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.

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!

Sincerely,
—Michelle

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!

Kris

A friend of mine posts blogs on a website for moms.  She recently sent out a Facebook note asking parents what types of presents they get their kids, ages 0-2.

This got me thinking.  Other than a couple of Barbies and a handful of other things, Jeff and I haven’t gotten Ella gifts for holidays or birthdays.  We would much rather put some extra money into her college savings account or build her stock portfolio.  How fantastic a gift would it be if Ella could go to college and come out DEBT FREE or be able to have a large down payment for a new home?  The reality is, Ella has so much stuff that she doesn’t even know what she has!  Baskets and baskets of toys go unnoticed on a daily basis.  She plays with the same few toys repeatedly and is happy as a little lamb, plus, it’s less toys for the Toy Fairy to take away when Ella decides she doesn’t want to clean up.

I think there is so much emphasis on gifts for holidays and birthdays that it overwhelms kids in that age group, at least it does Ella.  Why do we feel the need to be so excessive with gifts on a consistent basis?  In 20 years when Ella is, hopefully, out of college, has no college loans to pay off and possibly a nice safety net, I hope she’ll be able to appreciate the lack of gifts as a child and see the value in what we chose to give her instead… I know I did.

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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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