Thursday, July 29, 2010

Morning Story

Sleeping Bobby has been a hit this week.  It's been the morning story, the bed time story, and the book I find lodged between Miss C and the wall when I peek on her at night.
Which means that she's been getting out of bed and sneaking Sleeping Bobby!

Twists on old fairy tales tend to really make her mind do contortionist twists.
This page has gotten some wear:
It's where 12 Wise Women come to bring gifts to Bobby.  (In the Sleeping Beauty version, I believe it's 12 Fairies...but mythology experts correct me).
And the first time I read that, the line, "twelve wise women," Miss C inserted, "and 3 wise men."
Quick as a wink, as if I'd just left off that part entirely.

Because what would a fairy tale be if you didn't throw in a little nativity and mix it all up?
Jesus and Bobby and Aurora and the Virgin Mary: voila.

"Well, I think that's a different story."

"No, they are there..." she traces the page with her finger, searching for the wise men bearing gold and frankincense and myrrh for baby Bobby. 

Her finger lingers over one masculine looking wise woman, sort of like, well here's one that could go either way, then looks up at me, questioningly.

"Nope, that's still a wise woman."

"Well," she hems, "to me, that's a man."

And there she goes, just switching up the parts all willy nilly, re-writing the story to suit her own whim.

In moments like this, it pops into my head that sex is mutable for children up until about age 6, meaning that male and female are changeable, not yet fixed.

So, I let it slide.

And I figure, I could learn a lot by hanging out with someone for whom some things are mutable.


As Miss C climbed into the car before swimming lessons, she suddenly reversed and started back toward the house, calling over her shoulder, "I forgot my buddies, I have to get my buddies!"

I trailed her (I'm always trailing her), unlocked the back door and watched her fly into the house.  I stood in the doorway, wondering who she would bring this time  There was much clomping around, and then rummaging, and finally, she emerged with her buddies:

(she also doubles as Bonnie Raitt)

(he doubles as Agarvatee, and also, the other Agarvatee)

Cinderella--apparently, a shape-shifter-- and Belle (the banana-seat bike-riding duo)
 She had her arms full on the ride over to the YMCA, and spent much of the time informing the cast of characters that indeed, she would not be going under water today, but that chances were pretty high she'd be intentionally sampling the delicious chlorinated water.  It's just too refreshing to pass up.

You can take the Disney out of the house, but what follows after that is anyone's guess.

90 Days: Status Report

My first post here was about 3 months ago.

If you'd like to read that Miss C has since moved on from Cinderella and Belle to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Earheart, you will be sorely disappointed.

In fact, we talk about Cinderella every single day.
And she still asks for Ariel stories every other day.

But there are some big changes:

1.     She is telling her own stories.  This week, the story has revolved around Belle and Cinderella being sisters, sharing a room, and riding a banana seat bicycle together.  Belle sits, Cinderella pedals, and Belle makes sure not to dip her feet too close to the spokes of the speeding wheels.  (It sounds vaguely familiar, like a story I told Miss C about my sister and I sharing a bike.  But, I never copyrighted it, so plagiarize away, my girl.)

2.     She's been insisting on names for the princes.  It's complicated, so pay attention.  Cinderella's prince is named: Agarvatee.  She made it up herself, and she also named Belle's prince Agarvatee, and also Snow White and Tiana's prince...Agarvatee.  The catch is: they're not the same Agarvatee.  They're all different princes, they just happen to share the very common name of Agarvatee.  Sort of like Mike, or Jake.  But, Agarvatee.  (I think it's #101 on the list of Popular Boy Names.)

3.     Ariel is no longer half-human and half-fish.  "She's half woman and half man."  When I asked which part of her was which, Miss C took her hand and drew an invisible line from the center of her forehead, down her face, torso and until she reached the floor.  So, it's a vertical split, right down the center.  Which I'm guessing must make simple tasks like dressing and going to the bathroom a bit of an extra challenge.

The play continues to change, with increasing flexibility and creativity displayed.  I think the names of the characters and pieces of their story will remain with us for quite awhile longer, and it's been an honor getting to know the deeper parts of hermaphrodite Ariel and all the Argavatees.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Grocery shopping: is it like this for you?

