Posts Tagged With: Kids

Snap: Ten Things I Tell My Kids

I’ve previously shared the wisdom and gifts I receive from my children; here are a few things I say to them.

  1. I’m sorry you don’t like it. Write your congressman.
  2. Is it broken forever or just for a minute?
  3. Dude, hands out of the pants. (mostly to my son, although my husband has been busted a few times)
  4. Is this really how you want this to go down?
  5. Stop!
  6. Holy cow, really?
  7. Stop micromanaging your brother. (to my daughter)
  8. When [doggie, kitty, bird, etc] goes in it’s house, it wants a time out. Respect it’s wishes.
  9. What is that?
  10. I love you so much, no one else will ever be good enough for you.

Have a wonderful weekend!



Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Snap: Ten Things My Son Gives Me

Mommy and AlexLast week, I gave you ten sound bites from my six-year-old daughter, Liliana. While I would love to provide the same for my two-year-old son, his would consist of mostly growling (as he is part dinosaur) or saying his cheek is “broken” in order to get a kiss. He is a giver though, and here are some of his favorite things to pass on to me:

  1. Boogers (either handed to me or wiped on my face)
  2. Poop (animal)
  3. His favorite toys (which he wants me to kiss and hug, but then when I do, he gets mad, pushes them aside, and takes the hugging/kissing for himself)
  4. Poop (his)
  5. Pants (his)
  6. Pats on my back when I hold him
  7. Gravel (or any other rock, including chunks of sidewalk)
  8. Dead mice (regifted from our cat)
  9. Food (half-eaten)
  10. Kisses (pretty much anywhere, although my face and hands are his target zones)
Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Snap: Ten Things My Daughter Says

Photo by Amy Cerka

Photo by Amy Cerka

At age six, my daughter Liliana already has a mouth on her. This is probably not a surprise to people who know us, but sometimes the things she comes up with leave me battling to keep a straight face.

  1. “It came from my own imagination.”
  2. “Awkward.”
  3. “Do we really need this drama?”
  4. “If [blank] happens, I will cry to death.”
  5. “Just let me be who I am!”
  6. “That was 100 awesome!”
  7. “Oh, you’re tricksing.”
  8. “Winner, winner. Tofu dinner.”
  9. “You are repressing me!” (usually coupled with number 5)
  10. “I am a delight.”
Categories: Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , | 2 Comments


is for 10 things that rocked this week. See how I did that? It’s X day, but I’m twisting it for my own meaning. Perhaps I should got into politics. This week was pretty stellar, I have to say, so coming up with 10 instead of 5 was an easy task.

  1. Buzzfeed article are regulars on my list because they are so darn funny. My favorite from this week? “26 Reasons Kids Are Pretty Much Just Tiny Drunk Adults.”
  2. Kendragarden talks about her love of Horror movies. She likes what she likes and that’s okay.
  3. Artist Jhenai Mootz gave a fantastic Wild Women interview.
  4. We’ve been watching House of  Cards on Netflix. It’s shaping up to be really intriguing, although I have mixed feelings about Kate Mara being the Mistress–again.
  5. Loving the new season of Mad Men? Over on Ploughshares, A.J. Kandathil (my new pen pal bestie) discusses the “hidden narrator” who drives the series. A thought provoking take on a show that often defies explanation.
  6. Caitlin O’Neil’s “Riding in Cars with Words” reminisces about how her childhood road trips have shaped her as a writer. Plus it has a Muppet video, which is always a good decision.
  7. Part Four of my look at Cowboys debuted this week. I hope people are enjoying reading these posts as much as I’m enjoying writing them.
  8. It was a big week in general for writing on my end: both Cinefilles and The Baraza featured my posts, on Shakespeare and Lisa Frank Trapper Keepers, respectively.
  9. Peggy Orenstein’s look at the sexualization of Candyland is insightful and thought provoking.
  10. Speaking of Orenstain, I finished reading Schoolgirls and wrote this post on it. The reaction has been fantastic. Thanks to all of you who have Tweeted, Shared, Commented, Emailed, and Texted me about this post and how much you can relate. My only regret is that I only have one copy to lend out and the line is getting longer every day.

