growing up · raising strong girls · slice of life

Pierced Ears… Finally!

Yesterday morning, I discovered Isabelle had placed our Mother & Daughter Journal on my night table. I went through the pages she tabbed with sticky notes and discovered she was finally entertaining the idea of getting her ears pierced. (NOTE: As I mentioned last month, the contents of our journal are private. However, since earrings are a public thing, I don’t consider this to be a breach of mother-daughter confidentiality.)

I approached Isabelle about what she wrote while we were coloring in the mid-morning. She seemed interested until I uttered the words my mom told me when I was six years-old, “Even if the first one hurts, you still have to get the second one done.”

And just like that, Isabelle changed her mind.

Throughout the day, we talked about it — with Marc — a few times. She vacillated as many times as we discussed it. Eventually, I told Isabelle, “It’s your body. It’s not my place, or anyone’s place, to force you to do something you aren’t ready to do. However, if you’re going to do it, it needs to be by next weekend since you have to care for the holes for six weeks after you get them pierced and I need the care to be done before you get in a pool on Memorial Day Weekend.”

She said she understood.

She said she wasn’t doing it.

Until she changed her mind again.

And then back again.

Isabelle had a day off from school today so I asked her, “Would you like to go to the mall to take a look at the earrings. Maybe they can show you the gun they use to piece the holes in people’s ears?” I was shocked when she replied affirmatively to my question.

We went to the mall.

She found a pair of earrings she liked (pink crystal flowers with 14K gold posts).

She inspected the equipment.

Finally, once she understood the process, I asked her, “Do you think you want to get your ears pierced today or come back another time?”

In the faintest murmur, I heard an affirmative response. However, I wanted to be sure.

“I didn’t hear what you said. Would you like to get them done while we’re here?”

“Yes,” she replied with a strong voice.

I watched Isabelle hop up in the sanitized chair. The man marked her ears. (Me, being overly fastidious, asked him to readjust one of the markings.) Then, he started explaining to Isabelle how he was going to clean her ears to get them ready for the piercing.

“Do you want me to stand close to you or away from you?” I asked.

“In front of me,” Isabelle replied.

Oh my G-d, she’s nervous.

“You can stand in the center, right there in front of her,” the man told me as he removed the alcohol swabs from their envelopes.

I stood in front of Isabelle watching her watch the man as he approached her left ear. He asked, “Do you want me to just do it or to count, 1-2-3?”

“1-2-3,” she stated.

He counted and Isabelle didn’t even flinch.

Tiny 🌸! And, of course, as 😷, because it’s 2021!

But then he informed me that backing didn’t release onto the back of the post, which it was supposed to do. I thought I was going to pass out* as I watched him check to see if the earring went through Isabelle’s ear.

Luckily, the post passed through the ear and he was able to get the backing on without a problem. Before I knew it, Isabelle’s second ear got pierced without any drama.

I took a few photos of Isabelle before we left the mall and sent “surprise” messages to Marc and both sets of grandparents, the latter of whom knew nothing about Isabelle’s desire to get her ears pierced.

* = A TOTAL SIDE STORY: I threw up all over the jewelry store after getting each of my ears pierced. I remember feeling light-headed after the first one got done, but I knew I needed to get both done since I didn’t want to walk around with one pierced ear and one regular earlobe. I vowed, at the tender age of six, never to have anything pierced for the rest of my life. I’ve stuck to that self-promise.

When I was trying on earrings for my wedding at age 30, I almost passed out in two different jewelry stores. The first salesperson told me that maybe I was getting cold feet about the wedding. (Idiot, I thought, before walking out of the jewelry store.) The second salesperson who saw me get nauseous and dizzy mentioned I might be having some kind of vasovagal response. I told her I rarely changed my earrings as an adult since I often felt woozy when I did. Something clicked into place at that moment! That’s when I realized I probably threw up in the jewelry store as a kid for the same reason that I rarely change my earrings. Something strange happens to me any time a piece of metal passes through my ear lobes. After nearly a quarter of a century, I no longer felt like a wimp after throwing up in the jewelry store as a kid.

raising strong girls

The BIG Cut

Ever since Isabelle was able to express herself, she’s worn her hair a little above her shoulders with a bow holding back her bangs. Last week, for whatever reason, Isabelle declared she wanted to get a shorter haircut when we visited Joy at her new salon. (I’ve followed my hair stylist to four salons now. When you find someone who cuts curly hair well AND will cut your curly daughter’s hair too, you follow her everywhere!) And so, here’s a before, during, and after from Isabelle’s big cut (which I LOVE!):

Bye-bye shoulder-length hair.
A little iPad time while drying under an infrared dryer.

