Monthly Archives: February 2012

Wishing for the Right Words: Dead End Conflicts with Dangerous Drivers and Unruly Kids

(Editor’s note:  This post was written a week ago)

You know that frustrating feeling of facing a conflict situation on the spot, then wishing you could go back and say or do something completely different?  I hate that feeling of regret, some self-loathing, feeling tongue-tied, replaying the situation over in my head, wishing I was wittier, or cleverer, or more assertive, or less aggressive, or less oblivious. Eventually I get over it, and as I get older, I’ve developed more forgiveness towards myself, but I still have those times where I just wish I could be cooler in a conflict.

Today I had more than one of those moments.  One in the car and one in a restaurant play place.

Coming back from a play date at a local open gym, I stopped at a four way stop, waited for the only car to turn left, then proceeded to move into the intersection where my daughter and I were almost t-boned by a texting driver who blew down the street, through the stop sign without a pause, at a speed definitely higher than the 25 mile an hour speed limit.  Incensed, I thought about getting the driver’s license number and calling the police.  Stuck behind the jerk for another half mile until he pulled over to continue his conversation, I seriously contemplated pulling over on the well populated street to confront him about his dangerous driving behavior.  I even had my turn signal on to do so. Then, considering the safety risk, the presence of my daughter, and the probable futility of such a conversation, I flicked my turn signal back off and kept driving to the next parking lot, where I called my husband, fuming while he empathically commiserated.  Part of me so wished, sooo wished, I could have confronted the individual.  In my head, I imagined myself calling attention to his behavior, making him aware that he endangered a small child and her mother, and teaching him the error of his ways…a likely scenario, right.  Still, my relative helplessness in the situation rankles.

The next situation surfaced during dinner at our local Chik-Fil-A in the children’s play area, a place notorious for negligent parents and out of control kids.  I hate going in there, but my daughter loves it, so I try to deal.  This evening’s incidents were over the top though.  The culprits in the situation were one girl about six years old, and two boys around 9 years old.  Their mothers were seated behind the glass plating separating the dining area from the play area.  During the hour and a half or so we were in the restaurant, neither mother arose from her seat to check on the status of things in the play area.  I understand giving kids some space, and also the need to have adult conversation.  I’m not going to get into generalizations about the kids or the mothers’ parenting styles, because I’ve only seen a snapshot and who knows what factors were in play.  But here is what I observed:  the little girl chattering non-stop to any adult that came into the play area, constantly seeking adult attention, while climbing on the edge of the play structure in an unsafe way;  one of the boys saying something obnoxious about the gaze of my two year old daughter “Why are you staring at me?  Do you like me, like love me?  Ugh, that’s disgusting.”; the other boy making nasty noises in my daughter’s face and saying something about scaring her (my husband caught  this one and intervened gently in this situation); the boys beating on each other and pushing their way in front of other kids and climbing up the bottom of the slide while other kids were trying to come down.  Meanwhile, the moms continued chatting outside, leaving the two sets of parents in the structure to contend with the continual issues.

Finally, the situation that tugged on my heart strings the most was what one of the boys and the girl said to another girl, about 12 years old, who was hanging out with her dad and little brother in the play structure area:  “Are you a girl? You don’t look like one.  Your hair cut makes you look like a boy.”  Subsequently, the little girl climbed into a hidden area of the play structure, asking “When are going, Daddy?  Can we go now?”  Her embarrassment was palpable and heartwrenching.  The little girl was at the awkward age, but still cute with her short, sassy cut, that looked something like what Demi Moore’s daughter, Rumer, would sport.  It took her a little while to emerge from the play structure; she surfaced when her brother was ready to leave, and I finally said something I didn’t regret: “I like your hair cut.  Those little kids don’t know anything about fashion.”  She gave me a sweet little smile then asked about my daughter, commenting on how cute she was.  The dad (who I’m guessing was either at a loss for how to help out his daughter in the situation or planning to talk with her in private) said goodbye to my husband and I when they left.  I know I couldn’t take away the words that were said, but hopefully, they’ll take away some of the sting and self-doubt she was feeling.

