And I still can remember all the difficulties I faced as my Lyme progressed from annoying symptoms to full-blown pain, brain fog, dietary issues, weakness, and exhaustion, and finally, being out of work for six months.
I can remember early on, trying to keep a semblance of routine at home and make my daughter’s lunch for school. That 10-minute job caused me extreme exhaustion, and a return trip to bed for two hours.
I remember trying to exercise on the advice of medical doctors, which never went well. Later on in that winter, I tried vacuuming a 5×7 rug. I needed a three-hour nap after that.
I remember starting what I call my Lyme Bible. It contained sections with each doctors’ contact information, copies of my blood work reports, diagnoses, as well as my food diary and symptoms tracker.
I remember my husband asking me one morning, “Where is the jelly?” And I literally did not know. I couldn’t tell him, and I got upset because I knew my brain was literally fading a way bit by bit, and there wasn’t anything that any medical doctor was telling me that was helpful or hopeful.
I remember being frustrated listening to people with MD after their names giving me any number of diagnoses: Lyme, not Lyme, fibromyalgia, coxsackie, EBV, a virus…and even, “Yes, you have Lyme, coxsackie, and EBV in your blood work, but we don’t know what is causing your symptoms. Just eat right and exercise.” I’ve got letters that I’ve started that I intend to send to all these medical professionals to both ease my conscience and anger, but also potentially change how they actually address a patient’s course of treatment when they have Lyme disease.
I remember hearing about a holistic practitioner that helped a cancer patient who had tremendous results after major health issues. At that point, I was ready to find a new avenue that didn’t lead me to another medical doctor whose hands were tied against me.
I remember thinking during my first appointment, his methods seemed so strange and out of the box in terms of medical treatment as I knew it, and yet, after only 4 months, I was back at work full-time and able to conquer my full teaching day without turning into a puddle by 10:30 am!
I remember feeling so tired from work, I was in bed by 5:30, and still not rested to face the next day. Squeezing the shampoo bottle in the shower bothered my right thumb, and drying my hair with the hair dryer made my elbows hurt tremendously. Even driving would bother my elbows. And reading…forget it. After ten minutes, I could feel my mind drifting away from the words on the page.
I remember a time last year when I didn’t put the my prized under-the-counter radio on when I was in the kitchen. It’s presence changed from a comfort to just noise. The feeling of wanting music on had left me, and it didn’t bother me for many months that I didn’t put the radio on to keep me company.
Tonight, I connected my Bluetooth Pandora on my phone to that radio. I listened to a Martina McBride holiday channel, and I sang along to almost every song. It was like a drug to me; I realized how much I had missed my music and I finally had the chance to enjoy it again. I had to force myself to turn it off and go sit down when tiredness of the day trumped the music.
As I am writing this, I am thinking of how fortunate I am that my health has returned almost to normal and I am enjoying things that I couldn’t do a year ago.
With the advent of a new President, laws will be overturned, changed, and created. I began thinking about the laws of my own castle, and came up with a few for my family.
Here are a few laws I’d like to put in place for my family this year.
Whoever runs the dishwasher must empty it within 12 hours of said action. And all items in the dishwasher must be put back in their correct place. If the emptier is unsure of an items location, that person must inform the Queen within 1 hour and learn where the item should be placed. It should not be left on the kitchen counter for the Queen to later find and put away.
Clause #1:Any pots or pans that are washed and left on the stove to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #2: Any plastic items left on the kitchen counter to dry must be put away within 12 hours of drying.
Clause #3: When the dishwasher detergent gets down to 5 tablets, the Queen must be informed so more can be purchased. This clause also includes dish soap, hand soap, shampoo, paper goods, and other home cleaning and personal cleansing items when they become low and need to be replaced. Users shall not use up all products without having replacements readily available.
Personal Belongings Law
Whatever personal belongings are NOT placed in their correct place within 12 hours of being left all over the castle, the Queen has the direct authority to do whatever she wishes with said item(s). The King and Princess have NO AUTHORITY on this matter and must abide by this law. The Queen has jurisdiction over all areas of the castle, including the kitchen counter, kitchen and dining room chairs, living room couch, staircase, bedrooms, and bathrooms.