No bow (for the rest of today)!

dress-up · physical appearance · raising strong girls · self-esteem · slice of life

My 5 year-old was makeupless for her dance recital. #sol16

Isabelle’s first dance recital took place last night. If you’ve talked to me lately (or read this blog post I wrote in March), then you know I haven’t been that excited about the recital. Some of my lack of enthusiasm had to do with the emphasis on performance rather than acquisition of discernable ballet and tap skills. Some of my lack of enthusiasm surrounded the fact that the rehearsal and recital went beyond Isabelle’s bedtime. And some of my lack of enthusiasm revolved around the idea of five-year-olds being requested to wear makeup.
So, about the makeup. If you read my March post, you might remember makeup was encouraged, but not required for preschool dancers. Seeing as it was optional, I opted not to put any on Isabelle. I figured I’d cave and allow her to wear lipstick if she really wanted to wear makeup because her peers were. In reality, I felt strongly that she didn’t wear it since she’s only five. (Believe me, I have nothing against makeup. I’m rarely out without it. I just don’t think it is for little girls.)
Isabelle either didn’t care or didn’t notice she was the only kid in her dance class without makeup. None of the other moms questioned me about it. (Note: We changed to a different class in early April.) And you know what? When asked, my husband said Isabelle’s lack of makeup didn’t make a lick of difference to him sitting in the audience. He was able to see her face the same as every other kid in her class.  (I was back stage so I was able to see all of the girls exactly the same.) 
I’m feeling slightly triumphant now about the makeup thing. But despite all of my disdain for everything that revolved around the recital (which also included the fact that the preschoolers’ moms were required to stay backstage rather than being allowed to watch the performance from the audience), I am pleased Isabelle had the courage to get up on stage, in front of hundreds of people, to perform without stage freight. That is a huge accomplishment! 

End of the tap routine.

raising strong girls · slice of life

Dance Recital Makeup #sol16

It all started on Monday evening when parents were called into the dance studio to help our daughters try on their costumes for the dance recital they’ll perform in this June. The costume was frilly, poofy, and sparkly. Not my style. I kept my disdain of it to myself. Instead, I encouraged Isabelle to look in the mirror. She did.

“How do you feel in your costume?” I asked.

“Fine,” she said.

“Do you like it?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied.

I didn’t want to push it. So I shut my mouth.

As I was putting the costume away in the hanging bag, one of the other moms came over and showed me how to hang the costume upside down so it would retain its poof. She said something about it needing to be steamed backstage if it wasn’t poofy enough.

“Thanks for your help. This isn’t really my thing.”

The mom went on, “They’ll send you an email before the performance. You’ll be backstage to help her change tights. Same costume, but different tights for ballet and tap.”

“So you mean, I can’t watch the performance?”

“No, all the PreK moms stay backstage to help.”

For real!??!?

I looked at the bow in the garment bag. It was the most garish thing I’d ever seen. It had the cheapest plastic teeth that couldn’t possibly hold in Isabelle’s hair. “Do they girls have to wear this?”

“Oh yes. But they’ll tell you if it’s the right or left side,” she said.

“They all have to wear it on the same side of their head?” I said. Why does this matter?!?!?!

She nodded.

Just when I thought I couldn’t feel more exasperated by the bow I’d have to rig-up with bobby pins just to get it to stay in my daughter’s curly hair, the same mom said, “They’ll also tell you what color lipstick you need to buy for the show.”

“What?!?!?” I said.

“Yeah, they’ll send along the name of the exact color you need to put on your daughter,” she replied matter-of-factly.

Nausea came over me.

“My daughter won’t be wearing lipstick for the show,” I stated. I began explaining why to this mom, but then I stopped. I didn’t owe her an explanation of how I felt about the girly-girl culture nor did I need to go on a diatribe about how the recital was supposed to be about the girls’ accomplishment in dance, not about how they looked. Instead, I seethed until I got home.

