Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dispatches from London, the final chapter

I'm sitting at my gate in Gatwick Airport. It's Wednesday morning, I've barely slept, and I've already been on two trains and a shuttle-tram-thingie today. I think it's 8:00 a.m. local time...meaning it's 3:00 a.m. where I'm headed.

It's going to be a long day.

Anyway, I mention the day/time as there's no wi-fi here at the gate, and I know I won't post tihs until either late tonight or tomorrow morning. Right now, I'm writing in NotePad as my little pink laptop doesn't have Word.

So, you know, I'm having fun, as always.

This will be my final dispatch from London, as I am heading HOME today, so I thought I'd provide some last reflections.

First, although I've been ending with Charles and Zoe throughout my prior dispatches, I will start with them today. Yesterday afternoon/evening, I Skyped with them for one last time. They'd been to work/school, and Zoe had not napped and was exhaustedly immersed in Sesame Street and Elmo's World. So, she didn't want to talk. And,in fact, she told me that I shouldn't come home for another four days! I know you can't let things a two-year-old says and does hurt your feelings, but I have to say, that made me a little sad. Just four days ago, she wanted me home RIGHT THEN, and now she's ok with another four days? I'm going to hope she didn't really know what she was saying.

On the other hand, Charles, while still tired, looked so amazing and cozy that I wanted to fly through my computer screen, sit in his lap, and fall asleep with my head on his shoulder. Guess I'll have to wait until tonight, huh? What a bummer.

Anyway...London...that's what I've been writing about, right?


What a city! What a trip! It's been so overwhelming in some ways, it's hard to even think about. the first place...I grew up an hour outside New York City, so I spent a lot of time there as a kid. I'm no stranger to cities, even though I've been living in the semi-rural suburbs (come on, my parents keep horses 5 minutes from my house - it's semi-rural!!) in South Carolina for eight years. But still. London felt bigger. Fuller. More crowded even than Times Square at Christmastime. It both impressed and intimidated me, and I quickly found that native Londoners would as soon knock you down as look at you. I kid you not! I am typically able to make people smile, particularly children, but in London? Not so much. Not that I tried hard - I mostly just tried to keep to myself. But the only time I've made any connections with unnamed strangers here has been with a Swedish woman on the way to the airport this morning. We were both a little overwhelmed by travel, and even in that five-minute, semi-language-blocked time span, it was nice to have a friend with whom to find a damn elevator. yesterday, Daniel and I spent a couple hours walking through the Bethnal Green neighborhood, which I loved. It's heavily Indian and Middle Eastern, and there were sari stores in whose windows I could gaze longingly (I think saris are about the most beautiful form of clothing on Earth), the smell of curries and tagines drifted from restaurants and street food vendors, and I felt almost like I was back in New York, in the Village. It just had that laid back, eclectic feel. I felt comfortable.

And then, moments after thinking that, I saw a small handful of women walking down the street in full-length black birkas. I'll admit...I was taken aback by it, as it's something I'd honestly never seen before. Only on TV, and typically only on the news. And, upon reflection a bit later, I realized that while I fully support the freedom to express oneself and one's religious beliefs, I just find birkas over the top. They seem more to me a symbol of repression than of religion. I found myself wondering about the houses in which these women lived. Birkas do not have to be worn to be safe on British streets, so the fact that these women wore them made me question why. Did they really feel it appropriate streetware, based on their religions? Or did they have husbands/brothers/fathers at home who insisted they wear them, sometimes in the name of religion, but possibly in the name of ownership and repression.

I don't know. It just made me think.

Incidentally, Daniel had downloaded a documentary called Women, Weddings, War and Me earlier in the day, and we watched it yesterday evening. It follows a girl named Nel whose parents fled Afghanistan's wars back in the 80s, moved to London when Nel was just 6 years old, and raised here there. She grew up having every opportunity afforded to London kids, but as she reached her early twenties, she began to question her identity. Not really British, not really she took a trip back to Afghanistan to see if sometimes you can go home.

She couldn't. Between birkas and arranged marriages, war and women burning themselves to escape abusive husbands, she was overwhelmed by the realities of her homeland.

It was an amazing documentary, and I hope I can find a link to it to post here - yesteray I only found the BBC version/listing, which you can't watch from the States, and I really think anyone interested in the politics of the Middle East should watch it.

Sigh. I must be tired. I'm contemplative.

