Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Where Credit is Due

Over a week ago, my friend Katie was driving the long distance to Chicago, and stopped in Rochester as her half-way point.
After meeting Miss C for the first time, she commented on how strange it was to meet this person, saying, "I feel like I already know her from your blog."
And then after playing with her for a bit, added, "She is really into being Cinderella."

Miss C really is into Cinderella.  That detail hasn't changed since Recovery started back in April.
But what has changed is how she plays Cinderella, and what else she's playing.
When she plays Cinderella, there's rarely a trace of the scripted version, or the focus on looking exactly like Cinderella looks.  These days, Cinderella is both a doctor and a garbage truck driver, and her brother, The Prince is often shy.
These days, Cinderella has a sister named Emma, and she loves to tell Emma all about how to do things, and how to navigate the world.  When she's not driving the garbage truck.

When she's not playing one of the many forms of Cinderella, she is obsessed with insects, asking me if we can collect every specimen outside and bring them in to give them baths, make them beans and rice, and tuck them into bed with her.
When we find spiders in the house, she loves to lie on her belly and watch them as they scurry away from her nimbly moving fingers.
There have been some compromises: I let her catch the spiders in a jar and take them outside for release.  This seems a better option than her showing me how one is climbing up her arm the moment I step out of the shower.

Also, since she keeps asking for a pet tarantula, I've told her about ant farms.
Nothing against tarantulas.
Or, who am I kidding, everything against tarantulas, including the possibility of her slipping one under my pillow for snuggles.
Ants seem a little safer.  And really locked into that farm.

I don't talk much about extended family here.  But I'd like to take a minute and give some props.
I referred to the conversations that Dave and I had with our parents, the main suppliers Disney Princesses.  My parents would show the movies, and Dave's mom, who spends a good deal of time near Orlando, would find all the princess gear.  (Have you been to the Orlando airport?  Let the experts direct you!)
One thing I've learned through this process is that if young children are the targets of advertising, so are grandparents.  Grandparents have that great gift in life: to be able to think of the child's desire and delight.  Parents are for consequences, tantrums, time-outs, and torture.
So it makes sense to me that both our sets of parents were all into Disney Princess stuff on different fronts.
(Remember: $15 billion dollar industry.)

Dave and I had a series of conversations to help our parents understand what we object to, and that we're not trying to spoil their fun or bonding.
We'd just prefer them to bond with our daughter over tarantulas.
Is that such a big deal?
I would talk to my parents, he to his.
Dave believed this would give our parents the room to get pissed off openly express frustration if they felt we were being too uptight, demanding, constricting, controlling, unbalanced, or unAmerican.
Over time, the Grandparents have come to support us, and sometimes understand us.
And I'm really, really thankful for this.
Some props:

My parents have pulled out their old videos of my tumbling childhood.  Miss C loves watching these over there as much as she loved Cinderella.  She loves to watch my older sister, (age 4) pick me up (age 6 months) and drag my feet on the ground to show me how walking is done.  Apparently, I was a pacifist from the very beginning, as I never turned and tackled her from the knees, permitting this dragging to go on for hours.

Dave's mom is an expert shopper.  She has the kind of skill where she will hold up 27 items from a bag, one by one, tell us what each one cost at full price, then describe how with a coupon, PLUS the 75% off sale, PLUS the one-day discount of 9.4%, she only paid ONE DOLLAR for everything.
Boggles my mind every time.
It could be clothes, kitchenware, or dirt.
It could be any store, any country.
She learned to haggle while in a open air market abroad, and the experience profoundly changed her.  She came back like, "This is what they do over there," and Dave was like, "I think you can do that in our public market too."
Now she goes to Bon-Ton and glances at price tags as though they were mere suggestions.
Since we've asked for no more DP stuff (which is just mean, because, again, Orlando) (PLUS, they're always on sale, those DP's!), she, being a resourceful woman, being a shopper, found other outlets.
Like this recent gift:
If it says $6.99 on the website, that means she paid 27 cents.

And this one, which Miss C runs to in the morning:

She loves to stick the magnetic critters all over the pages, and make up stories about the pink crab spider and the tarantula, and then asks me to join in.  Since spiders have never been my strong suit, I opt for the ladybug, even though she always gets eaten in the end.

Long post longer: sometimes difficult conversations are worth having.
Sometimes sharing a book or DVD can help back you up.
Sometimes things take awhile to shift, and change seems impermanent.
And finally, learning that asking change of yourself  is hard enough, but asking it of others is a pathologically optimistic thing to do.
But maybe, if they are Grandparents, and hopefully, if the end goal is mutual, it just might work toward better.
Or, better enough.

Monday, September 27, 2010


I've created an account on goodreads in order to track and share all the wonderful books we've been reading, and all the wonderful books you've recommended.

If you've mentioned one and don't see it on there, drop me an email, or leave it in the comments, or even join goodreads and recommend it there.  I'll try to add each one to our to-read list.

Right now the list is heavy with books featuring strong female characters, and because Miss C loves Cinderella, there are many versions of Cinderella on there as well (the Korean Cinderella, the Caribbean Cinderella, the Cambodian Cinderella).  I figure if she's going to talk nonstop about Cinderella, we can continue to complicate her thinking, and work in some geography lessons while we're at it.

