Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A quick sidebar...

OK. I was minding my own business. Doing some research. Reading the news. Just doing my daily blogger thing. And I was feeling great in anticipation tomorrow's pending Celebration Box interview and giveaway. Promoting empowering products for girls always puts me in a good mood.

But then I ventured over to MomDot and discovered this:




WTF?? {Gasp! Wheeze! Gasp! ... rolling on floor clutching heart}

Here's a question... At what point does a designer take a step back and say "Hmmm. This tiny bikini design is interesting, but perhaps not appropriate. Maybe I shouldn't market these as being so cute and innocent since the people wearing them will probably be very young children and walking toddling around in a bathing suit style that adults wear to be sexy is not a such a good idea for an 18-month old."

Oh, I guess that never happens. My bad.

Why not just toss in a few toddler-sized thongs and pasties while your at it? Or maybe a few of these...

Oh don't even get me started.

Thank to the ladies over at MomDot for pointing this out. How does everyone feel about this?


Menstruation Celebration! A 1st period welcome fit for a Goddess!

I remember that day well: the spotted tissue... my initial shock... the surprise on my mom's face... the rush to get the StayFree lesson in before I had to leave for school.

My first period was all fat sanitary napkins and sympathetic tones from my mom. And of course, the big womanhood talk, "Well you've got your period now. You know you can get pregnant. Don't be out there messing around with sex."

OK, so my 1st period experience won't be making it into any pubertal anthologies, but it's mine, so I'll never forget it. When my own daughter had her first period, I'm not sure if her experience was much better than mine (my fault of course). There was nothing special about it. Which is probably the way it is for most girls. You get it. You slap on a pad. You move on.

But the days of the slap-and-go may soon be a thing of the past. Thanks to Marianne Impal and her Red Goddess Celebration Boxes. These beautiful boxes are filled with all of the items a girl needs to welcome her first period and "celebrate her journey into womanhood."

Now, I could very easily sit here and ramble about these boxes all day (I think they're absolutely fantastic!), but why listen to me when you can hear from the woman who created them? I caught up with Marianne for a bit of Q & A.

Pop back in tomorrow for the interview, plus a chance to win a Celebration Box for your own young goddess.

Look at all those goodies. It's like a treasure chest! You know you want it. Hell, I want it! Find out how you can get it tomorrow!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Britney-Mania, Clueless Parents & Lyrical Madness

Chances are, you'll never hear me bravo-ing it up for having children at a young age. Some people feel that it's the way to go ("When they're grown up, I'll still be young enough to enjoy life."), but I'm not one of them.


I had my girl-child when I was fairly young (22-years old and barely out of college). I won't lie. Those first few years were HARD. Working, scrimping, saving and struggling to make ends meet was our reality for a long time. I was lucky because Jasmine's dad (aka Hubs) and I choose to stay together to raise her and we both had college degrees to back us up as we struggled up the job ladder.

But even so, it was a difficult, humbling and sometime humiliating experience (I'll regale you with tales of my forays in the world of welfare and social services some other time). A lot of things were put on hold (i.e grad school), and I missed out on many experiences that other 20-somethings were having. Would I change it if I could? Hell no. Girl-Child is the best surprise I ever got, and having a teenager in the house now does have some perks.

She's fun to watch TV with. We can watch real shows together (i.e. NCIS, House, Secret Life of an American Teenager, or Sponge Bob) and laugh at the same jokes, discuss the deeper issues, or argue about the plot.

She can do REAL stuff to make my life easier. Her own laundry, taking care of her little brother, getting dinner started for me, and (as this summer will prove) getting a job and ending the annoying habit of mooching off me so much.

She's a good outfit gauge and will not allow me walk out of the house looking like a mismatched clown, a hobo, or this ...

One of the most interesting things about having a teenager at this age is that we tend to listen to the same music. It may not seem like a big deal, but when I hear Lil Wayne seeping out of her earbuds hollering about how he's planning to "beat it like a cop", I know what he's talking about.

