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

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My Toddler Fell Into The Pool Yesterday- July 3, 2015

My toddler fell into the pool yesterday.

He’s okay. Everything is fine. It was not as dramatic as that sentence may lead you to believe. I think that’s part of the reason it was so scary. It was such an ordinary scene. Such a quick incident.

In a nightmare I had last summer when my son was a baby he went under water in the pool. In the dream I couldn’t reach him. He slowly sunk deeper beyond my reach. I heard my own screams and my daughter’s screams as she swam beside me, begging me to reach her brother. It was wildly dramatic and frightening. I woke startled and upset. It was awful.

Yesterday was nothing like my nightmare. It was a typical Thursday morning. I toted my little ones with a stroller full of stuff into the pool. My daughter had her group swimming lessons or “Junior Swim Team” class. This left me wrangling the wild little bull that is my 19 month-old. It’s an hour of entertaining toddlers who can’t go in the pool until class is over. He whined to get out of the stroller when he saw his little friend. They threw toys in the shallow end of the pool. They ran. The other mothers and I caught them and told them not to run. The class was going on in the lanes, dare I say “swimmingly.” I took my little swimmer to the bathroom while another mother watched my son. We came back. Everything was fine. I assured my impatient little guy it wouldn’t be too much longer before he could get in the pool too.

Well, you could say he got in the pool.

I was standing RIGHT THERE. I was outside the water at the shallow end, watching my daughter in her lane. My son was right by my leg, near the edge of the pool. I watched my daughter with her instructor as I turned to put something on the stroller. I don’t remember what it was. My phone, my drink, my sunscreen. Something. I had something in my hand. I walked three steps to set it down. That’s when I heard the splash.

I turned and saw him flip over in the water and his head pop up above the surface. I pulled him out so quickly I barely remember it. I grabbed him tight and took him over to a chair. He screamed and cried. He was scared and mad that he had water in his nose. I wrapped him in a towel and held him until he calmed down. I looked around and saw some sympathetic, knowing looks from parents. I saw some relieved looks from lifeguards. I eventually avoided all their gazes, worried I was being judged as a bad mother.

I felt awful. It took me awhile to calm down. It took him no time at all. He wanted to get off my lap right away and run to the other toddlers who didn’t have mothers who let them fall in the pool.

This was my brain:

“What if he had hit his head?! He was like, a foot from the pool steps. We should’ve joined a pool with one of those endless edges. I think he had been reaching for a toy, the toy I let him throw in the empty shallow end because he was having so much fun. I never should have let him throw toys in the pool. This is why we rented a beach house with no pool on vacation last week. Was I watching the class for too long and not paying enough attention to him? Did I have my phone? Had I been looking at it? Someone texted me earlier. Another mom had borrowed my sunscreen. When did she hand it back to me? Was it right then? What did I set in the stroller?!? WHY COULD I NOT REMEMBER THESE BASIC THINGS!?!”

There is one thing I did right. He had his life jacket/floaty thing on 45 minutes before the pool was open for us to swim. That was during most of the class while we waited. I like to put it on him right when we get there for this exact reason. He has a Puddle Jumper. Some parents don’t like the Puddle Jumper because it tips kids forward a bit, putting their faces in the water, but it has worked for us.

puddle jumper

This was right after he fell in.

I worried that somehow a flotation device would hinder and delay the kids’ swimming. I heard that it was bad to let them use them because they become dependent on them. I read about how they may not understand that they don’t have it on and they’ll go running in the pool even if they don’t have it on. Blah. Blah. Blah. Whatever. His head popped up above the surface instantly today. That’s all I needed to see to know he’s wearing his Puddle Jumper the second we get to the pool.

Funny thing. After he fell in, he couldn’t wait to start jumping in the pool to me when it was time to swim. He had more confidence and did not feel the need to cling to me while we were in the water.

I am still beating myself up. I’m still replaying those three seconds in my head. I’m still thanking God he didn’t hit his head. Thanking God it wasn’t worse. I keep imagining both kids drowning. It sucks. We got back in the water. I was still shaken, but I didn’t want the kids to see that. I didn’t want this to make them afraid of the water. Next week I will bring some games and toys to play with further away from the pool. I’ll bring more snacks to see if I can keep him strapped in the stroller longer. Lord knows I’ll put him in his Puddle Jumper and watch him even closer so that a quick accident with little consequence will never become my tragic nightmare.

Please be safe this summer!

