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Cali update

2010 December 28
by Rachel Turiel

On Christmas Eve we went to church with our friend Maggie, and while the pastor gave an informative talk about the origins of Christmas, Col drew a picture of baby Jesus in a cradle, which looked more like a big cauldron in which Jesus was simmering, maybe with some carrots and potatoes. And then when the choir began to sing, Col leapt up and started dancing this weird, cheerful dance—ballerina kicks, fluttering arms and opium-den smile—and it was one of those moments where you want to be fine with your child’s inner desire to dance! now! And yet you can’t help but notice that none of the other 500 or so people in attendance have budged from their chairs.

On Christmas Day I woke up feeling like my 100-pound head had been bolted to my neck, Frankenstein-like, and my tonsils had been scooped out and replaced with grapefruit. Recognizing the signs of strep throat, I called the Durango medical practice I go to, begging for antibiotics.

“Listen Rach,” said this doctor whom I’ve never met, “we just don’t do this. We have a policy about never prescribing antibiotics over the phone.” I told the doctor that my alternative was a five hour wait at the ER. “You can’t go to the frickin’ ER!” the doctor shouted. “There’s people in there with trauma and shit, you’ll never get seen! Now listen. Anyone in your family docs? Or are they all artists and shit?” The doctor finally agreed to call in an antibiotic as long as I brought him back a bumper sticker from the Haight that says “Hookahs not bazooka’s.”

And I’ve typed and deleted this sentence five times now, but here it is: I’m not sure I like Christmas. And I feel like I’m stomping on elves and reindeer saying this, but maybe Christmas should come with a rating, like movies, so that if you’re young enough to be scared by Scooby Doo, you’re probably too young to handle the gracious receiving of more than a few presents at one time.

And I know lusting for gifts at ages 3 and 5 is as normal as freeform dancing in church aisles, but I do want Col and Rose to learn appreciation and simplicity. Just as I was stewing over this in my 100-pound head, this post showed up in my e-mail in-box, which has some good ideas and reminders on how to help children cultivate simplicity and appreciation.

I found my camera! But I can’t remember to bring it anywhere, well really, I’ve barely had the energy to drag my enormous tonsils out the door. I’ve been falling asleep with the kids at night, which is its own vacation, a soft, pajamed butt never far from reach.

Okay, I have taken a few photos.

Looking for the tops of redwood trees:

Contemplation at Jewel Lake:

Lots of visits with Great-Grandma Joyce:

Col and Rose enraptured with the squirrel who eats my dad’s birdseed:

And for local peeps, meeting up with Durango ex-pats, Ryan and Calliope!


Today I’m very dorkily excited about going to Trader Joes. And in a few days, a reunion with a bunch of high school homies and all our collective little people!

Anyone know where I can get that bumpersticker? And what do you love to get at Trader Joes?

Tonsily yours,


28 Responses leave one →
  1. December 28, 2010

    Oh Rachel, I’m so sorry about your throat. And about Christmas.

    Frankly, if I’d have been in church with Col I’d have lept up and started dancing too. Mostly to make you feel solid, but also because I’ve always wanted to dance in church. So, with one fell swoop I’d be able to make my friend a little less sore and wipe away all that glue from my butt all those painful years of non-dancing.

    Hope your throat is better soon.

    No news on your sticker.

  2. December 28, 2010

    I hope you’re feeling better soon! I get your feelings about Christmas too. I wish we, as a society, could feel like everyday was special so that we didn’t have to go so freakin overboard (in all the wrong ways in my opinion) for 1 day or week a year…

  3. Jan permalink
    December 28, 2010

    Hi Rach!

    That doctor doesn’t sound like any doctor I’ve ever run into and I wish I had! Sorry you’re not feeling great but it will pass. Always does.

    What do I like to buy at Trader Joe’s? Everything! And we do, often, because it’s about 1/4 of a mile from our house and we’re about to go now. How lucky is that?

    So glad you found your camera. This Blog just isn’t the same without the pics. Sure wish you had caught one of Col dancing in the church!


