Mommy Shorts | Parental wit and wisdom from the mind of a mom with two girls
With style, grace, and an awesome name to boot, Mommy Shorts is one inspiring blog. Run by busy New York City mom Ilana, Mommy Shorts features tons of unbelievable parenting wisdom, endless amounts of entertaining wit, and enough family cuteness to completely knock your socks off.
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The big topic on the blog so far this summer has been Mazzy going away to sleep-away camp for the first time. For four weeks! I wrote all about why we sent her and then I also wrote an update about Mazzy’s camp experience so far. Any and all info was gleaned from stalking the camp website for photos and one five minute phone call. We also went to visiting day this past weekend. I’ll be writing more about that this week.
If you are worried about Harlow, please don’t fret. She is fine. I actually think she is enjoying her time as an only child. In fact, I would say her Harlowness has been ramped up to about 1000 in Mazzy’s absence. Something about not having an older sister to call you annoying or yell at you for singing too loud when you are trying to chat with your friends over Facetime. In her absence, we have filmed three episodes of Harlow’s Baking Show. It’s all she wants to do after camp. Harlow is shooting episodes faster than I can edit, but expect to see them roll out soon! Any suggestions for easy things to bake? Tell me in the comments below.
My summer has also been interesting because Mike is away a lot for his new job, so it’s really just me and Harlow at the house. I’m calling it the “Summer of Harlow” and I’ll tell you more about it in a future post.
This week, I’ll be sharing stories of families affected by childhood cancer, all of whom I met at the Ultimate Campout in Green Bay with Northwestern Mutual. Follow me on @mommyshortssquad all week long to hear three mothers tell their family’s story in their own words.
Lastly, I was the guest on Kveller’s podcast “Call Your Mother.” They asked me some pretty tough questions about how I started Mommy Shorts and how it has affected my kids. You can check it out here.
I think that’s it. Gonna go enjoy one of Harlow’s baked goods right now. Seriously, her coffee cake muffins are delish.
A few people have told me they miss seeing Mazzy in my Instagram stories. IMAGINE HOW I FEEL!!! All week, we’ve been looking through photo galleries that the camp sends us nightly, searching the faces for our daughter and then searching her face for signs of happiness.
In the first couple of days, she looked a little shell shocked. Not sad. Just a little overwhelmed and unsure. In the next few days of photos, I couldn’t really tell. She was with other kids and at fun activities, but giving that same face she often gives me when I take pictures of her. Her obligatory close-lipped someone-is-taking-a-photo-of-me smile.
Also, in group pics, she always seemed to be a little off to the side. Not by herself or anything but not fully invested in the group either.
My favorite is trying to discern her state of mind from the back of her head. Does her hair look happy? Is she turned around because she is engaged in conversation with that kid behind her??? Is she never in shots of the pool because she’s trying to hang onto the blue in the hair? Is she wearing that same shirt too often? Is that a toxic substance she’s playing with??? It’s always hard to tell.
After one week in, I finally saw it. There she was in the middle of a picture with her bunk mates instead of on the outskirts. Clearly happy.
I also noticed that someone else was wearing her dress to what looked like a social, which made me feel good that she was sharing her stuff.
And then finally, the ultimate proof of happiness— a smile with TEETH!
When Mazzy is genuinely laughing and having a blast (not just posing for a pic), there are teeth! I know my daughter and this shot was real happiness.
I guess this is the benefit of sending your kid to camp for more than a week. And why we weren’t allowed to talk to her until week two. You give them a chance to find their bearings, get used to being away from home, establish some friendships… and THEN they really get to enjoy themselves.
It’s like how nobody buys that the Bachelorette falls in love with the Bachelor in such a collapsed amount of time. Real relationships don’t form that fast. Mazzy is like me. She acclimates, gets comfortable and gets to know people a bit before deciding they are her new best friends.
On Monday, we got our first letter! It was mailed to the city and I’m out at the house, so Mike had to take a picture of it for me.
I want to point out a few things.
1) She misses us!!!!
2) She has a friend. Yay!!!!!
3) We did not forget to pack her brush. We actually got an email two days prior from her counselor saying that Mazzy said she didn’t have a brush. I wrote back that I absolutely packed a brush. Check the pockets of her mesh shower caddy. I got an email back that same day that the brush had been located. How hilarious that I was so concerned about how she was going to manage her massive amount of hair by herself, and then she literally went a week without brushing it, all because I packed her brush in a place she couldn’t find it!!!
4) We did not forget to pack boots for horse back riding. The packing list said she could wear sneakers.
5) We totally forgot to pack her pillow. I was going to pack the silk one she sleeps with every night, but everything else was packed the night before. Then Mike zipped up the bags and put them in the car early that morning and I just plain forgot. Apparently she has been sleeping with a blow up pillow from the camp. Total mom fail. Although, I have since heard that a pillow is the number #1 item parents forget to pack for sleep-away camp, so that makes me feel much better.
6) I bet you are curious about the limo party. The night before Mazzy left, Harlow told us her friend is having a limo party for birthday. None of this is confirmed or denied.
7) Mazzy is obviously NOT focusing on her handwriting this summer.
The day after we received the letter, we had our first phone call with Mazzy. It was amazing to hear her voice. She sounded so little! For some reason, whenever I talk to Mazzy on the phone, I can’t tell if it’s her or Harlow. She sounds like such a little kid when I can’t see her.
It was a short phone call— we are only allowed five minutes. And I had to compete with both Mike (who was on conference call) and Harlow (who was next to me and very eager to do as much talking as possible) to get my questions in. If I could do it over, I would talk to Mazzy first with just Mike, and then call Harlow over to talk halfway through.
But none of that really matters.
My main takeaway is that Mazzy is having a really great time. That was obvious. They are allowed to pick two activity majors each week. She told me last week she picked science and fencing, which was surprising on both counts. But then she said that Science involves slime making and that choice made more sense. Harlow also pointed out later that fencing is something they do in Descendants 2, so that also makes sense.
