesame-ginger tofu marinade that is, hands down, the best marinade I have ever had on tofu, and a fantastic chickpea salad sandwich filling. I am not exaggerating when I say that every meal I have attempted out of this book has turned out amazing. Like most vegetarian/vegan food, it borrows from many ethnic cuisines - Asian, Mediterranean, Latino - and makes them easily accessible. Plus, it has gotten me out of my food rut, which is itself a small miracle. And I say again: you should absolutely not purchase this book.

Given the negative press, I was reluctant to buy the book. I only half-assedly followed the controversy as I was extremely pregnant at the time and had other things taking my time and attention, so I didn't really understand the full scope of the issues surrounding the book. I had a discussion about it with some friends at a vegan Oktoberfest gathering we had at our place. One friend pointed out that even if this was a case of cultural appropriation, if it helped bring alternative eating styles (namely vegetarian, made-from-scratch from whole ingredients) into communities that traditionally did not identify with that style, wasn't that a good thing?

Another friend took the stance that there is a difference between cultural appropriation and being "profane as fuck" (direct quote). Now, this guy knows of where he speaks. He is one of the most profane people I know, and is constantly littering the conversation with colorful language. He is a profanity artist, making small masterpieces out of everyday conversations. It's one of his most endearing qualities. I absolutely love talking to him and hearing the novel interjections he comes up with, seemingly on the fly. I find myself swearing more when I speak with him, and enjoying it immensely, though I think I come off as a hack compared with his mastery of the profane. But back to my point. He is a white good ol' boy from South Carolina, swears to make a sailor blush, and uses urban street slang without it seeming affected. He comes by his gritty urban dialect honestly. So I could see his point that maybe, just maybe, this wasn't a case of cultural appropriation, but rather a case of honest white folk who spoke a certain way being lumped in, unfairly, with a racist stereotype.

Then I bought the book.

Let me take a moment here to say that I do not speak for the black community. I have no experience with being black, with living that reality. I am sympathetic and even empathetic to the systemic racism and social violence experienced by people of color in America, and I am keenly aware that we have swept slavery under the carpet of our collective unconscious and not dealt with the lasting ramifications of a society built, literally, on the backs of men and women who were considered property and not people. I am white, and as such, extremely privileged in this country. I am trying to be an ally to the black community in any way I can. Even if it's just speaking out about a stupid cookbook.

First and foremost, the authors are a white couple that live in Hollywood, California. Hollywood is not the first place you think of when you hear "thug". Second, they take great pains, in both the book and website, to disguise themselves. The cookbook has beautiful pictures of food, and an occasional hand or arm (white and tattooed) in the frame, but the only photo of a black person is a guy who is clearly not cooking anything. He's drawing graphic novel frames while enjoying some (presumably "thug") cookies and blended latte (I can't make this stuff up. It would be laugh-out-loud hilarious if it weren't so sad.). There are also photos of urban settings - graffiti and the like - all to reinforce the "thug" of "Thug Kitchen".

If this were a case of just using a lot of profanity, it wouldn't be an issue. Profanity is not singular to any one community, at least in my experience, and in my sampling of pop culture. (Take that with a grain of salt: I am a white woman speaking from a place of extreme privilege.) No, this is not a simple case of profanity, though it figures prominently in the hook. The language used by the book relies heavily on phrases and sayings lifted directly from black culture. For example: "...you do you," "dope," "dropping knowledge," etc. The more I read, the angrier I got.

Cultural appropriation has been in the news a lot lately, stemming from the coverage of white police killing unarmed black men. There have been too many to even list off the top of my head, and it makes me cry to think of these men and their mothers (being a mother of sons, myself), so I won't even go into those stories, except to say it's bringing to light a deeply rooted problem with our country. Racism is alive and kicking in the US, and cultural appropriation is an often overlooked, hidden-in-plain-sight aspect of it. White people claim black culture as their own, make tons of money off of it, and then get upset when accused of cultural insensitivity (at best), or outright racism (at worst). America is a melting pot, so it is unrealistic and naive to think there will be no cultural blending and borrowing. But that's not what is happening here. This is a white couple, hiding the fact that they are white, using black slang and urban context to sell a product and make money. Period.

If you haven't seen it, and I can't imagine too many people who haven't, check out Amandla Stenberg's outstanding video (made for a school project!!) "Don't Cash Crop My Cornrows." She makes some excellent (and eloquent) points on cultural appropriation, and ends with one of the most profound statements I've heard on the subject: "What if America loved black people the way it loves black culture?"

As for Thug Kitchen, don't buy it. Don't give these people any more money. Check it out from the library, make copies of the recipes you love and return it. I'm returning my copy to the store, because while I love the food, now that I've seen where it's made, I can't stomach it.

*I will not be linking to the website or book so that you don't you don't make the same mistake I did and give them clicks out of curiosity. You are, however, free to look them up on your own. They aren't hard to find, so to speak.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Starting Fresh

I've been fretting over what to do with this blog. I love slice-of-life blogs. Blogs where I feel like I know the authors and their families, and get glimpses into lives that are different (and not so different) from my own. But deep down, I just can't be that person. I can't put my family on display, for myriad reasons. First and foremost is safety. The Internet is a scary place, and I while I want a safe space to explore ideas, I don't want to invite threats or harassment. I know that is not the usual way with blogs, but with the recent explosion of coverage of threats made against women - anonymously - on the Internet (Gamergate and such), I just feel the need for a bit more of a safety cocoon. It's paranoid, I'll grant you, but there it is.