If you are interested in adult reading as well, such as Consuming Kids, or So Sexy So Soon, or Understanding Disney, I'll add a shelf for the big kids.  

Happy page turning.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Point

68 percent of those who watched Commander in Chief were more likely to take a female president seriously. Yes, even though it was just a TV show. That’s the point of all this—what we see on our screens matters. It shapes our imaginations, and sometimes limits them. “The more we see female characters who are hypersexual, one-dimensional eye candy, sidelined, or not even there,” Davis said, “the more it affects the way boys and girls think about girls.”
        --from  Newsweek, and thanks to Kivitasku for sending this on. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Action (i)

What do tomatoes and Princesses have in common?


 To combat this, we signed up for this

Every now and then my husband and I would talk about getting our produce through a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) instead of through the grocery store.  But it never seemed urgent enough, or neither of us researched it much beyond the conversation.  Or we'd hear that it cost X amount of money and there never really seems a good time to spend X amount of money.

Still, more and more people we knew kept raving about how delicious their local tomatoes were, how incredible their apples from the orchard over yonder.  Our neighbor, who joined a CSA, would routinely drop massive bags of vegetables on our doorstep because she would get so much food each week that her family couldn't eat it all.

More evidence mounted.  We visited friends in Massachusetts and upon opening their fridge to get creamer for the coffee, it looked like the farm had just emptied it's contents onto their shelves.
When I finally found the creamer, it was in a glass bottle, which I haven't seen seen since I was 8 and the milk man dropped our milk on the front stoop.  It was also from down the road, and was the most amazing thing I'd tasted this side of the Mississippi.This family talked about how they would get so much produce each week and they'd challenge themselves to eat it all before the next shipment.  (And, how I love a challenge.) 

The myth of the high cost was dispelled quickly when we finally tallied up what we're spending weekly and compared it to what you would spend over the course of a season through a local farm.  Local won for produce, and for other areas it was a wash.

Still, no action.  I'd taken to buying local produce at our grocery store, and as much as I hate to admit it: I am a creature of habit.  And old habits can be hard or sometimes scary to break.

I also have great intentions. I've always intended to regularly get to the many farmers markets that happen all over Rochester throughout the week.  Or even our public market.  But the actual practice was infrequent. 

Then I was stuck by the truth that I used to love my weekly trip to the grocery store: the convenience, the getting a coffee from cafe, wandering the aisles and pointing out fruits and veg to Miss C.  Mostly, that I could go anytime at all.
But it's hasn't been that way for quite awhile.  More often than not, I dread it.  C ends up sullen and sad when we leave, and that's on the good days.  On the bad days, she's crying because we didn't get the dolls, balloons, candy, or Princess blow-up pool on the way out.  And she reeeaaaaaalllly needed them.  By that time, there's not much coffee can do for me. 

So while many are drawn to their CSA because of the freshness of it, and how it is good for the Earth, and how it draws community together, I am drawn to it because of this: they only sell food.  And that's really all I want these days.

If you are a U.S. reader interested in researching what your area offers, take a look at Local Harvest.
This site helped us read through the choices in our area, and pick one that seemed a good match.
Some are straight-up you pick up the food.  Others have an option to work with your kids on the farm.  All sorts of choices.

(If you are about to comment, "Why don't you grow your own tomatoes?" or, "Why don't you plant an herb garden and an apple tree?", please see above section under Good Intentions.  Maybe next spring. )

(If you are a Rochester reader, interested in taking a step this way, The Good Food Collective has a winter option that is quite reasonable.  And looks seriously fantastic.)

And as far as I know, none of them are selling Aurora beach chairs with matching bikinis.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Toronto Film Festival: Mei Mei

When my friend Diana sent this my way, I had to resist the urge to get in the car and drive up to Toronto and find a way into the film. 
The trailer is gorgeous, and the story line even moreso:

A little magic helps her understand
that she can only save herself
by saving the world in which she lives.

The TFF description:  
Little Sister is a gorgeous film based on one of the earliest versions of the beloved story Cinderella. In this enchanting version drawn from ancient scripts – which filmmaker Richard Bowen discovered in a Beijing museum – we are transported to a time and place where boys are valued over girls.
Inspired by the two Chinese daughters he and his wife adopted, Bowen has skillfully created a family-friendly film that celebrates an important moral – that girls are as good as boys.
Watch the trailer, and if you are lucky enough to view it this Saturday, please report back here promptly!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Back to the Screen

I'm back from Screen Free Week.
We made a lot of great food, some of which Miss C declared edible.
We read a lot of library books, introducing some of my childhood favorites like Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, and James and the Giant Peach.

I think, for me, being TV-less was a very easy part of this week.  I'm not a regular watcher.
From time to time I suggest to Dave, as though suggesting going out to eat, "We barely use the TV, maybe we should just not have one at all."
And he always says, "Sure, might as well toss the computer too."
And then I shrivel up and die in a panic of How will I navigate the world?? 
I am a regular user of the InTRAnet.  And I've come to depend on it for everything from getting a phone number, to mapping something out, to news, to staying in touch with friends.
So shutting it down last week created this kind of quiet space in my brain. I felt a little more connected to the very physical world, the one with wind and fog human interaction.

