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Important Lessons for Boys: Girls Play Sports

I became an accidental soccer coach this spring, volunteering to help out on the sidelines at Flora’s soccer games. Turns out I was making decisions about where the girls were playing, when and who to sub, and calling out actual coaching instructions, including, for the defense, “To the outside!” and for offense, “Talk to each other!”

Saturday the girls had a tournament, and despite all expectations that it would be canceled – the weather was chilly and rainy, and by 2 p.m. when our first game was scheduled to start, the field was a mud pit – the tournament carried on. Apparently, it was the last weekend the youth referees were due to work, so the tournament had to go on.

Girls and parents stood under umbrellas and a small tent canopy complaining about the conditions. “Can you believe it?” we asked each other. “I can’t believe they didn’t cancel. The field is getting destroyed!” The soccer leagues in my area are usually quite fussy about their fields.

And then we split the girls into two teams, and they went out and played. And even with their complaining, mostly about how cold it was, they played well.

They fell in the mud, and got back up. They ran, they kicked, they scored goals (our girls teams came in first and second in their round of the tournament). They adjusted to the conditions, quickly realizing the soccer ball was going to bog down in the large puddles that dotted thefield. Staying clean and dry was not an option, so they embraced the mud.

Flora in mud.
Is there mud on my face?

Among the girls I coached on Saturday, a couple of them had their best game of the season. I was floored by the defensive work of Emily. It turns out Madi is a leader, instructing and encouraging her teammates. Ariel was all in as a wing, and then held off the other team in goal. Flora’s team has amazing goalies, girls who love the position and the adrenaline and challenge it brings. And Taylor, who was playing her first year of soccer, proved herself unafraid to get down and dirty. She showed more tenacity on Saturday than I had seen to date, and her reward was a goal. Rea was hesitant — she was cold and didn’t like the mud at all — but she dug deep and found her spirit. Cassidy kept her foot on the ball, kept trying to score, and eventually got the goal that had been eluding her. Sophie, too, had to push past the ick factor, and then played extraordinarily well on both offense and defense.

Flora has been playing soccer since she was about 5. In my experience, third or fourth grade is when the mechanics of the game start clicking for players. They start to understand positions, passing, dribbling, and playing the ball. They start challenging and crashing the box. They learn to play to the whistle. This year has seen her greatest improvement yet. It helped that she played year-round this year: fall and spring are outdoor seasons, and a winter indoor season.

Indoor soccer is a different beast than outdoor. It is faster, for one, and the ball is seldom out of play – there are no sidelines or throw ins. The field is bigger, too, and there are no offsides. It is all running, and if there’s one thing Flora can do, it’s run. She prefers to play defense, and she does not want to get beat. At the Saturday tournament, she even challenged a boy (we mixed boys and girls for the second game because the boys did not have enough players) a whole head taller than she is, and quite often beat him.

One of the fathers on the sidelines remarked, “I liked having the girls and boys play together. I thought the skill level would be unequal, but it was on par.” Another coach and father of one of the daughters on Flora’s team said, “Between the girls and boys?” Like it was the stupidest thing he heard.

It was the stupidest thing I had heard. Flora’s teams this year for the first time were mostly all girl. But she’s been playing with boys since she started, and she also practiced with boys all spring. So I don’t know why this father thought girls’ skills would be underpar when compared to boys. I just gave him a look, and went back to coaching.

There are probably studies out there about how good sports are for girls. That they boost confidence and self esteem, as well as health and possibly body image.

None of the girls I coach care about that. They just want to play hard and do well, do the best they can. Winning is nice, especially when they play well. Losing is hard, especially when they play well. And maybe they are learning from lessons from that, too: perseverance, that life can be disappointing, that win or lose, it really is how you play.

I know Flora had her best year of soccer ever. She was one of the best players on her indoor team; also one of the oldest. Her spring league was 5th and 6th graders, so while she wasn’t the best on her team, she was certainly on a good squad of skilled players, and she totally added to that.

The squad of girls I coached came in first in their four-way tournament. I told each and every one of them they earned their trophy. Taylor was so proud. “Not bad for my first year.”

Indeed.

What do you think of girls in sports?

Lessons for Boys, Part I and Part II.

