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: 

One of the most common questions I (and the children themselves) get about the triplets concerns their birth order. Who is the oldest? Who is the baby? Truthfully, they look dumbfounded when they are asked these questions because they don’t know who was born first. They are really just grasping the concept of what being a “triplet” means. They understand that they all have the same birthday and that they were all in my tummy at the same time. But they also don’t understand that this is uncommon or different from most other children. That about sums up all that they know. They don’t see themselves as an older, middle, and younger sibling. They see themselves, collectively, as the oldest and Luke as the youngest (oh yes, they do not let him forget that he’s still only two years old!).

TripletsAs I’ve started to realize this, I have wondered whether or not this is my doing or not. I think that birth order studies are fascinating. Although I know the stereotypes for oldest, middle, and youngest children are not all-encompassing, it has been my experience that lots of people do exhibit characteristics that are consistent with their birth order. I myself am an oldest child and I feel that I exhibit many of the common oldest child traits. Dependable, controlling, rule-following, and ambitious are just a few of the characteristics I feel I have that mark me with the brand of “the oldest.”

So how does that relate to a situation where multiples are involved? Sure, there is a birth order (Peyton-Sam-Adah, from oldest to youngest), but does the difference of a minute between each of their births really destine them to those assigned birth orders? In my short four years of experience, my answer is no. Although all three of the triplets have distinctly different personalities and characteristics, I would have to say that they all three seem to exhibit the traits of an oldest child. And as I thought about it some more, I think a lot of it boils down to how we have been raising them.

The triplets were our first children, so I think we treat them, collectively, how parents would treat their firstborn. We expect a lot of them. We want them to “act their age” and be responsible. We expect them to “know better”, learn things quickly and follow the rules. In essence, I think WE are one of the main reasons that they all seem to act like the oldest child … because of our expectations. Is this a good or a bad thing? I guess we’ll have to wait and see. I think it’s a good thing that we expect the same things (like acceptable behavior, manners, obedience, etc.) out of all three of them instead of expecting different things based on their oldest, middle, and baby birth order. I also believe that all children need variances in parenting according to their own personalities, but I do not think that we should have different expectations for each child’s behavior based on these personality differences. I want all of my children to have good manners, respect adults and have empathy for others, and I know I may have to teach all of that in different ways based on their differing personalities. But that doesn’t mean my expectations for each of them are different … the difference comes in the means to get to that end.

So yes, I do think that there is a birth order that plays out in our triplets. They all tend to exhibit traits of the oldest child, albeit in varying ways. This makes me wonder if other higher order multiples’ parents see birth order characteristics in their children as well. Are there birth order differences among the multiples themselves or do they tend to be like Peyton, Sam and Adah and collectively share a birth order? I’d be curious if anyone with (or without!) multiples has any opinions or observations on this subject as well.

Long live the firstborns!

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?

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.

Dear Swaddle,

I’m writing to say goodbye.  We don’t need you anymore but that doesn’t mean that you weren’t once a crucial element of our happiness.  Let’s look back…

You came into our lives in the hospital, making my sweet squishy newborn baby look like a Glo Worm.  I honestly am not certain she had arms and legs during those early days… she was always just a head on a swaddle-body.

Once we got home, we ditched those stiff hospital blankets that made us feel crappy about our swaddling skills.  How could we ever be good parents if we can’t even SWADDLE?! Maybe that swaddle-pro nurse should be Darby’s mom.

We moved to the Miracle Blanket, an apparatus that looked like some sort of torture device that would cause us to have regular visits by Child and Family Services.  Yet it wasn’t torture.  Pinning Baby’s arms to her side and wrapping her tightly like a big pink burrito made the crying stop.  Alas, one day she outgrew the Miracle Blanket… we immediately (read: after 4 days of waking up crying and being changed, burped, diaper-creamed, etc by her clueless parents) swapped the Miracle Blanket for Aden + Anais blankets.  But my little Houdini laughed in the face of that swaddle and broke free like the Incredible Hulk busting out of his shirt.  So, Darby… are you trying to tell me that you’re done with the swaddle?  Yeah, we’re very perceptive parents.

Oh, swaddle, we did love you so.  When Darby’s arms flailed like an octopus suffering from Tourette’s, you were there.  When she decided to play Edward Scissorhands Does Your Makeup with her rapidly growing extra sharp finger nails, you were there.  When Darby’s slow-motion-karate practice kept her from relaxing, you were there.

And now, having you around just isn’t reasonable because FEET!

You will be missed.  Ok, that’s not true.  Putting Baby to bed in just her jammies and a sleepsack is WAY easier than dealing with you.  You served your purpose but now we bid you adieu.

Peace out, swaddle.  I hope it doesn’t get too cold in the basement where you’ll live until Kid #2 comes around.

With love,

—Michelle

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