Monthly Archives: November 2013

Vegexperiment: Day 13

Day 13 of a 30 day vegetarian (accurately, pescatarian) November, and…..screw this. Just kidding.

But I’m sad to report there’s been some serious dissension in the ranks. The eldest child (who kicked off this undertaking by announcing it on facebook) and the eldest, paternal member of the household (who rallied the family to join her in support) have been at odds. Both have confessed to meat cravings, yet both harbor differing opinions on whether or not we should continue on in our noble quest.

To my daughter, my husband said, “You need to follow through on your commitments.” And my daughter countered with, “But I’m 11. I latch onto ideals and speak passionately on all sorts of topics I don’t yet fully understand. I also haven’t the benefit of much life experience; the kind that might aid me with the follow through on such a major lifestyle change. Because, again, I’m 11.” She didn’t say that, of course (because – all together now – she’s 11), instead she sulks in pouty silence and avoids his gaze, but that’s the gist of it.

Her heart still breaks at the idea of suffering animals, but her stomach revolts at the sight of beans and tofu. She loathes them, and many other foods, with the fierce passion that only picky children can irrationally muster. My God, I presented a dish this week that was heavy on quinoa (light, tart, savory, highly recommended) and, by her reaction, you’d have thought I’d just shot her cat. No. Worse. It was like I’d taken her iPhone away. She was positively despondent. And the little one, who refused meat beforehand, also refuses all this substitute bullshit. Making my job so much more not at all any fucking easier. YAY!

Full of Beans

Still, the mister is insisting we persevere (see: stickler). Not so much for personal reasons, but as a lesson to the eldest about sticking to one’s guns, finishing what one starts, and all that character-building jazz. Though I understand and sympathize with his position, our daughter’s pre-existing reluctance to ingest about 8,000 varieties of food means she’s not ready to limit her diet further. She needs to grow past her childhood pickiness and expand her palate before she can truly commit to a meatless way of life. And she definitely needs to be down with the tofurkey on Thanksgiving – which, as of now, she is most assuredly NOT.

And then there’s me, the once self-proclaimed connoisseur of the burger; I’m the only one in the house who enjoys meat yet hasn’t had any longing for it. And that’s a big deal. Quick story…

Once upon a couple years ago, my husband, my children and I joined my ex-husband, his wife, and their small daughter for dinner. It was the first time my husband and my ex-husband had ever met, and the tension was not high but…not exactly relaxed, either. Many details of that meal went swimmingly (another story for another time), but most memorably, my husband and ex-husband’s unexpected bonding moment. I was reviewing the menu and maybe said something about ordering a burger, because my ex piped up, “Yup! Take Niki to a nice restaurant and watch her order a cheeseburger.” And my husband chimed in, “Oh, I know! The Queen of Cheeseburgers!” And they laughed together, like best buddies. Ha. Ha. Ha. (Batsards)

It was then that I realized how your ex(es) and present significant other should NEVER be allowed to convene! It won’t play out the way you think it should. Perhaps you imagine it would go something like, “Ah yes. Indeed we both agree she (or he) is amazing, in countless ways, and made a thoroughly positive, unforgettable impact on our lives. A saint and a goddess (or god), really. How lucky we are to know her (or him).” But in reality it’s more like, “Oh I KNOW! And how she (he) always does this one thing? What a dummy. And, oh wow, she (or he) STILL does THAT other thing? Holy crazeballs!”

And I didn’t even order a stupid burger during that meal. (Bro-moment havin’ bastards).

Yet the anecdote illustrates a point: anyone who knew me before 2008 would assert me to be the “Queen of Cheeseburgers.” I really do love them. And for me to not crave that flesh any longer, it says something. It says I can change. Rather, that I’m ready to. But my daughter, I think she jumped aboard an emotional bandwagon that her taste buds aren’t yet tall enough to ride. You know, she’s always disliked dairy, even cheese (insanity!), so maybe she’ll make an excellent vegan someday. And possibly, in a year or two, she’ll judge the portions on her plate not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their tastiness.

But not today.

At any rate, I’ll be stocking the cupboards this weekend and she’s asked, “Let’s just not have as MUCH meat.” Already done. And this experiment paved the way. Take the fajitas we regularly make for dinner, substituting tofu for steak went over splendidly and everyone agreed to pass on meaty fajitas in the future. A small success. And as I learn more new, appetizing vegetarian recipes that might please my children, we’ll keep taking our baby steps toward discovering a brand new way to eat.