Prior to getting to check-out:

Then, directly in front of check out, just in case you missed it while picking up some spinach:
Finally, arriving in the check-out aisle:

Isn't it so strange that so many little girls just love Disney Princesses?

Must be genetic.

Parental Responsibility

I wanted to respond to a comment left on this post from Rivqa, an editor based in Sydney, Australia.
She writes,

"I'm very sympathetic to parents under pressure of pester power but I think they are the ones who need to draw the line. The kids clearly aren't able to!"

And, this is a common statement which I agree with, with a BUT.

At the end of many discussions regarding sexualized and violent behavior seen in kids, and the rapid decline of the health of the American child (from increase in obesity to increase in mental health disorders), it's typically wrapped up like this, "Well, the parents have a responsibility to protect their child, and to shape their child.  And now, let's cut to a commercial."

For those of you who were able to view all of the film Consuming Kids, the final segment deals specifically with parental responsibility and what it means.  You can watch the last couple minutes here.

In the wrap up, Susan Linn, Director of Campaign for a Commercial Free-Childhood, says, "We have a $15 billion dollar industry that is working day and night to undermine parental authority."

Enola Aird, of The Motherhood Project, makes this analogy, "It's akin to an owner of a large fleet of trucks announcing that our fleet of trucks, from now on, is going to be barreling down the road, especially where children are, at 150 miles per hour.  Parents, watch out, it's your job to take care that your children don't get hurt."

Two things are needed:
1. parental responsibility.
2. help for us responsible parents.

And heck, even help for the irresponsible parents.

Because all them kids gonna be mixed together in the classroom soon enough, so let's all just help each other out, shall we?  I won't tsk tsk your terrible and irresponsible parenting if you don't mock the fact that my daughter often strips down to her underwear the moment we get home.  Because it just feels better, hanging out in your underwear. 

We have now seen what it looks like when there are no rules whatsoever regarding marketing to children.
It is UG-ly.
Since companies don't have a code of ethics, intervention is needed.

I want to work on both fronts.
I want to be more responsible as a parent.
And, for Pete's sake, I want to not step into a tsunami of shite each time I leave my house with my child.  It is wearying to the bone.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


One day after I called Bed Bath and Beyond to make a complaint about this, I received a call from Bernice, Regional Customer Sales Manager for the company.  She was lovely to speak with, and told me that my concerns were highly valued and would be sent on to the board which oversees marketing.  Interestingly, in both phone calls, neither employee would say the name Booty Pop.  Bernice, when she called, said, "I received an email about some issues you have with...that you have some concerns."

If I have been calling to complain about my 400 thread count sheets, or Teflon frying pan, I wonder if it would be as hard for the representative to name the product.

"You have concerns wanted to voice your thoughts regarding..."
"My frying pan?"
"Yes, your frying pan," (clears throat nervously).

After relaying my concerns to Bernice, I asked her,
"What do you think about your company carrying this product?"

"Well," she began, "I hadn't seen the flier until getting your complaint.  Then, I took a look at it.  And...I can definitely see where you'd take issue.  I have nieces." 

Having nieces helps because often, what gets someone concerned about an issue is connecting it to a face, thinking about how it might impact or harm someone they know and love.  I think this is what lights a fire under parents butts, and why many an apolitical college student, once a parent, takes issue with things that never bothered them before.  Suddenly, there is a face before them that will most certainly be walking into a world that has been shaped by adults. 

I dropped into BBB briefly this evening and made use of one of Lillian's lovely posters.
And, it looked just right.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Problem Solving Deficit Disorder

Diane Levin coined the term Problem Solving Deficit Disorder and I would not be surprised to see it included in the next edition of the DSM.

Problem Solving Deficit Disorder speaks to the lack of skills that children have when they have spent most of their play time in imitative or instructed play rather than real play.  The child, instead of problem solving and learning her own way of doing things, through play, has spent months to years imitating a pre-created story line.

In imitative play, the child is taking a toy that comes with it's own story line, or it's own set of instructions, and is using it as directed.  The toy can be a Power Ranger, Spider Man, Luke Skywalker, Cinderella, Ariel, Tiana.  The child takes the toy, and knowing the storyline it represents, plays that story over and over.  He or she imitates what she's seen without great variation.  It is imitative because the way my daughter plays Ariel is nearly identical to how Mia plays it, and how every little girl in our neighborhood plays Ariel.  The way a little boy plays Spider Man is not greatly different from how his cousin, friend and neighbor will play Spider Man.  It is the outside going into the child, the child is receiving input rather than creating output. Through imitation, the child is internalizing the story and it's message.