And this is not to say that I enjoy Lil Wayne -- you're not going to hear him floating out of my mp3 player anytime soon-- but with lyrics like that being the norm these days, it's kinda important for parents to be aware of what their kids are listening to and to talk about it. Discussing the lyrics of current music is also a great way to sidle into a mama/girl-child chat about body image, sexuality, and other issues. I touched on this a few weeks ago in my interview with Dr. Rayne


"… music is a great conversation starter. A lot of people just gloss over lyrics, but music is a place that is just rife with fodder for good conversation: “What do you think of this song we’re listening to?” “Wait, I didn’t catch that, what was that last line?” “Is that OK?”
Talk about the song and what they like about it. If they do like it that’s fine, but at least now they’re being thoughtful about it."
--Dr. Karen Rayne, Reign of the Girl-Child.


So I tune into hip hop, reggaeton and pop music as much as possible to stay in the loop and prevent myself from getting caught out in the open completely clueless like these parents at a recent Britney Spears concert…


"In a survey of four different sets of parents escorting their preteen girls to the show, none knew about the R-rated message suggested by the title of Spears's latest single, "If U Seek Amy."-- Washington Post

That same article revealed that although most kids did NOT consider Britney a mentor they did say that she was "awesome", "rockin'" and "hot". Or they said it as best they could through chattering teeth; which is what happens when you wear a belt-length mini-skirt and halter top in 40 degree weather. Hmmm…

Monday, March 16, 2009

I got no job, but I'm still FABULOUS!

So I may have mentioned once or twice that I joined the ranks of the unemployed a few months ago. As part of my "going away" package, my former company set me up with a career transition coach.

What the hell is a career transition coach? Seriously, that's what I said. I had no clue. And I had no intentions of finding out. I'd never needed coaching in my career before. Why would I need it now?

But then I thought it over. It's a free service (the tab being so generously picked up by the folks who gave me the boot). It's a reason to get out of the house and spend an afternoon in the city. And furthermore, the older I get the more I realize that new experiences are the spice of life (cue breezy New Age music here). Plus... did I mention it's a free service? Who am I to turn down "free"?

So I donned my city-walkin' shoes (aka... black Converse) hopped a train and trekked on in. I met with a very nice woman who basically brainstormed with me for 90-minutes. We talked about my career goals, my book, my dreams, my current work situation, my resume, and the fact that I was not "laid off" but "due to downsizing and the current economic climate, my position has been eliminated." It was a very worthwhile appointment.

Will it help me snag the job of my dreams? Probably not since my dream job entails sitting on the front porch of my seaside bungalow in jammies and mukluks working on the next great children's fantasy novel. But then again, she did give me some nice ideas for marketing my book. And I was able to analyze my strengths, reformat my resume, and come up with a sweet little personal pitch for myself. Ahem...

"Professional writer, author & speaker specializing in girl empowerment issues"

Still out of work, but I can pitch my ass off! Whooooo!

Apparently everyone needs a pitch these days. You know what that means, Mamas. Let's hear your personal pitches!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Speaking of Sex Ed...

Speaking of talking to kids about sex I came across the video below during my bloggy travels today.

My daughter watches "The Chica's Project" on MTV3 sometimes. Crash and Yasmine are the two 20-something chicas who run that show. Now the girls have another show called "Crash & Yasmine Uncensored" where they talk about whatever they want, however they want. And that's just what they did in this episode where they discuss the difference between getting "pregnant" and getting "knocked-up."


Visit page on mun2



Ok, so it's not exactly health class fodder. But it is real talk that tackles the issues, misconceptions and mindset that many girls have about sex and pregnancy. And on that note, it's a winner in my book. It gets an ROTGC gold star!
Special thanks to The National Campaign's Pregnant Pause blog for giving the video some extra shine. Well worth the watch.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Talking sex with your kid: A chat with Dr. Karen Rayne - Part II


We're still rolling along!

Part two of my chat with Dr. Karen Rayne continues below. You'll also find a chance to win a copy of a free book! Just keep on reading.

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Me: Your blog is very straightforward and you pull no punches (I LOVE that!). Do you find that many parents are frightened by such frank discussion?


KR: Oh yes. [laughing]. I’ve had parents and even teachers tell me that I recommend talking [about sex] too early. But my response is really that if you find your kid really doesn’t know what you’re talking about or is really freaked out about it, then you stop. You have the pleasure of working exclusively as a parent with your child so you have a better sense of your children than I do. But children know far more than we give them credit for.

