The Tooth Fairy is Friends with Mermaid Barbies

We’ve had a go of it at our house lately. Taking our stalker to court after a year of being scared and harassed, wasp stings, and this week: Oral Surgery. It was a rotten way to spend a week in the summer and I decided to go a little overboard. I guess I just wanted to make everything right again in her little six year old world. The Original Pigtail Pal’s deep love of the ocean has naturally expanded into mermaids, and she has been saving up her Chore Chart money for this one below.

With OPP having four teeth pulled on Tuesday morning, puking blood and feeling generally miserable for a day, the Tooth Fairy knew she would have to bring her A-game for this one. The Tooth Fairy looked high and low for waterproof mermaid toys OPP could take in the tub and pool, ultimately Barbie seemed like the best (only) choice. OPP was so happy when she opened it, and has brought up several interesting body image talks while playing with her, showing me she is getting the message as best a 6yo can. And, the Tooth Fairy felt the Barbie mermaids were pretty awesome as far as mermaids go and they didn’t make her head explode. I, uh, I mean the Tooth Fairy, thought the Barbie Mermaid line was pretty wholesome and wasn’t sexualized (other Barbies take that prize). There was some unpacking to do for body image and Beauty Myth, but every once in a while it is good for the Tooth Fairy to get off her soap box.

Yes, I really do put this much thought into buying a Barbie. If Merida came in a wet suit I’d be walking on Easy Street.

The toothless OPP with her Barbie Mermaid from the Tooth Fairy.


Since OPP is reading everything in sight, I intentionally left this link displayed on my laptop this morning while I stepped away from my desk to do some chores. I saw her reading the article a few moments later, but waited for her to bring up the issue. I just wanted to get her wheels turning.

The Beauty Myth of Barbie.

OPP came into the kitchen after awhile and said, “So the dotted black lines is where the surgeons would cut ya?”  I answered yes, that is how a woman would have to be surgically altered and cut apart to look like Barbie. OPP then asked if I liked Barbie, to which I answered that I had liked them very much when I was her age, but as a mom I was concerned about some of the body image messages the dolls gave. I said all Barbies have the same body and their faces look the same, and that I felt that left out all of the other ways a woman can be beautiful. I said people with rounder bodies or shorter bodies or wider noses or slanted eyes are all beautiful too, and you don’t see that with Barbie. OPP then said she liked the woman in the photo below because it looked like me. I agreed, my body actually looks identical to the woman above, but that I would never cut myself to try to be beautiful, or to look like someone else.

She answered with this, “Well, I know Barbie is a grown up because she wears lots of makeup. And I’m not to worried about being skinny, because who cares a flip about that? But I really wish I had blue hair and a glittery tail.”

How can you argue with that? I told her blue hair and a glittery tail would be awesome indeed. I’m glad I could meet Amelia halfway on this one, because I have had to say no to several of the toys she has shown an interest in as of late.

And I am secretly relieved that not once in the past two days has OPP said anything about not being pretty or embarrassed because of her new (temporary) toothless smile. In fact, today I was taking a photo of her and her little brother eating strawberry shortcake and OPP said, “Make sure you get in my one good tooth!”

I don’t know if this body confidence in her will always be there, but I pray it will. I pray hard for that.

Uno Dos Tres

I’m at the library working on my book, and a fast movement in my left periphery vision got my attention. I turned my head to see a really cute kid, maybe five years old or so, sneaking around the adult periodicals and research journals like a spy.

He is chubby and clumsy, tripping over his feet, which is making his attempt at stealth-mode pretty funny. He races crouched down between each stack, then stands abruptly at each vertical shelving unit and flattens himself against it. He peeks to either side, and then races to the next stack.

He has just made his way to the stack directly across from me, and is pretending to type something into the mini computer that isn’t on his wrist. Then he had a conversation in an ear piece that is also imaginary. I stifled a snort as I was watching him, totally engrossed in his game. He looked at me and winked. Then put his fingers to his lips, motioning for me to be silent. I nodded in compliance. Then he did a bunch of hand signals and arm movements that looked like he was trying to land a plane. I wasn’t really sure what that was about, so I gave him a thumbs up.

And then he got busted by his mom.

In Angry Mama Spanish, she said something to him about getting over by her before she counts to three….or, tres. I couldn’t really understand what she was saying, but the tone of her voice and speed at which she was saying made it rather clear that 007 was going to get it if he didn’t listen.

And then she put her hand in the air.

One finger went up. “Uuuuuuuno! Mijo!” she said, drawing out the word. The boy’s eyes watched her intently.

The second finger went up. “Doooosssssssssss!” she said, and the boy’s eyes got bigger the longer the s’s hissed out of her mouth. His big cheeks were flushed red, and it was obvious he was loving every minute of this.

The third finder went up. He looked at me with huge eyes. I shrugged, looked back at him with huge eyes and said in a panicky voice, “Dude, tres!”

“Trrr…” and that’s all the boy’s mama got out before he ran back to her. I started cracking up, and I caught her eye. She smiled warmly and winked at me, and then turned to glare at her rogue operative.

Language barrier or not, there are some things that are just universal between mothers. The threat of what might happen on “three” is just not worth finding out!

Book Review: “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs To Know About Ending the Cycle of Fear”

In 2010 I reached out to a mom whom I had never met, but I knew her story through the blogosphere. Her young daughter Katie was being bullied in her first grade class for liking Star Wars. Like thousands of other people I reached out to little Katie’s family, and began chatting with Katie’s mom Carrie over email. I sent Katie and her little sisters some girl-power Redefine Girly tees from the Pigtail Pals shop, the girls sent me a thank you card with a robot on it and some awesome drawings, and the rest is history.

Carrie Goldman and I became fast friends, mostly because we have kids the same age and we are navigating the world as parent activists/bloggers who are trying to create change via education on social media. She is also, in a word, awesome. Her whole family is.

I was thrilled last year when Carrie told me about her book deal, and honored when she interviewed me for the book. Her new book, “Bullied” comes from a place of passion. You feel it on the pages, because you can feel Carrie’s genuine concern that we change. You feel Carrie’s devotion to teaching us to change the way we look at bullying, its victims, and the bystanders. Chapters look at components like: gender and not conforming to it, physical appearance, GLTB kids, sexualization, gendered marketing, social and emotional learning, restorative justice, and creating family environments that create neither bullies nor victims. Carrie pulls in experts to give words of wisdom between the candid stories she shares from other families dealing with the issue that worries so many parents: Will my child be bullied?

In “Bullied”, Carrie calls on parents, educators and schools, communities, retailers, celebrities, and media to examine our own stereotypes and embrace our joint responsibility for creating a culture of acceptance and respect. This message greatly resonated with me, as I have experienced bullying as a victim when I was younger and as a parent. This past year in kindergarten a boy in my daughter’s class decided to single out her and little Benny. He terrorized them for months on the playground. In the beginning, I tried to let the kids navigate the friendship and solve their own problems, but when the problems became systematic and targeted, I would have none of it. Playground spats turned into violence against my children, and at one point the child told my daughter he would kill her if she didn’t become his girlfriend. That day after school, Amelia ran out the doors and onto the playground, threw her bag on the snow, turned to her bully coming after her, and with tears streaming down her face she screamed in a mighty voice that he had no right to threaten her or kill her, that he was a bully, and that if he went after her little brother that afternoon, she’d hurt him. All of the moms nearby immediately intervened, and the next morning I was cussed out by his mother on the playground. My head was kind of swirling, because I had no idea how to really handle it. I knew the steps to take, but I had to talk Amelia down from her “heart startles” from this boy’s eruptions and assure her she was safe at school. She had nightmares, and her little brother was equally terrified of this kid. We tried approaching the teacher a few times, and I met with the principal, but ultimately the child was doing most of the bullying before and after school, so there wasn’t much they could do. This particular child was constantly in trouble, but sadly, he wasn’t the teachers’ biggest problem student and this little guy fell through the cracks. I wanted to bop him on the head and hug him at the same time.

It was difficult to help my children navigate their feelings and rightful anger about the situation, while at the same time teaching them empathy and understanding and dealing with adversity. First grade begins in just under a month, and after reading “Bullied”, I feel much more prepared to handle an issue should it arise this year. “Bullied” is full of proven strategies and concrete tools for teaching children how to speak up and carry themselves with confidence; call each other out on cruelty; resolve conflict and cope with teasing, taunting, physical abuse, and cyberbullying; and be smart consumers of technology and media. This is the book that will help us do better.

And we can. Do better.

“When you know better you do better.” -Maya Angelou

Katie "Star Wars Katie" and Carrie Goldman

I have four copies of “Bullied” to give away. Let me know in the comments here how you would use this book to change the culture around bullying to one of dignity and respect. I will pick four winners on Friday, August 10th at 10pm CST.