And I got lost driving without my mapquest.
But, I found a great ice cream shop I'd otherwise have missed. 

I never did clean out that closet.

For Miss C, though her TV consumption these days is minimal, and consisting mainly of Super Why, she stretched out one day after an episode, yawned, and said, "TV makes me sleeeeepy."
And we've talked about this since, because it does make her sleepy, and she gets a little crabby transitioning from even a great program to doing something physical.  Sometimes I'll have a book next to her to help transition from the end of program, back into play and play doh.
Or I'll tickle her to death saying, "TV makes you sleeeeeeeeeepy!  Come back!  Wake up!"

Something new is always learned when venturing away from the same old.
We spent the last few days of Screen Free Week in the Adirondack Mountains, and I thought this would be the easiest part of tuning out.  We rented a small cabin surrounded by views like this:

Mt. Marcy

Easy Peasey Lemon Squeezy, right?
The small cabin was equipped with the basics: a bed, a kitchen, and the biggest collection of Princess and Barbie DVD's you've ever seen, in your life.
Next to a TV and DVD player.
Beside a stack of Princess Bling books.

Sometimes I think God is just laughing at me.

The explanation to Miss C didn't go over so well the first day, because she believed we'd driven a few hours to camp out in from of the Princess DVDs, right?  This is rustic living?
But we quickly got into a rhythm of hiking and canoeing and more hiking, and found her to be so awesome at climbing mountains that we nicknamed her Boulder Girl at the end of a 4.5 mile trek one day, after she scaled to the top of one peak, climbing massive rocks and thick winding roots of trees. 

I'd read somewhere that when introducing kids to hiking and mountain climbing, they love scraggly trails and climbing with all their limbs.  This was definitely the case.  C was lackluster about plain old winding trails with no grade, but sprinted up steeper climbs like a spider.

In any event, it was a successful week.  I'm back a little more mindful of my uses of this thing, and that's never a bad thing.  I think we'll repeat the week in the future and maybe by then, I'll get that closet cleaned.

Friday, September 10, 2010

On an Unrelated Note

This has nothing to do with Princesses, or girl toxic culture, or commercialism, or consuming kids.
But today I'm guest blogging over here.
This blog is written by a creative and crafty person.
And it's read by other crafty people.
And me, who is not crafty.
But who fully admires and supports crafty people.
And is thankful for them. 
Because they fill the world with beauty.
And because I am a big believer in process, and I think to be crafty, one must submit to the process in order to get to the product.

But anyways, happy Friday, all you sewers and quilters and knitters and designers and makers of art!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Screen Free Week

Happy Labor Day!
Dave and Miss C and I will be having a screen free week.
We're keeping the computer shut down, turning off Super Why and we'll be spending the week...

*cooking a new recipe every day




*spinning in circles

*training for this triathlon (Dave's doing the whole thing, I'm entering with a relay)

*eating a big meal at midday, and then maybe two of us will nap and one of us will pretend the other two are mountains that are to be climbed up and jumped off

*looking at an actual map for directions because I am utterly dependent on mapquest

*thinking I'll finish a novel when I'll actually end up reading 102 children's books

*finally clean out that closet

*but most likely, not

Hope your week is wonderful.  I have a little post scheduled for later in the week, and then I'll be back.

What would you conquer, or try, with some screenfree time?  What would you miss the most?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Funtime

(Thanks to Carleen Brice for posting this gem.)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Advice from Belle

Bunny has left note that Second City has added Belle to the Advice From a Cartoon Princess series (thanks, Bunny!).
I'm having trouble with the embedding (is that a word?  It sounds kind of sexual), but click here if you'd like to see her wax poetic on bestiality vs. interspeciality.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Summer Reading

Mr. Seahorse...wherein the truth is told about certain male sea creatures: they carry the eggs!
While the sea women are off getting drunk with Ariel.  

Last Princess
The Last Princess: The Story of Princess Ka'iulani of Hawai'i...biography of a real princess, who works for justice, who is not saved, who dies too young.
I can't seem to find a lunchbox with her visage anywhere.

Wilma Unlimited, another American biography.  About a little girl with polio who is told she will never walk, and how she takes that information, tucks it in her back pocket, and goes on to become the world's fastest woman.

And, much to C's relief, she does not die young.

Frida (English Language Edition)
Oh, wait, here's one that does!  Frida, who takes her physical limitations and documents it through her unique and expressive paintings.  Which were recognized as unique and expressive decades after she died.  (I love that this book's artist depicts the young Frida as having her signature serious gaze, complete with a little toddler unibrow.)

 The true action adventures of an Iraqi book hoarder.  Except she's a librarian and she's saving books from destruction by stealing them and having her neighbors store them.  Next to their WMD.
Although C pointed out that she's not following the rules, I used that moment to teach that sometimes, it's okay to steal 30,000 books.
But only sometimes.