Not bilingual, bicultural

September 12, 2017

I admit. I’ve failed at raising my daughter bilingual. In a household where both my husband and I are Brazilian, we should have been more strict and spoken just Portuguese at home. But we didn’t. And the little she picked up was fading away fast. Until the company I work for launched new guidelines for “Flexible Work Arrangements”. During a meeting where HR explained what that entailed, I had the brilliant idea of using it to my daughter’s advantage: flying to Brazil for the summer so that she could spend time with real Portuguese speakers. I talked it over with my boss and she was super supportive. So when school was off, we both embarked on a month long journey where I had planned classes, play dates, piano lessons, museum excursions and more. The time difference was enough that I could take her places in the morning and still be back to get online and work when LA woke up. But of course things in real-life are a bit trickier than we plan for, especially when your family is involved.

We arrived on a Saturday night. On Monday evening, my step-grandma passed away and we spent the majority of Tuesday accompanying my father to funeral arrangements. What that meant in our family was that now, step grandpa would be moving into the room we were initially given at my dad’s place. Let me mention this is Sao Paulo. People live in tiny apartments in highrise buildings. So we were now sharing a room with my 18 and 22 year old sisters. My step-mom who took that month off to spend time with my daughter, was now a caregiver to her 95 year old father. Road blocks, we got over it. At the funeral my daughter met some relatives her age and was able to figure out how to communicate. They quickly became friends and she got to spend a lot of time with them. Score! My sisters were also kind enough to take her to museums, exhibitions, children’s playgrounds, capoeira lessons. All while ensuring only Portuguese was being spoken. And I mean my sisters had to do this because of road block number 2: I underwent a minor operation the second week we were there and couldn’t drive or move much, so that put my plans even more on the back burner!

By the third week we were there, winging it as we could with my daughter, work, and recovery, I heard it. My baby was forming sentences, having little conversations with the housekeeper and the cats. Yes, plural. There are 4 of them. And a dog. Did I mention the tiny apartments? Anyway, hearing her feel confident enough to speak my mother tongue brought tears to my eyes. She was so proud of herself! So we kept on living the daily life of my family. Hectic to say the least. I left home 12 years ago. My sisters were my daughter’s age! They were now independent young ladies, with their own ideas, thoughts, dreams…I learned so much about them being there that month. So much I had missed over the years! I also had a rude awakening on how old I was…they’re from a different generation, so open minded. Considering my daughter is closer to their generation than mine, it’s good for me to learn a thing or two about how these people think! Seeing Naomi hang out with her aunts, fall in love with them, mimic their ways was another experience of its own! And the Brazilian kids…wow, how different. They’re way more mature than the ones I see in the US. Less naive, less gullible…I guess growing up in a dangerous crime-filled city does that to you. My dad’s building had 4 security guards per shift, and he doesn’t even live in a wealthy neighborhood! My daughter was questioning everything…why they were there, why did everyone live in buildings, why couldn’t she open the car window, why I didn’t make her wear a seat belt in the back seat, why I held my purse tight to my body…I realized how sheltered we are. How little she knew about my standards of basic safety. Something that the kids she hung out with there were so savvy about. She saw homeless children begging on the sidewalk, favelas in the margins of the river, mansions just a few blocks after that. She met poor kids and rich kids and didn’t make out the difference. She learned a lot more than Portuguese in this trip. She learned a different lifestyle. She lived the way mommy and daddy lived when we were growing up. She was an 8 year old discovering there is a lot more to the world than the greater Los Angeles area and the beach towns we travel to every year. Yes, the Portuguese language was the initial priority this summer, but life did give us some Brazilian lemons and we made a delicious lemonade – caipirinhas for me! She is now not only bilingual, but she fully understands the concept of being bicultural! Cheers to that!

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As a kid I wScreen Shot 2016-05-03 at 2.48.35 PMas always surrounded by friends; as a teen I always had an opinion and was not afraid to voice it; in college I was in the cool kid crowd but remained focused on my grades by ensuring the smart ones were on my side too…it was never hard for me to engage with new people, job interviews were mostly successful, and public speaking was never a reason for me to panic. I could keep a conversation with all sorts of people, from 18 year old military wives, to my dad’s politician friends; from the most conservative Japanese aunt, to a drag queen BFF I once had. My family always said I was the social butterfly, the one who always brought groups together for an occasion, no matter how different they all were.

