Archive for the ‘rants’ Category

Really Useful Engines: Sexism in “Thomas & Friends”- July 10, 2015

Friday, July 10th, 2015

Having a 1 1/2-year-old son means we are now getting into more “boy toys” or “boy things” in our house. My inner feminist cringes a little with that statement as the gender specificity in children’s toys and merchandise is ridiculous and annoying these days, but having a girl and a boy has made me realize something about gender specific toys. They’re specific for a reason. I never said the word “princess” and my little lady is naturally drawn to the poofy, glitter, ruffly, sparkle, pinkness in life. Since my son could crawl, he went to anything he could find with wheels. Cars, trucks, trains or his sister’s doll strollers. If it has wheels, he pushes it. I swear it’s in their DNA. Overall, they stick with the gender preferences society says they should have. We always assure them, they can like whatever they want with no expectations.

Cinders and ashes! Henry’s obsession with “Thomas & Friends” is real. Congratulations Sir Toppham Hat. You have a handsome little convert. He rides the rails on the island of Sodor with his trains daily. We have a Thomas table, a Thomas ride-on toy, his Thomas shirt and Thomas hat. He does not have that many of the actual trains because I swear, Thomas is the “American Girl” of boy toys. He toddled over to me with one in hand at the store the other day. 22 bucks for one little wooden train!? Leave that one to shunt freight. It’s not going home with us. I’ll chug over to Craigslist for bargains, thank you.

Henry loves Thomas & Friends

This week I picked up some special books for the kids after a shopping trip with Henry that ended with a display scattered on the floor of Barnes & Noble and the clerk basically asking me to leave. Yes, the books were “his” and “hers.” “My Little Pony” for the girl and “Thomas & Friends” for the boy.

There were two versions of the “Thomas & Friends Busy Book.” One had just Thomas on the front, the other had the title engine with his friends Percy and Rosie. I glanced through each of them. There were several female engines featured in the story in with the Percy/Rosie cover. Nice! I went with that one.  The Island Sodor is the setting for the show/movies/books. Sodor is a sausage fest. A lot of the show and movies consist of the male engines arguing over who is the “most useful.” Sigh. Calm down boys, you all have big funnels. Emily, Rosie, Belle, Mavis and Caitlin are the only female engines I can really think of. I like it when they are featured.

This is a short board book that gives a brief description of many of the characters. Let’s read this fine piece of literature, shall we? Bare with me, it’s only 6 pages.

Thomas page 1

Page One:

  • “Thomas, Percy, James and Gordon are eager to be Really Useful Engines! They’re at Brendam Docks picking up important cargo that they will deliver to different places all over the Island of Sodor.”

For the uninitiated, it is the most important thing ever to be “really useful” if you are an engine on Sodor. I actually really like that about the show. It’s nice. The engines want to work hard and do their jobs. Most of the time it’s cute.

Thomas page 2

Page Two:

  • “Sleek and shiny Spencer transports passengers of the royal kind, while Whiff, who couldn’t care less about his looks, loves collecting garbage! What do these engines have in common? Pride for a job well done!”

Spencer comes across as a total prick on the show. He’s a fancy new engine that goes really fast. They all hate him. Whiff is the goofy outcast with glasses. They get positive mentions in this book. Nice! POSITIVE character summaries for all the engines. I love it! So far so good. But, wait! Page Three happens…now.

Thomas page 3

Page Three:

  • “Wiser and older Edward always has good advice for Emily, who is a very nice engine, but can be a little bossy! They are happy to whir along together, exchanging stories of having been helpful.”

Oh! Well, thank God little miss Emily has a swell guy like Edward to give her such great advice! How dare she be a bossy girl! She should be thankful an “wiser and older” bloke puts up with her. Hasn’t the author of this book heard the Thomas song? The line is “Emily really knows her stuff!” I thought she was the knowledgeable, Hermione type. Who knew she was such a shrew?

Thomas page 4

Page Four:

  • “Bertie and Henry always enjoy a spirited conversation about which is faster: buses on roads, or engines on rails? Both are extremely proud of their speediness, so this chat may end in a race! 

Yeah, yeah. Race. Measure funnels. Whatever. Boys like competition. We get it.

Thomas page 5

Page Five:

  • “Cheeky Thomas and lively Rosie make a great pair! Although Rosie’s enthusiasm for everything Thomas does can sometimes annoy him, Thomas has come to realize that together they are Really Useful Engines!”

