My daughter is 6 months old.  I’m not currently concerned about sexualization… the thought alone makes me nauseous so I choose not to think about it yet.  I have actually started reading Peggy Orenstein‘s book and there is one topic in particular that really grabbed me.  STUFF.

Girl stuff vs Boy stuff.

Baby GirlWhen I was a kid, I wasn’t into Barbies.  I had He-Man toys and Gobots.  I played baseball with the neighborhood boys.  I loved my Micro Machines!  People called me a Tom-Boy. I never really thought about whether or not my mom was especially progressive for letting me have those toys and not pushing me to wear dresses (although she loooved when I voluntarily put one on), but I suppose she was.  What shocks me is that people still peg a girl as a Tom Boy for playing with those toys or for being into sports.  A girl is still expected to love pink and princesses and dresses.  And what’s even more shocking to me is that there are people in this world who believe that what toys or clothes your child likes has some effect on their sexuality.  Hear this now: I love boys and always have.  That was built-in. And despite my baseball hat wearing and my more dominant personality (something often pegged as “masculine”) I never had problems with the boys… ehem… if you know what I mean.  For me it was never about wanting to be a boy or being a lesbian or whatever other nonsense people think; it was just what I liked to do.  And actually, I think being allowed to be strong and dominant has given me the confidence to do whatever I wanted to do as an adult.

Moving beyond just Orenstein’s book, I’ve been reading more on the “princess culture” that is being shoved down the throats of little girls.  Sure, some little girls just naturally gravitate to that stuff and that’s fine.  But why should they be limited?  In fact, I have always felt that toys marketed to boys inspire more creativity and spark interests that lead to both hobbies and careers later in life.  Legos.  Chemistry sets.  Erector Sets.  (Do they even still make those?) Why should my daughter be limited to the Disney Princess make-up kit?  What does that do for her sense of self?  Tell her that beauty is what is most expected of her? I’ve seen science-themed party favors labeled as “Great for a boy’s party!”  I’m sorry, what was that?  BOY’S party?  What about science is specific to boys?  And we wonder why there is a shortage of females in science, technology and engineering fields.  Stealing from something I saw along the way (I can’t remember where so I can’t give due credit… sorry!), couldn’t my daughter benefit from an astronaut makeover rather than a princess makeover?  Can’t we take her to go watch the planes take off over the Potomac?  And after all of that, can’t I still take her to ballet?

Frankly, I’d like to keep princesses out of Darby’s toy box and closet for as long as I am able only because I don’t see the value. When she comes home asking for it, fine.  Barbies will likely not have a residence in our home (between body image and the skanky clothes those b*tches wear, she doesn’t need that).  I know I can’t control that stuff forever, but I can for a while and I intend to.  I want to expose her to planes and trains; building toys; art and music; the Cubs and the Red Sox!  If pink and princesses are her thing, I won’t limit that.  But I certainly won’t limit her TO that.  There is too much other cool stuff out there.

I actually think this kid nailed it. To quote the brilliant Riley, “Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?”  They don’t, Riley.  And I promise you, Future Ms. Marketing Director, that my little girl can have super heroes if she wants them.

There is no denying that stuff is both a reflection of who we are and an influencer of how we are who we are.  Kids and adults alike.  I want Darby to find success in her life, however she may define it.  Ballerina or brain surgeon.  I want her to be strong.  I want people to tell her that she’s beautiful AND brilliant… perhaps the latter more often.  Unfortunately the stuff that is marketed to her tells her that being beautiful and finding her Prince Charming will lead to happily-ever-after.  I hope she does find her Prince (or Princess) Charming some day… but what leads to happily-ever-after is being confident and proud of who you are.  I will simply not allow Disney or any of the other toy companies impede upon that ideal.  They are not the boss of my brilliant daughter.  I will protect her from this crap.

More from this series: 

I shop on Etsy a lot.  If I had no self-control, I would shop their more often.  And because I shop there as much as I do, I get a lot of questions from my friends… What is Etsy?  How do you find stuff there?  It is too overwhelming!  So here it is, folks!  My Etsy tutorial.

Etsy Finds So what is Etsy?  It is an online marketplace.  Some stuff is handmade, some is vintage.  It is a place for crafters (did I just make that word up?) and artists and collectors to sell their creations and finds.  Much of it (although, admittedly not all of it…) is amazing.

There is a TON of stuff on Etsy.  There are literally hundreds of thousands of sellers (290,000+ as of February… that was the most recently number I could find) all with items in their shops.  So as I said… there is a TON of stuff on Etsy.

