The Barbie Project: Barbie Meets the Man Eating Lions of Tsavo

I played with Barbies as a kid and I can’t quite recall what sort of stories my girlfriends and I acted out, but I feel like there were several sinking cruise ships, attempted kidnappings by Russians, and weddings that ended in disastrous emergencies requiring Barbie’s immediate attention and quick thinking. Which she always did best in a pale blue ball gown while leaping from her purple Corvette.

One thing I have noticed as I watch my daughter play with her Barbie dolls and act out dramatic scenes with the characters she develops is that the adventures she creates exponentially outpace what is sold to her through commercials or media built around products. I can’t think of anything specific, but shopping for prom and makeup disasters come to mind. I recall Amelia watching a video with a bunch of mermaids and there was some issue with a hair-product delivering prince. My brain didn’t really know what to do with that.

I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never seen a commercial aimed at the 3-8 year old girl demographic themed around man-eating lions. 

We were on vacation for the first two weeks of July and last week Amelia did nothing but practice riding her bike in order to earn a kitten, so she hasn’t played with her Barbies in a while and was happy to pull them out again. She was also mad at me last week after I dashed her hopes of living in the Chicago’s Field Museum because I told her if she tried to live in the Field Museum she’d be arrested for squatting and because she is a minor I’d have to do her jail time.

So I have been exiled from her room since returning from vacation and therefore have not been able to observe her playing with her Barbies. I tried to mend fences by saying we could build a rocket ship and launch her Astronaut Barbie into space or build a ninja obstacle course and time her Barbies and they tried to make it to the finish line….

I thought I had her with the promise of pyrotechnics, alas I was only able to get into her room by saying I needed to check on the new kittens.

Amelia setting up the Barbie animal training camp sit, pre-man-eating lion attack.

Amelia setting up the Barbie animal training camp sit, pre-man-eating lion attack.


“Hi. How are the kittens? What are you playing?” -Me

“I’m playing with my Barbies. They are on a safari because they train cats and dogs to help people and this is part of the training.” -Amelia

“Oh wow, that is so cool. I really like their camp site. I like the little girl, is she so brave going out into the bush and training the kitten as her service animal?”  -Me

Tragically I do not think young Barbie ever saw her doom coming.

Tragically I do not think young Barbie ever saw her doom coming.

“What? Oh honey. No. She was dragged away from camp by a man-eating lion of Tsavo. You can’t go out into the bush or you will become prey. That is her body laying in the lair. Jabban is a porter and he shoots the lions with tranquilizers if he can see them in time. The team has lost six members already, the survivors are mourning. That’s why Barbie is up on the mountain now, she’s calling for reinforcements and she can guard the camp from up high.” -Amelia

“Wow.” -Me

“Listen, they were all told there were man-eaters in these parts. You have to understand the terrain. Scientists have to have respect for how violent nature can be. Why are all of their feet pointy? I have to pretend all these shoes are hiking boots. Will I really be arrested if I live at the Field Museum? Do you know anyone who has ever been arrested for that before? When I buy the Field Museum they won’t be able to arrest me because I will say it is my house.” -Amelia

Amelia uses her Barbies as trainers for service animals.

Amelia uses her Barbies as trainers for service animals.


And that’s the thing about girls, I’ve come to learn as I watch my daughter and her friends play. Sometimes what we find for them in the marketplace is limiting them based on gender stereotypes, but when girls are raised with the message the world is theirs to explore and nothing is off limits to them and their desire for learning and adventure… never know where they will end up taking you.

I don’t mind that Amelia uses Barbie to take her on these adventures.

Has your daughter ever surprised you with the stories she plays out with her toys? Has it shifted your perception of who girls are and what things they are interested in?


Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project


*No Barbies nor kittens (nor man-eating lions) were harmed in the making of this post.

**The Man-Eating Lions of Tsavo were real and are on exhibit at the Field Museum. They were two young male lions that terrorized a rail camp in Kenya killing 135 workers.