Anyway, then...yesterday's more normal recap!

We slept in!! We were exhausted! We didn't leave the flat until after noon, when we wandered down to the V&A Museum of Childhood, which was really cool, if a lot crowded. They had tons of exhibits of toys throughout the ages, including ancient Victorian dollhouses that were so intricate that no child today would be allowed to touch them for fear of choking, and an array of scary, creepy, crazy dolls and clowns. We had fun poking around for a while, but then needed to flee the massive amounts of screaming children.

Justify Full
After that was when we walked around Bethnal Green, Brick Street (I think??) and down to Liverpool Street. We passed cool music and bookstores, cafes...really, it was my kind of town.

Exhausted, we headed back to the flat after only a couple of hours...all our walking for the prior three days had worn our legs completely out. We relaxed, watched nature documentaries, and then went to a pub for dinner, where I finally had some fish and chips. Delicious.

I'll say that I ate enough cookies and fried food yesterday to make up for any of the weight I'm sure I lost with all the constant walking earlier in the trip, but that's ok. Every bite was totally worth it.

And with that, we should begin boarding soon. I hope. It was a great trip and I had an awesome time with Daniel and Zeke, but I'm ready to get home to Charles and Zoe. Aw, love...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dispatches from London, Part 3 it's the middle of the night again, but this is less about insomnia and more about a Really Scary Dream in which thugs broke into a house in which I was staying with some friends, and I had to try to protect Zoe, who was sleeping upstairs.

I'm sure that's an easy analysis for anyone with a background in Freshman Psych courses, but whatever. It was scary enough while I was in the dream that my heart is still pounding...THUMP THUMP THUMP...not fun.

And now I am awake, trying to shake of the freaked-out-ness of a nightmare, so I thought it was the perfect time to contemplate Day 3 of my Big Trip.


So...I was in London only once before this trip, back when I was 19 years old. It was May and I only had about four days (sound familiar??), and back then, the big highlight of the trip was the day that the sun came out and it hit 80 degrees F, and I spent the day walking through Hyde Park.

Today, it was maybe about 40 degrees F, and the sun tried real hard to come out for about 10 minutes, and Daniel and I spent a bit of the day walking through Hyde Park...and it was again (still?) a highlight of the trip for me.

We got on the road early today, hopping on the underground to get up to the Victoria & Albert museum, which I LOVED. Lots of old artifacts, a cool design room, and this gallery filled with plaster renditions of huge world monuments that people created hundreds of years ago by making plaster casts and dragging them back to London so that even the poor people could see the amazing sights of the world. It was really impressive. While there, we had tea in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the museum cafe. Mmm...jasmine green tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam? Reasonably Proper British Tea? Check!

After the museum, we headed to Hyde Park, which we were just supposed to briefly touch on our walk towards Buckingham Palace, which I had never seen. But then we got the idea to look for the Peter Pan statue, as Zoe is currently obsessed with Peter Pan and I wanted to get a picture for her. A couple miles and LOTS of bird photos later, we found him and turned around to retrace our steps.

And a word about the birds...seriously, London parks have the most impressive collection of semi-domesticated waterfowl that I have ever seen. Many flavors of ducks, swans, geese and gulls literally FILL their lakes, and where in the States, feeding birds in parks frequently feels discouraged, here there are designated areas to feed the birds (tuppence a bag....wait, I'm singing in my head again!! Mary Poppins!!! ). Some of them are so tame that they walk right up to people, literally begging for food like a dog. And I even saw a squirrel who was so used to being fed by humans that it was taking food from an old woman's hand! It was really fun to watch, all of it, even for me, the girl with the bird phobia.

We walked for miles and miles, it seemed, and skirted some big tourist/important sites like the Palace (from which we kept our distance, due to the huge groups of people surrounding it), Trafalgar's Square, and Picadilly Circus. We made it to SoHo for some shopping, even going to Hamley's Toy Store (London's FAO Schwartz) which was SO PACKED that it was UTTERLY TERRIFYING. We left quickly.

Some of the smaller shops were much more fun, and we kept on walking and walking until we needed to have a drink in a proper British pub. Yum! I even had a beer, which is a rarity for me (I love my red wine, but you probably already knew that). It was a nice break, but then we had to walk some more to find the underground station that would take us to a restaurant for dinner.