Thomas, I feel you man. Nothing is worse than an over-eager chick, amiright? Good for you for managing to work with your female counterpart. We knew you had the buffers to handle her.

Thomas page 6

Page Six:

  • “When Mavis is not hard at work at the Quarry, she can be found at the Vicarstown Dieselworks. Thomas knows he can count on this strong-willed, yet friendly diesel to help get the Steamies and the Diesels to cooperate!”

Thank God that “yet friendly” is in there! A female engine can’t just be “strong-willed” that wouldn’t come off well as she tries to get all the boys to get along.

All of the engines, male or female are typically described as “hardworking” and “useful.” That’s great, but the the women have conjunctions in their descriptions. What do I mean?

  • Emily: “…who is a very nice engine, BUT can be a little bossy!”
  • Rosie: “ALTHOUGH Rosie’s enthusiasm for everything Thomas does can sometimes annoy him…”
  • Mavis: “…this strong-willed, YET friendly diesel.”

Why do each of the females in this book have conjunctions in their descriptions? The male characters don’t. Thomas is always described as “cheeky” in the song and James is “vain,” so it’s not always positive for the guys, but you get my point.

Is this a huge deal? No. Would I ban my kids from watching or reading “Thomas & Friends” because of this book? No. Do I really think this will influence my toddler son’s impression of women? Of course not. My point is, sexism creeps in to our children’s media often. I think it’s important that we recognize it and address it if a parent feels it is too invasive or could influence attitudes. I want to expose my kids to positive male and female characters in anything they read or watch.

We’ll likely chuff happily to “A Day Out With Thomas” later this year or next. We’ll keep watching the show and reading the other, less sexist books we have. We love Thomas although/but/yet, I will leave out the conjunctions when I read this book.


Confessions of a Car Hoarder- 04-17-15

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

I am sharing with you now a great weakness and constant source of shame in my life. This is my car on a Thursday. Oh, full disclosure, this is the clean car my husband left on Monday. Never mind my actual SUV, the one I destroy drive most weeks when he’s not away on business.

car hoarder

My husband calls me a “car hoarder.” At the end of a week, my SUV feels like a vehicular landfill. It’s like a dirty old purse on wheels. Crumbs, crumpled receipts, granola bar wrappers, Hot Wheels, jackets, muddy socks, nearly dried lip gloss tubes and empty wipes packages litter this rolling shrine to my perpetual mediocrity.

I will say, it is SLIGHTLY better now that I don’t have a breast pump in there all the time. Occasionally it’s become a point of contention in our marriage. My mom has even said she doesn’t like to ride with me. I see the looks on the faces of the preschool teachers when we go through carpool. They help my child out of her Goldfish encrusted car seat and watch her stumble over toys that have become buried on the floor for at least two weeks. That’s next to the half-filled water bottle graveyard. Sometimes I squeak out a meek “Excuse our mess!” I cringe whenever someone helps me load something in my car.

That’s when they see my shame. They see my nastiest, sloppy habit. Our house is nice. It’s not pristine by any means. A 4-year-old and 1-year-old live here, but it’s not terrible. But my car…it has always been a problem. In college I drove an old 1992 Toyota Camry. My sister always said I “smelled like my car.”

I see moms with their immaculate minivans and sparkling SUV’s. How do they do it? I do clean it out, sometimes. At least every other week I have to overhaul and take everything out. I have reflected on this flaw and have figured out why my car becomes an auto wasteland every week.

  • We are always in the car- We are out the door every morning. I like to consider myself an “In The Car Mom” instead of a “Stay At Home Mom.” Oh! Look out Twitter! I’m gonna start #ITCM. Oh, that’s already been taken by a seemingly fine international educational institution. Never mind.
  • We eat in the car- I only let the 1-year-old eat the applesauce pouches in the car for fear of choking, but the 4-year-old can down an Egg McMuffin or some Chick-Fil-A Icedream in the good ol’ Peg Perego Convertible seat any time. I half-heartedly scold her for tossing the spoon on the floorboard when she’s done. What can I say to her? I know it lands on car mat where empty Starbucks cups go to die. She knows it too.
  • I let my kids take toys in the car- I try to hurry them out the door and I hear, “Wait! I gotta get my My Little Pony-Sofia The First-book-ball-figurines-or-whatever! Please! I just want to play with them in the car!”
  • I don’t take everything out everyday- When we pull in the garage in the afternoon after preschool, a workout, errands, lunch, pickup and a play date, my kids are wiped. I drag them in, often hungry and tired. I grab my keys, my phone, the baby and the kid. I leave the rest. We tumble into the house only to find a dog ready to be let out before they run to the pantry for a snack. Unless there are groceries in the car, I rarely go back out there.

