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When Your 4-Year-Old Says: I don't look beautiful


 It happened a few months ago but it's still very fresh in my mind. Reese had finished dressing herself and was examining herself in the mirror. She blurted out, “I don’t look beautiful.” I paused. Stunned. Giving myself a moment to figure out how to respond.

I kneeled down and looked her in the eye and said, “What do you mean? You are beautiful no matter what. On the inside and on the outside.” She responded ever so nonchalantly, “But my clothes aren’t cute. They don’t match. So I’m not beautiful.”

Responding to the logic of my 4 year old daughter, I explained to her that she is beautiful no matter what she wore. I told her that if she felt comfortable in the clothes she chose to wear, if she was happy, and if she felt good, then that is all that mattered. That everyone dresses differently and that’s what makes everyone beautiful in their own way.

I’m still not certain where this all stemmed from. But I don’t want my daughter feeling that the way she dresses defines her beauty. So now, Reese chooses most of her own outfits. And I do my best not to comment even on her most crazy-mismatched-diva-inspired outfits that she’s pulled together.

About a week after this little situation on the drive to school she said, “Mommy, you are beautiful no matter what. Even if you wear your yoga pants.” Thanks sweetheart! I’m glad to know she’s listening during our conversations.



Playgroups Aren’t Just for Playing

Playgroup baby friends.

Nic was a month old when we went for our first playgroup. I was so proud that I had made it to the designated walking path, unloaded my behemoth of a stroller and met the group of new moms in time. That day, we walked and talked. It was banal, mostly sleep and poop talk I’m sure, but we were there. We were outside in the sunshine, we were connecting with someone else who was dealing with the same upheaval that we were.

Nic and I became playgroup regulars—spending mornings circled around with other moms and babies at the park, on living room floors, in libraries and in book stores. It was precious time and it was so valuable. Not only were we expected to leave the house at least once a week, but we were making friends and sharing stories. I treasure that time.   

My local mothers’ club has been a savior to me. Not only for playgroups, but also for the advice forum, fantastic classifieds, Mother’s Day pampering nights and even a holiday gift wrap party. (Seriously, who knew wrapping presents with other moms over wine could be so much fun?) The club was the start of my local village and has led me to invaluable resources in the past five years. I’m so thankful for its existence.  

This post part one in a short series on mothers’ clubs. Next, I’ll tell the story of being able to thank, in-person, the woman who helped establish my local mothers’ club and many many others across the United States. 


Teaching Boys Self-Control and Kindness


A friend of mine shared a post today that really got me thinking. It focused on the fact that we shouldn’t brush off boys’ bad behavior toward little girls by saying, “Oh it’s just because he likes you.” I agree. No one should be on the receiving end of unkind actions. I particularly like how the author says, “I want (my son) to know that aggression and disrespect are never ways to show affection, and that showing his affection in tender ways does not mean sacrificing his masculinity."

However, I do take issue with another post that the author referenced. Here’s the part that gets to me, “I want my daughter to know that the boy called her ugly or pushed her or pulled her hair didn’t do it because he admires her, it is because he is a little asshole and assholes are an occurrence of society that will have to be dealt with for the rest of her life.” Hold on. We’re talking about little boys here (her daughter is 10). I have a very hard time labeling any 10-year-old as a “little asshole.” Sure, that kid is using inappropriate behavior, but it doesn’t mean his character is inherently flawed. Kindness, gentleness and politeness are all learned behaviors--for boys and girls.

Little boys tend to be very physical creatures. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a toddler boy hit another kid in the face in order to initiate play. I am NOT saying that this is appropriate behavior; what I am saying is that it seems that many boys are hard-wired to act physically on impulse. What we need to do as parents/educators, is teach them how to recognize that impulse and choose another course of action. This is a very difficult thing for a young boy to do, and takes years of practice to accomplish consistently. It’s not fair to label him a bully or an asshole.

The gist of what I’m saying is: Have compassion and teach boys the right way to communicate with girls (or boys for that matter). There’s no question that it’s not right for a little boy to knock down a girl’s sand castle or rip the bracelet off of a girl’s wrist (as was the case in the original post). But instead of teaching little girls that boys are assholes, how about we focus on teaching little boys how to control their physical urges and make kind. moral choices?

Instead of assuming that a boy must have a crush on a girl if he’s mean, let’s stop and talk to the boy for a minute. Let’s tell him that his action was inappropriate and then ask what he was trying to accomplish with his behavior. Once his motive is established, let’s work with him to find the right way to achieve his goal. Teach him what to do instead of what not to do.

I think it’s so important to examine the motive of “aggressive” behavior. Long-time readers of this blog will know that we’ve had our challenges with Nic. I know he’s not a little asshole, and I also know that his physical behavior is almost never motivated by anger or meanness. He pushes or hits or leans against kids when he’s excited. It’s not acceptable behavior, and that’s why we’ve been working with him on self-control every day for three years. He’s made tremendous progress, but we’re going to be reminding him to make good choices probably through his teenage years.  

If we want to live in a society where men treat women with respect and kindness, let’s do a better job at raising little boys who can check their instincts and act with self-control. And let’s remember that doing so is a long, hard job.

We need to teach kids kindness and self-control, just as they need to be taught how to ride a bike.

Note: Please keep in mind that I’m talking about kids here and not full-grown men (although a lot of full-grown men could probably have benefitted from this process as children). Also, girls also need to be taught kindness in this manner, even though their aggression tends to be more relational than physical. 


Dyed Pasta Beading

I never knew how easy it is to dye pasta. Here’s how you do it:

  • Put pasta into a ziplock bag
  • Add 4ish drops of food coloring to bag
  • Add 1 tbs rubbing alcohol to bag
  • Shake bag
  • Pour colored pasta onto paper towel lined tray, let dry 

Noodles dyed with food coloring.

That’s it. Really. We dyed a noodle that we could “bead.” I never did beading projects with Nic, and discovered when he was three-and-a-half that his fine motor skills weren’t up to beading. Because of this, I wanted to at least expose Z (two-and-a-half) to beading so he could get some practice.

This afternoon, we took our dried dyed pasta, some old shoe laces and found a sunny spot to lace up our creations. Nic definitely has beading mastered.

Dyed Pasta Necklace

To my surprise Z got the hang of it quickly. He made one necklace and then ended up making a “pet snake.”

Dyed Pasta SnakeA hug for his first beading project.


Silhouettes: The Classic Portrait


I’ve been wanting to take the boys to have their silhouettes done since before Z’s first birthday. It’s such a classic and beautiful way to capture this moment in time. There has always been something so inherently innocent to me about these portraits, and I finally have them of my boys.

I braved the pouring rain with two kids right before dinnertime for our appointments with silhouette artist Karl Johnson. It was totally worth it. I expected that he’d have a light set up to cast a shadow that he’d trace and cut. I was totally wrong. He cuts each portrait completely freehand in about two minutes. It’s nothing short of amazing and it is truly a work of art. When I told him of my expectation, he said, “That would be cheating.” Portraits were $25 each, which is very reasonable for a timeless work of art. 

I’m so pleased with my portraits. I can’t wait to have them framed so that I can look at their sweet little (silent, not whining) faces all the time. 

These are scans of our silhouettes by Karl Johnson. Z is on the left, Nic on the right.


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