I’m particular. Shocking, I know.
I know exactly the type of people I want my children to be (not specifically, like their professions, looks, sexuality, that kind of thing — but generally). I want them to be loving, kind, patient, accepting, helpful. I want my children to be freaking happy.
In my constant quest for my children’s happiness I come across lots and lots of parenting books. This isn’t fair for me to say and there’s no reason really that I should think this, but any American-based parenting guide or book is something I walk right past. Why? I feel like America, as a culture, doesn’t do the very best in raising happy, empathetic, well-adjusted kids. Don’t confuse this with me saying I don’t know any Americans who are great parents. That’s not true at all. I know lots and lots of really great American parents. But like I said, I’m particular. We all look for things that tailor to our own belief system and when it comes to parenting books, I tend to lean towards un-American. I did it, I said it.
Before reading this book (“The Danish Way of Parenting”) my favorite was “Bringing up Bebe” by Pamela Druckerman. She’s funny and real and I loved how she gave real-life experiences with French mothers to back up what she was saying. I loved it. But then I saw this book at Book People in Moscow and didn’t even read the back cover before putting it on the checkout desk. I read it in one sitting and it’s now my favorite.
The Danes are happy and there must be a reason why. It’s not just a coincidence that all the happiest people were born there, am I right? I am, I’ll answer that for you. I’m right. The Danes know how to parent and now that I’m privy to some of their
secrets parenting ways, I feel like a dumbass. It’s all so obvious. It’s so common sense and easy.
Don’t resort to automatically telling your children they are the best and smartest.
Look on the bright side of things.
Help your child find their own solutions to their own problems, don’t do it for them.
Let kids play – imaginative, fun, creative, non-electronic play.
These are all things I know but have a hard time executing. I don’t spank, but I do sometimes yell. Not good. I turn the TV on when I just want peace and quiet. I sometimes dwell on things I’m bad at, not the things I’m great at. I force my kids to share their toys at the first hint of another child’s jealousy instead of letting them figure it out for themselves and coming up with a solution.
You guys, buy this book. Or borrow it from me. Or check it out from the library. Just get your hands on a copy and read it.
Life is crazy, isn’t it? One minute you think life is perfect: you’re married to your very best friend, you’re able to grocery shop and not worry about how to pay for it, you have six beautiful and healthy children, your hair looks good and you’re surrounded by friends. But then you turn around and all of a sudden life changes, and that great stuff is still there, but new things develop. And it’s not just in the blink of an eye, it’s something that has been happening all along. Like when your kids get taller but you don’t realize it until they’re measured and the change is right in front of you, unmistakeable and not hypothetical. You knew changes were happening because you aren’t stupid, but they’re so small over a long period of time that they all just happen when you aren’t really paying attention.
I’m not new to change. I’ve been through huge changes myself. Changes in mental health, changes in friendships, changes in career. All these changes happened slowly, over a long period of time. And changes happen to everyone. They happen without you knowing it until the road is a dead end and you’re faced with it head-on. I’m learning how to deal with really hard changes and I’m well equipped to deal with minor ones.
But when changes with your kids happen, it’s different. It hits you a little deeper, a little harder and when changes come with tears and uncertainty and the changes aren’t little and aren’t easy fixes (because a fix isn’t always necessary), it hits you in the gut. It hits you in the heart because you know these changes aren’t going to be easy. All I want to do is scoop my child up and take them to a place where these changes would be embraced and celebrated and everyone would be as proud as my child as we are and would still see my child as beautiful and full of every potential possible (except maybe soccer, because there’s no skill there). But do you know what my child can do? Huge things. Hold the hand of someone who needs help, stick up for friends that are being bullied, read books and do math, ask deep questions about issues that matter and then act on them; my child can do huge things.
And it has nothing to do with their gender. That’s a fact, not an opinion and it’s something you all need to know. We all (well most of us I hope) teach our kids that it doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, you can do anything you want to do with your life. And that’s the truth.
If you know Alice, why do you like her? If you know of her based on what I’ve written on my blog or Instagram, why are you interested or why do you think she’s cute or funny? If you liked her because of her long hair or because she’s a girl, that’s not good enough. See ya.