You can find Carrie on her wonderful blog, on facebook, and twitter. You can share your story or advice about bullying here, and join me on Team Bullied.

To order your copy of “Bullied”, go straight to Amazon or click here.

To book Carrie to speak, please make arrangements through Suzanne Wickham at Harper Collins. Her email is Suzanne (dot) wickham (at) harpercollins (dot) com.

I really loved her book, and I hope you find it as useful as I did.



I am on Team Bullied

I had injured my knee when I was in basketball in seventh grade, and was on crutches with a hip-to-ankle leg brace the day I got on a bus and rode ninety minutes from home with other students from my school to attend a Student Council leadership conference. It turned out to be one of the worst days of my life. I was, for reasons still unclear to me, the target of vicious bullying in seventh grade largely led by two girls who took every opportunity to demonstrate their hate for me. The teachers did nothing, other students did nothing. For months and months and months, nothing. The bullying was so bad at one point an incredibly inept guidance counselor told my parents we should consider moving.

I had no friends in seventh grade save one, a girl who is still my friend today. I got on that bus with the feeling something bad was going to happen, above and beyond the usual daily crap I took from the kids at school (like “slam books” being passed around with horrible things written about me or having obscenities scrawled with my makeup all over my gym locker or people kicking my crutches out from under me and laughing as I fell to the floor). The high school this conference was held at was an enormous school in a suburb of Milwaukee. After the final sectional of the day, we had to hurry to get back to our bus. The kids from my school, led by my main bully, took all these confusing turns and hallways intentionally trying to lose me as I struggled to keep up on my crutches. I could hear them laughing at me and taunting me. I heard my bully say, “She’s been like a dog following us all day. Let’s lose her!” And they did, they took off running and I couldn’t keep up with my crutches and after not too long, I couldn’t hear their footsteps anymore. It was winter and had become dark outside by the late afternoon, and I was completely lost inside this giant high school. I let my crutches fall to the ground, then my body followed, and I began to sob. I was lost, physically and emotionally. I had no idea why these kids hated me so, so much. Where did their cruelty come from?

My teacher came looking for me, and found me in a teary puddle on the floor. He sat down next to me, put his arm around me, smoothed my hair, and hugged me. And then he said, “Missy, they hate you because you are better than them.” I never told anyone what he said to me, but it stopped the suicidal thoughts going through my head. He helped me up, we walked back to the bus in silence. I rode home in the seat across the aisle from him in the front of the bus, crying quietly and just aching to get home and fall into my mom’s arms. When we got back to school, I quickly and quietly hopped down the stairs of the bus and walked into school while he stayed on the bus and gave the kids some wrap up notes for the day.

I was trying to get my books and back pack and get the hell out of there, but my leg in the brace was throbbing with pain at this point and I couldn’t move fast enough. The kids started filing up the stairs to our hallway of lockers, quietly staring at me. The teacher must have said something.

And then it happened.

My bully came up to me, put her hand on my neck and made a motion like how you would take a leash off a dog. She said loudly, “There  you go you bitch dog, you are free of  your leash and don’t have to follow us anymore.”

Where she touched me on my neck felt like fire. I saw white and my ears rang. And then I exploded. I dropped my crutches and in one swift motion grabbed her by her throat with one hand, lifted her in the air, and pile drove her into the bank of lockers. I slammed her into the lockers, as hard as I could. I held her in the air by her throat, and hissed at her through clenched teeth that I may be a bitch dog, but she was nothing but dog shit and that I hated her more than she hated me. I said I was done with it, and tomorrow, she had better leave me alone. Then I threw her to the ground and left her there in a snotty, crying mess. And I heard everyone laughing at the bully who had terrorized our entire grade for a year.

I collected my things and began the long, cold, crying, painful walk to my house. When I got in the door, my mom hugged me and said I wasn’t in trouble. She must have gotten a phone call. My dad hugged me. My brothers checked on me later that evening. I had people around me who loved me and showed it, which is why I didn’t kill myself that night. But I wanted to. I didn’t really want to, but this was my breaking point. I just couldn’t take one more day of being made to feel worthless. Mostly, I didn’t do anything drastic that night because I loved myself and I knew that what the teacher had said was right. I was better than them.

The next day when I walked into school, kids were smiling at me and saying hi. Not just hi, they were saying my name. Like I was a real person. I had people to sit by in lunch and study hall. Things changed very quickly for me. I was instantly liked by my classmates again and by the beginning of 8th grade, I was popular and remained so through high school.

