Monthly Archives: May 2012

Suiting Yourself

A Real Family At The Beach (photo by Eric A. Bauer)

I should know better than to read Yahoo Headlines.  But when checking my mailbox, this gem of a post entitled “What Men Think of Your Bathing Suit” stood out for me as I’ve recently been bathing suit shopping and found the experience frustrating and the selection limited.  This article of 100 random men’s opinions on preferred bathing attire is yet another example of the cultural expectation that women are ornamental.

Two and a half years ago, I had a child and my body was forever changed. My hips are broader.  My weight has returned to post baby numbers, but it has shifted to different places.  Add this to the fact that I deal with IBS, a chronic condition that often results in a bloated stomach, and I no longer feel the need to bare my mid rift or my heinie when on the beach.  I’m not ashamed of how I look, but I do like to dress in a way that highlights my assets…and the area just below my “ass-ettes” is not one of them.

Two Girls in Suits (photo by Eric A. Bauer)

Having recently deflated the upper half of my body post pregnancy, my just post pregnancy suit no longer fit this year.  So I went on a bathing suit buying excursion that left me wondering…who the heck designs women’s bathing suits?

I’m sure I’m not the only gal who prefers a modest appearance to mini triangles held up by string.  And I’m surely not the only mom who doesn’t want to worry about what’s falling out while jumping about in water and digging sandcastles with my kid.  I’m in a different phase of my life, one in which I’m not dressing to attract attention but to (literally) suit myself.

What I found at the local stores near me were overpriced, undersized, cheaply designed bathing costumes that tended to assume every woman is a super-model sized, modesty avoidant, uniformly shaped gal.  As someone with relatively little time to shop by myself (anyone been clothes shopping with a two year old lately?) I felt like my time as a consumer was wasted as I left yet another shopping excursion empty handed.

Finally, my ever supportive husband found a sale ad for bathing suits at a local department store.  Feeling hopeful, we drove to the mall together, he departing to the mall playplace with V while I took a moment to think and try on.  After the realization that my new body shape now meant I wore a size bigger suit, and a sinking understanding that the sale was largely a small percentage off of already exorbitantly priced items (why does such a small clothing article cost so much more than normal attire?!), I narrowed my choices down to three items.  Feeling concerned about the cost, I called my husband back for a consultation and practical assessment.  He’s the one that asks the right questions to help me buy practical shoes, sturdy clothing, and he’s dead honest if something looks hideous.  So despite his protests, he’s really a helpful shopping companion.

I left with a choice that I felt comfortable wearing, a long, stomach-covering tankini (hello easy bathroom use) with a ruffled matching bottom.  It is a little retro looking and cute while still covering up the bits I want covered.  I don’t have any self-consciousness wearing it, which is my test of bathing suit success.  I know other women are equally happy with a small-sized suit and feel comfortable being nearly naked, and if that’s the case, I say power to them.  Being comfortable in your own skin is the sign of a healthy, happy person.  What really matters is that every woman can suit herself with her choice and that the choices provided by the market reflect what women want, not what men desire to see.

Though I appreciated having my husband’s perspective, and I always appreciate when he finds me attractive to him, the idea that any woman would select a bathing suit primarily to please men really galls me.  It stems again from the perpetuated cultural expectation that women need to be ornamental and appeal to a male fantasy rather than being comfortable and happy with our own appearances and tastes.  My husband can’t decide what is going to make me feel comfortable or at ease with myself, and certainly a Yahoo article about men’s preferences shouldn’t influence women’s choices in the least.  So why was it written?  Because even the female author of this ridiculous piece has bought into the idea that beach attire is connected to a mating ritual of our species and that women are meant to choose plumage that serves the purpose of attracting male attention.

Personally, I go to the beach to drink in the scent of the water, to feel a cool breeze, to smoosh sand between my toes as I walk in the surf, to read a book or watch my daughter build sand creations.  I go to relax with friends and share conversation or travel games.  I go to enjoy a picnic and breathe deeply with my husband during an uninterrupted moment of peace.  I do not go to fulfill men’s desire for visual stimulation, as this article would lead women to believe is the function of their swimsuit choice.

I sincerely hope there aren’t any women out there that change their choices because of the Yahoo post, and I also place a challenge out there to all the budding fashion designers:  create a suit that allows a woman to suit themselves at an affordable price.  All of us will be richer for it.


StayCation

Hi all; been spending a lovely weekend with my husband and little gal, V, so I’m a bit behind with blogging.  We haven’t had a vacation alone together since V was born and we’ve been taking time the last few weekends to do that sort of thing.  And this Thursday (my writing night) I plan to go see Dark Shadows.  So it may be a bit before my next post but I’ll be back eventually; I have lots of post ideas simmering…


Expect to Not Know “What To Expect When You’re Expecting”

Our little pumpkin

Back when my husband M and I were expecting, we wrote up a “baby contract.”  The contract was akin to premarital counseling efforts, in which a couple attempts to discuss potential parenting issues and come to some sort of advance understanding about topics of concern.  M and I had waited a long time (approximately 8 years) to grow our family. We had grown accustomed to some of our habits and routines, and were trying to prepare ourselves for the many changes that come along with a new baby.

Our contract addressed many topics, among them: holidays, religion, discipline, division of labor, and alone/couple time.  Part of the agreement stipulated that M and I would try to sustain our mental and emotional well-being by taking time for ourselves with regularly scheduled alone time.  We started this practice sometime within the first year of V’s infancy, after I started really feeling the demands of postpartum life.  It was tricky to manage at first, as I was nursing on demand and V would not take a bottle, even of expressed breast milk, but it was important enough that we made it happen, at first intermittently, then more regularly as she grew older.  At age 2.5, we have managed to sustain the following practice for around a year and a half:  both M and I take one weeknight off a week.  It is only for a few hours, and we are almost always both home for V’s bedtime (with a very few exceptions), but this weekly time has been a haven of sorts.  We each can look forward to a time where we are guaranteed the space to do whatever we choose to restore our spirit and energy.

A week past my due date…not what I was expecting!

I have often allotted my weekly night off for writing time; it is one of the few times I have just the right combination of mental focus and uninterrupted time to compose my blog entries, newspaper articles, and other writing projects.  However, spending every waking free moment on writing began to make it feel like a job for me, so I have recently begun to shake things up by spending time on other neglected hobbies and interests in lieu of writing.

This week, I decided to take myself to a movie at the local cheap theatre.  I haven’t been to a movie by myself since 2007, and it is something I really enjoy doing.  I’m not sure exactly why, but it makes me feel connected to some part of myself to attend a movie independently.  It is time I get to spend choosing what I want, doing something I enjoy, and relying on myself to keep myself good company.

Alternating between Dark Shadows (I used to watch the series with my mom and sister as a kid) and What to Expect While You’re Expecting, I decided to go with the “chick flick,” something I knew M has about zero interest to see.  Settling into a 5:10 show, the lone person in the theatre, with my dollar bag of popcorn and a soda, I felt a great sense of relaxation and satisfaction with my choice for the evening.

The movie, as expected, was no great work of art.  I got pretty much what I was looking for out of the evening: mindless entertainment.  But I did have a few reflections about it that I thought I’d share for those considering a viewing. Please acknowledge the SPOILER ALERT here!

Greeting little V for the first time!

What To Expect While You’re Expecting couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be a drama or a comedy and as a result, did not fully achieve either.  Parts of the drama succeeded:  Wendy’s (Elizabeth Banks) dashed expectations of having “pregnancy glow” as she experiences the many physical and emotional challenges of pregnancy; the experience of miscarriage and its toll on an unstable, fledgling relationship; the potential risks of delivery; some of the feelings associated with fertility struggles.  Though I do not have a personal understanding of the experience of adoption; aspects of some of the insensitivity and lack of social support and understanding that adoptive parents could potentially face seemed to resonate as honest depictions.

The comedy however, stopped just short of abysmal.  In contrast to some of the dramatic moments of the movie, the comedic moments seemed forced, clichéd, and unnatural.  For example, the dads’ group, which had appeared in the trailer, was another example of the “doofus dads” phenomenon, as my husband has aptly named this stereotypical depiction of fathers in the media.  Though there were few moments of the dads “screwing up” in their fatherly roles, their attitudes were largely portrayed as wistful, nostalgic yearnings for their long abandoned, pre-kid, manhood.  I found this to be particularly repugnant, as both my husband, and other involved dads I know, do not walk around spending their energies pining after a pre-kid persona.  Nor is their manhood somehow reduced by their role as parents. In fact, the stay-at-home dads in our playgroup pretty much express the same experiences as stay-at-home moms, only without some of the social support systems inherent to motherhood.  Dads are dealing with the same discipline issues, balance, sleep and feeding concerns, and philosophical questions about how to raise caring, thoughtful children.  They aren’t slinging beer cans from the backseat of the mini-van or functioning in the half-aware state shown by Vic (Chris Rock) towards his toddler aged son.  Though not a father, these portrayals irritated me.

