*This post was written by my husband after an epic fail during a Christmas shopping trip*
This is the time of year you go through the list, figure out what you’re going to spoil your child on, make your pilgrimage through the hoards of people to grab that last gift on the shelf that will make your princesses Christmas morning a bright ray of sunshine. Well, something like that.
As is usual in our household Christmas tends to start around November 3rd when the ads come on the television, links shows up on iPad apps and websites, and our daughter begins to append every item she sees on
her our shopping list. This year was especially nice as she started to ask for things like a remote controlled car and a pirate ship. Awesome. My 5 year old daughter wants to sail the seven seas with her imagination and who am I to fail on this request.
Off we trudged to one of the larger malls in the province and making our way to Toy’R’Us. It’s early December but the stores are not as crammed as we thought they would be. As we go through the isles merrily tossing all kinds of gifts into the shopping cart (and my mental tally of the grand total slowly giving me a mental breakdown) we pass by a full wall of Jake and the Neverland Pirates paraphernalia. V had mentioned this show a few times and has watched it whenever she gets a chance. It’s the new breed of Disney shows that’s all the rage. And there on the shelf, lo and behold, a gianormous pirate ship! Success. Or is it?
We check out the box and realize it comes with the Jake character and a parrot. Okay. Looking around the shelf there it is. The Ultimate Pirate Pack with all the characters. Again, perfection. Or is it?
Where’s Izzy? Izzy is the only girl pirate from the show and from the Wikipedia entry, is Jake’s second-in-command.
How is it they could have missed her. She’s the second-in-command for pirates sake! If Jake bites it are they going to turn to Cubby or Skully or even the parrot? No. The captain of the ship job will go to Izzy. How could they omit her out of the Ultimate Pirate Pack? Jake is there. Captain Hook and his cohorts are all there. Absently missing is Izzy. The second-in-command!
There must be some mistake. Izzy is key here. It’s like Laurel without Hardy. Batman without Robin. Scanning the entire wall of toys not a single mention of Izzy. No figures or even a picture of her on any of the boxes. It’s as if Izzy’s existence has been erased from the Fisher-Price world of Jake and the Pirates.
Since I can’t contact Disney directly about this we have to wonder why she’s not there. Maybe she’s not a popular character? After all, popular sells and it’s all about selling. Checking the episode list, she’s in more episodes than Jake himself (36 to 29, not sure how this is possible but let’s roll with it). So it can’t be a question of popularity or else they would have drowned her ass back in Season 1. How about success with the kids? Checking the website she’s actually hosted two shows without Jake (which might contribute to the numbers above) and many of the episodes revolve around Izzy. Izzy is just as popular from what I can tell on all the Disney sites about the show. So that’s not it.
Where does that leave us parents that want to get our girls into things they like and can relate to but without the merchandise to support it. What kind of message does this say to our kids when a primary character who’s second-in-command of a pirate ship is nowhere to be found in our toy stores alongside all the “boy toys”. I did manage to find that Fisher-Price does make a figure set with just Jake, Izzy, and Cubby but I didn’t see that at the store. I find it a little insulting that they excluded the only girl character from the show in something like their Ultimate Pirate Pack. Obviously the second-in-command doesn’t deserve to be included. It makes you wonder. If Izzy was a boy would he have been included in the pack? Or the ship?
It is for this reason we turned down the isle, put the pirate ship back, and moved on. No Fisher-Price and Disney. You will not be getting our money this year.
I’m not alone in this thinking as Melissa Wardy wrote on August 30th of the year with Disney, Where is Izzy?
So here were in full tilt of the Christmas season and Izzy is still AWOL from the store shelves. I wonder how much more merchandise has been absent from the shelves simply because the toy is a girl in a boys world.
My facebook and twitter feeds are filed with parents expressing their hurt, their fear, their grief over what happened at Sandy Hook.
And I’ve had nothing to say.
Nothing I COULD say.
Because the grief is not mine.
The grief belongs to those parents who lost children, to the siblings left behind. The grief is for those families who lost a mother, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece or a nephew.
I cannot claim that grief.
As a parent I ache for the parents and families who grieve the loss of those children and women.
As a member of a close knit community I hurt for the the community grieving the loss of so many innocent lives.
As a member of society I rail against what has happened.
And as a special needs parent, I watch with concern as autism is linked with the words ‘violence’ in the media.
But in the end, I am but a bystander.