Dinner was fun. My super-cool mother-in-law had requested that we go out to dinner "on her" one night, so tonight's dinner was sponsored by the lovely Nana. We went to a Brazilian restaurant which featured meat, meat and more meat. DELICIOUS!!! That plus a shared bottle of wine and my cheeks were PINK by the time we left.

We stumbled home (less from drink than from the utter exhaustion from walking for 10 hours), and both of us crashed within an hour. Not a bad way to spend a day, no?

I have no new observations about Londoners, other than to say that I can't keep straight from which direction cars are flying down the road at all times. Luckily, being a tourist town, the London infrastructure at some point added "look left" and "look right" signs on street crosswalks for confused travelers like me. Of course, being me, even this confuses me (I am notoriously bad at knowing my right from my left), so they've kindly added arrows as well. Thank you, British Government! You saved my life at least once today.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch...Zoe's behavior was apparently less than stellar today, but still, they are surviving without me. We had a nice, long chat this evening, which I totally needed after being cut off from them all day. I miss having a working cell phone...

They will go back to work and school tomorrow, and I imagine the return to routine will help give them each a breather. So that's good.

But ugh, I miss them so much. Skype/Google Video Chat have been lifesavers - I can't imagine how I'd feel if I hadn't been able to physically see them every day!!!! On one hand, I'm still having an amazing time, but on the other hand, I can't wait to be with them again. But you know me - I always feel conflicted about something, right?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dispatches from London, Part 2

Ah, insomnia, you are not my friend.

I always have a hard time sleeping when I'm away from home, but my first night here I was so wiped out that with a little help from some melatonin, I was down for the count all night. I slept until almost 10:00 local time, which *would* be a record for me, until you consider that it was really only almost 5:00 in my normal, home time...

Now, it's about 4:30 local time and I have been up for a while. And since the rest of the house is asleep (although I think my brother-in-law will be up shortly as he has to travel for work today), it seems a good chance to reflect on my trip thus far.

More random observations include the fact that Cadbury chocolate from the UK is FAR superior to Cadbury chocolate from the US. That said, I still am a devoted fan of all things Cadbury, particularly Cadbury Mini-Eggs around Easter. Also, I've noticed that every family with small children here places a clear plastic tent over babies' strollers, forming little bubbles that protect said babies from rain, wind and the rest of the environment. I've never seen such a thing in Charleston, but then, it doesn't rain quite this much in Charleston, and when it does, most people stay home. There doesn't appear to be a choice here, though, about the weather. You go out, even in the cold, damp drizzle, which is what we did yesterday.

OK, enough random observations. More about what we *did* instead.

We hopped on the underground again (good thing I bought a week-long, all-encompassing Underground pass, innit?) to head to South Bank, which is where you can find things like Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. (Yes, I had my all-American, Chevy Chase moment, and did say, at least twice, "Big Ben...Parliament...Big Ben...Parliament...") The Abbey is actually closed on Sundays to tourists, so we walked around the Cloisters, which were amazing. It's incredible to stand on stones that were laid hundreds and hundreds of years ago, and to look at the intricate brickwork and try to fathom how it was all built. Crazy to contemplate.

We walked down the banks of the River Thames, and although the weather left a LOT to be desired (chasing us into a Starbucks at one point for sandwiches and hot drinks just to thaw out a little), it was still really beautiful at times. At other times...all I can say is TOURISTS!! I was surrounded by tourist-traps, but we mostly just skirted those areas.

There's a cute little used-book place where I looked for old British printings of Kurt Vonneguts, but found none. Rats. I would have loved to have found something cool for Charles there. I did, however, find an old British printing of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, and I grabbed that for my own collection.

We toured the rebuilt Globe Theater(re), which was pretty lovely. They have some nice exhibits, and it was cool to be in the theater itself and pretend to be from Elizabethan London. Of course, that suspension of disbelief would be easier if the floors weren't concrete, but what can you do, right?

We took a quick walk through the Tate Modern, where we saw an exhibit of millions of tiny, porcelain sunflower seeds, which was kind of bizarre and kind of cool. I could have spent a million dollars in that gift shop on books and cool t-shirts for Zoe, but I restrained myself; most of the books could be gotten cheaper online, I'm sure, and what kid wants a cool t-shirt in exchange for losing their mother for five days? No, she's going to get cool toys when we go to the toy museum later today.

