Pretty Pretty Pretty

Things People Have Said to Me in Regards to My Appearance: A Poem, of Sorts

Pretty is as pretty does.

It hurts to be beautiful.

Are you anorexic?

You look like an Auschwitz survivor.

You either need a new bikini or a new ass.

If you get your chin fixed, I will buy you a new car.

You’d be prettier if you got your ears pinned.

Stand up straight, your neck looks weird when you slouch.

Why don’t you put on a little blush?

How much do you weigh?

Hey beautiful!

You’re not hot.

I don’t like your outfit.

You dress so cute!

You look better without bangs.

You look better with short hair.

You look better with long hair.

The girl I cheated on you with had firmer boobs than you.

You may be skinny, but you have great boobs!

You don’t have an upper lip.

Do you know you have a huge pimple on your nose?

You have really dark circles under your eyes.

I think you’re pretty, but I can’t date you because you’re too skinny.

Don’t you wish you were blonde?

Don’t you wish you were short?

It must be awful for you that your friends are little and blonde!

You’re so lucky that your kids didn’t get your brown eyes!

You have chicken legs, don’t be offended.

You’re too tall to be hot.

Your teeth are perfect!

Your teeth are too big.

Your teeth are so bad you could eat a peach through a chain link fence.

Do you know you have a birthmark on your back?

Your butt is saggy.

You must be terrible in bed because your ass is so small.

You have a huge ass for your body.

You have birthin’ hips!

You look heavier than last time I saw you.

Ew!  Your hands are so wrinkly!

Your feet are beautiful, can I kiss them?

Your pinky toenails are too big.  They’re gross.

Your eyes are too close together.

You have a tiny head.

You have too many moles.

You have a mustache.

Your knees turn in a little.

You’re too pretty; I don’t want to stand next to you.

Have you tried lifting weights so you’re not so skinny?

You’ve gotten kind of fat.

You’re interesting looking.

You don’t have the girl next door look.

You look really exotic!

Some people just don’t look good without makeup.

You look tired.

Your sisters are prettier than you.


I’ve been thinking a lot about how to approach my daughter’s appearance.  I already know to encourage pursuing her interests, whether they be trucks or princesses.  I know to teach her that her worth comes from within.  I know that as a parent you’re not supposed to place any value on appearance, but I also know that’s impossible.  I know that now, at three years old, people comment incessantly on her curly hair.  They tell her it’s beautiful, because it is, and they tell her to tame it even though she needn’t.  They view her as wild, because her hair is wild.  People tell her she’s pretty.  They love her dress.  They comment on her big blue eyes.  I know these people mean well.

Lisa Bloom wrote an article years ago about the way we talk to our girls.  It was a plea to ask them about their interests, and not their clothes.  To comment on the cool book they were reading, and not their pretty face.  It made so much sense, and it definitely made people think.  I like to think it made an impact, and that people are at least aware that this is an issue.  But how far is too far?  How much should we minimize appearance?  If we minimize it to the point that we don’t even mention it, what will that do to our girls’ self-esteem?  Shouldn’t we be aiming for a whole identity and not just that of “the smart girl” or “the pretty girl”?  Should we be manufacturing compliments, or should we highlight the positive traits we see as we see them?

I later read an article on Jezebel that I think explains the balance a bit better.  We shouldn’t emphasize appearance, but we can’t ignore the importance either.  Beauty and fashion are fun.  You can be beautiful and funny, sexy and smart.  We shouldn’t denigrate girls who are into these “frivolous” interests, because you can be interested in more than one thing.  I know some brilliant women who are very fashionable.  At the same time, we shouldn’t push fashion and beauty onto our girls.  It’s ok to not look beautiful all the time.  It’s ok to not even care if you do.  Confused yet?  I am!

I’m still trying to sort everything out.  I know that I’ve been given free coffee, and dates with cute boys, and even been hired when I’ve looked good.  I know I’m treated much, much differently when I don’t put on makeup and fix my hair.  I know I’ve been treated like I’m stupid when I look pretty, or incessantly harassed on the street.  I know that sometimes my daughter will look good, and sometimes she’ll look bad, and all the time someone will have an opinion about it.  I know that she might be into fashion, and she might give zero shits about makeup.  I don’t know if she will grow up to be conventionally beautiful or not.  I don’t know if she will be beautiful at some stages of life, and not during others.  I guess it doesn’t matter.  Everyone else will always care about her appearance.  I just hope I can teach her that whether she cares about her looks or not, and no matter what she looks like, she needs to own it because all that matters is that she feels good.

