Friday, May 25, 2007

Future's So Bright...

Here is Emma, Daddy, and baby Elton.

Emma's got a thing for sunglasses. Both pairs are hers, but she lent the pink ones to her brother for the morning. And since he's going through a stage where EVERYTHING that she has, he has to have too, can see how this picture came about.

This one just cracks me up because if you look closely, you'll see that Emma is holding a purse while sitting on the potty. Apparently, she's taken using the potty to new, more formal levels.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Mystery Solved

For all you moms of small kids out there and all you children at heart who, like me, at an age far beyond that which was posted, like to romp in those playgrounds at fast food places, this one's for you.

It seems that every fast food restaurant these days comes equipped with an indoor playground, complete with windy slide, floor to ceiling tunnels, and step ladders galore. What is noticeably lacking in these playgrounds are the ball pits. You know, the big open pits filled with hundreds of air-filled balls. These were a big hit when I was a kid. Heck, I remember romping in them with my friend Kimo during the weekly after school McDonald's trip as late as 16 years of age. We would gorge ourselves on cokes and fries, then go relax in the ball pit (assuming we were not displacing any little kids, mind you...we might have been immature, but we weren't rude) to wax philosophical on our latest adolescent woes.

You can't do this anymore. And no, I don't mean indulge your childhood fantasies with your 16 year old friend in the ball pit at McDonald's. I mean you can't partake of ball pits at all. They've been done away with. "Why," you ask. Good question. At some point, the CDC or the Health Department or whoever it is that regulates cleanliness in restaurants deemed a giant pit of balls an unsanitary place for children to play when preceded or followed up by food consumption.

I can't imagine why. I mean what does it matter if the wee one takes his or her greasy hands in there and slathers the wall with lard remnants? Or for that matter, what's the harm in a random fry or two sitting at the bottom of a ball pit (which you know they don't empty and soak the balls in a bleach concoction once a week like they should) for an indefinite period of time, only to grow mold and fungus from the warm environment created by 500 air-filled balls and numerous sweaty toddlers pressing down on said fry? And who cares if your toddler uses the restroom, wipes (if that's what you could call it), doesn't wash his or her hands, and then dives open-handed into a sea of soft, cushy balls, palming each one as he/she wades through? Or what about the "lost diaper" that remains undetected for days on end? Big deal. What's a little e.coli between playmates, right?

My point: I can understand why they did away with the ball pits. Even if they were fun. And I've always wondered how sanitary the newer, more user friendly playgrounds are. Admittedly, like most moms, I've been lulled into a false sense of security about the cleanliness of these places, especially in the face of an impatient toddler on the verge of a meltdown if denied the privilege of, "just 5 minutes in the slide." That is, until today.

Yes, Emma has once again made her mark on not only the world, but my impressions of motherhood. She and her grandmother and I went for a nice leisurely lunch at the local Chick-Fil-A this afternoon before a shopping trip for diapers and wipes (aaah...the irony here is killing me). All was well. She was eating well, despite the QUART of strawberries and blueberries that she'd just scarfed down in the car on the way over. And since she's normally a picky eater, I was pleased by her voracious appetite, and encouraged her to eat more. She did. Apparently until the point of being sick....because after lunch, as I had promised when we drove up to the restaurant and she squealed with delight at the sight of the playground, I allowed her to play in the playground...where she got sick...and had diarrhea...all over the slide.

Picture if you will: grandma lovingly watching Nicky make his way to the top of the stair ladder, me chatting delightfully away with another mother, and Emma giggling her way down the slide, trailing a....well, let's just say she was trailing. Then picture: my face....horrified, the other mother also horrified, shouting for her child to come out of the playground immediately with audible panic in her voice, grandma swooping up Nicky as he eagerly tries to chase after his sister grabbing at her...trail, and Emma gleefully sliding to the bottom, covered in...well, covered.