For this week, Mazzy told us she picked science again and switched out fencing for theater set design, which sounds awesome. She also told me she tried the trapeze and she is going horseback riding for the first time tomorrow. I love that she is trying new things.
I had sent her a care package with a stuffed avocado inside and she said that it had become their bunk mascot. “Everyone wants to hug it,” she told me. That made me happy.
Then Mazzy had to go and Harlow got a little upset. I said, “Don’t worry! Visiting day is Saturday!!!”
I had to tell myself that too.
Later that night, when I was searching that day’s camp photos for Mazzy’s face, I found a group shot of her bunk. Everyone was making silly faces and Mazzy was sitting front and center, proudly holding her stuffed avocado.
The bunk mascot, courtesy of mom. It almost felt like she had a little piece of me there with her.
One last thing. My mom sent me this bizarre and hilarious video which pretty much sums up everything I just described. This video is from 2012, but apparently all camps abide by the same rules and have the same photo system as ours. It is somewhat comforting.
Sleep Away Camp - YouTube
If your kid is away for the first time this summer, tell me how it is going in the comments below! Or, tell me about the funniest letter or lack of letter, you ever received from your kid at camp.
The relationship between siblings can be adorable and full of unconditional love, but when you have two small children who live in the same house, can’t escape each other and are fighting for the same parental attention, it’s probably also fraught with tons of petty fights and ridiculous power plays. For example, Mazzy and Harlow have an ongoing battle over who gets to stand on the stool while brushing their teeth. Every freakin morning and night. Mazzy always gets there first but Harlow can’t really reach the sink without it, so I have to put a limit on Mazzy’s stool time, since she would stand there forever just to piss off her little sister.
I asked the members of the Remarkably Average Parents facebook group, “What is the most ridiculous thing that your kids fight over?” The most popular responses were very important issues like— shower order, who gets to open the front door and where each kid sits in the car, with one parent claiming, “This entire thread justifies my decision to have only one kid.”
26 Absolutely Ridiculous Things that Real Siblings Fight Over
1) “I brought home new backpacks for my kids and they fought over who got which one. They are identical backpacks.” – Valeria
2) “While in the bath together last night, my kids made a fake YouTube video reviewing bath slime and then fought over who had the better nonexistent merch page.” – Sage
3) “The most ridiculous thing my kids ever had a fight over was an INVISIBLE trophy. There was screaming, tears and full-on tantrums. Over an INVISIBLE object.” – Courtney
4) “This weekend, my kids fought over a white lambskin rug from Ikea that I keep on my desk chair. It has been there their entire lives but on Saturday, one of them was walking around with it and the other wanted it. I felt so stupid putting on a timer so everyone got a turn.” – Laura
5) “When we walk to get the mail, they fight about who gets to carry the mailbox key. Then who gets to open the mailbox, then who gets to get the mail out of the mailbox. Then who gets to carry the key home. So now, neither of them get to carry the key.” – Michelle
6) “My kids fight over who gets the seat behind the passenger seat, because that person can see me better. Which is sweet, but DEAR GOD. They have an elaborate system involving Mon/Wed/Fri versus Tues/Thurs and alternating Sundays.” – Stephanie
7) “My 6 and 7 year-old freak out if one of them looks out the other’s window in the car. Seriously???” – Rhianan
8) “When I split a bag of snacks, my kids like to argue over who gets the bag. Apparently, the bag is much better than eating out of a cup or bowl, and they are willing to have fewer snacks in exchange for being the bag-holder.” – Katrina
9) “My kids fight over who showers first, because apparently showering second is the best shower???” – Beth
10) “This morning, my kids fought over whose unused napkin was sitting on the counter from dinner the night before. They both wanted it.” – Katie
11) “My kids fight over who gets to tell me the light turned green when we are driving. They both watch the red light and scream GREEN and then fight over who said it first.” – Jess
12) “My kids fight over whose turn it is to open the garage door. If one opened it in the garage, the other gets to close it with the button in the vehicle. Which means the first gets to use the button when we get back, and the other closes from inside. Oh, and did I mention one of them is a freaking TEENAGER?!” – LJ
13) “My kids like to fight over cloth napkins. Here I thought I was being both fun and environmentally conscious by ordering cloth napkins in cute patterns, but instead I just created the opportunity to referee fights about who gets the monkey napkin and who gets the ladybug!” – Elizabeth
14) “When I put my kids in the shower together, they fight over who gets to stick their head under the faucet while the water drains after I turn off the shower. And the kid who doesn’t get to do it demands that I turn on the faucet for a split second so they can do it too. It drives me INSANE!” – Tara
15) “My kids eat animal vitamins every morning. There are four different animal shapes: elephant, hippo, lion and tiger. I now have to give all three boys the same animal so they don’t fight over whose animal killed the others’ animal. After this happened and resulted in TEARS AND SCREAMING for a week, I vowed to find a different vitamin.” – Rachel
16) “My kids were reading the Guinness Book of World Records one day and fought over whose birth year had more shark deaths.” – Aimee
17) “My two boys fight over who gets to throw away their baby sister’s dirty diaper in the morning. We cloth diaper during the day so the one diaper from overnight is the only one anyone gets to throw away all day. It’s apparently a privilege.” – Alexa
18) “My kids fight over who gets which plate at dinner, the yellow one or the yellow one. Yes, you read that right. They are both yellow plates.” – Allison
19) “My kids fight over who gets to press the buttons in the elevator. It got so bad that last week I revoked all button-pressing privileges and only adults are allowed to press the button.” – Margaret
20) “My two boys fight over who gets to throw away their baby sister’s dirty diaper in the morning. We cloth diaper during the day so the one diaper from overnight is the only one anyone gets to throw away all day. It’s apparently a privilege.” – Aromama88
21) “My kids once had an argument over what they were going to name chickens…that we do not and will not ever own. Legit screaming and crying over nonexistent chickens names.” – blueyedgrl121
22) “My kids fight over who gets to sit next to me. Mind you, I have two kids…and two sides.” – qnoqns
23) “I’ll ask one of my kids to do something for me and that kid will say that they don’t want to do it. So, I’ll ask the other kid to do it and before I know it, there’s a knock-down drag-out fight over who gets to do what no one wanted to help me with in the first place.” – Tara
24) “I have a picture of my son crying hysterically because his sister took an imaginary bite of his imaginary cake.” – Tracy
25) “I asked my daughters this and one said ‘nothing’ and the other said ‘everything.” – Loralyn
26) “Y’all, let me tell you— it never changes. I have 7 kids… 30, 22, 20, 19, 18, 14, and 13. When they are together and I drive somewhere, they still yell ‘SHOTGUN’ and race to sit in the front seat. Including the 30 year-old, who is married and has three kids of her own.” – Starria
The United States Women’s National Team won the World Cup on Sunday. It was a game so exciting that both men in my house (Mike and my brother-in-law) made sure it was on to watch. For the record, we have never watched a soccer game in our house before— men or women.
It was awesome to watch the women win; both because they are an incredibly talented team on the field and also because they have become such strong advocates against gender discrimination. It felt like they weren’t just fighting for a title, they were fighting for fair treatment of women and the right to get paid what they deserve.
Over the past few months, the USWNT has shed light on the huge pay disparity between the men and women soccer players in the league. For example, the women’s teams compete for their share of $30 million in prize money from FIFA, in contrast to the Men’s World Cup prize of $400 million in 2018.
In addition to that, according to the Guardian, “the USWNT’s contract guarantees a player will receive $3,000 for each qualification game they win; a $37,500 bonus for qualifying for the World Cup; $37,500 for making the final US World Cup roster; and $110,000 if they win the whole World Cup — a grand total of $200,000 each. In contrast, had the U.S. Men’s National Team qualified for the 2018 FIFA Men’s World Cup, which the team did not, players would have received $108,695 each. Had the team won all of their 16 qualifying games, made the final World Cup roster and won the World Cup, USMNT players would have been paid a total of over $1.1 million each.”
That’s a $730,000 pay gap, which became a huge focus of the Woman’s Team and Sunday’s game, even prompting chants from the stands of “Equal Pay” after they won.
For those arguing that Men’s Soccer generates more money, that is not true, particularly in the case of the US Team. According to the Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Women’s Soccer games have generated more revenue for the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) than U.S. men’s games over the past three years.” And, Mark Parker, Nike’s president and CEO, announced last week that “the USA Women’s Home jersey is now the No. 1 soccer jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold on Nike.com in one season.”
This is all due to the fact that THESE WOMEN KEEP WINNING. When people are talented and inspiring, they become household names and people want to wear those names on their back. I can name Megan Rapinoe and Alex Morgan and Christen Press and Rose Lavelle… but I honestly don’t know the name of one U.S. Men’s soccer player.
Back in March, 28 members of USWNT filed a lawsuit against the USSF for gender discrimination and unequal pay. Let’s hope that after their big win this Sunday, everyone comes to the table to discuss. Although, it obviously would have been much more financially beneficial to the players had the talks happened beforehand. Insert huge EYE ROLL here.
My favorite tweet after the World Cup was from none other than Billie Jean King (and retweeted by Serena Williams, mind you.) She said, “Congratulations to the USWNT on their 4th World Cup win! These athletes have brought more attention, support and pride to women’s sport than perhaps any other team in history. It is long past time to pay them what they rightly deserve.”
One team member who has made headlines with her strong stance on everything from equal pay to gay rights to staying the hell away from the White House is Megan Rapinoe. Her self-satisfied stance after scoring a goal quickly became an internet meme. As a result, she has received a lot of criticism for both bringing politics onto the field and for being a bad sport, as if men in sports don’t routinely celebrate their goals by dancing and trash talking???
I may not be a big soccer fan, but I find the entire USWNT’s attitude inspiring. I think we all should take a cue from Megan Rapinoe and celebrate our wins! Even if our wins are way smaller than winning the World Cup.
Congratulations to the USWNT!!!! What would you like to pat yourself on the back for today?
So this was it. On Sunday, Mazzy left for sleep-away camp. This is her first time leaving home and she will be gone for four weeks. Crazy, right?
It was a tough decision to send her, because honestly, I was not ready. But, on the East Coast, it’s a pretty common way for kids to spend their summer. Most of Mazzy’s friends started their sleep-away experiences last year. We go out to the house for the summer, so I didn’t think her friends being away would affect her that much, but I didn’t take into account that her summer friends would start going to sleep-away camp too. Last year, Mazzy had a tough summer because there were so few kids her age at her day camp. It felt like she had aged out. Then it was a bit of a struggle figuring out what to do with her every day, since I felt bad leaving her at the camp. Specialty camps around us are typically less of a full day and a farther drive, so coordinating is tough for a working parent. That resulted in a lot more TV and iPad time than I would have liked.
Also, Mazzy really wanted to go away to camp. She was the one who brought it up as a possibility initially, earlier this year. We did a bunch of research and Mazzy was the one who ended up picking her camp. We took her to a camp fair and she fell in love with a small family-run camp after speaking with the director. The camp emphasizes a warm inclusive community and each camper gets to select their own activity majors and minors. The camp does two week sessions and she opted to stay for two of them.
We’ve been packing up her stuff for the past few weeks (so much organizing!), trying to get her prepared to take care of herself (like how to make sure the shampoo is all out of her hair without me checking) and trying to make sure she’s emotionally ready as well. I think she was less concerned about being away from me and Mike than she was about being away from Harlow. And I think she was more worried about how Harlow would fare without her, then how she would handle it herself.
For Harlow’s part, she had a little breakdown about how much she was going to miss her big sister this summer, while Mazzy was at a sleepover a few weeks ago. But then when I explained how she would have 100% of my attention, she perked right up.
“Harlow, you realize it’s just going to be you and me, right? Nobody is going to be there to compete with you on what you want to do. So, you can pick whatever you want to play, what you want to watch on TV, where you want to go out to eat. You can even sleep in my bed some times. Does that sound like fun?”
Harlow’s eyes went wide and she let out a sneaky little grin like she was getting away with something. “YES IT DOES.”