This includes but is not limited to keys, belts, hats, shoes, winter wear, backpacks, toys, and other personal items. The owner of the item(s) may or may not see the item(s) ever again, depending on the mood of the Queen.
All folded laundry shall be placed neatly in the owner’s drawers and not left on floors, chairs or in baskets. Any laundry left in these areas longer than 24 hours will be subject to removal by the Queen. (See Personal Belongings Law for clarification of the fine for breaking this law.)
Tomato Sauce Law
If you made sauce, you must clean up the spatters on the stove upon completion of cooking. This law also applies to when sauce is reheated on the stove. The Queen shall always have non-toxic cleaners available.
All boxes shall be either burned or ripped up upon opening and emptying of the boxes. Boxes shall not be thrown down the basement stairs left to create a pile of cardboard resembling the Eiffel Tower or the New York skyline.
Royal Pet Law
Whomever is the first to arrive home must feed the Royal Pet food and water. The Queen will provide food and bowls for said job.
Clause #1: If a subject ‘forgets’ to feed the Royal Pet, that subject shall be forced to eat food of the Queen’s choice.
Clause #2: More than one incident of not feeding the Royal Pet will result in further punishment to be determined by the Queen at the time of the infraction.
Healthy Eating Law
All members of the castle must try kale and refrain from any grimacing or negative comments. Punishment for breaking this law will be determined at the time of the infraction.
Do you think they these laws will can be implemented and followed ?
When you are living with a chronic illness, even every day tasks require pre-planning and thought…and just that thought ALONE can send one running back under the covers.
Here are 5 ways to make managing the holidays a bit easier and hopefully more enjoyable.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
After having a bickering weekend recently, fueled only by my OWN issues with worrying about getting housework done, I started defining small weekly tasks on my calendar, like laundry, ordering groceries (see SHOP SMARTER below), dusting and vacuuming, and bathrooms. Each night is designated for ONE task so that my weekend isn’t consumed by cleaning. Tuesdays I’m not home until 7 pm, so that night I give myself a break from a chore, but the rest of the week is planned out. AND FOR ME, IT ACTUALLY WORKED! Sunday was indeed a day of rest, so I am sticking to my pre-planning habit through the holidays.
I like to be in control of things in my home, but found that I need to get better at doling out tasks for my family members to do to help around the house so I’m not feeling like the sole worker bee. My husband is great with cooking for me–he’s the grill master, for sure, so he will grill up meat for me over the weekend for my lunches for the upcoming week. And he’s learned how to make my tea, so he’ll put a pot on for me if he sees the kettle out. And my ten-year old can easily vacuum the stairs with a hand vac and organize the couch pillows if I let her know.
There’s nothing wrong with asking for help and sharing the load–many hands make light work, right?
SHOP SMARTER, NOT HARDER
I discovered that I could order my groceries online several years ago, and this has been quite the weekly lifesaver! I can either have them delivered or pick them up, depending on which store I shop at. I mostly order non-perishables and things like milk and eggs; meat and veggies we get elsewhere. But truly, this is the BEST WAYto get my grocery shopping done without having to fight aisle antics, crying children, and blinking lights that signal coupon issues at the checkout.
I also shop for many of my holiday gifts online and have them delivered to me at work. It’s wonderful since I can get my goodies without having to worry about them being left on the front porch in the bad weather. I can also squirrel things away from my husband and daughter.
Shopping smarter can really pay off in terms of your sanity. Two years ago, I went out on Black Friday to a local chain store near my home. The line to pay literally went down to the back of the store, and as much as I wanted the few items I selected, they didn’t warrant me standing in line for hours. So, I snapped a few photos of the items and their UPC codes on my phone, then went home and ordered them online. I received the same deals –and with free shipping–without having to wait in line!
That was a magical moment!
SANTA’S LIST ISN’T JUST FOR HIM
We have a very large extended family, and add in the kindly neighbor, the classroom teacher, the dance teacher, the bus driver… it’s plain to see, the holidays can become very expensive very quickly!
I create a holiday table in Word on my computer each year, and I don’t necessarily delineate dollar amounts per person–that seems a little too Scrooge for me– but I do itemize who I’m giving to and try to get some shopping done early prior to December so I’m not scrambling for money or gifts.
Since I do this each year, I can look back to see what I’ve given and not repeat the same gift. I also try to avoid the same candle/mug/tie gift.