I teach a couple middle school classes right now and some of the parents came to me in the beginning of the classes and said, “You know, my kid is so naive. Some of your content areas, I don’t even think my kid will know those words.”

So I always say “Oh, thank you so much for letting me know that. I’ll be sure to introduce it gently and very slowly.” And then I get the kid in the seat and it’s like a whole different person. I mean, they have questions! And they want to know the answers to them. But they do not feel like they can go to their parents.

Some topics are hard topics. Date rape. Abortion. A whole wide range of STDs and the fact that you can easily have one and not have any symptoms. These are all things that you really need to know by the time you’re in 8th or 9th grade. Regardless of where you are or whether or not you’re engaging in any kind of sexual activity.

I mean I had a middle-schooler ask me what a nipple was. This kid was 13, 14 years old. Everybody has nipples; we should all know what they are. But the other side of that is this child was listening to really intense rap music with very sexually damaging and derogatory lyrics about very painful situations. And so it’s this balance again of lack of knowledge combined with kind of an extreme exposure to sexuality and sexualization through the media.


Me: Are there good books that parents can use to supplement their teaching?

KR: I love Body Drama by Nancy Amanda Redd, it’s just great. It’s for girls who are looking for specific information about specific parts of the body, like how to keep your nails clean, your face clean. Very basic things. I haven’t really found something equivalent for boys.

Heather Corina who runs Scarlet Teen wrote a book called S.E.X:The-All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You through High School and College. I think it’s a great book for a 16-year-old.

And in terms of books for preteens you’ve got the sort of all-about-puberty books like the What’s Happening to Me? books for boys and girls. The Body Book for Girls, and anything else in the American Girl line of puberty books.


Me: Some of us began having sex discussions with our kids when they were young because they asked questions. But now that they’re older, they prefer to discuss things with their peers. How can we keep the lines of communication open as they get older? Should we just push books and websites or should we still try to reach out?

KR: Absolutely still reach out. Never stop trying to reach out. That is what makes such a big difference. Even if your kid isn’t talking with you, you still need to keep that conversational door open; which is really hard to do. I’ve had parents come in and say “You know, I try to go in once a week to talk, and the conversation is entirely one sided and I hate it. It’s exhausting!

But here’s the thing. The perception of those conversations can be very different. The parent may have the perception of being ignored or getting rejected. Whereas the kid can have the perception of “Wow, Mom keeps coming in with these really interesting ideas questions and thoughts and I don’t really know what to say, so I don’t really say anything but what interesting ideas she’s giving me.


Me: So they do still hear us, even if they seem not to want to be bothered. They are listening?

KR: Right. So it’s not something that we should drive down their throats. But it’s something that’s important to keep bringing up in ways that feel comfortable to you even if they don’t seem like they’re comfortable to your child. Sure, it’s very hard to do but it’s your responsibility to do because it’s your child.

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Thanks again, Karen for giving us so much to think about and so much to work with when it comes to talking to our kids about sex.

In honor of Karen's good advice, I'm giving away a free copy of the What's Happening to Me? (winner can choose the book for boys or girls). Enter to win in the comments section by March 23rd The winner will be chosen by Random.org and announced in the comments section.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Talking sex with your kid: A chat with Dr. Karen Rayne -Part I

You've got kids. Kids have questions. Lots of questions! Eventually, those questions are going to go from "Why is the sky blue?" to "Where do babies come from?" What are you gonna do then, Mama?

Honesty is the best policy in my book (even if it's akward and makes your kid look at you like you have two heads) but some Mamas are a bit more conservative. How do we strike a balance?

When in doubt, call in the pros. That's why I jumped on the horn with adolescent sex educator Dr. Karen Rayne. We had a nice conversation about kids and parents and questions and sexuality and lots of other good stuff. Check out the first part of our our 2-part chat below.
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Me: Between the Internet and television, kids today have a ton of different ways to get information right at their fingertips. Does having so much information at their disposal give kids a disadvantage when it comes to learning about sex?