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The Top 5 Reasons Open Offices Are Terrible

5. Constant. Interruptions.

Being at my desk doesn’t actually mean I am available to talk to you.

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4. We can see you.

One morning, I carefully carried coffee from the office kitchen back to my desk. Shortly afterward, I received an email from a colleague.

“Studies show you’re more likely to spill your coffee if you stare at it while carrying it. Like you were just doing.”

Dude. That’s creepy. Don’t do that.

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3. We can’t see you.

“Where were you?” “So-and-so was looking for you.” “Did you take a personal day yesterday?” “Where are you going?” “Were you in a meeting?”

Fucking hell, people. I had to pee; I had a chiropractor appointment; I met my husband for lunch; I was working at home; yes I was in a motherfucking meeting, my third one today; it’s none of your business where I was or what I was doing.

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2. IT’S LOUD.

OMG, so loud.

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I was in a room with about 80 other people, and half those people were on the phone most of the day. In order to get anything done, I had to wear ear buds so I could hear myself think. My WFH day was my weekly break, and was, by far, my most productive day.

1. An open office is an introvert’s nightmare.

I didn’t want to be around people after I was done at work. Being in an open office made me a terrible parent. I got no alone time. One of the reasons I went to work out of the house was so that I could get some peace and quiet, so I could complete a task or four with no interruptions.

An open office completely destroys that. I sat mere inches away from people, and other people were walking by me all. the. time. My stress levels were through the roof. I didn’t want to be around my children or my husband; I didn’t want to go be social.

It was bad news.

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My open office story has a happy ending. I have a new, awesome job with a different company. I have my own office, all to myself.

It’s quiet. I accomplish tasks. I have ideas that other people listen to and that I can execute. I come home cheerful and refreshed.

Going to work isn’t stressful anymore. I kinda like it.

Copyright for featured image: stockbroker / 123RF Stock Photo, Cathy Yuelet

Have you had to survive an open office? How did you do it?

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Mother’s Day

I understand that Mother’s Day is fraught for many women — and probably more than a few men.

If you choose not to observe this day for your own reasons, I wish you peace.

If you feel pressure to observe this day, I hope you find a way to observe it that brings you joy.

For myself, I haven’t cooked or cleaned a thing today (and I don’t plan to start again until tomorrow a.m.). We went to breakfast as a family, and have had some lazy time at home, and we will be taking my MIL out for dinner later.

Motherhood isn’t the end-all-be-all of womanhood. And I don’t think we need to be patronizing about it either, and point out that some women who aren’t mothers are still mother-figures. Women aren’t by default nurturing and motherly. It’s okay to not want to be moms, or that special aunt, or that nurturing woman in some child’s life.

I know for me that my children are the best thing I’m ever going to do. And that there are days I’m not a great mom, and I’m not going to beat myself up for that. Mothers are humans, too. We’re not saints. (I mean, MY mom is certainly a saint, but I’m pretty sure that’s not just because she’s a mom.)

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As a little Mother’s Day gift to myself, I went to the Listen to Your Mother show in Pittsburgh this past Friday night. It was nice to sit in the audience and just listen to 14 amazing stories. I cried and held hands with my castmate from last year, Danielle, for more than one of those stories, and also laughed my ass off through more than one. If you haven’t checked out this show yet, here in Pittsburgh or in another one of the 41 cities where it happens, do yourself a favor, and book it for next year. Heck, take a mom you know.

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To my own mom, to my sister and my two sisters-in-laws, and to my children’s godmothers: Happy Mother’s Day!

If you celebrated today, I hope it was happy for you, your mom, a mom you know, or any of those mother-figures that did and do nurture you in your life. Happy Mother’s Day.

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Important Lessons for Boys, 2: Boys Do Chores

Perched on a stool, Michael focused on spreading the Nutella to the edges of the bread. When he finished, he put another piece of bread on top, and cut off the crusts.

“I made my own sandwich!” he said proudly. “I can clean my room, I can clean the front room, and I can make my own sandwich,” he added. “Aren’t you glad I’m growing up?”

I am glad he’s growing up, but more importantly, I’m glad that Michael has a father who has never hesitated to contribute to getting housework done. Michael is learning by example — by seeing his father do dishes and clean bathrooms and change sheets.

