Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Disney Digest

We survived. Four days of queuing, strategizing, fast-passing, running, waiting, laughing, eating frozen chocolate-covered bananas on sticks, getting insanely ill after a dastardly space flight simulator, and dinner reservations for 17 people (2 high chairs).

Bananas, I know.

By the second day, Louisa and I needed a different game plan. So we fast-passed the character rides and rode the steam train around the Magic Kingdom, with the old folks. Orly was kind enough to ride Dumbo with us, a second time. 

Best hour of the trip.

The reward for our dedication? Sunny weather in the 80s, and a weekend in South Beach. 

It's okay, we're back in freezing NYC, now.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Johnny Weir's Fabulous Olympics

Since I wrote my Olympics-fever post, I've been thinking about Tablet magazine's very righteous or, even, self-righteous declaration that in order to protest Russia's persecution of gays, they are boycotting the Olympics, and, in fact we should ALL boycott the Olympics: "By turning off our TVs, we’ll be sending an unmistakable message that we wish to have no part in the Kremlin’s glories."

Now, Tablet, "a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture," is not exactly Sports Illustrated. I wouldn't have expected them to cover the Olympics, nor would I go there to look for my Olympics coverage. So it's rather easy for them to refuse to cover an event that they didn't really have to cover, anyway. But, still, is their response the correct one? The New York Times, a consistent defender of gay rights, is covering the games in full tilt (I subscribe to their daily email Olympics as not. to. miss. a. thing.) Am I effectively high-fiving Putin by following these games? 

Consider the athletes. Think about the three American men who swept the slopestyle skiing in the event's first-ever appearance at the Olympics. Think about the women ski jumpers who after years of petitioning a sexist Olympic committee, were finally given their due, and a berth at the Olympics. Think about Matthew Mortensen, a luger from Long Island, who narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics in 2010. Here's what he said on WNYC about making it this year: "I've been literally working towards a single goal for sixteen years. And to get that goal is such an incredible feeling." 

To boycott the Olympics because of Russia's unquestionably detestable human rights abuses is to punish these and other amazing athletes who have dedicated their lives to their pursuits. So we ignore them, and their accomplishments, to punish Russia? Somehow, I think Russia doesn't care. But I know the athletes do. 

Since I've been watching, and not boycotting, I've had the pleasure of witnessing what may be an even more effective form of protest. Johnny Weir, the former figure skater, has been rocking it as an NBC commentator for these games. Each time he appears on screen, he looks more fabulous. He has impeccable make-up, gigantic jewelry, and a beautiful television presence. He is the gay man that the Russians are so afraid of, and he is appearing in Sochi full-on "out." No rainbows, sure. No need. The rainbows are radiating from his jewels. 

Why would Johnny Weir even agree to go to Russia, knowing what we all do? One would assume he wanted to be on TV, and he's good at it. But maybe he also went because he wanted to boost up those athletes, gay and straight, who have worked so hard to be there, and weren't about to give up their dreams. Maybe he wanted to tell the world, and Russia, that gay people are an integral part of sports, just like they are integral part of all of our communities. Maybe he just wanted to say, "Hey, look! I'm not scared of you." 

Well, thank you, Johnny. You're teaching us as much about pride as you are about triple axel salchows. Tablet, you don't know what you're missing.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Olympics Fever

Hooray for the Olympics! We can't get enough. Every time it comes back, summer or winter, I always think, why does something this fun happen so infrequently?

We are not a sports-y family. I mean, in the spectator department. We watch the Super Bowl (or, some of us did) and the World Series, the Tour de France, and the occasional soccer or tennis match. We are an active bunch, though. Among us we swim and bike and practice yoga and do gymnastics and snowboard and ski. (I've even, lately, discovered a new and wondrous way to get fit: the exercise videos that come free with Amazon prime membership. Jillian Michaels, you kill me. Sorry about all the jumping, downstairs neighbors.)

Both the summer and the winter Olympics capture our attention, but as downhill enthusiasts, we especially enjoy the skiing. We love watching the skiers fling themselves down the hill, imagining ourselves, of course, in their place. We are full of terror and empathy when they go hurtling off course. And we have nothing but admiration for the incredible athletes who make it to the podium. You can have the best run in the world in practice (poor Bode) but if you don't come through when it counts, you're outta luck.