But if you happen to see me out at burger joint (saucy juices running down my chin, something akin to celestial ecstasy in the whites of my rolled back eyeballs)……don’t judge.

Veggie Tales

In our alcove of Arizona, school children participate in an annual event called Cowboy Poetry. My first born is on her 7th year of this and she hates it. She’s an advanced reader, and not an inept writer (you can both infer the meaning and engage in the feeling behind her usually funny words) but she doesn’t come by vocabulary, spelling and grammatical structure naturally (it’s genetic), and finds it all to be a chore. She tested into honors science and honors math. Enough said, right? Does the world need another female english major or another female engineer? In any case, she’s just not into cowboy culture.

But she was inspired this year, when her literature teacher instructed students to brainstorm and extrapolate on words that might form into poetic verse. The teacher said, “And what comes to mind when you think of pigs? Bacon. Dinner. Food.” And my daughter blurted out, “Or they could live.”

Silence.

No one said a word. She told me all heads had turned her way, and the teacher looked at her as though she’d just ripped off her adorable eleven year old mask to reveal the freaky, hippy, PETA activist beneath. Her teacher ignored the comment and moved awkwardly on, while her best friend shot her a look that asked, “Are you insane?!” Later, that same friend put it to her, “WHY DID YOU SAY THAT?” My baby replied, “Because it’s true.”

And it’s our fault. We’re terrible parents. We taught her to think critically.

Vegetarian-vegetarians-572524_960_623_large

She endeavored to explain that, from her point of view, it doesn’t make sense how we only eat some animals and keep others as pets. And the thought of eating those pets (beloved cats, dogs and, God forbid, horses) horrifies and disgusts people. Yet in Korea they’re serving puppy stew. And India thinks us vile for devouring the scared cow (with exception). Pondering this, logically, critically, it’s a little wacky. But that point was lost on her peers.

Again, it’s all the fault of our parenting. My husband is a compulsive debater. He’s not a jerk, he’s actually very light-hearted and fun, but he’s a stickler when it comes to accuracy and validity. It’s just the way he’s wired: “Just the facts, ma’am.” If you state something, particularly with passion, you’d better be able to come irrefutably correct (or that facebook thread will NEVER END). Meanwhile, I long ago chose to be honest with my girls about the questions they pose, in an age-appropriate manner. That includes the truth, as I understand it, about what we eat. And other than laying down some basic expectations (I insist they be honest, compassionate and respectful; towards others and themselves) I don’t demand they think, feel and operate the way I do. I share my opinion on topics such as politics and religion, and ask them to make their own decisions (and yeah, I’m aware kids are developmentally incapable of making informed decisions, hence the whole needing adults to survive thing, I’m merely laying a foundation). The result being, my kids think.

Evidenced by the incident last week, when my family sat down for dinner and the four year old refused to eat turkey bacon – the same way she refuses burgers, lunch meat, diced chicken in anything, so on. It sparked a discussion. Up until that night she hadn’t been taking a moral stance, she’s just picky. Yet, on that particular night she asked where the bacon had come from. I told the truth: traditional bacon from pigs, turkey bacon from turkeys. Her eyes grew large and she shouted, “I don’t want to eat animals! I LIKE ANIMALS!”

Now, I’ll make my kids eat broccoli. I will demand they finish their green beans. I won’t force them to eat meat. “You will not get up from this table until you have swallowed every last bite of the tortured dead cow that was fed another tortured, diseased, chemical-laden cow. And, for godsakes, sit up straight!” Inhumanity aside, it’s common knowledge the meat industry is churning out a product that isn’t healthy or safe. I won’t force my children not to eat it, either (there are grass-fed beef options, etc.). It’s their choice. Giving my girls the freedom to make some of their own choices gives them the invaluable opportunity to think about WHY they’re making those choices. Or so I hope.

And it was the little one’s dinnertime declaration that got big sister thinking. She’d always been on the vegetarian fence. She’d never been comfortable with the slaughter of animals, but she also relishes in the yum of a juicy burger. And, unfortunately, she thinks most vegetables are gross – though she’d happily subsist on carbs alone (wouldn’t we all). Really, it’s easier to just not think about it. It’s easier to be like everybody else. But later that night, without warning, she posted the following on her facebook page:

“So I have decided to try to be a vegetarian. It’s just not right to have these poor animals suffer, even my little sister said she doesn’t want animal meat anymore. I am going to try it for 30 days, see if I can do it, see if I am willing. This is just my opinion on it, you don’t have to agree.”

NOM NOM RAWR RAWR - By Pistachio

NOM NOM RAWR RAWR – By Pistachio

And even though she made that announcement before checking in with the lady who prepares her meals, I told her the family was not just behind her, we were on the meat-free board with her. It was my mister’s suggestion. We’ve been making changes in our diet for years; cutting out pork, cutting back on red meat. Tofu vegetable stir fry and Morning Star products had been in regular meal rotation for some time. We also have many a vegetarian and vegan friend among our ranks. Most influentially, our good friend and health coach at From Here to Whole (<—–click, go, see, be dazzled by her charm) who'd introduced us to fabulous resturaunt options (Lovin’ Spoonfuls, so good) – proving that deliciousness comes in all sorts of meatless packages. Consequently, my kiddo’s decision wasn’t sudden, and our following suit seemed only natural.

The next step was to prepare her for the backlash. Seems the minute someone affirms they are a new vegetarian, someone else is moved to defend meat eating. As if, “I’m a vegetarian” translates to “I’m better than you” or, “Meat tastes terrible” or, “I’m openly condemning your barbaric, terrible tastin’, murder-lovin’ artery-hardened ways….because I’m better than you.” There are the holier-than-thou types, and many of the militant “meat is murder” ilk, but not nearly enough to warrant the immediate “You know you want you some meat, mmmm, meat-diggity-meat-meat-baby-back-meat!” reaction. People who regard vegetarians as weird and/or silly all appear a little annoyed by it, too. And why is that? What’s so threatening about someone declining to chow down on a sausagebaconlambchopkchickenfriedsteakmcmuffin? Being irritated by something that hurts no one, and something no one is forcing you to partake in, maybe THAT is silly and weird.

Just ten years ago my own mindset towards a meatless existence was no friendlier. I never rolled my eyes at the notion, but it went against the grain of my cynical worldview. And that view was: this isn’t a fluffy, kind, cruelty-free planet. It’s dog-eat-dog, man-eat-beast, and man-destroy-man. It’s hard, and it’s cold, and suffering abounds. And while that sucks, it’s also the inevitable way the game is played, here in the insane asylum of the universe – otherwise know as Earth. Thankfully, my perspective has since expanded, and softened.

Avocado, you complete me.

Avocado, you complete me.

If charged with the task of having to kill my own food, I might starve to death. Then again, I might consume the stiff, frozen remains of my dead best friend – if left stranded, in dire hunger, atop some snowy mountain (it’s been known to happen). But, at present, I don’t see where my animal-based meals come from, so I’m not forced to think about them. I also don’t NEED to eat them. I don’t live in a society that must hunt beasts to avoid starvation. I live in a society with a Trader Joes. And the glory of avocados in abundance!

And therein lies the lengthy veggie tale (having nothing to do with a talking cucumber who tells Bible stories, sorry) of how our family came to be on day eight of a meat-free experiment. We’re all still alive, obviously, and well. As yet, no one has had the shakes, or sold their blood for a little hit of protein. But there’s been seafood in the mix. Planning a month’s worth of meals, without knowing what I was doing, I decided to start us slow. Every third or fourth meal has incorporated fish. When I mentioned to big sis that we were technically Pescetarians, she said, “Pescah-whaaaaaaaah? Yeah. I’m not going to say that.” To each their own.

As we move forward, in support of her 30 day goal and possibly beyond, I hope she remains compassionate and objective with her naysayers- but doesn’t take any shit, either. A few days ago she was invited to a birthday party. The birthday girl proclaimed everyone must wear neon, and joked, “If you’re not wearing neon you will get a smack in the face and no fried chicken!” My baby countered, “Yeah, okay. I’m a vegetarian.” Her friend replied, “Then….you’ll get a smack in the face and NO VEGGIES!” Hah! Like my daughter wants veggies! But hooray for my baby standing her newly discovered ground. And should she eventually revert back to her burger worship, I hope she doesn’t beat herself up. I know plenty of former vegetarians, too.

On a final, light, maniacal note: I presented the little one with a slice of cheese pizza on night ONE of this undertaking. Little brow furrowed, she asked, “Where’s the good stuff?” What good stuff? Did she mean pepperoni? Yes. “Well, that’s an animal, and you don’t want to eat animals anymore, remember?”
“OH!” A look of relief came over her and, happy to clear up the confusion, she said, “No. I want to eat THAT animal. That animal is delicious!!!”

Little stinker.

