Sunday, April 26, 2015

A zebra of any gender is stylish

My son has recently developed strong opinions about what he wears. 95% of his (extensive) wardrobe has been deemed unacceptable.

On top, he will deign to wear: a dual layer Christmas shirt of a reindeer, a white shirt with sparkly red reindeer and owls, a blue shirt with parachutes - but ONLY if it is tucked into his pants - and plain white undershirts two sizes two small for him.

Approved pants include a pair of stained khakis, a pair of green basketball shorts, and his sister's outgrown leggings. Preferably in zebra stripe.

Zebra Leggings

And then there's the knit tank dress (zebra print) that he wears over a zebra skort.

Zebra Dress

I prefer not to fight about clothing - there are far more important issues upon which to stand my ground. I let the kids pick what they want to wear. Even Birdie selects her own clothes from the drawer much of the time.

And this isn't the first time Buggie has shown a knack for gender-bending (in his opinion, the black leotard and skirt he wears to tap class make him look like Batman).

Mac Dance Class Rain Boots


But I confess that we've ventured cautiously and with a few reservations into this new phase of wardrobe-based creative expression.

Buggie discovered, and fell in love with, the dress, skort, and leggings while I was organizing hand-me-downs about a month ago. I was going through a box of Miss Mouse's clothes, and he zeroed in on the zebra dress. He tried it on...and refused to take it off.

I did a little gentle probing to see if he was perhaps developing a taste for more feminine dress.  I held up several other skirts and dresses for his inspection. He scorned them utterly - too pink, too frilly, no way. The zebra dress is knit and sleek with few adornments.

As for the leggings, I sympathized completely.  Who would want to wear jeans when you can wear stretch pants??

So we let him wear his new things around the house. Not surprisingly, a few days later, he asked to wear the leggings to school. I let him.

He came home with the news that a boy in his class had called him a girl because he wore leggings.

I heroically fought back the impulse to track down the child in question and give him a swirly, and Buggie and I talked it through.

How did he feel when the boy said that? (Mad.) Did wearing the leggings make him become a girl? (No.) Did he feel like a girl when he wore the leggings? (No.) Did he want to wear them tomorrow?  (Yes.)

According to his teacher, my son marched into the room the next day and announced loudly to the entire class - "You cannot call me a girl just because I wear leggings. I like them!"

I've never been more proud of him.

So far, he hasn't worn the dress/skort ensemble to school yet because it's been too cold. But my comments on Facebook about the situation prompted a friend to inform me that her son has been inspired by Buggie and now owns a yellow dress.  Perhaps they can pick a day and wear them together!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How I wound up with a child called Bubba

We call my son Bubba. Or, more frequently, Bubby.

Malachi Coloring

I can hardly even bring myself to write those words. Seriously? Bubba? What's happened to you, Kate? For all its charm, clearly small town life is corrupting your brain.

Hear me out.

I always hated that particular nickname for little boys. I thought it sounded ridiculous and unspeakably redneck.

But that was before my small man had a baby sister who tried valiantly to say "brother" but managed only "buh-buh."

Super Kids

At which point that ridiculously awful nickname became forever adorable.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

In which Birdie Turns Two

Because I'm conscious of the fact that language is important, I am careful to avoid talk that might engender negative body image in my children.

But we're all friends here and Birdie can't read, so I'm just going to go ahead and say it. That girl is a heifer.

My third-born celebrated her second birthday a couple weeks ago and weighed in at 30 pounds, 35.5 inches at her checkup. That puts her squarely in the 80-85% percentile for height and weight and - if the childhood age trajectories prove correct - will mean she'll be the tallest of the three kids.

She's thirty pounds of feisty lovability, that one.

Birthday Crown

I refuse to stress out about parties for tiny people who have the attention span of fruit flies, but her birthday was a festive day nonetheless. Pink tutu? Check. Birthday crown? Check.

Birthday Girl with Abby

Elaborate breakfasty dinner featuring cinnamon rolls, eggs, assorted meats, fresh fruit, and cheesy hashbrowns? Check.

You might think that after a dinner like that, birthday cake would be unnecessary...

Birthday Cake 2

...but you'd be totally and completely wrong.

If forced to describe my last-born in three words, I'd have to go with - Magical Wee Sprite. (Yes, I know I called her  a heifer before but relative to me, she's still a wee sprite so let's jut go with it, okay?).

She stomps joyously through the house in her brother's snow boots, singing "Let It Go" at the top of her voice and twirls until she's dizzy while wearing sparkly Minnie Mouse ears.

She's fiercely independent, eschewing all adult assistance in such matters as selecting her pajamas, putting on her shoes, or walking down the steps into the garage. She's bossy and imperious and frequently insists that her big sister share her chair and feed her bites of dinner.

Little Bird's default answer to anything Josh says is - "No, Mommy" but in the morning she hurtles herself across the room and throws herself onto him with a cheerful "yuv you, Daddy."

With her growing verbal development, she's quickly mastering the art of tattling on her brother. She'll come racing into the room, pointing behind her and weeping "Bubby! Bubby!" in tones of deep reproach. In fact, one of the first sentences I ever heard her utter was - "Stop It, Bubby."