Teaching children to do chores is a pain. They will whine, they will stomp, they will accuse you of enslaving them (oh, yes, they will). They will need to be told to do a chore umpteen million times. They will do it badly, and need to do it again.

Raising future adult people is EXAUSTING.

But it will pay off for you, and for them. And having a partner who assumes roughly equal weight makes it so much easier.

Especially in heterosexual marriages, boys and girls need to know that mothers aren’t maids, or chefs, or nannies. And learning to do chores isn’t “help”; it’s part and parcel of being a family.

Here’s a list of chores Michael can do:
1. Put away clean silverware.
2. Clear the table after dinner.
3. Clean the bathroom — he wipes off the sink and the floor. Hey, I’ll take it.
4. Put his toys away. (Der. All children should know how to do this by the time they are 2, IMO.)
5. Clean the front room — sometimes he doesn’t even need to be asked.
6. Clean his room and make his bed. He needs help changing the sheets.
7. Help pack his lunch. This is new to the list, and we are not consistent on it yet. Heck, the girls aren’t consistent yet, and they’ve been doing it (theoretically) for two years now.

It’s true that it is easier for me to tell Michael to do chores for two reasons: 1. As I mentioned, his father does stuff around the house and 2. The girls do chores, and have been for awhile now. Which means I have’t been training three children at the same time. I would say since Flora was 6 or 7, we started with chores aside from picking up toys.

Michael will do things without being asked, for example, cleaning the bathroom. I never asked him to do that. But one day, he disappeared for a bit, then came downstairs declaring he had cleaned the bathroom. He had used cleaning wipes and a wet towel, which he left in the sink, to wipe down the vanity and the floor. He regularly cleans his room, picking up dirty clothes and putting them in his hamper, and he’ll clean up the front room on a whim.

He’s magic.

(He’s not, of course, but neither Kate nor Flora has spontaneously cleaned the front room. Or the bathroom.)

Dan is a better cleaner than I am; I have said this for years. I declutter, but Dan actually cleans. Although he doesn’t dust.

Of course, the best cleaner in our house is the nanny. She’s been teaching the children, too, which is maybe another reason Michael is such a good cleaner. Our nanny isn’t a maid, either; she’s my proxy when I’m not there.

I am very proud of my children for doing chores, and I do let them know. I don’t thank them for helping me, but I do thank them when they do a good job or do things without having to be reminded or asked.

Here’s a link to the first Important Lesson for boys.

Do your children do chores?

Tree blossom in front of cabin

As The World Turns

Seasons aren’t always calculated by dates on a calendar.

Summer starts when school ends — and ends when school starts. Winter isn’t happening until snow falls.

And spring starts when we go to Cook Forest.

We don’t make it every year. We didn’t go when Kate and Michael were under a year old; we did go when Flora was 9 months old, so maybe we had learned our lesson. We also had to miss the years that Flora and Kate made their First Holy Communions, and we will miss when Michael makes his as well.

But in general, I have been going to Cook Forest for nearly 20 years now, and my friend Jen has been going with her family for 46 years! They are the longest running family that’s rented the set of cabins where we always stay.

This year was almost decadent. We stayed in a “cabin” that was more like a house. Sure, it had the some log cabin aesthetic, but the furniture was a step above that in the other cabins, and the kitchen was well stocked with dishware, and the full bath had towels in it. Towels!

Yeah, we’re renting that one again.

We got there late Friday night since we didn’t get on the road until 7. And the plan to canoe Sunday was a bust because of the weather. Next year, I think we’re going to try to make it a four-day weekend.

But Saturday was nearly perfect. Dan and I had a room to ourselves; the children slept upstairs in loft bedrooms. Brian cooked breakfast; pancakes, bacon, veggie sausage, and a potato cheese casserole that I could’ve eaten for days. I made coffee. We went on a hike. We sat around the fire. Lunch was catch-as-catch can; then Dan and I were on dinner duty. Dan and Brian made steaks; I make veggie dogs. We reheated the potato cheesy goodness from breakfast as well as crock pot mac ’n’ cheese. I made green beans. The children roasted marshmallows. S’mores were built and consumed. And when it started to rain, we moved inside around the indoor fireplace, and drank Scotch.

It was lovely.

Sunday, Brian made breakfast AGAIN — eggs, bacon, and cinnamon rolls this time. We cleaned up, packed up, and took a few last pictures. Kate cried when she learned we couldn’t go canoeing. We drove up the road for fried food and milkshakes instead.

Cook Forest Crew, 2016
Grandma’s Cabin representin’! (Not pictured: Andy, Courtney, and Olive.)

We were missing people due to other family obligations and the Pittsburgh marathon, but no doubt we will all be together again.

Hope, like Cook Forest, springs eternal.

Is there a trip in your life that signals the beginning of a season?

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Family Dinner is Overrated

By Wednesday, I am burned out on dinner as a family. Well, as a foursome, because Dan usually only joins us for family dinner Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday.

Flora has super sonic hearing, and it is attuned to Kate. She can probably hear Kate’s heart beating. And it probably bugs her.

Kate squirms, she hums, she sings songs. I don’t even notice the majority of the time.

But Flora notices. “Kate, please stop.” “Kate, please stop.” “Kate! Stop!” “KAAAATTTEEEE!”

In all honesty, I find Flora more annoying than Kate.

Sometimes, to prevent Kate’s aimless humming and singing, I actually play music at dinner. This backfires, too, though. No one can agree on a song or a genre. Classical — of which I’m not a fan either — earns me whines and eye rolls. Rock and roll gets Kate bouncing off the walls, which is the opposite of what I’m going for.

Kate is unable to sit like a regular person at the dinner table (or anywhere, really): butt in chair, knees down, feet on floor, back straight. She eats with her fingers, which drives me right around the bend as well.

And Michael emulates Kate.

Family dinners are chaotic! People jumping up and down to get water and silverware (because whoever forgot to set the table forgot it) and seconds — usually before I’ve even had firsts. Kate and Flora do riffs from YouTube and Vine; I am left utterly clueless as they go on. “Have you seen the one where…?” And they break up into girlish giggles.

And trying to get some assistance in the kitchen unless Dan is home is fruitless. Flora has to be reminded to put away ALL the clean dishes, not just from the dishwasher, but from the drying pad as well. Kate is supposed to set the table; half the time she forgets I’m actually going to eat too, and the table is set for three not four. Michael is supposed to put away the clean silverware and clear his plate from the table.

And once they’ve finished, rinsed their dishes, and put them in the dishwasher — poof. Off to read and play and watch more Vines. I’ve started calling them back to finish clearing the table, put food away, and, since we are in the kitchen anyway, pack their lunches.

To say mileage varies would be putting it mildly.

And half the time — literally, almost half, between soccer practices and gymnastics, and date night (for Dan and me, not the children) — half the time, we don’t actually sit down together for dinner; we bolt it down our gullets and run right back out the door. (I need to figure this out a little better; suggestions welcome.)

family yukking it up at dinner
Ha ha ha! Family dinners are SO delightful! Pass the carrots, please! Copyright: wavebreakmediamicro / 123RF Stock Photo

Not one dinner I have had with my family looks like this.

And yet. I keep doing it. I cook nearly every night, and sit down with my children almost every night. Experts insist it’s important, and I believe them. Because every now and again, we get it right. We manage to have an actual conversation about school, or playing, or the books that are being read. We remember to do our Q&A journals. Dinner time is usually better when Dan is there; the children are better behaved, and I can sit while he directs after dinner clean up.

So while yes, I get tired of the acting up, the bickering, the cleaning cycle, I do love feeding my children, and seeing what is up with them, and just *being there*, all in the same room. I may get exasperated from time to time, but I probably won’t change the routine.

Although it would be nice if the children would start to *cook* the dinners. How do I make that happen?

Do you get to eat dinner as a family?

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Age Is Just a Number

One morning a few months ago, I rolled over in bed and stretched my arms over my head. Just like I do every morning. On this day though, a horrible popping crunch and pain in my left shoulder area ensued.

It hurt. A lot.

I was so busy at work that I couldn’t get to my chiropractor right away. By the time I saw her (Dr. Amber Capra — go to her!), about two-three weeks had passed. The pain was less, but hadn’t disappeared yet.

She checked me out, and then informed me that I had actually not “injured” my shoulder, but had popped my ribs out of position and they were misaligned.

“Stretching my arms over my head?” I asked, incredulous.

“Um. Yes.”