I guess I’m writing this to hold myself accountable. This is my confession that will hopefully spur me to clean up my automobile act. I’m getting my stuff out of the car each night. Starting tomorrow.


Mom ID- March 27, 2015

Friday, March 27th, 2015

Even moms get carded

Yesterday evening I went to Walmart for a few things. Let me first say I’m not a Walmart regular, but I needed some things cheap, so I wanted to do a quick in and out. Even for someone like me who typically doesn’t mind busy store crowds, Walmart can be a different beast. Fast. Let’s get this done. I did not expect the holdup I got.

Greyson requested some beer. I steered my big blue cart down America’s biggest retailer’s coldest aisle to find my husband a six-pack. I also grabbed my seasonal favorite, Samuel Adams Cold Snap. I wanted my own brew to enjoy during the NCAA tournament. I stacked the beer in the cart with diapers, some things for Easter Baskets and store brand Clorox wipes. I found two lanes of the store’s 25 actually open. A young woman waved me to her line.

She began pulling my items off the conveyor belt. She got to the beer and said, “Do you have ID?” I paused and almost looked around for a second. Was she talking to me? I laughed and gave the obligatory, corny 30-something response to this. “Wow! You made my day.” I reached for my purse. Then I stopped. “Oh! No, I’m so sorry. I’ve lost my drivers license. I’ve ordered a new one.”

This is all true, but the clerk still eyed me suspiciously. She said, “You look really young. I can’t sell you this. ” I gaped at her in disbelief. Was this happening? I smiled and said, “Um, I’m 33. 34 is fast approaching.” She said, “Yeah. No. Sorry.”

I laughed before delivering this diatribe:

“Okay. I was born in 1981, early in the Reagan administration. I remember where I was when the O.J. Simpson verdict came down. Anyone who was sitting in their civics classroom when that happened is old enough to buy a six pack. I was young, but I even have vague memories of the Challenger explosion. I had New Kids On The Block t-shirts and saw ‘Wayne’s World’ and ‘Jerry McGuire’ in the theater. I graduated high school in 1999 and college in 2003, before the economic downturn. I more closely identify with Gen X than Millennials, but don’t believe I’m either, really. It’s called being stuck between generations.”

She looked around hesitantly. Possibly because I’m a crazy person who delivers speeches at the checkout. I continued.

“I have two kids.”

She stared at me and looked down at the beer. Oh, right. 19 year-olds can have kids too. I’m sure a lot of them buy diapers at Walmart. That wasn’t helping my argument.

“My husband is 40!”

She said, “Ma’m I can’t sell you this without ID.” There was no way this was really happening. I said, “Do you really think I look 20 or under?” She said, “I can get a manager, but it’s store policy.”

I laughed and told her it was fine. I looked in the mirror when I got in the car. I wasn’t wearing any makeup. Maybe that’s why I looked younger? I decided to take it as a complement. I told my husband what a hot, young wife he had as I sent him out to buy his own beer.

I had picked a fine craft brew for him. What did he come home with? Coors Light and Mike’s Hard Lemonade. What is he? A 19-year-old girl? No, but his wife sure looks like she is!


Parenting In Spring- March 9, 2015

Monday, March 9th, 2015

Oh, sweet sunshine! I’m not one to complain about winter. I love Christmas, scarves, warm drinks and snow days. But, this year? This winter? This many snow days? No thank you. I’m done. Sunday was the first warm day. I had to get out. I had to get at least a mini-workout in. I went out for a quick jog with Henry in the stroller. I had to Instagram it to prove the exercise happened and to brag to IG followers up north that the afternoon’s temperatures were in the 65 to 70 degree range.

ig stroller

It was during this jaunt that my parenting came into question. Twice.

The warm breeze blew on my face as I picked up the pace. No cars were on our quiet wooded street. I heard birds. Henry said some version of “Woof!” whenever he heard a dog bark. It was sweet and lovely. I was energized as my heart rate went up. That’s when I got a text from a friend to finalize our dinner plans. I stopped in the street to answer her. Again, no cars were around.