20 minutes later, Marc had to listen to my fury as Isabelle changed out of her dance clothes. “Isabelle is NOT going to be wearing makeup for this show,” I said. “It’s not happening.”

“That’s fine. Let’s just talk about it later,” he said, calming me down.

And so we did.

We talked after we put Isabelle to bed. “The kid doesn’t even like lip balm in the wintertime,” I said. “I’m not about to force her to wear lipstick. And I cannot imagine what else they’re going to ask the girls to wear. Mascara? Blush? I don’t want her looking like a harlot! She’s five!”

Thankfully, my husband agreed with me. He encouraged me to wait for the email to arrive and then deal with it.

However, I don’t work that way. I went into action. I emailed my colleague and friend, Beth Moore, to get her take on the situation. (Beth and I have similar ideas about raising our girls so I wanted to find out if she thought I was overreacting.) While I waited for Beth’s response, which didn’t take long, I tweeted my girl-raising heroine, Peggy Orenstein, to get her take on the situation.

Both Beth and Peggy gave me suggestions for how to proceed with the dance studio, which included: talking with the studio about hard work needing to be stressed more the appearance, my opposition to makeup, my daughter’s dislike of stuff on her face, and asking about the makeup requirements for boys on stage (and how they might differ from the requirements of the girls). Thanks to Beth and Peggy I was armed for a civil conversation.

These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
These are some of the lip colors I carry in my bag. For now, I will be the only person in this house who wears lipstick!
This afternoon, I took Isabelle to the studio for a makeup class. I calmly approached the office manager and asked, “what are the makeup requirements for the June recital?”

“Oh, you’ll get an email about the suggested lip color soon,” she said.

“Suggested? Would you mind talking it through with me now? Another mom spoke with me on Monday night and said the girls have to wear lipstick. What do you ask of for the girls?”

The office manager informed me that makeup, like foundation and lipstick, are suggested for the performance so the girls can be seen by the audience. She also told me a ballet bun is suggested, but “I know your daughter’s beautiful curls won’t fit into a bun so don’t worry about that.”

I felt my shoulders relax. “So, the Pre-K girls don’t have to wear makeup for the recital?”

“Only if they want to or if you want them to,” she replied.

I chuckled. I told her my objections and about my daughter’s disdain for things like face cream and lip balm in cold weather. She understood. “Lots of kids don’t want stuff on their face. That’s okay.”


But the best part was when the office manager stated, “I’ll be sure, when I send out the email, to make it clear that makeup isn’t required. That way you don’t have any parents telling you or your daughter that she has to wear makeup.”

I looked her straight in the eye. “Thank you.”

Problem solved. At least for this year.


Head over to  for more slices of life.
Head over to for more slices of life.

raising strong girls · slice of life

No Polish on Preschoolers!

I cringed when I brought Isabelle with me to the nail salon for the first time.  Since July, she’s accompanied me about five times (including today). It’s become her time to rest and relax.  She watches “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” so intently that people forget she’s even in the salon.  What a deal!  She gets to chill with her beloved Daniel Tiger while I get beautified without having to pay a babysitter.

This morning, I was packing up her iPad and headphones for our trip to the nail salon.  That’s when this happened:

Click on the image to enlarge the conversation. (Made with the LittleHoots App.)


Once I was at the salon, I told Jodi Isabelle asked about having her toes done too.

“I’m surprised it took her this long!”

“Really?” I asked.

“Yeah, I would’ve thought she would’ve asked sooner,” Jodi replied.

“I don’t know if she meant that she wanted you to cut them or polish them. Either way, it’s not happening for a long time,” I said.

Today’s conversation with Isabelle brought me back to a conversation I had with Dana Murphy earlier this month.  Dana and I were talking about our daughters and the idea of them wearing anything other than peel-off nail polish.  She told me she let her oldest put nail polish on her toes once and just felt like her tools looked — strange.  It was like her daughter’s preschooler feet looked too sophisticated.  I knew what she meant.

Until I had talked with Dana, my objection with nail polish had been from a nail health standpoint.  I didn’t want Isabelle to ruin her nails with the chemicals.  After Dana and I talked, I realized that polish on her toes would make her adorable little feet look age inappropriate.