Perfect Looking Girls at Target: Not Our Bullseye

The kids and I were running errands today and while walking past the girls’ section in Target my eight year old daughter Amelia asked me why all the girls on the signs looked perfect. At first I didn’t understand what signs she meant, but she was referring to the photos of girls modeling the clothes above the racks of merchandise. I asked her to explain what she meant by “perfect”, and then we talked about why and how models are chosen, professional lighting, make up artists (even when it looks like no make up is there), professional hair stylists, clothing stylists, photo retouching, etc.

We talked about the infrequently revealed truth that the models don’t even look like the girls we are seeing. The girls would have arrived on set looking like normal seven, nine, eleven year old girls and then they would have sat through hair and make up before going to wardrobe where a team of adults ensures the models look perfect before sending them out to the photographer whose assistants are then checking for perfect lighting. Amelia and I discussed that what we were seeing was the finished product approved by photo editors, digital retouchers, marketing teams, and so on. The young girls in the images are designed to look perfectly imperfect with professionally styled fly away hairs and garments that show movement to make it appear more playful and childlike. But even the casual, easy-breezy un-perfectness of it is all is very planned, very precisely, for consumer eyes.

Including eight year old consumer eyes.

We went up to the signs and I pointed out how each model was a pretty girl to start with, but had obviously been retouched and I pointed out the ways in which each photo had been altered. I taught Amelia the tricks to look for, and told her it was important to remember the tricks because sometimes your mind would try to fool you with all of these as you think to yourself, “I don’t look like that.” The secret to remember is, “Neither does she.”

Amelia asked what the models thought of their images being changed. She stated the practice of retouching images wasn’t fair to girls who might look at the signs and think about being pretty because it wasn’t real prettiness, it was computer made prettiness. We talked about the fashion, magazine, and advertising industries, and how we can never find our own beauty by looking at someone else. I told her that beauty isn’t a competition and isn’t defined by comparisons. While it is important to see the beauty in others, it is most important to find the beauty that is within ourselves, and that is done by looking inward and at our own skin.

I told Amelia that she was one of the most beautiful people that I had ever met. I told her that inside and out she was lovely, and that knowing and feeling that way about yourself is the best gift you can give yourself. I said to her that too often girls were defined (or defined themselves) by what they looked like, instead of what they accomplish or what they know. I told her that in our family, what you do with your body is way more important than what it looks like.

She looked up at me with her big brown eyes and asked if I was beautiful, to which I answered I most certainly was.

I know from her comments and actions that right now Amelia is confident in her appearance and who she is. She is eight, going into third grade this fall. This is how soon you have to be prepared to have these conversations with your kids and start building their personal brand. Because there are multitudes of marketers out there spending multi-millions ready and willing to do it for you.


One of my favorite photos of Amelia, from earlier this summer. She had finally earned the money needed to buy her American Girl doll that she had wanted for over two years. She is so beautiful here, but it is her self confidence shining through and pride in all her hard work that makes her so.

One of my favorite photos of Amelia, from earlier this summer. She had finally earned the money needed to buy her American Girl doll that she had wanted for over two years. She is so beautiful here, but it is her self confidence shining through and pride in all her hard work that makes her so.


To  be fair to Target, I don’t think the photos we saw today in the store were inappropriate or anything out of the industry norm. In fact, I think to most people the images are refreshingly age-appropriate, sweet, and fun. But the industry norms are the problem and when we continue to sell girls the mirage of beauty we continue to imprint their minds with the message that above everything they do in life, they must be effortlessly beautiful while doing so.

Today In Mommy Summer School We Learned The Word Fuck

This picture appears so idyllic and is the mental image I have every time I am crazy enough to briefly entertain the idea of homeschooling. I’m sure homeschooling works great for some families, I am just not a candidate.

I thought handwriting worksheets would be simple enough. I thought wrong.

I thought handwriting worksheets would be simple enough. I thought wrong.

