Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Gender binaries and children

Beware workers of fast food chains. If I happen to overhear you asking "Would you like a girls toy or boys toy?" Youre going to get an earful. Likewise, if you automatically give little girls Barbie toys and little boys Transformers, prepare for a speech. It is NOT difficult to ask "Would you like a Barbie toy or a Transformers toy?" A few more syllables in your sentence wont kill you. And the little girl who wants the race car or the little boy who wants the Little Pet Shop dog wont feel like embarrassed. When my nephew was younger he really enjoyed dolls. We were at McDonalds once and he got some "boy" toy in his meal but he knew that they had Madame Alexander doll for toys as well. So we went up to the counter and this awesome three year old put the toy he got on the counter and told the worker he wanted a doll instead.
Recently the kids came home from Burger King with crowns. Those crowns were a big part of my childhood, I remember being almost more excited for a crown than a toy when we went to Burger King. So when the kids came in I told them how cool they were... and then I took a closer look. The crowns I grew up with, that existed for years, were a uniform gold with colored jewels and the logo on them. Not anymore. Now they are decorated with the cartoon characters that promote the restaurant. But theres another difference. And its a big one to me. There are now "prince" crowns and "princess" crowns. Alex's crown was the same basic shape as the original, but Josie's was shaped more like a tiara, thinner and coming up to a point in the middle. There is NO reason for this! Kids of all ages and genders used to play with the gold crowns, I doubt there was EVER a complaint that they were too masculine. And its NOT about womens-lib and making sure that the girls are equal. With one design everyone was equal. Now, theyre segregated. This makes me think about Egalia again and wish that we could have more of that perspective here. To open peoples minds and let our kids grow to be who they really are, without the stressors of gender.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Finished Josie's mirror!

I was planning to make it really princessy and whatnot... but I love this so much more!

Change of pace.

I disappeared for a bit! Longer than planned, thats for sure. At first I just had a few personal things to deal with, but then I ended up.... with a job! Woohoo! I started on Tuesday as a live-in nanny for a family in Kennewick. Yup, live-in. I have a bedroom here. Monday morning-Friday evening this is where im at, and then I get to go home to Prosser on the weekends (today will be my first attempt at taking the bus from Kennewick to Prosser, I hope it pull it off!) Anyways. So im here all week. There are FIVE kids! Three are adopted with the same bio mom- girls 3 and 4 and boy 6. One biological boy age 6, and a long-term foster boy age 7. Its a busy house to say the least! I have the girls from about 8:30-5:30 every day. The 7 year old is in a behavioral program at school and home half days and all day on Wednesdays, and the other two boys get home at 3:40. For the most part its gone really well. Yesterday was tiring, everyone was wound up for some reason. But theyre good kids.
I started getting sick last night and feel like hell today, though, and im more than ready to go HOME!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apparently its Christmas time...

... or so the kids seem to think!

When I got home on Wednesday I noticed that there were Christmas decorations everywhere. Wait a second... isnt it OCTOBER!?!?! What the heck happened to Halloween?
Evidently they couldnt find the Halloween decorations, and this was their solution. Thankfully, I brought Halloween decorations with me. So Christmas has been temporarily banished to the office, until the day after Halloween at least. When I was growing up my mom decorated for every holiday. We seriously had presidents day decorations! So I have always been pretty rigid when it comes to decorating. Halloween stuff goes up October 1st. The day after Halloween those decorations come down and Thanksgiving things go up. The day after Thanksgiving its Christmas all the way through the last day of January! But Michelle said "Why not decorate early? Its always sad in January to take the Christmas things down.... lets just enjoy them longer." And of course the kids are more than on board. So we reached the compromise of waiting until the day after Halloween.
All of this Christmas talk DOES have me thinking though. I still dont have a job and December really is fast approaching. I need to find present solutions soon. Since I am low on cash im making what I can, and my first project is under way:
I bought this mirror at Goodwill for $8 and sanded it down. Im gonna throw on a primer and custom paint it for Josie. Im working on getting a cool old metal toolbox from my dad so I can paint that up for Alex. I also really want to get my old fishtank running for them, but im going to have to investigate exactly what that entails. My dad's girlfriend, BK, is going to help me make PJ's for the kids, and that should be fun. I do want to buy them each one thing, I want to get J an MP3 player and A a building kit. If I can accomplish most of that I will be happy! Only 79 days till Christmas! lol

