I’m Rinso White/I’m In-vis-i-ble

M named this magical mermaid after herself.
M named this mermaid after herself.

When I heard R tell M that her doll’s skin was the color of poop, I flinched.  Anger and embarrassment and worry washed over me one after the other.  M held her dark-skinned, rainbow-dreaded mermaid doll in her white arms and looked at R.  For the first time, I told my three-year-old daughter “That was a mean thing to say.”

I said it because in that moment it felt as if R’s words were intentionally hurtful.

With a feeling akin to looking for a light switch in a dark room, I launched into a lecture (what 3-year-old doesn’t love those?) about why it wasn’t ok to compare skin color to poop.

R quietly listened and I became increasingly flustered.  I stuttered as I realized I was heading toward the “us” and “them” dichotomy.  I backtracked.  I wanted to talk about how skin color both has been and is used to judge, manipulate, control, and subjugate but I could only think of language that made loose reference to cruelty and ended with something like “That’s why it’s especially important to be kind when we talk about other people’s skin color.  And our skin color.  All skin color!”

Saying simple sounding words that have become charged with meaning, even “black,” “brown,” and “white”  had freaked me out.  Which were the right words to use?!  Had I said everything wrong?  Before this moment, I’d thought of myself as a person who had a respectable grasp of racial issues, but this talk had quickly devolved into what felt like a hot mess and as it plummeted, so did my own sense of self.

Talking about race fills me with all kinds of anxiety because it seems like so often, people get angry, critical, and dismissive of others.  For a little while I’d hoped that as long as the girls saw our friendships with people of many racial backgrounds and we showed our belief in equality through our words and actions, we’d have a good foundation to build from when the girls were older.

Yet it turns out that children notice and question skin color readily, so when parents don’t talk about race, a much bigger conclusion is drawn.  Kids understand that it is not to be spoken of and they keep their own decisions or assumptions about race silent.  I’ve been giving the girls messages about their world since they were born, talking about the grass they feel under their feet or the colors of paint they use, counting toys together, talking about different family structures and teaching them social etiquette (so they know when to ignore it) but I have rarely pointed out different skin colors or encouraged discussion about it.

Meeting with the girls’ teachers and awkwardly sharing my concerns was helpful because they reminded me that the girls were at an age developmentally where they were learning to classify, to group things based on appearance.  R had meant nothing insulting in her comparison; as with many of their peers, poop is a popular topic with M and R.  Chocolate is also the same color as poop, and so is my hair.  Because I didn’t understand that R was piecing together similarities in her world, and because I’m already sensitive to the topic, it sounded to me like an epithet burst from my young daughter’s mouth.  The girls’ teachers recommended some resources to help us begin building a vocabulary around race and ethnicity.  Here are some of the resources we’ve used: Resources for Talking About Race.

It feels especially important to talk about race with M & R because as a white family with hetero parents, M & R are afforded a great amount of privilege in our society.  This isn’t something we discuss explicitly but it’s something I want them to become aware of, as I must continually remind myself to be aware of.

All of these issues came to mind when I found White Mom Blog, a blog created by a new mother who noticed a racial dialogue missing among white women/white moms.  As the author Buffy explains, the blog is so named as a way to identify her race “because whiteness shouldn’t be the default setting.”  In addition to her thoughtful and succinct posts (how does she pack so much into so few words?), she hosts an inclusive conversation among her readers.  Here is how she introduced her blog:

I want us (white women/white moms) to think about how we contribute to and perpetuate white privilege in our families, communities, schools, work places and beyond. I want to know how we will talk about race with our white children.  I want to hear from Women of Color about their experiences. I want to really listen. I don’t want to shut down when I hear something that makes me feel bad or guilty.     I Want to Talk About Race | White Mom Blog.

Finding someone who is willing to approach this controversial topic and is willing to host a conversation even when things get sticky (really. uncomfortably. sticky.) has reignited my desire to engage in that dialogue.  Because so much of my anxiety about this topic is tied to a fear of rejection and a fear of being labeled …and then rejected, it’s incredibly reviving to have found a place where perfection is not required, which is great, because it doesn’t exist.

My big revelation is that I can be okay with saying the wrong thing, as long as I’m doing my best to be respectful and as long as I’m willing to hear how others experience what I say.  More importantly, I want to risk unintentionally offending because I believe in the ultimate value of the discussion.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks pondering this one, asking friends about it, and reading about it, with the hope that I might extend the invitation for dialogue here as well.  In what ways have you talked to your kids about race? How would you like to do it? And how do you feel about talking about it?

Boogeyman

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Field recording of M singing in the car.

https://cartigans.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/ms-boogeyman-ii.mp3

Oh Boogeyman, don’t run from them
Just stay where you are right now
Don’t give me any very bad dreams
Oh boogeyman please go away
Oh boogeyman please go away
Oh boogeyman please go away
Oh boogeyman please go away

Mend & Make Do.

Well loved shoes.
Well loved shoes.

R needed some dress shoes to wear and these pink ones have seen better days.  As I whisked them out of her room, R reminded me to use “lots of glitter…  LOTS of glitter!”