  4. December 28, 2010

    I love the church dance!!! What a sweet soul your boy has.
    Hope your throat feels better soon.
    I love the frozen mango, the dark chocolate covered peppermint jo-jos (which are already sold out for the season), the flatbread, and on and on and on…. ;-)

  5. December 28, 2010

    Aw, Rachel – a 100 pound head may have contributed slightly to the distaste for X-mas….??? I wholeheartedly recommend Grapefruit Seed Extract. It comes in capsules now, and at the first sign of sore throat, it will nip it in the bud if you take it 3Xs a day…. I’ve saved myself many rounds of antibiotics…. I totally agree with you about Christmas and over-boardness. We watched the grinch this year (cole and I) and I think even though his heart wasn’t in the right place, he had the right idea. Can’t we celebrate without all the crap!?

  6. December 28, 2010

    Sounds like fun – except for the strep. I am prone to strep myself and deeply feel your pain. As for Trader Joe’s, what don’t I like from there? I don’t think it is geeky at all to be excited to go to the best store in the WORLD! But, one favorite guilty pleasure is the TJ version of Cheetos – OMG so good. Also, during the holidays they sell truffles that are to die for. They are really simple teardrop shaped truffles dusted in cocoa powder – and they sometimes have pear flavored ones. Also, TJ’s brand of blueberry preserves is awesome (I know you canned like a maniac though). And I love the oatmeal soap they sell. Have fun for me and get some 3-buck Chuck.

  7. abozza permalink
    December 28, 2010

    I’m with you on Christmas. Often, it’s great in theory, but not so hot in practice. You know? Hope you are feeling better!

  8. December 28, 2010

    hey rach!
    feel better…in the meantime here is some food for thought on celebrating the season with reason:<)

    btw, i have raim in gymnastics on tuesdays 9-945, can u guys make it that day? hope so

    Spiritual Parenting Thought for the Month (SM)

    Brought to you by Mimi Doe
    December, 2010
    V12 #7
    This newsletter is my gift to you in the hopes of empowering children and parents everywhere to live more joyful, connected lives.


    I have heard from so many of you that this holiday season is particularly difficult with financial stress, family tension, or illness. Take a deep breath and let’s begin to redefine what the holidays can feel like in your household. There are no “shoulds” and you can craft the intention of what it is you want to feel and you want those you love to experience: peace, calm, contentment, joy….

    Our self-worth can sometimes become tied up with how our family appears to others. We may have to consciously and patiently try to shift our expectations from that way of being and make plans to add depth to this year's celebrations in ways that honor much more than mere outer appearances.

    The gifts we give our children happen all year, of course, but consider taking some time this month to discover ways to demonstrate to your children that:

    1. Happiness is not about what we have, who we hang out with, what we do for a living, what parties we are invited to, or what we look like. Happiness is about who we are deep inside, what we care passionately about, and how we spread the light of kindness in our family and in our world.

    2. Giving, sharing, and forgiving are truly more rewarding than taking, accumulating, and avenging.

    3. We can't control the world out there, but we have total control over our own
    thoughts, actions, and connection with spirit.

    So, get out your calendars, brainstorm with your family, phone dear friends to reserve time to be together. Plan, prioritize, and become proactive now so there is meaning and true fulfillment rather than disappointment, debt, and disgruntlement come January 1.

    It is truly the simple things that your children will remember about your holiday time together: the ritual of opening an Advent calendar, reading a different holiday book each chilly December evening, cutting out snowflakes for the windows, making mini-gingerbread houses out of graham crackers, gathering old toys and books to pass along to others.

    Take a moment to ask yourself what the upcoming holidays mean to you and how you can make that meaning have spiritual resonance with your family. I hope that some of the following ideas spark a light in your heart this holiday season.

    Warmest love and light from my heart to yours,


    My daughters Liz and Whitney — home for the holidays soon!!

    It's easier than you think to simplify the holidays at your house, and to get into the true spirit of the season. Here are some ways to show sharing and caring to others in your neighborhood and community.