Addressing gender and sexuality with kids

With school in full swing and many of my friends involved in Diversity Programming at the college level, Ive spent a fair amount of time discussing various issues in relation to gender and sexuality recently. (I also spend way too much time watching documentaries on Netflix these days!) But these are subject very close to my heart. My own struggle with gender identity has been a big part of my life in the past year. As a child I was very tomboy-ish. I did have a few girly tendencies, but they were few and far between. As I grew older I became more "masculine". I came out as a lesbian between ages 11 and 13. I had very short hair that I wore in a mohawk and only wore boys clothes for almost ten years. Ive always liked girls clothes and shoes, just not so much on me. the then earlier this spring I went through a bit of a personal revelation and experimenting time. I bought and wore a couple skirts and grew my hair out. I still have the skirts, but dont wear them often. I really enjoy them, its just harder for me to move. My hair is long, and the back is dreaded. I miss my short hair at times, but im excited to see how the dreads turn out.
I really enjoy attending functions in larger cities or at the college and experience gender in all of its wonderful fluidity. Because gender IS fluid. Theres no reason why I cant wear a dress one day and a suit the next. Gender and sexuality can interact with each other, and they can also be completely different entities. (I wont even go into biological sex and psychological gender right now!)
Anyways. All this has me thinking about kids and gender. Josie is as pretty much as girly as girly can get. Now she WILL wear jeans/pants, but its always in a feminine outfit. She doesnt like to play with "boy" toys, or read books or watch tv shows that are too "boyish". She nags Michelle and I on occasion for not being girly enough. Alex definatley has many stereotypical boy behaviors. He is always filthy, always running and playing hard. Very accident prone. He loves to build things and break things. But hes also willing, on many occasions, to dress up and play barbies with his sister.
Recently Egalia Preschool in Sweden was the focus of many news programs and gender activists around the world. The program at Egalia encourages gender neutrality. They do not use gender describing pronouns such as HE or SHE. All of the children are instead referred to as "friends". The barbies and blocks are intermixed for play. They do not read books about fairytale princesses, but focus on strong family books the frequently highlight gay couples, single parents, and other types of families. The goal is for kids to reach their highest potential without any barriers presented by gender. I really love and value this idea. Its a wonderful way to raise children.
But how do you approach the subject of gender to children that are older and set in their ways? I give J the example of her mom, who wears womens clothing but the femininity is fairly muted. I also use myself as an example, 90% of my clothing is mens. We always encourage A to play dress up and that its okay. I have to wonder though, if there is something more we could be doing to educate them?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sign on the dotted line....

I was going through Josie's homework tonight and found her September reading calendar. She is supposed to read with an adult for 20 minutes a day at least 20 days out of the month. She read at least that much. She reads in the car on the way to school, and I read with her frequently at night. Each time she reads Michelle or I sign off on the calendar. So many days she has a signature for the morning and the evening. But a lot of the time there is only one on any given day, and occasionally there is a blank day. Well when I looked at the September reading calendar that she had turned in and the teacher had returned to her, something wasnt quite right. Every single day had two "signatures" on it. Josie had written Michelle's name in every empty square. An important thing to note here is that her handwriting, even at 7.5, is immaculate. The teacher truly believed that the signatures were written by an adult. She got credit for 14 days of writing that she didnt do. I pointed it out to Michelle. We both just looked at it. She called Josie in and asked why she had done that. Josie said "I did the reading at school, when you werent there." Michelle explained that, first of all, it doesnt matter WHAT the reason, you never sign someone else's name. And then I had her read the instructions at the top of the page, stopping for emphasis at the part that says "read at home with an adult." So once that was cleared up Michelle told Josie to go get a stack of books from her room, because she was going to make up for all of the time that she signed off on herself. So Josie spent a couple hours yesterday afternoon reading and logging the books and writing a couple sentence long synopsis of each book. Then last night before bed she read a chapter out of a Junie B Jones book with me so that I can sign off on her October calendar. Its gonna be double reading time for a couple days! But I doubt she will try that stunt again!

Home again!

Ive been a bit out of the loop in the past couple weeks! First Michelles parents came and we had the balloon rally weekend, then there was a bit of a lull and recoup for a few days, then we headed over to Seattle to have Alex's cast removed, and finally I got dropped in good ol' Eburg for a short visit. Now im home again and trying to get back into the swing of things!
The balloon rally was a blast. Friday afternoon Michelle's mom and her husband arrived with their trailer. When Michelle and the kids got home from school we all went walked downtown and looked at some of the street fair booths and had dinner. The kids had a chance to hang out with a group of other kids and go to a street dance Friday night and they had a blast with that! Saturday morning we watched the balloons take off and fly over the river across the road and then went to Farmers Market. After the market the kids when back to the house with their grandparents and Michelle and I got our first chance ever for some kid-free time! So what do you do at 10:30am in Prosser when you're finally kid free? Go wine tasting! Yup. Thats what we did. And then walked down by the river a bit, picking blackberries, and came home. It was a nice morning. Went back to the street fair later in the day and Saturday night was the Night Glow festival at the local high school. Five balloons light up in the dark and its really awesome. Sunday morning we got up early to watch the balloons take flight again but the weather was gross so they didnt take off. Late in the morning the grandparents left and we spent most of the rest of the day just relaxing and re-couping from the weekend!
It was a pretty un-eventful week until Thursday when we headed over the pass to Seattle to get Alex's cast removed! We stayed on the 31st floor of the Westin downtown, which was pretty much the coolest thing ever for me. Had dinner Thursday night at a cool restaurant close to the hotel and then I took the kids swimming while Michelle relaxed in the room. Alex was thrilled that I let him swim, it didnt take too much effort to get him in the water and keep the cast out. Friday morn we headed straight to Seattle Childrens Hospital and had breakfast there. Then Josie and I hung out in the Sibling Playroom doing crafts and whatnot while A saw the doctor. Finally he came out, sans cast! Doctors orders are to baby the arm for the next month while it heals and then go back to check range of motion and whatnot. But having the cast off is excitement enough!
On the way home Michelle dropped me off in Ellensburg for a few days. I saw friends I dont get to see often anymore, and got my dreadlocks started! Woohoo! I got back to Prosser just yesterday and it feels good to be home. Spent the day cleaning and organizing, as well as taking a new path on the job hunt. Im looking into being a nanny in the Tri Cities area! I absolutley love it and if I work it right I will have very similar hours Michelle and the kids' :)
Heres some pics: