Monday, April 8, 2013

Fighting for the Environment

Like many couples, my husband Ted and I cycle through the same arguments on a semi-regular basis. Once a month we bicker about the state of chaos in the children’s bedrooms. At least twice a week, we squabble over whose turn it is to wake up with the perpetually early-riser. And without fail, we disagree biweekly about our moral duties towards the environment.
 For example, my purchase of a SodaStream soda maker resulted in an initial ten-minute row that continued for eight weeks. Apparently, Ted just couldn’t seem to understand the importance of bottle reusage. At first he would openly mourn for the old cases of Crystal Geyser: “It just doesn’t taste the same. I miss the lime flavor.” Even when I offered to keep a steady supply of citrus on hand, he still moaned about the ugliness of the carbonating vessel. We have been drinking this environmentally-friendly soda water since August and he still refuses to learn how to operate the push-button fountain.
Our environmental disputes typically involve garbage in one way or another. On the rare occasions that I cook dinner, I usually make a big salad- it’s my no-brainer culinary staple. As anyone who has every chopped vegetables knows, salads produce a great quantity of leftover food waste – far too much for the half-gallon stainless steel compost pail that I keep beneath the kitchen sink. And, God forbid I would even think of putting this waste in the black landfill bin (my neighbors would think that we are monsters that use aerosol spray cans as toddler toys). Therefore, I use a brown paper grocery bag to collect the remnants. Unfortunately, this bag rarely makes a timely exit to the green compost bin in the garage. After a day or so of it left decomposing on the granite countertop, Ted simply throws it in the garbage. He just doesn’t get my foresight – I was planning on “cooking” another meal sometime relatively soon.
Our most common ongoing debate involves recycling. In spite of all my coaching, which Ted reads as lecturing, he refuses to recycle. I find plastic bottles, paper-towel rolls and kids’ artwork in the garbage almost daily. Consequently, I have begun teaching the children a new game called “Sort Daddy’s Trash.” The girls and I are constantly picking recyclable items out of the black landfill bin and depositing them in their proper resting place. I am even teaching them to master the heavy sigh while doing so. “It’s for effect,” I explain. He doesn’t find it amusing.
It’s really not that my husband is some kind of ogre who tosses garbage out his car window; he does drive a hybrid, after all. He is, however, just plain lazy. I wish that there were a more eloquent way to describe this behavior, but I’m calling this spade a spade. I know that Ted believes in global warming and the dangers of climate change. He just doesn’t believe that composting his take-out container is going to make a significant difference.
That said, he does support the environment through his wallet. He would happily purchase carbon offsets to compensate for all of his green transgressions – a few years back he bought me a TerraPass for Valentine’s Day. Still, I would like to convince him to turn off the water while brushing his teeth.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Transformation of Valentine's Day

Of course having children changes every little aspect of your life. A parent expects nights to become sleepless and dining out to become a rarity.  We accept that we no longer control the car radio and that a night at the cinema includes animated characters and uncomfortable 3D glasses. However, the loss of special days is unexpected.  A new parent is seldom prepared to hand over all celebrations and holidays to the children, yet it is inevitable.

The transformation is a slow process.  For the first few years in existence, a box and a piece of tape is enough to spark excitement and joy in a toddler.  Holidays aren't even necessary- a one-and-a-half year old receives as much joy from discovering how to pick his nose as he might on Christmas morning. No, it is not until they grow older and begin to observe the world marketable around them do they realize the importance of such celebratory days.

It starts with birthdays. Modern parenthood has made the celebration of the day one was born into a carnival-like experience, complete with petting zoos, bouncy houses, and face painting.  Long gone are the days where a child has a few friends over for some cake and ice cream.  So, it is no surprise that children learn early that birthdays are special.  And, not just their birthdays, they want your birthday to be special too. Without fail, on my special day, I am awakened from my slumber by the children bouncing on my bed asking me what kids of cake we can make that afternoon. 

Once they have fully learned to appreciate the birthday of every member in the house, the children then develop a taste for the other holidays: Christmas/Hanukkah, Easter/Passover, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and finally Valentine's Day.

Although traditionally a holiday celebrating lovers, when the kids enter school age Valentine's Day also becomes all about them (and the candy and goodies).  There will be cards between friends at recess, class parties, and the obligatory token of love from the parents.  As for me, I get to yell at my kids to finish writing cards for each child in the class, even the kids they don't like.

To make matters worse, this year my husband is away on a business trip. So, for me the day will be only about my children.  Instead of sipping a glass of champagne in a romantic restaurant with the man I pledged my undying love and devotion, tonight you can find me making heart-shaped pizzas and listening to the Annie soundtrack, on repeat. Hell, maybe I will pop open a bottle of bubbly.