Alice is smart. She asks questions and then tries her hardest to come up with her own logical answers. Alice is patient with younger children. She cares about what happens and without being asked will go out of her way to make them happier and safer. Alice is generous. She shares what she has and doesn’t mind. Alice is a loyal and fun friend. She isn’t a bully and she only knows how to be good to friends, she doesn’t know the meaning of backstabbing. Alice cares about people in the world, regardless of whether or not she knows them. She’s concerned about people who don’t have enough, who aren’t safe and who need help. Alice loves treats and she loves video games. Alice loves her siblings and her teachers and her friends and snowboarding and skateboarding and being outside. She’s a monster on a bike and watch out if she’s on roller blades.
But now Alice is Luke.
It’s a big change, but not a sudden one. When Luke was little, he never asked to wear dresses. He never wanted to get all made up. In fact, I remember once when Maria put on her “Paying it Fashion Forward” fundraiser and Whitney did his hair and makeup amazingly. Luke cried. He didn’t like it. But Luke is shy and doesn’t like rocking the boat, so he went along with it, even with tears in his eyes.
It started a few years ago when Alice said, “I wish I was a boy.” Little kids say things like that, I wasn’t surprised or worried or anything. I laughed, I’m sure. But that turned into, “I want to be a boy,” which eventually was, “I am a boy.” And it stuck. It didn’t go away. His feelings never wavered.
“Mom, I don’t want to wear a dress. Please. Can I wear comfy clothes? Can I wear Jamie’s pants and just a plain shirt?….Can I please cut my hair?….Can I cut it shorter?….Can you call me “he” and “him?”
And slowly, Alice became Luke.
When Whitney buzzed Luke’s hair he said, “Now people who don’t know me will really know I’m a boy.”
I’m a researcher. I don’t just accept things at first mention. I look into it. I analyze it and know my stuff. I asked Luke more times than I should have if this was a real feeling or if maybe he was just a tomboy. I asked if he thought maybe later he would feel like he was actually a girl. I asked over and over “are you sure?” And eventually, I understood. When Luke came to me with tears in his eyes wanting to talk about it. I knew it was real. I knew it wasn’t a phase. I knew we’d have big changes ahead and I knew it was going to be okay. Yesterday he said, “Can you please stop asking if I’m sure?”
My sister-in-law, Lily, was put into our family on purpose. And I’m awfully selfish and I think the purpose was for me and my little family, not Patrick. Sorry, man, but I’m gonna be bold and say he owes me. I’m not sure for what, but he does. Before telling anyone about Luke, I told Lily. Why? Lily accepts people for who they are, not who people think they should be. Within days of my texting her for advice, incredible books showed up at our door (“George,” “I am Jazz,” “Who are you?” along with others) and I received emails from people she knows who are helping us navigate this. And then Lily said, “Let me know when she wants us to start using different pronouns.” Who is this girl?! Gosh I love her.
So what now? Now, we use different pronouns, he asked us to do this just this weekend. Now, Alice is Luke, he asked us to call him that to see how it feels. Inside, the soul hasn’t changed. This kid is still fiercely wonderful and incredibly kind. But now he’s a bit braver, more confident. Yeah, it’ll be hard to remember to call him by his new name. Luckily, he knows this. He understands this is a big change. In fact, he said, “I know this will change my life.” And big life changes take time to process.
Will that feel strange to you? Will you feel uncomfortable? Will you not know how to explain that to your kids or to your friends or to people who might ask you? I have something harshly honest to say to you: I don’t care.
I don’t care if you don’t like it.
I don’t care if you think it goes against nature, if you think he’s too young to make a decision like this or if you think we’re wrong for calling him Luke and “he” and “him.”