KR: Well it’s really this double edged sword. When I was in school, we had good sex education here in Texas. They brought out condoms and we put them bananas, we talked about AIDS and HIV in depth, and also some of the emotional ramifications of sex and sexuality. It was a pretty good class. It taught me a lot.

So now we’ve moved from that kind of paradigm, where there’s a class being taught by a teacher who has specific information, to a paradigm where there’s this wealth of information that’s frequently punctuated by really inappropriate things. This is combined with an attitude of silence and repression in many schools. And this does of course vary by state so I’m talking primarily of here in Texas. We spend the most money on abstinence-only sex education in the country and we have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. I know that there are some states that are doing a really good job with sex education and I think that can really be a counterbalance to the problematic aspects of the internet

At the same time the Internet is a really good place for kids to go. If they’re looking for information, there are lots of sites that have it. As long as they have a sense of where to go and where not to go, they can get good stuff online. They need to know a couple of good sex Ed sites. Sex Etc, Advocates for Youth, Scarleteen are some good ones.


Me: What’s the best time for parents to start talking to their kids about sex?

KR: So by that question do you mean what is the best time to start talking to kids about intercourse? Because of course you start talking about sex with them when they’re babies. Things like helping them name their parts, and the reactions you have about them touching themselves, and the way you talk about your own body (like whether you’re sucking in your tummy and saying “Oh I’m too fat” in front of your three year old), that’s all about sexuality and that’s all sex education.

But typically when people ask that question they’re talking about when do you talk about intercourse with kids. That’s really something that is very cohort-dependant. There are kids that are just exposed to it a young age. And if they’re being exposed to it, they need to have conversation about. So if they’re seeing media or television shows where people are having sex, they need to be talking about those things with their parents.

My kids are pretty sheltered. They’re in a private school where there’s not much media viewing. But even here where isn’t that much of an influence from media, I tell parents, that they need to tell their kids by the end of first grade, beginning of second grade. And environments where there’s much more media, it may need to be even younger.

Me: It makes sense that they should be talking about it if they’re seeing it, because it’s pretty much every where.

KR: It’s absolutely everywhere. It’s in the dolls, on television, even in the children’s movies

Me: Oh yes, the kids movies the sexual innuendos. [Editorial note: Shrek anyone?]

KR: Right. And it’s those unspoken cues that really get into their psyches. So they don’t know what questions to ask. Parents will say, “Well they haven’t brought it up yet.” Well they don’t know what words to use. But you do! So you have to be the one.

Me: I think television is probably a good way to do that too. I’ve sparked conversations with my daughter during commercials or shows with inappropriate stuff in them.

KR: Yes, Television is a great way in. Also, music is a great conversation starter. A lot of people just gloss over lyrics, but music is a place that is just rife with fodder for good conversation; you know. “What do you think of this song we’re listening to?” “Wait, I didn’t catch that, what was that last line?” “Is that ok?” Talk about the song and what they like about it. If they do like it that’s fine, but at least now they’re being thoughtful about it.

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Pop back in tomorrow for Part 2 !

Friday, March 6, 2009

Next Week: sex chats, free books, warm days, & more!

Next week is shaping up to be really good.

For one, the weather forecast is predicting temps in the 40s and 50s. After the insane winter we've had here in NY (2 degrees, anyone?), I won't be surprised to see people walking around next week in shorts (I'm not even kidding. Some folks get carried away at the hint of warmer weather).

But I'm most excited about my much anticipated chat with adolescent sex educator Dr. Karen Rayne. I just got off the phone with Karen and I have to tell you ... this is an interview that you do not want to miss.

Lots of great advice for talking to kids about sex, like when to begin talks with younger kids and how to initiate and maintain talks with older kids ... cuz, let's face it: that one-time birds & bees talk of yesteryear is loooong gone. With kids getting so many cues from the media and peers, parents need to supplement all that iffy information with good advice every chance they get.

But I'm getting preachy now so I'll stop. Just be sure to stop in next week to check out Karen's interview. Or better yet, use the little box on the right to subscribe to my feed. That way you'll get note in your feed-reader when the interview posts. Easy-peasy!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Top 10 Tips for the Smart Girl-Child

Ok, I lied. There are really only five tips here. But honestly, no one wants to read one long-ass post of tips. Plus, this should be a joint-mama effort so please add your tips in the comments area to round out the list and inform us even further.