We opted to have Mazzy take the bus to the camp instead of driving her there. I remember the bus being a big part of the sleep-away experience from when I was kid, and a good transition to being on your own. For the record, my parents sent me to camp for eight weeks when I was a year younger than Mazzy. I hated every second of it, but I’m a different kid from Mazzy. I also was put in a small bunk with a group of girls who had all been there the previous year. It ended up being my first experience with mean girls. I switched camps the next summer and had a great time. For Mazzy’s camp, we confirmed that the majority of the kids in her bunk will be first-timers.
Mazzy didn’t express anything but excitement leading up to the day she left. But even though she seemed 100% ready for her big girl experience, she still brought her Boo with her on the bus. Not hidden in her bag, just in case. She was so confident, she had no issue with the other kids on the bus knowing she’s got a security blanket.
She also had no problem giving each of us a big hug before she boarded the bus. She gave us all the tightest, best hugs.
But I think she saved the biggest one for Harlow.
It was hard to watch Mazzy leave, but I am also really excited for her. I think it would feel different if sleep-away camp was our idea or if she didn’t have a hand in the selection process. On our way back home, I kept trying to imagine Mazzy getting to camp and unpacking her stuff— organizing her area in the bunk, making her bed, putting her toiletries into her shower caddy, etc. I could NOT imagine it. I don’t question that Mazzy will be able to make friends, but taking care of herself without our help is a whole other thing.
I’m hoping that being at camp is not just a great adventure and a place where she makes tons of new friends, but also a huge lesson in independence and caring for herself. Another thing I’m really happy about is that the camp is tech-free. No iPad, iMessage or Netflix. That has got to be a healthy positive thing.
I have also already sent Mazzy three letters and a care package and can’t wait for a letter back. Good old-fashioned communication that promotes reading and writing. I’m looking forward to getting some insights into my daughter that I wouldn’t get through regular conversations.
So. How am I feeling about sending Mazzy to sleep-away camp? Yes, I miss her. BUT. I feel like we made one decision and as a result, Mazzy is having four solid weeks of a positive experience where I don’t have to second guess my parenting.
Both my girls have been loving the extra dose of rainbows popping up around NYC for Pride this month. NYC is the official host of World Pride this weekend and our city has really outdone itself. Rainbows are EVERYWHERE. The girls have been pointing out colorful displays of pride everywhere we go— from store windows to pop-up art installations to the colors of the skyline at night. And just when I was thinking it was all about the rainbows, Mazzy pointed out a light blue and pink flag and said, “Oh cool! They have the transgender flag too!” I didn’t even know there was a transgender flag. NYC kids are pretty amazing. I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot.
We already have a few children’s book lists on the blog about love, self-love, and non-traditional families. In honor of Pride Month, I asked our kid lit specialist Lauren Bercuson to share a list of books that specifically celebrate the LGBTQ community. Lauren reviews everything from board books for your youngest kidsto books for your newest readers to novels for tweens. She put together a comprehensive list of her favorites, separating the books into a few categories— books about pride, books about gender identity, books about LGBTQ relationships and families, and books for tweens.
Did you know that each color of the pride flag stands for something special and meaningful? This beautiful book is a celebration of the love parents have for their children, told through gentle rhyme and colorful photographs that also convey the meaning of the flag’s many colors. It contains a powerful message, too: be true to you, and you will always be loved.
by Michael Genhard and illustrated by Anne Passchier
This sweet book, an ode to LGBTQ families, pride and also reveals the meaning and symbolism behind each stripe on the rainbow flag. This is a beautiful testament to a parent’s unwavering love between children and their parents. A lovely way to show kids that just as there are many colors of a rainbow, families come in all different colors, too.
There is a rich history surrounding New York City’s Stonewall Inn, and its role in the LGBTQ movement is unparalleled. Narrated by the Stonewall Inn itself, this is the story of the police raid on the Inn on June 28, 1969, and the manner in which the empowered members of the LGBTQ community in and around the Inn began to demand equal rights as United States citizens. Powerful, poignant and dynamic, this one belongs in every library and classroom around the country!
Harvey Milk had a dream to create a global symbol of unity and inclusion, one that would allow LGBQT people to be proud of not just who they are, but also who they love. This beautiful book tells the story of the Gay Pride Flag from its inception in 1978 thanks to Milk’s activism, all the way to the present day, describing how it became an important symbol worldwide. This is a story of love, hope, and equality that has an important place on every book shelf!
by Gayle E. Pitman and illustrated by Kristyna Litten
This is a whimsical, lively and energetic celebration of pride. Taking place at a joyful parade, all are invited, all are excited, and all are united! Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this is a fabulous portrayal of pride that also contains excellent resources for parents and caregivers to speak with children about sexual orientation and gender identity in sensitive, age appropriate manners.
Casey loves “boy” things — but he also loves things that sparkle. When his sister has glittery nails, Casey wants them too. When she has a shimmery skirt, he wants one too. When Abuelita has an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey wears one too. Though some of the adults around Casey embrace his expression and allow him to be true to himself, Casey’s big sister isn’t so sure. Will it take a bully to help big sis embrace her brother’s interests? We love this story of acceptance!
Oh, how we love this own voices book! When Aidan was born, she had a beautiful name and a beautiful room and beautiful dresses. But even though there is no one way to be a girl, Aidan knew he wasn’t a girl at all. When he realized he was a trans boy, his parents helped him settle into a new life. But then his parents tell them they are expecting a baby – and Aidan wants to do whatever he can to make things right for his brother or sister. But what does that even mean? And does anything else matter besides loving his new sibling with his whole heart? A new about gender identity we absolutely love!
While Julian, a young boy, rides the subway one day, he is dazzled by a glorious sight: three women dressed up as beautiful mermaids. Julian can think of nothing better than dressing up just like them, with his own tail and a magical headdress, so he attempts to do just that. But what will Abuela think about the way Julian sees himself? Such an important book, so perfectly executed!
by Sarah Hoffman, Ian Hoffman and illustrated by Chris Case
Jacob gets chased out of the boy’s bathroom because the other kids say he looks like a girl. Sophie has a similar experience – she goes to use the girls bathroom, but the other kids don’t want her in there, either. Upon learning about these incidents, their teacher helps these children pave the way for change, and with the support of administration, the students learn to respect everyone, no matter their chosen form of gender expression.
