Five and Fighting: The Gender Politics of Kindergarten

tumblr_m68dxddxw51qjyc47o1_5001My daughter is five years old. My bright, amazing, wonderful, smart, talented, loving, and challenging girl is five. I thought that I had years, three at the least, five at best, before I had to really worry about gender politics and autonomy. Funny, because now I am realizing that I have been worrying since the moment that the ultrasound tech typed our chosen girl’s name on the screen. I guess I was just ready for allowing my daughter to pick her own toys and interests. I was willing to accept her pink walls and love of princesses right along with her fascination with maps, bugs, and living things. I was all about my husband having tea parties one minute, and introducing her to Mario Galaxy the next. I was ready for us, for me, for her…I was not prepared for the rest of the world.
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In Defense of Love: A Straight, Urban Housewife’s Views on DOMA.

ImageI wrote this blog a while ago and never published it, because I try to avoid being political…mostly, but in light of today’s historic DOMA ruling, I am going to go ahead and say it, loud and proud as an ally…I love you. I don’t care who you are. I don’t care who you love, or what consenting adult you choose to have sex with. I don’t care if you’re a sequin loving man who dances with abandon on a google eyed float in a speedo at Pride Fest, or a corporate lawyeress (that’s the correct term, right?) with a loving wife at home. I love you if you’re a housewife with two kids and a doting husband, and I love (but not in that way) your husband too. I don’t really give a damn what you do in your bedroom, as long as you first do no harm. I care about love. And love is what won today.
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The Amazing Un-rivalry of Wonder Woman and Pixie Puff

ImageMy girls, the aforementioned Wonder Woman, and Pixie Puff are two and four and a half years old. (The names were chosen by the aforementioned WW, to whom that “half” has become very important.) When searching for new blog topics, a friend suggested that I write about sibling rivalry. I normally think about the blogs that I am going to write for a while before I actually sit down at the keyboard. This one took longer than most. Here’s why…

As I am typing they are standing in a hug and watching Super Why together. PP just said, “La Loo” (Love you) to WW, and WW responded, “Sister HUG!” I am not even kidding. This is happening. Really. Now they are in the kitchen playing ring around the rosy, and making each other laugh. Seriously. In this respect my parenting life is charmed. That’s not to say that they don’t occasionally get in fights over toys, or disagree about what to do, but in terms of competing with one another for parental affection, or just in general…it doesn’t happen. My only other experience with sibling rivalry was with my older brother growing up, and that was very different. I don’t know about rivalry per se, but I am pretty sure that if he could have literally sold me to gypsies, he would have, and gladly. (PS…he grew into a lovely person, and now we are good friends, so there is hope, even in the worst of cases!!) That lead me to wonder, is it nature, or nurture? What did we do differently?

The first bit is definitely nature. WW is an incredibly smart, perceptive, and emotional little lady. But, on the nurture side, we have always treated her as such. We believe wholeheartedly in our home in the power of language, and that arming children with the ability to communicate their wants and needs is paramount to a building a happy home. There are some words that are the only word for a given situation or emotion, and we knew that WW was capable of learning and understanding the meaning of those words. Because she is so sensitive, one of the first big words we taught her was, “overwhelmed.” It is a good one for kids to know, because there is no other word for that feeling, and pre-schoolers, especially bright ones, will feel it often. We also taught her from very early on (this is where having a Buddhist for a mommy comes in handy) how to be mindful, aware, and accepting of her feelings, even the, “negative,” ones. We have explained that all of her feelings are important, and valid, and that they should all be treated as a vital part of her. It is never our feelings that our “bad,” but we can choose to express those feelings in a harmful unproductive way, or in a way that helps to change the situation and make it better for everyone involved. You may think that sounds like a lot for a kid. You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, “jeez, my two/three/four year old would never respond to that.” But at those ages the language and emotional centers of the brain are sponges. They will pick up what you lay down, so why not lay down the foundation of healthy communication regarding difficult emotional situations? You just have to trust yourself, and them. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. And your child having the ability to come to a parent and say, “I am feeling overwhelmed and lonely because I feel like (sister/brother) is getting all of your attention,” will go a long way towards curbing tantrums, outbursts, and rage towards a new sibling.