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The Beach- June 29, 2015

There is a mason jar of sea shells on my kitchen countertop. Each shell was lovingly plucked from a shore full of treasures. It was hastily rinsed in the waves and placed gritty and glistening in my hands. My daughter and I walked the beach in search of shells each day last week. It was our time.

Beach 15 5

Every family member that called our rented beach house “home” had their special times. My sister watched her son’s first steps in the ocean. My sister-in-law played with her niece and nephew and then got lost in the mystery novels she loves. My mom got all her kids around a table to eat together before late nights of loud board games.

We took five more minutes on the beach. We hugged a second or two longer. We ate another cookie. We had another beer. It was vacation. The best part about this trip was how full my heart felt the whole time.

They won’t remember, but I will. I will remember their kisses sticky from ice cream and their hair salty from the sea. They will roll their eyes when I remind them I hosed off their sandy, bare little tushes on the walkway in the open air. I will remember watching my 1 1/2 year-old son nod off in his high chair at lunch because he was so exhausted from the sun and pushing his trucks through the sand. I will remember the first time she flew a kite. I will never forget how he chased seagulls, laughing loud and leaving a trail of the tiniest footprints on the beach.

We are back, but the memories remain in our subtle tan lines and locked away in mason jars to stay in our kitchen until next summer.

beach 2015 collage

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Rodan+Fields UNBLEMISH- June 17, 2015

Rodan+Fields results UNBLEMISH

Your 30’s are a cruel time for skin. It’s weird. We sometimes still get zits like a teen or twenty-something, but now we’re starting to see some wrinkles. Add the pregnancy hormones and the under-eye circles from sleepless nights with babies and we’re looking a little rough. Let’s not forget the sun spots starting to show up from our former tanning bed days. I was all like, “I know this is bad for me, but I HAVE to be tan for Spring Break!” Ugh! I want to shake that silly 20-year-old girl.

As an almost 34-year-old woman I needed to change up my skincare routine. I stopped nursing my 1 1/2 year-old when he was 14 months. When I stopped breastfeeding my skin broke out.

Unblemish results 1

Ugh! Breakouts. My history with acne is a long one. It started as a teen, obviously. This was the 90’s, so I went to the dermatologist after no success with Oxy pads and Clearasil. Thanks ads in Seventeen magazine! You lied about acne product effectiveness just like you lied about chokers and butterfly clips being cool! Anyway, the doctor prescribed me antibiotics to treat my skin. It worked, but now we know so much more about overuse of antibiotics and I feel it was unnecessary and unhealthy for me to take all that.

Speaking of unhealthy, let’s discuss the round of Accutane I took in college at age 19. Wanna talk about a dangerous drug? It’s that one. The side effects are insane. If you get pregnant while on Accutane, the birth defects for the child would be severe or deadly. It was supposed to be an “acne cure.” It worked for awhile through my 20’s, but I still had flare-ups.

I used Proactiv for many years and did everything I could with that to keep my skin clear through my pregnancies, but my hormones won out. I was still zitty. Like I said, after pregnancies and breastfeeding, I needed a new skin care routine. Proactiv was no longer cutting it on my 30’s skin. It was too harsh.

I know I’m not the only one who goes through her Facebook feed daily and sees another mom selling Rodan+Fields. Seriously! I know so many women who love these products and want to sell them. They are fervent in their devotion to the products and dedicated to growing their businesses. Multiple times I’ve been with a group of moms and someone said, “Have you tried Rodan+Fields?” You usually hear someone say, “No, but it’s all over Facebook!” Or, “I want to try it, but I heard it’s expensive.”

Andrea Ad

Cue my friend Andrea. I’ve known her since high school. She married a guy we went to school with. (Let’s hear it for the Class of ’99!) She was a busy mama working full time. Rodan+Fields  now allows her to work part time so she can be home with her kids more and continue her real estate business as well. She has two cute preschoolers and a baby on the way! She sent me a message about joining her team as a consultant myself. I explained that I wasn’t interested in selling, but I was curious about the products. She was like, “That’s cool.”

Wow! A direct sales consultant who respected my wishes to just casually try the product with no crazy pressure?! Thank you! You have my attention! (Take note nail wrap and essential oils moms.) I’m all about supporting moms and their businesses, I’m just not interested in selling. I sold a ton of Cutco knives one summer as a college student. (I know I’m not the only one who can cut a penny in half!) I love seeing the success my sister-in-law has had with Thirty-One bags. I think it’s awesome that Andrea and all the Rodan+Fields consultants I know found a fun way to support their families.