Bella as Team USA Olympic skier (and Ruby as a pig), Purim 2010

We also, of course, love the perennial winter favorite, figure skating. All that glitter obscuring so much grit and practice and fearlessness. And youth! Did you see the amazing and flawless 15-year-old Russian Julia Lipnitskaia? Barely old enough to remember the last winter Olympics, and now a dominating force. Really makes you appreciate what teenagers are capable of.

Ruby loves the luge and the bobsled. It's like an amusement park ride in the guise of a sport. Except it's a ride that none of us would even want to try.

Sure, the Olympics are full of weird nationalism and posturing, but ultimately, they are a grand stage to display the talents of a group of super-human athletes, who train tirelessly for years to be under the lights for a few minutes. It happens to also be fantastic family entertainment. We can't get enough.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Full Days, Leisure Time and Headcheese (Guest Post)

Very pleased to continue my series on moms and work today, in which I invite mothers to consider these questions: how do you manage to work and also care for your kids, both in a technical sense (how the time is divided up), and an emotional one? (Be a part of the series: send me your thoughts!)

Today I welcome guest blogger Deborah Churchill who discusses how much effort it takes--or should take--to do the work of a mother. Does reading the Little House books make you feel weary, or, as it does Deborah, quite lucky?

Full days, Leisure Time and Headcheese

I’ve been feeling that my days are pretty full. That is, until I read Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder (shameful: I’d never read it before, but I am British).

There’s a chapter in it about butchering the pig. It’s full on. The pig is slaughtered, scalded and scraped. The meat is butchered, salted and smoked. Then, just when you’d think that, really, they must have had enough of the pig-work and surely it’s time to catch up with a box-set (excuse the anachronism), Ma chops and boils all the last scraps making the (to my mind unspeakably unappetising) headcheese. It got me thinking.

On Mondays I get in at 8 and do a short day at the office. I’m contracted for a three days week but I’m lucky enough to be flexible with my hours. It means that on all but one day of the week I get to pick my kids up from school when they finish at 3.25. I leave almost no contingency for the journey time; it’s pre-rush hour. I almost always get away with it.

So anyway, Mondays, we execute a swift turnaround. Snacks, wees, goggles and head to the pool. It’s fun; a family swim followed by Felix’s lesson. Then it’s back home for kids’ tea, spellings, handwriting practice, put a load of washing on, put a load of dry washing away, make tomorrow’s packed lunches, unpack the dishwasher and chivvy and chide the children to clean teeth, wash faces and get ready for bed. All climb into my bed for cuddles and stories. (Side note: I thought Little House might be too advanced for my youngest. Imagine my gratification when halfway through the chapter on maple syrup he asked a technical question about sap extraction.)

You know what? By the time it hits 7: I’m finished. I call my partner and ask him to bring something home for dinner. I’m pretty relaxed about this. I’ve done enough for one day, right? 

I can’t help wondering what Ma Ingalls would think about my sudden collapse of effort. Of course our times and situations are very different. But you don’t have to go back far in my family to find a much tougher lifestyle. My grandmother (95, oldest of 10, with six children of her own) had a far more gruelling day than mine. Not only were all her household chores harder to do, the expectations were also different. She cooked three meals a day, every day, for at least 8 people for many years. It would tip me over the edge in less than a week.

I have no intention of signing up for the servitude endured by countless women. But, next Monday, I’m going to take a moment to remember that I’m living in a very privileged place and time. The idea of leisure time is so ingrained that I consider it my right. I’ll try to feel less hard done by and, who knows, I might even cook dinner. If I do, I’ll consider it the headcheese.

Deborah Churchill lives outside London in Kingston-upon-Thames and works part-time as the editor of a property magazine. She and her partner Allan have two children, Annabel, 7 and Felix, 5. She’s recently become interested in preserving food and made 10 jars of marmalade over the weekend. An interest that can only be reinforced by reading more Laura Ingalls Wilder.