A Timeline of Halloween Coolness

My family has cultivated something of a reputation for manifesting the spirit of Halloween Awesome. Beginning in 2006, when our eldest (back then, our only) child asked us to dress as a family of devils. Since then, each autumn, friends and family eagerly await the unveiling of our family theme; often asking for hints months ahead of time. My favorite years are the ones where our costumes are such an ensemble they function as pieces of a puzzle. Like this year, when we wandered the local mall. We were following each other, single file. First someone would see me, smile, then the little one, and smile, then my mister, and smile, then the eldest….and upon sight of the eldest it clicks. They get it. The big picture. The story we’re trying to tell. And, young or old, they always gasp, their eyes light up and they shout, “OH! THAT’S SO COOL!”

I love that. It makes me happy, my spouse happy, our kids happy and makes others happy: a whole lot of positive juju for a supposedly wicked holiday.
And…so….the story goes…..on a dark and stormy desert night…….

2006: Family From Hell
Our daughter asked if we could be a family of devils. My husband, who stands 6 ft. 5 inches tall, painted his bald head red, super-glued horns to it, attached pointy ears, shaded his eyes and mouth black, inserted fangs, donned a heavy black robe (which has served for many a costume since), added leathery wings, clawed hands and made babies cry. Truly, though, he unwittingly answered the door for a 10 month old trick-or-treater. That poor baby gazed up into the eyes of Satan and started bawling. And my husband, approaching the little guy, with his clawed hands out, saying, “Oh no! Oh I’m so sorry, little guy!” with his razor rows of teeth flashing, somehow managed to make it worse.

Family from Hell

Family from Hell

2007: The Addams Family
The eldest was five years old and had come home from a summer at her Nana’s house announcing she would be Wednesday Addams for Halloween. She pointed at me and said, “You’re Morticia.” Then pointed at my husband and said, “You’re Uncle Fester.” DONE. For a couple of former goth kids, who love horror flicks and have a cabinet in the living room full of (completely tasteful, beautifully ornate) skulls, it was like Christmas! We stole the Halloween show! And Miss Wednesday stayed in character the whole night. Never smiling for a photo. We were so proud.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family

2008: The Wizard of Oz
The eldest, officially in charge of our Halloween theme, had fallen in love with the land of Oz. Again she assigned roles. Mommy: Wicked Witch. Daddy: Flying Monkey. Finding a flying monkey costume to accommodate my husband’s giant (figurative) ass was not exactly easy. We ended up ordering online (for something like $120), some essentially chintzy blue/grey carpet suit with wings. And, October in Arizona isn’t like October in a place that actually has seasons. It’s warm. It’s especially warm dressed head-to-toe in Muppet. I was also 8 hundred years pregnant at the time, dressed head to toe in black Wicked Witch regalia. And Dorothy, six year old Dorothy was an absolute doll and had a marvelous time.

Wizard of Oz

2009: Alice in Wonderland
We’d added a member to our costume crew by 2009. She was 10 months old and had little say in the matter. Big seven year old sister was still commanding the Halloween Family Troops, and was enamored of Alice in Wonderland. By now, she wasn’t dictating costumes to her parents; it was more of a collaborative effort. Of course she would be Alice, but we were free to choose the funnest, most feasible characters we could be. It was the first year I attempted to make costumes. My Queen of Hearts gown was (a lukewarm mess) not what I’d envisioned, and my baby’s Cheshire Cat was just okay (though I was proud of the fluffy tail). My husband had an old-timey suit and pocket watch on hand, just adding whiskers and rabbit ears. And little Alice was the star of our show.

Alice in Wonderland

Alice in Wonderland

2010: Universal Studios Monsters
It was purely collaborative that year. The baby, fast approaching age two, was obsessed with dogs and had been randomly howling for several months, “Ahhhhhh-wooooooooh!” Cutest thing EVER. Meanwhile, big sister wanted to be a vampire. My husband was the genius who suggested the Universal Studios Monsters theme. He was Frankenstein, I, his electroshocked bride, and the girls were Dracula (in drag) and baby Wolfman. We didn’t get a family photo until the very end of the night. My makeup had run off, my mega-wig was limp, the eldest had discarded her own wig hours before, the baby’s wolfman’s cowl never fit properly, but Franky rocked the party all night long.

Universal Studio Monsters

Universal Studio Monsters

2011: The Year Off
The mister was stationed in South Korea, decidedly placing a damper on (everything!) our usual festivities. It was the first year the baby, at that point almost 3, but still “the baby”, requested a costume. Having forsaken dogs after a friend’s ill-tempered one had bitten her, she said, “I wanna be a kitty!” Big sister was big into Monster High Dolls and wanted to be Abbey Bominable (the Abominable Snowman’s daughter). I decided last minute to throw on some ears and be a kitty mama. And that was that.