That is…until I became a mother. I was the first one of my close friends to have a child – still am for the most part – so I registered for those meet up groups for moms to arrange play dates with their infants. I already knew the play dates were for the moms, since infants don’t really give a crap if they see another one of its kind sleeping in the same rug as them or having their diaper changed side by side with a complete stranger. So I thought it would be fun to engage with other grown human beings in the same situation as me, make some new friends.

When I finally gathered the courage to attend one of those so called play dates, at an indoor playground, I actually took off my judgmental cap and kept an open mind. Afterall, if I was a full time working mom who managed to be available at 10am on a Wednesday, why wouldn’t there be others like me? Well, it turned out in Newtown Pennsylvania, you are either a housewife, or the nanny takes your kid to the playdate. You should have seen the look on those mom’s faces when I said I worked. And when I heard a ‘oh, I’m sorry’, when I told one of them I had a job, I just decided playdates with SAHM (it’s an actual acronym for stay at home moms, in case you’re wondering) were not for me.

And it’s not that I have anything against people who decide to hang a very expensive piece of art called a Diploma on a corner of the house and decide to change diapers, cook and clean all day. I honestly don’t. I just believe if you are going to go that route, save the 529 college funds your parents had for you and let your kids use it. I think people on a one income household will need it eventually.

But where was I…oh yes, the social aspect. So the reason it was a fail was that I was expecting to meet other working mothers whom I’d be able to talk about how hard it was to raise a kid and progress in a career. Instead, I was stuck with a bunch of moms who hadn’t had a job in like…ever; or the nannies who were a lot more fun to be around because if I wanted to have a conversation about organic milk and the harms of msg, I could hang out at the Whole Foods tasting stations and get more bang for my buck with the free samples.

So I gave up on the whole meet-up on Wednesday thing. Or any day of the week for that matter. Instead, I spent the next few years of my daughter’s life hanging out with my friends that didn’t have children, but loved to have my little one around. I could be myself, I could have a conversation about the consequences of the Tsunami in Japan while drinking a nice glass of Cabernet. So good to be in my comfort zone. The job I had helped me share my frustrations with some co-workers who had children, and we ended up becoming good friends because they shared the same feelings as I did – wow I wasn’t an alien!

Then, when all seemed to be working, it was time for my baby to start school. In a new city! A city where I knew nobody but my mother. The playdate meet-up groups didn’t really work out for me since most mothers in those had the little infants who didn’t care for playdates at all, so I thought: maybe I’ll meet people during kid’s b-day parties, the neighbors, the after school activities. And I did. I met many of the moms and dads since my daughter made many friends very quickly. But for some reason, every single time I am amongst a bunch of parents, I freeze.  I don’t know what to wear – the whole yoga attire doesn’t suit me and my ripped jeans aren’t in style on the mommy world; in a group conversation, I can’t pretend to care if the food they are serving has half a serving of whole grains in them and I don’t remember the teacher aid’s name to share my opinion on her;  I don’t want to volunteer at the next Bike Rodeo because I hate being around kids – but I think I can’t say that to them, right? Anyway, so when I can’t convince my husband to tag along, I usually just find a corner, hide with my face on my phone since my daughter doesn’t really pay attention to me during these functions, and pray for the event to be over soon.

I was just at a school dance with my daughter last week and it was the most comfortable one I had ever been to. Why? Because it was a Glow in the dark theme which meant me hiding on a corner by the boom boxes was waaay easier. And while I was hiding there, a lot went through my mind.  Reminded me of that goth kid in high school that sat on a corner and read books while all of the other kids did their own thing. I wonder how the gothic kids of the world grew up to be, and how they fit in the parental food chain. I thought about just being myself, walking up to the president of the PTA and voicing my honest opinion about kid friendly recipes and menus being the real reason why children are picky eaters, and how I think the district should start working on some social activities as field trips, to help those in need instead of living in this sheltered little bubble that won’t teach them crap about the real world.

But I couldn’t do that. First because I have no idea who the president of the PTA is, second because I can’t even approach a parent whose kid is playing with mine and introduce myself. My legs won’t let me move! So I just sit there trying to smile my way through, I say hello if someone says hello, cringe at the awkward silence that comes after the hello, but at the same time I also feel comforted by the fact that if that silence is killing the two people involved, it’s because that person may be feeling exactly like me: a social caterpillar in a sea of butterflies.