I really, truly, honestly, don’t care. If you don’t want to be our friends or even acquaintances because of it, please don’t. And please delete me from your social media because you don’t deserve to see the pictures of my beautiful children. And I dare you..no, I double dog dare you…to ask me about it, to start a discussion, to show me your side of it, why you’re right and I’m wrong. Let’s see how it goes. I’m a lover, but I’m also a fighter. And when it comes to protecting my children, don’t challenge me. I accept that there are other beliefs and I respect those other beliefs. I want you to be true to who you are, just like I’m asking that Luke be allowed to be true to who he is. I don’t want to now force all of my friends to climb aboard our train and automatically change their thinking because you know us. But what I do expect is respect, and I expect that from all my friends in my life, not just on issues like this. I will respect you. Please respect me.
If you don’t like me, I’m good with it, I really am. But if you don’t like my child based on his gender, that’s where I draw the line. Please respect us. Please love Luke. If you aren’t able to do this, you aren’t our people.
I know that when she became he to all of us, my sweet, shy and sensitive child was happy. When I told him that it would mean going to school with a new name and being a boy, his face quietly but brightly lit up.
Nothing we’re doing is permanent. If he decides later that he’s genderfluid or something different, I suppose there will be new changes to face, won’t there?
Luke said, “I’m afraid people will tell me I can’t be a boy.” I told him, “People don’t like you because they think you’re a girl. They like you for real reasons. Also…new people you meet won’t ask if you’re a boy or a girl. That would be super weird.” There were chuckles. “So it’s okay to wear boy’s underwear and boy’s clothes and have short hair and introduce yourself to people exactly how you want to be to them.” And Maria piped in with, “And if they’re mean, then just ignore them. They don’t matter.”
Early on, I asked Lily, “Do you think I’m overreacting? I don’t wanna automatically assume but at the same time I don’t wanna dismiss what she’s feeling,” and she replied, “No. I don’t think you are at all. Worst case scenario, it is a ‘phase’ and you are being a supportive parent and helping her figure out stuff. Best case scenario, you are being a supportive parent and helping him figure out stuff.”
I read a study that said 57% of transgender youth who lived in unsupportive homes attempted suicide. I’ve read announcements from Christian churches about how transgender people are a danger to children, an abomination, how they are crazy and delusional and how the trans should be prayed away.
I will tell you what I know about Luke. I know that Luke will be the child who will invite yours to a birthday party, even if your child isn’t popular or cool or a good friend. Luke will be the friend who will ask your child, who is alone on the playground, to play. Luke is the one who will hold a friend’s hand who needs it, both literally and metaphorically. Luke is the one who will be the child praising others in the classroom, boosting them up, encouraging and loving, not bullying and putting down. This eight year old isn’t a mistake or crazy or delusional. This eight year old is amazing and beautiful and someone you should be so lucky to love.
And let’s be really clear on this: I didn’t write this for all of you. I didn’t write this so that all of you will know all the inside information about my family or feel more comfortable around us. I wrote this for Luke who not only approved it, but asked me to please show it to ‘everyone.’ I did it so that he’s not met with looks of disgust or surprise when some hear me call him by his new name instead of Alice. I wrote it so that everyone knows that in our little community, Luke isn’t going to be the token ‘different’ one. He’s not transgender so that you feel more cultured and for your benefit. And I ask that he never be treated as such. He’s one of the boys. And like Danny said when Luke came to him with tears in his eyes telling him, “I actually am a boy, not a tomboy, I feel like a boy and I am a boy,” a nice response might be, “Welcome to the boy’s club. By the way, Luke is a great name.”
PS: I need to take beautiful portrait of Luke and then his name and photo will change on my blog.
PPS: The family and friends we’ve told have been amazing. Even if our beliefs don’t align, we are still loved and respected and that’s something that I’m so grateful for. I ❤ You.
It’s not Friday, so this isn’t really “Friday Favorites” but Dawn is sick and I’m working from home and thought I’d squeeze in a blog post. Here are a few of my favorites lately:
- Anything ban.do
http://www.shopbando.com and you’re welcome. Everything on here is fun and silly and completely unnecessary which makes it completely necessary. It’s my favorite place to go to buy my kids’ teachers gifts because I feel like it makes me the coolest mom in the class. And if that’s reality or not doesn’t really matter.