I couldn’t wait to try UNBLEMISH after using the solution tool online to determine what I needed. Rodan+Fields has product lines for many skin needs. Obviously, from the “Before” picture of my forehead above, I needed UNBLEMISH. It has four steps.

  • 1. UNBLEMISH Sulfur Wash
  • 2. UNBLEMISH Spot Fading Toner
  • 3. UNBLEMISH Dual Intensive Acne Treatment (It has Benzoyl Peroxide.)
  • 4. UNBLEMISH Oil Control Lotion SPF 20
  • I also got SOOTHE Moisture Replenishing Cream per Andrea’s recommendation since I mentioned dryness with some acne products. SOOTHE is another Rodan+Fields line.

I love the Sulfur Wash! Creamy. Not too harsh, but really feels like it cleans. The recommendation in the instructions is a “quarter sized” amount. I found a dime or nickel size did the trick for me. I apparently used too much of the Spot Fading Toner because I ran out quickly. I think I was using too much, honestly. I had some tightness and dryness at first with the toner. The Dual Intensive Acne Treatment was great for that because it had a light moisturizer with the Benzoyl Peroxide, which can be drying. I typically used the SOOTHE at night and the Oil Control Lotion with SPF during the day.

Andrea warned me that my skin could get worse before it got better. I’m not gonna lie. Two weeks in I was about to send Andrea a message and be like, “Uh…these products aren’t working for me. I’m sorry! I’m not the person to review Rodan+Fields.” But, I kept going. 30 days in I noticed improvement for sure! As I approached the 60 day mark I was like, “Yes! Thank you! Much better! This is what I was hoping for!” Take reviews online with a grain of salt. I read some that were like, “I’ve used this for a week and it sucks!” Okay. It’s skin care. It takes time for your skin to adjust and for the products to work properly.

unblemish results 2

Today I declare myself THE BRAVEST WOMAN ON THE INTERNET for posting these ridiculous close-up pictures of my face. But, I wanted to show the results for real. I did the close-up of my forehead in the previous shots because you couldn’t see the zits as well in these pictures. The dark spot on my left cheek is a crazy sun spot that was kind of faint, but then got super dark when I was pregnant with my second baby. Rodan+Fields has a product for that too. I guess that’s what I’ll try next. Cost dependent, of course.

Oh! Right! The price! That’s the other thing people want to know. Yeah, they cost more than the drug store for sure. These are high-end products. Honestly, it’s not that much more than what you might spend at Sephora, Origins, Clinique, Clarins, Lancome etc. For me it’s worth it. Especially to not have to go to the mall. Andrea gave me my first 60 day supply to try and I will be buying some more soon. They have a program where you get it shipped to you automatically every two months. Mine has lasted longer than 60 days. (Except the toner, but again, I used it wrong.) So I think I may just order as I need it.

If you’re on the fence about trying Rodan+Fields, give it a shot. I like what the products did for me. Click on the Rodan+Fields icon in my sidebar over there to your right or the picture above and try the Solution Tool. Tell me what you think. Have you tried Rodan+Fields? Which line? What do you think?

Now, can we see a regular picture of my face? Yeah, let’s take a look at my clearer UNBLEMISHed skin…

UNBLEMISH results

On the left is me my friend Erin and me. She used SOOTHE. She liked it for her Rosaeca. On the right is my husband, my daughter and me after her dance recital. My daughter has the prettiest skin. I hope it stays that way. I want to show her great skin care as she gets older.

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Summertime- June 10, 2015

It’s summer. Charlotte is out of preschool. These last two weeks I have squeezed my growing babes into the double stroller to workout. We have been to the playground and blown bubbles in the yard before going to the pool. I let her watch one more episode of “My Little Ponies” while Henry naps and I clean. (Wait, it’s “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” now. How could I forget?) Some days she’s curled up in bed with me and we fall asleep, tired from the sun.

photo 3 (18)

Summer is so sweet. Not a day goes by that I don’t bask in amazement that this is my life. I get to wake up in the morning and be with my children. Yes, we’re hurrying out the door, but I’m not going to work. I’m with them. I’m blessed a million times over. I love my life. The warm sun and popsicles only make life better.

We’re doing less camp and taking more free time this summer. The time with them reminds me to soften my tone and remember that they’re little. Tonight we tucked her in. I leaned over and whispered, “I’m so glad I’m your mama.” Charlotte smiled, held my face close and said, “I’m so glad I’m your daughter.”

photo 2 (46)

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