Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The stupid things we waste our time on

Santa Clara County bans toys in Happy Meals

Meanwhile, I read somewhere that an organization (whose name I can't remember) is trying to get a bill to the Senate to force food manufacturers to change the packaging on unhealthful items marketed to children in order to make them less attractive to them. On top of this the Federal Trade Commission is putting together an interagency task force to establish industry wide guidelines on child marketing.

Now, I generally have no problem with Big Brother breathing over my shoulder. Heck, if I'm not doing anything wrong, what do I have to worry about? And if I am? Well, serves me right. But there is a big difference between Big Brother and a Nanny State. A Nanny State I DO NOT DIG AT ALL. And here's why in this specific case: Children do not purchase Happy Meals or Fruit Loops, parents do.

I know that the argument is that these manufacturers market their sugary, fattening products to children in such a way that it places pressure on parents to purchase it for their children abd they've got a point - they do! My response to this, however is: AND SO WHAT? As a parent, I don't have to buy the darn things. If I think that something is bad for my child, I don't care how much she whines and whinges and begs and tells me her friends are doing it, I'm not going to allow her to have it (at least not routinely - a little of what we love but is bad for us, doesn't hurt occasionally.)

The way I see it, it's just like drugs and alcohol and cigarettes: your kids' food habits are like everything else we manage or influence as parents -I see it as part of my parental responsibility to ensure I teach Daisy what's right and good and what's not. Will she sneak behind my back as she gets older? Yes. Will she go over to her friends' house and eat things I would never normally give her? Sure. Will she tell me that I am the worst mother in the entire world? Probably. But you know, that's life - I can't control everything. But for 18 years I get to decide what's best for her as much as I possibly can. After that, of course, all I can hope for is that I've given her the right life tools to make good decisions completely independently.

What I will not be doing if she reaches 18 and turns into a cow, however, is blaming food manufacturers for corrupting her with their enticing marketing.

I'm not exactly sure what we're surprised or mad about. That's their job. They're trying to sell products and make a profit. The US is, after all, the capital of capitalism. Free market and all that. Trying to tell companies that make products for children to produce and/or market their products in such a way as to make the children not want them is pretty stupid if you ask me. And it boggles my mind that people are spending time on this when there are so many other important issues to tackle in our country than can have a far greater influence on the health and well-being on our kids, who are the stewards of our country's future.

How about the fact that education is underfunded and school programs like arts and sports are being cut? The next most influential people in our childrens' lives are teachers, the next most important building next to our homes is their school. Yet we're allowing local governments to slash budgets, lay off teachers (or pay them so little that nobody decent would want the job), and close good programs. How about that? Do you think the "Nanny State" could maybe look at ensuring that my child receives a well rounded education so that she can head-out into the world and make a positive impact?

In childhood obesity, as with many other social ills, there is a socioeconomic and educational divide: obesity rates are higher amongst the poor and the poorly educated. So perhaps we should focus on better educating the youth of today to ensure a healthier populous tomorrow, rather than punishing for-profit companies for doing the very thing they are structured to do - make a profit.

And, for heaven's sake, let's return a little bit of personal responsibility back into our community. Although I am very left-leaning in the majority of my politics, that doesn't mean that I believe that the government should manage every area of my life to the extent that I have no responsibility for my actions or the consequences thereof. Similarly, I do not believe that, in a capitalist society, the government should have the right to impede a company's ability to turn a profit because some mommy can't learn to say no to her child.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


I have to confess that the new fad show, Glee, does nothing for me. It does not make me gleeful. It makes me confused and irritated. Confused because I don't understand what it's about or what the fuss is all about and irritated because everyone else can't stop FAWNING all over it on Facebook and making me feel as though I am sooooo uncool for not getting it. Ok, they're not making me feel that way - that's not their intention - but by default, I feel uncool because all my cool friends seem to like it. Is this some unique piece of Americana that this Brit cannot connect with? What's the deal, folks?

On a similar note, I'm usually somewhat in alignment with the judge's evaluations of contestants on American Idol but, again, I'm completely at a loss as to their adoration of Siobhan. I find her pretentious and, most importantly, lacking in talent. Her only claim to real fame is her mind-bending screeching - her poor attempt to somehow out-pizazz last year's runner-up, and my gay husband, Adam Lambert. As for the rest of her performance, she always sounds like she has to sing at half-power in order to stay in tune; if she really punched it, it seems, she would lose all control.