I refuse to make this about how I feel. I refuse to make this about the killer – he who shall never be named on my blog.
This is about the victims.
This is about supporting the survivors.
This is about finding hope and peace again.
This is about making sure the names of the victims, not the killer, are remembered.
But this is not about me and it’s not about you.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.
~ Mary Elizabeth Frye
All my life I have been one of those people that others turn to when things go wrong.
Something not working? See if Jenn can fix it.
Having an issue with someone? See if Jenn will deal with it.
Life falling down around you in tiny itty-bitty pieces? Bring it to Jenn to put back together.
And I don’t mind, for the most part.
I like being able to help. I am a problem solver by nature.
But sometimes it can be an isolating experience.
People go off and leave you holding everything and a roll of duct tape because they assume that you’ve got this.
Or people are suffocating with their attention when they need something. But as soon as they are back on track they disappear into the ether.
And while I’m happy that they’re happy… I does make me wonder why I was the one they turned to. Was it because they knew I’d listen? Offer advice? Do what I could to help?
Or was it because they consider me a friend who has their back.
But if I’m such a great friend… when do these same people start asking how I’m doing?
Because that’s the interesting thing… they never do.
The people who do take the time to ask (and care about the answers) are never the people who expect me to drop everything and fix their lives.
Maybe it’s because those people who want their lives fixed for them are too self absorbed to look beyond what they are experiencing in the moment. I don’t honestly know.
All I know is, if you vanish into thin air,when you finally reappear, don’t expect me to still be standing in the same place.
Friendship has become a word that is lightly bandied around. Connected on twitter? Friend. Added on Facebook? Definitely a friend. Someone you have coffee with once in a blue moon? Well then, of course they’re a friend.
As I get older, though, I find that word much more precious and use it more selectively.
Friends are those people who take the time to understand who I am. This isn’t something that happens in one conversation, or even 10. There are people who have known me for years, and yet really don’t know a thing about me.
Oh sure, lots of people think they know me. But those are the people who scratch the surface of who I am and are content to leave it at that.
And I can’t say I fault them for that.
I am an intense personality.
I live my life with purpose.
I am passionate about the things I believe in and the people I care about.
I am direct in my thoughts, words, deeds.
All that can be a lot for people to take in. Intimidating, even.
So, for them, there is ‘JennLite’. The happy-go-lucky, no cares, no worries, superficial version of me.
But is that me? No.
And if that’s the me you know?
Then you don’t know me at all.
Vista has been saving her money and so we went out today to let her pick out a toy. We headed over to the local box store and started wandering up and down the toy aisles.
I made a conscious decision not to skip the first few aisles where the so called/labeled “boys” toys were. I wanted to see what toy Vista would pick when allowed to choose for herself.
She ignored the barbies. She walked right past the dolls. She didn’t even look at the shelves upon shelves of princess and Suzy homemaker stuff.
I will admit I was a little surprised. But instead of asking if she was sure that was what she wanted (and thus making her question her choice), I instead asked her if she wanted to look at anything else or if she was done.
She told me she didn’t want to look anymore and was ready to go.
So we headed home, put together her new toy, and she proceeded to play with it for the next two hours.
It’s always interesting what toys kids will choose when left to be kids rather than assigning the toys genders. Many parents when faced with the same situation would have told their daughter’s “No, sweetie. That’s a ‘boy’ toy,” and dragged their girls to the aisles of pink.
Vista does love pink, and loves to dress up as a princess, but she also loves to play with toy cars and trains. I’m OK with that.
This year for her birthday, we bought her a butterfly net and a kit for catching and examining bugs. She was thrilled and immediately had to go outside and get some ants to look at under the magnifying glass.
I don’t want to limit her scope of play just because she’s female.
When I was in Junior High the girls had to take home-ec and the boys took shop. That was just the way it was and no one questioned it.
I was disgusted. I wanted to take shop! That sounded like a heck of a lot more fun than baking a cake.
I got together a few other girls and we campaigned to be allowed to opt into the shop class instead. We pointed out that it was just as important for us to be able to use tools as it was for boys to be able to cook a meal and sew on a button.
We were lucky. Our administration listened and changed the classes so that both girls and boys each took half a semester of shop and half a semester of home-ec.
That was over 20 years ago.
And still, here we are assigning gender roles to everything.