During Mommy Summer School (quiet time during the day that I have the kids do educational stuff) the kids were working on handwriting worksheets when my daughter looked up at me and said, “Mom, when people say ‘shut the front door’ they are trying not to say ‘shut the fuck up’, but they should NOT say that because you should NEVER say ‘shut up’ to someone.”

:head desk: :head desk: :head desk:

She thinks “the bad f-word” is “frick”. She doesn’t know that it is ‘fuck’ and she doesn’t know what ‘fuck’ means. What she does know is that as a big sister she possesses more worldly knowledge than her brother two years her junior so I can absolutely count on her repeating this statement to him, ‘fuck’ and all. And then he has a knack for being that kid that says stuff in public that sounds terrible out of context but makes sense when you understand how insane our family is.

So I had to explain to her that while ‘shut up’ is disrespectful and unkind to say, the word ‘fuck’ can also be a problem. I felt an obligation to teach them how and when (which is never for them) to appropriately use the word ‘fuck’ and it turns out there are about eleventy different ways to do that. We stuck with ‘oh fuck’ (in anger, surprise, pain, danger, and during Steeler games), ‘fuck you’ (because they know there is something up with that middle finger), and ‘shut the fuck up’ (in disbelief, in anger, in jest, when you want someone to keep talking).

Today when my husband comes home from work my children will proudly announce, “Mommy taught us to say ‘fuck’ today because THAT is the bad f-word!”

Somebody go put a sticker on my Winning at Mommyhood chart.  :head desk: :head desk: :head desk:

Warrior Kacy Catanzaro Has BIG Things To Prove

Powerful. Determined competitor. Just amazing. So strong. No limit to what this warrior can do. Incredible strength. Such a strong competitor. Fantastic effort. Rewriting history books. Not human. Greatest competitor, man or woman this course has ever seen. There is no limit to what this woman can do.

Those are just a few of the things we hear the two male announcers say as they lose. their. minds. as Kacy Cantanzaro DOMINATES the American Ninja Warrior course. She is the first woman to do so and the first woman to move to the next stage of the competition, Mt. Midoriyama.

#MightyKacy – No doubt!! Watch below as she explodes through the ninja course!


Competitor Kacy Cantanzaro is absolutely incredible.

Competitor Kacy Cantanzaro is absolutely incredible.

At just 5 feet tall and 100 pounds, Kacy not only makes this grueling course look easy, she takes it all in stride as the crowd of men and women go completely crazy cheering for her. She remains focused, strong, and humble. Everything an athlete should be. Men and women compete on the same course here and Kacy shows us that women who come in little bodies can have unbelievable strength and BIG things to prove! 

I’m not a fan of reality television, but ANW feels different . Executive producer Kent Weed told the Hollywood Reporter, ““It’s the stories of the people that separates us: how people overcome adversity to achieve their goals. Whether they’re doing it for a friend who is ill, a mother that had breast cancer or whether it’s a personal achievement they’re trying to overcome — weight loss, beating drugs or alcohol — it’s personal human achievement, and it’s something that audiences can identity with.”

Kacy Cantanzaro is a great role model for girls and boys alike, you can learn more about her story here.

Be sure to show this to your little ninja or gymnast at home!

Good luck with the rest of the competition, Kacy!

(Hat tip to my friends Charlie and Courtney for the link!)

This Is My Normal Face

Every morning I try to fix my hair or put on a touch of makeup to pull my overtired face together (I average four hours of sleep a night) before heading out with the kids. Usually only one happens, this morning was washed and styled hair but no time for makeup.

As I was dropping my daughter off at her summer school class, one of her little friends approached me to say hello and get a hug. When she pulled back she said, “You look different today. You don’t look normal.”

I asked her what was different, and she said that I didn’t have any makeup on. I laughed and said that she had seen me without makeup on before. I said that this was my normal face, that I add the makeup but my natural face is normal. I asked her which face she liked better, and she said they were both okay. She wasn’t trying to be rude, she was being honest with her observations in that authentic way only young children can be.