So, I'm officially forming the "Uncool people against Glee and Siobhan" club. Hubby is my first member. Any other takers?

Sometimes I feel like I'm from another planet. Oh, wait, I'm from England. Maybe that qualifies?

Friday, April 23, 2010

The dew did it

This morning, as I was working out on the eliptical machine, a local morning news program was covering the early morning set-up of a charity race. (I'm not sure exactly where it was or what the race was in aid of because I was, after all, working out.) Watching the set-up folks stride purposefully around in the dusk with a cell phone parked on one hip and a two-way radio parked on the other, really took me back to the days when I used to work in special events. And then there was the dew - the morning dew on the grass, that hinted at a chilly morning before a warm, sunny day. For some reason the dew just transported me back ten, twelve years.

I remember so many early Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings in a Southern California summer, bleary-eyed and chilly, working off of barely any sleep (because I'd been partying the night before), coming off the back of a month of 7-day weeks and 16-hour days, adrenaline pumping through my veins and a constant feeling of being behind, late, in a rush. People pulling at me from different directions, event staff who needed guidance, vendors who showed up nonchalantly late, and a sense of camaraderie with fellow event organizers who were equally as tired and yet amped-up at the same time.

Driving hours in the dark to parks and shopping centers and arenas without the aid of Google Maps and getting lost, walking miles back and forth from parking lots to booths, jumping in and out of 26 foot refrigerated trucks, loading and unloading with the guys, gossiping with the girls, drinking too much coffee and eating way too many donuts. Those were the days when duct tape and zip ties were my friends, when I attempted to dodge calls from my boss at all hours of the day or night - weekdays and weekends - and when I managed things (and people) I really had no idea about and yet jumped in the deep end and did it without a second thought anyway. Those were the mornings where I'd already done a full day by 10am and would find myself sitting in the cab of a truck with yet another cup of that coffee, desperately trying to muster the energy to make it through to the end of the day when we would repeat the whole shebang in reverse.

I miss it. In case you can't tell.

I miss the people I met (one of which was/is my husband), I miss the sense of accomplishment when it all came together, I miss the camaraderie of a team pulling together and working really hard under your leadership, and I miss the events themselves. True, they all started to look the same after a while, but it was cool to be "behind the scenes" and to see an event site come together bit-by-bit before a single attendee was even awake.

It feels like such another time, another place, and another me at this point.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today's "English" lesson

Every gym has one (or a few)- the know-it-all, middle-aged guy who yells every conversation across the room. The kind of guy who remembers small details about people's lives ("how's that tomato plant doing, Tom?") in order to demonstrate how "popular" he is, uses sports trivia as a conversation starter ("Hey, Tom, how about those Patriots? Did you see Tom Brady's pass? Reminded me of Steve Grogan in 1978!") and the one who talks smack about his physical fitness while simultaneously yanking the crap out of his back on the rowing machine. Yup, that guy.

I usually put on my headphones and drown him out with NPR but today, for some reason, I just wasn't in the NPR "zone" so my ears were open for business.

Today's topic of conversation for Mr. Middle-Aged-Know-It-All, was his daughter's trip to England which she cancelled due to the volcanic ash cloud.

He said (loudly, of course), and I quote: "She was supposed to go to England but she made a change at the last minute and ended up in Mexico instead. The funny thing was that her flight actually managed to land in 'Gul-asa-COW. But 'Gul-asa-COW' was a few hours north of London, so she would have had a three hour drive when she landed anyway."

I was busy doing crunches on my ball but I had to stop for a second to process. What did he say? "GulasaCOW?" What the hell town is he butchering?

It really took me thirty seconds or so to process, going through the list of English airports where I know international flights land (Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester), and then finally heading up north to realize that the jackass meant GLASGOW. Ya know, that po-dunk place, population 700,000, that is the largest city in SCOTLAND?

Um... wow. The guy actually made it sound like it belonged in Eastern Europe, adding a "u" out of nowhere and rhyming it with Krakow or Moscow (at least the U.S. pronounciation of Moscow, with "cow" at the end, as opposed to "coe", which is how they say it in England.)

And that's just the pronounciation faux pas. There's the country faux-pas and the geographical faux-pas to also address.

For those Americans who haven't taken the time to study it, here is a quick nationality lesson about my home country.

1) England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland are separate countries. Scotland is not a part of England. Wales is not a part of England. Northern Ireland is not a part of England.

2) "Britain" or "Great Britain" refers to England, Wales, and Scotland together.