Truly, who really needs another Santa mug or holiday tie?
SHOP OUTSIDE OF THE BOX
This year, if I do venture out of my home to shop, I’m going local to shop to support ‘the little guy or gal’. I’ve got plans to go to a local book sale at a library near the town I grew up in over the Thanksgiving weekend. They held a similar event over the summer, and I found some wonderful reading treasures there for myself. I’m going to try it out and see how many family members I can surprise with a literary gift this year. It shouldn’t break the bank, and I’m glad to be supporting library events instead of a CEO’s wallet.
I’m also going to gift the gift of my time this year. My sisters and I are planning on getting together with our kids over the winter break and do something together instead of the usual present in a box that never gets seen again. I’d rather create some memories that will leave a lasting impression.
I went back to work the August after an unexpected medical leave in January 2016.
It’s been good to be back, even with the challenges of a larger group of students with varying levels of specific needs.
One of the things I love about teaching Kindergarten is that I can literally shape how a child views anything–even the most mundane task–just by my reaction or how I present it to them. Work they need to do becomes “a project” or “a puzzle”. Assessments or small group work becomes “working with Mrs. T” time –-and everyone LOVES one on one time with the teacher! Even a little post-it lunch box note from Mom turns into a gloriouslove note. The kids BEAM when I gush, “OH LOOK!!!! Mommy wrote you a LOVE NOTE!!” We read it together and the child toddles off with a smile on his or her face, so happy they got a love note from home.
Sometimes, the children bring in pictures for me—beautiful Kindergarten drawings of us together, sometimes with a drawing of my faithful puppet Red Word Fred intermingled with the hearts and shapes and colors. This year, I’ve had a few of my scholars say, “I made you a love note,” handing their treasure over to me when we collect the mail at the start of the day. I gush and preen over each note, thanking the child and putting it up on my bulletin board behind my table. My bulletin board is already filled with these notes, and I decided it was time to give back the love to my students.
This past Friday, I sent each of them home with a love note from me. Since we do mail in the morning, I had to remind them they couldn’t open it up now, or on the bus, or at the YMCA program after school. They had to wait until they got home to share it with their families.
Their reactions were priceless as they were handed folded notes. Some said thank you, some sat there in awe, looking at their name and heart drawn on the front, reminding me of Charlie Bucket when he found the Golden Ticket, and others were literally just beaming with joy and smiles. I had enclosed both a note and a dot-to-dot page. I’m not sure what will transpire as far as an extra little goodie inside each week—I haven’t planned that far ahead– but my goal is to give them each a love note every Friday morning to read at home.
I hope the love gets passed around this year between home and school!
Ok, kids. Technology has made things easier to some degree in our lives, but not necessarily any smarter. Let’s go over a few things to keep in mind when you are granting ‘all access to you all the time’ on your Smartphone and social media accounts. And let’s see how you can be smarter for your kids and you at your child’s school for the next school year.
REMEMBER: SAFETY FIRST
Oftentimes, Facebook pages light up with parent complaints about not feeling ‘welcome’ anymore at their child’s school when it comes to attending school functions. Translation: they are upset that they have to sign up to attend school events and just can’t “show up” to “help out” anymore.
When frustration takes over at these seemingly unfriendly school rules, we as parents need to remember that schools are first and foremost, places of learning for students.
Sadly, we live in a much more socially dangerous time, where adults and children have access to guns and other weapons. They cause unthinkable carnage at schools and other public places. Innocent people are killed, families are destroyed, and schools are left trying to make sense of it all while still continuing on valiantly to educate students in the pressing age of data driven instruction and assessment.
Many schools now have systems and procedures in place to account for people in and out of the building as a result of the violence that occurs daily across our country. Principals request all dismissal information to be sent in paper format and parents to call if a child is absent. Schools have set arrival and dismissal times and procedures for all students, whether they are driven in, walk, or ride the bus. And schools have much tighter security during the day, where doors are locked and teachers use swipe keys to enter and exit.
These are safety measures for your children and the adults in the building. The rules that are in place are not made to make you feel unwelcome. They are put in place to keep everyone safe.