I would even go so far as to say that we’ve taken several steps backwards in this area (if the PINK Easy-Bake Oven that Vista has is any indication. When I had an Easy Bake it just looked like something you would see in the kitchen. It didn’t need to be pink.)
I will continue to encourage my daughter to play with toys that she enjoys and that encourage her to explore and question her world, because, the last time I checked, toys don’t have genders.
I’ve been keeping a deep dark secret from all of you. Oh I know I promise that I’ll share my life on this blog, but there are some things that are so embarrassing that I hide it. Only my closest friends know my secret.
I’m an addict.
There I said it.
I, Jenn, am addicted to…. nail polish.
I know. It’s so shameful.
And not just the polish. I love the decals and foils and stamps and gems and … well… you get the idea.
Think I’m kidding?
That’s not even all of it. I still have a whole other box on top of that.
It’s my one weakness. My one vice. (well, that and chocolate, but I’m pretty sure I’d die without chocolate so it totally doesn’t count)
I’ve always loved having my nails done. It started with putting on polish with my mom. By by early 20’s I was regular at the nail salon and committed to my acrylic and gel nails, which were more like claws.
Fun fact – I prefer to type with my nails rather than my fingers. No idea why.
Every couple of weeks I had a standing appointment with my nail tech for my fill and manicure. Right up until Vista was born.
The day she was born, she was so tiny and scrawny I discovered that my fake nails got in the way of picking her up. So I sat in my hospital room as she slept and slowly ripped them off, one by one.
That was the last time I had my nails oh so perfect.
Until I started playing around at home.
At first it was just a polish here, a drugstore decal there. But then I discovered nail stamping. And foils. And nail art. And did you know there are whole blogs dedicated to nails? *swoon*
I know, if you ever doubted the fact that I’m crazy, there’s no doubt left now.
But, for me, this is a small and simple way, when you’re constrained on time, money, and energy to feel…well… pretty.
So here are my tips to pretty nails without the salon price:
1.) More expensive doesn’t always mean better. I’ve used everything from Chanel to Essie to OPI to every drugstore brand under the sun. Some of my favorite polish is the cheapest. A lot of my current polishes are actually from Avon and I love them.
2) Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you hate it, that’s why nail polish remover was invented. And if need inspiration for new things to try, look at some nail blogs. They’re filled with pictures and tutorials.
3) It doesn’t have to be perfect. This one took me a while to learn. I wanted my nails to be absolutely perfect the first time. Thankfully I finally grabbed a clue and realized that there are lots of ways to fix your polish mistakes.
- Got polish on the edges of your fingers? Let it dry then dip a q-tip in nail polish remover and get rid of it.
- Smudged your nails? This is a great time to pull out the nails stamps or decals.
- Touched your nail to see if it was dry and left a finger print? Sometimes gently licking your nail will smooth it out (I know, gross… not one I usually try). The other thing to do is another layer of top coat. You would be amazed what a good top coat can smooth over and hide.
Last night when I was doing my nails I totally managed to smudge the top of three of them. Go me. So I did some nail stamping on top and voila! You don’t even notice the smudges!
(just because a lot of people have been asking me about this stamp the past few times I’ve worn it
its from a new Konad plate #M85. If you’re new to nail stamping, there are starter kits you can get).
And if anyone wants to buy me a present I have my eye on the new Konad M84 plate
and the new magnetic polishes *hint* *cough* Bil *hint* *cough*
4)If you don’t need the new nail polish / stamp plate / decals etc right away, order them online. You would be amazed at the deals you can find (yes, even for Canadians).
But most of all… don’t forget to take the time for you!
**Disclaimer** The lovely people at NailPolishCanada.com were kind enough to enable my addiction and provided me with a new Konad Nail Art plate to try out. They carry both of the new Konad plates, M84 and M85, as well as starter kits for those who just want to try it out.
The opinions, however, are all mine as usual (including the part where I think the fact they ship for free in Canada, which no company ever does, is freakin’ awesome).
Just an additional mention about Konad plates…. these are great doing kids nails. I’ve been using them for years to put little flowers or stars on V’s nails. By the time you transfer the stamp polish to your nails it’s dry, so kids won’t smudge it and a quick top coat seals it on so it lasts as long as your polish does. It’s also not raised like a decal, so if you like the look of decals but not the feel of them on your nails, this is a good option.
We’re in that period of time where most of our friends are still in that “how big will our family be” mode.