2. Tiny Felt Toys
My mom got these little sets from Magic Cabin and I am utterly obsessed. After six children, I’ve come to hate plastic toys with pictures of princesses or characters on them. Yes, I still buy them and yes, we still have cabinets full of them…but these types of toys are so much better. Each little home comes with a set of tiny felted creatures that live inside: mice, owls, fairies, woodland creatures. They are just the cutest. Franci got the chicken/henhouse set for her birthday and I play with it more often than she does.
3. Valentine’s Day gifts.
One way Ruthie shows how much she appreciates you is by putting together thoughtful gifts for you. Not expensive, but thoughtful. I’m serious, I’ll toot my own horn on this one, I try really REALLY hard to get things for people that they will love, that are personal, and that comes from the heart. I’m bad at speaking my feelings, but good at showing them through gifts. Valentine’s gifts are going to teachers and aides and Little 45ers.
4. Felted Puppets
So we got this package a week and 1/2 ago and it didn’t show a return address and I was so confused. Inside was a set of beautiful puppets and I thought, “Oh, man, these must be a gift from someone for Ollie for her birthday from Etsy or Magic Cabin or something,” and I ripped through and took them all out and fell in love. And then I went digging a little deeper into the box because there was no note or anything saying who they were from until, finally, I dug a little deeper (there was filling and stuff, okay, I’m not blind…just deaf) and saw the sweetest note from Penni. Penni is my sister-in-law’s mama but I feel like she’s more than that to us and my kids. She’s kinda like a fourth grandma (my kids have Lala, Dawn, Grandma Cheri and Penni!). SHE FREAKING MADE THESE. I told my kids they’d better eat this all up because once Pat and Lily have children, they’re chopped liver.
5. Party with Alison Tumblers
I’ve followed The Alison Show for quite some time. I like to consider us somewhat of a pair of kindred spirits. Except that she’s way funnier than me, we don’t share the same religion, she runs (I don’t), she has a podcast (I only wish I did) and lots of things. But we both love parties, love throwing parties, and love ALLLLLLL the details that go into it. She has custom tumblers for her parties and she starting selling some on her site, too. I grabbed some of course for our teachers/aides because they’re all super awesome. Follow her on IG: @partywithalison
6. Handdrawn Notes
Alice is a Little 45er (badass snowboard club…if you don’t know, you don’t know) and Dan brought home the sweetest little drawings for my kids that she did. Oh, I just love that girl. Along with all the other little snowboard pals we have. Boarders are the best.
7. Children Who Perform Hamilton
Not just any children, but an almost-12-year-old who includes her 5-year-old sister. And who is happy and proud to do it. And who wear awesome shirts and choose songs that talk about equality and work really hard to cut and paste it up so that it sounds good but still fits into the 2.5 minute time frame. 100, Maria, 100.
A couple months ago (it wasn’t even that long ago, actually) I decided I wanted to take my three little girls to Disneyland. I didn’t want to buy four plane tickets and I don’t mind driving, so that’s what we were gonna do: drive to Disneyland. I knew if I mentioned it to my mom, she’d wanna climb aboard the Disney train so I obviously mentioned it to my mom. Yep, they were on board. So we took a Wednesday through Sunday trip to Disneyland. That lasted a day longer than expected, but whatcha gonna do?
We drove to Redding, stayed the night, then drove the next day to Disneyland, The Happiest Place on Earth.
But really. It is. I love Disneyland I think more than any place in the world because everything is just so damn magical. Yeah, it’s super expensive, but it’s so worth it. My mom and Karen might be the only people who agree with me, but I’m sticking to it.
We stayed at The Disneyland Hotel and our view was of the pool and in the distance you could see The Matterhorn and Space Mountain. I was pleased.
I only took my camera into the park once because it’s too much pressure to get good pictures of everything, so you’ll only get a glimpse of everything we did. But I’m sure you’re fine with that.
We went on the Cars ride, Ariel, the carousel, saw the live Frozen show (dude, it’s a must-see), rode Soarin’ and saw Playhouse Disney Live. We got free face painting, met some characters, and ate at Ariel’s Grotto (meh, only worth it to see the princesses!) and Carthay Circle (yum) — all in California Adventures.