 

Becoming Angelina

February 17, 2016

PV View

Palos Verdes from the top of the hike

It’s now been a year and a half since our family decided to quit our winters cleaning up after snowstorms and head to warm Pacific Coast Highway sunsets. And adapting to the new lifestyle was so gradual, that it almost feels sneaky. One day I was lounging on my couch watching Gossip Girl marathons until 1am, and the next I am up at 5am to get my daily dose of Crossfit, multivitamins and protein shake in.

Well, it didn’t really happen overnight of course, but I can certainly feel the difference on the choices I used to make back in Philly, to the ones I make now, both for me and for my family.

It started with very simple fashion changes, like choosing lighter fabrics on jackets and sweaters, swapping the high heels for laid back flats and the tight pencil skirts for loose maxi dresses. My husband’s needs for dress shoes, or even casual ones are practically zero, and Naomi’s four pairs of boots went to Goodwill practically new.

Then came the difference in our grocery carts, which led to new dinner choices, which led to a uhhh, lets stick to the term faster metabolism. Fruits and vegetables in California cost so much less than in Philly and the variety is amazing. Brussel sprouts, baby bok choi, ruby red grapefruit, three different types of sweet potatoes, and cauliflowers slowly invaded my shopping list and nowadays I look at my pantry and there’s like one can of black beans because I am too lazy to pressure cook the real thing, and my freezer has one lonely bag of thin green beans, the kind from Trader Joe’s because it’s delicious. Yes. Trader Joes. I know that’s a thing in the East Coast too, but there’s one in every corner here, and they all have an amazing selection on California Pinot Noir, which was not the case in Philly. Even my dog is eating Trader Joe’s healthy treats.

I won’t say temptation isn’t everywhere. Besides the regular McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s, LA also has Carl’s Jr, Jack in the Box and the infamous…In’n’Out. But there’s always a salad, juice joint or a gym next to it to remind you that you DO have a choice, so we usually walk right past those and stick to the plan. A plan we never really discussed, a plan that just formed itself in our brains and became so engraved, that my 7 year old always picks sushi or thai food over pizza and drive thru on our lazy night take out dinners.

I guess the faster metabolism is responsible for the energy we have to go out and do things…my daughter is playing soccer and tennis, and loves Tae Kwen Do. My husband can play tennis all year, and even though he is the junk food eater of the family, but he learned to do this on his weekday lunch breaks so it doesn’t affect me or Naomi. And me, the eternal couch potato, has increased my energy level from 40 minutes on an Elliptical machine while watching Gilmore Girls three times a week, to intense bootcamp style workouts every other day.

Now if that isn’t California sneaking up on us, well, here’s the latest on the family adventure…we skipped the Sunday movie and popcorn (loaded with butter), and went hiking as a family, snacking on cheese strings, fruits and Açaí bowls. The view of the mountains, the islands, the gorgeous ocean with dolphins and whales jumping up and down IN FEBRUARY, and most importantly, my daughter’s sun kissed skin tone smiling at all that, asking to go paddle boarding next week and having me agree with it, sealed my thoughts on this transition: we have become Angelinos, and honestly, I am loving every second of it.

When is it too much?

March 12, 2015

I’ve been thinking about how most new parents tend to take some time off work to stay home with their babies, sometimes a few years during the newborn/toddler stages. Now that my daughter is done with both stages with my husband and I always working full time with absolutely no family support within a 3000 mile radius, I can’t stop wondering if these parents are really picking the right time to take a break from the work force.

The newborn to 1 year old stage can be pretty overwhelming for first time parents, but let’s face it, they can’t talk, they don’t have an opinion, they mostly just shit and eat, learn to crawl, then walk and destroy some furniture here and there. They don’t REAAAAALLY need you to teach them to do any of that stuff. Any babysitter/day care can do that. And yes, it may suck to miss those first steps or the first time they say Ma-ma or da-da but come on, you have to be very unlucky to not be there for those times.

Then there’s terrible 2s and 3s when they sort of need you to teach them some manners, good eating habits, be there when they’re saying the funniest things, but by that time, the parents who chose to stay home during the previous stage are either 1- sick of it and need to go back to work or 2 – already on their second baby so this stage goes by somewhat unnoticed.

Moving on to 4s and 5s when they already understand right from wrong; they are probably – and if not, shame on you – enrolled in a pre-school program learning their ABCs, 123s and having a blast with their own friends. Friends they chose to have, and not the ones mommy decided was cool to do play dates with. Its usually a phase that is pretty smooth sailing. Potty training is done – and if not, wow, what the hell have you been doing all these years??? – most are back to work and have the second and third child in day care, because by then, who cares about the first tooth coming out? It’s like watching paint dry anyway and you’ve seen it happen once or twice before. Even for those parents who, like me, believe in a 1 child household, can agree that by age 5, if your child can be taken out in public without being a major embarrassment, you have succeeded as a parent.