So for now, I don’t know if I’m doing it right or not.  I don’t know if I should be encouraging her to fix her hair more often or not.  I don’t even know if I will have the most influence over her, or if the kid who picks on her in sixth grade will give her an eating disorder (God, I hope not), but I’ll keep trying.  I’ll act like I feel good in my body, and I’ll keep wearing a swimsuit in public, and sometimes I’ll go out without makeup. I’ll keeping trying to keep her grounded in what is important, and I’ll keep letting her pick out her clothes, and the only question I’ll ask of her is “do you feel good in what you’re wearing?”  Hopefully I won’t fuck her up too much.

Rocket Pop Mania!

w rocket pop

Let’s switch gears and talk about something fun.  As much as I love talking about gender (and I do, I could talk about it forever), and as important as the heavy parenting topics are, sometimes we need to take a fucking break.  I love summer.  LOVE IT.  Sure, I have a slight issue where I faint when I get too hot and it’s too hot all summer in Houston, but I don’t care.  I could spend all day, every day, for the rest of my life in the pool or at the beach, eating popsicles and hamburgers, drinking beer, and just being with my favorite people.  My kids share this love, especially when it comes to popsicles (and minus the beer, obvi).  My daughter would only eat popsicles for the rest of her days if I let her, and in the summer, I do pretty much let her, because I can because we make them at home and they’re really, really healthy.

As long as something is frozen and moderately sweet, she is happy, but the girl especially loves Rocket Pops.  We only buy them for the Fourth of July, so I thought I would take it upon myself to try a homemade version.  They’re not as sweet, or as patriotic looking as the real deal, but they’re yummy and so healthy.


m rocket pop

What you need:

A popsicle kit (mine only makes four, but I think I need to expand my collection!)

An immersion blender (I have this one and love it)

1 cup cherries

2 limes

Sugar (optional)

1 cup blueberries

Pit your cherries, and puree them.  Add them to the mold, and freeze until solid.  Pour the juice of half a lime into each mold, and freeze again*, puree blueberries, and do the same.  Ta da.  Rocket pops.

If you want a bolder color, you could definitely cook your fruit first, but I tend to err on the side of easy.

*I don’t usually add sugar to my popsicles, so that’s why I kept the lime layer really thin.  It was crazy sour, but delicious.  It really depends on your sour tolerance.

Speaking of rocket pops, here are some cute things that have rocket pops on them, because they’re so adorable and I’m obsessed!

rocket pop

Men’s Underwear/Headband/Sunsuit/T-Shirt/Shorts

Shirt/Dress/Temporary Tattoo

Happy Summer!

Grief and Children: How to Explain Death

“Patience on a Monument Smiling at Grief” John Roddam Spencer Stanhope

After the terrible blow that was 2014, the way we grieve and talk about death have really been on my radar, especially when it comes to our daughter.  When she was brand-new I had a conversation with my father-in-law about Harry Potter.  He and his wife were watching one of the movies, and I had commented that I hadn’t read the books or seen the films, but that I would wait until my kids were a bit older and we could read and watch them together.  He was concerned about exposing children to the sadness of death, but I argued that it was a natural part of life and that they needed to know.  Unfortunately, he was one of the people we lost last year; my daughter’s first brush with bereavement.  When he was ailing, I spent a lot of time researching how to explain death to a child.  I spoke to our pediatrician, read articles, and did some soul searching.  Everything I came across gave largely the same advice.  I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but I listened to this episode of This American Life the other day, and it felt too important not to share.  So here is what I learned:

The most significant thing you can do when a loved one dies is to be direct and factual with your children.  It is so tempting to try to protect them, but you can’t really.  They always know, at the very least, that something is terribly wrong, and it’s much scarier to be in the dark than to know even the most upsetting information.  It’s especially important to explain the facts of what happened, along with the reasons it won’t happen to them. If someone died of cancer, tell them the person was sick, but also reassure them that it’s different from when they get sick, and that it’s not contagious.  It can also be helpful to let them know it wasn’t their fault, depending on the situation.