I remember polishing my nails at the age of six so I know the day will come — sooner rather than later — when Isabelle will ask to use nail polish.  I will only be able to say no for so long.  At some point, I’ll give in and experiment with colors on her toes.  That said, I will be the one polishing her toes since I’m not about to pay for Isabelle to have a pedicure!

Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.
Head over to on Tuesday for more slices of life.

raising strong girls · slice of life

I wonder where it is…

Things enter our house and disappear all of the time. And by disappear, I don’t mean I misplace them. I’m quite good at keeping track of everything, thank you very much. Things go “missing” on purpose because I don’t want them in our house.

That’s right. I relocate anything that’s princess or that perpetuates negative female images. For instance, Isabelle recently attended a birthday party. She returned home with a goody bag full of princess items and stickers of cartoon character girls that had low cut tops and sexy clothes. Do you know where all of those items went? In the garbage while she was asleep. Did she notice? Of course! She looked for them the following morning. “Where are the stickers?” she asked, noticing they were no longer in the spot she left them. “I’m not sure,” I replied. “I wonder…” And that’s it. Within two minutes she was on to the next thing and had forgotten about the stickers. Score one small victory for mom.

Presents are a whole other thing. We’re coming up on the holiday season and her birthday. This means questionable items (READ: Items I don’t approve of her playing with) are going to be given to her. I hate to make things disappear, but I probably will. These items will be donated to the children’s hospital where I know other kids will appreciate them. After all, I’m one of the people who crowd-sourced the Lamilly doll (Ours arrives this week!), so it’s unlikely I’ll allow something like Barbie (which I played with as a child) to enter this house. I can’t shield her from the things she sees out in the world or plays with at school, but in our house I have the power to control what comes in and stays in. At least for now.

picture books · raising strong girls

10 New Books with Strong Female Protagonists

The Reflect & Refine and  Enjoy & Embrace Learning Blogs are hosting their annual picture book extravaganza today.
The Reflect & Refine and Enjoy & Embrace Learning Blogs are hosting their annual picture book extravaganza today.

Today’s the day… it’s time for PICTURE BOOK 10 FOR 10, an event co-hosted by Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek.

I grappled a lot with the perfect theme for my Picture Book 10 for 10 list this year. I tossed around all sorts of ideas from Jewish picture books to social issues for toddlers “powerful texts as a way to teach with humor, love and compassion.” On Wednesday night, I looked around my office at the stacks of review copies publishers have graciously sent for me to consider reviewing on Two Writing Teachers or for inclusion in Craft Moves. That made me think I should just write a post with my ten favorite new titles.

Nah, too simple.

Instead, I kicked it up a notch and pulled together a list of new books with strong female protagonists. These are the books I’m proud to share with my daughter since each of the main characters have a back story, trait, or attitude worthy of emulation.

10 New Books with Strong Female Protagnolists - 2014

  1. Edgar’s Second Word written by Audrey Vernick and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Clarion Books, June 3rd, 2014) — Click here for my full review of this book over at Two Writing Teachers.
  2. Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin written by Chieri Uegaki and illustrated by Qin Leng (Kids Can Press, August 1st, 2014)
  3. Imani’s Moon written by JaNay Brown-Wood and illustrated by Hazel Mitchell (Mackinac Island Press, October 14th, 2014)
  4. Lola Plants a Garden written by Anna McQuinn and illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw (Charlesbridge, August 5th, 2014)
  5. Maple by Lori Nichols (Nancy Paulsen Books, February 20th, 2014) — I’m beyond excited about Maple & Willow Togetherwhich will be released later this year.
  6. Millie Fierce Sleeps Out by Jane Manning (Philomel, May 29th, 2014)
  7. Miss Brooks’ Story Nook (where tales are told and ogres are welcome) written by Barbara Bottner and illustrated by Michael Emberley (Knopf, August 5th, 2014)
  8. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires (Kids Can Press, April 1st, 2014) — Click here for my full review of this book over at Two Writing Teachers.
  9. The Worst Princess written by Anna Kemp and illustrated by Sara Ogilvie (Random House, April 22nd, 2014)
  10. Underpants Dance written by Marlena Zapf and illustrated by Lynne Avril (Dial, April 3rd, 2014)