God bless Dr. Capra. The poor woman had to tell me — and probably has to break it to many of her patients — that age is a terrible terrible curse that makes the body do stupid things like pop ribs when one stretches her arms over her head.

Those are not the words she used, but that’s what it boiled down to.

So, she put my ribs back in. It hurt.

This has been a cycle since that first time I did this. It seems to be when I reach and then twist my torso, my ribs, where they are connected to my sternum, stretch and pop. It hurts when it happens, and it hurts when Dr. Capra fixes me, and it hurts when it happens again.

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When I was a teen, maybe 13 or 15, I woke up to the sound of my mother crying in our upstairs hallway. She was rummaging through our upstairs linen closet / medicine pantry. Being the sensitive teen I was, I thought nothing of it and went back to sleep. (Empathetic, I know.)

The next day, I asked her about it.

“Oh, it’s so stupid!” she said angrily. (Sadness and anger in 24 hours was a lot of emotion for my mom. She’s a rather stoic woman, always has been.) “I think I have bursitis in my shoulder. Bursitis! That’s an old person’s disease.”

My mother wasn’t yet 40.

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Dr. Capra and I have discussed how to keep the rib popping thing from happening, but so far, it hasn’t helped — or only helps until I forget that I’m not supposed to reach and twist at the same time, and I pop shit out of alignment doing something perfectly normal like putting away groceries. I’m doing planks and pushups to try to strengthen the rhomboid and stretch the pectoral, but so far, it hasn’t prevented the ribs from moving.

I have never felt old until now. I feel I am young at heart, that my children keep me young feeling, that even though I’m 45, I feel like a 30-year-old. I am stronger than I’ve been in a long time, and even though I can’t run (I have the left hip of a 72-year-old; I’ve named it Gertrude), I am in good, even great, shape.

But here I am, unable to downward dog because something stupid could happen.

And I need to find a new chiropractor, because Dr. Capra practices in Upper St. Claire and Shadyside, neither of which are convenient to my new office.

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Another reason I struggle with the concept of being “old” is that I really, really like new music. Like, I am always listening to new stuff, and finding bands — young, newish bands, that excite me.

I’ve become obsessed with twenty one pilots — which if you follow me on Twitter, you already know. It started with “Stressed Out” from their latest album. The obsession really took hold once I started watching their videos.

If you notice, the lead singer’s neck and hands are black — colored with marker or something. I mused about it on Twitter, and one of my young cousins, who loves the band too, tipped me off to the fact that Tyler (the singer) uses the black as an outward expression of his inner anxiety.

I know, I know, two white boys from Columbus, expressing the millennial angst.

But I don’t know. twenty one pilots is, IMO, expressing something, capturing something, that maybe some of us would do well to watch without the usual eye-rolling that an older generation does toward the latest generation. Just give it a pause for these guys.

Also, I can’t stop listening to this song, or watching this video, or singing along to it in the car while chair dancing behind the wheel.

Flora is mortified, so I’m doing my job there.

Copyright for featured image: whitestone / 123RF Stock Photo

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Changing the Conversation: Part 2, Food

Food is not evil. Food is not poison.

Food is fuel, and food should taste good and make you feel good.

What we eat and the way we eat has gotten tangled up in a lot of things: stress eating, emotional eating, “clean” eating – whatever the fuck that is. We have a person out there calling herself the Food Babe advising you not to eat chemicals.

She is not a scientist. Chemicals are everything. (She may or may not be a babe; I’m not one to judge such things.)

How and what you choose to eat will not make you a virtuous person. Food will not save you.

Yes, if you have food sensitivities and allergies, you do well to avoid certain types of food, and I will not begrudge you that – gluten, dairy, meat, soy, and so on. That’s just common sense.

If you choose to eat a certain way, I also will not begrudge you that. I am a practicing vegetarian for the most part, have been for more than 20 years. Go carbs-free, gluten-free, organic, vegan, what have you. But the minute you start telling me that I should eat that way because it’s so superior, I am going to tune you right the hell out.

If you feel better when you avoid gluten doesn’t mean that I need to give up gluten. If you enjoy your Paleo style of eating, go for it. Doesn’t mean it’s for me. Please don’t insist it is.