Nature, again, PP was born a (mostly) calm and laid back little thing. We called her, “everybody’s baby,” for the longest time because she just loves people. She has a temper that has begun to manifest since she has turned two, but once again, we are teaching her to use words to express herself. So we are very lucky to be blessed with two generally lovely girls. Beyond that, though, we also make sure that they know how blessed we feel.

When I was pregnant with PP, we began a propaganda campaign with WW centered around the idea that as my belly grew, so did mommy and daddy’s hearts, so that we would always have enough love for both of our girls. (Thanks to my amazing cousin for that imagery!) We made it clear from day one that WW was important, loved, wanted, and special. Heck, we say those exact words to her on a semi-regular basis. We are also incredibly honest with both of our girls regarding our own feelings. (When they understand what overwhelmed means, they can empathize (another word we taught) when a parent says that they feel overwhelmed.) We tell them when we need space (Me/Myself time ala Frances the Badger) and we respect when they need space. Similarly, we ask for cuddles and snuggles. We initiate sometimes, because it is important that they know that those things are just as important and special to us as to them. Think of it this way: In your romantic relationship, if you are the only one initiating affection, wouldn’t you feel unloved and unimportant? All relationships are give and take. And you often end up getting what you give. (Karma: If you plant a mango seed…you get a mango tree.) We have always tried very hard to make our family life, our relationships, inclusive. We have individual mommy/daddy dates with the girls, we tag team bedtimes, we talk to them like valid members of our household and let them have a say in decisions from what to eat for dinner, to what color mommy should dye her hair.

In short, we try not to give them any reason to be rivals. They know that they are different people, but equally important in our eyes. They know that when WW is getting a hug, PP will get one next, and vice versa. They know that they are important, loved, wanted, and special, and more importantly, they feel that way about each other. “She’s your sister, and a sister is a special thing.” I’m not entirely sure how much of it is nature, and how much is nurture. I don’t know if it is just the luck of the gene pool, or if we have just happened upon some magic rival-less formula to parenting, but I know it is working for us. My daughters may not eat anything that I put in front of them. Ever. But hey, at least they will be united in their stubborn refusal of broccoli. It’s all about the little victories, really.

Let’s Talk About the Skin You’re In

When I am not blogging for Ooh Belly, being momma to the two best girls, or being wife and friend to love my love, I am running a small, natural and organic, handcrafted skincare business called Naturalized Citizen Skincare. Somehow, even though I live, sleep and breathe natural skincare 24/7, I have yet to blog about it. I figured it is about time, and I am going to begin with the basics. Here’s over the counter Big Cosmetic skincare decoded, and answers to the five most frequently asked questions I hear about your average drugstore products. (Please feel free to chime in on the comments section with any other questions. I will be more than happy to answer them if I can.)

On antiperspirants- READ MORE HERE

On SLS- READ MORE HERE

On SPF- READ MORE HERE

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It Will Never Be The Same

ImageThis week, for me, has moved in slow motion. I have waded between various unrealized thoughts, in and out of moods barely formed before they change, and through a growing sea of painful numbness, as though the blood flow to some vital part of my psyche has been staunched. This week, my baby turned two, which any mother will tell you is a traumatic experience in and of itself; keenly bittersweet, especially when it is your last child. This week while driving to pick up my eldest from school, my usual NPR programming was interrupted to say that there had been explosions reported at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Like most of the nation that still suffers from some degree of PTSD after September 11th, I went cold. Ten minutes later I walked in to my daughter’s classroom and was pulled aside by the teacher who informed me that the mother of one of my child’s classmates committed suicide last week, that the children were told of the death that day, and that there may be questions at home. There were. This week I watched a city and a nation rise, I watched a tiny town in Texas burn, and I saw a young boy who I have known and interacted with almost every day for the past two years struggle with the fact that his life will never be the same…and try to cope with levels of pain, guilt, and grief that I cannot even begin to understand.
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The Momicorn: Because Geek Moms DO Exist.