In real play, the child is taking what exists in her mind, and putting it into her world in a concrete way.  She is taking the things she notices and thinks about, and manifesting them in a physical way.  This is why, especially early on, kids can play with pots and pans, rocks, blocks, and sock puppets.  The materials need not be complicated, there doesn't even necessarily need to be materials, because the ideas are what count.  In real play, the kind that builds a child up, the ideas are the most sophisticated ingredient, and the final product.  It is the mind and personal creativity of the child coming out, the child imprinting the world with her way of seeing it.

Toys and materials that promote real play are open ended, non-affiliated: wooden blocks, bubbles, paint, play doh.  The way my daughter plays with paint will be different than how Mia paints, and Mia's painting will be different than every other little girl in our neighborhood.  They way your son uses play-doh will be different than how his cousin uses it, and different still from how his friends use it.
Here are some teachers examples, as reported to Levin, of how they've seen PSDD manifest in their classrooms:

Kindergarten teacher: Daily, groups of girls argue about who will get to go to the sand table and stand next to the cutest boy.

First Grade teacher: Daily fights among boys as they play, Good Guy vs. Bad Guy, always, always, resulting in someone crying, someone getting hurt.

Kindergarten teacher: Kids, given 15 minutes of free play, roaming around the play area, unsure what to do, not engaging in anything, saying, "There's nothing to do."

First Grade: Boys not knowing how to play without using characters from TV shows and movies, and always these shows have the Good Guy vs. Bad Guy theme, and always they're beating the tar out of the Bad Guys, in the name of justice.

Another teacher that Levin interviewed told how in her classroom, she set a large mass of play-doh on a table, and kids walked around it, not touching it, until one child finally poked it and asked, "What does it do?"

When kids have spent play time from age 1-5 imitating companies stories, they have not used that time to discover a problem and then work at solving that problem.  Instead of developing and sharpening problem solving skills, instead of building a foundation to support conflict resolution, they've sharpened their skills of imitating, and will rely heavily on others to provide both entertainment, and solutions to problems.

Prudent Advice

       Remember that most fairytales were written by men.
Some of the greatest writers of children’s fables were male: The Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, even Walt Disney.
You are not a tiny princess awaiting rescue by a valiant man, a symbol of frailty and naïveté, or the punch line in a morality tale. The women in those stories were crafted by a different sex at a different time for a different audience; these days you slay the dragon yourself.
           from 500 Pieces of Prudent Advice for My Baby Daughter

Monday, July 19, 2010

More Consuming Kids

Some of you have emailed and asked how to see more of the film, Consuming Kids.

Here's one way:
1. go to
2. in the search box, type in Consuming Kids
3. the rest of the segments will appear, and you can watch them in succession.  There are 7 parts, each a few minutes.

If you are so inclined to own the DVD, you can order it from the Media Education Foundation.  The cost is $20 for an individual...and waaay more for a high school or college, a couple hundred dollars.  (This is due to purchasing the digital license along with other materials such as study guide and discussion kit).  I own a copy and have already passed it around to several friends, and family members are next.  It's been a very helpful tool thus far.

Here's part 2/7:

I won't be posting any other segments, but if you have further questions about it, feel free to email or post in comments.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Consuming Kids

If you are at home, sit down and watch this after you've put the kids to bed, or gotten great take-out, or finished spackling, or made some tea, or whatever you do at the end of your day.  Give it your attention, I think it is that worth it.

If you're local, and want more, I'm setting up a screening at the library in the coming weeks.
If you're not local, and want more, you can watch the rest on youtube, or see if your library has it.  (No, it's not on Netflix.)

It is about 5 minutes, so brace yourself for this very long chunk of time in internet world!  5 minutes!  I can't give it back to you if it stinks, but, at least you know it was well-intentioned.

Finally, I recommend maximizing the screen (click arrows in lower right corner) for best viewing quality.
Oh, you already knew that?  Well, aren't you smart.  