The second issue is consent. This is probably one of the most important words in my vocabulary. While I revel in photos of my friends and family and their children, I also cringe at what people will post online about their minor (unable to consent) children. For example: potty training? Really? It's one thing to show a prom date your son's forays into using the potty, but it's another to post them online where his future boss may see them. I firmly believe that everyone should have the right to control their own digital footprint, and even though I am their mother, it doesn't give me carte blanche to display whatever I want about my children. They are not property. I do not own them, and they have the right to be in control of their own destinies, digitally and otherwise. Also, as we have learned from Edward Snowden and Facebook, there are no digitally safe places. If it is online, it is captured in a database somewhere, possibly forever, and could re-surface at any time, to be used for any reason. No thanks. I realize this is somewhat of a oxymoron, considering that I am blogging about all of this, but I am hoping for that niche where I can explore without being too exposed, if you know what I mean?

Ultimately, I want this blog to be a place to explore. Ideas, opinions, adventures, hopes, dreams. I have a lot rattling around in my head, and I need a place to organize it into something cohesive, instead of making 30,000 half-assed plans and never quite following through. So, here goes. There may be photos, occasionally. There will be plenty of pie-in-the-sky dreaming and a lot of bad prose. I can at least hope that practice will improve my skill, if not perfect it.

So. Fresh start...

Monday, February 25, 2013

All in good time.

We get little lessons in this all the time. Most recently, as it pertains to sleep. We are re-entering the land of sleeping, here. Our little guy is sleeping longer and waking less frequently, though we still have "bad" days where he wakes up 4 or 5 times a night. But the most recent victory pertains to falling asleep.

We have all heard the maxim from pediatricians to put your baby down drowsy but awake. That has never been feasible in our house. One: because we don't "cry it out" and two: because he cries if he's put down to bed awake. At first I fretted over it. Worried it around in my mind and in my conversations like a dog with a bone. Then I embraced it. I nurse my son to sleep. It doesn't seem all that unreasonable. He tops off his belly for the long haul and get soothing comfort at the same time, and I get a quiet half hour to revel in the miracle that is my growing baby. Win-win. Sometimes the transfer from arms to crib gets a little dicey, and I botch the landing pretty often (necessitating a start-from-scratch), but overall, it works for us.

But in the past week, something amazing has happened. Baby Guy nurses like usual, but then sits up and seems fairly awake. I put him down in his crib on his belly (his preferred sleeping position) and... No crying. He's awake, occasionally talks to himself or kicks his legs, and I walk out of the room. A few minutes later, he's asleep. All by himself. We didn't "train" this behavior, he came to it naturally, in his own good time.

Babies are amazing little creatures. I'm not sure if this is a sign of deep attachment or just plain old growing up, or what, but I am, well, amazed by the transformation. I guess it's most gratifying because it re-affirms my belief that you don't have to force behaviors on babies. This is not to say babies (and children) don't need structure and discipline - they do - but rather to say that with patience, anything is possible. It's a lesson my son teaches me every day.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


I was raised in north central Florida, and I am a Gator fan. A huge, unrelenting Gator fan. A Gator football fan. I wear my Gator jersey every game day in the Fall, whether I can watch the game or not. I tried to get on my high school team as the kicker (I played soccer). The coach laughed me out of his office. (I was 5'7" and about 120 at the time. He said I needed to gain 50 lbs to carry the pads alone.) I went to grad school at Clemson, a school known for its football team and devoted fans. I considered becoming a donor so I could get box seats at Death Valley. I am certainly not the biggest or most rabid football fan, but I love college ball.

Amendment: I loved college ball.

My relationship with violent sports has changed dramatically since I became a mother. The sport has become too violent and too amoral. By amoral, I mean that we allow criminals to play football for our amusement, and pay them millions of dollars for it. We don't seem to care what their crimes were, as long as they can run or throw or block a tackle. (Michael Vick, anyone? And he's just the tip of the iceberg.) The sport also incentivises young men to play when they shouldn't. Concussions, ligament damage, sprains and strains. The explicit message is "Get back on the field. Now." Colleges don't care about the student part of "student-athlete". That term is a joke. They violate NCAA rules about recruiting and paying college players, but honestly, they should be paying those kids. A decent football program brings in literally millions of dollars to a school and pays for almost every other sport at the top schools, all earned on the blood, sweat and tears of young men who get no education for their trouble. Only a small number go to the NFL where the real money is made, but even those men are trading their health and longevity for a paycheck. Studies have been coming out for years now about the dramatic incidence of traumatic brain injuries among football players. Much higher than the national average among people who don't wear helmets for a living.

When I was younger, I thought it would be so great to have a football player for a son. How much I would enjoy going to the stadium every game day and cheering him on. How I would proudly point him out to people. But now that I actually have a son? That thought terrifies me. I feel, deep in my soul, that I need to give up watching the sport because if my son fondly recalls watching football with his parents, then maybe he will want to play. And how can I tell him it's okay for us to watch other people's sons risk life and limb for our entertainment but I can't allow him to do the same?

I saw a game last Fall where a player got hit, went down and didn't get back up. I don't remember the details save one: his neck was broken and he was air lifted to a hospital in critical condition. I spent a lot of time thinking about his family. How they saw that on TV when they were cheering on their son, brother, nephew, grandson. I can't, in good conscience, participate in the spectacle any more. It's not just the violence, though that's a large part of it. It's the society that tells our young men that in order to be men, they must participate in violent sports for our amusement. They can't be kind or gentle or feminists. The have to be hard and mean and remorseless. I want my son to be the former, not the latter.

I barely watched football this past Fall. I didn't watch the Superbowl tonight. I don't know if I ever will again.