So don’t become upset when your child’s school asks for parents to sign to attend a school function. It’s much smarter to realize that your child is in a building with hundreds of other children who also deserve to be just as safe as your child. And you would want those parents to follow the safety rules for the sake of your child’s safety, too.
ANNOUNCE YOUR VISIT
Imagine this: You’ve got a big presentation to that you are working on for your job. You went in early to get a head start on the day. Then there’s a knock at your door and your boss is standing there. She needs to you work on some other task right away, even though she knows that you are in the middle of your presentation work. Not the best time, right?
You may think you are doing something loving for your child by a surprise visit to the school by dropping off the forgotten homework or instrument. These seemingly innocent little unannounced visits interrupt the secretary trying to manage the school, the teacher trying to work with students, and your child trying to learn.
A smarter way: pack and check the bag the night before with your child. And don’t worry. One day without the violin or the homework isn’t going to put an end to your child’s school career. Use the forgotten item as a way to remember to plan ahead instead of an excuse to just pop in at school.
PARK IT, PLEASE
Parking can also be an issue at schools. As a teacher, I’ve almost been hit by parents countless times zooming in or out of a school parking lot. Imagine how you would feel if your child were hit by a parent. Or what if, in your haste, you hit another child? Parking procedures are in place to keep everyone safe, including your child, as well as the other students in the school.
There are universal parking rules, like marked handicapped spaces, that need to be adhered to whenever you public places, including schools. And then there are signs at schools that indicate where you can and cannot park because of bus drop offs and fire regulations. At my school, the whole front lot is for parents, and teachers need to park on the side and in the back lots. We work there, and we as teachers need to follow the parking rules just like the parents. Disregarding the signs or rules because you are the PTA President or because you are ‘just running in’ to the school puts others at risk and also shows that you feel you are above any rules. It also sends a message to your child that if my adult doesn’t follow the rules, I don’t need to, either. Everyone: parents, children and teachers, who are part of a school community, needs to follow the parking and safety rules for the benefit of all.
TURN OFF YOUR PHONE
I love my phone. And I know we all have become so attached to all the aspects of a Smartphone: texting, taking pictures, tweeting, and instant access to online information-all.the.time. It’s a great device for quick communication, but with it comes responsibility of how much and when to use it.
When attending a function at your child’s school, please turn off your phone- especially on field trips, when you are in charge of students. No one likes to hear it ring, and if you really have to check it for messages, or text someone, or look on Facebook, then you’re not paying attention to the kids, and shouldn’t you be? And don’t post those photos that you took of your child performing with other kids. You know the ones…the ones you took while you were blocking the view of the parents behind you who were trying to watch their child.
Save the photo ops until you meet up with your child afterwards. You’ll be able to enjoy the performance from start to finish and get better close-ups later on.
WHICH OF THESE TWO IS NOT LIKE THE OTHER?
I had the opportunity to attend two spring school performances this past year. One was my daughter’s chorus and band concert and the other was my niece’s school play. I won’t pinpoint which event was which, but let’s see if you can spot the difference between the two events. At one event, all the audience members, parents and children, were seated quietly and respectfully, listening and clapping as appropriate. At the other, younger children were wandering all over the auditorium with their friends before and during the actual performance, switching seats and just generally being not good audience members like they are taught in school. A pair of parents sitting directly in front of me could hear their children making noise in balcony seats overhead and instead of retrieving their children and sitting with them, the adults just watched them from afar, gesturing to their kids to be quiet.
Can you tell which event was the more difficult of the two to enjoy? In both instances, the children and teachers had worked all year to perfect their skills, and yet only one audience really showed the proper respect for all their hard work. And sadly, it was the parents who were the ones who weren’t holding their children accountable for their concert behavior, not the teachers.
TEACHER TROUBLE? TALK IN PERSON
I really enjoy social media. I have gotten in touch with friends that I haven’t been in contact with in years, and family and friends who are out of state can keep in touch with my family and me. I use it as a way to have fun, and I try to be very cognizant and careful about what I post.
Once August hits and teacher assignments are determined, I often see posts from parents asking about whose kid has or had this teacher and whether the teacher was kind, nice, mean, etc. If you like or dislike a particular teacher, that is certainly is your right. But guess what? It also can remain your private business! It gives me a pit in my stomach, wondering what is being said about me. I am a teacher myself, and I know I work very hard to do the best job I can do for my students. I also know that I am human and have made errors in my career. I would just rather hear about it in person rather than read about it on social media.