How do I find good stuff?

Sometimes I browse but I rarely buy stuff that way.  Usually I go there looking for something.  For example (some of my best Etsy finds):

When I was decorating Darby’s room, I went straight to Etsy for almost everything.

  • Artwork: Adorable sock monkey and rubber ducky pop art.  And my husband joined the fun when he found this artwork of a unicorn riding a bike.
  • Something fun to hang over the changing pad: Poms (I chose the colors I wanted)
  • Decals for the walls (cheaper than buying more art): Cute modern birdies and a letter D decal (no longer in their shop). I also got to choose all of the colors for these.
  • I had the changing pad cover custom made by someone on Etsy (her shop has since closed, apparently).  I also had the crib skirt made in the perfect color (deep purple — not the easier color to find)

Carrier blanketI needed a blanket for my Ergo carrier, car seat and stroller so I took to Etsy.  Found a GREAT one (see the photo) by this seller (she’s currently on hiatus but plans to be back).  I wanted a bracelet with Darby’s name on it and found it on Etsy.  It is amazing and super unique!  Holiday cards? Etsy.  Baby gift for someone who just had their third girl — something unique and personalized since they likely already had everything?  Found this adorable lovey on Etsy.

Here are some of my other favorite Etsy finds (although I don’t own most of them… yet…) on my Pinterest board.

So back to the original question… How do I find stuff on Etsy?  Think about how you shop on Amazon (which I find harder to browse than Etsy).  You go looking for something specific and flip through the many different items for sale.  It is the same thing with Etsy with one primary difference (and this is my favorite part)…

Etsy sells unique handmade items that are being sold directly by the person or people who created it.  I emailed back and forth with the woman who made the changing pad cover to come up with something that worked for me… my holiday cards were completely customized… and those weren’t unique experiences! Just about everything is customizable because things are made just for you.  I didn’t have to settle for the mass manufactured stuff that wasn’t *exactly* what I wanted.  THAT is what I love about Etsy!  Oh, and I’ve never had an issue with quality.  It has all been incredible.

When I need something, I go to Etsy first.  If it isn’t there or if it is too expensive (handmade stuff does sometimes cost more… although I usually find it to be worth it), then I go to Amazon or whatever.  My heart belongs to Etsy.

Naomi sent me this article to post on our Facebook page which I will do… but first I have some things that I would like to say on this topic.  I wasn’t planning on writing a post today so this might be a little ranty.

Working Mom (WM) vs Stay At Home Mom (SAHM)

I work.  Darby goes to day care that is about a half-mile from my office and maybe 2 miles from my house.  Before I had Darby I was 100% certain that I wanted to work after she was born.

Mama and BabyMy maternity leave was three months long.  When Darby turned two-months old it hit me that I’d be going back to work and would not be with her all day.  The thought of sending her to daycare made me cry — just, like, out of the blue I would think about it and cry. (You know you did the same…) I think there is often the assumption that moms who work want someone else to care for their baby for part of the day.  They want to be free of the responsibility and burden of caring for their baby 24/7.  Or they need the money.  For me that was not the case.  I loved having that time with Darby during the day.  Like any mom, I needed a break and having my husband come home from work gave me that.  Working had nothing to do with whether or not I wanted to be with Darby.   I love my job, I work for a very family-friendly organization, but mostly I wanted time in my day to be me.  And FOR ME, working was the best way for me to do that.

***Emphasis on FOR ME***  

I think a lot about how being a WM impacts my family and our future.  My salary is decent and is more than the cost of daycare but that may not be the case once we have two kids.  Should I keep working?  Is it about the money?  Is it about how much I love my job?  What’s best for my kid(s)?

Here’s the big picture FOR ME: I want Darby to be proud of me.  In seventh grade when she has to write a paper on the person she most looks up to, I want it to be me and for good reason… not just because I’m her mom and because that is easier than researching Abraham Lincoln.  I want her to recognize that part of being a good mom to her meant being good to myself.  FOR ME, being good to myself means feeding my brain and challenging myself by working.  I want her to know that being a good wife doesn’t have to mean being Donna Reed, but it can mean being a breadwinner while also being the bread-maker.

I sit around and think about what I want for Darby and it all comes back to one thing: I want her to be herself.  How can I give her the tools to always be herself if I’m not giving myself the tools to do the same?  FOR ME being myself means working.