The weather was pretty fantastic which was pretty lucky because it was really stormy just days before we got there. But good weather = swimming, even if it’s not 80 degrees. So swimming we went.
Did you know they brought back the Main Street Electrical Parade? Oh, no? You’re dead to me.
Just kidding. But they did, they brought it back and what that means is that if one wants a front-row seat (and one does, believe me), one must start saving seats at 4:00pm. For an 8:30pm parade. Disney parades are serious business. Ask Karen.
Lots and lots of treats and bribes were purchased and consumed.
By 6:00 we were ready to go on some rides so we headed to Toon Town where we played at Goofy’s House (a really great spot if you have toddlers and need some down time) and visited Minnie and Mickey’s houses and even got to meet Mickey Mouse. Then we had ourselves a tea party and rode the tea cups. Disneyland, I love you.
And then, the parade.
We did other things in Disneyland, too. We ate so many treats, we rode Dumbo and Pinnochio, the carousel, Splash Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, Pirates, we saw lots of our Disney friends, saw fireworks, and just had a really lovely time. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
I’m realllllly easy-going on vacation which is a bit of a surprise to me, actually. I go in with no expectations because otherwise I would be stressed and disappointed. So what we get to see and do is great and anything we didn’t will be saved for next time. And if I had anticipated not receiving very specific and incredible kids’ outfits in time even though it was promised (I mean, this is my life — I plan Disney outfits), Francesca being pretty awful a lot of the time, breaking down in Winnemucca and staying at a hotel that had a casino attached and eating KFC for dinner and wearing the same clothes for a day too long, I might have had second thoughts. But it all happened, and it was fine and we laughed and laughed and the kids were amazingly good, and we listened to some really good 48 hours podcasts (because why not mix a little murder in with Disney magic, huh?) and had the very best time. I might already be planning our next Disney vacation.
A couple months ago at Hogans (our neighborhood bar that Danny and I frequent) I told Danny that I wanted a cotton candy machine.
“I mean, imagine just, like, making our own cotton candy. And we’d make amazing flavors. And maybe I’d do it at wedding receptions or parties or something. COTTON CANDY, DAN!” Lavender cocktails make me very creative.
I even found a cotton candy cart and organic sugar floss online. Because you can get anything online.
And then it happened. He got me a cotton candy machine. And the moment that first bite of sugar melted in my mouth, I knew I was a genius. Cotton candy was a genius idea, even if I never once sell a single cone of it.
You heard it here first:
It’s true, and you’ll all remember this moment.
And then I’ll have to give credit to my friend Leann who had a cotton candy machine in high school and sparked my obsession. Leann is the coolest.
So if you wanna go ahead and get yourself a cotton candy machine, do it. But don’t be surprised if you can’t make it as well as me because, I’m just saying, I’m boss with a cotton candy cone.
And if you want organic cotton candy (did you know there was such a thing?) you know who to ask. Drop by the boulevard, I’ll spin some up for ya.
She was cute even before she was born.
Ollie was born on January 7th, 2013. There was snow and it was cold and she was in a hurry to come (and Danny almost didn’t make it). She was sick so we stayed in the hospital a little longer than we had liked.
Ollie is our blonde haired, blue eyed, sweet and happy little sprite. She’s as easy going as they come and she’s almost always happy. She wakes up smiling every morning (I’d know because she sneaks to sleep right between Danny and me every night) and goes to sleep happy each night. She sucks two fingers while stroking her hair across her cheek. She curls up like a kitten our laps and is a snuggle bug. She loves soda and Disneyland and asks every morning, “It is a Dawn Day or is it a nothing day?” and squeals with delight when the answer is “Dawn Day.” Her hair is just hilarious because it’s fine and thin and doesn’t grow — constant bed-head. She loves lip gloss and playing house and is always up for adventuring outside.
Today, Ollie is 4.
We’re celebrating in McCall, one of our favorite places, and she’s in birthday heaven. Cakes and cookies and friends and pizza.
Happy Birthday to our sweet Ollie Jane.