By the end of an exhibit or two at the Tate, we were all exhausted, so we headed back to the flat, made some dinner, watched a documentary about Madagascar, and I've been tossing and turning ever since. So tonight, I'll pull out the big guns...Benadryl, here I come!!


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Charles and Zoe are still having a great time. The weather has still been wonderful for them, and I'm happy about that.

But when we skyped this morning, the first thing Zoe said to me was, "I was crying this morning because I wanted you." Nothing like an accidental two-year-old guilt trip. Then, this afternoon, the internet connection here was spotty, and I could see and hear Zoe, Charles and my mom, but while they could see me, they couldn't hear me, which freaked Zoe out. So that was a less-than-satisfying conversation.

So I'm definitely getting homesick and am missing my cozy little family a ton. I'm glad they are getting on so well without me, but I'm starting to daydream about getting back to them.

Dispatches from London, Part 1

I like the title of my post today - it makes me feel like a reporter, like Ernest Hemingway.

Anyway, I am in London! Holy cow, that still feels weird to say/write. I haven't been here for twelve years!

The trip here was relatively uneventful. I did cry just a little when my plane took off from Charleston towards Atlanta for the very first leg of travel. Luckily, the man sitting next to me was dozing at the time, so no one saw me sniffle. The overnight flight from Atlanta to Heathrow wasn't bad either. It wasn't a full flight so I had a little two-seater to myself.

Of course, I didn't go right to sleep on the plane. The novelty of watching a movie while miles up in the sky has never worn off for me, so I searched through the list to find something I could watch guilt-free (i.e. Charles would NEVER want to watch it with me). I settled on Eat, Pray, Love, as I am a closet Julia Robert fan (come on, you know you love the Pretty Woman, too!), and it wasn't horrible, at least not thematically. You know, travel the world, find yourself, fall in love - I can understand it, I think. Plus, I got to see Bali, so now I am determined to go there some day. Charles, add it to my list of places to go.

Anyway, I finally landed in London, just a bit on the late side, and wandered down to Customs, where I fumbled through the Q and A session with the customs agent.

Her: What are you here for?
Me: I'm visiting my brother.
Her: Is he a permanent resident?
Me: Ummm...I don't know? Wait, yes, I *think* he is.
Her: How so? On what basis?
Me: Umm...I don't know? Oh, wait, I think his partner is a citizen, and they're all legally married.

I'm surprised they let me in.

But they did, and I met up with Daniel and we took the longest, most ass-backwards journey to find his flat. Apparently, the London Underground system has been shutting down pieces of itself every weekend, wreaking havoc on those of us taking cross-city journeys. It took us over two hours to get to East London, but we finally made it, and then we ate lots of curry. YUM!

We stayed pretty low-key for the rest of the day as I was pretty much wrecked from all the travel. Daniel and I went to the grocery - one thing I've noticed already in London is that they have LOTS more canned foods. Like, canned macaroni and cheese, canned Shepherd's pie, etc. It sort of grosses me out, but I imagine it goes back to what one guy told me last night - that "the war" is still a really important piece of the British psyche, and so it makes sense that they would have almost everything canned so they can stock up in the event of an emergency.

Still, dogs in a jar? *Shudder*

I am really enjoying being in a city again. I like the whole "take a subway for a while, then walk 30 minutes to reach your destination" thing, even though it's cold and rainy. I also like the diversity. It's almost rare to hear people speaking English here. I've heard what I assume is Russian, Polish, Spanish, French, name it, I've possibly heard it already.

I am also enjoying watching the fashion choices of today's young Londoners. It's pretty funny. So far I've seen a chick rocking some purple jeans and pink LA Gear high-tops (the kind I'd have KILLED for when I was eight years old), and lots of cut-off denim shorts (jorts, anyone??) with tights. The skirts here are definitely shorter, and the shoes are definitely taller. Seriously, I'd break my ankle wearing some of the high heels I've seen girls wearing while booking down the street.

Oh, and punk-ish London boys really crack me up with their mowhawks and their boots and (argh! really!) their tapered, gathered, skinny jeans. It's hysterical!

Anyway, that's about it so far. I slept for about 10 hours last night (thank you, Melatonin!!), and am feeling ready to face the cold, rainy London day to do some sightseeing!