3) The "United Kingdom" refers to England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland together. The official term (and what is written on my passport) is "The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland."

4) Further, there is also the geographical term "The British Isles", which includes everything in #3 but also 500 surrounding islands, that include The Isle of Man, which has its own laws and parliament.

Ok, I realize this can be confusing but at least grasping #1 and #2 should be standard. Although I lived in England for 21 years before I moved here, I at least understood that, while America was interchangeably called "America", the "U.S." and "USA", that there was a continent called America, that there was a North and South to it, and that the USA didn't refer to Mexico and Canada. You see my point, I hope.

We also have to add to this the geographical obliviousness. Glasgow is about 400 miles from London or a 7 hour drive. Saying that you're going to "England" and flying into Glasgow is like saying you're going to Mexico then flying into Santa Barbara. I'm not sure whether this guy's daughter was equally as ignorant but, if she was, I would have pitied her arriving in Glasgow only to have to drive 7 hours go get to her final destination.

Of course, I was tempted to assert my own superiority in this particular area of knowledge but I don't talk to people at the gym, whenever possible. First of all, it's 5am and my social skills don't activate for at least another two hours and secondly, I didn't want to get friendly with this guy because then I'm stuck with sharing banalities with him every morning from hereon out.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Why I don't bother traveling in the U.S.

In short, it's too frickin' expensive.

I've been spending some time thinking about our next trip and originally I had promised Hubby that this year (after Jamaica, which was supposed to be last year anyway) we would stay closer to home to save money.

Well, that's not going to work.

It's not going to work because 4 nights in Monterey is just as expensive (in some cases, if not more so) as almost a whole week, all inclusive, in Mexico or the Caribbean. So, why exactly would I travel down the street, where I see the same old chain stores and restaurants, when I can get a real break

Vacation deals for $521 - flight plus 4 nights in an all inclusive resort!

Ok, so granted, we could stay in a Motel 8 in Monterey and eat at Subway but, at that rate, I'd rather stay home.

Guess it's too soon to put our passports away for the year after all...


Adam Lambert Returns, Shows What American Idol is All About -- and What This Season's Missing
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Monday, April 05, 2010

Getting some adult time - Jamaica Part 3

I know - it's been more than a week since I got home and I'm still not done talking about vacation. In my defense, after I stopped my travel reportage for my Belize trip a few years ago, mid-stream, I received a lot of comments from friends crying foul. So this time I am determined to finish up. (Although I haven't exactly received much feedback on the other two posts, so maybe I'm talking to thin air...)

In the previous two posts I talked about the challenges, as well as joys, of traveling with an infant. However, it wasn't all about Ms. Daisy. Granted, mostly, but not all.

Since we had Nan and Grandad with us on our trip, we requested adjoining rooms so that we would have the flexibility to go somewhere and hang out whenever Daisy went down for naps. This meant that, after we put her down at night, we could tip our hat to Mum and Dad next door and head out for a moonlit walk on the beach. This was something we would do before turning in at night when we had visited Negril as a couple and so it was one thing we could hold onto from our previous trips.

The waves are so light in Bloody Bay (the stretch of beach our hotel, present and past, was located on) that you don't really hear the sea until you're right next to it. Even then it is a gentle lapping versus the crashing and rushing most of us are used to on the Pacific or Atlantic coasts. So, at night the beach is pretty quiet, well patrolled by the security guards of the side-by-side resorts, and absent the guests who are mostly being entertained further back within the hotel somewhere.

Despite there being five resorts stretched out around the large bay, there are very few electric lights - just a couple near the guard stations and a few that peek through the palm trees from the resorts themselves. This leaves most of the beach glowing a gray blue with merely the light of the moon. Up above you can see what must be every star in the sky twinkling back at you. On our last night it was a full moon, which was so bright that the palm trees cast shadows on the beach. I wish I was better with my camera settings and had brought my tripod with me as it really was something I would love to have captured.

Sitting on a beach lounger with nobody else around, sand in our toes, and only the sound of the sea licking at the beach, we would talk about our vacations past and present; about how cool it was to share our favorite place in the world (to date) with our daughter and how we looked forward to educating her in the school of life through our future travels. Sometimes we wouldn't say anything at all, just enjoying one another's company and taking in the moment. It's times like this that make me so happy that I married my best friend. It's not like we never argue, disagree or get on one another's nerves (because we do) but, on the whole, we are in-synch, on the same page, and enjoy many of the same things. Those things matter when you travel and they give you moments like we had on our last night sitting in the shadow of a palm tree, cast by a bright blue moon.