All that personality packed into such a small creature is just enchanting. I know I say this about every age that any of my children are currently occupying, but clearly two-year-olds are the best things ever.

Birdie in Rainbow Leggings


Thursday, February 12, 2015


I struggle a bit with Valentine's Day every year.  I love the holiday - LOVE IT - but can get a bit angsty about it too.  I grouse about the amount of candy that comes home from school and can invest way too much time and energy into making valentines.

And I have issues with store-bought valentines for kids. They just bug me (mostly because they're inevitably plastered with licensed characters and overflowing with gender stereotypes) and I'm trying to hang onto homemade as long as I can.

This year, Miss Mouse had no problem. She threw herself into her valentine project with gusto several weeks ago and produced some great mini painted canvases (about 4 inches square). She put down stickers, painted over them, then peeled the stickers up to leave white shapes.  Then she glued on sequins.  Pizzazz is the word that comes to mind.

Eliah Valentines

Buggie was way harder. He showed no real interest in making his own valentines. But he also can't write yet so the store bought ones were even less appealing since they'd have had zero personalization from him at all.  I turned warily to Pinterest (it's a black hole, I tell you) and was rewarded with the perfect answer: Valenslimes.

We made them tonight and had a blast. Buggie and Miss Mouse helped me mix up the slime and Buggie selected its colors.

Malachi Valenslimes 3

Then we worked on addressing the cards. I pulled out the class list and was very pleasantly surprised to discover that Buggie could identify all of his friends' names by sight. He was going on first letters and got stuck on Anna vs Abbie but otherwise did great.

Malachi Valenslimes 5

He was also able to write the first letter of his name on each one, and I filled in the rest.

Malachi Valenslimes 6

The finished product is very fun, and very Buggie. His hands were all over their creation and he poured his heart into them, making them the perfect token to exchange at school tomorrow.  Score!

Malachi Valensliimes 7

(And Birdie?  Well, Birdie is not yet two. I am frosting some heart-shaped cookies for her teachers and calling it a day.)

Friday, January 16, 2015

Don't read things that make you feel like crap

I have one other New Year's resolution. It's not new for 2015. It's more of a "continuing resolution" that I started a while back.

It goes something like this: avoid positive parenting blogs like the plague.

I don't mean positive as in "upbeat and happy." I mean positive as in that school of child-rearing that focuses exclusively on positive elements, affirming that children are worthy of our respect and that one of our biggest tasks as parents is to strive to communicate effectively with our kids.

Avoiding blogs on this topic might sound totally weird coming from a mommy blogger who embraces many a crunchy parenting element, including those related to discipline.

But here's the thing. I am learning that the uber-connected parenting blogs are harmful to my emotional health. I am sure it's unintentional. The authors of these blogs write to uplift other parents and encourage them, but their impact on me is the opposite. I always feel like crap when I read them because their ideals of parenting seem so beautiful...and so utterly unattainable.

These crazy zen mothers are always posting things like: "listen carefully to your child's responses and carefully consider her views."  Or "when your child acts out, the best course of action is to draw them closer - try a time-in instead of a time-out. Sit together and read a book when you feel frustrated."

One friend* recently posted a meme from one of these blogs that contrasted "disconnecting" words with "connecting" words that you should use with your child. Disconnecting was things like: "No, I don't want to hear that whining. It's unpleasant" (which was deemed to convey disconnection and judgment). The better response was: "I'd like to hear you. Come sit next to me" (because this acknowledged the whining child's needs and invited them to connect).

That's beautiful stuff. Gorgeous. Luminous. Everything that parenting ought to be. But honest-to-god, posts like that make me want to jump out a window.

How on earth do you put something like that into practice in real-life situations? Especially when those real-life situations involve multiple children who ALL need your attention and you just don't have the luxury of sitting down and gazing deeply into the whiner's eyes while offering positive and affirming feedback that acknowledges her as a person.

Sometimes, you just have to say - "I'm sorry, I cannot listen to you make that sound for one second more. Leave my presence at once."

If you're really lucky, this pronouncement will come out as something more pleasant than a harpy-like shriek, but sometimes even that is too much to hope for. And that's okay. No one will be scarred for life if mommy's eyes bug out of her head occasionally.

When I read those positive parenting blogs, though, suddenly I'm confronted by this perfect version of myself. The mommy I would truly love to be. The one who is always emotionally available. Who never yells. Who has definitely never resorted to mimicking a child's obnoxious behavior because there's just something sickly satisfying about doing so even when you realize it's ridiculous and counter-productive and a little bit mean.

Parenting is hard and our biggest critics are the voices in our own heads that are never, ever satisfied. It can be so easy to stagger under the weight of your own expectations and desires to be perfect. I never measure up to my own standards as a mother and reading those crazy harmonious mommas and their gentle reminders that Every Single Moment is valuable and precious and "to-be-cherished because it's making a lasting impression on their beautiful little souls"...

...well, it makes me go stark, raving mad.

So now I try not to read that sort of stuff. I sometimes give into the temptation. It's hard to resist an article titled - "What Kids Really Need to Thrive."  But I'm working on it.

* Note that I like this friend a lot and she posted that particular item for herself, to remind herself of how she wants to parent, not in judgment of anyone else.
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