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Spot painted with acrylic paint and outlined the rose with craft glue.  Sprinkled some glitter on the glue and viola!

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For the record, the amount of glitter I applied is nowhere near R’s definition of “LOTS.”  I blame this on myself.  The gold glitter BOB’S I wear (Read TOM’S knockoff – they give 2 pairs of shoes for every pair purchased!) have got her in a glitter frenzy and I’m going to have to glitter every bald patch on these slippers to get her approval.  I’m thinking that may not happen.

Dress up.

Princesses have never looked this good.
Princesses have never looked this good.

Although their bedroom floor is often layered with dresses, scarves, Groucho Marx glasses, and plastic tiaras that hurt like a mother when you accidentally step on them, it’s worth it to see the ensembles the girls come up with.  I love their creativity with clothes and accessories.

M's self-styled creation.
M’s self-styled creation.
R dressed herself for preschool.
R dressed herself for preschool.

That sparkly tulle skirt has been in high demand lately.

Princess dresses are especially popular in our house but the girls also like to play fire fighter and doctor.

Christmas Day
Christmas Day

And they’re not afraid to be strong willed ladies:

Princess Maggie.  She's tough.
Princess M. She’s tough.

And check out their design portfolio: Moustached ladies! Bejeweled gents! Fabric printed with pics of our dog!

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Though our dog’s likeness is used to dress up others, Dora herself has never been a target of their creativity.  Lucky dog.

I, on the other hand, am fair game.

Photo by M.
Ensemble by R & M.  Photo by M.

There’s another crinoline-type skirt at the bottom of the ensemble I’m modeling above but I was afraid the internet wouldn’t be able to handle all that fabulousness.  I could hardly handle it myself.

The girls proudly showed me this costume a few days ago at school.  The whole class was invited to help make it:

The collectively created robot.
The class robot.

R pointed to the pink and brown pipe cleaners she had attached and M showed me the googly eyes she’d glued on.

Today, M wore blue shorts with a green and white striped top.  It was a nice combo.  Then she layered a pale pink leotard with a filmy pink skirt on top.  The whole thing really showed off the 7 temporary tattoos she had me adhere to each arm last night.   It was like a cute little rock ‘n’ roller slipped into her ballet outfit while still wearing the clothes from the day before.  Sweet.

Then we went to the library.

 

P.S.  A couple more of their designs.  I couldn’t resist.

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St. Valentine’s Day

I love Valentine’s Day.

I understand this is a holiday promoted by card and candy companies in an attempt to increase sales blah blah blah.  You know what? I will happily spend my pennies on doilies and paste and glitter and pink, red, and white candy and heart-shaped everything! Hearts cut out of newspaper and strung together! Construction paper! Little gifts in pretty paper and an excuse to give them to everyone you know!!!

M & R have been decorating Valentines for their grandparents and uncle since they were itty bitty and this year we’ve made cards for all of their classmates.  Last year, two of their friends made heart-shaped soaps for them.  Adorable  and brilliantly practical for pre-schoolers, I must say.  Inspired by that, we decided to make some heart-shaped crayons. (They’re not anti-bacterial but they are cute.)

We started by culling through their crayon collection for extra reds, pinks, and whites and quickly realized we’d need to add some other colors if we were going to make enough for their class.  Target has Roseart  24 count crayon packs for around $.50.  I used two packs.  I threw in half of a silver crayon too.

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M & R helped me peel off the wrappers, alternately arguing over who was doing a better job and asserting that it was not a contest.  I had to smile as I quietly listened to them negotiate that one.

I chopped the crayons into roughly 1/2″ segments while keeping an eye out for little fingers sneaking towards the crayon bits.

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After the butcher knife was safely away, the little fingers were allowed to pile the crayons into our silicone mold.

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They were fast workers!

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Then into the oven they went at 200 degrees for about 12 minutes.

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After they’d cooled I put them back into the oven for a minute because it was easier to pop the crayons out of a slightly warmed mold.

I was less precise with the second batch.  Poor second batch.  Sometimes I’m so relieved we have twins.  I’d surely be less careful with a second born, having gained some confidence with the first.

We filled the silicone with more crayon bits for the second batch because the wax melted down more than we’d expected.  I also used cooking spray on the mold for the second batch.  I didn’t find it to be particularly helpful.

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And by the time these had baked and cooled we’d run into dinner time and reading time and everything gathers at our dining room table.  Thus my underwhelming after picture.  What can I say? That’s how it really looks most of the time.  And yes, I took this photo with my iPhone.  It’s real life people.  (And I take all my pictures with my iPhone.)

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There were some intimidating looking wax stains on the silicone mold, so I popped it back in the warm oven to loosen things up before washing it.

That’s where Mr. Cartigan found it two days later when he tried to broil salmon.  Surprise! It looked like this:

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The good news? Melted silicon is super easy to clean off of an oven rack!

Honey Lollies

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The cold that M & R are slowly recovering from keeps them coughing throughout the day so we decided to make these honey lollies I’d seen on The Chick n’ Coop.  They’re simple to make and are helpful alternatives to cough drops.  I like that they are pure honey.