If your kids have questions about gender and pronouns, this is the perfect book to use as a springboard for discussion! This tender little book depicts many gender presentations under each pronoun, doing it gently and beautifully while allowing children to expand upon what they know about gender. I love the way this unique book celebrates all forms of personal expression.
by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant
This is such a wonderful book for challenging gender stereotypes! Morris has a wonderful imagination and he also has a penchant for wearing the tangerine dress in the dress-up center in his classroom. But everyone else says dresses are for girls, and he cannot go into the spaceship the other boys are building because astronauts definitely don’t wear dresses. Will Morris take off the dress, or will he find a way to be true to himself and accepted by his classmates?
by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, and illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
When she was just two years old, Jazz Jennings knew she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. This is Jazz’s story, based on her real-life experiences as a transgender child. Simple, honest and essential, Jazz’s story will resonate with many. It is a perfect tool to help children grappling with gender identity questions, while at the same time helping other children understand the experience of a transgender child.
Angus loves all things sparkly, and when he wears his grandmother’s bracelet to school, he is startled by the negativity and teasing he receives from his classmates. He can’t wear bracelets, they say – he is a boy, after all! Angus loses his sparkle as a result of his classmates taunts, but when one little girl sees Angus for who he is and what he loves, her acceptance causes Angus to glow once again.
This is the story of Red, a red crayon. Or is it? It seems the crayon is having an identity crisis, for though he is wrapped in a red label, there is no debating that every time he colors, he is not red but blue. His parents, his teacher and even his friends try to help him be Red, but no matter how hard he tries, he simply cannot be what everyone else thinks he should be. Then one day, something magical happens. The frustrated crayon meets a new friend who tells Red what he really needs to hear: Red isn’t Red at all… he’s actually blue! And so it is that this was just what Red needed needed: a gentle nudge to look inward and listen to what he likely knew all along. He was blue! He was really blue!
I’ve seen few picture books that showcase the experience of a girl transitioning to a boy, and while this book does fall back on some stereotypes, it is an important glimpse into a little girl’s desire to become Jack, not Jackie. Why? Because she knows she identifies with Jack, and she is meant to be a boy. This book is published in partnership with GLAAD to advance LGBTQ inclusivity and acceptance.
In this beautiful picture book, a young South Asian boy becomes fascinated by his mother’s bindi and wishes for one of his own. Though the bindi is typically worn by Hindu women, his mother does not chastise him, but instead agrees to it and teaches him about its significance. Not only does the boy discover the magic of the bindi, but it also gives him permission to be more uniquely himself. Beautiful, both in story and illustration!
This post was written by Harlow’s first grade teacher. We’ll miss you, Alli!
Teachers and students both look forward to that bittersweet last day of school before Summer Break. We are sad to see a chapter end, but also excited about what we’ve learned together and the adventures to come.
As a teacher in the elementary grades, I often get asked for tips to keep up the learning momentum and prevent that dreaded Summer Slide. For those of you who are new to this term, the Summer Slide refers to a decline in reading ability and/or other academic skills when school is no longer in session. Young children benefit from the daily repetition that school provides over 10 months. So, what happens over the 2 months of summer? How can we help children maintain what they’ve learned the year before, so they come back in the fall and are able to pick up exactly where they left off?
Your child doesn’t need year-round schooling to stay on track and prevent the Summer Slide. Even as a teacher, I believe that Summer should be Summer— a time to sleep in, enjoy family and friends, stay up a little later, and create lasting memories. With that said, I also believe there are a variety of fun and engaging ways to incorporate learning into your child’s summer that won’t make them feel like they’re back in the classroom.
5 Ways You can Help your Child Prevent that Summer Slide:
1) Read together everyday
It all starts with selecting the “right” book. No matter how many books take up space in your home, there’s nothing like picking out your own book and taking ownership of your reading. Instead of spending money on new books that will continue to crowd your shelves, take your child on weekly trips to your local library.
Depending on the age of your child, reading together may look different. The main goal is to foster a love of reading, whether that means your child is reading, you are reading, or you take turns. If your child prefers for you to read, don’t fret! This is an opportunity for you to share your love of reading, model a strong reader voice, and engage your child by asking related questions about the story elements (character, setting, problem, and solution). You can also introduce chapter books by reading one together over an extended period of time, retelling the story each time you pick it up, sharing how characters may be feeling, and making predictions of what you think is to come. Another exciting way to find new books is through the digital library app called “Epic!” There are tons of books at every level for all genres.
2) Turn Reading into a Game
Many simple games incorporate elements of reading, so you can reinforce school skills without your child even realizing it. You can even create your own games to hone in on specific skills. For instance, if your child has a list of sight words they learned the previous year, work together to write these out on index cards. With flashcards, students can read each word, put them into sentences, and even act them out! If you make two of each, you can play “Concentration” by laying them all face down in an array, while trying to find each match. Early readers can try this by matching a letter to a picture with that beginning sound. Another tip is to label different parts of your home, such as “cabinet” or “door” and encourage your child to read it before opening. This can also work for learning or reviewing another language! While you are out and about, ask your child to read signs along your walk or product labels at the grocery store. Words are all around us.
3) Turn Math into a Game
We all use numbers everyday, whether we’re cooking in the kitchen, shopping, navigating directions, or helping our children with math games. Children can partake in these opportunities by following a recipe with you in the kitchen, creating their own store with pretend money, reading subway maps or navigation systems on long drives, keeping track of the time on a road trip or making their own fun math games to play throughout the summer.
For those interested in linking math and technology, some suggested apps to engage your child are “Komodo Math,” “Base Ten Blocks,” “Math Ninja,” and “MathTappers.” I suggest looking into these first and introducing one at a time to your child based on their learning needs.