A beautiful moment of NOT “a doofus dad” and his newborn daughter…

The ridiculous go-cart race between Ramsey (Dennis Quaid) and his son was another example of over-the-top, as was the scene where Vic’s son gets beamed with a beer can and tumbles down a set of concrete stairs completely unscathed.  And sneezing out a child? I can’t imagine any mother, even those with relatively uncomplicated labors, who have had that kind of delightfully easy experience.  Overall, the humor was slapstick that fell flat and contrasted too strongly with the emotional intensity of many of the other scenes.  More subtle and less stereotypical attempts may have made the film hold together a bit better.

Still, as my expectations were not fixed or high, I was entertained, and found moments that I could identify with in many of the characters’ experiences.  And I think many parents can relate to the transcending message of the film, that you can’t ever fully anticipate the experience of pregnancy and parenthood until you are living through them.

First family photo

While our “kid contract” helped M and I start discussions and have a tentative plan for dealing with some hot button parenting issues, we could never have imagined the joys, the challenges, and most of all, the love that accompanies the arrival of a child and parenthood in general.  The most we can all do, after all, is to make the best choices for our children as we go, to seek out the support of friends and family to help us over the rough patches, and to love our little ones with all our hearts.  Parenting will always challenge our expectations, and it’s up to us to adapt and open ourselves up to the reality that no movie, however intense or humorous can adequately capture.

Mama and V holding hands; they were SO tiny! I love baby hands!

Author’s Note:  Hilariously, I was joined in the theatre right at the end of the movie, smack during the series of labor scenes, by a small, approximately eight year old boy.  After several minutes had passed, with no parent yet in sight, I asked him if he was sure he was in the right spot.  He didn’t answer.  I feared he might be in shock. As the credits rolled, his mother walked in with refreshments for the next viewing of What to Expect.  I can’t imagine taking my elementary aged son or daughter to see this movie, but I’m sure it was enlightening for him!


To Market, To Market….Playing “Shop N’Go”

My daughter V has recently begun to play a game she calls “Grocery Store”or “Shop N’Go” (which I think, incidentally was the brand name of her play shopping cart).   Any parent of a toddler knows that grocery shopping with said toddler can be a challenging experience.  Role playing grocery shopping experiences can help a little one become familiar with the routines and expectations of a shopping trip in a fun manner.  There are many wonderful learning opportunities that arise during play shopping and I hope to share some of them with you through this post.

To play grocery store, V and I take turns being the cashier/shopkeeper and the shopper.

The shopkeeper/cashier sets out play fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy items.

This is a great opportunity to have your little one sort the items by food group or color.  If you have more than one of an item, you can play counting games by asking your child how many of each item they are putting in your play store.

The shopper (as we play it) takes a mini shopping cart and visits the store, selecting items for the basket.  As the shopper, I like to talk about what I am buying, and sometimes talk about why I am “buying” a certain item (ex:  “I want to make a pie; oh, look, there are some apples for my pie!”).  The shopper proceeds to the cash register (we use V’s baby piano) and sets the items on the counter.  (Here again is another opportunity for sorting or counting items.)

We have a little fake scanner (the faucet from V’s play kitchen) that we use to scan each item.  V loves to make a scanning sound “BOOP!”  when each item is “scanned.”  As a shopkeeper, V then puts the items in a reusable bag for the customer.

The shopper then takes out a play wallet(I bought a brand new wallet for a dollar at the Goodwill to use during play).  We have play money (coins and bills) and also old fake credit cards (old, used gift cards and fake credit cards that come with offers) that we use to pay.  V likes to slide the credit card through our credit card reader (the space between the piano keys) and hand it back to me.  We also use this as an opportunity to learn about money.  I show V the different types of coins and that five pennies is the same as one nickel.  We talk about which coins are worth more money and that the bigger coins aren’t always the ones worth the most money.  I don’t expect her to grasp all of these concepts at two, but she is learning the names of the coins and will gradually add knowledge through our continued play.

We also practice courtesy by saying, “Thank you!  Have a nice day!”  when we part company at the register.

Recently, V and I had an awful shopping experience when our wills collided down aisle 5.  After the dust had settled from our trip, we role played a similar experience with her baby dolls who just didn’t want to listen in our play grocery store.  I pretended that the baby wouldn’t get in her cart, was running in different directions, climbing out of the cart, and grabbing things she shouldn’t.  I asked V what she thought we should do in each of the situations.  She problem solved, “Put the baby in the cart;” “Give the baby a snack;”  “Strap her in.”  All of these ideas were great solutions and I could tell it got her wheels turning as she thought about what to do with unruly Baby.  When I asked her what we should do when Baby wouldn’t listen to our choices, I said, “I’m so frustrated!  I can’t get Baby to listen!  What should we do with Baby?”  V looked at me with an understanding grin.  Our next shopping experience was a bit more peaceful, but I know the learning will be part of an ongoing process.  Involving her in solution finding for challenging behavior gave her an opportunity to experience the situation from my perspective.