Past #pb10for10 lists:

2013: Bedtime Stories for the Toddler Set

2012:  Picture Books I Couldn’t Live Without (Like the double-negative?)

museum · OBSERVATIONS · raising strong girls · slice of life

Curiosity Connection

20140323-165112.jpgIsabelle and one of her oldest friends, Molly, got together (with their mommies) for brunch and a play date today. I watched the two of them play at the State Museum’s Curiosity Connection today. They gathered crops, rode on the school bus, and played in the kitchen of the house. They also built trucks, rode in the car, and crawled through the hollowed out play spaces. Watching them play made me thankful the Curiosity Connection doesn’t have “boy activities” or “girl activities” there. There are just things to do, to explore. It’s not like toy stores that segregate toys by gender.  (Read more about that here.)

I wrote a poem in my head about the two of them playing together with whatever toys their three year-old hearts desired. I should’ve pulled over and written it down since I can’t seem to get the words right at this moment. I didn’t. I’m hoping it comes back to me tonight. If it does, I’ll have a notebook ready to go so I can capture the words I thought of that remind me of how Isabelle and Molly redefine girly when they play.

Check out the other slice of life stories at
Check out the other slice of life stories at

Jewish · meme · nonfiction · picture books · raising strong girls

10 New Works of Nonfiction I Hope My Daughter Embraces

nf10for10I’m excited about today’s Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10, which is hosted by Cathy Mere from Reflect and Refine, Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge. I’m practically giddy awaiting the nonfiction picture books other bloggers will recommend. Last year I created a list of ten picture books I hoped Isabelle would embrace as she got older. Since she’s much more into narratives these days (She’s three!), I decided to create another list of ten picture books I hope she’ll embrace as she becomes more interested in nonfiction books.

Believe it or not, I’ve been keeping a stack of nonfiction books in my home office for the past few months in anticipation of this challenge. Here are the ones I decided to share today:

feathersFeathers: Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart and Sarah S. Brannen (Charlesbridge) — If we have to take on roles for homework help once Isabelle hits middle school, then my husband will be the math, science, and Spanish guy and I’ll be the language arts, social studies, French, and Hebrew gal. However, that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from providing my daughter with math and science experiences right now.  This is why I love books like Feathers since it makes learning about the ways birds’ feathers are useful to them. Once I read this book to Isabelle (It’s a little too advanced for her right now.), we will be able to talk about the way feathers are used by the birds (e.g., blue jays, hawks, and herons) we see in our backyard, which is part forest and part wetlands. This is so exciting since it will expand our conversations beyond, “Look at the cute birdie.” (Seriously, I’m not a science person! See why I need books like this!)

flighthoneybeeFlight of the Honey Bee by Raymond Huber and Brian Lovelock (Candlewick Press) — If you read this blog last summer, then you may remember my daughter’s phobia of bees and butterflies. I bought a bunch of books to get her over those fears. She triumphed over the fear of bees, but not of butterflies. Therefore, I will be trying to rid her of her fear of bees before springtime.

Enter Flight of the Honey Bee.  I will use this book with her since it will help her understand the helpful role bees play in our world. It is the story of Scout, a honeybee who has “spent her whole life in the crowded hive. Now it is time for her to fly out and explore the world…” I’m hoping that having Scout to reference when we’re out and about in the world this spring and summer will help to eradicate some of Isabelle’s fear when she sees a bee.

foundingmothersFounding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts and Diane Goode (Harper) — A few weeks ago, “Morning Joe” had Cokie Roberts on as a guest to talk about her new book. They showed a couple of interior spreads from the book, which looked as fantastic as it sounded.  Once I had the book in my hands, I discovered I loved reading since it contains the stories of women who were integral to the start of the United States. Other than the story of Dolley Madison rescuing the portrait of George Washington when the White House was burning, I was unfamiliar with the tales of many of the women featured in the book. Seeing as I pride myself on raising a strong girl, I want to make sure I incorporate the stories of this nation’s women into our conversations about history as she gets older. That means I will keep Founding Mothers close at-hand.