ImageA smattering of things that I know:

  1. Han shot first. (Duh) He was also the only non-jedi in the original trilogy to ever wield a light saber.
  2. That high elvish is actually based on a nearly extinct dialect of Finnish
  3. That I am Green Ajah.
  4. That George R. R. Martin, outside of Game of Thrones, also penned one of the most believable vampire origin stories of all time
  5. How to use power tools correctly and safely.
  6. How to make minor fixes to my own car.
  7. That “god particle,” is a misnomer, and why…
  8. That, despite the gorgeous graphics of Twilight Princess, Majora’s Mask is still my favorite of the LOZ titles.
  9. How to troubleshoot my own computer.

10. That it’s bigger on the inside.
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The Shallow End of The Green Pool: Going Green for Beginners

ImageGreen living: Celebrities do it, the interwebs is full of people doing it, magazines, tv shows, books, whole stores have been devoted to the gospel of green. But how does one get to “green,” especially when you’re starting from a water bottles and disposable everything existence, as so many people are? It can be done, you just have to pace yourself, and pick a place to begin. Here are some suggestions from the shallow end of the green pool. When you feel comfortable, wade in a bit deeper, and before you know it you’ll be swimming happily with the other neo-hippy fish in the slightly judgey end of the deep green sea. (Oh, please, like I am the only one who’s judgey? Take a long hard mirror gaze, Grocery Totes McGee, then come on over, and I’ll air pop some corn while we watch Fraggle Rock on Netflix.)

  1. Break down compound packaging.- Pasta boxes, cereal boxes, toothpaste, bulk buys, all of these things come in compound packages, meaning part of the packaging is recyclable cardboard, and the other part is non-recyclable polystyrene. If you break them down, which takes all of five seconds, and can be strangely satisfying, then you can recycle the cardboard and discard the rest. This may seem like a no-brainer, but how many of us actually take the time to do it?

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Apps to Love: by Wonder Woman’s Mommy

ImageI am a tech mom, unashamedly, and unabashedly. It’s a controversial subject. I may be slammed with vitriol in the comments section, and and that is fine. I am prepared. I know, however, that despite what we may tell everyone else (and even ourselves) that I am not the only one. The iPad is a much loved friend and teacher in our house. My daughters, henceforth they shall be known as Wonder Woman and Pixie Puff, or WW and PP (why? Well, apparently it is a thing when you’re a mommy blogger to adopt Secret Service like codenames for your kidos to protect their anonymity. So, I let eldest (Wonder Woman) come up with the names, because all of my ideas were rubbish, and who is better at code names than a 4 ½ year old? Anyhow, back to it…)
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S#*t’s Far

ImageI haven’t blogged in a few weeks now. Why? Honestly, because I have been swimming in a sea of negativity, and I harbor a righteous and bone deep fear (since being voted “Little Miss Sunshine” by my peers Freshman year of college) of being perceived as Debbie Downer if I publically express said negativity. It is one of the few areas of my life where the negative self-talk still prevails. It isn’t that I don’t allow myself to feel unhappy. I accept my emotions as a part of me, and I treat them all with compassion and kindness. (I just tend to treat the sadness and anxiety with compassion and kindness…while they are locked in the attic recesses of my mind.) So, here I am. Emptying the attic. Shooing the bats from the belfry, as it were, and I’ve just got to say, (as a dear friend from college once said (drunk from the backseat) on a road-trip) “shit’s far.”
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Dear Valentine, Please put on my shoes!

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(Shoe fetishists who read that literally will be very disappointed with the rest of this post.)

Valentine’s day is, well, it is what it is: Created by greeting card/chocolate companies, middle school torture, pointless, since we should say, “I love you,” all year long, an excuse for epic nerd rage, a night to revel in the love of your cat/best friend/favorite Meg Ryan Movie, or a time of utter confusion for straight men everywhere. Roses, chocolate, sappy card, giant teddy bears, lingerie (never get her lingerie), dinner, a movie, that collectible action figure she’s had her eye on…which do you choose?

Lucky for you, I am here to help! The answer is simple. In terms of a gift, any of the above will do. (Except lingerie. Seriously. Don’t go there.) I mean it though, they are all equally hollow expressions that pass (on this one day a year, through the magic of St. Valentine and ad wizards!) for real and honest emotional connection. Don’t get me wrong. The thought does count. It does. A bouquet of flowers (make sure it is not a kind that she is allergic to) is definitely better than doing nothing at all, but I have a better idea, and ladies, this applies to you too. Poor fellas tend to get the short end of the chocolate rose.
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