If I could give my daughter only one thing, it would be the knowledge that she and she alone can decide her place in this world. Be strong, be kind, be confident, be true to yourself, and give zero you-know-whats about the people who wish to bring you down. You make me a better woman, my sweet Isla Bee.
In honor of this International Women’s Day, thank you to all the glass-shattering women in my life.
“No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.” – Michelle Obama
I want our kids to grow up in a world where everyone gets affordable healthcare and a quality education. Where their friends with two moms are considered a typical family. Where no one thinks twice about the girl in a hijab sitting next to them in class. Where hearing someone speak another language makes them want to learn that language, not shun that person as an outsider. Where climate change isn’t a polarizing partisan issue but a recognized side effect of human existence that can be collectively reversed. Where every person has the opportunity to earn a livable wage, not just to put food on the table or make the rent from month-to-month but to enjoy life and make it better.
I want my daughter to know her brain is more important than her waist size and her hard work and opinion is as valuable as her brother’s. I want my kids to know that no human being is “illegal.” That no skin color is better than another. That their kindness is worth more than their belongings. That their lives are no more important than anyone else’s.
I want our children to be guided by a shared sense of humanity.
We do not currently live in this world I want for my children. But I believe it’s possible. I don’t think it’s too much to ask.
Despite the chaos, confusion and fear, I’m heartened to see friends who previously loathed discussing politics now getting actively involved. People are calling their members of Congress, joining grassroots groups, donating to worthy causes and staying informed. I believe less in what I’m going to call the “Facebook approach” to the shit show unfolding in Washington and more in the idea that every single action, big or small, counts.
I have three of Sen. Pat Toomey’s office numbers on speed dial (and here’s the White House comment line: 202-456-1111). Chris and I regularly donate to causes we care about. We read enough news from a variety of sources to stay informed on what’s happening beyond the 140 characters dominating entire news cycles. We vote in every election (we’re coming for you 2018, however unlikely the odds). And we’re trying to get involved locally in ways we hope will have a big impact in the long run.
Avoiding politics so 2016.
It’s this notion that every little action matters that leads me to my t-shirt and the point of this post.
My friend Ben Pinder is an artist who’s using his talents to respond directly to this new administration’s policies. Ben created an online shop called Resist Hate to sell clothing emblazoned with original designs featuring messages of both solidarity and resistance, and is donating 100 percent of the profits to the ACLU. I asked Ben what motivated him to create and sell his designs for the ACLU and what kind of impact he hopes they will have on those who wear and see them.
Here is what he said:
“I started Resist Hate for two reasons. First, I wanted to fund the ACLU because they seem best at fighting for people and groups threatened by Trump (which includes many, many different types of people). Every penny I make I donate to the ACLU. Second, I wanted to visually amplify resistance to the Trump administration by putting protest slogans on clothes people could wear every day. It can feel risky to wear a shirt supporting, say, Muslim Americans or LGBTQ rights if you’re in a red state or county. But it’s important for people to realize they are not alone in this. We are the majority! Sometimes it’s easy to forget that, so visual reminders are important. I try to keep things positive and not dwell on snarky messaging. A collaboration with my friend Jenny, of Your Soul Style, helped keep the focus on love and rising above.”
I picked the “Love is Love” design (from Ben’s collab with Jenny) specifically because I thought Isla would love the rainbow and ask me about it. I was right. This simple t-shirt sparked an adorable and important conversation with my three-year-old about love and acceptance. I’d say that potty talk (we have our most in-depth conversations while potty training), was worth every penny.
Ben is both a working artist and a stay-at-home parent, which makes his decision to donate all profits to the ACLU pretty incredible — if you ask me. Thank you, Ben, for using your talents and precious time to raise money and awareness for a worthy cause.
(Note: This t-shirt was NOT a gift and this is NOT a sponsored post in any sense of the word. That would be ridiculous. I purchased my shirt to benefit the ACLU and I’m featuring Ben on this blog because I hope to see his designs walking around Philadelphia and beyond.)