JFK-CoverJFK by Jonah Winter and AG Ford (Katherine Tegen Books) — I’ve been interested in the Kennedy Family since I took a spring elective about their role in American History in high school. When I was in college I did an independent study on the JFK, LBJ, and the Civil Rights Movement with Professor Berkowitz at GW. Therefore, when a review copy of JFK was sent to me, it went to the top of my book stack. Isabelle saw President Kennedy’s smiling face on the cover, picked it up, and began flipping through it. I read several pages to her, but it was too text-heavy for her three year-old brain. Therefore, I let her go back to looking at the lifelike illustrations.

I know I will want to teach her about President Kennedy’s life: his courage and his accomplishments. This book will be a fantastic way to start… once she’s a little bit older.

Josephine coverJosephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson (Chronicle Books) — As you know from reading my description of JFK, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the Civil Rights Movement. Therefore the story of performer Josephine Baker interested me immediately since she was a Francophile (So am I, but not to the extent she was!). Baker rose up from poverty to become a dancer and actress. But she wasn’t just another pretty face. She was active in the Civil Rights Movement.

Powell tells Baker’s story in verse. It is accompanied by Robinson’s illustrations, which are appealing to children.  Therefore, once Isabelle gets a bit older (I’m thinking about third grade!), I will look forward to sharing the story of Baker’s rich life with her in Josephine.

mapsMaps by Aleksandra Mizielińska and Daniel Mizieliński (Big Picture Press) — I had a huge map of the world hanging over my desk ’til my parents had my room painted when I was off at college. Nowadays, I keep maps in my car since I never want to be reliant on a GPS. My husband and I always get two maps of museums and amusement parks since we both want to know where we’re headed. Therefore, if Isabelle follows in our footsteps, she, too, will love maps. This book will be one of those gems I want her to treasure since it features exquisitely illustrated maps of countries from all seven continents.

The maps in Maps don’t just pinpoint locations, they teach about each country. Some examples from the United States of American map include:

  • A picture of a sequoia is featured in California with the explanation that “Sequoias are the world’s largest trees.”
  • An illustration of Mount Rushmore with a sentence “The presidents’ heads carved into the cliff are seven stories high.”
  • Cape Neddick Lighthouse, which is in the town next door to where we our family goes in the summertime, is featured on the map of the USA!
  • Route 66 is featured and it says “The legendary Route 66 runs between Chicago and Los Angeles.” A dotted line shows the route crossing 2/3 of the country.
  • There are pictures of famous Americans like Louie Armstrong, Thomas Edison, Abraham Lincoln, Marilyn Monroe, etc.

foodparadeThe Food Parade: Healthy Eating with the Nutritious Food Groups by Elicia Castaldi (Henry Holt & Co.) — We eat healthy about 90% of the time when we eat at home.  Our house is one of those no-soda, no-ice cream, no-potato chips kind of homes. It’s not that we don’t like those foods.  No, no!  We love them a little too much!  Therefore, we’ve eradicated them from our pantry in favor of as many whole foods as possible.  Therefore, I love the way The Food Parade introduces children to the idea of healthy eating.  This adorably illustrated book provides kids with information about the five basic food groups. While it’s classified as a work of fiction (Because a book with fruits and vegetables that have faces and clothes cannot be a work of nonfiction!), I put it in this list because it’s a fun way to get my three year-old engaged in a conversation about the food pyramid and portion sizes.

thomas-jefferson-life-liberty-and-the-pursuit-of-everything-3Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Everything by Maira Kalman (Nancy Paulsen Books) — Last year I had Kalman’s book Looking at Lincoln on my NF10for10 list. As a history buff and a long-time Maira Kalman fan, I couldn’t resist Thomas Jefferson.  This book is an informative look at Jefferson’s life and his role in writing the Declaration of Independence. However, it doesn’t mince words. It holds Jefferson accountable for owning slaves at Monticello by stating  things like “The monumental man had monumental flaws.” Kalman’s message about Jefferson is one I want to teach my daughter when she begins to learn about this nation’s history. She says, “If you want to understand this country and its people and what it means to be optimistic and complex and tragic and wrong and courageous, you need to go to Monticello.” Seeing as Monticello is only a few hours away from our home, I know we’ll be taking her there sooner rather than later. This book will certainly be read several times before that visit happens!