If it was a caregiver who died, children need reassurance that someone will still be there to care for them.  It may seem selfish from an adult’s perspective, but if you were entirely dependent on help, you would worry about your well being if there was no one to care for you as well.  The world is scary when you’re small. Let them know that someone will always be there for them.

If you are religious, it’s still often best to avoid talk of the afterlife, especially with a very young child. It can be confusing to think that the person is still there, but that you can’t see them.  It’s better to explain that the person is gone.  Everything I read said the same thing: simply explain that the person’s body stopped working, and why.  If they already have a strong understanding of Heaven, they might bring it up themselves, in which case you should answer their questions in a way that feels honest and simple to you.  Let them take the lead, and don’t over-explain.

Let your child ask questions, but don’t insist that they talk.  Death is a tricky concept to understand, and questions that seem inappropriate, are just their way of working through the facts.  They need space to think, so don’t press them for questions.  Just be available to answer them as they come up.  Also, let them use play to work through their issues. Play is how children make sense of the world, and is interestingly less about escape than confronting their problems straight on.

Something I found interesting in the This American Life story was the mention that children re-grieve as they grow.  Each new milestone brings on new grief.  We tend to think of grieving as something that is very intense in the beginning, but lessens with time. Children don’t necessarily follow the seven stages of grief, but grieve in waves instead.  I found this really interesting because my daughter seemed to go through a cognitive leap recently, and with it came many more questions about Pop Pop.

And to circle back to the first point, always tell the truth.  This has been the biggest theme in everything that I have read or listened to, so it seems worth repeating.  When my grandmother’s mother died when she was six, she was told her that her mom went away on a train.  She lived to the age of ninety and never forgot that betrayal.  She had to grieve twice…once for the abandonment of her mother, and again for her death.  It’s so important to really let kids know what happened so they can grieve appropriately, and hopefully only need to process one loss.

Here are the links I found most helpful when I was doing my research, along with some posts that have come up since:

This BabyCenter article on explaining death to a preschooler was my favorite.

A Cup of Jo also tackled the issue recently.

The aforementioned “This American Life” episode is great all around, but the third act is about death, and is really moving and interesting.  I definitely recommend it to all parents, not just those dealing with loss.

I haven’t read this book, but I stumbled across this post this morning, and had to stop back by the blog to add this recommendation for Duck, Death, and the Tulip.  Like I said, I don’t know much about it, but it looks interesting.

If you live in Houston, Bo’s Place was recommended by our pediatrician, but if not there are similar grief counseling organizations throughout the country.

Hopefully you won’t need this information, but if you do, I hope you find this post helpful.

Some Thoughts On Gender

dudelookslikealady

 

I took my kids to the children’s museum on Sunday.  While my husband and daughter played in the main area, I took my son to the baby room.  We had been playing outside in the water before I took him upstairs (because we didn’t think things through at all), so I had to change him into his backup outfit, which consisted of a onesie and nothing else.  Everyone thought he was a girl.  Everyone.

We make a point not to emphasize gender roles at home.  My kids can play with, wear, and be interested in whatever they want, but our day in the baby room really upset me.  Not because everyone thought my son was a girl, but because of the way they spoke to him.  I have always bristled at the way people address my daughter, but it was really interesting to see my son treated the same way.  People were telling their kids to be gentle with him. Everyone told him how pretty he is.  One mom commented on how he was playing quietly, and that’s how you know that boys and girls are fundamentally different because her boy was running around wildly (which I thought was interesting, because her son wasn’t running around, but sitting and playing with a toy).  She also kept telling her son, who was playing with mine, how lucky he was to have found a pretty friend.  I never corrected her, but as we were leaving I considered telling her she was talking to a boy, just to see how she would react.  I assume she would have been horrified.

I just think it’s strange the way we project gender onto babies.  My kids are both pretty and they’re both tough, and smart, and hilarious (in my own, totally unbiased opinion).  They’re really different from each other, but neither is 100% stereotypically boy or girl.  They’re just little people  learning about the world, and I don’t want to limit them based on their junk.  Most of the time it feels like I’m alone in that endeavor.