There are lots of babies being born which is great for me. I get to hug and snuggle to my hearts content and then give them back when they start to stink.
But as we watch our friends through their pregnancies, we sometimes struggle to understand.
Especially when it comes to the screening tests.
We’ve known several people who have gone through the Down’s ‘scare’, and had to have that discussion around whether to abort.
First off let me say I have nothing against abortion. I believe every woman should have the right to control their reproduction.
Where I struggle is when the decision is made because they don’t want to bring a baby into this world who will have a ‘poor’ quality of life.
I want to scream at them “YOU DON’T KNOW! A TEST ISN’T GOING TO TELL YOU THAT!” *sob*
I’ve known children with Downs that is fairly mild and they are otherwise perfectly healthy. The grow into wonderful people with a unique perspective on life and those of us who have had the pleasure of meeting them are so much richer for it.
Had we done those screens when I was pregnant with Vista, everything would have come back completely normal. None of Vista’s issues would have shown up on those tests. And yet we live a life filled with doctors and specialists and hospital visits and therapists and aides.
You don’t know. You cannot predict if a child will be born healthy. Of all the mom’s in my special needs group, exactly zero of them knew they were having a special needs child before they were born.
And had we known, ahead of time, about Vista’s brain malformation we still would have had her.
Yes, it’s sometimes hard having a special needs kid. But? There are the rewards.
I have learned a patience and understanding I never had before.
I have learned never to tell my child what she cannot do, because she will always prove me wrong. The only limits in her world are those placed on her by those who don’t understand that she is amazing and doesn’t know that she’s not supposed to be walking and talking, never mind running and reading.
I have learned not to judge people with disabilities. They are people… with feelings. And disabled does not mean mentally incompetent or unaware. Quite frankly I’ve met more people with disabilities who have more capacity for caring and compassion than those so called ‘normal’ people in my life.
I’ve learned more about the medical world than I ever thought I would. I don’t rush my child to the doctor for every sniffle like a lot of parents do. We’ve learned to discern what’s a cold, what’s a flu, what’s croup, what’s asthma, and when medical care is really necessary. A lot of parents could do with that training.
I have learned what it means to be a friend. I’ll be the first one to admit that I used to be a complete flake. Now, I forge friendships not a slew of passing acquaintances. Want to know if you have real friends? Face a medical emergency and see who’s still standing at the end. I guarantee it won’t be the people you expect.
Having a special needs child has expanded our world in ways we never imagined. I am so glad I didn’t throw away this opportunity to grow as a person when the universe handed it to me.
I was on my friend @Psychmama’s Facebook page the other day and saw that someone had commented on her sharing of the What I Would Tell You post (if you haven’t read it, you really should. Well worth it).
This is the long comment I saw. And of course, I couldn’t help but respond, because, well… I’m me. (click to see it full size)
Caring and ‘getting it’ are two vastly different things.
You can SYMPATHIZE but you cannot EMPATHIZE if you have never been a special needs parent. And there is a deep and wide chasm between sympathy and empathy in the special needs world.
That would be like me telling a doctor that I care so I should be allowed to do surgeries. I guarantee that doctor would be taken aback and insulted.
See… the big difference between special needs parents and someone who hasn’t walked in our shoes is that we see our kids as normal. They are normal to us. They are our children and we live every day with their disability. That is OUR normal. When people come up and try to do the ‘I’m pretending I’m treating your kid like they’re normal’, it pisses us off. Because the first thing you noticed was not their smile or how much they love to laugh. It was that they can’t walk/talk/eat/fill-in-the-disability. So we slap on the fake smile until we can escape and shake our heads about the people who think they understand, but really don’t.
We don’t want pity for our children. We want our children to be accepted for exactly who and what they are; to be treated like any other child. Not to be marked by their challenges. Unfortunately, yes, we are a ways off, as a society, from being there.
And the old ‘God will never give you more than you can handle’ IS bullshit. Because there are days when we are totally overwhelmed with it all. After your child hasn’t slept for weeks, or months, or in many cases, YEARS, you wake up and think ‘I cannot do this today. I just can’t’. And you dream of normalcy. And you have yourself a good cry in the shower before you go on with your day. Because being a special needs parent isn’t easy.