Then comes my 6 year old phase description, and it will be my last because I don’t know, and don’t want to know what comes next.

If I could describe my current parenting experience in two words, it would be: Roller coaster. Since my daughter started Kindergarten, the pride I felt in myself for raising such a confident, beautiful, happy, smart little girl, has turned into a conglomerate of overwhelming and frustrating moments. I feel like everything I do is either too much, too little, too harsh, too easy-going. I can’t seem to find the balance.

I try to look at my parents. Doesn’t work! I try looking at my in-laws. Yeah, right. I try looking at other parents. Oh, wait, you already know how I feel about most of the current social circle I am forced to live among. I try to look at my step-mother who was always such a good role model for us. Doesn’t work either. Even grabbing a few things here and a few there to try to come up with an ideal solution on how to be a decent mother raising a school age child won’t work. The pieces somehow get mixed and I get lost in the process.

It starts with the weekly homework package the teacher sends out every Monday. Due on Friday morning, meaning she has Monday – Thursday to complete it. In addition to the 15 page written assignment that is a mixture of writing, reading, math and science, there’s also two exercises that need to be completed online. Considering my daughter is on both before and after school programs due to our work schedules, has swim lessons twice a week and dance once a week, add dinner and bath time to the mix, it leaves her with about 10 minutes to unwind before it’s bed time. Ten freakin minutes!

Now I’m not even counting all of the things I’d like to see my daughter working on…things like the Piano, Tennis and Kumon. I just don’t think it’s fair to overwhelm her so much. But at the same time, I keep thinking that if she had a normal school day, and we could have her home by 3pm, I’d be able to have her in more enrichment programs and still give her a healthy unwinding hour to watch TV, play outside or do nothing.

So I blame myself. I blame myself for not being able to give her that time. I catch myself projecting feeling guilty when she falls behind other kids because I didn’t put her in enough programs. I keep projecting failure, her being an outcast, picked last in PE and so forth. I consider myself intelligent enough to know most of these projections and fears are not realistic and these things will likely not happen and she will grow up to be just fine. But it still bugs me. And I fear this projection will become worse as the years pass and kids become meaner and more competitive. What will happen to my sweet, respectful and polite little baby? It’s scary.

So for parents out there looking for the best time to stay home and invest in quality time with your child, I’d strongly suggest the kindergarten year. Am I going to do that? Hell no. I can’t stop working, I’ll go (more) nuts. I’m just giving an argument for those who are considering a sabbatical.

 

School age Birthday Parties

February 27, 2015

image_xlimage_2010_03_R7388_chuck_e_cheese Up until this point in my daughter’s life, her birthday parties meant a gathering of the few of my friends that procreated, many friends that did not have kids (excuse for including alcohol in the menu), and low season trips as a family. This year, our fun ended and we had to plan a different kind of celebration, one that included inviting 25 kids from her class, and since they are not old enough, thank goodness, to be dropped off, 25 parents and some siblings that would tag along.

So I made the mistake of granting my daughter her wish to have a party at Chuck & Cheese. For those who by any miracle don’t know what that is, let me try to illustrate besides the creepy picture above. It is an indoor playground that must have been invented by Satan when he wanted to lock his children in a claustrophobic-germ-infested-over-estimulating room so he could promote obesity and sugar highs in hell. Ok, I may be exaggerating slightly. They weren’t Satan’s children. They were his pet Rats whose leader’s name was Chuck. And he loved pizza and video games.

Anyway, I booked everything online, got a call from a nice lady confirming the number of guests, number of adults, number of pizzas, number of cakes. My initial response to her, a month before the party was: 15 children, 20 adults, 1 cake, 10 large pizzas. The week before the party, the number was: 20 children, 30 adults, 2 cakes, 15 large pizzas. The ending bill? 22 children, 40 adults, 2 cakes, 15 extra large pizzas and 20 adult sodas. Oh my how I underestimated my daughter’s popularity.

So the party there had its advantages:

– Naomi got to spend her birthday with family for the first time. Both sides of the family were present. Goal met!