One of the best things about being a parent is watching my kids learn new things. Isla is three now and she’s constantly making us laugh and surprising us with random bits of knowledge.
Like that time we were at the doctor’s office and she picked an ocean book from the office library to take home. She was “reading” the book in the waiting area with me and suddenly she exclaimed, “It’s a manatee, Mama! Manatees have tails, and they eat seaweed.” I looked at the words on the page and it was as if she was reading it. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “My kid is a genius,” I thought. The same thing every mom thinks when her child does something amazing (every day). It turns out there’s an episode of Isla’s favorite show (“Diego”) that’s all about manatees, which means she knows more about them than I do!
One of the (many) hard parts of parenting is, for me, figuring out ways and finding time to teach our kids at home. Isla’s in preschool only part-time so it’s important for us to reinforce the things she’s learning. We found out early in the year that her class will focus on the alphabet and her teacher stressed to me that it’s important for kids to really understand, not just memorize. Just because a child can count to 10 or recite the alphabet, that doesn’t mean he or she truly understands what it means or can apply it in real life. This all led me to a fun, easy daily project we could do at home.
We call it “Letter of the Day.” You’ve heard of such a thing, I’m sure!
We started out by picking one letter every morning and then asking Isla to help us sound out words that begin with that letter. We’d write them all down for her and draw pictures and she’d color them. It was a fun way to focus on our letters and apply them to objects she already knows. But over time our letter pages got lost in the shuffle and I wasn’t certain she was retaining what she was learning from day-to-day, so the project faded away.
Then I got an opportunity to work with Elmer’s® brand here on the blog and I came up with a fun way to make our Letter of the Day project more productive. I ran to Target, and for less than $10 picked up a few Elmer’s products: a Foam Tri-Fold Display Board (currently available in store but not online), Disappearing Purple Glue Sticks and Board Mate Reusable Stencils.
Here’s how our new and improved Letter of the Day project works:
Every morning (that Isla doesn’t have school), we pick one letter. Then we find the big and small stencils for that letter and any shapes that begin with that letter. Together we trace the letters and shapes onto colored construction paper and I write down and draw words, animals and objects that start with our letter.
As we’re going along coloring and tracing, I’m constantly asking, “Now what’s the letter today? Do you remember?” And together we sound it out again and again and I try to reinforce the letter and the words. Her favorite part, though, is the gluing. Of course! Once I’ve cut everything out she glues the paper onto the tri-fold display board and then we go over the letters and words again and sound them out. When she’s had enough (after about 10 minutes) she closes up the tri-fold and says, “Okay, mama, I’m done. I need chocolate!” Because that one time I rewarded her with chocolate and she will not let me forget it! Not my best idea but I’m calling it a win anyway.
My favorite thing about the display board is that we get to go back and look at all of the letters from previous days. We did the letter “M” on our second day and Isla always goes back to the manatee picture I tried to draw. (Don’t judge me, I was an English major.) She loves that manatee and remembers that manatee begins with the letter M. We reinforce it every day and she is so proud of herself as she points to everything and identifies the letters and names of the objects or animals. She even shouts out little fun facts that I write on the board, like “Manatee has a tail!” or “S is for Sister, like Isla!” The other day she pointed to the words at the top of the board, which read, “Isla’s Alphabet” and said, “Isla! That’s me!” I love that seeing it every day has helped her recognize her own name!
After breakfast on the third day, Isla said to me, “Time for letter of the day, Mama!” That was music to my mama ears. To know Isla is not just learning, but enjoying the process is everything I had hoped. It’s a small, inexpensive idea with a potentially big impact, and it offers us a few uninterrupted minutes to spend together on a shared project. There is no greater joy as a parent than sharing these moments together and knowing my daughter is learning something valuable along the way.
Thanks, Elmer’s® brand, for sponsoring this blog post! (This idea and any thoughts expressed in this post are all mine. I promise.)
UPDATE: Special offer for my readers: Get 10% off Elmer’s Board Mate display boards, foam core boards, and Board Mate board accessories, using the Target Cartwheel app!