    * How might your family give to others from the heart? Ask your priest, rabbi, school principal, or local Head Start if they know of a particular family that is in need. Find out the ages of their children and, with yours, create a holiday box full of surprises to be delivered anonymously. There are many families outside the system whose spirits would be lifted by your generosity and creativity.

    * Make sure you schedule time to experience the true spiritual meaning of the holiday. If you are part of a church or temple, hinge your celebrations around special holiday services. Find out the dates now so your calendar reflects your priorities.

    * Take a holiday meal to a shut-in and stay to share the food and your company.

    * Pledge a percentage of your holiday budget to buy clothes and toys for a needy family.

    * Make an extra Advent wreath, or another special holiday decoration, for someone who can't afford one.

    * Become a Secret Angel for another family. Make some things to secretly give them. Or become a year-long Secret Angel for a person or family outside your church.

    * Invite someone who lives alone to share a meal with you.

    * Clean and refurbish neglected boys and books, and help to buy new ones, to donate to a holiday toy collection.

    * Each day empty all the change from everyone's pockets into a decorated jar or box. Give the money to a local food pantry.

    * Make a phone call, or write a letter, to someone that you haven't seen or heard from in a long time.

    * Do your neighbors and friends have pets? Bake a batch of "just for dogs" cookies or treats for cats. Then, take your own dog for a walk, and deliver your gifts to all your pet friends.

    * Invite another family to share in one of your holiday traditions.

    * Read your favorite holiday story or Scripture to someone, and tell them why you like the story. Ask them what their favorite holiday story or Scripture is.


    * Encourage family spirit by creating opportunities and rituals for sibling collaboration. Maybe the kids are in charge of planning a party for their friends at your home, making secret gifts as a team, or concocting a festive breakfast menu.

    * Get lots of Christmas books from the library. Read a new story by candlelight each night during the holidays. Your kids will never forget this experience. If they're all wound up, candlelight has a magical, soothing effect. Whining, argumentative children start whispering and getting this dreamy look about them. If you have a fireplace, build a fire and turn the lights out. Sing or tell stories. Pop popcorn. Drink cocoa. Bundle up together.

    * Get the whole family outside together as often as possible. Nature reminds us of our place in the world, fills us with a wonder appropriate to the season and helps restore our souls- and it's free! Take a family walk, have a sledding party, hold a marshmallow roast

    * Don't forget the critters. Make ornaments for the birds using pine cones, peanut butter, and bird seed. Leave a few carrots for the bunnies, a salt lick for the deer. There's an old legend that says you can communicate with animals at midnight on Christmas Eve. When I was a young girl living in the north, my family trundled through knee-deep snow to visit with our horses in the barn, hoping to hear a few words. Ask your kids how they might give to the animals this year; follow through on their suggestions.

    * Encourage your kids to give themselves a gift this Christmas by setting a personal goal, re-reading their favorite holiday book, or soaking in a long hot bath with red and green candles lighting the room. Self-care begins even with our youngest spirits.

    * Turn ordinary windows into magical stained glass with pieces of colored tissue paper. Tape the pieces into a collage on the glass. Suddenly your home becomes a shrine.

    * Give your child a string of little white lights and let her decorate her room with them. They can stay up year-round to add magic to the ordinary.

    * If you attend a particular church or temple, arrange to take your child there when there is no service. In the quiet sacred space talk about how it feels to be there, explain the symbols, talk about the upcoming holiday and its significance. Hold hands and feel the energy of those who have prayed in this holy place before you.



    Release the struggle of creating The Perfect Holiday. Begin some new family traditions, and let go of those that no longer have meaning for you. Here are some ideas for family traditions that you can make your own.

    * If you have a Christmas tree, then make decorating it a soulful event. Bring out every candle you own and light them. Play music, put some cider on the stove to warm, and let the answering machine pick up calls. When you string the lights, talk about the power of light in your lives and how we are each beacons of positive light in the world. When the chord becomes tangled and you're about to loose control, take a deep breath, have a sip of cider, and begin again. Remember: play and enjoy the process and you'll all cherish the end result, no matter what it looks like. You might even roll out your sleeping bags and sleep snuggled under the newly decorated tree.

