Was robbed of sleep last night, thanks to Charlotte’s chronic coughing. Scott was a gem and took the day off to be with her because of two important meetings I had. That’s how we roll – pitting the urgency of our work commitments against each other’s. The girl wasn’t sick but she certainly didn’t get a good enough night’s sleep to function well in school and then after-school. Plus, as she put it, her coughing at school would be interrupting everybody.

So I was cranky all day. I worked hard to stuff it back inside and was pretty successful until returning home. Because that’s how it is sometimes – saving the worst for the people you love best.



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Part 2: What a Girl Wants…Maybe

I recently posted about a new construction toy aimed towards girls 6-11 years old. The ad was attention-getting, with the catchy hook of a Beastie Boys track re-written from the girls’ point of view, eschewing domestic-themed play, and the visual intrigue of a Rube Goldberg machine. Fun stuff. Show it to a girl and ask her what it was trying to sell and she’ll most likely shrug. The toy it was promoting, GoldieBlox, was completely absent from the scenario. But hey, advertising. I get it. I work in it. To sell something, you have to sell people on the feeling you want them to associate with the product. And “You go, girl!” is what the take-away of the ad was, and what GoldieBlox’s hope will be from their toy.

My daughter just turned 6 and I’m not considering buying GoldieBlox for her. I think she’d rather build a Rube Goldberg apparatus with her little brother out of found materials in our apartment.

I am also not considering this as a holiday gift for Charlotte.

I’m not a “Hunger Games” fan, but even if I was, I don’t choose to buy pretend weapons for my kids. Not even now that they come in pink and purple, just for girls.

Nerf’s “Rebelle” line of combat-themed toys is a version of their usual artillery, feminized in pastels with descriptions such as “Take aim…and show the world the beauty of strength and power.”

Again with the beauty. You can’t be strong or powerful (or have decent hand-eye coordination, I guess) without it being contextualized in beauty if you’re female.

Say what?

My issue with this line of toys (apart from the screaming headline of perpetuating violent play) continues to be twofold:

1. Segregating by sex. Nerf products have existed forever for any child of a certain age, though they were almost exclusively marketed to boys. In fact, on the products homepage of the Nerf website (which makes NO mention of their new, girl-targeted Rebelle line), you have an option of searching by gender. The choices? “Boys” or “both.” Seems kind of odd to include “both” without including “Girls” on the menu. And also – why bother listing a gender search option anyway? Does genitalia have some kind of role in how the toys can be manipulated for optimum gameplay? Yikes! What kind of toy is that?!

2. The trend in toys is to market how girls are now included in what is typically male-oriented play, but not the other way around. So GoldieBlox is a construction toy, painted pink. Lego Friends are building sets, painted pink. And now Nerf crossbows are weapons, painted pink. The message intended is boys and girls can enjoy the same kind of play, but the message received is: play like a boy, look like a girl. This wouldn’t irk me if I saw some typical “girl” kind of toys painted blue. Or just put a boy toddler in a commercial marketing baby dolls. Or pretending to cook in the plastic kitchen. Or tending to its menagerie of doe-eyed foals in their baby animal hospital. Or just have girls and boys merge Lego sets and build a super-city together. You know, like how it is in real life.

It’s confusing for girls and boys; the more we push for equality, the more pop culture widens the chasm based on sex. Katniss Everdeen may be inspiring a generation of tweens to arm themselves with foam bows and arrows, but I don’t see any advertising inviting them to play with the boys.

The descriptions for two similarly designed and same-priced bows, one for girls and one for boys, are below. Guess which is which.

Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow Phoenix: Arm yourself for action and team up with friends to play together as you make the rules and define the style. With the Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow, real bow action is at your fingertips! The Nerf Rebelle Heartbreaker Bow is decorated with pink and purple phoenix feathers for a fierce and feminine look that’s just right for glamorous Nerf Rebelle girls like you.

Nerf N-Strike Blazin’ Bow Blaster: Hit your mark with the real bow action of the Blazin’ Bow blaster! Pull it back and let fly with one of the 3 giant foam arrows at targets up to 40 feet away. The blaster’s 20-inch wingspan gives it big launching power, and you can reload quickly from the blaster’s arrow storage compartment! Take aim and sharpen your archery skills with the Blazin’ Bow blaster!

So if you’re a girl, it’s about how hot your gun is – you’re accessorizing with it. If you’re a boy, this toy will give you firepower and help to improve your sharpshooting.

I don’t like the direction we are going here – making our girls more “masculine” (misinterpreted as becoming empowered) while simultaneously feminizing them. And leaving the boys completely out of the conversation. They are left alone, to continue to be marketed to as they have been. They are not being asked to re-think the roles girls play during playtime. They are not being held accountable to include the girls. And the girls are not being encouraged to join the boys. To each his/her own…now easier with color-coding.