What rocked your week?



Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art, The Little People and Furry Friends, Write On | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

S is for Schoolgirls (A Crisis of Esteem)

Ignore any naughtiness implied in the title; my reference is specifically to Peggy Orenstein’s 1994 book of the same name, subtitled Young Women, Self-Esteem, and the Confidence Gap. Banish ye now any lame fetish costume fantasy (and sadly Google’s ‘helper’ when you search for the book by name). I picked this up at Book People a few weeks on recommendation from one of the employees. Tip of the hat to you, Seth of Book People.

This book has a great deal of resonance with me for several reasons. First, the girls Orenstein studies are almost exactly my own age: I was in eighth grade in 1992-93. Reading along, all too often I find myself identifying with the girls on their journeys. The Nates and Kyles that dot Orenstein’s pages, boys who were held to different standards, encouraged, and allowed to dominate the classroom had different names in my school, but they were there none the less. Seventh and eighth grade were, thinking back, the place where my academics took a decisive turn.

I won’t pretend I would have grown up to be in a math or science field; English was always my strong suit. But I was good at math. In fact, I was the math tutor for our sixth grade class four grading periods in a row (an honor you got by having the highest average in the class). Once I got to junior high, things changed. At first, I got  teachers’ attention by trying to ask and answer questions. When that didn’t work, when they ignored or shamed me (which led some of my classmates to shame me), I started cracking jokes. The ones that got me attention usually involved me playing dumb. Beginning in about the seventh grade, people assumed I was an airhead. Sometimes I even bought the hype. Finally, one teacher pulled me aside and told me to stop joking around in her classroom because it was disruptive. The next class one of the guys led us in a Monty Python sing-a-long (which was awesome, btw, but you see my point). So I got quiet in most of my classes or when I did talk, it was to make a joke, not engage in the class. Mostly I was silent.

Consequently, it was shocking to a number of people, some of my closest friends included, when I was named a National Merit Scholar my junior year. Again with the shock when I went on to NYU (granted it was for theatre, but my grades didn’t hurt). The world of NYU was different. We were more competitive and mature. But it was hard to shake the airhead game. Outside of the classroom, I was snarky instead of spacey, although it was still assumed that I was the least intelligent of my friends. In class I never spoke because I wasn’t in the habit. Graduate school would actually mark the first time I spoke out in a classroom, mostly because I was frustrated by how quiet everyone else was when I knew the answers. I became the aggressive, confident one who felt entitled to my opinion.

When I was recently interviewed for our local newspaper, the interviewer asked me how I felt about the Lean In assertion that women are less likely to broadcast their success. I brushed it off and redirected the question because I didn’t know how to answer it. I mean, I Tweet and Facebook my publications and promotions. That’s not underplaying my success, right? A few weeks later, one of the higher ups at my college cornered me to pay me a compliment on the work I’ve been doing leading a faculty committee. Again, I deflected, making a joke about not knowing what I’m doing and redirecting. When she refused to stop her praise, I finally asked her to stop because it was making me uncomfortable.

Reading the introduction to Schoolgirls something struck me: “Too often we deride our own abilities. We denigrate our work and discount success. We don’t feel we have the right to our dreams, or, if we achieve them, we feel undeserving.” I do tell people about my success, but I feel nervous and slightly ashamed when I do it. Telling my friends and family, I am embarrassed, like I’m bragging about myself. It feels unladylike and selfish to assume that others would care about something I wrote. Usually, I undersell it with something like, “Oh yeah, I sort of sold a story to a magazine. It’s just a silly little piece, some more fluffy bunny crap.” I’ve been known to call my work, and myself, a cream puff. When that administrator praised me, I wish I could have accepted it gracefully, but I really didn’t know how, fearing I would sound either insincere, egotistical, or both. Generally when people do compliment me on my work, I brush it off and try to change the subject because I assume they are just being nice.