Think of it this way: Would you like your kid to post on a social media site how mean, nice, or strict you are at home? Probably not. How about your boss posting on your work performance for everyone to formulate an opinion, regardless of whether or not all the facts are presented? Again, probably a negative.
Conversations about placement should be held in person with the teacher, not with your friends on Facebook.
That’s it for today. So, how do you measure up when it comes to social media and school relationships? Do you pass with flying colors or do you need to brush up on a few skills?
That’s why we go to school.
Track how often you check and use your phone for messages, texting, and checking your social media accounts for three days. Compare that to the amount of time you spend with your children and spouse.
I married my husband on July 21, 2001, when I was 31 years old.
We had met when I was 26, and three years later, became engaged. We had a 2-year engagement, where we saved to pay for both our wedding and honeymoon. I remember writing that check to the restaurant for the reception…it was painful to see that money one minute and hand it over in the next, but what a fun night we had!
He is the youngest of ten, so we had a very large wedding party with his five brothers, my three sisters and brother, a girlfriend of mine, and a niece and nephew as flower girl and ring bearer.
We were married in the Protestant church I grew up in, and we also had a priest officiating, to represent both of our faiths.
Chris and I love a good party, so we planned our reception to be fun. Once in a while, I hear a comment about how much fun our wedding was—as well as how much food was there! We had picked a local restaurant for our reception, and although Chris and I didn’t get to eat that night, we knew our guests would be satisfied with the several course dinner.
We had hired a DJ and because we had different generations of people attending, we tried to select dancing music that everyone could enjoy. Chris and I danced to Frank Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight”, which was about as slow as it got that night! And our cake cutting song was Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”. I can’t remember what the entrance songs were at the reception, but I am sure they were just as upbeat and jazzy.
Over the years, I’ve come to learn about and enjoy many different traditions from my husband’s family. Christmas Eve was the first tradition that I experienced and we continue to enjoy every year. We’ve hosted it a few times, and it’s just a big party overloaded on family, food, and gifts!
When I was pregnant with my daughter, my husband’s family had a baby shower for me, complete with a cookie tray and a beautiful stork that was made by my father in law and had graced the family baby showers over the years.
When my daughter was Sophia christened, my mother made her Christening gown, and she was able to wear a baby Christening ring that has been in my husband’s family for generations.
This past weekend, we went to a family gathering that allowed me to be part of yet another family tradition. A nephew on my husband’s side had gotten married this past February out in California, and his parents held a summer reception at their home here in Connecticut. It was a big party, complete with a tent, white tablecloths, and catered food.
But what was really special for me were the cookies that his aunts and myself made for dessert.
One of my sister-in-laws organized our baking a few weeks ago, and when the seven of us were done, the tray that was made would be the pride of any upstanding Italian wedding! It had anginettes, layered cookies, two kinds of biscotti, raspberry bars, peanut butter and chocolate cookies, chocolate anisette balls, linzer strips, almonds, and little chocolate kisses interspersed.
I couldn’t attend the building of the tray due to an upset stomach, but I was able to see the final product when it arrived at the party house. What a beautiful tray! I was glad that I was able to bake and participate in the cookie tray event. It was a special tradition, that I hope we aunties continue to do, over the next generation of weddings and showers.
I wish my nephew and his now six-month bride a wonderful life full of great memories, happy days, and yummy cookies!
If you are a sports fan, you may be envisioning a football conference right now, or the number of your favorite player’s jersey.
For me, it reminds me of my daughter’s upcoming birthday in a few days. We’ve been planning for a few weeks now, and this morning on my bike ride, it hit me that this will probably be the last birthday that will be more ‘kid oriented’. I’m a Kindergarten teacher by profession, and I LOVE to use my creativity for projects and activities. So every year, celebrating my daughter’s birthday has been an extension of my classroom, allowing me to have fun decorating and planning ‘birthday fun’ for her and her friends to experience at home.
A few times, we did her party outside of our home. Last year, we held it at a popular kid’s nail salon at her request. It turned into a bad scene the next day when on of the girls had a skin burn appear across her fingers. Imagine those phone calls! We finally determined it was a reaction due to the chemicals that were used to clean the tables. (Anyone in my area want to know the name of the salon, let me know.) Needless to say, this unexpected event further supported my view of having house parties for birthdays.