I smiled and told her to go play and have a good day, but her comment made me wonder…..She is right, both my natural face and my face wearing makeup are okay. I like the way I look either way. But how much do our kids, especially our daughters, expect women to cover and alter our natural faces each day?

I like makeup and don’t think it is inherently evil, but do we know and understand why we use it? Do our kids? And can we go out in public without it? If we do go out in public without makeup, is that really being ‘brave’? When we say it is being brave, are we reducing the experience of being a woman to how she does or does not accept society’s expectations of her to be pretty? But maybe in today’s image-obsessed world being authentic with our actual selves/looks is being brave, most especially for women. I welcome your thoughts on this.

Some women never wear makeup, some wear it for fun, some wear it out of habit or ritual, and some wear it as a mask. Whatever our reasons, they seem to come into sharper focus when we have to explain our actions to our inquisitive children. You do not have to defend any of your choices to me, or anyone, but I would love for you to consider the questions above and feel free to share any answers or thoughts!

This is my normal, nothing-on-it-but-a-little-sunburn face.

This is my normal, nothing-on-it-but-a-little-sunburn face.

Asking People To Think Is Not The Same As Asking People To Hate

Let’s redirect a thread that went off the rails last night. I asked for community members to caption a snapshot taken during a retail experience of two toys placed at eye level to young children.

The snapshot sent in by a shopper that I asked to be captioned by my community.

The snapshot sent in by a shopper that I asked to be captioned by my community.

In short time people became upset claiming that I was hating on the toy company who makes the toys and “overreaching”. If I had asked the group to evaluate the toy company based on two products from their large line, I’d agree with that criticism. Except that is not what I did. I’m not taking a holistic look at this company because I’m asking my community to simply caption a snapshot – which by definition means a still from a moment in time.

Asking people to think is not the same as asking people to hate. Asking people to think critically about what media and cultural messages a child might experience and ingest during a shopping trip isn’t an overreach. It is a necessity.

I choose all of my words very carefully here, I have to because I have such a large audience and I have to make sure every word counts and gets across the message I want delivered.

That is exactly why I chose the word “snapshot”. Because it is a moment in time, and that is what a young child would be seeing if he or she were in the store. From this snapshot a child in present time would see a boy playing with cars that do things and go out into the world and a girl at home cooking. That comprises the world a young child would know. That singular message alone reinforces ALL of the other gender stereotypes that young child will pick up and that presents our society with some very serious limitations and deficits.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most grotesquely impacts our society.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most silently impacts our society.

It is the drip, drip, drip, drip of sexism that most effectively impacts our society.

With several commentors making impassioned defenses of the Hape toy company I looked carefully through their 244 page catalog and while there are really darling toys, their marketing is not. Some balanced photos yes, but hugely lacking in diversity and extremely gendered. It is such a shame, because their toys look fantastic. I’ve purchased their toys before and I don’t like or dislike them, I’m simply making an observation based on data present.

I did see some photos of girls building (Yay!) and boys and girls playing together (yes!), but I lost count of the gendered toy pairings I saw. In the first 148 pages no boys were playing house, while dozens of girls are playing house or caring for babies. Ditto for kitchen scenes. Not a single girls was shown holding a vehicle or tool (at least not in the first 148 pages). Most of the girls were wearing soft, pastel colors while the boys wore bold colors like green and red. I got so annoyed on page 148 when I flipped from a girl feeding a pink baby in a pink high chair to a boy building a red, white, and bold blue rocket that I closed the link. I went back and finished it, and yes I did see some boys in kitchens (and grilling, natch!) and boys and girls playing together, I’m not left jumping up and down and clicking my heels. Here’s why….

We should be a tish more keen to educational toy companies who do indeed produce great toys that come in boxes we recycle which make us believe the boxes don’t matter…..but this company is savvy enough to market to their niche one way in their catalog and turn around to use gender stereotypes on the boxes that go in the mainstream stores for toys that get seen by thousands more children and get sold to the masses that see the gender stereotype and buy it. As progressive parents you and I probably buy one of each for our whatever-gender child….but is that what the majority of the population is doing? No.

