Parenting Hack

Yesterday in the bathtub Klara refused to brush her teeth. Arguing with toddlers is a complete waste of time, so I said, “Hey, let’s brush teeth with toes!” I put a bit of baby toothpaste on her toes and she had a ball brushing her teeth with toes. The whole thing was so funny and put her in such a good mood that she easily agreed to brush her teeth with a toothbrush and real toothpaste after that.

Happy Thanksgiving

We are trying to fit into 3,5 days in Florida everything we usually do in two weeks here. Today, for example, we went to the beach and the swimming pool twice (in the morning and after the nap). We also visited the fair, had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner that I cooked right here at the hotel, and then drove to the pier for a walk, some dancing for Klara, some shopping for me, and then some more dancing. And in the breaks between these activities, N and I both did some work. N also managed to get to the gym, which I admire but don’t want to imitate.

We are traveling with a toddler, so everything has to be calculated very precisely to fit with her routine.

Tomorrow is our last day here and we have to fit in a trip to Naples, Florida, because I love Naples with an uncommon passion.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! I hope you are having fun, too.

Sand Sculpture Fair

At the fair that features a sand sculpture contest, Klara showed no interest in the kiosks that sold clothes, jewelry, toys and treats and insisted, instead, that we stay to listen to a lecture by a sand sculpture artist.

“Be quiet and listen to what the nice gentleman is telling,” she commanded when I started to fidget and whine that I was bored and needed a treat and a toy.

Daddy Is Like a Kitty

This is heartbreaking. The casual cruelty to very small kids in the name of consumerism is impossible to watch.

We all have to answer difficult questions. I had to explain to Klara where her brother is, why she only has one grandpa and can’t see her other grandma. None of this was easy but I didn’t just lie to her and say they don’t exist. She’s not a toy I bought at a store. She’s a human being who is entitled to infirmation about herself, her origins, and her close relatives.

Consumerism is very scary because people see absolutely nothing but themselves, their momentary whims, and their consumer choices.

Adventurous Borscht

In the borscht, sunflower shoots taste earthy and almost like another carb, which works great.

People criticize me for experimenting a lot with my borscht. But I cook it at least twice a month every month, and I made my first borscht when I was 19. It gets old if you don’t change anything. I’ve put all sorts of crazy things in my borscht. Chickpeas, kale, broccoli, yams, heirloom beans, lentils, zucchini, nutritional yeast, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, flax seeds, sausage, green peas. The last two turned out hideous. It was a struggle to push those two borschts down my throat. But I make my borscht without meat, so they are cheap and even if one batch is bad, it’s not a big loss.

When I first met N, he informed me he didn’t like borscht because he wasn’t “into soup a whole lot.” To which I responded that I wasn’t offering soup, I was offering borscht, and anyway where would a Russian person even taste borscht to know what it was like.

And by the way, when I had a severe form of gestational diabetes, my diabetologist said, “No! You can’t have borscht! Your blood sugar will explode!” I didn’t believe her and risked it. And I was right, the borscht did zero damage to my blood sugar. Because my blood is already 70% borscht.


Sunflower Shoots

Hey, folks, do you know what’s amazing? Sunflower shoots.

We had 4 grocery stores in town: one for wealthy foodies, one for the middle class, one for the poorer folks, and one for crazy health nuts. The grocery store for the poorer folks has been bought out by the middle class store, so now there are three.

The foodie store recently started getting into microgreens. They cost like diamonds but they are delicious. The sunflower shoots you can see on the photo are rocking my world. The box was very full when I opened it but the shoots kept disappearing in the time it took to get my phone and take the photo. I’m putting them in borscht to see what happens.

Book Notes: Ramirez Heredia’s La Mara

The Mara is, of course, MS-13, the Salvadoran gang you must have heard about on the news. Rafael Ramírez Heredia was a Mexican writer (he died several years ago), and it’s absolutely unbelievable to me that I’ve never heard of him before because he was a genius. I’m starting to wonder if the way I was taught Latin American literature was wrong because I never even heard of these wonderful authors – Ramirez Heredia, Castellanos Moya – that I’m reading now.

The novel takes place on the banks of the Suchiate River, which is a natural border between Guatemala and Mexico. Crossing Suchiate is what many migrants have to do to get from Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras into Mexico and then the US. The novel’s characters are migrants, border guards, inhabitants of the border region, gangsters of MS-13 and their victims, prostitutes who work in the border brothels, human traffickers, drug addicts, members and founders of religious cults, and everybody else who is drawn to the fluidity of the border.

If I worked somewhere on either coast of the country, I wouldn’t be able to teach this novel without issuing trigger warnings before every sentence. (And here where I am I can’t teach it for other reasons.) It’s a novel about MS-13, so obviously nobody expects rainbows and unicorns. The novel depicts horrific violence and total degradation that exist on the border. Once again, this is a border between Guatemala and Mexico. The US appears in the novel as a focus of vague fantasies about big houses, expensive clothes, and relaxing beach vacations that beckon the migrants at the end of the journey.

The novel is long, complicated, difficult to read because of all the Central American slang that I’m not very familiar with. But it’s worth every effort and more.

It feels like I spent years reading crap and thinking that was Latin American literature. I read endless Eltit, Valenzuela, Sarduy, Boullosa, Poniatowska, even Allende and Rosario Ferre as an undergrad – and more and more, right into infinity. Hated all this repetitive shit. And now I’m discovering real Latin American literature. It’s like, where the ef was I this entire time and why did nobody tell me?

In short, great novel. Totally worth learning Spanish from scratch just to read it. I think there is a movie loosely based on the novel but I imagine it’s total garbage.

American Child

I was putting Klara in the car this morning when she saw a woman walking past the house.

“Why is the nice lady walking, Mommy?” she asked.

“Because she likes to walk,” I said. “Walking is fun.”

“But why she doesn’t have a car?”

“I’m sure she does but sometimes it’s nice to walk.”

“But you never walk, Mommy,” Klara said. “You drive a car. You never walk on the sidewalk. Sidewalks are not for going.”

In my defense, I love walking and I’ve literally never had a better time in my life than when Klara was an infant and I could take her out for walks in her stroller. We were out walking 3-4 hours a day every day. But as soon as she learned to say no, she refused to go back in the stroller, and that was that for our walks. We go to parks and playgrounds a lot but as for actual walking, 15 minutes in she demands that I carry her, and that’s untenable.

There is a Chinese grandma in the neighborhood who takes her almost-5-year-old boy for long walks in the stroller every day. I envy her but Klara is not the kind of child who’ll sit in the stroller even for 10 minutes.