These tips are just a few of the things that it would have been nice to be more aware of during my own tween/teen years.

1) Don’t know? You better ask somebody. It’s the 21st century. There are a thousand different ways to get accurate information and knowledge. Not sure about something? Use your resources! Ask someone who knows, call a hotline, Google it, visit a library, watch PBS, and read, read, read. Ignorance may be bliss, but it’s not gonna help you when the time comes to bake a cake, balance a budget, or escape a bear attack.

2) Following the crowd will only get you as far as the crowd is able to go. It’s no secret, the crowd is full of dummies. You’re following them, they’re following someone else, and 9 times out of 10 the person at the front is an idiot. Think for yourself. You already have what it takes.

3) Treat your body with respect or it may just flip you off and give up. At this very moment, your body is doing about two-dozen functions on its own (i.e. without you even realizing it) that are keeping you alive. Heart beating? Check. Internal organs "organing"? Check! Brain regulating and keeping all systems running? Check! Breathe much? Check!

All this and the only thing your body asks is that you feed it the things to keep it strong and healthy, exercise occasionally and cherish it with love and affection. It's not hard to do those things. It IS hard to run up 3 flights of stairs when the elevator is broken and you're late for an appointment, after you haven't exercised in 5 years.

4) Love the body you have, not the one you wish you had. If you show any woman over the age of 30 a picture of her herself as a teenager she will probably marvel at how fit, toned and healthy she looks in the picture. Problem is, most of us spent our teen years hating our bodies and wishing we had better ones. Too bad we weren’t just enjoying our strong, energetic young bodies back then, instead of hating them. Now many of us are busy wishing we had those bodies back. See? It never ends! Don’t waste your time doing that.

5) Listen to your gut! The best advice you're ever going to get comes from the last place you'd expect. It comes from you! You know when a situation is not good because the tight knotted or queasy-swirly feeling in your gut tells you so. If something "doesn't feel right", it's probably not. So take your own advice and get the heck outta there.

And that's the list.

Got more smart girl-child tips? Add ‘em in the comments, area. Sharing is caring.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Are we bad parents?

A conversation over on Good Enough Mother, got me thinking about the way we raise our children today. One of the moms started a discussion about the infamous snotty 'tween attitude. I know all you Mamas are quite familiar with the symptoms:
  • the what-eveeeerrr tone
  • the I-am-11-years-old-and-I-know-everything smart-Alec reflex
  • the eyeball rolling
  • and of course the ever present, If-it-doesn't-concern-me,-it's-probably-not-really-that-important-anyway syndrome
All kids go through a stage like this. They're testing the waters. Pushing their boundaries. Trying to find out who they are. It's normal stuff. But honestly, let's be real... with preteen girls, it can seem more like--as one of the GEM moms put it-- "someone has kidnapped your daughter and replaced her with a snotty brat." Ditto that!

This wasn't an issue when I was a preteen. When my mom said "jump", I said "how high?" Of course, I would be thinking some really nasty stuff in my head, but it would never pass my lips; not if I valued my lips... or my life.

My daughter is not outrageously disrespectful or anything, but the child does have a mouth on her. And at times, she doesn't seem to know when to keep that mouth shut, but does that mean that I'm not doing a good job as a mom?

Hmmm......

Well, it's true that I would have never spoken to my mother the way my daughter talks to me sometimes (whether it's playful talk or serious sass), BUT at the same time, I also was never comfortable enough with my mother to go to her when I had big questions or a serious problem. And I had some pretty serious issues as a young teen. I also realize that not speaking my mind (i.e. keeping my mouth shut a little too much) is part of the reason that I had some of those serious issues.

I think my daughter realizes that she can talk to me about anything, because I try to keep our communication as open as possible. I also know that that girl will not have any issues telling her peers, a boyfriend, or anyone else "NO" when she's asked to do something she's not completely comfortable with. So if dealing with a bit of a smart mouth means that she will come to me with real issues or speak her mind even when it's not easy, I'll take it.

Eyeball rolling though....that's a WHOLE other story.
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