Drinking some Japanese Kool Aid

MELTOWNGETSHERSHITTOGETHER

Those of you who follow me on Instagram know that I read “The Life-Changing Magice of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo and have started applying the KonMari method to my life.  I’m hardly the first person to obsess over this book so google away if you want to know how other people have experienced the methods, but here are my thoughts so far:

The Philosophy:  Keep only thing things in your life that “spark joy” and find a place in your home for every single thing that you do keep.

The Pros:

  • I have so much less clutter already.  I’m not even close to finished with my house, but I feel so much lighter, and actually happier.
  • Purging becomes an addiction.  I can’t wait to get home every day and clear out and organized the next category on my list.
  • Her methods work!  She does a good job of actually teaching you how to clean out your home.  For example, you don’t clean out your closet…you clean out your entire wardrobe.  You go by category, not area of your house, and then you put everything away together.  It’s a really thorough way of purging, and an effective way of organizing.
  • She really helps you let go of things you don’t need without guilt.  Which is weird because when you think of your belongings as inanimate objects you feel guilty discarding them, but when you personify them you start to feel ok letting them go (this book is kind of kooky, just trust me on this part).

The Cons:

  • It takes six months.  That’s a long time, and I’m worried I’ll burn out eventually (I’m on week three).
  • She doesn’t have kids and it’s obvious.  I don’t have the luxury of taking every belonging out of my purse every evening and re-packing it every morning.  I’m too busy explaining that we don’t watch TV on Tuesday nights, or arguing with my three year old that yes, she does have to wear shoes to school and OMG WE’RE LATE AGAIN!
  • Her methods aren’t 100% practical.  I kept only the clothing items that “sparked joy” but those items are sequined or bright-colored cocktail dresses, black lacy underwear, light and colorful dresses, and shorts of every color.  That sounds wonderful except I have a full time job and I need business casual clothes, and I never go to cocktail parties.  You can’t (or shouldn’t) wear black lacy underwear with white dresses.  Pretty, delicate blouses and short shorts aren’t the most practical mom clothes, and sometimes I need to wear something that can get dirty.  I have been inspired to buy new work clothes that do make me happy, but I can’t give up my “play clothes.”
  • I kind of want to go on a spending spree.  The point is to declutter, but when you’re tasked with keeping only the items that make you happy you start to think nothing you own is truly special enough to “spark joy.”  I’m really fighting the urge to scrap all but a few clothing items so I can start over.

The Surprises:

  • I was prepared to hate her method of folding and storing clothes.  I was oddly angry about it, but in the interest of embracing her method as best I could, I tried it and I love it.  I’m addicted to “filing” my clothes away now!
  • Keeping all of your belongings together actually makes a lot of sense.  I always kept our most-worn shoes by the back door for convenience sake, but keeping them in our respective rooms has made a huge impact on our mornings, and the feeling of the entrance of our house.  It’s slightly inconvenient to walk upstairs to put everyone’s shoes away when we get home, but there’s no longer clutter by the door, and the kids get 100% dressed before we go downstairs.  They’re weirdly more amenable to putting on their shoes when getting dressed for the day than they are when we’re on the way out in the mornings.  It more than makes up for the small effort of walking up the stairs in the evenings.
  • I didn’t feel as crazy talking to my clothes as I expected.
  • I’m way too wrapped up in this philosophy.  I’m not into self-help books, or spiritual guides, or working really hard on my house after work, but this book has gotten ahold of me and I feel kind of weird about it.  I can’t stop talking about it, and I think people are starting to suspect that I’ve joined a cult.

The Tips: 

  • Follow her methods, even if you think they’re dumb.  In the interest of doing it right, I’ve forced myself to stick closely with the program.  If something doesn’t work, you can always change it, but her methods have all worked better than I expected.
  • Watch YouTube videos.  I watched the video of her folding the perfect underwear drawer, and it was a huge help.
  • Actually read the book, don’t wing it.  You need to see the whole picture in order to do it correctly.  Read it from start to finish before you get to work.

As I mentioned, it’s a huge undertaking to organize an entire house, especially if you have a lot of junk, or kids, or a life, so this process is going to take a really long time.  So far I’ve done my clothes, and my kid’s clothes.  This is just a quick summation of my early thoughts.  So far I’m obsessed, but we’ll see how I feel in the end!  I’ll keep you posted, and I promise I’ll get some good pictures!