Before too much eye rolling ensues and someone points out how stupid these issues are for a grown woman,  I will tell you that reading Schoolgirls and actually writing this, I realize how crazy and destructive this form of thinking really is. Like crazy pants to the millionth degree. I have enough ego to be proud of myself, but not enough to really enjoy it without feeling bad. The impersonal nature of virtual communication–Facebook, blogging, Twitter, email–is an infinitely easier forum for me to share success than face to face. This is the first time I’ve ever articulated it, even to myself. Before now it has just been the sick feeling in my stomach when I hit Tweet or try to bring up the courage to tell someone that, by the way, I maybe sort of won an award. It took me the better part of a year to get over myself and actually post my publication list on my own blog. I bought Schoolgirls to help me anticipate some of the challenges of raising a daughter. Turns out I need it for me.

There is one page, again in the introduction, that I turned down and highlighted. Orenstein talks about confessing to her adviser her feeling of “fraudulence” in trying to construct her senior thesis, a fear of being recognized as unworthy. The adviser’s response? “‘You feel like an imposter,’ she asked. ‘Don’t worry about it. All smart women feel that way.'”

Is that true? Do smart women feel like they are the verge of being called out as having no clothes, no right to their point of view, no value in their success?

As for my daughter, I see early signs of the behaviors Orenstein documents–giving up when things get too hard, crumbling under mistakes, equating being good with being smart (which are not actually the same thing). When I do discuss things with her teacher about why something happened in the classroom, often she begins with, “Well, those boys can be rowdy.” This is not a critique of the teacher; it is merely an observation that aligns with some of the later patterns presented in Schoolgirls.

Reading Schoolgirls has given me a great deal to think about, both for myself and my daughter. I highly recommend this book and hope my husband will read it as well. It’s something we need to talk about together.



Categories: Get Smart, Life and Other Nonsense, Objects de Art | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Dear Parents: Some Rules Aren’t Made to Be Broken

Dear Fellow Parents:

Fess up–this parenting thing is harder than you thought it would be. When they were babies and you were living in that dark tunnel of no sleep-crying-poop, you thought, “It’s going to get better.” And it did, depending on the how terrible twos and threes went for you. Or you at least got used to it. (Side note: have you noticed every time you figure out something, like how to handle tantrums, your child evolves and creates a new nightmare of crazy that you never imagined you’d have to deal with?)

Here’s the thing: parenting is hard and for me, the older they get, the more challenging it gets. Now we’re not just responsible for feeding and changing; we are responsible for creating members of society. I think one big step toward that is stopping all this holiday blow out nonsense. I’ve complained about it. Others have complained about it. It’s like a runaway train of ridiculous.

For today though, I’d like to address a specific issue: rules. Our world is constructed of rules. It’s how we train the id that it’s not okay to just do whatever it wants. It’s why my toddler gets so frustrated with me (“No Alex, we do not pull down our pants and wiggle our hips and boy parts at passing ladies”). Kids have a hard enough time learning to make moral decisions and obey the rules. Please stop picking which rules they follow.

At my daughter’s school, the kids are not supposed to bring toys to school, wear sandals, or wear short skirts. From my perspective, these are all logical rules: toys get broken, lost, or cause outbreaks of “It’s mine!” Sandals are not the best footwear for playing outside or going to PE. And as for the skirts? They are little girls, not contestants on The Bachelor.

When we first enrolled in our current school, I sat down and read the handbook cover to cover. Our family talked about the rules and expectations so everyone was aware of them. And we follow them.

Where this gets hard is that other parents pick and choose which rules their children should follow. Every time I dropped my daughter off last fall, I got to watch a number of little girls in ribboned, jeweled, or otherwise adorned sandals tromp into school. A friend of my daughter keeps bringing her entire collection of My Little Pony for recess. And when I pick my daughter up I’ve seen way too much little girl bootie exposed when bending over to pick up backpacks.