Friday, February 8, 2013

We are Not a Hipster Family

Over the past few years the universe has been bombarding me with signs that I am just no longer cool.  Even though I am a young(ish) mother raising my children in what many consider to be a very hip city, and I endeavor to expose the girls to San Francisco's rich culture of food, music, and the arts, in all honesty I fall short. While outfitted in my gym clothes, I watch the young twenty-somethings dressed in their freshly silk-screened ironic t-shirts and fedoras and think, "I should do that." 
Unfortunately, I don't own any silk-screening equipment and adding a hat to my already crowded morning routine, would surely be the catalyst to a major breakdown.  When I am not sporting yoga pants and a hoodie, my ensemble was most likely purchased from either Old Navy or Target, and not even their cool new designer collections- those usually sell out before I've dropped the kids at school.

As for culture, I spend my afternoons chauffeuring the kids to various main-stream after-school activities in my Prius station wagon.  Although I would love to remark, "Elana's harmonica teacher says that she has much raw talent," the girls have opted for gymnastics and ballet. 

If my husband and I were to persuade the girls to try the latest over-priced, Korean-fusion, pop-up restaurant, we would simply be forced to leave within the first five minutes, when the kids discovered that the restaurant only offers rice, if it's topped with kimchi and Bulgogi.  The children mostly subsist on an all-beige diet.  They don't do foodie.

Sure, the hipsters and I do have a few things in common. For example, we both love Annie's mac n' cheese in the shape of Arthur.  But alas, they buy it ironically. I buy it because the three-year-old will scream if I don't.

Ultimately, this morning the final rock was tossed that shattered my dreams of appearing "cool" to the outside world.  After partaking in my weekly Body Combat class for middle-age mothers with sagging body parts, I stopped at the most recent trendy coffee shop to emerge in my surrounding neighborhoods.  This shop is so fashionable that it operates out of a garage space in a warehouse district!  I know, totally awesome!

After waiting in line for the other patrons to order their single-drip cups of coffee, I asked for a non-fat latte.  The hipster barista looked at me in disdain over the counter made from reclaimed wood, then with a small smirk on his face, informed me that "We only do whole milk."  Apparently arrogant espresso is in vogue!  It took every ounce of self regulation not to tell that little, skinny-jeans clad hipster with his beard and felt cap to march his bike riding ass to the corner bodega and buy a 1/2 gallon of skim (and throw in a 6-pack of diet coke while he's at it).

So reality has set in, I'm only cool enough for Peet's and Starbucks.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Paradox of Playground Politics

The playground is one of the great equalizers in the world of childhood.  It is a safe(ish) venue for kids of all ages to run, jump, dig, climb, swing, and scream.  However, for parents it is often the cause of drama and anxiety.  What is needed is a set of rules, agreed upon by the majority of the caregivers that frequent these parks.  I propose the following five rules be engraved on stone tablets and placed prominently at each park entrance:
1.     If a child brings a toy to the playground, then abandons said toy, the toy is then available for others to use until the child either 1- needs it back, or 2- must go home for nap time.
2.     If a child is throwing sand, and his caregiver does not notice, other adults nearby are allowed to tell-off the offending child. Seriously, sand in the eye is like little shards of glass fighting to be the first to cut your retina.
3.     Rule #2 also applies to hitting, pushing, grabbing, kicking, and other general obnoxious behavior.
4.     The mom/nanny who is reading a magazine on the bench while her children play by themselves is not neglectful, she is awesome and we should all inspire to be that cool.
5.     Sick children should be kept home, in a quarantine bubble, and forced to lie on the couch until all traces of illness have left the body. That said, the following ailments are exempt: lingering cough, runny nose, pink eye, ear infections, asthma, mild fevers, skin rashes, stomach aches, crankiness, and general antisocial behaviors (also know as toddlerhood).
I expect much push-back on the forums from Rule #5, however I stand by this edict, except the part about the bubble.  Here’s the thing, children are little cesspools of germs and bacteria.  Once they start crawling, they are always sick, I mean always.  If every time little Timmy’s nose starts to drip his mom has to spend the day entertaining him indoors, by the mid afternoon Timmy will be destroying all major furniture and his poor mother will be passed out from banging her head on the wall.  Yes, Timmy may have a slightly contagious virus, but the chances of him passing it onto another child who uses the same monkey bars as him, is truly very small.  The sun, which shines all year round in our fair city, also acts as a disinfectant, cleansing the swing on which Timmy just sneezed.
But, here is the paradox: I hold steadfast all of the above rules… unless my own children are climbing on the play structure.  At these times, please kindly take your filthy, sickly children as far away as possible.  Oh my god, did that kid just cough five feet from my daughter? Where's my hand sanitizer?