The way that you choose to eat doesn’t make you a sinner or a saint. Eschewing a food group by choice doesn’t make you a good person.

And speaking of food being sinful, can we stop talking about “being bad” by choosing rich, delicious food? Can we stop declaring that a piece of cake means so many more minutes in the gym? Can we stop “cheating” on our diets?

Can we stop going diets?

Look, I’m not going to deny that some food choices are far better than others. I’m with Michael Pollan on this: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” (And no cereal that turns your milk a different color.) I get the fear of chemicals that has crept into our mindset, I truly do.

But we’ve got to change our language about food and eating. Instead of talking about diets, let’s make lifestyle changes that are sustainable, delicious, and make us feel good, not guilty. We’ve got to stop lecturing people who choose differently than us. Especially when it comes to raising our children, we can’t install fear of certain foods, or make certain foods absolute taboos, or act like eating some types of food is “bad” and needs to be paid off by abusing ourselves in the gym.

All things in moderation. Make sure the children are going outside to play. Get them involved in an organized sport (just one, don’t make yourself crazy). Give them access to a lot of different foods to try. Model good eating and exercise yourself. Your child is not going to eat salad at dinner if you don’t. Nope.

And, although children are not picky eaters by default (can we please get rid of the “recipes even your picky eater will try!” meme?) there are some truly picky eaters out there, children who will not try a new food, children who WILL go hungry rather than eat something they don’t want. They are rare, but they do exist, and let’s not shame their parents for it, okay?

I’m an advocate for the one-bite rule, and then my children are free to cook an egg or make a sandwich for dinner. And they aren’t even picky eaters! But there are certain meals (lentil soup and grilled cheese comes to mind) that even Kate, my omnivore, simply won’t have.

Eat when you’re hungry. Do something else when you are stressed or bored or upset. Feelings aren’t for eating. Go for a walk. Read a book. Play a board game. Talk to a friend. Hell, go to bed!

Food is good. Less processed food is probably better in the long run, but that doesn’t mean you can never eat a potato chip again for the rest of your life. I love my farmers markets and CSAs and cooking from scratch; I also appreciate the occasional fast food meal from Burger King (not because it’s good, mostly because it’s fast).

We do have real problems with food in this country, and I don’t mean the latest Facebook science screed about tumeric lemonade curing depression (although that is problematic as well). Food deserts in poor urban areas; produce that is more expensive than processed; parents who don’t know how to prepare healthy foods for themselves or their children. These are the things we should be talking about.

Not Gwyneth Paltrow’s air diet.

Copyright on header image: seralexvi / 123RF Stock Photo

What’s the best meal you ate recently? What made it so good?

Black bean omelet and toast.
Lunch!

Part one of this conversation was about changing how we talk about size.

Changing the Conversation: Part 1, Size

This week Amy Schumer started a shitstorm when she questioned her inclusion in an article in a magazine that featured plus-size fashion:

Some women were like, “Oh, hells ya!” Some women were like, “What’s wrong with being plus size?”

My take is that Schumer is built not like a plus-size woman, but like a woman, period.

I’d like to see the term “plus size” and “women” sizes go away. Also: fuller figured. I mean, if you are fuller figured, and want to embrace that, that’s cool. I just would prefer not to see it on women’s clothing.

My ridiculous body type aside — oh, see I’m doing it too!

Let me start again.

The majority of women in this country are not built like models. Period. Women have boobs, and hips, and butts, and curves. Women want to wear comfortable, flattering clothes. Sometimes we want to dress up, but we still want comfort and flattering cuts. Women, no matter their size or shape, should not have to feel embarrassed by shopping for comfortable, flattering clothes.

I wish the fashion industry would agree to consistently label women’s clothing. We maybe could agree on needing petite or tall sections — a tall size 8 or 10, which is what I am, is different from a petite size 8 or 10. But a regular size 8 or 10 should fit most women across most labels. That should just be a thing. Instead of plus size, just say size 16 or 20, or whatever numbers are needed. No “woman” department for larger sizes — what does that make me?

Also, women’s sizes should start at 2. Not 0 — or, the even more ridiculous 00. You are not a size 00 — you have a size. You take up space. Don’t let someone else erase that for you.

ETA: Better idea: size and length measurements in inches. Waist, bust, hips, legs/arms. It would simplify things for women, although not necessarily for clothes makers.