In the early grades, children learn to skip-count by 2s to 20+, 5s to 50+, and 10s to 100+ in order to help them make sense of number patterns and gain a better understanding of how numbers work together. Your child can create flashcards by selecting a number pattern and labeling each card using a number line or 100s chart as a guide. Then, you or your child can set these cards up like a life-sized game board on the floor for your child to hop and count! This incorporates movement, counting, and lots of laughs. Children can count up to a desired number and backwards. They can even switch roles and challenge you to conquer their counting quest. For more of a challenge, they can try other number patterns such as 3s, 1st to 100, or even by 2s starting with 1.
4) Keep a journal
A personal writing journal is a great way to encourage your child to continue writing throughout the summer. Give them immediate ownership of their journal by allowing them to pick out their own. The goal is to foster their love of writing. You can do this by giving your child a creative space to reflect on their recent experiences (for some nonfiction writing) or express their active imaginations through fictional writing. For those natural storytellers who are eager to publish their writing, I recommend the website “Write Reader.” This gives your child a platform to type out their stories, add pictures, utilize text features, and print them out to share!
In order to prevent push-back, this should only happen about 2-3 times a week, unless your child wishes to write more. You can pick these writing dates together by marking them on a calendar and holding them accountable. You can also set a timer for 15-25 minutes for writing, depending on your child’s age and stamina. I would also suggest having your child date each entry as it may be something fun to look back on in the future!
5) Turn Your Everyday Adventures into a Learning Opportunity
The best way to avoid the Summer Slide is by finding learning opportunities in your child’s everyday interests. Go for a walk, venture on a hike, or explore a new part of your city! Use these fun experiences in the great outdoors to explore the scientist within your child. Make observations of what you see, hear, smell, feel, or taste. Ask questions and encourage them to do the same. Collect leaves, rocks, or anything that draws your child’s attention. Give them your phone or camera to take photos of objects or scenes that interest them and then ask them about it. The goal is to engage your child in the here and now, by fully interacting with their surroundings. They can write about it in their journal or they may want to take out a book from the library that aligns with their newfound interests.
Over the summer, the most important thing is to keep learning casual and fun. Be encouraging, ask lots of questions and make your child feel like it something you are doing together, not on their own. By keeping these tips in mind and your child’s interests at heart, you’re already a big step closer to preventing the Summer Slide!
A few weeks ago, Amy Schumer posted a pic of herself lying in bed with her newborn, with the caption “This shit is bananas.” I feel like there has never been a more accurate statement about new motherhood. I posted the pic on @mommyshortssquad and asked, “If you could give Amy Schumer one piece of advice, what would it be?” I also asked in the Remarkably Average Parents facebook group, “When a friend of yours has their first baby, what is the one piece of advice you make sure to give them?”
The responses were amazing— helpful, practical, poignant and CONCISE. I thought briefly about writing a book called “The Most Concise Guide to Being a New Mom,” but in the end decided a blog post was easier. And, if you are a new mom, whose got time for books?
Here are 27 of the best tips for new moms:
1) “Every stage/phase is temporary. And as soon as you think you’ve learned the rules, the game changes.” – Karine
2) “When someone offers help, take it! Whether it’s a family member who offers to take your newborn for 15 minutes so you can shower, or someone who wants to come over
to bring you dinner. You don’t need to appear like you can do it all. You are already superhuman enough for giving birth!” – Kendra
3) “Make sure the house is NOT quiet when your baby sleeps so he’ll learn to sleep through noises.” – Kara
4) “When you have your first, every little decision at the infant stage feels so important— which diaper brand, whether to supplement, when to add solids, how much tummy time, etc. The truth is they really AREN’T. You have enough to worry about… so that smaller stuff? Just pick something and go with it.” – Allison
5) “Listen to your pediatrician. Not strangers on the internet.” – Lindsei
6) “Don’t listen to anybody who claims they know the answers. Every baby is different and we are all just making this shit up.” – Crystal
7) “When you are in the newborn stage, NEVER turn the light on in the middle of the night. Feedings, blowouts, PJ changes… you should learn to do them all in the dark! Make no eye contact, speak no words and your baby will have a much better shot at going right back to sleep.” – Kara
8) “Always cook on the back burners.” – Eddie
9) “Don’t waist tons of money on clothes during their first two years. They grow so fast and you will only want to actually dress them in what is comfortable and easy to get on and off.” – Michele
10) “Always, always, always keep extra clothes for the babe and yourself in your car! Poopsplosions will happen in the most unfortunate times, and at the worst locations!” – Ginger
11) “TAKE THE STOOL SOFTENER! Don’t be a hero! The nurse will give it to you after delivery at some point and you take it!!!!!!” – Jody
12) “It’s okay if you don’t love every single second of motherhood. It doesn’t make you a bad mom. Just a relatable one.” – Ilana
13) “Take a few minutes every day to ask yourself, ‘am I feeling ok?’ And answer yourself honestly. If you feel a little off at all (anxious, sad, like you suddenly want to punch your husband in the face because he used the word ‘and’ too much and you’ve never felt that way before), know that you aren’t the only one. PPD shows it’s ugly self in all kinds of ways. You should and can feel better. Just tell your doctor. You don’t HAVE to tell anyone else if you don’t want to.” – Stephanie
14) “There’s no right or wrong way to do something. It’s just what’s right for you.” – Kearsten
15) “Parenting is hard and you will make mistakes; you will forget the wipes or place your baby on the couch right as they are learning to roll over. It is okay! Just keep loving your kid.” – Molly
16) “Park as close to the cart return as you can.” – Mariclaire
17) “If your baby is screaming and you can’t figure out why, you have tried everything, and you are getting frustrated, put them in a safe place like their crib or pack-n-play. They are safe. Take a breather. Go in another room. They will be okay.” -Brianna
18) “It may not seem like it, but the newborn stage is the easiest stage. They don’t move and they don’t talk. Seriously. Enjoy it and sleep when they sleep. Once they are mobile, it’s all over.” – Susan
19) “It is ok to let the housework slide.” – Beth
20) “When you make the crib, put a sheet down, a mattress protector and then another sheet. When you have a middle of the night emergency (puke, poop or pee), it’s way easier to just strip the mattress protector and the top sheet and have the clean sheet ready underneath, than to find a clean sheet and make the bed with a dirty baby.” – Jennifer
21) “When your baby starts talking, write that shit down. It’s so funny to read later and you won’t remember it otherwise.” – Jennifer
22) “If your baby uses a binky to fall sleep, toss six of them into the crib at night. That way when they need one and wake up crying, they can easily grab one without you having to get up!” – Michele
23) “Onsies slide down over the baby’s shoulders and body. No need to pull a poop explosion up over their heads!” – Outi
24) “It all goes so quickly, but the beginning feels like forever.” – Beth
25) “While examining my week old infant, the pediatrician looked at me over half moon glasses and said, ‘read to your baby and talk to your baby.’ That was her only advice. And it was the best advice I was ever given. It was so simple and easy. So I did.” – Lisa
26) “Don’t apologize for making rules for your baby, i.e. no kissing, must wash hands, etc. Trust your gut and stand your ground.” – Lindsei
27) “I’m a Mom of two and a Grandma of five. No matter how much advice anyone gives you, it’s still going to be a f’ing shit show for the next 19 to 20 years. Best anyone can do is buckle up and enjoy the ride! Watching my daughter struggle with a miniature version of herself is the best reward EVER.” – Lynn
June is a crazy month. I think the older my kids get, the crazier June gets. What with end of school activities, class breakfasts, recitals, parent participation days, last minute field trips, Father’s day, and the transition to our summer routine.