And that becomes a REALLY big problem down the line, and THAT is what gets my condemnation.

Also, I always have to ask this: If the boxes had photos that were racist instead of sexist, would some of you still be making the “adults, leave kids alone who just want to be kids” argument? I surely hope not. Are “kids just being kids” when exposed to adult sexist attitudes? And if not, is it then okay for me to question the marketing of these sexist attitudes to children? Even if that marketing comes from natural wood, European-looking toy companies?

Asking people to think is not the same as asking people to hate.


My Daughter Declares She Has Decided What She Will Do In Life And It No Longer Involves A Life Of Crime

For going on a year now my daughter has had the ambition of growing up to be an international jewel thief. Interest in this career path was sparked when she began to research gems, rocks, and minerals. One trip to the hall of gems at the Field Museum in Chicago later……I’m saving for bail not college. She intensely studies security cameras when we are out and about. She shows no hesitation asking skeptical guards about what security systems they have in place. Forget it if an armored vehicle drives past, she insists we follow it. She is very interested in safes and how they work. She asked for rope, wire cutters, and a circular glass cutter for her birthday. She got Legos and chapter books instead.

While we were running errands after swim lessons yesterday I was stunned when she announced, “Mom, I have decided what I am doing with my life. I am going to be a foster mom.”

This is the child who has zero interest in marriage, domesticity, and an even smaller interest in having and raising babies. Not that she has to be married to be a foster mom, I just didn’t think raising a family was something she was interested in. She doesn’t particularly care for babies, she never really asks to hold them nor shows an interest in playing with them. She loves animals and animal babies, but as she recently told me, “Human babies gross me out.” I wasn’t sure she had full understanding of what it is foster parents actually do.

“You know that means you have to raise little kids, right? Unless you only took in teens.” -Me

“What are you talking about? Gross, I’m not raising babies. I’m mean a DOG foster mom. That’s what I am going to be.” – eight year old Amelia

“Oh! A dog foster mom. Well that is a good thing, too. There is a need for foster homes for shelter dogs, breed rescues, puppy homes for therapy and guide dogs….” -Me

“I just don’t know how I will fit in my science.” -Amelia

“Actually, there is a lot of really cool science taking place using dogs. We can look it up online. Dogs can smell when blood sugar is off in a diabetic and warn them before they have an insulin crash, dogs can help people with traumatic stress and really bad dreams, dogs can even smell cancer. There is a lot of research going on with that right now. Maybe you could be a scientist at the Center for Disease Control or a research facility and foster the dogs who help you research how to help people. You could be a scientist and a dog foster mom.” -Me

“Well I’ll be!” -Amelia

This morning at breakfast Amelia seemed upset and was sighing heavily into her bowl of cantaloupe. I asked her what was wrong and she replied, “Now I know that I can be a dog foster mom and scientist, I just cannot figure out when I will fit time in for my work with bats.”

“What do you mean, ‘your work with bats’? What bats? When did this start?” -Me

“Last night. I’m using bioluminescence to capture them and then I study them.” -Amelia

“Uh huh. Did this research start before or after you asked for that shoe box last night? I thought that was for fireflies.” -Me

“Oh, honey.” -Amelia

“Before? Or after? Amelia what will I find if I go upstairs and open that box?” -Me

“Well, if you don’t ever open it then you’ll never find anything.” -Amelia



And now it seems I’ll be transferring the bail savings to pay for a series of rabies shots once I find that damned box.

You know, all this “we need more girls in STEM” rallying…..I’m not sure we’ve fully considered the implications here……and what responsibility we have as parents to society when we raise mad scientists. Rabid mad scientists…..




Our Barbie Dream House: The Barbie Project

My daughter has gotten into playing with dolls recently and it is fun to see the stories unfold as her imagination takes over. Sometimes she enjoys sitting and changing their clothes and putting together different outfits. Like a cute shift dress with an astronaut helmet and moon boots, or a wetsuit underneath a ballgown….because a girl never really knows what is going to happen with her day.