I went into a clothing store with my 9-year-old daughter recently. It is not a store where I frequently shop because they don’t carry tall sizes — they only offer them on their website. We went back to the girls department because she needed new jeans or leggings that would fit her, preferably a couple pairs of each.

Almost everything was labeled “skinny”, as in skinny jeans.

My 9-year-old isn’t skinny. She’s tall for her age (go figure) and is a healthy weight. She’s quite muscular, as a matter of fact, one of the strongest girls in her gymnastics class.

And I had to buy her jeans that were labeled ‘plus’. And I could only find one pair of “plus” sized jeans on the shelves.

I hid the label from her. Because she’s not plus size.

So I get Amy Schumer’s side-eye at Glamour magazine for being in an issue that was targeted at plus-size women. When we put labels on what girls and women are wearing that indicates that maybe they may be a little bigger than the norm when they are actually the norm, the pressure could be enormous on those girls and women to want to be ‘normal’ size.

And that’s not healthy.

While we’re at it, I would love to see BMI as a metric disappear. It’s nearly 200 years old. It’s time for us to toss it. Health comes in every size and shape, and it is not dependent on one number divided by another number. Again, my 9yo is on the upper end of “acceptable” BMI, but even her pediatrician is impressed with her health and strength.

And that is something to celebrate.

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Copyright: darkbird / 123RF Stock Photo

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Common Sense Solutions

ICYMI (Dad, that’s short for “in case you missed it”), I wrote an article for kidsburgh.org about managing screen time. It was born out of the frustration I feel about the advent of Kindle Fires in my house.

The opening line? “The tablet computers were the worst Christmas present we ever gave our children.”

After writing the story, I will admit to feeling less despair about our computer tablet quandary. We put new guidelines in place (see below).

I will admit, though, I hate the constant monitoring. Setting timers, collecting the tablets when time is up, checking that they aren’t getting into topics they shouldn’t.

But, such is life with media and children. I will also tell you, if you are in a similar situation, Common Sense Media really does a good job of rating apps, TV shows, and movies for children; providing guidelines for parents; and providing a safe forum to ask questions and get feedback. I would highly recommend them as a go-to parenting site. It’s a new world, and children need boundaries. If you find it’s hard to set them for screen time, this site is a great resource.

In the meantime, here are some of the changes that Dan and I made when it seemed things were spiraling out of control (seriously, he took away all screens at one point, including the Wi-Fi router, which I asked him to return since I needed it to WFH).

New Rules on Tablets

Dear Flora, Kate, and Michael,

Tablets are not be available until after dinner. Please, don’t even ask.

Before you get tablets, the following tasks must be fulfilled:

  • Homework done, shown to mom, and approved.
  • Dishwasher empty, table set.
  • Q & A journals filled in and discussed.
  • After dinner: table cleared; dishes rinsed and put in dishwasher.
  • In bedrooms: beds will be made; clean clothes put away; dirty clothes put in hampers. Floors will be clear of paper, garbage, and books.
  • Lunches packed.
  • In front room: pillows and blankets will be put neatly on couches.

THIS MEANS EVERY DAY, MONDAY THROUGH FRIDAY. You may have tablets for an hour each weekday if the above conditions are met and/or activities have been attended (i.e. soccer practice, gymnastics).

On weekends, tablets will not be available until beds are made, breakfast has been eaten, and laundry has been taken next door. Tablet time on weekend is limited to two hours. If I get grief when I ask you to do a chore for the household, you will lose 10 minutes.

If you come in my room before 8 a.m. to get your tablets, you will lose 30 minutes.

The kitchen table and bedrooms are tablet-free zones. Tablets will not be allowed in the car except on long trips. They are not to go to school EVER; they are not to go to friends’ houses or on sleepovers.

Lying to me or dad about tablet use will result in an immediate suspension for 24 hours.

One more call from or conference with your teachers indicating you are not doing your school work will result in tablets going away AT LEAST until the summer.

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I will also tell you: These rules keep Dan and I in check when it comes to our phones. We have to respect our own rules in order for our children to respect them. Mileage varies, but I think we are all getting better at setting limits for ourselves, and figuring out what to do when the screens are off.

Do you have rules about screen time? Why or why not?