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lunch Time Phone Call

 I just called Bed Bath and Beyond and spoke with a representative re: this flier.
I asked if they carried penis enhancing pants, no?  They don't?
How about breast enhancing bras, still no? 

I noted that on their website they have a statement:
Bed Bath and Beyond remains committed to Women and Family Health and Wellness.
and have an icon and link to Healthy Women and Families:


And I asked how promoting a Booty Pop in their college issue falls in line with this commitment to healthy women.

I asked, "With upwards of 38% of college freshman having an eating disorder, is it ethical, or necessary, to promote this product along with shoe racks and shower caddies?  What message is this giving to young women getting ready to make this huge transition?"

(You may find this blowing things out of proportion, because if you are like me, you are accustomed to seeing this type of marketing everywhere.  But, BBB is not Victoria's Secret, they sell POTS AND PANS.  And cater to brides and college kids.  And this is new territory, a sort of testing the waters.)

The representative said, "I don't think they meant it like that."

I said, "I disagree.  In marketing, there is nothing accidental, nothing coincidental."

She said, "Would you like to lodge a formal complaint?"

I said, "Yes."

She said, as she took my name and telephone number, "I've heard people have been calling in about this, but you're the first call I've had about it."

In my expressing disappointment, I may have said the term Booty Pop a few too many times.  And the representative, at one point, sounded amused.  But, I think the product name is key here, and if it is embarrassing to say, then why are you selling it?  It's a funny name, because it makes light of the actual message of the product.  The message is, "You are not enough.  And your @** is evidence of this."

I think I'm going to take a Beautiful Just The Way You Are poster over there this week and make that my first action.

I must say, my first formal complaint felt pretty good to make.

If you feel inclined, the number is: 1-800-462-3966.
And if you don't spend half the phone call saying Booty Pop Booty Pop Booty Pop, it will probably take about 2 minutes.

Happy Friday!

Little More Talk, a Lot More Action

It's been a week since attending the incredible Media Madness Institute in Boston, and I have yet to write about it for two reasons:

1. There was a ton of information, and I'm still processing much of it.
2. I want to give more than 5 minutes to relaying some of the concepts and studies that were presented. 

One thing that I took away was a sense of community, the knowledge of many individuals and organizations who take marketing to children and its effects quite seriously, who study it, and who work for change.  The work for change part is where I seem to get stuck.  I feel this often, and hear it often when I talk to other parents: It sucks, it's affected our family, but what can you do?

The problem is so pervasive, and so much bigger than one person.

But, small steps count, and my goal is to begin to take some small steps.  Not things that will revolutionize the world, not steps that will solve the problem, but action that will make me an active dissenter to what has been permitted to happen with media and children.  Steps that will alleviate some of the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness when thinking about the problem.

I met an artist named Lillian Hsu.  She began an initiative called
BEAUTIFUL Just The Way You Are.
It is a simple action: you take one of these bright posters
and place it in front of magazine covers featuring all-too-familiar representations of glam-only objectified female bodies. Her point: Intervene and interrupt the auto-absorption process that makes smart women feel inadequate if they aren't skinny with perfect teeth and skin.
As Hsu puts it: "Before we are ten, and then without pause throughout our lives, we internalize the lesson that our bodies are how we will be first judged as individuals, and that there is a body type that we must attain to be judged worthy of attention."

Hsu encourages people to place a poster "over every stack of magazines that uses the female body to sell something - to sell the magazine, or to sell an article, or to sell a product, or to sell a lifestyle, or to sell a promise, or to sell the idea that you need to match your body to the picture."

Can you imagine standing in the checkout line, your eyes scanning the glossy covers, or the tabloid covers, and seeing that message, Hey you! You're BEAUTIFUL! Just the way you are.

You can go to the website, order the heavy paper copy (free), or print your own.
I have about 100 posters.  And I can't wait to get started.

Bed, Bath, and Booty

A Bed Bath and Beyond flier came in with the mail.
It was the college edition, titled:
We (heart) College!
It's filled with everything a college freshman will need: sheets, comforters, coffee makers, closet organizers, hair dryers, razors:

And of course, no incoming teen would be complete without her own booty enhancing underwear, also known as, The Booty POP!