I'll spare you the clean up details and simply reassure you that it WAS cleaned up. But I will say this, if you were ever wary of the cleanliness of those facilities, you have reason to be. I mean, I figure that if it happened to me and my daughter, how many other mothers have encountered this little problem. And I'm sure that most of them were not as tenacious as I about getting up into the slide to clean it all up.

So today, my daughter taught me yet another very important lesson: TWO boxes of antibacterial wipes are what is required to clean up an 8 foot long twist slide covered in the remnants of a quart of berries that have just passed through a toddler's digestive system. Oh. And with enough determination, and an agile back, a 5'6" adult can fit up in one of those slides.

Incidentally, the best part of the experience was parading her to the bathroom, THROUGH the crowded restaurant, reeking of poop, and into a crowd of 50 people gathered in front of the hallway to the bathrooms, waiting to get autographs from a local country music star. Glorious autograph signing for him, I'm sure. And I'm sure all the diners we passed along the way enjoyed the remainder of their meals. Finally, to the lady who snapped a picture just as I walked by with my reeking daughter, you may want to catch the singer again at another signing for a better picture. I'm pretty sure I saw your guest grimace in disgust right as the flash went off.

Monday, May 14, 2007


If you're expecting a rant about the abortion issue, stop here. This isn't about that, although it is a topic that'd fit rather nicely in this post. Rather, this post is about a different sort of choice; the small choices we make every day to thwart off the imposed societal expectations of what is appropriate behavior. Choices to assert ourselves and our values.

I choose.... be referred to as, "Ms." So-and-so. The term, "Mrs," bothers me. And no, I have no objection to the institution of marriage...obviously, I'm married. But I do take issue with the term, "Mrs," and it's counterpart, "Miss." Why is it that when a woman gets married, her prefix changes, indicating whether or not she is married. Why does society deem it necessary to delineate whether or not a woman is married as relevant to her identity? Is there some ill-perceived value in single vs. married status? And why does a man's prefix remain the same throughout life? Why is it not important to delineate his marital status with respect to his identity? I'm a person, married or not, and whether or not I'm married shouldn't make ANY difference in ANY social circle. I'm a, "Ms," throughout life, just as a man is a, "Mr." shop in the boys t-shirt department for my daughter. The whole children's clothing issue, which of course was brought to my attention long ago but aggravated recently in my quest for gender neutral underpants for Emma, really bothers me. Why are clothes for little girls so damned stereotypical? Princesses? Fairies? Kitties? C'mon! I don't EVER remember wearing or liking that stuff when I was a kid, and I have the 1970's tomboy photos to prove it. I'm not saying that the traditionally girlie choice of clothing should not be made available. There are girls out there who love that stuff, and more power to them. All I'm saying is that there should be more of a balanced selection to offer girls a choice. What about the girls, like my daughter, who are fascinated by fire trucks and police cars and big cats and whatnot. And since when are these things not "girlie?" What makes a lion or fire truck inappropriate for girls to wear on a t-shirt, but ok for boys? Rather than dictate what is appropriate for the female gender as early as infancy, let's EMPOWER them by offering a wider range of choices, offer a wider range of possibilities starting at a young age.