Then there was the evening we were sitting on the beach and listening to the live reggae coming from the resort stage. In vacations past we would be perched right in front of the stage, cocktail in hand, getting up to dance once in a while. This year, not so. Entertainment didn't really kick-in until 9:30pm and by then Daisy was crispy-creamed, even with the benefit of the two hour time difference. For a while we were ok with straining to hear the familiar songs from afar and then I heard a familiar bass line from "Welcome to Jamrock" by Damian Marley. It wasn't that big in the U.S. but it sure was in Jamaica. The first year we came to Jamaica, in December of 2005 for New Year and right after we got engaged, they played Welcome to Jamrock at the huge New Year party. Literally every Jamaican in the house - no matter what they were doing, cooking, serving drinks, waiting on tables - dropped what they were doing, rushed the stage and started getting down. And of course, they can all dance. (Why is that!?) Although we'd never heard that song before, they lifted us up with their enthusiasm. It was a very cool sight and we never forgot that song. So, when I heard the familiar bassline, I grabbed hubby's hand and pulled him off the beach so we could hear better.

We didn't want to go too far from the room and so we found ourselves standing on the pathway from our room block, arms wrapped around one another, bopping up and down to the song. Nobody else was around; it was our own private party. Man, I love Jamaica.

We also couldn't end our vacation without a visit to the legendary Rick's Cafe, at the tip of the island - a fifteen minute taxi ride from our resort. Although we saw folks there with babies, having been there before, we knew it was going to be too loud and too busy to be able to coral Daisy there, so we used it as the perfect opportunity to participate in date night.

Me and Hubby @ Rick's.

Rick's is one of those places that is famous for being famous, somewhat, but it doesn't dent the experience any. Perched on the edge of a cliff with uninterrupted views out over the Carribbean and to the horizon, people mainly go to Rick's for sunset. For the two hours prior to sunset and then about thirty minutes thereafter, it's the hottest ticket in Jamaica. As their website says, the crowd runs the gamut from Rastas to Rolexes, making it a great people-watching spot.

Hubby watching the sun set.

There is also a spot for cliff-diving (from tame to absolutely freaking crazy in height) and once every thirty minutes or so some nutty Jamaican dudes show off for tips by diving from a teeny branch of a thirty foot tree, directly into the rocky abyss below.


Here is the lowest spot from which you could dive. On the upper left, where you see the cliff disappear off the shot, is the highest spot. People line up to leap off there, although we saw some folks chicken-out at the last minute. The Jamaican hanging from the tree is above that spot. So yeah, he really is nuts.

Finally, as if all that weren't enough, there is a stage with live music every night. Usually it's the in-house reggae band but on this particular night it was an infamous local female steel drum band that, quite frankly ROCKED.

You can see video of the group in action here - I was having trouble embedding the html in the blog for some reason.

Rick's was the perfect ending to our vacation. On a week that had been all about our daughter, we got to spend some time just being a couple again.

All of that and we still got back to the resort in time for dinner and a bath with Daisy. Perfect!

Thursday, April 01, 2010

When "No Problem" becomes a problem - Jamaica Part Two

Man, I've had this past week of to spend with Daisy and I've been pooped by the end of the night, unable to get to a blog post. As for trying to blog when Ms. Daisy is around - FUGGHEDABOUDIT! The minute I sit in front of the this laptop, she starts tugging on my leg and whining. When I don't respond, she begins banging her head against the underside of the dining room table. Yeah, I know, extreme. She has a knack for drama, this kid. Hence, it's taking a while to bash-out these posts. (I guess it comes down to the posts or Daisy's head.)

So, where did we leave off? Ahh.... Daisy pooped. Bag with formula and diapers safely in our posession. Settled in paradise. What else is there to report?

Well, I did a quick post on Lazy Crazy Daisy about Daisy's experience in Jamaica. Needless to say that we fully expect Daisy to turn 18, move to Jamaica, and produce a beautiful mixed-race grandchild.. That aside, I'm left with reportage on things from the parental side. So, let's talk about high chairs.

Yes, these posts are about how travel has changed since we have become parents and the high chair situation in our hotel underscores one of the problems you just don't think about when you're packing your suitcase.

As you can see from this picture, Daisy had a lovely green, plastic high chair which she ate most of her meals on...