Meanwhile, back at my ranch...Charles and Zoe have not yet imploded, which is FABULOUS! We skyped last night, and Zoe put on a dance-party-show for me, and I loved every second of seeing her bounce around. So all is well in Charleston, so far as I know, even though I'm not there to see it. I miss my babies.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I think I am neurotic

What a week! I was completely distracted by the peaceful overthrow of the Egyptian government, which was amazing. And now I'm learning more about similar protests occurring throughout the Middle East. People talk a lot about how after the Iranian revolution in the 1970s, the result was an extremist government that has since ruled with an iron fist, but I think (I hope!!) this is different.

Anyway, that's really not what's on my mind tonight. What's on my mind is that:

a. I haven't written here in a week!


b. I LEAVE FOR LONDON ON FRIDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

(Ok, can you tell which I care more about right now??)

So...I'm all over the place. I haven't written because I've again been immersed in my book, because apparently for me, writing the vast majority of a story has opened up the floodgates, and the ideas keep coming. I had the whole story written, but some feedback from my brothers got me thinking about gaps, and how to fill them, and now I can't stop! So I just keep on writing, fully knowing that much of it may come back out based upon whether or not I've gone over the top.

Which I maybe have.

Also, I have ideas and characters for the sequel already sketched out in my head. Um...what? See what I mean about the floodgates?

And with regards to London...HOLY SHIT I'M LEAVING ON FRIDAY!!! That's really where my brain is right now. I'm struggling to comprehend it.

Like...I could use a break from all the responsibilities my daily life entails, but I can't deal with the thought of how much responsibility I am throwing onto Charles for those five days I'll be gone.

And...sometimes having a two-year-old is exhausting, frustrating, and infuriating...but I'm going to miss my little Zoe every minute of every day!

UGH! I think I'm neurotic.

And seriously...something about becoming a parent makes you no longer care for your own life with regards to yourself, but oh my GOD, if something were to happen to me while I was gone (terrorist attack? plane crash??), I would hate to leave Zoe and Charles alone in this world. I know they'd manage and move on, but I also know it would be damn hard on them. And I'd hate to do that to them.

Don't even get me started about the possibility of something happening to THEM while I'm gone...that's literally unfathomable.

See what I mean? Hello, neurosis!

All that said, I'm also REALLY excited to go see my brother and brother-in-law for a few days, to just hang out and sightsee and laugh (because when my brother and I are together, we laugh a LOT). And I know it's going to be fabulous.

But what if, what if, WHAT IF???

Sigh. I'm definitely neurotic.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I Heart Food: Sean Brock, Mike Lata and the Charleston Awesome Dining Scene

Growing up, I took good food for granted. Around the corner from my house was always an Italian restaurant (or three) that served fresh, well-prepared food. Chinese food was light and spicy. Mexican wasn't just shredded beef covered in gooey cheese. And if I happened to be in the City (Manhattan, or any of the other Boroughs), I learned at an early age that the best Indian food could be found at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants that looked sketchy but were always friendly, cheap and excellent.

So then I moved to Charleston, and the food here is...different. Not bad, per se, but the ethnic foods I loved never have felt as authentic as they do back up North. There are exceptions (Red Orchid Bistro, Al Di La, and Nirlep are all great), but as a rule, I've frequently missed the foods of the Tri-State Area.

And then, I started dating Charles, and we started branching out. We both love food, and have had fun trying new places through the past several years.

One of the first places we tried was Chef Mike Lata's FIG (Food Is Good). We went there for my birthday probably four years ago, and it was one of the best meals I've ever had. Fresh, simple food, perfectly prepared...what more could you want, right? The short rib ravioli that Charles ordered as an appetizer that evening remains one of his all-time favorite foods, I think. We've been a few more times since, and each time we love it more and more.

Then we discovered Chef Sean Brock, and went to McCrady's for our anniversary two years ago, and it was awesomeness. McCrady's was less simple than FIG, but was excellent in its own way.

Since then, Sean Brock has opened Husk, his tribute to all things Southern. (There's a really nice write-up in the New York Times today, ironically enough.) Every single ingredient he uses comes from somewhere in the South. Most of his produce is grown on several local farms (full disclosure: one of the farms is owned by a friend of my parents). Charles and I tried Husk right before Christmas, and I will never forget the plate of Country Hams with spicy, grainy mustard that we devoured with relish (literally and figuratively!). AAAA-mazing.