Then there’s the whole Dad issue… this isn’t only about working/stay-at-home MOMS anymore.  My husband has a higher earning potential than me so he most likely won’t ever be a SAHD.  But… he also has a higher earning potential than where he is now.  We — together — chose a certain lifestyle in favor of money at least for right now.  He could go earn the big bucks but it would mean long hours which would likely mean missing dinner time and bath time and play time… FOR US, this was the right choice.  It has never been and most likely will not ever be an easy choice.

I did say that money isn’t the reason that I work.  But if money were the issue, rather than sending my husband off to earn lots of money and lose time at home, I would continue to work to pay for daycare so that my husband didn’t have to miss out on family time.  No question.

Now… I’ve stayed pretty cool through this whole post.  (Hooray, Me!) But I need to lose my cool for one second.  Few things make me more angry than hearing one parent judge another parent for making a decision that they think is best for their kid(s).  To the judgey WMs and SAHMs (both are guilty): You. Have. No. Right. SHUT YOUR FACE.

Ok.  I’m cool.

FOR YOU the best thing for your family might mean being a SAHM.  Everyone is different.  I would never say that being a WM is better or being a SAHM is better.  I know what was best FOR ME. It is a personal choice and, you know what?  Babies in BOTH situations turn out just fine… and if your kid turns out to be crazy, most likely your being a WM or a SAHM had nothing to do with it.  It may have to do with how you spend the time you DO have with your kid(s).

How do you feel about your choice to be a WM or a SAHM?

Darby started solid food on December 26, the day she turned 6 months old.  The pediatrician told us to wait until 6 months to start solids so we did… and I had a great time counting down to her big day!  See, I’m a total foodie.  Not snob… more like nerd.  I love eating food and cooking food and talking about food and reading about food and writing about food.  I am intrigued and enthralled by food.  So naturally I couldn’t wait to introduce my daughter to the wide world of food.

Day 1 came.  It didn’t go as I expected.  Well, I shouldn’t say that… I guess day 1 went as I expected.  Darby wasn’t sure of the weird goo in her mouth (butternut squash, by the way).  She wasn’t sure of the spoon that was going in.  It was all weird.  But then day 2… and 3… and 4… all the same.  I was so caught up in my own excitement that I totally underestimated how difficult introducing solids would be.  Now a week later she’s definitely improving… meaning she only gags once during a meal.

Darby's first meal

Introducing solids wasn’t only about her eating — it was also about me cooking.  I couldn’t wait to cook for Darby.  Yeah, I know that cooking right now means steaming or boiling some veggies but still.  I get to COOK for her!  Before I started, I poked around on some blogs and in some books for recipes.  That’s when I discovered how silly baby food recipes are.  Steam/boil. Puree. Mix with other pureed food/herb/spice. Feed.  I need to buy a book for that?  I don’t think so.

I write a food blog called eatniks.  Today, thanks to my friends at the WEBstaurant Store (the #1 restaurant supply store on the web!), I’m giving away a food mill. (Go enter to win it!) A food mill just so happens to be a great tool for making baby food.

The first thing I made (and the first thing I fed Darby) was butternut squash.  I had a huge one and assumed it would make a ton of meals… and it did.  I roasted it whole (poke holes in it, put on a baking sheet, in the oven at 425 for about an hour until it is soft) and scooped out the pretty orange center.  Then into the food mill.  Out came this silky smooth puree; those stringy fibers (that I actually had never noticed before) were left behind.  Perfect.  I didn’t need to add water or formula or anything to it.  Next I did peas… the food mill squished out the soft center of the pea and left the shells behind.  Perfect.  As Darby gets a little more mature in the eating-solids-department, there are different plates with larger holes allowing the food to have more texture.  You don’t have this kind of control with a blender or food processor.  Plus chunks that could be a choking hazard don’t slip through the food mill — a chunk can definitely escape the blades of a food processor.  In fact, I used my immersion blender on some broccoli.  As I was scooping it into my ice cube trays, I caught a few big chunks.  Be. Careful.

I’m hoping to start feeding Darby the same things we eat for meals around 9 months (minus salt, sugar and heat of course), so I’m not spending too much time and effort thinking about creative purees for her.  And really, I think making baby food is a good way to explore really basic flavor combinations that you like — for someone who wants to start cooking, this seems like a great place to begin.  For example… butternut squash, apple and cinnamon.  Yum.  Peas with lemon zest and mint.  Yes please.  Broccoli, quinoa and basil.  I’ll take two!  Blueberries and oatmeal.  Ok, you get the picture.  Making baby food is really just pureeing foods and flavor combinations that you like.