– Children that age still need their parents to stay close to control the tokens and tickets they get from loud, obnoxious arcade games, which means, I didnt have to socialize with them. All I needed to do was smile and identify myself as “Naomi’s mom” and hear back “I’m so and so’s mom”. Moms don’t have identities in these social gatherings.

– I was able to confirm my theories that working moms hang with working moms and housewives hang with the other housewives, nationalities also being a factor to consider. By not having to formally socialize with the parents, I was able to conduct the analysis after a lot of observation. Even I fell victim of my own theory. The only mother that spoke with me further than “Naomi is such a sweet girl” was an East Coast mom who also moved to Cali and had Latin American blood. We exchanged phone numbers and it turns out her kid iis also my daughter’s BFF’s so we get to actually arrange playdates where I get to have a conversation that doesn’t involve me learning about the benefits of buying Whole Food’s organic apple vs. the Trader Joes ones.

– Another theory proven right: the working moms were hanging with their actual children rather than standing there discussing the apples with another mom while their kids hung from the slides and threw their tokens in the air. I guess that can be due to them not really having the time to spend with their children during the week so they have to make the most of it, while the housewives have too much and just need to use any chance they can get to talk to another adult of the same gender. But that would require more experiments. The point is the working moms weren’t really mingling with the other moms which set them apart from the rest (That’s where I could come in, to the lonesome ones and ask, “so, what do you do?”. And prove another theory right: Housewives are very rarely anti-social in any situation.

–  I was able to get to know a 6 year old at its pure essence. I observed the way they behave, how clicky the girls already are, how independent most of them act, over-protective parents vs. liberal parents, spolied brats vs. nice kids, boy behavior vs. girl, the asian parents vs. the white parents vs. the Latino parents. Very interesting stuff that helped me tune out of the all of the noise my ENT told me to stay away from.

Then there were some disadvantages that were basically:

-My theories were more the me being judgmental and stereotyping…these differences actually exist and it’s just sad.

-My dear husband did as he did in our wedding: sat down at a table with his family and didnt bother to stress, mingle or anything! Just sat there and played his magic tricks with the tokens. It must be so hard to be laid back like he is. Doesn’t make a dash of an effort and EVERYONE just looooves him.

In the end of all of the festivities – besides the party, on her actual birthday we took her to Color Me Mine, Build a Bear and dinner – I asked my daughter if this was her favorite birthday ever and her response was “No, the best one was last year on the cruise. I want to travel for my birthday again”. I know most parents would be frustrated hearing something like that but not me. I was actually proud of her. She just proved to me that she doesnt need tons of gifts and people around her to be happy. She needs us. She still needs us and wants just us, taking her to see the world!

Gettin Crafty as a family

February 18, 2015

So just to keep up with the amazing changes in our family’s routine since our daughter started kindergarten, let’s talk school celebrations and how the advent of Pinterst, that addicting to look at but painful to accomplish anything on it social media tool, has made it a pain in the ass for us parents with no artistic abilities to keep up with their child’s ad hoc (is that even a term used in elementary school? who knows!) school projects.

Pinterest-Baking

Back in my days as a child, school birthday celebrations involved stopping at the local dunkin donuts, getting a box of mixed munchkins and having the teacher hand it to all of the kids. Or those disgusting frosting-infested store bought cupcakes that I really never believed were actually edible, my mother being the health freak she was when we were little.

Valentine’s day consisted of bringing a bag of heart shaped lollipops and, when you were lucked out with crafty parents, attach them to those pre-written cards. GI-JOE for the boys, Carebears for the girls. That never happened in our household. My mom would buy a travel sized shampoo with a cute bottle to the teachers, put it in a little bag and voila. My friends didn’t need extra chocolate.

Nowadays, however, wow have things changed! Pinterest seems to be the parent’s favorite day and night pastime because the amount of elaborate bags of goodies that my daughter brought home last Friday made even my little grumpy shih-tzy more mellow. Tons of lace bags, beautifully wrapped with heart-shaped  educational toys inside – yeah, they exist. If you make them from scratch. Imagine, 26 kids in the class plus the teacher and the assistant. Others decided to follow the traditional organic motto and add treats that were gluten free, full serving of fruit or vegetable, 50% less sugar, or all of the above. My daughter’s 26 goodie bag, on the other hand, was bought just like they were in the 90s: pre-written cards with a To: From: blank space for my daughter to practice her writing and spell out all of the names in her perfectly diagonal line. I did it assembly-line style: she wrote, I stuffed them into the envelopes. No candy. I followed the district’s rule of not allowing candy on campus – yes, another topic of the parent-teacher conferences that ties into the school menu. They don’t allow candy, ice-cream,  chips…you can always cheat if you bring in a whole foods’s bag of flax seed/chia tortilla chips colored like beats and spinach, or a whole grain cookie smothered in dark chocolate and “naturally made” caramel, but I wasn’t about to drop 50 bucks in groceries to feed my daughter’s class “healthy” eating habits.