I know self-doubt.  I was an awkward pre-teen and teenager.  I still have many awkward moments.  Even tonight, I think of what I might have said to the child who made an age appropriate, but mean comment to my daughter.  I could have said, “That is not very nice.”  I could have said, “She’s two and she’s just looking around because she’s interested in what you are doing.”  I was just too emotionally flooded to think clearly. I don’t think my daughter understood the dynamic, but it angers me to see young boys putting girls down on the basis of their gender.  It frustrates me when boys disrespect girls from a young age or when I see young boys putting down girls or each other to try to appear tough or masculine. It frustrates me when girls join the bullying to try to compete with the boys. It says something to me about the messages these children are receiving and ones they may not be receiving.  I wonder about my role in being a voice that contradicts that, but I think would be self-righteous and presumptuous of me to assume that teaching role with other people’s children.  But if their parents don’t hear, don’t intervene, where will they learn differently?  I remind myself I’m not the parent of other kids.  The problem comes when I see kids hurting other children in front of me or when my own daughter is involved when she is still too young to advocate for herself with older children.  I wonder what she learns when I am silent, what she thinks about saying that she doesn’t yet have words to express?

In another dimension, I would sit down with those moms, and say, “I thought you’d want to know what your kids said in there, so you could address it the way you see fit.”  In my head, I can play out this scenario with everyone being open and appreciative and kind to each other.  I can hear the moms having quality follow up conversations with their kids.  I can feel something shifting in the direction of kindness over cruelty.  But I know that my imagination is not reality, and I’m bound to offend them if I open my mouth.  So I keep my observations to myself.  I wish I could find a way to handle the play area experience differently, one that would allow everyone to keep their dignity, one that would take away hurt, one that would teach those kids to be a little kinder, and remind the parents to tune in occasionally.  I know I may be perceived as self-righteous, but I might be a little right, too.  Tonight, I have to take refuge in my writing, unburdening myself and shedding a sense of helplessness as I find voice on paper for the words I am unable to grasp when I need them.


Linking up with Things I Can’t Say for


Home Cooking with The Ripple Effect 2009: Perfect Pint-Sized Pizzas

We love pizza night in our house; we often have pizzas on Tuesday nights because our favorite local pizza place has a bargain deal.  Even with the savings, the cost of pizza night can add up over the course of the month.  So I like to make homemade pizzas as well to keep the cost down.  We’ve tried this a number of different ways with the most complicated making our own dough, to the least complicated:  buying a pre-made crust.  Today, I’d like to share my favorite pizza making technique with you, as it is easy, healthy, and very kid-friendly!  My daughter loves making pizzas with us and so it turns into a fun and educational activity as well as a tasty and simple evening meal!

Just assembled pizzas, headed to the oven


Arnold Multi-Grain Sandwich Thins (incidentally, only 100 calories, no high-fructose corn syrup, and whole wheat!)

Pizza sauce (you can use leftover spaghetti sauce or we used organic tomato sauce and added our own spices)

Spices (oregano, basil, garlic powder, sea salt; we used a combination of dried and fresh from our kitchen window herb garden)

Mozzarella cheese (low-fat works fine)

Assorted pizza toppings (we used onions, leftover green pepper from another weekly meal, deli-ham, grape tomatoes–halved, green olives–halved)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Split the Sandwich thin bun into the two, precut halves and place on a cookie sheet.

Spread sauce over bun; be generous because a little gets absorbed in

Add spices, sprinkle cheese, and add toppings to taste

Place cookie sheet in oven on center rack for approximately 7 minutes

Remove, let them cool and enjoy!

Returning Ripples: Children’s Play: Redefining Femininity for Ourselves and our Girls Part Three

Last week, I introduced a Friday series I’m calling Returning Ripples, where I feature my fave posts for readers who may have missed them the first time around.  With the constant media flurry regarding gender and toys, (check out the recent Lego friends issue or ongoing princess debates), I thought this one could make a resurgence.  It’s a post I feel pretty strongly about; play is one of the most important ways a young child learns.  The learning environment we create can expose our children to a broader range of experiences or constrain them on the basis of gender.  While children have some innate preferences, the biological gap is actually pretty small and made bigger by environmental/learned factors.  Limiting kids at a young age deprives them of the opportunity to figure out who they are through play.


This post is part of a currently three part post on

Redefining Femininity for Ourselves and our Girls

Click here to read

Part One:  Keeping up Appearances:  What Makes Clothing “Feminine?”

Click here to read

Part Two: It’s Not the Pressure from the Guys that Causes Women to be Appearance-Focused

Part Three:  Children’s Play and Gender Stereotypes

Chef, pirate, adventurer, V's play includes all these roles and more...