Mother’s Day Gifts for Terrible Children

Hey!  You!  Mother’s Day is Sunday…have you bought your mom a gift yet?  If not, here’s an Amazon Prime gift guide so you can get her something nice in a hurry.  You’re welcome.

mothers day

Coffee Mug/Pajamas/Perfume/Soap/iPhone 6 Case

This week has been insane, but I’m working on putting my thoughts together in regards to applying the KonMari method to my house.  Keep an eye out for some upcoming posts!

Recovery Mode.

July 4, 2014

July 4, 2014

I just did something crazy.  I’ll tell you all about it, but first, a little background:  2014 was a terrible, terrible year for us.  It started out fine, exciting even.  We were expecting our second child, a baby boy, to join our darling daughter.  My husband, Jake, had just gotten a new job, we were making progress on our house, everything was happy (actually, I’m kind of an angry monster when I’m pregnant, but I mean we were generally happy).  Then Jake’s grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.  It was disheartening, of course, and a difficult blow for our family, but it was just a diagnosis.  Then, in April our beautiful baby was born, and he was amazing, and his sister was amazing and they were so cute together and everything was wonderful.  Except, when you have a second child it’s really hard.  So much harder than anything I had done before, and Jake’s law firm didn’t really let him take any time off.  Splitting myself in two to care for a freshly minted two year old and a baby who had been a fetus just weeks before was unreal.  I couldn’t lift my daughter, because I had a c-section.  They both needed all of me, which was impossible.  Then I went back to work.  Holy. Crap.  Now I was split in three.  Then, the first week back, we had a long weekend for Independence Day.  We relaxed, and spent as a family, and my daughter went swimming and ate popsicles.  Then we got a call, and another call, and another.  My grandmother was in the hospital.  Jake’s grandmother was in the hospital.  Jake’s dad was in the hospital.  My grandmother died soon after and I flew, alone with a very sick (just a severe cold, thankfully) three month old to mourn with my family.  The baby vomited mucus and breastmilk all over me in the middle of the night.  Both nights.  All over the bed.  I flew home.  Jake’s dad was really sick, a brain tumor.  Jake went back to his old law firm (and they were wonderful), and traveled to be with his family and help care for his father.  The baby woke up every hour, screaming in pain from constant ear infections.  We took the kids to Illinois so Jake’s dad could meet the baby.  We were there for two weeks and we lost him.  It was the hardest two weeks.  The kids were sick, the baby had yet another ear infection and had to go to urgent care for antibiotics…we had rescheduled his tubes surgery to go to Illinois.  No one slept.  It was too cold to be outside, especially for tiny Texans.  I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for a family who had lost its patriarch days before.  My cousin died, unexpectedly, the same week.  I had just had a sweet conversation with her at my grandmother’s funeral where she complimented the obituary I wrote — high praise as she was an English teacher — and she spoke fondly of her new granddaughter.  There was so much tangible grief, that the kids soaked it up and it manifested in tears and tantrums and wakefulness.  Then we came home, and tried to be normal, but the baby had surgery and Jake’s grandmother died; two weeks after we lost his dad.  Since then we also lost my uncle and Jake’s other grandmother.  Seven people in seven months.  I don’t know how we survived that year.

And yet we did.  The shadow still looms, though, and so I did something crazy.  I tried to change everything.  You can’t do that.  You can’t fix everything at once.  I spent the last few weeks touring preschools and setting up a nanny to make things easier.  I went so far as to basically offer her the job.  Then I took it away the next day.  I panicked.  It was too much change, and a total 180 from where we are.  In my effort to simplify, I made everything more stressful, and I think the last year made me see how badly things can go.  All I could see were the worst-case scenarios.  What if the nanny was in a car accident while driving the kids somewhere?  What if someone was injured and she panicked?  What if it didn’t work out and we had to start from scratch?  What if, what if, what if?  I couldn’t do it, it was too much.  So we have a new plan…no changes.  I’m still working to simplify, because that’s just necessary, but no major life decisions right now.  We’re not in a good place to make them.  We need a year of calm before we do something crazy like getting a new job, or having another baby.  We need a fucking break.