Truth be told, this was my second attempt at the lollies.  The first attempt culminated in someone messily scraping all the honey off the silpat and returning it to the stove top because it hadn’t cooked long enough to harden properly.

Oh fine, you know it was me.

The second try took.  The girls termed my amorphous lollie blobs “hilarious!” and wanted to eat them first.

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I made honey drops with the extra honey and they were my favorite.

M & R are great kitchen helpers and were especially excited to be involved in our first candy making experiment.  I kept them clear of the hot pot of honey but they helped lay out the lollipop sticks.

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They declared the lollies to be delicious, as is anything made with sweet, sweet honey.

We even delivered a few to M & R’s good friend who also has the lingering cold.

I’m filing this recipe away to make for myself the next time I have a cold.  Honey and lemon and… rum?  That sounds like a good grown up lollipop!

Cody.

Late one night a couple of months ago, using what I can only call very impaired judgement, I started looking at dogs on Pet finder and sending links to Mr. Cartigan.  Since then, we’ve been looking for a dog Mr. Cartigan can call his own.  Our dog, Dora, has been with us for 8 years.  After we brought her home, Danny discovered how smart she is, and he house broke and trained her to be a well-mannered girl.  Mr. Cartigan loves bigger sheep dogs, so that’s what we’ve been looking for.  Today we met Cody, an Australian Shepherd/Blue Heeler/Lab mix.

IMG_7527 Dora on her way to meet Cody.

Heather volunteers with the dog adoption agency Forte.  She kindly offered to bring Cody out to meet with us today.  Initially we’d shared an interest in a different dog but it didn’t feel like the right fit.  After meeting us, Heather felt that Cody might be a good match so we all got together for a meet-and-greet.

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M & R meeting Cody.

Cody was a love to the ladies.  Sadly, her ability to connect with Mr. Cartigan was challenged by what seemed like a fear of men.  Though Mr. Cartigan spent time walking and talking and petting Cody, Cody kept his tail between his legs the whole time.  With the girls, on the other hand, Cody was a sweetheart and he was happiest when they were loving on him.

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Right now, Cody is kept outside in a backyard and his owners have indicated that they will not be able to keep him much longer.  We would love to help Cody find a family that will love on him and treat him right so that his tail will wag!

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If you would like to meet Cody, you can learn more about him and be in touch with Forte, here.

Sick.

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There’s a bad strain of the flu and a looong drawn out version of the cold making the rounds here in sunny southern california.   A few of our friends have contracted one and then the other, making for a terrible and drawn out illness.  We’ve managed to escape the flu but M and now R have been infected with the cold.  Runny noses, coughing, sneezing, fevers, bouts of cranky crying, fatigue, and extra whininess have settled over our house.  One of their preschool teachers described the girls to Mr. Cartigan in hushed tones as “teary-eyed and fussy” yesterday, which was putting it kindly.  “Oh,” Mr. Cartigan laughed quietly “that’s not how we say it at home.”  I promise we never say anything crazy to them, but the occasional “My God. Make. It. Stop.” text is known to flit from his phone to mine and vice versa.

When sick, the girls usually have a day of being ridiculously sweet and cuddly; they’re totally irresistible.  This evening, although she’d just developed a low fever, R did a dance around the living room, told jokes, and talked animatedly about blizzards, dogs, and popsicles.  M, who has had the cold for a week and seems to be past the fever, just slept on the couch, waking occasionally to sip water and let out an angsty wail, I imagine because she’s so frustrated with the ongoing aches and pains of this marathon illness.

Before I began kindergarten, my mom started working as a registered nurse.  Her school of thought with illness is that it is something to be combated from every angle.  Seize the treatments; trust least to the future.  I like this because when my anxiety is running high, the “combat it on every front” philosophy gives me a place to direct my energy.  Find all applicable medications! Administer them according to instructions! Make med schedules! (My mom would probably make an excel spread sheet for that.  I’m not that skilled.)  Prepare extra fluids to be taken regularly throughout the day! Create meals rich in protein so that the body can fight the virus!  Steam baths! Naps!  Visualize recovery! Etc. etc. etc.

I’m not as thorough as she, but I do take comfort in making sure M and R are getting medications, fluids, nutritious foods, and lots of sleep.  I also like to make sick time feel a little special.  Sick time growing up meant I got extra time with my parents because I couldn’t go to school.  I liked school, but one-on-one time with my parents was way better! I loved being snuggled up on the couch with Sesame Street on as my mom brought me sliced apples and graham crackers.  I knew all the kids back in Mrs. Ake’s kindergarten class were trying to differentiate vowel sounds and color inside lines.  Suckers!!!

The thing M and R love lately is coloring, cutting and gluing things in their personal notebooks.  They work on these notebooks with impressive focus.  I shouldn’t be surprised.  I love coloring, cutting, and gluing things into my notebook too.

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Tomorrow, as the girls recover, we’re going to rest, color some valentine’s cards, and watch a little Finding Nemo.  Chances are good we’ll listen to some Winnie-the-Pooh, too.  I’m looking forward to some cuddle time with my growing girls.  

There might also be some texts between Mr. Cartigan and myself referring to the unbearable whininess of being.