This is so odd to me. With stay-at-home parents including more and more men, and the statistics rising for men partaking more in domestic responsibilities, I don’t understand why this isn’t trickling down to inform toy developers and marketers. It’s like girls have to become more boy-like to feel more equal. And does boy-like REALLY have to mean trying to shoot stuff? Yet, equality eludes them because they are never expected to be interested in the mechanics of sharpshooting; they just have to look good doing it.

With the 3-year age difference between my daughter and son, there is a limited amount of activities they can enjoy together. Crafts, playground fun and imaginative play is what they gravitate towards when it’s just the two of them. That she is a girl and he is a boy is no matter. When they play with kids of the same gender, Charlotte and her friends usually enact school, play Barbies or fairies or princesses, and Campbell and his guy pals tend to find things with wheels and focus on how fast, how far or how high they can run, throw or build. It’s interesting to observe.

There are so many ways to separate ourselves. But I want to prepare my kids for life on a co-ed planet. My office is mostly guys; my husband’s department skews heavily female. We both work in a collaborative industry. We rely a lot teamwork. I would like my children to know that the best kind of team is one where the individuals trust one another’s abilities. How will boys and girls ever know they can work together if they’re not encouraged to play together?

What is your reaction to what I’m calling the “paint it pink” toy movement? Is it good for our girls, for our boys? 

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Families Go!

For today’s blog post, let me direct you to a piece I wrote for the family travel site, Families Go!

Have a great weekend!

Sometimes, when I want to pull my hair out, they do it for me.

Sometimes, when I want to pull my hair out, they do it for me.

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10 Things I’ve Thought About Today

1. SNL, which started during my lifetime, might end in my lifetime. (Listening to Bill Hader talk about Lorne Michaels on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.)
2. Jessica Simpson, circa “Dukes of Hazzard” remake era. (My office is mostly guys).
3. Having a baby. (I’m not.)
4. Calling the lawyer back. (I didn’t.)
5. That I’ve dated 3 lawyers. (Not simultaneously.)
6. Math.
7. My left big toe. (It hurts.)
8. What my hair looked like when I took off my hat.
9. Being grateful I had the night off from feeding the kids. (Thanks Mom & Dad!)
10. A second cup of coffee. (I resisted.)

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I know I’m not perfect. But there are levels of imperfection. Not making my kids’ beds is an acceptable level of imperfect. Going too long between haircuts and nail trimmings is imperfectly a-ok. Squeezing growing bodies into almost-too-tight boots for another season because you’ll be damned if you’re gonna pay $50 for footwear that will be worn twice is perfectly imperfect.

Packing your three-year-old’s lunch thermos with nothing but hot water is the lowest level of imperfect. Hit that nadir today. My husband thought I made his mac-n-cheese. I thought my husband did. The thermos felt heavy, so I didn’t open it before grabbing it off the counter and tossing it into his backpack before Campbell left for daycare.

Sorry, Campbell. I will never forget your lunch again. Hopefully.

Sorry, Campbell. I will never forget your lunch again. Hopefully.

His wonderful teacher called me at 11:44. “Campbell doesn’t have lunch today?”

I’m embarrassed and feel terrible. I’m hoping they didn’t say anything to him to the tune of “Mommy forgot to bring your lunch.” But if they did, I deserve it.

Luckily his school had some pasta and sauce (from where, I don’t know and I don’t care, as long as it didn’t have peanuts in it) and was able to feed him.

It takes a village. Because nobody’s perfect.

What’s made YOUR list of acts of imperfect parenting?

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Part 1: What a Girl Wants…Maybe

When the female-skewing Lego Friends series launched, it was met with incredible backlash. Many consumers thought the company was gender stereotyping with the pink and purple bricks often depicting more domestic scenes than what Lego had been manufacturing, what with their rescue sets and Star Wars tableaus (as if girls weren’t invited to play with those somehow). Funny, but as a child I don’t recall wishing that I had pastel-colored Legos or dreamhouse-specific accessories that were brick-shaped. If I wanted to build a dreamhouse out of Legos, I did. Using the Legos I had. It’s called…creativity.

But, let’s take a look at the numbers. Turns out, these Lego Friends sets SOLD.

At least 3 were sold this month, for my daughter’s birthday.

So many friends. All of them girls.

So many friends. All of them girls.

Do I love that the sets dictate you must put the pieces together in a certain way to get your cafe or ice cream parlor built? No. Do I like that they come with no male characters, furthering the gender stereotype of females left to serve food and drink to others? No. Does my kid seem interested in building these pre-fab scenes? Not at the moment. She and her brother prefer to collaborate on Lego projects and since he’s 3, these littler bricks are harder to handle. I’ll keep watching to see if he chooses to play with them when HE turns 6.

