Monday, January 31, 2011

Cinderella Ate My Daugther

I heard an interview with the author of a book that just came out, Peggy Orenstein's Cinderella Ate My Daugter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Girly-Girl Culture. It piqued my interest enough that I have it on hold at the library and a friend of mine and I are going to read it together, as we both had boys first, then our little girl. We both are concerned that we may not know what we're doing--ha, ha!

After hearing the radio interview, I read an article about the book and cites studies to give evidence that the push for little girls to grow up and be women before they're ready is definitely happening these days. What affect does having every accessory be pink have on a child? (And isn't it interesting that in world history pink has longer been associated with being a masculine color and blue was considered more "soft" and "feminine?") What does having a manicure/pedicure birthday at six do do a little girl? Anything? Is this all being blown out of proportion?

Even though the majority of little girls these days are obsessed with being a princess/fairy/ballerina, this is not the only option. There does not have to be two defined paths: one boy, and one girl. In the article it names one study "that shows that encouraging boys and girls to play together will broaden their interests and abilities. Orenstein's conclusion? That while it makes economic sense for the toy industry to create gender-specific toys, it makes parenting sense to keep the toy color spectrum broad and to schedule co-ed play dates."

My guess is that many of things talked about in this book are not ground-breaking. I'm sure that they are observations that many of us have already made, but the reason I'd like to read it is because it might help start a conversation about the choices Kevin and I make concerning Meredith, and on what path that might lead her. I stress about all my kids, but as many know, I have been particularly worried about rearing a daughter. It's not easy to be a girl at many stages of the game. I am not sure that the world we live in now is any easier than when I was a little girl.

I plan to post again on this book after I read it. Have you read it or heard anything about it? Do you have any thoughts in general about raising children in this product-driven society?

Back it up: Final Day of Vacation'10

I'm so glad we were able to fit Niagara Falls into the trip home. It's always nice to have something to do because the prospect of "going home" can kind of be a let down. This national spectacle was definitely worth the trip!

That morning we woke up, packed and headed to IHOP. The kids really enjoyed the all options and the variety of syrup and, on top of all that, behaved really well considering the long car ride the day before, a rough night of sleep and the prospect of doing it all again that day.

We found a parking spot and began looking around. I didn't realize that it is an actual state park, and I was also surprised how built up it was all around the falls. From a distance there was all this "smoke" (that really turned out to be the mist from the falls), but I had a hard time believing that it was the falls with so many hotels, restaurants and businesses by it.

My parents went here for their honeymoon. They got married in December and I feel sorry that they didn't get to experience Niagara in all its splendor. It was absolutely gorgeous.

It was difficult to take a picture with only our family in it because of the crowds and crowds of people everywhere. A good portion of those visiting Niagara that day were visiting from other countries, which was kind of neat to see. I suppose this is on the list of "American Things To See," along with the Empire State Building, Grand Canyon and Disney World.

We didn't have passports or birth certificates on us, so we couldn't go to the Canadian side of the Falls. That was a shame because I think it would be neat to see the Falls from head on, as opposed to at an angle. Regardless, I could have sat there all day and watched the water.

The boys had a great time chasing birds under the trees, alongside the water.

I can't remember what they were doing here, but it looks like they were having fun!

This is from the other end of the US side of the park.

On the far end, there would be times when you could barely see for all the water spitting in your eyes. This, the heat and the fact that we were climbing back in the van for the last leg of our journey all added up to this fine family portrait.

We got home, went straight to bed, then up to Great-Grandma and Grandpa's anniversary party. These are all the great-grandchildren.

And these three--all born within the same year--are with their proud grandmas.

Afterward, we went home and crashed. The kids and I rested for the next week. Poor Kev had to go to work the next day!

Such a nice day

Saturday was Kevin's semi-annual paintball trip, so the kids and I made the most of the day on our own. We started with Louie's basketball game. The team has two groups that take turns playing every other quarter. How cute is the little girl with basketball ribbons in her hair? She also has matching gold socks that go up to her knees and she's a pretty good baller!

Louie is cheering on his team.

Sorry for the "non" action shot. If the kids are going to be playing sports we should probably invest in a camera that takes good action shots. Not too exciting when they're standing still, but it's better than the blurry ones I got!

So many kids at the game! Here is a picture of Meredith with her friend, Audree. Sometimes it seems more time is spent corralling the kids than watching the game!

The newest addtion to the bunch--Alivia. She's so sweet with the shock of hair that is permanently standing on end. Just jealous, I am.

After the game we played out in the snow. I have to admit, Saturday's weather was perfect snowman-building weather for me! I don't have much tolerance for cold and wet. Part of that has to do with me not being properly outfits for such occasions. I wore gym shoes, jeans and a jacket for this (relatively) mild day, but I had the kids all bundled up. Mere's not too excited about this.