And it was kind of nice to have the pressure off (…our wallet).

The Year Off

The Year Off

2012: Horror Movies
Back in black, yo! A long black wig for big sister who played the scary Asian ghost girl from “The Grudge”, that same old handy black robe for the mister who underwent five hours of latex makeup to transform into Pinhead from “Hellraiser”, and a black cloud above me as I showered myself in fake blood and mimicked 1970s “Carrie.” Oh, and a black spider costume for the little one, who said, “I wanna be a spider! A black widow!” And we all wondered how we’d fit that into the family theme. My husband replied, “Okay…..uh…you’re from ‘Arachnophobia!’” And it worked out all right.

Incidentally, on a grown-up costume party night out, walking around with Pinhead, I found out what it would be like to be the non-famous person married to someone famous. Five minutes after entering a Halloween block party in Bisbee, Arizona the crowds started forming around my husband, requesting pictures. And slowly, I was pushed back and back until I was outside the circle of his adoring fans. It took fifteen minutes to reclaim my date – and that was just the first adoring, cellphone pic-ing throng.
NTS: Never marry anyone famous.

Horror Movies

Horror Movies

2013: Cinderella

“Cinderella???? After all that? You’re going DISNEY PRINCESS? Nooooooo!” – general consensus when we leaked the news.

We’d decided to let the baby (who is almost five now, but will forever be “the baby”) assign costumes the way her sister had done at her age. We couldn’t very well tell her, “No. Sorry, sweetie. You can’t be what you want to be for Halloween, because the family is doing Star Wars this year and you’re going to be R2-D2. Now, practice beeping and blooping.” Though we really get into the spirit of the season, we’re not assholes.

We also knew, with her, we’d likely be heading down a magical Disney princess alley – she’s obsessed with Cinderella – and no one was thrilled about that. We realized we’d lucked out with the older one, and all her creepy/cool picks. Big sister was never a tomboy, but she wasn’t a girly-girl either; she was just wonderful. Little sister is equally wonderful. And, believe me, she may like pastels, tiaras, frilly dresses, and fairytales full of love everlasting, but she will also CUT YOU. I don’t worry about empowering her as a female. Future her will stab you with her Prada heel. Repeatedly. I advise you to let the girl be girly.

Cinderella

Cinderella

And as it turned out, with the baby as Cinderella, big sister as the Fairy Godmother, Daddy as Prince Charming and myself as the Wicked Stepmother, we had a lot of fun! I took another go at creating costumes from near scratch, and won. The mister built his (spray-painting canning jar lids gold and adhering braided tassels to create epaulettes on the shoulders) from the bare bones of an old air force jacket. Big sister and I lucked out at the diviest thrift store in town. I’d had a hell of a time finding a Victorian dress, anywhere, for under a hundred dollars, yet found my gown at St. Vincent de Paul for 3 bucks. Sewed on a brooch. Wicked Stepmother. Done. Sewed pink satin ribbon into a baby blue hooded bath robe, shaped and attached a pink satin bow via clasps. Fairy Godmother. Done. Big sister made the baby’s choker, I painted her blue headband, daddy worked diligently on his sashes, awards and braiding. And unlike the Alice in Wonderland year, our crafty efforts paid off. Or at least, they seemed to. We made people smile.

Cindarella Halloween

Cindarella Halloween

I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be able to float this family-themed boat. We have a preteen who willingly, happily dressed up with us this year, but only half-heartedly trick-or-treated. How long before her attitude changes: “Um, you guys are, like, hella dumb and stuff. Oh. Em. Gee. I, like, totally hate my life. And you. But mostly just you.” And what about the little one? What if next year her pick is My Little Pony? And the year after, Lalaloopsy? What if our once spooky family Halloween gets hijacked by pink unicorns sparkles of glittery princess cheer?

*Shudder*

There’s an end somewhere. There always is. Family traditions aside, these girls will grow up and move away. At which point I imagine sitting home on Halloween nights, having set up spooky lights and strobes, fog machines, with many a robotic monster in the yard, costumed-up and ready for trick-or-treaters – with a bowl of the GOOD candy! I want all the kids in my neighborhood to be excited and enchanted by my house, year after year. I want to create that one super cool place you remember from your childhood. And, with any luck, my grandchildren will stop by.