And why do I say they took it out of Pinterest? Certainly not by going in and researching it myself! I know this because the mommies SAID it in the most recent meeting I went to where I thought – naive of me – we were going to discuss the children’s enrichment programs in the after school facility. For the record, I do go on Pinterest. To check new haircut trends when I get to the salon and can’t explain to the lady how to do it. Not to look for crafts. I believe a book or a movie will cure anyone’s boredom. Or stalking a frenemy you havent seen in ages on Facebook to see if she got fat after having kids. Or writing a blog. But that’s just me.

Anyway, there’s more on being crafty: Birthday parties. People are really creative with the cake decorations, the wall decals, invitations, activities and so forth. But to me, even with Pinterest by your side, they all turn repetitive after all, how many different ways can you reinvent Elsa and Anna? Or if you’re a boy parent, Cars, or Spider Man? Not much. Pinterest shows you a gazillion ways to create a Frozen invite or a Spidy goody bag, but come on…how creative are you actually being if you’re using a common theme?  So I choose to keep it traditional and this year’s birthday party for my kid will be at good old hell on earth Chuck & Cheese. It will be her first party with her classmates and I look forward to writing about it since I will get to meet the parents. I’m pretty sure some interesting points of view will pop into my mind after this day.

This reminds me that we need to go finish her first Kindergarten project which the teacher suggested going guess where for ideas? Yes, Pinterest. The project is called “The 100 thing Display”. Had it been my mother, we would collect sticks on the street and glue it on a cardboard. But my husband decided to show his Japanese skill on this one and we agreed on Origami. I’m pretty sure I was a bottle of wine in when I agreed to that because besides a paper plane and boat, I can’t really do anything else. So I need to confess. We did engage in social media help on this one: You Tube. Now THAT is a life saver.

Loaded-Taco-Tater-Tots-7So last week I wrote about all of the conferences, parent meetings and other stuff the school makes us do on our “free” time, and how the main point – and almost always, the only one – is to discuss raising funds for something. But in some of those meetings/emails/texts/paper-notices/newsletters, another common topic is our child’s nutrition. In one of the meetings they even had a fruit stand to illustrate their point and I initially thought it was an amazing thing to include actual fruits in the cafeteria food. Until I saw the first month’s lunch calendar. And the months following that one:

Monday: Chicken Corn Dog, smiley potatoes, fresh fruit. Options: Fresh Produce Bar.
Tuesday: Taco Tuesday – build your own chicken taco. fresh fruit. Options: Fresh Produce Bar
Wednesday: Cheeseburger on whole wheat bun, lean all beef meat and 100% cheese; fries; fresh fruit. Options: Fresh Produce Bar
Thursday: Roasted Chicken, mashed potato, Whole wheat chocolate chip cookie. Options: Fresh Produce Bar
Friday: Papa Johns Whole Grain crust cheese Pizza. Option: Fresh Produce Bar.

The variations of the menu included “Breakfast for Lunch” which contained whole wheat French Toast with lean sausage; whole wheat Pancakes; scrambled all white eggs. And the roasted chicken became all white meat chicken nuggets or orange chicken with brown rice, and sometimes the pasta. Whole wheat of course.

According to the district’s nutrition program “We support learning by promoting healthy habits for lifelong nutrition and fitness practices. Meals, foods and beverages sold or served at schools meet state and federal requirements which are based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines. We provide students with access to a variety of affordable and appealing foods that meet the health and nutrition needs of students.”

Now for most of the parents and children, this is awesome: parents with picky eaters have their kids eat “healthier” and the children still get their chicken nugget fix. Awesome work there Mr.highly rated school district in America!

But let’s just think here for a moment. What exactly is different from the menu described above, to what we used to see back when we were in school in the 80/90s? We had cheeseburgers, chicken nuggets, pizza and tater tots – which they no longer offer, I guess they cant make healthy versions of that delicious treat yet. How does changing the bread or the crust change the flavors our children are trying?