I won’t lie. There are the good parts. I’ve met lots of wonderful people because my daughter is special needs. But those friendships are not like normal friendships. Dawn and I have spent the last month supporting one of our friends who’s daughter has been close to death in the hospital. Every day we are there to listen, to research, to offer advice, and just to be there while she cries. And then we go back to our lives and cry ourselves because that could be our child in the hospital and part of us is so glad it’s not. But we understand on a level that most people can’t. And that is why, in crisis, we turn to parents who have been through what we’ve been through. Parents who can speak in medical terminology and acronyms, for that is the secret language of special needs.
And being friends with special needs parents brings other challenges. If anyone has so much as a sniffle, playdates are cancelled. They’re also cancelled because their kids or mine are feeling too overwhelmed/tired/anxious/overloaded/overstimulated on that particular day. Parents of normal kids get frustrated when we cancel last minute because of these things. Special needs parents just say ‘Oh, no worries. I totally understand,’ and you know they do, because the next time it will be their turn to cancel.
Special needs kids are wonderful and unique and challenging. As much as I love my daughter, I would never wish a special needs child on anyone. Not because I think they are ‘less than’, but because there is so much that goes on day-to-day that cannot be shown on some TV show. I’m talking about the doctors appointments, meeting with therapists, documenting of medicines, organizing of supports, purchasing of special support equipment, dosing meds, special exercises and the list goes on and on. So much of our days are consumed living with special needs rather than living with a child.
Therapists don’t parent our children. They are not nannies. They give us the resources to help our children reach their milestones. But much of the actual work, still falls to us, the parents. Where you would sit and play with your child, we consider what developmental area we’d like to work on and pick toys or activities appropriate to that.
When you leave the house, what’s the first thing you pack? Diapers? Oh your child is potty trained? Yeah, my almost 5yr old isn’t. Special needs, you know. How about meds? Oh you don’t need to carry a med case? Ours goes everywhere with us. Inhalers, spacer, anticonvulsant, oral steroids, fever meds, allergy meds, pulse-ox, stethoscope, thermometer, and of course My Little Pony bandaids…can’t forget those for when her balance goes and she does a faceplant in the gravel. And then we have to make sure we’re home in time to give her the evening doses of meds (unless we make a special point to pack those and bring those with us). This is all part of normal life for us. Not the glamorized medical docu-drama you see on TV.
You seem to have romanticized being a special needs parent. For that reason I hope you never are, because your world would come crashing down. Being a special needs parent is being vomited on every day (sometimes several times a day) for years. Being a special need parent is wiping feces off walls from kids who should be old enough to know better. Being a special need parent is cleaning up tube feeds that have spilled the entire contents of the feed bag over the floor. That is being a special needs parent. It’s the furthest thing from glamorous.
Is it rewarding, though? Yes, in the way that parenting any child is rewarding. You celebrate the milestones and the successes. They just don’t always come where and when you expect them.
But when you come up to a special needs parent and tell them you would love to have a special needs child, don’t be surprised if the reaction is less than favorable.
Way back in July I wrote a post about someone. I took it down a few months later because, thankfully, it no longer seemed relevant.
Today, I republished it after it was brought to my attention that this person is back to her old patterns. Same person, different name.
I kind of dread Christmas, in a way, for this reason. It’s a holiday filled with generosity and giving. It also a holiday filled with scammers, grifters, and con artists.
I’m not saying this person is any of those things.
I’m just asking you to do your due diligence before you donate.
If you really want to do good, there are lots of registered charities and organizations that would love your donations (your local food bank would be a huge one, this time of year).
But please be cautious of people who constantly ask for money on the internet.
I understand that desire to help, but it’s easy for people to create false identities and stories online to take advantage of people’s good nature.
The only reason I post this is to save my friends (who I know are all generous beyond belief) from being taken advantage of during the holidays.
So here we go again…
First we have to set the story
Then comes the ‘ask’…
And when that doesn’t get anywhere, you simply (and subtly) tweet each child’s wishlist
The request for retweets about her plight
Annnnd…the inevitable discrepencies
So, the money at her job is pretty good, but she’s so broke she can’t afford gifts for her kids, but can afford a new kindle, buy books for her kindle, and is saving her gift cards to buy the even newer model (rather then buying gifts for her children)…. To each their own, I guess.
You know you’re finally grown up when you can forgive your parents for all the mistakes they made raising you and start making your own mistakes with your children.
Our parents weren’t perfect. Just like we’re not perfect parents now.
And you know what? That’s OK.
Because we’re only human (your parents too… hard to believe, I know).