Unfortunately, there was only one of these high chairs in residence. Every other high chair in the resort was wooden and not one of them - that's right, NOT A ONE - had a restraint that wasn't broken. That includes no strap around the crotch area.

For the first couple of days, we made do, wrangling Daisy as she twisted and turned in the defective wooden high-chairs. Then, on our third night, while eating dinner, Ms. Daisy arched her back just the right way and went sliding down and underneath the front bar. THANK GOD, Hubby and I were seated either side of her at the time and reacted in unison, grabbing her just as her chin was about to get wrenched upwards on the underside of the bar. A second later and she would have been on the floor!

A sigh of relief was had by all that she was not hurt, although she cried with shock for a minute or two, but from that moment forward we obviously refused to use the wooden high chairs. Sadly, the "no problem" attitude we love about the Jamaicans, extended to their reaction when we told them what happened. There was generally a lack of concern that no suitable high chairs were available and a shrug of the shoulders - "those are the only ones we have" - when we tried to urge them to find something else. Despite our complaints, nothing was ever done to make those high chairs safe or to replace them. In looking around, most other parents either seemed to have lobbied for the green plastic high chair or fed their babies in their stroller (not do-able for Daisy who wants to be at table level.) As my Dad quite rightly pointed out, all he would have needed was some tools and some straps and it would have taken him 10 minutes to jimmy-rig something suitable.

So we resorted to heavily tipping the good wait staff who did seem to give a shit, making sure that the one green high chair (in 5 restaurants!) was set-aside and found for us each time. Sadly, money talks.

In the U.S., someone would have sued by now but in Jamaica I doubt most people working at the hotel have ever seen a high chair outside of the resort, probably think our kids are all spoiled and that we should be greatful they have a special chair at all. I was talking to the lady a the photo desk one day and she told me that just to buy a plane-ole run-of-the-mill umbrella stroller in Jamaica, it costs $200. Yes, $200 for that stroller we can pick up at BabiesRUs for $30-$50. Crazy. Based upon that, I can only imagine how much a high chair would cost.

We do plan to write to the Riu corporate office, however, because those chairs remain a danger. It's only a matter of time before someone's baby gets seriously hurt.

Who moves furniture at 11pm???

The only other complaint we had about the resort was how thin the walls and ceilings were and how loud (Holy Cow LOUD!), the hotel room doors were when they closed. Unless you took extreme care to close it slowly, there was pretty much no way not to close the door without making it sound like you slammed it. And with all the rooms and hallways having tile floors, the sound of doors closing in our block just constantly echoed around the hotel through the day and night.

Usually, when you're traveling without an infant, these are things you notice in passing. However, when you're thinking about getting your baby down for a nap, or keeping her down after putting her to sleep for the night, every noise becomes a nuisance. For the most part, we tried to keep a balance between understanding that people just need to get on with their business and being irritated when staff or guests abused the privilege - such as the turn-down maids that yelled down the hallway to one another at 10:30pm at night. What we learned for the future was to be adament about getting a room away from all major thoroughfares, at the edge of the resort, and ON THE TOP FLOOR. Because...

What we couldn't ignore, was the constant furniture rearrangement that would go on every single night in the room directly above us.

Every night, sometime around 11pm, the people above us would return to their room and would begin playing musical chairs with the furniture, scraping all manner of items across the tile floor for a good 30-45 minutes. After two nights of this, and after Hubby and I returned from our night time walk on the beach, I lost my cool. I flew through our hotel door before Hubby could say a word to stop me, ran down the hallway, flew up the stairs, and knocked angrily on the room above.

A guy answered through the door asking me what I wanted and I asked him exactly when he was going to quit scraping furniture across the floor and allow us to sleep. He opened the door a crack and said that he and his family were just getting out the trundle bed for his kids and were then going to sleep. There was no way on earth that this process would have taken 30 minutes every night and plus why couldn't they do this at 7pm before they went to dinner? Grrr! Unfortunately, despite my visit, this irritation continued throughout our vacation. Fortunately, Ms. Daisy slept through it all, although slightly disturbed from time-to-time, leaving us all to wonder why the hell we bother to creep around after she goes to bed at home. (We now don't, by the way.)

Tomorrow I'll quit the complaining and talk about some of the fun things that Hubby and I got up to, minus Ms. Daisy. Despite this vacation being about initiating our daughter into the world of travel, beach laziness, and reggae, we did find ways to enjoy the "other" Jamaica - the one with just the two of us and a gently lapping Carribbean sea. Ya mon!

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