Amelia has been asking for a Barbie Dream house. The ones for sale are cute enough I guess, but they are big and expensive. As I looked the options over I didn’t feel like they represented Amelia’s dreams. Also, the pink. Just so much pink. I know that is Barbie’s thing, but Amelia loves blue. She loves science, art, travel, dogs and books.

Then I thought maybe it would be a fun project for her and I to build a house together. My mom made a castle for me when I was Amelia’s age and it was my favorite toy. My Barbies and My Little Ponies and Strawberry Shortcake dolls spent many, many hours playing in that castle. So did my cat.

The doll castle my mom made for me when I was Amelia's age. Beloved by me and my cat.

The doll castle my mom made for me when I was Amelia’s age. Beloved by me and my cat.

Amelia was a little unsure of how the project would turn out, but once I showed her the photos of my old castle she was hooked. And begging for a kitten.

We started by me handing her a pile of cardboard boxes I had been saving. Amelia was put in charge of designing the house how she wanted it, as well as choosing the right sized boxes to make it structurally sound. She spent about half an hour playing around with different options, realizing certain configurations posed a building collapse threat, and which boxes would give her the space needed for the different rooms she wanted.

Amelia designs the structure for her house using some simple engineering concepts.

Amelia designs the structure for her house using some simple engineering concepts.

Next we talked about what rooms/elements she wanted and how she would design it. As she looked over arts & crafts scraps for inspirations I wrote down her list:

- fireplace, elevator, singing shower + bath tub, television, carpet, chandelier, fancy couches, and pink, yellow, green, blue, red, and purple rooms.

Amelia develops concepts for her very own dream house.

Amelia develops concepts for her very own dream house.

We spray painted the boxes the colors that she had chosen. I guess we didn’t succeed in getting away from all that pink! This was the only step she didn’t participate in, mostly because she is a well-known rascal and learning how to operate spray paint is not a skill I want her to possess right now….

Our Barbie House gets under and turquoise.

Our Barbie House gets under way….pink and turquoise.

Next we got out art supplies, crafting scraps, and old magazines. We talked about what rooms would need what (the kitchen needs a fridge, she suggested it also needs a candy store). It was interesting to watch her pick styles and colors and personal touches that were important to her. And I learned fascinating facts from Amelia, like white shower curtains “are rather in bad taste” and that pools should always go on the roof.


Interior decorating begins. LOTS of imagination went into this.

Interior decorating begins. LOTS of imagination went into this.

We had to hold off on fixing interior lighting (I may or may not have started a small fire in one of the boxes with some faulty wiring. Oops.) and the elevator endeavor needs more work. We’ll have to postpone those as STEM projects for Mommy Summer School.

Each room offers things Amelia loves, and I’m so proud of what she created. This is really her Dream House…. 

She has her travel-themed bedroom that has a map of the Washington DC metro for a floor and pictures of kayaking, camping, and exploring on the walls. A sliding door takes her to her “outside hangout room” that she wanted. The other side of the second floor has her laundry room/sports equipment room and her art studio. The walls of the art studio feature inspiring words and a photograph of her hero, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The master bedroom on the third floor has a library, a rocking closet that features a photo of the monarch butterflies she loves to raise from eggs, and bathroom with a huge counter and dual sinks (a concept she is obsessed with). The third floor also features her rooftop pool.

The main floor of the house has her big front porch, fancy Paris bathroom, a “living room that dogs and cats can go in but kids can’t run”, a dining room with a nature theme, and a kitchen with an ode to the Wisconsin cheese this kid lives on. And a chihuahua in a fancy bed to boot.

The finished house! It features all of Amelia's loves and dreams.

The finished house! It features all of Amelia’s loves and dreams.

Here’s some more detailed photos…..

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The rooms of Amelia's Barbie Dream House.

The rooms of Amelia’s Barbie Dream House.

I think it is safe to say, she likes it…..

Relaxing in her Dream House.

Relaxing in her Dream House.