Advertised right below hair dryers and flat irons, the booty pop can be found under Health and Beauty while registering for your wedding day, or gathering last minute supplies for college.  What's interesting about this ad is the multi-outlet character/light socket (what is that thing?) asking, "Do I even have a booty?" wearing a pair of the underwear.  This is meant to distract the reader/consumer from the fact that a sexualized advertisement has been placed in a flier that typically is selling shower curtains and pillow cases.
Don't mind us, just helping you get your daughter ready for college, and making sure she feels insufficient about her arse as she flies the coop.

One may say that BBB commonly sells "as seen on TV" products, even weights and fitness equipment.  But do they sell penis enlarging underwear?  Are breast enhancement shirts stocked with the slipcovers?

The website for this product shows the same model as the one featured in BBB, though far more dramatically posed.  There she is, all sad and skinny, just another flat-bottomed teen, and AFTER!
Sexy bottom is licking a giant lollipop: bootylicious booty POP.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

People (People)

Susan Tedeschi 10
One evening, after a swim lesson at the YMCA, I was driving Miss C home and she passed out in the car, smelling heavily chlorinated, wet curls plastered to her head. I was listening to a CD I'd just gotten at the library, some music of Susan Tedeshi.  There is a version of Angel from Montgomery that she sings, and it was on this particular CD.  As the song ended, I heard a squeak from the backseat, "Again."

I looked back to see a sweaty and bleary eyed child who had wakened.  I turned off the music.
"What's that, honey?"

"Again, I want the Angel song again."

So I played it again.

And she asked for it again.
And again.

Seven times in a row we played the song, sitting in the driveway, we played the song.  Until she was done.

And then the questions:

"Who sings this song?"
"Does she know Cinderella?"
"Does she live in Montgomery?"


"Is she an old woman?"
"Is she an old man?"
"Why are there flies in the kitchen?"


"Why does she have nothing to say?"

For weeks we listened to this song on repeat, and though my particular favorite right now is People, Miss C continues to favor "Susan Deski and the Angel song." 

This was demonstrated fully one afternoon when I heard a hollering that scared the bejesus out of me.  I ran to the living room to find Miss C, holding her cousin's borrowed play guitar, screaming out, "I AM AN OLD WOMAN!"  She had set up stuffed animals around her, and when I entered the room, she finished bellowing out the song, then looked at me like, What?
"I'm having a concert," she told me, looking around at her attending llamas.

It's been so handy, this lately developed obsession C has with Susan, because when she gets to the 27th question about how old is she?  Where is she now?  Is her hair long? And WHY ARE THERE FLIES IN THE KITCHEN?  I can look up some of those answers and share what I find with C.  Because Susan exists. As to the flies in the kitchen, however, all I can say is, the woman plays guitar for a living.  Cut her some slack.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Disney Princess Magazine

While looking through a list of what the Disney Company owns, I came upon The Disney Princess Magazine.  And I'm so glad I checked it out, because for a limited time only, you can order a year's subscription to both Princess magazine, and Field and Stream, and save money.
Field & Stream CoverDisney Princess Cover
Now, one may wonder what a publication for 4 year old girls would have in common with a magazine whose current issue is "The Gun Nut Issue."

But, upon closer inspection, there is much that is highly relevant to both demographics.
For example, the Summer Fish Babes Contest:
All I caught was
 an old baseball
And so girls can start small, and then aspire toward bigger goals.
Like sexy fishing!
I know a few very proficient fisherwomen, 
and they must not get Field and Stream.  Because they have
been dressing ALL WRONG when pulling in their catch.

Monday, July 12, 2010


Feeling utter relief that Spain won the World Cup.
Because if they had not, it would have been ALL HER FAULT.

Sara Carbonero and Iker Casillas 
You know, because she was at her boyfriend's soccer game.  
And she was doing her job. 
And then she ran onto the field and took the ball and shot it into the net for the other team while making faces and sprinkling voodoo hexes all around.

The nerve of some women. 

Norf Carolina

The first night of our road trip landed us in North Carolina, and on the the first evening of our stay with my brother, we headed to the town square for live music and family activities.

Miss C, after 17 hours in the car, (thank you, DC traffic) was a bit short on steam.  Within 7 seconds of arriving at the town square, she sat down on the pavement and had a huge meltdown. 

