Saturday, December 31, 2011

Those Two Little "F" Words

It's the last day of the year and I feel myself compelled to write the ol' year-in-review post. Don't fret: I'm at least self-aware enough to realize my life is not quite so scintillating as to warrant a recap. But though I'm spending the day getting ready for a raucous New Year's Eve spent with my sister's family playing Guesstures and eating parsnip soup, I did want to take a few moments to jot down my thoughts about the past year and consider what 2012 might look like for us. It all boils down to those two little "f" words: food and family.

First, the food...

Bye Bye, Birdie (and Cow and Pig and Fish):  If you are one of my Facebook friends, have spoken to me in person, or have been within earshot of me, then you know: I watched Forks Over Knives and Earthlings this fall and read Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. You can thank (or blame, depending on how you feel about the topic) my Mom, because she started it.  The end result is this: I can't be a part of factory farming and since no one else here knows how to cook or go grocery shopping, that means the whole family is on-board by default. I will tell my children the truth about where their food comes from even if it makes them cry or gag (and it should do both, frankly). I've probably blabbed too much about this on Facebook, in my usual overly-enthusiastic way when I get into something new, but so be it. A few have poked fun or joked (I hope) that I'm being mean to make my kids eat all-veggie dinners or suggested they are too young for this (Too young to learn to eat vegetables? What?), but that's okay. I've said before, I'm not exactly known for my staying-power and I'm pretty sure my dear husband is hoping this vegan thing goes the way of my (numerous) past gym memberships and my penchant for Bollywood movies. But if the worst things about this are that we are eating healthier in general, dining out less, and I'm cooking more, then those are changes I can live with.

Yes, you can be a voluptuous vegan: The first vegan recipes I tried were for pies and cookies. If there weren't good baked goods to be had, I knew I wouldn't last long. There were. In fact, there were very good baked goods. I've spent the last month wearing yoga pants, so I can attest:  Vegan baking is just as fattening as regular baking, unfortunately. Vegan "butter" has the same calories as regular butter, so I probably shouldn't have been peeling the paper off the stick of Earth Balance and eating it like a banana, but hey, live and learn, right? Another important vegan baking lesson picked up by my good friend Paula and me: Avocados and chocolate? Just say no. For 2012, I've armed myself with the some healthier vegan cookbooks (read: low-fat, but not no-fat), because I want my food to taste like I'm eating in a restaurant, but I don't want my waistline or my bank account to look like I do.

Vegan cupcakes, and cookies, and thighs!

Enough on food, already! On to the more important stuff--family.

Family trees need tending to, too. This year, my sister Erin moved to Brooklyn. She'd been in Richmond for 11 years before that, close enough for a day trip. Not that I made those very often. I guess I took it for granted that I could go see her any time I wanted to, and just knowing that seemed good enough. Suddenly, she was moving someplace I had never been and for all I knew, I would never go. After all, I'm kind of overwhelmed by big cities. I mean, it took me years not to break into a cold sweat in Richmond, which I viewed as a teeming metropolis until the last few years. Despite the distance, or maybe because of it, Erin and I are closer than ever. It is one of the highlights of the year for me.

But it also illuminates a gross failing on my part: The too-easy habit of forgetting to tend to the relationships of family members and friends who live nearby! I've become painfully aware of how often I've bragged, "Oh, I only live one mile from my parents and my sister and it's sooo wonderful! I just don't know how anyone does life in Northern Virginia without their family!" But in reality, I find myself thinking I can drop by any time and then keeping myself and my children too busy. I don't make nearly enough time for the simplicity of dinners with Stampy and Mimi, and playing with cousins, and just being together as an extended family, not as an event, but as a way of life.

Less is more and more left me empty handed. The choice to homeschool our children was mainly a choice for a particular envisioned lifestyle. But this year I lost sight of that quiet vision and loaded the girls' schedules with extracurricular activities, each one worthwhile in its own right. But when I imagined crafting a childhood experience for my daughters, I didn't picture the majority of it playing out in the minivan as we hurtled towards the next place we needed to be.

Hello, 2012 calendar: May your squares stay empty and white.

Teaching a child gratitude is the hardest job of parenting. We surprised our girls with their first trip to NYC this summer. After Anthony paid a million dollars and a kidney for two bicycle-rickshaw rides through Central Park, the girls stomped off in a huff over being a handed a mere Gatorade instead of an ice cream cone by their apparently incompetent mother. I walked away for a deep breath and a cry before unloading on Erin, who was acting as our tour guide and host for the weekend: "What ingrates! I mean, how about 'Thanks for the awesome trip to New York, Mom and Dad!?'" My sister pointed out that God probably feels the same way about us (I think she said "us," as in the universal; maybe she said "you" and called me out). I asked her to pass the humble pie.

Odds are, I haven't taught gratitude well, because I haven't learned it well. I'm determined to be a better student in 2012.

So, what am I hoping to carry with me into the next year?


Happy New Year!


    Trinity and the brood said...

    This is a rockin' post! I am right there with you- in fact, as I peruse my old new year's resolutions, they all pretty much aim for the same thing: rest, family, being in the moment, simplicity....may I start to act upon what I write about. You can call me up and use the F words on me anytime you want.

    Crystal said...

    Awesome! Inspiring to us all!