What became of my bully? She was largely ostracized and bullied by most of the school until the day we graduated. So, I did what I had been brought up to do – I befriended her. We became very close friends, actually. I stood up for her. I stood up for other kids being picked on. I had words with boys who were bullying my younger brother. I broke up fights, and had secret therapy sessions in the bathroom with girls who were where I was that horrible winter day. I kept everyone’s secrets, still to this day. I was in every club and every sport, and enjoyed being friends with all the kids jocks to band geeks. Because no one has the right to make you feel small.

My senior year of high school we studied the Holocaust for many weeks, culminating in a large display of mixed media art. We had two Holocaust survivors acting as mentors for our class. One warm spring day, I was designated by my teacher to walk the woman back to her car. She was elderly and walked slowly with a cane. She had parked really far away from the parking lot, down the block and up a hill. It took us forever to reach her car, but I was so honored to be in her presence that I reasoned it would totally be worth the inevitable detentions I was about to get. She told me about her sister and mother and father who had been killed in the camps. She didn’t tell me about their deaths, she told me about their days spent alive. She told me about her favorite dress, and how dirty it had gotten on the train to the work camp she was deported to. She told me about the children she had birthed in America, and what a lovely place America was. I couldn’t speak the entire time, I just held tightly to her arm wrapped in mine as we walked. The sun was warm on our backs.

We reached her car and she said to me, “Your project is one of the best in the class. Do you know how I know this? It made me cry. Not a lot of kids understand this. What happened. You do. You touched my heart and now you need to promise me, when you see injustice, you are to be not silent. Repeat that to me.”

I stood there for an unknown amount of time, dumbstruck. I found my voice and I said, “My promise to you is that whenever I see injustice, I will always be not silent.”

I have always kept my promise to her. I always will. I will always be not silent. Those words are burned into my heart.


I don’t feel like making a video about my bullying experience for Team Bullied, because I can write better than I can talk. But I did make a video about bullying and my friend Carrie Goldman’s new book “Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs To Know To End the Cycle of Fear”, and you can see it here.

Tomorrow I’ll review her excellent book, and tell you how I’ve dealt with bullying as a parent, and how I am teaching my children to create a culture of dignity in their school and with their peers.

No one has the right to make you feel small. When it does happen, be not silent.





La De Da: More Fashion Dolls

La De Da dolls main character.

While watching tv together this morning…..

“Mom, are La De Da dolls appropriate? I don’t think they have too much makeup on.” -6yo Original Pigtail Pal

“Well, some of their outfits are really creative and their hair is super cool. But some of their skirts are really short, and they are wearing other items that are usually just for grownups, like fish net stockings and high heels.” -Me

“Well, I think they wear high heels because they live in the city.” -OPP

“Oh, maybe. Except the dolls are supposedly 16. Auntie Courtney and Auntie Lisa and Louise and Lindsey live in big cities. Do they wear high heels and makeup like that?” -Me

“Well, Auntie Lisa can’t because it isn’t safe to wear heels in Africa. I think Auntie Courtney and Louise do when they go out for nights of fashion.” -OPP

“Oh, right. Auntie Courtney does have some fancy heels she wears for special occasions. The only time Auntie Courtney and I have worn makeup like that was in high school when we were being silly for Homecoming.” -Me

“Well, Lindsey can’t wear heels in her science lab because if she drops a beaker of chemicals, her toes will melt off and she’ll become a zombie.” -OPP

“Totally. I think their bodies look like sticks with big heads on top. They look like lollipops.” -Me

“Yeah, they do look like lollipops. So, can I get one of these? They just don’t make nice dolls these days.” -OPP

“You got that right, Sister. Amelia, I want you to realize these dolls aren’t too bad compared to some others, but all they are about is fashion. Design and textiles can be really interesting to study, but these dolls are just about wearing fashion and looking pretty. I’d like it better if they were students at a design school in NYC or at Columbia, and this into fashion. But when wearing cute clothes is their only attribute…. I just want you to realize the four women we talked about who we know in real life all have great wardrobes, but they are also a photographer in Africa, a vice president at a communications firm, a researcher for the government, and a PhD student in chemistry. They all have traveled the world, gone to college, gone to graduate school, and two of them have babies. I’m just saying, there is more to life than fancy eye makeup and super cute dresses.” -Me

“I know, Mom. There’s also zombie experiments. What if when I play with these dolls, I will pretend they are going to college to be President.” -OPP

“President of what, Smalls?” -Me

“The United States.” -OPP


La De Da dolls World Trip Collection




Images from Idle Hands post linked above. (