To me, being at home to celebrate life events is a nice memory to look back on. Sure, it’s a lot of prep work to clean and organize beforehand, but it’s all part of the party process. In the end, I’d rather have the cake and candles blown out in the comfort of my own home, surrounded by the people we love.
This year, my daughter is having a Star Wars themed party. It’s been a big to-do as far as planning. My husband, a fabulous graphic artist, made an extraordinary invitation that would put any self-respecting Pintrest parent to shame. I admit, I have been using that website, that sometimes makes me feel like a creative failure at times, to find some cool project ideas. While many are from parents of younger Jedi warriors, we found some pretty good ones for the older crowd. All the party goers have been instructed to wear their best intergalactic gear on party day, and her aunt is making her costume. And my husband has a few surprises in store, too!
I’m looking forward to this party, even though it is a gateway to my daughter’s teen years. I hope her friends will enjoy it, and I hope my daughter remembers all the fun we had getting ready for The Big Ten celebration.
I love jewelry. Not costume jewelry, but family jewelry. I love a little glitz and glam on my fingers or hanging from my ears or wrists or neck. But what I love even more that the sparkle and twinkle is the family connection behind the jewels that I wear.
When I wear a piece of jewelry that belonged to a family member, I feel as if it’s a deep connection to that person who is no longer here physically. It’s a small measure that I take pride in doing by the wearing the jewels of their life.
When my daughter was christened, my husband’s family had a christening ring that had been worn by every baby in his family since his oldest sister, who is now in her sixties, was born. He is youngest of ten, and I believe that ring was even worn by his father when he was christened. Truly, it is a family treasure, and I loved that my daughter was able to be a part of such a rich family tradition. We have a beautiful picture of her with the little diamond gold band around a tiny finger, a length of ribbon secured through it to her dress as well.
The first pair of grown-up earrings I ever received were a gift from my mother when I turned 13. They are little gold triangles with diamond chips in them. Not very flamboyant, but I treasured those earrings and still have them. She also gave me a pretty amethyst and gold bracelet from an antique shop as a birthday gift one year when I was growing up, and still another beautiful garnet pendant another year. I love these pieces because they are not traditional, and I wonder about the women who wore them before me. I wear them often and people will comment on them I because they are so different.
My husband just recently had a charm bracelet put together for me of with various charms that I have collected over the years. He had given the bracelet to me early on in our relationship, and now, almost 20 years later, I finally have it adorned with various charms from two of my grandmothers, my mother, and his mother. All of these women have passed on, but I treasure having the bracelet to wear to keep them close to me.
I also have beautiful pieces from Italy. My mother in law went years ago, and brought me back a pair of gold hoop earrings that I love and wear almost every day. My husband and I also went four years ago, and I purchased two pairs of earrings that just scream “Renaissance” at me. I just adore them and but even more than the earrings, I relish in the stories of the women that could be behind them.
I’m in love with pieces that belonged to both my mother and grandmother that have been graciously given to me to keep. A cameo pin that I put on a chain, a gold and pearl bracelet, and many pairs of stud earrings are a few of my favorites. I also have several cocktail rings that belonged to my grandmother. One is a stunning garnet ring that I wear with my garnet pendant. It’s almost like the two pieces were meant to be together.
I also have been wearing two rings on my right hand, one, which was my mother’s, and the other which was my mother in law’s. While I would rather both women be here right now to share in my life with my husband and daughter, I am thankful that I have these pieces to keep their lives close and remembered each time I wear them.
What special objects in your life keep you connected to loved ones?
As a Kindergarten teacher, my job and my students’ interests really made me aware of gender roles, biases, and stereotypes that children are blatantly and inadvertently exposed to from the minute they are born. I had boy scholars who liked pink and dressing up in a Dorothy/ Wizard of Oz dress in the house corner. And girl scholars who liked building with blocks and zooming cars in the car center.