So what, Amber? Who cares? It’s just silly stuff. It’s not like they’re breaking important rules. They’re kids! Let them enjoy it.

My point is this: when a parent allows a child to knowingly break a rule, especially one established by someone else, they are teaching their child two things. First, that they can pick and choose which rules they want to follow depending on what they want. Second, they are more important and special than other people because the rules don’t apply to them.

I’m not saying we should all raise little conformists. My daughter electing to bring vegan snacks for her week as snack helper proves that. But when we model from an early age a disregard for rules and guidelines, we are teaching children that those types of behaviors are acceptable.

About once a week I have to explain to Lili why she can’t wear sandals or take her toys. We’ve actually gone and read the handbook now that her reading is better and I try to explain why these rules exist. Still, a few weeks ago she went against the rules and took a pony stowaway to school so she would have one to play with at recess. When we found out about it, she lost the privilege of playing with the pony for two days (“what you abuse, you lose”). She was upset, arguing that other little girls got to bring their toys. My reply was merely, “That’s between them and their parents. We follow the rules.”

These children are going to grow into young adults and adults who need to at least understand the importance of rules. Certainly they can and should question them, but in the end part of being a grownup in following rules, particularly those set up for good reasons.

I’m your biggest fan, fellow parents, because I know how hard this is for all of us. Just please make your daughters wear tennis shoes.



Categories: Get Smart, Let Me Entertain You, Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Never Met a Girl Like You Before

Looking over last year’s posts, apparently my frustration with the mothers at my daughter’s school struck around the same time. Why do I keep letting these people suck the energy out of me? Reposted from last February:

I was dropping off my daughter at school this morning when another mother heard me wish her a good day. She looked at me, did a double take, and asked, “You’re Liliana’s mother?” I nodded.

I literally counted to 20 in my head as she looked me over from head to toe. My mind started racing, wondering what exactly was wrong. I don’t work on Fridays, so I was wearing my ‘mom wear’–usually jeans or yoga pants, TOMS, some sort of t-shirt, and a hoodie or sweater. Today it was jeans, red TOMS, a Kurt Vonnegut shirt, and a pink hoodie. I never fix my hair, even for work, but sloppy chignons or ponytails are pretty standard for moms. I even had on a little make up.

“Huh,” she finally said. “You’re very stylish for one of those kinds of people.”

For those of you who know me, you can probably picture that look I get when I’m confused, where I cock my head like a dog.

“What kind of people?” Teachers? Redheads?

“Well, you always do the whole wheat bread and snacks, like at the Christmas Party, and you did those plantable Valentines–one of those kind of people.”

Then she was gone, leaving me to ponder what she considers ‘those kind of people.’ And how is it they lack style? And what did she mean, qualifying my stylishness?

As I sat in my car, getting ready to exit the parking lot, I was trapped in a glass and metal case of confusion. Is there something wrong with whole wheat bread for PB&J? Was I wrong to send Valentines that can be planted to grow wildflowers instead of candy and paper cards that will end up in a landfill? Am I that poorly dressed? And we already know the drama of the Gingerbread men (and women–I included girls not to be biased).

Then I thought about this woman and her apparently small world of experience where just because I give thought to what I feed my child and how my actions impact the future, not just the now, I should be wearing a potato sack and not know what mascara is for. And then rolled my eyes, shook my head, and drove my son in his cloth diapers and Amber teething beads home to do yoga to the sounds of Guns N Roses.

She can suck it.

Categories: The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Hippie Freak Mother’s Plea for Valentine’s Day

Image courtesy of Relevant Magazine

My daughter’s school must think I am some of sort of hippie freak (which I am, just not in the way they think). For example, Lili brings her lunch to school everyday, even the two days a week the school brings in Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s Pizza. I avoid most of their fundraising drives. Liliana often goes to school in wildly clashing colors and patterns.