How much longer before they're not "stairsteps?" Do you like how they've learned to do this without even being asked?

Charlie was so proud of himself that he made a snowball. It was perfect packing snow!

They boys delight in being able to do things they normally cannot, like launch things that their brothers.

Louie was so bummed that his "snow gun" broke before I got a shot of it. (Ralphie from The Christmas Story.)

Do you see his mischievous look? He soon realized that the bigger the snowball, the shorter the distance it went.

Meredith was wearing Charlie's old snow boots and they didn't allow her much movement because she kept falling down. Too big. Soon, I went to get her gym shoes so she could enjoy her time outside. She did, for a few minutes, before she decided a nice, warm bed beckoned her.

Successful snowman! The boys had fun finding all its pieces. They included a golf club for him. Then, tried to hit snow golf balls. This is not recommended. Either a club and/or snow ball will inevitably hit someone in the face.

The rocks used for eyes and mouth are from Louie's rock garden--the one he made with stones found when we were in Cape Cod.

Benny fell and he couldn't get up. (Randy from The Christmas Story.)

Charlie licks ice found in a downspout (Flick from The Christmas Story.)

Normally, when the kids want to go outside to play in the snow there is probably 3x more time spent layering up than is actually spent in the snow. Today, fortunately was different. They were outside long enough to make the snowman, a fort, and plenty of snowballs to throw at "the enemy" (plastic lawn chairs scattering around the yard).

When we went in we had lunch and, of course, hot chocolate. Benny and Charlie passed out on the couch and Louie spent the afternoon making paper crafts from the book he got from Santa. He made some really cute stuff, including: a penguin bookmark; a gift bag; and the favorite of the day, a paper airplane. Apparently, I was never taught the proper way to make an airplane. The directions in this book were foolproof and they flew across the room with no trouble at all. When the others woke up, they each had to have their own plane. They made them with decorative paper and put googly eyes on, then raced them.

We had nachos for dinner and played a card game of "Chase the Ace" before watching a Chip 'n Dale cartoon and then headed to bed. As nice as the day was, it was brought up more than once how much we wished Daddy could have joined in the fun.

*All the Christmas Story references happened on their own, amazingly with no prompting from their mother.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Back it up: Cape Cod: Day 6

Our vacation came to an end very quickly, as it normally does. We had to get back to Ohio to make it for Great-Grandma and Grandpa A's 60th wedding anniversary. That meant that we had to leave a bit early to make it in plenty of time.

We packed up and loaded the kids in while we did a quick once-over of the house. Fortunately for us, if we forgot anything Mom, Dad, Joanie and Josh were going to be leaving after us. The van was completely packed and...we found the pack 'n play in the house. That wasn't something that they could take back on the plane with them! We had to use our Tetris skills to come up with a place to put it. I'm thankful that was one of the games that I did fairly well with. See, video games are all bad!

Not too bad so far. Still in the driveway, though.

One last look at the house. Such a sweet place, and perfect for our family.

This is the rock the boys spent a lot of time playing on, specifically after they got the spyglasses and pretended to be pirates. In the background you can see the hydrangeas that I fell in love with and attempted to regrow with a couple cuttings when we got home. Unfortunately, it didn't work. I'm hoping that I can look into getting a bush from Michigan Bulb or the like.

And...she's out. For now.

Oh, they're so happy! Pictures can be deceiving!

Soon, the rains came. And it came hard, there was little visibility and no let up. What made this worse was that Meredith was not born to ride in cars. I'm sure I mentioned it in previous posts for this vacation, but she was an angel on the plane with Grandma and Grandpa. The take off and landing didn't bother her, and she laughed and entertained people in-flight. She cried--no--she screamed non-stop for hours. Nothing could console her. But we had to get going. We had a time limit for this leg of the trip.

We finally stopped one of those junctions to get gas and have something to eat, but mostly to get out of the car and take a break. The umbrellas Kevin and I used to get us and the kids from the van to the food court did absolutely nothing. It seemed like it was raining in fifteen different directions! We got pizza and relaxed for a few minutes before jumping back in the van.

Fortunately, not long after dinner the sky cleared up and it was an easier drive. Meredith started out by crying again, but then I popped in 101 Dalmatians and she began barking at the screen. She loved it! Why on earth didn't I try that sooner?! With all the day's activity and all the crying she did, finally she passed out for the last hour of our journey.

We had plans to go to Niagara Falls to see the fireworks over the falls. Doesn't that sound neat? I should say first off, I am not completely great with reading maps quickly. I usually pore over it, studying the symbols, names, etc. The city of Niagara Falls came up quickly and I told Kevin to take the wrong exit, which shot us out on the absolute wrong side of the city. Ugh. Kevin and I were pretty upset about it, me feeling overly guilty about my lack of map-reading skills. Have you ever been there before? If so, please tell me that in general that it's a tough city to navigate. Like Pittsburgh. (I really like Pgh, just not their color-coded belt system).