We try to carry over V’s learning to real life store experiences, allowing her to help us put items in the basket, scan our card at the register, and take the receipt.  She loves to select produce and always reminds me to buy eggs.  Recently, I recited a list of items we needed to remember to buy at the grocery store and she felt really proud to remind Mommy that we needed to purchase pens and Kleenex!  And I had one less thing to remember by myself!

For supplemental learning, try reading the following titles with your child:

At The Supermarket by Anne Rockwell (This sweet title was read over and over by my little gal who loved the story line of the mom and son buying ingredients for a birthday cake that they make at the end of the book.)

A Day at the Market by Sara Anderson (This one is a little quirky, including names of people that are specific to a particular farmer’s market, dumpster divers, and exotic ingredients but it is still a helpful read for kids and captures the excitement that a child might feel at a large marketplace.)

Maisy Goes Shopping by Lucy Cousins (Who doesn’t love a Maisy book?)

Eating The Alphabet:  Fruits and Vegetables From A To Z by Lois Ehlert:  (Even I learned some new fruit/veggie names from this title.)


Dinosaur Obsessed: Teaching Toddlers About Dinosaurs

V at Dinosaur Land…totally unfazed by the giant, looming, statues!

My little gal, V, loves dinosaurs.  It began during her potty training reading when she devoured all of Jane Yolen and Mark Teague’s “How Do Dinosaurs…” collection.  We had a stack of about seven of these titles that we had to read during every potty trip, until I got smart and snuck a few out of the room.

It continued as she memorized the entire story of Paul and Henrietta Stickland’s Dinosaur Roar.  We have video of her sitting on the potty reading this title in the same intonations as I do…”dinosaur clean and dinosaur SLIMY!”  We checked this one out from the library and ended up buying a copy for ourselves because it became such a favorite.

At a recent trip to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, we got to see a dinosaur exhibit that somewhat befuddled V, as she had only seen dinosaurs wearing their skins in books, and did not quite know what to make of the collection of bones standing before her.  However, Bones, Bones, Dinosaur Bones by Byron Barton shows the entire process of excavating, transporting, assembling, and seeing the finished exhibit of dinosaur ones in a very toddler friendly story.

At the Natural History Museum, we purchased a copy of First Look at Dinosaurs by the Smithsonian Institution.  This simple book talks about different types of dinosaurs (ones that ate leaves, ones that fly, ones that hunted, ones with horns, ones with plates and clubs) in a very simple fashion with fun and non-threatening pictures. V loves to read this age appropriate title, and says that the mommy Stegosaurus with her eggs is a picture of me, “Dat’s you!”  (Obviously because we are both mommies…you know.  I love how toddlers think!)

Another great dinosaur title that can be read to both young and school aged children is Dinosaurs Roar, Butterflies Soar by Bob Barner.  With abstract pictures of dinos, the book tells the story of how dinosaurs and butterflies co-existed until the extinction of the dinosaurs (or as V says, “Dinosaurs are stinked.”  Each page includes additional facts for older children to read that can be left out when reading to toddlers.  There is a great timeline in the back of the book that shows the emergence of dinosaurs, butterflies, animals, and humans on Earth.

Just chillin’ and eating my apple with my bud, the BIG, SCARY, DINOSAUR!

Finally, with V’s playgroup, we were able to journey to a local kitschy destination, “Dinosaur Land.”  Dinosaur Land is a big old yard filled with life-sized replica statues of dinosaurs.  I was initially unsure whether V would be intimidated by the size and “scary” demeanor of the statues, but was soon put at ease as she raced around them with her friends, even climbing onto the hand of the giant King Kong replica that for some reason was a part of the outdoor exhibit.

Roaring back

She loved the experience of playing among the dinosaurs and recently embarked on an  imaginary adventure to Dinosaur Land in a pretend boat she made out of her step stool. V’s favorite dinosaur is the Elizabeth Bennett of the dinosaur world, “Tyrannosaurus Rex!”  We’ll be going back with Daddy to visit the dinosaurs soon!

Another activity I have heard of, but have yet to try, is digging for dinosaur bones.  There are play kits that include replica dinosaur bones and sand so that kids can dig and find the bones.  I imagine you could be creative and make something of the sort with popsicle sticks and sand or play figures.  Please feel free to share any dinosaur related activity ideas in the comments section below!


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