I took her across the road, away from all the activity, to calm her down and sit with her.  She caught her breath, and we got up to walk around a bit.  She leaned against a fence, tired but composed, and pressed her cheek against the post.  She then exclaimed, "The princesses!" 

She leaned down and picked up an old piece of litter, a sticker of 3 Disney Princesses.  It was curved and curled at the edges.  And there was no stick to it.  "It's not sticking!"  She attempted furiously to place the sticker on her shirt, on the post, on my shoe.

And I couldn't help but notice that the Princesses have become part of the litter of our nation.  Along with plastic water bottles and plastic bags whipping in the wind, they are woven into the trash thrown on the side of the road. 

Three weeks ago, walking home from a hike, we passed a beat up rubber ball, emblazoned with the 3 Disney Princesses.  A week later, driving down a country road, with nothing but trees and a few scattered houses, we passed a backpack imprinted with the large, impeccable Princess faces, staring out from some cattails.

Miss C ended the night with another howling sidewalk proclamation: "LEAVE THEM HERE.  THEY DON'T STICK."  And she dropped the dirty old sticker back on the ground, turning on her heel to leave.  Not about to give an anti-litter lesson in the midst of her hysteria, I stuck the ladies into my pocket like ZuZu's petals, feeling more like I live in Potterville than in Bedford Falls.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sociological Images

Today I'm stopping in Philadelphia on my way back from a conference titled Media Madness, which was held at Wheelock College in Boston.  It was an incredible conference, rich with information, that I'll be posting more about soon.

In the meantime, a few images from this blog have been posted at Sociological Images, so feel free to take a look a look.

And, happy Saturday.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Luscious Lashes

A few weeks ago I was at CVS buying some sunblock.  As I peered at the 23 different types of lotion, a woman walked by me.  I glanced up briefly, my line of vision broken, and did a triple take.  The woman had the longest eyelashes I have ever seen.  Ever.  In my life.  And she looked a combination of bizarre and downright scary.  The lashes must have been glued on somehow, and I was so disturbed by the visual, wondering how she blinks, or rubs her eye when it itches, or washes her face.  Does one remove their enormously long false eyelashes before going to bed?  And if not, what if your eyes are glued shut when you wake up in the morning?
Then what?

Then last week, I ran to the grocery store one night for bread and milk and ice cream.  As I zipped down an aisle to dairy, I skidded to a halt in front of this sign, because it was exactly what the woman looked like:
And then didn't I feel silly.
Because that woman in CVS had celebrity lashes, but I just didn't know it.

This is one of those fads that I will not even pretend to understand, not even a little bit.  I cannot fathom what is comely about the appearance of a large spider perched above one's eyeball.

Another shopper wandered up to the sign, stared for a moment, then said, "If this counts as beauty, I'll take a pass on that class."

Play, and Be Present

Tomorrow we leave for a 10 day multi-state road trip, and today has been spent sorting, packing, and running around.

Tucking Miss C in at bedtime, she takes my face in both her hands and studies me.

"Tomorrow, though," she says deliberately, "will you play with me?"
She asked that question about a dozen times today, but play gave way to errands and telephone calls and the last-minute details.

There are days Miss C is content to occupy her own world entirely unaccompanied, even prefers it.  And there are days when she wakes up and wants to have a playmate all day long.  Today was the latter, when the to-do list felt a mile long.

"Tomorrow," I tell her, "I will play with you."

"Really play."

"Yes tomorrow, I will really play."

I close her door and think of a bumper sticker I saw that read,
Children need presence, not presents.  
And I know what she's asking is for me to be more present and less preoccupied.
To sit with her, not all day, but to be with her wholly when I am with her.

Sometimes I forget that to give 15 minutes of time to her and her play is the equivalent of sitting with a good friend and asking, "So how are you?  How are you really?"  And then listening.

But today I said "yes" and then proceeded to answer the phone, jump up each time I thought of something, like an kid with ADHD.  Like asking, "How are you?" and then proceeding to check my Blackberry.

So tomorrow, before we finish jamming the car with all the necessary items, I'll have to remember that a few minutes entirely attentive to the smallest detail is never time wasted.