This year, we’ve got a new toy for girls. Marketed to girls. GoldieBlox is an erector sets of sorts that weave in aspects of reading and characters. It’s also very pink and purple.

The ad campaign is awesome. Please watch. Now. Over here. ESPECIALLY if you’re a Beastie Boys fan.

Awesome right? Did you catch they used the Ok Go video Rube Goldberg builder person? So good!

But I’m still having a tough time with these “girl versions” of what I SUPPOSE had been male-oriented types of toys: WERE Legos and Erector sets truly intended for boys, just because they didn’t have pastel-colored components or scenes with baby horses and vanity sets?

My main complaint about the Lego Friends sets is that there seem to be very few creative opportunities. Each set is a…set…meant to be put together in a certain way to yield the what the box shows you. Ok, so that’s like a model airplane. I get it. But where’s the innovation. That is where I’m hoping GoldieBlox will swoop in, with their promise of “unlimited building possibilities.” I like it.

So I think I see GoldieBlox taking off. Here’s the thing, those Lego Friends sets? HUGE uptick in sales for Lego. But I wonder – was it because girls didn’t want to play with Legos in their previous incarnations? Or was it because those with the purchasing power (um, adults, unless you know any 6-year-olds who control the purse strings in the family) THOUGHT girls would like these new ice cream colored building sets?

Hands down, I am glad to see toy developers considering what may be unique aspects of how SOME girls play. I am. I just don’t think it should become the new norm. Segregating toys whose aims are for kids to grow their motor, collaborative and engineering skills I see as counter-productive. Shouldn’t we be valuing an all-inclusive scenario? I mean, I don’t work with all females. I don’t interact with just women. I live in a co-ed world.

And…what if some boys want to play with GoldieBlox? Will they be made to feel like these toys really aren’t for them? That, I can’t get with. So what’s the message we’re sending with these candy-colored versions of playsets marketed to and for girls?

What is YOUR take on painting it all pink?


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Today’s Post

Today’s post is brought to you by exhaustion. I realize I need a vacation pretty badly. Like the kind where you just sit and aren’t responsible for much. Scott and I have an evening out planned for this weekend which is kind of a big deal for us. Not a vacation but a least some moments where we don’t have to answer to anyone. Except the bartender.

The end on the year craziness is about to begin. Let’s not let it get the better of us!



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Charlotte: “Mom, when I am chewing I have something to say, but when I don’t have anything in my mouth, I don’t have anything to say.”

This is my first grader’s problem. I am often on her to not talk with her mouth full. At 6 years old, I feel she should be putting that in practice more often. But it does seem to be true; her participation in dinner conversation is most robust when she’s got a mouth full of food.

I really don’t think she’s trying to mess with me. There does appear to be some kind of Pavlovian response each time she feeds her face.


What else can we do besides reminding her to finish chewing before talking, and continuing to model the behavior I’m asking for? Cuz it is pretty gross.

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Boring Conversation Anyway

If you know your Star Wars, you recognize today’s post title to be a line of Han Solo’s after he, Luke and Chewbacca breached the security station to the prisoner holding cells.

It is also what I have heard myself saying in my head on more than one occasion recently. Not with friends or family, but with those I find occasionally making small talk. I used to get a little positive charge from exchanging pleasantries with a neighbor but lately I feel such a sense of urgency about how I spend my time. Like I can’t WASTE any of it to chat about the irregular heating or if the elevator I’m in is going up or down.

That’s a red flag for me. If I actually feel like a person is wasting my time merely for being a nice human being, I’ve got to recalibrate myself. I can’t be so preoccupied that I can’t genuinely care to talk to someone, who isn’t a telemarketer, for more that a second.

I know it stems from having two little kids who always want a piece of me. I’m protective. I don’t want to give any more of myself than I have to. But that’s not really being a responsible human being. I don’t live in isolation (other than the fact that I haven’t seen a movie in the theatre since “Black Swan”). And I definitely don’t want my kids to catch a whiff of my occasional exasperation making small talk. I want them to see how people connect, outside of their little worlds.

In the wake of disasters such as the one that most recently ravaged The Philippines, it is even more important to find connection points. It propels our compassion, our decency, our humility. It is time well spent.

So, what would you like to talk about? 🙂

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Charlotte got a journal that locks for her birthday. I think this is a turning point.

She DID leave it in my bedroom. With the keys.

But still. I think we are arriving at a place where I don’t need to know everything. To show respect, which should then be reciprocated, perhaps with more contextualized meaning.

I think she is jotting down happy stuff, though. She was singing while she wrote.

Maybe I should give that technique a shot.

What made YOU realize your little one was growing up?

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