Yes, the Fresh Produce Bar used to only be offered at my high school. And there was never a line there. Or even a living being other than the flies. Now it is served for kindergartners. And from my research (yes, I use my 6 year old as research), the flies still dominate the produce bar. “I ate a salad because there was no line. I don’t like lines and I like salad” is what she says to me when I let her buy lunch once a week.

Honestly, why would 6-11 year olds who are used to eating “kid-friendly” (I despise that term, by the way) foods at home, at dinner with their family, even in weddings and church events, choose to eat from the strange Fresh Produce Bar, when the cafeteria still puts cheeseburgers and mac n cheese in their daily menu?

If the point of the school district is to avoid bad eating habits in our children, how is switching the bread and the type of meat going to help them evolve their palate and start enjoying what Americans call “grown up food”? And I don’t mean take all of the junk-tasting items out of the menu, god no! What’s the point of school if not to eat ketchup infested fries and corn dog without our parents around to limit us? I’m not that severe. But I believe in choosing the right strategy which to me means allowing them to continue to choose between familiar items but make slow enhancements to the flavor combination. For instance, instead of having the traditional American Cheese on a sandwich, how about switching to mild provolone or swiss that has a slightly stronger flavor? or using sweet potato instead of regular potatoes for the fries? Or adding broccoli or tomatoes to the pizza topping? or using a granola based cookie instead of chocolate chips? Slow changes like these can help kids enhance their taste buds while still eating their traditional meals. Baby steps. Then in Middle School, the enhancements can be larger and, finally, by the time high school comes around, it will be second nature. And what about the arguments “but my child wont eat those things, I’ve tried everything”? Well, school helps build good (and bad) habits, but it’s ultimately the parent’s role to instill and enforce what is good for their kids.

If the parents raise those annoying picky eaters, why not let THEM be the ones packing a brown bag of junk for their future high-cholesterol-obese child. Why does the school district have to adapt to these 1980/90s minded parents who led our society to be the most obese in the world, instead of those looking to ACTUALLY improve nutrition for us parents who actually give a shit about what our kids eat?

PS2: Buying “organic” chicken nuggets and burger patties does not make you a parent with a healthy vision, by dear, just stop. When your child is dipping those nuggets into an organic mango chutney sauce, we can talk.
PS3: I would say I am sorry for calling your child annoying for being picky. But yeah, I’m not. It’s all your fault so deal with it.
PS4: And do you really think that filling your kid’s Iceberg lettuce with Ranch dressing is doing them any favors? One tablespoon of that mysterious white cream has 8 grams of fat. And iceberg lettuce has very little nutritional value. Even if Organic!

And these are the things I WANT to say when I attend these conferences. But I don’t. I already don’t have friends amongst the mommy crowd without speaking!

After all these ygreen_kids_resale_treeears watching my child go from a little baby in diapers who just smiled and crawled and cried when she was hungry, to a bright toddler who never made me experience the “terrible twos” or 3s, or 4s, or 5s, I am now caught off guard with the new phase and the social baggage that comes with it: the kindergartner. It’s very hard to describe all of the “situations” I’ve encountered so far so I will start with the School system and its never ending quest of raising funds.

On the first day of school I was really excited to participate in the Welcome assembly at the highly rated public elementary school I so dreamed my daughter could go to, and thanks to my mom, voila, she is in. The auditorium was newly remodeled, there was a big table right at the entrance filled with Starbucks coffee and pastries. The room was full of parents in the same situation as me: having their children start a whole new life experience, one that would last at least 12 years. I was thrilled! Focus on WAS. Past.

So the school Principle, a nice but assertive lady starts her speech, and not even 10 minutes into it, she says “…you are more than welcome to spend your child’s lunch time with them, in between your errands, shopping trips or whatever you do while you are child-free”. The crowd of mostly moms and a few very interested dads (no sarcasm, they were actually into it which is a huuuge thing, but a topic for another post) burst out laughing. And that’s where the beauty of it all shattered.

What was so funny about being called a shallow useless housewife? I felt so offended. What about the parents who took a day off from work to attend this assembly – minority in this neighborhood apparently. Even for those who chose to be stay at home parents, I’d think it’s offensive. What about all the cleaning, cooking and caring for the other children who are not at school age yet? (and from the loud volume and smell of baby powder of that room, it seemed like the only-child option wasn’t a thing, which I should have kept in the back of my head, but I didn’t and I’ll explain when I get to the birthday party etiquette post).