When we realized that there was no way we were making it for the firework show we headed to our hotel, after a pit stop for the boys to pee in an abandoned church parking lot in a shady area. I don't know where I led us! We had no choice!

The kids were all smiles to be in our nice hotel room, jumping on beds and having a snack before going to sleep. We had big plans for the next day--visiting the Falls!

The boys soon conked out, but not Miss Meredith, who was happy to be living it up in the lap of luxury where she belongs apparently, and rejuvenated by a little nap in the van. What are we going to do with her?

Back it up: Cape Cod: Day 5

Right next door to the neighborhood where we were staying was a gorgeous place called Nickerson State Park. Kevin and I took the kids on a hike there the next day. The boys are really into hiking and exploring so this was the perfect day in their minds.

We decided to go into the part of the park that doesn't have defined trails. The boys really had fun with that, pretending that they were blazing new trails, going places no one else has ever been.

Then they came across this shelter and came up with stories of the Indians who lived there, and wondered where they were at that moment.

The park had so many opportunities for some really great shots. Luckily, Kevin and the boys were all for it.

If you're wondering, Meredith is on my chest in one of those backpacks you wear on the front.

It took forever for them to understand the pose I was trying to put them in. But, like I said, they were game for pretty much whatever!

When we wrapped around back to where we had parked, we decided to stop and have a snack on the side of the road. We come prepared for practically any situation, as seen with the chairs for our rest time.

Kevin took a lot of great shots of the nature in the park, including this butterfly. This was seen when we went to a different part of the part that had a paved path. Not as exciting as what we had just experienced, but still nice.

Later that evening we went to a baseball game. The Cape Cod league is what my dad played in during the summer when he was in college. The boys were in heaven.

The fans all come out to watch the guys play, maybe witnessing a player who will make it to the big leagues. Sean Casey, Jeff Bagwell, Nomar Garciapara, Craig Biggio, and Barry Zito are all guys who played in this league and made it.

Afterward, we came back and had an awesome seafood dinner and topped off the night with some sparklers!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Back it up: Cape Cod: Day 4

Cape Cod is neat in that they've made a point to make it feel "small" even though it a very popular tourist destination. Vacation homes are interspersed between residential homes. All roads are two lanes. There aren't any big box stores to be found. After we got back I read that in the '70s the government was subsidizing sewer systems but the Cape didn't want to participate because they feared it would "lead to an influx in people." Very understandable. Unfortunately, because of all the septic tanks the environment is now being affected and it is hurting both the plants and animals in the region. It's such a sad situation and I hope that they're able to correct the problem because the Cape is definitely a gorgeous part of our national landscape.

Not knowing all this, we went to the beach the next day (not that it would have affected our decision!). Got there early to get a parking spot and to get a spot on the beach. Another piece to the "keeping it small" idea is that only locals have parking stickers for the beaches during prime time hours. It wasn't a big deal, though, as we found a spot just up the street from the beach.

Along with Grandpa, the boys tried out boogie boarding with boards that came with our house. Poor Louie. First time and he gets flipped by a massive wave and never went back in the water. Instead, he came up with a really great rock collection from the shore that (some of which) now is a rock garden in our backyard! He spent a good deal of time making sandcastles, which is what the Christmas ornament is that I bought to commemorate our time there.

Meredith and Charlie came for the snacks. I was afraid of Baby Meredith's skin in the oh-so-hot sun and Charlie is a grazer who would prefer getting some R & R under an umbrella than do anything strenuous.

Benny is a determined young man. Whether it be riding a bike or boogie boarding, he's going to figure it out.

I was thankful that Meredith didn't have any desire to take a handful of sand and place it in her mouth.

Charlie and Louie did enjoy posing with Benny for this picture, though!

Later that evening we went to see the sunset. It was the perfect place for Kodak Moments and the boys hammed it up for the camera.

Strangely, everyone started scratching their heads. For me, even though I took a shower after we got back, I was thinking that a day at the beach irritated my scalp. Not so. Charlie, who at almost three-year-old had no patience for anything, started screaming about his head. I went to rub on it, looking at his scalp to see if he had sand in it or something. Instead there were tons of these tiny white bugs! I'm assuming that it's a common occurrence, just as there are many mosquitoes at home at dusk. That may account for the many, many parking spots by the beach. (My head is itching as I type this memory!)

We decided to hightailed it out of there and head home. But before we did, Kevin and I took the kids to this quaint "general store" that also had a great ice cream shop.

Before the week was over I bought a lot of cute souvenirs and gifts from this place.

Chocolate ice cream was the most requested item of the evening and the boys wanted to make sure that everyone knew they had some!