People from every corner of the world joined together with one voice on Saturday to fight not just for women’s rights, but for human rights. It was a humbling, awe-inspiring, hopeful, yet sad and frustrating day. I find myself constantly wondering, “How the hell did we get here?” but for many, it’s really not that surprising.
I am a liberal, white, upper middle class, heterosexual woman. I work hard and feel passionately about a great many things, but my life has been relatively easy. I was raised by financially comfortable, progressive parents and had access to a good education.
I was born into privilege and it has followed me throughout my life.
My perspective is valuable and important, sure, but no more than anyone else’s. And it’s useless if it’s the only one I care about. I feel strongly, I’m loud with my opinions and I’m often certain I’m on the right side of history, but I live in a bubble. And I don’t mean that “coastal elite bubble” everyone on the news is blaming for the outcome of this election. I mean the separate bubble occupied by those of us who have never had to truly fight for basic human rights. I will never understand what it’s like to be a person of color and face racism every single day. Or how it feels to be told you’re an abomination because you fell in love with someone of the same gender, or felt like you were born in the wrong body. I hope I never have to worry about how I’m going to put food on my kids’ plates, keep the lights on, pay medical bills or get into a “good neighborhood” so my kids can receive a quality education.
Saturday’s march, for me, was about something bigger than one narcissist on his throne of ignorance. It was about stepping outside my bubble, gaining perspective, seeing the faces and hearing the voices of people who are both nothing like me and exactly like me. It was about showing my children I am willing to fight for what I believe. It was about human decency. The right to love freely, live without fear and have equal opportunity.
Marching was empowering, but it was easy, which means it wasn’t enough.
I am ready for what comes next because we are one beautifully diverse world, and the only way I can give my kids a better future is if you can, too.
It’s hard to wax poetic about a year filled with so much negativity. But I want to focus on the good, which sometimes feels selfish but also may be the only path forward. So for the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to remember all the personally happy moments I can recall from 2016.
Such as ….
Isla began (and fell in love with) preschool and made a classroom full of new buddies. We threw Theo a first birthday party. My lovely friend Susie launched a new shop to bring us all a little good luck. Our kids are happy and healthy. My cousin got married! And our kids were Vanity Fair cover-worthy at her wedding. My other cousin moved to Philly! My sister-in-law gave birth to a healthy, perfect baby girl! I got dressed a lot. We spent just about every summer Friday at Happy Hour with our neighborhood friends (kids included). I vowed to stop body shaming myself and others. There is no better husband than mine. Chris and I made new adult friends and found time to connect with old ones. My 93-year-old Anya is alive and well. Chris and I took our kids with us to vote for Hillary Clinton, the first major party female candidate for president, and despite the outcome, I will, for eternity, remain incredibly proud of that vote and of the moment I shared in the booth with my daughter. And as a result of that election, I grew immensely close to a beautiful group of women and fellow moms from Isla’s school. I joined a bunch of women to learn how to brew beer. We donated about half of our “things” to a couple of good causes.
There is a lot of uncertainty as we head into the new year. I am personally experiencing both excitement and fear. While I intend to remain vigilant, vocal and steadfast in my own beliefs, I also want to chart a positive course that affects not only myself and my family, but others both near and far. I have a lot of thoughts on how to move forward, some concrete, some a little more abstract. I’m not one for new year’s resolutions, but this seems like a good year to have a few positive goals to live by.
In the meantime, let me say this: 2016 is behind us, but it’s just a number. The ceremonial dropping of the ball changes nothing unless we want it to. As we approach 2017, let us do it together, with one eye on a bright, inclusive, prosperous future filled with kindness and generosity, and the other eye on the lookout, ready to fight injustice, speak up against hate and lend a hand to those who need it most.
Happy New Year, my dear friends. May 2017 bring you peace, love, kindness, comfort and positive change.
Here’s just a sampling of a few of my favorite 2016 moments as documented on these pages.