In a previous generation, my little gal, V, would be labeled a “tomboy” for some of her interests. I have always hated that expression, and I’m glad it is gradually being phased out of popular vocabulary, or at least detached from its former negative connotations, because it basically limits femininity to a very narrow group of interests.  My daughter loves trains, dragons, dinosaurs, space, fixing things with tools, knights and jousting, animals, and cars.  She also gently feeds her baby dolls, mixes up food in her play kitchen (often it is a side dish of matchbox car), and likes to dress up in beads and hats.  Her favorite colors are “pourple” and “bah-lak,” both a stereotypically feminine and a traditionally masculine color.  She likes shoes and has a very specific reason for selecting a particular pair (black, red, or purple) often matching her shoes and her bows based on color.

Both my husband M, and I feel it is important that V is exposed to a variety of play.   Loving all things English, I was excited to play tea party with my little one.  M is thrilled to take her to the game store where tabletop games involving knights, skaven, ogres, and elves are played alongside complex board games.  We encourage her to develop a variety of interests, and I check out books from the library based on these ever-changing topics every week.  We are currently reading about elephants, knights, Clifford (“Cliffs”), Halloween, shapes, and Winnie-the-Pooh. V also selected a children’s picture book about the Trojan War (?!); looking at this book has kept her unusually silent for minutes beyond her usual attention span.  Perhaps we are raising a future classicist, who knows?  V dances to music, gardens, cooks, does “arht prohjects” and “kickbahls.”  I like to think she is a well-rounded kid.

I don’t think any of V’s play particularly connects to her “femininity” or “masculinity.”  She is a toddler.  She is pretty androgynous, as far as I’m concerned.  Yet I still hear parents talking about the preferences their children have for toys that are associated with their sex, as if that was no doing of their own.  While I know that kids often do fixate on a particular interest, and that sometimes there are gender role differences that might come into play, I do wonder whether these parents have exposed their kids to other options.  Have they bought their boys a tea set or given them a “dolly?”  Have they given their girls a “Thomas the Train” set or did they select the “Disney Princess” book instead?  And what about the relatives?  I know that most of the toys in our house have been bequeathed by our mothers who, God love them, have preserved the stuff in their respective attics/basements since our childhood.  Luckily for us, our moms had a mix of toys to present to V, most of them being stuff like animals, or Fisher Price airplane and castle sets, or stacking rings.  Still, we have heard the off comment from friends and family members who expect our girl to be playing with traditionally girly sorts of toys.  I’m glad that we have the ultimate deciding power for what is in our household and also the stuff to speak up about what we hope to teach V through play.

I have heard parents taking the opposite routes with their kids, decrying anything that the kid prefers that falls along traditional gender roles.  I think that sends a message as well.  What I’m inclined to believe is that many adults have difficulty disassociating toys and gender and that difficulty affects our attitudes towards our children’s play.  If we listen to our kids interests, and expose them to a wide variety of play, keeping away from the ultra-violent or super saccharin sorts of toys, most kids’ interests will include a little of the stereotypical both.  Play is one of the most important learning tools for kids, especially in the toddler and preschool years, and it is truly a shame to limit kids’ play based on antiquated notions of what is or isn’t masculine or feminine.  Our boys can benefit from learning tenderness and gentleness with care of baby dolls and our girls can find their strength in crashing cars and kicking balls with fervor.  And vice versa.

Linking up with Shell’s Things I Can’t Say for Pour Your Heart Out!

Accomplishing Housework with a Toddler and Teaching Them How to Help

Ways to Complete Housework with a Toddler and Teach them how to Help:

I’m a neat freak, but I don’t want to sacrifice time with my daughter for a tidy house.  At two, she is at the age where she wants to imitate mommy and do everything I do, so it is easy to involve her in household tasks. In the mornings, we talk about the plan for the day: where we will go, what jobs I need to accomplish, what things she might want to help with, what fun things she wants to do together that day.  I find that having a plan helps her know what to anticipate. I want to teach my daughter to be helpful and involved with the work of the family. We also have an overall routine for the week with some days more focused on play and some more task-oriented days (for example, we have what we call Working Wednesdays!).   We make things fun by listening to music, singing songs together, and she is free to participate for the length of time she is interested (which can be surprisingly long!).  By using creative strategies, I find I am able to spend time alongside my daughter while we work, freeing me up for time to play together.   She also learns about household duties and chores in a developmentally appropriate way.  With adequate time-ins for play mixed in, we can often have a productive day together. Here are some of the ways we clean together:

-Setting the table:  Toddlers can take some items to the table and learn to place them properly.  Forks, napkins, any plastic or unbreakable dishware are all items they can help with.  They can bring tubs of butter, loaves of bread, condiments.  This is a good way to get some extra hands carrying to the table and they feel like big kids for being allowed to help, rather than brushed aside in the pre-dinner preparations.