We all fall victim to the pink/blue stereotype at one point or another in our lives. When we hear of an expectant mother, we get all giddy and bubbly, rushing out to buy pink clothes for girls, blue ones for boys. We decorate our kids’ rooms in sex-delineated colors or other gender conforming details like flowers or race cars or Disney princesses. It’s a big marketing scheme by Babies R Us and every other American family friendly company, because babies are naturally cuddly and lovely. Why wouldn’t we want all pastels and police cars to subliminally point out the ‘correct’ way to be a girtl or a boy, while our children are sleeping, living, and growing up in that bedroom? But the question I pose is: why do we?
When I became pregnant, I purposely found out we were having a girl for several reasons. One, I really wanted to know right away. Two, we had a large extended family on both sides, and I just thought it would be easier for people to know what sex to buy for when making purchases. And three: it made it easier to decorate her bedroom. Which, by the way, we painted YELLOW… and did a farm theme. Not very girly, I know.
I am not a fancy Crate and Barrel “pink is for girls and blue is for boys” type of Mom. I’m more like a “pink and blue is for everyone” type of Mom. I’m the mom who tried early on to expose my daughter to all kinds of great things for both “boys” and “girls”. I didn’t want my daughter to be pegged as a “girl”, but rather as a person who accepts and enjoys all things, regardless if our society labels things for “boys” or “girls”. As far as I can see, it’s working. And I’m proud of that fact.
I sang Carole King and patriotic songs to my daughter as a baby. Her first book that she ever really loved on her own before she was even a year old was a Blues Clues book. She still loves the color blue to this day. We read books and sand songs every day. Stories like Big Blue Truck, Goodnight Moon, Peter Rabbit, and George and Martha were commonplace and enjoyed multiple times. As she got older, she loved the Greek Myths, and more recently, she enjoys Nancy Drew, Heidi Hecklebeck, and Judy Moody, and this summer, we are reading Harry Potter together.
As a toddler, she played with dinosaurs (given to us by her aunt who raised two boys) and blocks as well as baby dolls and all of their accessories. She still has a bazillion stuffed animals that she sleeps with at night, including her Layla and her taggy blanket , which she received in the early months of her life.
When she was in preschool, a co-worker of mine was getting rid of an old McDonald’s play stand, complete with an apron, a pretend headset, and food. She LOVED to dress up and take our orders, writing things down and fixing the trays of food. She played that game for years, and especially when family members came over! It was a joy to see her take control and transform into Diana or Melissa. Her best friend at the time was a boy, and yet, she still enjoyed painting at the easel and dressing up in the house corner at school, which we typically think as “girl” activities. And her favorite television show at the time? Caillou, the one about the whiney bald boy who had to learn life lessons like sharing and being kind to friends. Yep. We sat through hours of that annoying show.
My husband would teach her “boy” things, like soccer and football. When she turned 8, we got her a basketball hoop that we put together after 4 hours of frustration. Her favorite outfits continue to be yoga pants and sneakers with a little sweat jacket for the winter and lined sport shorts and tank tops for the summer. She does like to get dolled up and have her nails done for special occasions or holidays, but she often sides with comfort instead of “looking pretty” for every day activities. I try to encourage wearing leggings and a cute skirt to school, or make requests to do her hair, longing for the days when she was younger and I could put her in cute little dresses and a hair clip, making her curls cascade on either side of her face. She refuses to be prettied up by me, adamant that a quick pony tail with not all the hair neatly combed in place is just fine. She is independent and confident in herself that she doesn’t need to showcase herself as ‘pretty’ every day to be happy. A clear defiant message both to me and the media, who finger point the way for women and girls to dress and make them selves up to look like Barbie dolls and not be comfortable in their own skin.
Her best friends are now girls, but even within the circle of her friends, she’s exposed to both ‘”boy” and “girl” themes. She takes dance and piano, but she also decided to play the saxophone at school this year, and she is the only girl in her grade level to do so. While many of her friends and even cousins were exposed to Star Wars years ago, she now LOVES it, and we are in the middle of planning an intergalactic 10th birthday party for her. It took a long time for my husband to convince her to watch it, since her favorite shows were and continue to be My Little Pony and Littlest Pet Shop, which are definitely geared towards a more feminine audience. To me, Star Wars seems like such a “boy” story, and yet, it has such universal themes for everyone. My own viewpoint about this classic story just shows how my own stereotypes have shaped my thinking, even though I try not to be stereotypical in what I expose my daughter to. And I am glad that both my husband and I are giving her the best of both sexes in her development.