...not to subject my children to the sub-standard level of daycare available in this community. When my daughter Emma was born, I searched around for daycares in our area (the Bronx at the time). What I found was disheartening to say the least. The "affordable" ones were synonymous with filthy surroundings, smelly cribs, babies strapped down to strollers with propped bottles, and children running around half naked covered in mud from head to toe. Yes, I literally saw some or ALL of these things happening at several places. I learned very quickly that I would have to up my expectation of what was considered a reasonable fee for quality childcare. Unfortunately, finding a daycare or nanny that was acceptable to me was also WAY out of my price range. At that point, on a teacher's salary, I'd be working just to break even and pay the childcare provider. And so, I figured that if that were the case, I might as well stay home and take care of my own kids. What irks me about all this is the sub-par standards this country has set for affordable, quality childcare. We are SO BACKWARDS in this regard, and in our treatment of ANYONE who cares for our children. Just look at teachers and daycare providers. These are the people who feed your child, change his/her diaper, stimulate him/her, teach him/her, and yet they are one of the lowest paid professions on record. They often spend more time with our children during the day than we do. And still, we find it acceptable to pay them barely enough to live on. However, a baseball player makes millions, as do movie stars. We value our entertainment more than we do the individuals who care for and teach our children. Interesting. not allow my daughter to watch movies like, "Cinderella," and, "Sleeping Beauty," and, "Snow White," because I'm sick of the helpless, princess stereotype whose only ambition in life is to find her prince and be pretty enough to get married. Where are the strong role models. Where are the children's movies with women who grow up to be vibrant, intelligent professionals or academics or artists. Why are the women in Disney movies always at the mercy of some oppressor and in dire need of rescuing? Cinderella's liberation from her wicked step-mother by the young prince is just one obvious example. Nevermind the catty bickering that goes on between she and her step-sisters over who is the prettiest and most well-suited to marry (as if struggling to compete in a man's world isn't bad enough, we are pitted to compete with one another!). "Aladdin's" Jasmine is yet another beautiful (by Disney standards) princess, kept locked away in the castle for fear that her fragile sensibilities and dim wit are too naive to survive the real world. And so, she needs rescuing by the rogue, homeless street boy whose street smarts outshine anything she could possibly contribute or do for herself. Even Ariel in "The Little Mermaid" is living under the strict rule of her father and desperately seeks a more independent and adventurous life. However, it's not until she finds a Prince to marry that this is at all accessible to her.

I mean SERIOUSLY! What the hell are we teaching little girls in this country? Find your prince, and you too can enjoy a life of freedom, adventure, and creature comforts, that is, if you're pretty enough to snag one. It's SICK! Go back and watch the movies again. And keep a careful eye. Watch how the female characters develop. In almost every case, they are liberated from their plight ONLY AFTER the prince agrees to marry them or take them away. I really think it's time we offered our daughters an example of a female character who liberates herself; a young girl who works to achieve her own liberation, success, and life of adventure; women who work to fulfill themselves rather than sitting around cultivating a beautiful smile and perfect posture, waiting for a man to come along and rescue them. It's the least we can do.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I Have a Bone to Pick...

...with Hanes, Jockey, or whoever it is that makes little kid's underpants. Now this post will come as a shock given my recent tell-all of Emma's new found "girliness." However, when we went to pick out Emma's big girl underpants, she took one look at the Lightning McQueen logo and said, "I want the cars!" Now being the proud feminist that I am, I was not only excited by her choice, but ready and willing to purchase them for her, except that they don't make any cars underpants for girls.

Then she saw Sesame Street and declared her desire for ownership again, but of course, there are no Sesame Street underpants for girls. And frankly, this one surprised me because Sesame Street is so gender neutral.

Then she asked for "fireman underpants" (this prompted by her purchase of fireman rain boots a few months back), and I don't think I need to tell you where this is going.

In the end, she settled for Disney princess underpants and Little Mermaid, and I do mean "settled." But c'mon. Are we seriously programming kids at potty training age to desire one "gender appropriate" thing over another?!? I was angry at the complete lack of choice in clothing logos for children. Even the generic pants that did not align themselves with one animation conglomerate or another were completely gender biased. There were flowers, pink lace, cutesy puppies and kitties, etc.etc.etc. Emma didn't like any of them. I think she finally settled on the Disney stuff because she recently saw, "The Little Mermaid," and, "Beauty and the Beast," and she liked the movies. But in the end, I felt sorry for her. I wish she were old enough for me to explain how society tries to box us in to what it deems to be socially appropriate gender roles, but that they DO NOT define us. I wanted so desperately to find her "fireman underpants" so that she could assert that side of herself. But alas, there are none. And already at 2 and a half, my daughter has had to succumb to society's warped definition of what little girls should be. It makes me sad.

The only consolation in all of this, is that now I know that despite her over-assertion of "girliness" on the outside, she's a strong, assertive tomboy underneath! Literally. A girl after my own heart. Go get 'em Emma!