Anyway, I didn’t really pay attention to the rest of her speech, I just heard a bunch of “donation” and “appreciate” and “cooperation” in between babies screaming and the crowd applauding as the principle introduced all of the teachers. “blahblahdonationblahblahcampaignblahblahfundraiserblahblah”. Yes, I do donate. Not because I want to fit in or because I don’t want my child to be the only one not participating in certain things – I actually do care about that, perhaps my own childhood issues, but I wont go into that now. I donate for the same three letter reason most middle-upper-middle class families do; the big white elephant in the post called the I-R-S.

After that fiasco-assembly I have tried and attended other meetings at the school, including the Congressional Hearing for children, AKA the Parent-Teacher Association, AKA PTA.  They all have the same purpose: raise funds for something or ask you to be a Volunteer at some enrichment program that happens after school which me as a working parent cannot partake.

And I need to mention they ask for these things during Student-only assemblies by trying to sell the overpriced “Wolves” T-Shirt or Sweatshirts to our kids without our presence! And if that wasn’t enough, let’s consider the amount of trees that die for the school to print out endless amounts of notices and gentle reminders of further volunteer opportunities and fund raising campaigns and school newsletters that talk about the results of those campaigns and remind you of the new ones starting in a week! And why bother how much paper goes to waste? All they have to do is have a Paper drive and parents – this parent writing, guilty as charged – run to Office Depot to donate a box or two…or ten.

But the school takes pride on being green. They take the kids out to the school garden and teach them the value of plants. With seeds the parents donated after donating the pack of dead trees. Ironic? Who knows? All we parents do during our child-free time is shop, right? At this rate, yes, I guess the lady Principle was right!

Photo0249This past Sunday I decided to take Naomi for a stroll downtown. We went to a Hispanic festival and then we walked through South Street to get some frozen yogurt. Naomi behaved beautifully. She sat in her stroller looking around, amazed by the number of people passing by. I thought she’d be scared, but nope. She seemed fine with the loud music at Penn’s Landing, the zig zag her stroller made to get through the crowd in the busy sidewalks of a hot summer afternoon, and the plates being thrown around at the busy restaurant we stopped to eat. After all that, she took a nap while we strolled around Society Hill. Even the crooked sidewalks didn’t bother her. They did bother her daddy though, who complained about the traffic, the noise, the crowd, the heat and the music. I guess NYC will be a mommy and baby only!

Now that she’s four months old, she interacts more, recognizes voices, smiles when she likes something, cries when she doesn’t like it, and makes a suspicious face when a new subject is introduced to her. The best reaction until now, is to Yumi, our little shih-tzu. As soon as she gets next to the baby, she laughs out loud, hysterically. Yumi loves the attention, so both of them play like that for a long time! Watching them cures any bad mood us parents might be in. Watch:

Next weekend I want to take both of them for a stroll, but this time in New Hope, PA. It’s more dog friendly and, apparently, more daddy friendly too! I have to go to many places to be able to wear all the summer outfits I got her – I went a little crazy this past month! She looks so cute in all of them, I want to bite her. I did today. She didn’t like it, but I don’t care!

🙂

Controversy

July 3, 2009

I find it very interesting that people try to be different and unique and have bizarre and liberal personalities, but this has gone a little too far:

The Local reported June 23 on Swedish parents who are keeping their 2-year-old’s gender a secret. They’re raising a not very funny Saturday Night Live Pat.

The child was called “Pop” for the interview with parents, but is not the child’s real name:

Pop’s parents, both 24, made a decision when their baby was born to keep Pop’s sex a secret. Aside from a select few – those who have changed the child’s diaper – nobody knows Pop’s gender; if anyone enquires, Pop’s parents simply say they don’t disclose this information.
In an interview with newspaper Svenska Dagbladet in March, the parents were quoted saying their decision was rooted in the feminist philosophy that gender is a social construction.

“We want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset,” Pop’s mother said. “It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.”

The child’s parents said so long as they keep Pop’s gender a secret, he or she will be able to avoid preconceived notions of how people should be treated if male or female.
Pop’s wardrobe includes everything from dresses to trousers and Pop’s hairstyle changes on a regular basis. And Pop usually decides how Pop is going to dress on a given morning.Although Pop knows that there are physical differences between a boy and a girl, Pop’s parents never use personal pronouns when referring to the child – they just say Pop.“I believe that the self-confidence and personality that Pop has shaped will remain for a lifetime,” said Pop’s mother.”.