    * Write a letter to each of the people you'd like to remember listing 10 things you love about them. If you have children, help them write a letter to each family member. An extended family can do this instead of drawing names this year. This is a gift of your time, effort and love, and it will be kept and remembered for a lifetime. If you're creative, make each person a card on which to record your list. Sit around the tree on Christmas morning and read the letters out loud. Even if there are no other gifts under the tree, even if there's no tree, this Christmas will be full of love. And isn't that what it's all about?

    * Plan Family Nights. Mark dates on your calendar when your family will spend time together to see Christmas lights (take your family for a drive through a Holiday Lights park), write holiday cards together, and celebrate candle-lighting.

    * Eat breakfast and dinner by candlelight during the month of December. Many Christians light weekly Advent candles symbolizing hope, peace, joy and love. Perhaps you could discuss each quality while lighting the candle it symbolizes. Or, your family might give 4 candles different meanings. They could represent the light of God that surrounds us, the love of God that enfolds us, the power of God that protects us, and the presence of God that watches over us. As you light the new candle each Sunday, discuss what it means with your children. Create a ceremony out of the simple act of lighting a candle. Your children will delight in the event, no matter their age or their level of sarcasm, when they sense your commitment to the idea.

    * Save all those wonderful family photographs you receive in holiday cards. Come January 1, bring out one photo a day and place it in the center of your kitchen table, or in any central place. Bring your attention to the people pictured. A photo a day, surrounded by your prayers for their peace and joy in the new year, will deliver much more than simple good cheer back to the sender. One mom I know bundles her annual holiday cards, tying them with a beautiful ribbon. The following holiday season she rereads each one with her kids. She has about five years worth tucked away in a special box.


  9. December 28, 2010

    Oh my, lady. I hope you’re feeling better. (I think that that phone call with the doctor would have provided me with at least temporary comic relief.)

    As for Trader Joe’s: it is a destination worthy of pilgrimage. (The closest one is about an hour away from us and we look forward to our monthly trips like the zealots we are.) My must-haves (when not dealing with gestational diabetes, mind you): dark chocolate-covered pretzels, sesame-covered cashews, their version of Pirate’s Booty for the wee ‘uns, and their frozen chocolate croissants. But, honestly, you can’t go wrong.

    • December 28, 2010

      I’ve hear of this retail miracle called Trader Joe’s but never really been sad there isn’t one anywhere near us … until I read Kristen’s comment and got to the frozen chocolate croissants part. And now begins my lobbying campaign to bring a Trader Joe’s to my town …

      PS: Bummer about the throat, Rachel. Damn travel and germs! They always seem to go together.

      PPS: Yes, about Christmas. As we’re packing everything up to head home, I just want to toss all the new stuff out. We don’t need it, don’t have room for it, and probably won’t use most of it. Bah humbug!

  10. December 28, 2010

    As usual, you made me laugh out loud. I’m with you on the Christmas feelings. From my blog:
    “I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Christmas. On the one hand, I understand the feeling of belonging, joy and contentment everyone is striving for, and at times, have experienced them myself. But the mish-mash of obligation, sentimentality, rampant consumerism, outright greed and a religious story I simply do not buy into (no offence meant to those who do) often leaves me understanding what Scrooge meant by “bah, humbug”.”
    Trader Joes, how I love thee. I so rarely get to go. They have a great Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar that I bought after trying it on a visit to California myself this fall. It’s killer. And chocolate of course. Pretty much all of it.
    Love to you and yours. Feel better soon.

  11. December 28, 2010

    I think your doc may be a relative of mine. Wait, prolly not. They’re usually really good about handing out the drugs, regardless of where you are. Yay!

    I was not feeling Christmas this year at all. So, I’m witcha. Or something. I have no way in which to articulate this shift. I just wish we’d collectively care for the poor and discarded every day of the year, instead of twisting a story into an impetus for mindless consumption. (Just call me Debbie Downer.)

    Living without Trader Joe’s is part of my fear of moving. Le sigh. Get the Candy Cane Joe’s! So much sugar. Oh sweet babyjesus, they are divine.

  12. December 28, 2010

    I’m sitting at work reading this, laughing my ass off at the Col/chruch part. Nodding “exactly” to the part about wishing for a little more Holiday Simplicity when it comes to the kiddos…I really do want to know how my kids fell in love with Toy Story…and sorry you’re sick. Hope you feel better soon. As for Trader Joes~I always buy tamari almonds and chocolate covered orange sticks. Yum!

  13. December 28, 2010

    Christmas this year was overwhelming for us too. Too much ‘stuff’ despite our efforts to simplify; you can’t control family. We are switching things up next year.
    And despite our best intents, I think it will always be overwhelming. I mean, there is SO much build up to this one day and then in a blink of an eye it is over and we are all left feeling like we’ve had the shit kicked out of us. At least it is only once a year. :)

    Oregano oil kills strep on contact. We haven’t had anti-biotics in years…and even my 4 year old will take it. (We dilute his with a bit more olive oil…or just put it in his juice.)

    Loved the bit about Col…so frickin’ cute.

    I hope you are feeling better soon.

  14. ell.uu permalink
    December 28, 2010

    “maybe Christmas should come with a rating, like movies, so that if you’re young enough to be scared by Scooby Doo, you’re probably too young to handle the gracious receiving of more than a few presents at one time.”

    I think this may be the best sentence ever written to sum up the glut of Christmas. my house looks like a bomb blew up in a toy store, thanks be to my in-laws who only give gifts that require batteries. ::grumble::

    • Anonymous permalink
      December 28, 2010

      I too loved this line — I can totally relate though my kif”ds would deny it!

      We are at my parents’ house this year, along with my siblings and their families. It is so much fun to have all the cousins together but Christmas morning was terrible. Chaos, complaining, plastic. On the years we’re home we do a fewbthings in socks and one (biggish) gift for each kid. They love it and the day is mellow and special. We’ve also started celebrating solstice and next yr I think I am going to move the gifts to that day. After all, I realized that is probably the origin of the tree!

      Anyway, sorry about processing all over yr comments! And I’m sorry about your strep throat. We all got the stomach flu. Nothing like being together for the holidays! :)

  15. December 28, 2010

    Sorry — that anonymous post (just above) was me.

  16. December 29, 2010

    I probably shouldn’t admit this, but, well, my favorite things to get at TJ’s (we’re on such familiar terms) are junk foods. A few visits ago, I got some chocolate-covered peppermint Joe-Joes. Oh. My. (Okay, I also occasionally like to get some hummus and some pretzel crisps, or something like that.)

    I hope you feel better soon.

  17. December 29, 2010

    I’ve felt very Scrooge-like for the past few years around Christmas, but this year was the first in a long time that I enjoyed it. We are lucky, because our families are pretty low-key about the gifts and care about what they give. They are generally respectful about the choices they make for our kids. The only thing I didn’t like that they got this year was CandyLand. I love the sentiment of the holiday, and the spiritual part is special to me. I love the rituals and traditions, too, though I have enjoyed making new traditions with my children.

    I do struggle with the gifts – one of my biggest “love languages” is gifts, so it is very important to me to be able to give each person the “perfect” gift, and enough that I feel I am showing love. It is a lot of pressure. I like to make things for the people I care about, which takes a lot of time and energy and preparation, and that is where I get grumpy some times. I know if I planned better I’d be less stressed, and that is where I try to improve every year. I struggled with the gift attitude until I read the book about love languages, but now I understand myself a bit better, so my feelings make more sense.

    For Trader Joe’s – I shop there all the time. We depend on them for food substitutes for our food allergies – alternative breads, goat cheeses and yogurt, plus gluten free snacky stuff we can’t find anywhere else. My favorite thing right now are these curly chips made from lentil and potato flour. Filling and satisfying. Enjoy your trip there! You will find something you can’t live without!

    And, I really hope you feel better soon.

  18. Headyspencer permalink
    December 29, 2010

    You tell Col to let his freak flag fly! I love it.

    Hookahs not bazookas…. that is so great.

  19. Melissa Neta permalink
    December 29, 2010

    Oh, girl, I feel you about Christmas–which makes me some sort of traitor, for sure, but a girlfriend and I were talking about how binge-y it feels, like, presents! food! stockings! wham! and then it’s over and I sort of want to purge. Make sense?

    Especially because Hanukah was so fun this year and no one in our family needed more presents and yet, voila, more presents. And Avi appears to be confused (and bemused) about Santa. We watched the Polar Express (my mom got it for him) and Leeor was like, “A little preachy, no?”

    Feel better! Enjoy your peeps! Enjoy glorious California–I’ve been super in love with it lately.

    As for TJs, good lord, I love that place. Except that there are certain things I get and things I avoid (like the packaged produce, blech, and they don’t really have sustainable meat so I don’t buy meat there, either), but the snacks, oh, the snacks!

    Happy New Year!

  20. Melissa Neta permalink
    December 29, 2010

    PS. Hilarious, your convo with your doctor. For the record, the ER at CPMC is quite good and efficient, but for pete’s sake, who needs to sit there when you know what you have and simply need it called in?

    PPS. We are rocking the nebulizer. And antibiotics because my chunky flower also got herself an ear infection. Didn’t you have a post about how we surprise ourselves with what we acquiesce to (eg, antibiotics for 7 month old children because they just need to get better already??). xo

    • 6512 and growing permalink
      December 29, 2010

      RSV, ear infection and pink eye? Oh my! That is a lot for one little chunkster. But you do what you have to do because seeing your children suffer is the worst. You can think of her nebulizer as her hookah!

  21. December 29, 2010

    I hope by the time you read this your head will feel lighter and your tonsils are down! Sorry you got ill, illness always come at a bad time..Take it easy (if you can manage that one with two young ones).
    I think your doing great so far…keep going.Ginny

  22. December 29, 2010

    Ugh. I spent Christmas in Durango myself. It was a zoo! Downtown was crazy busy. Looks like you’ve got a ton of snow today. Hope you are feeling better!

  23. January 1, 2011

    Man, strep sucks!!! The grandboy and I were both sick too. Bronchitis for me, ear infection for him. We got us a whole boatload of meds on the Monday after Christmas.
    I have liked Christmas the last few years, although we mostly do the Solstice. I have focused on get-togethers around Solstice, and tried very hard to keep gifts for the boy very small and manageable. Fortunately, as the case may be, my husband’s family has completely disconnected from us since the birth of our grandson to his then-16-year-old mom, so we get no garbage from them, including annoying phone calls. My family has little money to spare, so the few gifts he gets from them are geared to his interests, and small! Yay!
    This year, little dude gave me a fierce hug one night at bedtime and told me the best gift was having me for his Gramma. I think we’re doing okay…

    Oh gawd, Trader Joe’s… I love the Bay Blend dark roast coffee, the half-salt cashew pieces, the triple ginger cookies, the chocolate cat cookies, the frozen biryani rice mix which takes a wee bit of tofu and 10 minutes to become delicious dinner on a busy night… I miss the TJ’s in Seattle. Our closest one here is in Ann Arbor, which is almost 3 hours. At least it’s close to Whole Foods? meh… Now, when we move to Montana this summer (oh man! so glad it’s 2011 today!! I get to say we’re moving THIS YEAR!), the closest TJ’s may again be in Seattle! LOL! At least I’ll get to see my sister occasionally. At present, it’s been since her wedding 5 and a half years ago.

  24. January 2, 2011

    Also, you can possibly get the sticker at Distractions on Haight Street. It looks like The Psychedelic Shop is gone. :-(
    Good luck!

  25. January 3, 2011

    Oh girl! I hope your throat is better. No fun! My son decided we needed to see the redwoods very soon too. What a magical place. I hope you found your bumper sticker too! Happy New Year!

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