Have I mentioned that I am currently packing Mazzy up for sleep-away camp??? More on that soon.
Anyway, up top, you have Mazzy and Harlow on the last day of school. Notice Harlow in *gasp* jeans and Mazzy in her ever present hoodie, looking like two freakin’ teenagers. It’s also important to note that Harlow made that chalkboard in wood shop and insisted on writing “Last Day of School” herself because, and I quote, “I want to show everyone how good my handwriting is!”
Yes, Harlow, you have some beautiful handwriting! Now we just have to work a little harder on reading it.
Mazzy and Harlow both look older, wiser and have way longer hair than they had on their first day of first and fourth grade, as evidenced by the photo below taken back in September. Let’s all say it together— THEY GROW SO FAST!!!!
I asked Harlow if she was happy or sad about the last day and she said “somewhere in the middle.” As for Mazzy, she wrote “FREEDOM” on a tank top with a black sharpie and planned to wear it as part of her “last day of school” outfit. But then, at the last second, she decided to change to a regular shirt before heading out the door. All very 4th going into 5th grade behavior.
I haven’t posted much on the blog this month (due to the June craziness mentioned above), but I did work my ass off on a monster NYC guide called “The Best Things to do with Kids in NYC” that I highly encourage you to read, especially if you live in or around NYC, or are planning on visiting soon. It’s a master list of all my favorite kid-friendly NYC recommendations, so I have one comprehensive place to send people when they ask. I tried to give as much insider info as possible, some obvious tourist spots, along with many places you might not have heard about, and I also included nearby playgrounds and kid-friendly food options with most of the destinations. Please let me know if you find my post helpful!
While we are on the topic of NYC, I also wrote about our first family bike ride in Manhattan. We had a blast exploring the East River Promenade and have gone on several family bike rides since. We even made a video bike tour of Domino Park in Brooklyn. Go watch Mazzy and I try to scream over the wind as we try to tell you what to do there. It’s pretty comical.
On Father’s Day, I took the opportunity to write about my dad and his new solar farm. I also wrote about Mazzy’s experience so far with body image, which I’m happy to say, is pretty positive. I’m thinking the really tough stuff happens when puberty hits. And I probably won’t be able to write about it.
Speaking of Mazzy… we dyed her hair blue and OMG it was a disaster. The blue was unexpectedly vibrant at first, but now, after a few days of fading, a fresh cut and a blow out, I think Mazzy’s hair looks great— see photo below. But, that doesn’t mean I’m not permanently scarred from the Smurf murder scene that went down in our bathroom. I highly recommend reading this post if you are thinking of dying your kid’s hair on your own at home. YOU WERE WARNED.
Another big blog topic this month is why I am done having kids. That might seem fairly obvious since I am now 44, but some things are hard to officially say out loud. Sometimes, I think that if I had started having kids earlier in my life (I was 34 when I had Mazzy), I might have gone for a third. But then I remind myself of all the things I have now that I wouldn’t have if I had a baby — like sleeping late on the weekends, sitting down to meals with real family conversations, the ability to travel and do things that the whole family appreciates, etc. etc. A family of four feels right for us.
For the last few months, Mazzy has been begging me to dye her hair blue. After being especially good for the last few days, I finally agreed. It was either that or a dog. The other thing she’s been begging us for all year.
Last week, we went out with a friend of hers who dip dyed her hair with a temporary dye called Splat that is supposed to come out in 30 washes. No bleaching required. Her mom said she bought it at Duane Reade and her husband did it at home. Her friend’s hair is blonde so the dye took really well. I doubted Mazzy’s hair would hold color like that but I am also very against bleaching, so I told Mazzy I would be up for trying the temporary stuff on the ends of her hair to see what happens.
Mazzy is going to sleep-away camp for the month of July, so I figured, if it actually works, she’ll have it during camp and it will be gone by the time she comes home. We have an upcoming appointment to get her hair cut the following week, so they could cut it off the bottom if it was really a problem. I also decided we would do it at the summer house, in the girls’ bathroom, because it’s old and nobody really goes in there.
Friday night was the night. We watched a few tutorials and both put on outfits we didn’t care about. I put vaseline on her hairline and neck, as instructed, so that the dye wouldn’t stain her skin. I put on the gloves that came in the box and got to work. I used to dye my hair in college, this funky auburn color, but I had no experience with blue or dip dying. I was super nervous.
