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Off The Wagon


We have just spent seven days on a dude ranch in southern Colorado with my extended family on my mother’s side. We do this every couple of years. It helps keep a geographically disparate family connected while allowing us to ride horses, fall off horses, fish for rainbow trout, hike, swim, nurse the ear, chest, throat and sinus infections we’ve picked up on the plane, and read books to our hearts’ content.

This trip was May Blossom’s first such holiday. Two years ago she came to the ranch in utero, which was more fun for her than it was for me. Being five months pregnant at high altitude while all your rellies get to ride horses and shoot guns feels like a ripoff, no matter how excited you are to be having a baby. And I managed to do it again this time. Being five months pregnant at high altitude while wrangling a toddler is very good for making you look back and realize how easy you had it before.

This trip was also a trip to rehab, of sorts. Before we left Sydney, I was forced to acknowledge that May Blossom’s babyccino habit was officially Out Of Control. For non Australian readers, a babyccino is a license to print money. It is about twenty millilitres of warm milk in an espresso cup with a tablespoon or two of milk foam on top and a sprinkling of chocolate powder. Cafes in Sydney charge between nothing and $2 for one, and they are a very useful way of occupying a child aged between one and three for anywhere from two to twenty minutes. They buy you time to drink a cup of coffee, before mopping up the spilled residue of babyccino, scrubbing the chocolate monobrow off your child’s face and leaving an apologetically large tip for the staff. May Blossom had her first babyccino shortly before she turned one and she has hardly gone a day without one since, to my great yuppie shame. But by a few weeks ago, one a day had become two, which had sometimes become three. We had started making them at home too, which you can do with a coffee plunger of warm milk, but things were really getting a little out of hand.

They don’t have babyccinos in the US generally, and they sure as hell don’t have them, or the means to cobble one together, on a dude ranch. This was our chance, we thought. We could get our kid to go cold turkey on the white froth. Surely a week was long enough for her to forget about them. My only concern was that the ranch had a hot chocolate machine. I feared a situation like when you hear about a celebrity going into rehab for smoking a few joints and they come out with a heroin addiction.

It didn’t work. We had three days without a babyccino, then we cracked and drove to Taos for an outing, where we explained to a bemused barista what we wanted. The simplest explanation we have come up with is ‘a tiny cappuccino with no coffee’. This invariably means it comes in what we would deem a large takeaway cup, which is the smallest size they have here. Go big or go home. This is of no concern to the littlest lactolover, who chugged her New Mexican babyccino in about thirty seconds.

When we returned to the ranch her favorite game had been resurrected: bustling about pretending to make babyccinos for other people. First she bustles to an imaginary fridge, then moves to an imaginary espresso machine and makes frothing noises. Once the invisiccino is presented to the customer, he or she is allowed to take one single sip before the cup is whisked away for a refill with the query/ order ‘More?!’

Now we are off the ranch and off the wagon. Babyccinos are back on the menu, pretty much daily. But she doesn’t have a hot chocolate addiction, so I am counting that as a parenting win. I’ll take them where I can get them.

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