As I prepared to hit “send” I saw some neighbors coming up the hill. It was a couple in their early sixties walking in the warmth together. I briefly smiled at this pair of graying Baby Boomers before glancing back at my phone. They were the only others I’d seen out. I heard the man say, “Don’t text in the middle of the road!”


I looked up. I was still trying to type my message. In my mind I thought, “Uh, mind your own business, Pops.” Instead I chuckled nervously, “Yeah, not my best parenting move. Ha!” I rolled my eyes and rolled my baby out of the middle of the road. He said, “You can stand in the middle of the road and text alone, but not with your baby!”

What?! Seriously?! I croaked out more nervous chuckles. Was this guy trying to be funny?

This is the intersection where this went down.

This is the intersection where this went down. Dangerous, right? 

I was thinking they may have felt they stepped on my toes by telling me what to do so they came over to admire my babe and be a little more neighborly. They smiled and told me how cute Henry was. That’s when the woman scolded me said, “He’s not wearing any shoes!” I politely smiled and explained how he fights me when it’s time to put on his shoes and since it’s such a lovely day, I thought going barefoot in the stroller would be fine.

Good God, people! Really?! Don’t you think if I had heard a car on our very quiet street I would have moved? Was it the safest thing in the world to stop there? No, probably not. But, no one was in danger and it certainly didn’t warrant comment. Then the shoe thing on top of it? Am I wrong to be rubbed the wrong way by this? I wanted to shout, “Yep! I’m that neighbor. I’m a reckless 21st century mother who’s more preoccupied with her phone than her child. I love the thrill of pushing my kid out of the road at the last second. I hope a car comes speeding by! Screw shoes! You should keep an eye on me and my neglected kids!”

Excuse me while I go inside like it’s winter so I don’t have to see the neighbors.


Getting Schooled- January 22, 2015

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Getting Schooled: Kindergarten Choices

Last week I watched my Facebook feed fill with posts from friends with kids a year older than mine. Many bemoaned that their babies are aren’t babies anymore. There were Instagram photos of  kindergarten registration forms with a caption like, “I can’t believe this is happening!”

It’s kindergarten registration season! My daughter just turned 4 in November, so I have another year before this madness begins. I got into a conversation with another mother about this process the other day. She is interested in a traditional calendar magnet program for her daughter this year. “Oh! That’s cool. Good luck with the whole process! We don’t have to worry about it until next year. We really want a year-round schedule. Our base school is year-round.”

That’s when her nose scrunched up. You know, how people do when they disagree with you and are sort of disgusted with what you just said? She said, “Year-round? Why would you want that?” I went on to explain how I went to the first year-round school in our state as a third grader way back in 1988 or 1989 when the concept was first introduced here. I told her how as a young elementary school student, I was very restless in the summer and had a hard time, so my parents tried it. It was great. We loved the breaks through the year and still had some summer vacation. Plus, our base school is year-round and is rated a 10 out of 10 so, why not?

She said, and I kid you not, “Right. A year-round schedule for a Disney vacation in January or whatever.”



Yeah lady, I base decisions on my children’s education solely on making sure they’ll have shorter lines at the Magic Kingdom in three years. What?! I looked around. Surely I was being punked or something. I wasn’t. I can’t even remember what I said. It got awkward. I smiled and walked away.

Here’s the thing. Why are you worried about my kids’ education? I’m not worried about yours. I’m sure you’ll make the best decision for your family. That’s what’s so great. You can choose whatever type of kindergarten you want for your kid. Any kind! I could cite studies for or against every kindergarten choice. I won’t do that. Who has the time? Here are just some of the options parents I know are looking at for kindergarten:

  • Public traditional calendar
  • Public year-round
  • Another year of private Pre-K before kindergarten
  • Spanish immersion
  • Montessori
  • Private religious school
  • Public Charter school
  • Public Magnet
  • Home school

I don’t need to go on. The point is, do what you want for education. Has anyone else run into this? Catching attitude from other parents about kindergarten choices? Have other parents disparaged your school choice? I mean, I know it’s a big life decision full of emotions. It can often be competitive to get a spot in certain schools. I get it, but I remember learning “do unto others” in kindergarten, so let’s all remember that during kindergarten registration.