-Washing the kitchen table:  after dinnertime, have your child bring his/her plate to the sink/dishwasher for clean up.  Give them a soapy rag and towel and let them wipe off the table while you load the dishes.  Reward with a bedtime story with the extra time you have.

-Washing dishes:  While I do dishes, I fill a little dishpan with gentle Palmolive Dish Soap and give my daughter a dish cloth.  She fills the pan with her play dishes and they get a cleaning while I get my work done.  Make sure to put down towels and do this in a tiled area only.  Teach your child to crawl rather than walk on wet floors so they don’t take a spill.

-Unloading the dishwasher:  I give my daughter a towel and let her dry any plastic items or pots/pans.  She knows the appropriate cupboards for many items, and proudly puts away pans and colanders and her little toddler spoons.

-Dusting:  I give my daughter a damp cloth and let her help alongside me when we dust.  I give her simple areas to dust (rocking chairs, sides of dressers) that do not require she moves lamps or knickknacks.

-Sweeping and vacuuming:  My daughter LOVES to do both.  We take turns and I multitask during her turns by folding laundry or wiping counters.

-Washing the floor:  Use a gentle cleaner like Palmolive Dish Soap and warm (not hot) water.  Get some old rags and towels and let your toddler scrub with you.  A tip for safety:  have them walk not crawl, so they don’t slip and fall.  Also, you can have them wear swim diapers and t-shirts for easy clean up.  I usually have my daughter help me, then give her a warm bath afterwards!

-Folding laundry:  V loves to help by shaking out the laundry and bunching it into a semi-fold.  I refold when she can’t see because I don’t want to discourage her effortsJ  In the meantime though, I’m able to fold several stacks while she works on an item or two.  She also likes to help carry laundry to the washer and dryer, load the dryer with clothes that I hand her, and push the start button.

-Taking trash:  My daughter loves to take little trash bags from the bathrooms to the back door for me to run to our trash can in the garage.  The other day, without asking, she took the little plastic grocery bags from the kitchen after we unloaded groceries and put them in the bathroom for us to use in the bathroom trash cans.  I was so proud of my little helper’s initiative, I made sure to heap a bunch of praise on her for her thoughtfulness.

-Tidying the playroom:  This is probably my biggest area of struggle.   I don’t mind kid litter, as long as it’s in the playroom and we can walk through it.  When we start tripping through the room, or stuff migrates to other areas of the house (we have an open floor plan where the playroom connects to the dining and living rooms), it can sometimes bug me.   My husband encourages V to pick up her toys before she moves onto the next project, and I’m trying to be consistent with his initiative.  Minimally, we have a couple of sweeps of the playroom per day and we work together to return toys to their homes.  Then, we usually follow up with a time-in of some sort (like reading or playing puzzles or games together).

-Feeding and caring for pets:  We have a lop-eared bunny rabbit, Carmen.  V helps with Carmen by feeding her hay, greens, carrots, and timothy hay pellets.  I take care of litter and cage changes while she sweeps the extra hay around the cage with a little dustpan. She also helps brush Carmen’s fur.  Recently, she has become so excited to give Carmen a little peanut treat from her hand!

-Seasonally, we also enjoy gardening and raking leaves together.  V enjoys sweeping the garage and sidewalk and makes quite a cute impression pushing the giant push broom around with her little self.

Finding ways to make work fun and sharing it together teaches your child how to balance work with play from a young age.  It teaches the time and effort required to complete housework and hopefully builds a sense of responsibility and appreciation.  As she matures, we will talk with V about what household duties she would like to share, what roles we hope she will assume, and work out ways to involve her in household decisions and rewards that best befits her age and maturity.  We share work and we share play in our home.  One tradition I hope to always share, is completing tasks together; even the most mundane tasks, when accomplished  with someone you love, can become rituals to look forward to as conversation, music, and time are shared.

Internet Issues

Hi friends,

We are having some issues with our Internet access, so my comments and access may be a bit delayed (in a coffee shop right now!)  I hope to connect with you all again soon!

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