So...I will admit now, publicly and openly, that I have a bit of a celebrity crush on both Sean Brock and Mike Lata. Both of them were recently on Iron Chef America (well, they filmed sometime in 2009, I think, but both episodes aired this past December), and Charles and I watched every minute of each show. And I am a big dork.

So imagine me fumbling through half a sentence when, at our trip to Husk, we ran into Sean Brock himself walking between the bar and the dining room! I sounded like SUCH an idiot.

OK, so now, fast forward to this past weekend. It was our anniversary again, and Charles really, really wanted to try the Charcuterie at McCrady's, so that's where we decided to go celebrate FIVE AMAZING YEARS TOGETHER! We had a drink at the bar, then headed back to our table.

Looking at the menu, I was excited by one entry on the Chef's Tasting Menu - it was swordfish with fennel and parsnip, and included the phrase, "Prepared by you." When I mentioned this to Charles and our waiter (a super nice guy!), the waiter said, "Oh, the tasting menu has some fireworks right now." So we decided to go for courses? PLUS the Charcuterie? Bring it on!

Seriously, we were not disappointed. The swordfish course was by far the highlight for me. Three small pieces of fish served with a hot salt block on which you cook them yourself...then you season, sauce (a citrus-y sauce - YUM!), and garnish, and eat - it was incredible.

We had the wine paring, as well, and all the wines were surprising and interesting to me. And since I love wine, well, that was also a high point! All of them!

When Sean Brock himself walked through the dining room, we both smiled and waved, and he stopped, smiled and waved back. So I threw caution to the wind and made an ass of myself to our waiter. I asked, "Um, does Sean ever come out and talk to the customers? Like, so we can say thanks for an excellent meal?" (Yeah, I'm that smooth.)

But the waiter just smiled and told me Sean had just left to go back to Husk, but that we could come and see the kitchen once he was back.


So we finished our meal (each course was cool in it's own way, and fireworks included dry ice and liquid nitrogen - I had a very cold lap at one point!).

By the time we finished dinner, Sean Brock had returned, and we were taken back to the kitchen to meet him. He was gracious and welcoming, and gave me some gardening advice (let cilantro go to seed...the seeds themselves are coriander!), and said he recognized us from somewhere. I can only assume that it was from Husk, since I'd never met him before, and it almost made me feel like a stalker, but what can you do, right? I was just excited that he recognized us. See? DORK!

What it all comes down to is this...I will always miss New York and New Jersey for all the amazing food they offer, but I'm happy to say that both Mike Lata and Sean Brock are filling some voids for me with their three fabulous restaurants. Guys, I'm not a stalker, but I think you're both amazing.

Friday, February 4, 2011


Back in November, a post written by a mom with an infrequently-read blog went viral. It was about her decision to allow her five-year-old son to dress up as Daphne (from Scooby Doo) for his pre-school's Halloween party, and the repercussions that followed.

I wrote briefly about this post when it was originally in the news, trying to show my support.

Now, the mom is back, filling us in about further ramifications from her original post, and letting us know about the bullying of which she's been the target, FROM HER CHURCH.

All I can really say is....uuuuggggghhhhhh....

The idea that a pastor at a church would try to push around a mother who wrote a simple essay to VENT HER FEELINGS about people who potentially HURT HER makes me sick.

Look, for most of us, "mom-blogging" is a pretty thankless job. I know I am not going to get rich writing this blog. I know I don't have a ton of readers. But I also know that I feel compelled to write, and if I were faced with a similar situation, a similar frustrated rant would likely grace this blog as well. And it would not be written with the intent to attack; rather, it would be a form of catharsis. As I imagine it initially was for the mother at Nerdy Apple Bottom.

To me, a church (or any religious institution) should be welcoming, loving. The fact that her church is punishing her for the fact that the rest of the country was so touched by her story that we all read it and posted and re-posted it...well, that seems unthinkable to me.

So to the unnamed pastor of some unnamed church which I do not attend, who needs to wake up and see what his actions are doing...poo on you. Grow a pair and learn right from wrong before you try to lead your flock any further, ok?

And to the anonymous writer of Nerdy Apple Bottom...I am with you, sister. I hear you and I feel for you and I am supporting you from afar.

Good luck and happy thoughts to you and yours.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Arms of steel

I really don't understand why my arms aren't ripped. I carry around 27lbs of child all day. My arms should be as defined as a body builder. Perhaps that is a bit extreme but at the very least, more tone than they currently are.