So here we are.  Ten days into Darby’s life as a foodie.  She has the whole world ahead of her and I can’t wait to introduce her to it.  Hopefully she’ll want to cook with me.  If she doesn’t, that’s ok.  Hopefully she’ll be an adventurous eater like I am.  If she isn’t… well, she better be.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday Season!  The McGinnis clan celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, which this year, over lapped.  It was a very hectic week but one filled with love and laughter!

Ultrasound -- baby girlThings have been pretty intense the past couple of months for my family and I.  When it rains it pours is what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older and I shouldn’t expect anything less.  Our house was on the market, unsuccessfully, I should add, we bought a new house, we’re in the process of trying to rent our old house out all during the Holiday Season, all with a 3 year old who doesn’t handle change well.  Oh yeah, I left one huge thing out…I’m pregnant!  This minor detail has made all the above even more intense and emotional than normal.

So, now that the cat is out of the bag I can breathe a sigh of relief.  It feels more real now that people know.  I’m 20 weeks along and starting to feel good again.  For those of you who don’t know me or didn’t keep up with me during my first pregnancy, let me tell you that I hated every second of every minute of being pregnant.  I gained 50 pounds, felt terrible from beginning to end.  This pregnancy for me the second time around has been a totally different experience.  Physically and emotionally. I’m half way thru and have only gained 8 pounds!  Sure, I’ve been exhausted, my sciatica has been wicked, I’ve been nauseous, etc.  but I just feel better about being pregnant in general.  Which is a welcome change compared to last time.  I don’t know if it’s because I know what to expect and feel more confident about my mothering capabilities or if I feel more prepared and don’t need anything but diapers, but either way, I’m ready for May 13, 2012 when our second little bundle of joy is expected to arrive!  Every night we read Ella stories before she goes to bed and at times when Ella has her head on my chest and we’re snuggling reading Pinkalicious or one of her gazillion princess books, our new little baby will kick.  I can’t help but smile thinking in a short time we’ll be reading to 2 beautiful little girls and our family will be complete.  Oh yeah, there’s the second cat out of the bag…we’re having another girl!

There are officially no more cats in bags:)

My favorite part about the end of the year is the Top 10 [Fill in the Blank] of 2011.  I don’t know why, but I love it.  So I thought I’d do a little Top 10 list of my own.

Top 10 Things My Baby Taught me in 2011

10. Lots of snots means lots of pukes. That may not be true for adults, but it is true for babies… apparently.

9. So you got a little shmutz on your shirt?  Who cares!  Move on.  It might stain, but whatever.  You’ll get new clothes in about 3 months anyway.

Darby8. Lights are awesome.  Take the time to stop and look at lights more.  It is so worth it.

7. Ditto on shadows.  Amazing.

6. When you’re covered in puke, you’ve got snot smeared from your mouth to your eyes and a dirty diaper to boot… smile.  That’s the only thing that will make it better.  (Well, that and a bath.)

5. Value your ability to do little things like blow your own nose.  Don’t take those skills for granted.

4. If you’re happy and you know it, shout “HOORAY!”  And your face will surely show it.

3. People like you if you’re nice to them. Smile. Laugh. Smile again. People will like you more.

2. Don’t hold a grudge.  Be mad, but then smile like 3 seconds later.  Life’s more fun that way.

1. Sometimes you get shit on. Get over it. It will happen again.

Puzzle Benches

This made my day.  My email to Damhorst Toys:

Hi there,

I have a funny story to tell you!

I have purchased benches from you for all of the kids in my life and
they all love them. My daughter recently received a puzzle bench from her grandparents after I recommended your shop.  I also have a bench that my grandmother gave to me.  I still use it to reach the high shelves in the closet or to sit on when I’m playing on the floor.  It still has a prominent place in my house!  When my daughter’s bench arrived, we were comparing them… then I flipped mine over and saw your stamp on the bottom.

My grandmother had a store called Personally Yours in Flossmoor, IL.  You were the company whose benches she sold!  32 years ago she got my bench (and many many others) from you… and now my
daughter, Darby, has one from you too.

Thanks for making such a fun and quality product!


Their reply to me:

Hi Michelle,

My apologies for the late reply, we are just catching up on emails after our holiday rush when I read your beautiful email and picture you sent.  I’m so sorry that I didn’t respond sooner.

I can’t tell you how nice it was to read your email aloud in the office, and the picture was an absolute bonus.  I don’t think we have ever received an email from a customer who received one of our products as a child.  Your stool was cut by my mother who was the original creator of the Name Puzzle Stool.  I can see her work in your picture.

Thank you again for your email and the picture, it was a true pleasure to receive.  If there is anything that we can do for you in the future, please let us know.

Happy Holiday!


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