UnderFreedomTreeUnder the Freedom Tree by Susan VanHecke and Landon Ladd (Charlesbridge) —  Under the Freedom Tree is the story of the first contraband camp during the Civil War. Just as Josephine Baker’s story was one I was unfamiliar with until recently, I don’t remember learning about the contraband camp at Fort Monroe despite the fact quite a bit of my history coursework focused on the Civil War. It’s important to me to put stories that don’t make it into most American History textbooks into my daughter’s hands.

Go to Two Writing Teachers tomorrow to check out an interview I did with author Susan VanHecke. 

torahWith a Mighty Hand: The Story in the Torah (adapted) by Amy Ehrlich and Daniel Nevins (Candlewick Press) — I had A Child’s Bible: Old Testament when I was growing up.  Truth be told, I didn’t love it. I found it kind of drab. Thankfully there are books like With a Mighty Hand on the market now. This version of the Torah is a visually appealing and accessible version of the Old Testament. It’s written in as plain of English as you can get for the Bible. This is important to me as a parent and as a learner since I struggle with interpreting the Torah. Too many commentaries in the sidebar can be confusing.  With a Mighty Hand is written with kids in mind, which makes it accessible for people who are new to Torah study to enjoy.

OBSERVATIONS · raising strong girls · slice of life

Going Beyond “You’re So Cute!”

Isabelle, who wears pink and ALL colors, happily plays with a train she just received for her birthday. (I’ve already had someone raise their eyebrows when they heard my parents bought her a train for her upcoming birthday. Seriously, what year are we living in??!?)

Isabelle and I had lunch at Panera today. Prior to our friend meeting us for lunch, an older woman came over to tell her what a pretty little girl she was. Someone else stopped by to say “I love your curls,” while another came by to say, “your sweater looks so cute on you.”  All this within a five minute time span!

Fast-forward to lunchtime and there were more compliments about her looks from total strangers.  The pièce de résistance came from a woman who sat down at the table beside us and asked, “Is that a permanent?” referring to Isabelle’s hair.  Seriously? I thought. She’s two. Do you think, if I were crazy enough to get my toddler’s hair permed that she’d sit still for it?  However, instead of saying what I was thinking, I smiled and said something about it being natural. Then the same woman went on to comment on Isabelle’s looks to which I responded “thank you” for the compliment. By the time she asked Isabelle “Did Santa bring you what you wanted for Christmas?” I decided it was time to ignore her.

Quite frankly, I care less about someone assuming we celebrate Christmas (I don’t live in New York anymore!) and care more about all of these comments about my daughter’s appearance.  Sure, I want her to be happy with her appearance.  Sure, I want her to look put together.  And sure, I want her to have a strong self-concept.  However, I don’t want her to be limited to conversations with people that focus solely on her looks! When everyone focuses on what you look like and not what’s on the inside, it sends a message that appearances are all that matter.  I want my daughter to be have substance and not to obsess over her looks.  However, it’s kinda hard to do that when all anyone ever says to initiate a conversation with her is focused on her appearance!

My daughter and I are not alone here.  I’ve noticed articles popping up online in the past week about this very topic.  Just today Toward the Stars published “11 Awesome Conversation Starters with Little Girls.” As much as I’d like to hand this out to anyone who comments on a little girl’s appearance, I’m not going to do that.  However, I hope these conversation starters will circulate around the internet.  If just a handful of people change their interactions with the little girls in their lives (or who they meet online at the grocery store), then perhaps a lot more girls will see they have something to offer people besides being just another pretty face.

Nothing stops a conversation before it starts with a two-year old like complimenting her on her hair! In an effort to add-on to the list Towards the Stars posted, I’m adding a few more conversation starters for toddler girls:

  • Who’s your favorite (book) character?
  • What’s your favorite bedtime story?
  • What has mommy/daddy/caregiver done that was funny today?
  • What do you like to do at school/daycare?
  • What do you enjoy playing with when you’re outside?

After asking the questions, be sure to add on a why if the little girl (or boy, for that matter!) to further engage the child.  Then, attempt to have a little back and forth.  NOTE: if the child doesn’t answer, don’t assume she doesn’t want to talk to you.  The child may have a speech delay and may not be able to answer you with words.  (Or, if you’re a complete stranger, she might have some stranger anxiety.)  Therefore, you can redirect the question to the little girl’s caregiver in an effort to make a connection with her.

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