There are, in my opinion, reasonable explanations for these. Putting aside my ideological issues with Chick-fil-a and Papa John’s, we don’t think she should get in the habit of eating fast food twice a week at school just because the other kids are doing it. Liliana hates pickles, so I don’t think contributing to the football fundraiser that involves buying her pickles all the time is logical. And my daughter dresses herself and looks cute in her own way. She at least looks like her own person.

It probably doesn’t help that the days I don’t have to drive directly to work, Charleigh, our border collie mix, helps take Lili to school. One of the drop off/pick up helpers thinks she’s some sort of giant mutant dog. (She only weighs like 40 pounds–the dog world is so sizest.) Or there was the time I was waiting to pick Lili up and took a shot of clear cough medicine out of a small, clear glass, only to see the woman behind me in the review mirror, her mouth dropped in horror. So maybe they think I drink in the pick up lane, too. Oops.

My hippie-freakness has become especially prevalent around the holidays. Both of my children attend schools where people go overboard. At Christmas, we were supposed to send sixteen little stocking stuffers for Lili’s class and a wrapped book under ten dollars for Alex’s class. Lili gave her friends pencils with eraser toppers that I knew they could use in class. Alex brought a paperboard copy of The Little Engine that Could.

In return, we received bagfuls of stuff from the other kids–individual stockings full of candy, felt bags overflowing with stickers and glitter pens, stuffed animals, Hot Wheels, and tiny toys too varied to name. While I appreciate the generosity at the heart of it, it’s just too much. A two-year-old does not need Fun Dip (actually no one needs Fun Dip), a one-inch ornament, stuffed miniature bear, and three lollipops–especially not all from the same child.

Being the hippie freak that I am, I just think about what messages we’re sending through (and to) our kids. What Kindergartner really needs seven pencils, two mini coloring books, stamps, and holiday tape? (Again from one child.) With sixteen children in her class, Lili would have had plenty with just one thing from each child. As it is, it all gets lost in the noise–a heaping pile of plastic, throw away, sticky, choking hazard mess that she will lose, break, or forget about. Consumption this way is so conspicuous and feels so hollow.

It also blows my mind that in a class full of two-year-olds, people would give out so much candy. My kids are allowed one sweet type thing a day and it has to be before five. They only have one cup of juice each day at lunch. The rest of the time it’s water or non-dairy milk. (What happens when they are with their grandparents is unfortunately out my hands. At least my mom is kind enough to lie to me if she’s hopping them up.)

I’m not asking that parents adhere to my dietary restrictions. Both my kids eat some dairy and meat. But no matter who your kid is or what your beliefs are, that much sugar is never a good idea. As a result I become the lame mom that sends pretzels or vegan fruit snacks for Trick or Treating. My main compliant against giving out candy can be summed up in the following story:

Last Saturday while I was dealing with laundry, Alex found a Fun Dip. Despite my efforts to purge the candy from Christmas (I hate being wasteful, but I don’t really know what else to do with it), this little packet had fallen out into Lili’s backpack. Exploring, as little boys do, Alex discovered it and claimed it for his own. I found him hiding under the desk (because he knew he shouldn’t have it), his mouth and hands bright green, powdered sugary stuff everywhere. He was crazy for about an hour and then cranky. It wasn’t great for his system, either. We won’t even talk about the stains that I can’t get out of his shirt, the floor, and the wall. (Our cat somehow managed to get it out of her fur, so maybe I’ll see if she has some tips.)

I am already dreading Valentine’s Day when scads of candy and toys will hitch a ride into my house. Thus I am asking all mothers: can we not? Can we not go overboard? Can we go for quality over quantity? Can we teach our children that the world is not made of throw away material things? Can we think about the impact of our actions on others, especially our impressionable children? Can we keep it simple and sweet?

Last year Lili gave out seed imbedded Valentine cards that could be planted. I’m starting to brainstorm ideas for this year. It would probably be in poor taste to regift all those toys and candy from Christmas, right?



Categories: Feed the Belly, Life and Other Nonsense, The Little People and Furry Friends | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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