Mazzy has a lot of hair so it took awhile to get all the layers covered. I put tinfoil on because that’s what I saw them do in the videos. Mazzy convinced me to go a little higher than I was intending because of the hair cut. Applying the dye was pretty uneventful, except that Mazzy was beyond excited. I was both nervous that the dye would work too well and that the dye wouldn’t work at all and Mazzy would be disappointed. I kept trying to prepare her for the fact that the dye might not show since her hair is dark. I also realized that if I got any dye on the countertop, it was pretty hard to get off. So every time a little blue blotch appeared, I quickly wiped it off so it wouldn’t stain. I had absolutely no idea how messy blue dye can be!
When I was finished applying, Mazzy had to sit with the dye on her hair for an hour. I told her she wasn’t allowed to leave the bathroom because I didn’t want the dye to get anywhere. That’s when I took off my gloves and realized there was a hole in one of the fingers. My finger was dyed pretty intensely and it wouldn’t wash off.
I thought that was the worst that was going to happen, which looking back is pretty hilarious. How naive I was back then!
Now comes the PSA where I tell you under no circumstances to ever dye your kid’s hair blue in your own home.
We had quite the disaster.
After the hour was up, I turned on the shower and realized there was no hot water. The box recommends using cold water to let the color set, but without any hot water, the shower was FREEZING. I thought it was just something wrong with the shower in that bathroom, so I took her up to my bathroom, a bathroom I care more about.
Nope, something was wrong with our hot water in general and we needed to call a plumber to fix it. Even worse, I had now brought potential stains into two bathrooms.
The plumber couldn’t come until midnight and I couldn’t leave the dye in Mazzy’s hair until then, so we had to get it out with the cold water. I didn’t want to do it in the sink because our bathroom is white, the sink is pretty small and I thought it would go everywhere. Mazzy said it was ok and she would get in the shower. She was so excited about the hair and that fact that I was letting her do it, she was being particularly well-behaved and accommodating.
Since she was already a little wet and dripping blue, I stuck her in the cold shower in my bathroom as opposed to walking her back down to her bathroom and risking dripping blue along the hallway and the stairs. I tried my best to rinse out the dye, but it’s a small stand up shower, the shower head was too high and the pressure wasn’t strong enough. Plus, because it was so cold, Mazzy couldn’t bring herself to stand directly under the water, and we don’t have a separate hand shower. She was just standing there as the dye dripped all over her, turning her whole body blue. The floor and the walls of the shower were being splattered with blue too, but the dye in her hair didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Did I mention that she was absolutely shivering? Literally, her teeth were chattering and I felt awful for her. She was trying to be so brave and all I wanted to do was hold her, but then I would turn myself blue as well, which would put our white bathroom at even greater risk.
Finally, she got so cold that there was no way I could keep her in the shower. I got every old towel we had and covered the floor and the sink area. Then I wiped her down (she was still pretty blue) and attempted to wash her hair in the sink. This took FOREVER and the blue got pretty much everywhere. Mazzy’s hair is so thick, so it was so hard to rinse anything close to clear and we kept having to take breaks because her neck was hurting.
I think it might have been at that point that Mike walked in, saw that it appeared like we had slaughtered all of the Smurfs in our bathroom, cursed himself for ever marrying me and having children and then walked back out to go to bed.
So, then I’m simultaneously trying to rinse her hair out in the sink and clean everything in sight as we go so the while bathroom isn’t ruined. I knew what Mike was thinking— we have already have to redo the bathroom in our apartment; did I really have to destroy this bathroom too???
Finally, I got most of the dye out of her hair and off her body the best I could and did the conditioner. Then I wiped down her body and dried her hair with a blow dryer. We ruined like ten towels and I still don’t think it was close to washed out completely. Mazzy was exhausted though and the plumber wasn’t coming until midnight, so I put her to bed. I put a towel over her hair and covered everything in old blankets so she wouldn’t ruin her bed. Thank you, Grammy, for buying all those fleece Doc McStuffins and Frozen blankets from Costco over the years!
Before Mazzy fell asleep, I told her that when she wakes up, she’s not allowed to move. She just has to scream for me and I will come carry her to the shower immediately.
Thankfully, she did as she was told. The next morning, I was awoken by, “MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!! COME HELP ME!!! I NEED TO WASH MY HAIR!!!!!!!” She was so excited to see it. When I took off the towel, it looked way bluer than either of us were expecting. I said, “Don’t get too excited. I’m not sure how much is going to come out in the shower.”
As I expected, a ton of blue dye came off her hair, but it did not have nearly the same traumatizing fresh dye effect as the night before. It scrubbed off pretty easily. She stayed in the shower until her hair washed clear and then we blew it dry again.
Are you guys ready to see this? It is so much bluer and higher up in her head that I was thinking it would be.
Mazzy loves it. I’m trying to get used to it and Mike hates it. I keep telling him and myself— IT’S JUST HAIR.
But, to Mazzy, it is not just hair. It is her expressing herself, choosing to go against convention and me giving her permission to do so. She feels like she was meant to have this hair and immediately called all of her friends, her cousins, Grammy, etc. so that she could show them. She’s admiring her hair in the mirror, creating outfits that she thinks go nicely with her new do and feeling a very obvious surge of confidence.
Mazzy told me that she thinks the whole ordeal was totally worth it. She’s so happy. I don’t care anymore either. It was an A+ mother daughter bonding experience. Also, I got all the blue off the bathroom with a combo of Soft Scrub and Clorox wipes, so Mike couldn’t complain about the stains in addition to how much he hates her hair. Thank God.
I am hearing mixed reviews on Splat. Some say it will come out really easily and others are telling me it will stick around forever and never wash out. I also hear that as it fades, it turns green. So. This is not a Splat endorsement. I’m reserving judgement until we see how this plays out.
Also, as a final note: Always check if you have hot water before dying hair at home. And if you don’t think you can handle a smurf murder in your bathroom, go to a professional. That’s what I will be doing if Mazzy wants to do this again.
Can I talk about how happy Mazzy is again?
She’s been acting like an absolute angel since Friday and thanking me profusely for letting her do this. That’s five solid days of Mazzy on her best behavior. To top it all off, I’m pretty sure I earned a few of those very elusive “cool mom points.”