This morning Max and I took a trip to the Children's Museum downtown Charleston. It was a lot of fun and Max ran around like a mad man playing, climbing and touching everything. When it was time to leave Max was exhausted and wanted to be carried out.

I walked out of the museum and down a block to the parking garage. It was only then that I noticed the "cash only" sign. It somehow hid itself from me when I pulled into the garage. Max rested his head on my shoulder and I adjusted the 2lb diaper bag across my shoulder and set out to find an ATM.

Three blocks later my arms began to burn. I would have brought the stroller but lately Max's new favorite thing is to push the stroller, not ride in it. Not wanting to deal with a tired child and the ultimate battle that would ensue, I chose to leave the stroller in the car.

Six blocks later, I found an ATM. I tried to put Max on the ground so he could stand beside me but he curled his legs up and refused to stand. While holding the 27lb sandbag, I had to rummage through the diaper bag to find my wallet.

Six blocks back to the parking garage and I saw the "out of order" sign on the elevator. Even though it was 51 degrees outside, I was breaking a sweat. By the time I climbed two flights of stairs and walked to the back of the garage, I was ready to strip off clothing.

Mornings like this are a regular occurrence with me. Somehow ATMs are always far away and elevators are always broken. One would think I'd be sporting well defined arms by now. The fact that I'm not might depress me, but when I arrived home and decided to open a new jar of peanut butter, the top popped off like the cap on a milk jug.

My arms may not look like a body builder but they're pretty strong. I can live with that.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The dangers inherent in childhood programming

I never knew what a lifesaver a television could be when you have a toddler in the house.

Does that make me a bad mom?

Hear me out...when kids are sick or over-tired, or when you just. need. a. break. there is nothing better than just letting them relax in front of a show.

I also never knew how easily my own feathers (and Charles's) could get ruffled by the things which appear on TV, or by the things which come out of my own mouth (and Charles's). It's insane, how much I want to keep Zoe the sweet and innocent little booger that she currently is, and how much life seems to combat that desire!

Think about it. Zoe currently loves (LOVES!!!) the movie Annie, and I know I loved it when I was small, too. I remember belting out "Tomorrow" nonstop when I was three, and I totally wanted to be an orphan. I was thrilled that Zoe loves it so much, too.

But then, the first time Charles sat down to watch it with us, he (an Annie virgin) was actually, literally horrified. And, to his point, I sort of get it. Mrs. Hannigan is an absolute trollop, dancing around in her nighties and her pancake makeup, trying to get Mr. Bundles to take a roll in the back of his laundry truck. The sweet little orphans beat each other up and dance suggestively around their rooms, mocking their sole caretaker. And Rooster - he actually tries to KILL ANNIE!!

Ohmigosh, how can I let my sweet little goober watch that anymore?

And then tonight, in an effort to keep an overtired Zoe (two days in a row without a nap at school, God help us all!) from melting down after her bath, I randomly started singing another song I remember loving when I was little. Without even thinking, I belted out:

"There was an old lady who swallowed a fly...I don't know why she swallowed a fly...perhaps she'll die!"

And then I looked around guiltily, hoping against hope that Zoe wouldn't ask, "What does die mean?"

I just wasn't up for that conversation.

My mom would say that kids Zoe's age only understand what their little brains are capable of handling, and that she'll take a lot of good out of movies like Annie and songs like the old lady song. And I tend to agree...but then...

I remember...using her own (good) logic, my mom never censored (within reason) what we watched or read as kids. I started reading Stephen King's It in the seventh grade, and it took me all year to read, since I could only read a chapter or two before being SO SCARED that I had to put it away for a couple weeks...I got a lot more out of that book than I imagine my mom guessed...

So what little innocent Zoe starts dancing suggestively or trying to wear pancake makeup and dance in little nighties? And what if that sweet turkey wants to know what it means to die? I'm still not ready for that conversation.

But then, as I started to go crazy about the implications of all this STUFF, I realized...Zoe is walking around belting out "Tomorrow" at the top of her voice, and her favorite part of Annie is when Punjab climbs down his turban and plucks the Annie from the top of the railroad bridge. And when I sang the old lady song, all Zoe cared about was the spider wriggling and jiggling, and that she had NO IDEA why that crazy old lady swallowed that fly in the first place.

I think she's going to be ok.

Still, though...I dropped the "Perhaps she'll die" line every time I sang. I'm not risking that conversation just yet...