When we paint the stark canvas of “boy” and “girl” in front of our children to study and model from, they develop a very static mindset that closes them off to avenues of learning and enjoyment. One of her cousins was asking me the other day about birthday gift ideas my daughter. I told her Barbie furniture for the doll house she created out of a bookshelf in her room and Pokémon cards. “Wow! Such a variety!” she texted.
Yes, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
How do you teach your children to be a part of both sexes?
When my daughter Sophia was a baby, sometimes I would give her a shirt of mine that I had worn to sleep with at night. I had heard that the scent left on the shirt gives the infant comfort. She’s 9 ½ now, and bedtime has been more of a challenge with her since I’ve been home with Lyme. She’s been clingier at night, wanting me to lie in bed with her for a bit most nights. Some nights, I oblige. Other nights, I firmly say no. Last night, my husband went up with her to read at bedtime. I always check on her before I go to bed, and I couldn’t help but smile and give her a few kisses when I found her sleeping with one of my long-sleeved shirts on over her summer pajamas.
As a teacher and a Mom, I am all about teaching independence when it’s clearly manageable on the child’s end. When Sophia was about 3, we worked on brushing her teeth by herself. I would stand next to her as she brushed, and store her brush and paste in a different cup from my husband’s and mine. I was trying to make it easy for her to manage her things on her on her own. But I would always find all of our brushes together in the same cup. I have an adorable picture that she drew of us when she was that age, and I have it framed and hanging in our kitchen. Each of us is smiling in a window a house. Even though the windows separate us, we are clearly happy together. Much like that picture, we were always together, so why would it be any different for our toothbrushes?
Togetherness seems to be Sophia’s internal theme, whereas I am always trying to allow her to be her own separate person. I was never a co-sleeping type of parent. I firmly believed a baby should learn sleep in their own crib, in their own bedroom, starting from the first night at home. I was, and still am, a light sleeper. The first night in the hospital after Sophia was born, she had to sleep my room because the nursery was full. She slept very well. I, however, did not. I heard every little gurgle, sigh, and hiccup she made that night. The next night, she slept in the nursery. It was a much more restful night for me.
When she was about 3, she would start to ask if she could “sleep over” in my bed. Once in a while on a weekend, I’d let her “sleep over”. Again, it was not a restful night for me because she’d take over the bed. But, she slept very well and enjoyed these nights. Even at age 9 ½, she still asks to have a “sleep over”, and occasionally, if I’m not too much in need of a restful nights’ sleep, I oblige.
One of my favorite times with her when she was little was when I would read to her at night. It started the first night in the hospital, and it has continued in our home ever since. When she was in first and second grade and other parents were praising how well their kid read by themselves, my daughter still loved to be read to a night. And that was fine by me. Over the years in her reading life, we’d take turns reading and listening to each other, our kitty Max bounding up the stairs and making himself comfortable on the bed to listen to the story, too. More recently with my Lyme, she’s been doing more of the reading, and I have been doing more of the listening. Even when I am so tired, I will make my way upstairs to her bedroom. After rearranging her 4 blankets, 3 pillows, 1 oversized duck and her 6 stuffed animals, we snuggle down together in her twin bed, and she reads to me for a time, her body resting against mine, her head cradled in my arm just like when she was the listener and I was the reader.
Since the time she was born, we have taken numerous trips around the neighborhood with me guiding her towards independence. From me pushing her in the carriage to pulling her in the wagon to following next to her on her tricycle and then her big girl bike, then riding our bikes together, and last year, me walking while she navigated the sidewalks on her roller blades, she and I have travelled many miles together.
This afternoon, she went on a bike ride with a neighborhood mom and her child. I haven’t even pulled my bike out yet to ride with her because I am unsure of how long I’d be able to keep up. Before dinner, I asked her to put her bike away. I would guess that most kids would just quickly throw their bike in the garage when asked, not really paying attention to how or where it was placed.
When I went to shut the garage door later on tonight, I paused when I noticed she had parked her bike next to mine. From shirts and toothbrushes to books and bikes, my daughter is still showing me ways that we connect together.
And I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Yours in Lyme Adventures,
Bike, Goodnight Moon, and toothbrush graphics from Google images