It was so great to watch Amelia’s creativity and imagination blossom as she put this project together. I helped her with steps, but she the design is all her.

Have you ever created something like this for your child? What kinds of things do you think she would include that would reflect who she is?


Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

I Let My Kids Go Alone…

The other day I let my two kids and the two friends they had over walk down the block over to our elementary school, around the school, and back home. I gave them a watch and thirty minutes to adventure on their own before they had to come home and get ready for baseball.

Parked on the side of our house was a car full of teenage boys. One was standing on the street, leaning against the trunk of the car looking in our direction for quite some time.

Two doors down was a crew of guys roofing a house.

It was the time of day when traffic picks up on our street during the evening commute.

My main concern? The two friends were not very familiar with our neighborhood.The two big sisters are usually trouble when together and if the two big sisters got mad at the two younger siblings I didn’t want someone getting left behind and then lost.

So I gave them very specific instructions:
1. The big girls were in charge. They were to keep the group together, make smart decisions together, and return together. Never leave a man behind.
2. The littlest girl was put in charge of reporting back to me how everything went once they were home.

The littlest girl gave the group a smile that let everyone know there would be no abuse of power happening this afternoon. They set off, each big girl holding the hand of their little sibling.

And then it happened. I should have known better.

In this day and age…..With a neighborhood FULL of strangers and I let my kids roam free…..


My son knew none of them would know who he was or who his mom was, so his six year old brain advised him that trying to moon the crew of roofers while singing the “Fart Fart Butt” song would be a great idea. After all, not mooning the roofers and not singing the “Fart Fart Butt” song had not been on my list of rules.

Problem is, when you are six years old and trying to run away from a crew of roofers and your pants are still down and your little white butt is still hanging out, you can’t actually run very well.

And as soon as I heard my daughter yell  “Man Down!” from down the block I knew, as any parent would, that the most predictable thing that could happen when kids adventure alone out into the world had happened: One of them came home needing a Band Aid.


The two most important things for keeping my kids safe this summer: A watch and lots of Band Aids. LOTS of Band Aids.

The two most important things for keeping my kids safe this summer: A watch and lots of Band Aids. LOTS of Band Aids.

$110 Will Be A Gift For Both Of Us

It took her nine months, but today Amelia has finally earned and saved the money needed to buy the American Girl doll that she’s wanted for two years. Every month I would drive her to the bank where she would fill out her deposit slip and she would approach the teller window and conduct the transaction herself. There were several times she wanted to cave and buy Lego sets instead, but I would remind her of her goal and how spending x amount of money now would set her savings back. Momentary desires never gave way to her ultimate goal.

My husband and I were uneasy buying a child such an expensive toy and buying into such an expensive brand, but having Amelia save for it herself has been a great process for us all. We’ve talked about building doll furniture instead of buying the stuff offered from the company. We’ve talked about buying second hand doll clothes that brand new would cost as much as clothes for an actual child. It was a good opportunity for us to discuss many times the idea of wanting something just because you have money burning a hole in your pocket, or wanting something because it is really something that you will value and treasure. How much “stuff” does one person really need?

I always wanted an American Girl doll as a child and never received one (never saved my own money for one, either) and I know that Amelia is really going to enjoy playing with her doll and loving her for years. It would have been so easy for me to buy one for her and give her that “thing” that I never had.

Instead I chose to give Amelia the lesson my parents gave to me, which in the long run has been the bigger gift: If you want something you’ve got to get out there and earn it.

Sure, I would have loved to have seen her face light up if I had given her the doll and have her arms wrapped around my neck telling me I’m the best ever. But parenting isn’t about building me up, it is about building HER up.

Now I get to watch her take her doll she’s been waiting so long for and her hard-earned cash up to the counter at the American Girl store and purchase it for herself. And that moment will be a gift for both of us.


Amelia was so excited and proud when she counted her money this morning and realized she had met her savings goal!

Amelia was so excited and proud when she counted her money this morning and realized she had met her savings goal!