Monday, January 28, 2013

Financial Fast February

I never thought I'd say this but  . . . Hi, my name is Taylor and I'm a shopaholic   I don't buy cool things, or fancy things, or things for myself (mostly).  I buy fruit snacks, and coloring books, and things from this list.  When goldfish drop to a dollar, I buy at least 10 packages.  I buy electric shoe drying racks for my poor bike-commuter husband.   I buy stickers, and colored paper, and fleece lined shoes for Miss M. so that she can leave the house without socks (and the accompanying 45 minutes of crying and adjusting said socks).  I buy googly eyes and glitter glue, and fancy paper plates with animals faces.  I buy bins, and organizers, and label makers.  I buy white board calendars so I can meal plan more easily.  I go back to the store and buy colored dry-erase markers and a magnetic bin to store them.  I buy kale, quinoa and organic coconut oil because I hear that they are healthy (usually they go bad).  I buy pre-cut bags of broccoli so I will snack on them instead of buttered popcorn.  It doesn't work.  I also buy sugar snap peas for the same reason.  More wasted food.   I buy picture frames, and maps of the united states.  I buy enough sippy cups so that we will be prepared if all of my kids' friends come over at the same time.  I buy and buy and buy.

Yet, I don't see myself as materialistic.  I buy because each of these items make me feel like our household will run smoother, or my kids creativity will bloom, or my husband will feel more loved and appreciated. That's my job.  To take care of our household.  That's where I have chosen to focus my energies.   But somewhere along the way, I've equated a large part of doing this with buying things.  And I don't think that's true.  But it's going to be a hard habit to break.

On Saturday, we were having a quiet day at home.
     "Let's get out of the house and go to Costco," I told my husband.
     "Why? Do we need anything?"
     "No, I thought we could just go look and see . . ."

Right then and there I realized I had a problem. My entertainment had become shopping.  When did this happen?  How did this happen?  As a teenager and even newly married woman, I HATED shopping.  But now . . .it is just so much fun to see my kids faces when I say yes, we can buy that.  But that is not the message I want to send to my children.  I do not want them to think they get new toys or treats, or art supplies on a frequent basis.  I want them to learn to be happy with what they have.

This evening we are having a family meeting to discuss  Financial Fast February.  Here are the rules.  

  1. We will not buy anything extra during the month of February.  
  2. Groceries are okay but no eating out or buying treats.  
  3. If something major happens (like the car breaks down) we will take care of it but we will do our best to stick to only true NEEDS.    
  4. As a family we will discuss if there are any specific events in the month that would require an exception.
  5. At the end of the month, each kid will pick a charity to donate some of the money we saved.
I'm embarrassed to admit this, but I think it will be hard.  but it will be good and a great way to remind ourselves what are needs and what are wants.  

If any of this resonates with you, consider joining us.  After all February is the shortest month.  

Monday, January 21, 2013

There's Always Tomorrow

Everyone in my family has the stomach flu. It's been a blur of children piled half-awake on the couch in their jammies while holding their respective barf bowls. We've subsisted on toast and Gatorade as we nap our way through cartoons.  And the laundry- Oh the laundry!

Sunshine, my three-year-old, came into my room tonight, her cheeks rosy with fever. I was working on my laptop, trying to finish something I was behind on, and she asked if she could snuggle with me.

"Okay, but no talking because I'm working," I say.

"Okay mommy." At which point she decides to sing an exuberant song:

"And then FINALLYYYY mommy got off her laptop, and FINALLLY she turned on Ariel and we snuggled and FINALLY she was done on her laptop...."

I teeter between annoyed and amused. I tell her to go brush her teeth with daddy while I finish up. I set down my laptop when she comes in and she climbs into bed next to me. I kiss her forehead, she kisses mine and we giggle.

"Did you know you are my favorite little girl in the whole wide world?" I ask.

"You're the best mommy in the world."

Oh. My heart. I live for these sappy moments.

I tell her to turn over and I tickle her back, hoping she will fall asleep. Her skin is hot and I watch her eyelids flutter between sleep and consciousness.

Then she turns and faces me and lucidly proclaims "Mommy, now I tickle your back."  

"No, no, I'm okay. How about I sing," I say.

I sing You are my Sunshine in my softest whisper, at which point she breaks out into her own rendition of  "You are my mommy, my only mommy."

Gradually, her giggles and questions fade until I hear the faint rhythm of a snore. I look at her cherubic face and feel a pang of guilt for all the times I've turned her away today when she asked to snuggle, because I was busy.

I picture my elderly self, hunched and gray, dialing her number with a shaky hand, hoping to ease the aches and loneliness of old age with the sound of my daughter's voice.

"Sorry mom. I'm so busy- could you call me back later?"

I make a promise to myself to be more present, to sing more songs and share more giggles. To spend more time looking into my childrens' eyes and less time staring at screens or doing chores.

Tomorrow, I will be better. Tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A Plea to Toy Companies and Consumers

It was a few days before Christmas, and my husband and I found ourselves stumbling around the toy store and fumbling through nearly-empty shelves, trying to find a few good toys last minute. We'd realized that my son's big present from Santa might not arrive in the mail on time and we wanted something special for under the tree in case it didn't come.

I found myself in the girl's section- an endless row of pink and sparkles and everything toy companies consider girly. I joked to Cameron that we should look for the "Shop till you cook" game we'd heard one comedian joke about. I usually roll my eyes when I am in the girl's section. Don't get me wrong, I am a girly girl and I grew up playing with Barbie, but as a mother I step cautiously when it comes to the dolls I let Sunshine play with. In a culture where eating disorders have reached epidemic proportions and beauty is so narrowly defined, I worry about the messages my daughter picks up. I suppose "worry" is an understatement; My anxiety about how to navigate this whole issue is something I struggle with continually.

Nothing could prepare me for what I came across. I knew it was bad... I'd seen the completely unrealistic proportions of Barbie before... but what I saw hit me like semi.

These images came up in google search- I don't own them.

They are called "Winx" and the picture really doesn't do it justice (maybe the camera does add ten pounds). In person, this thing looked... sick.

 Barbie is generally curvy and resembles a very exaggerated female figure, but this doll (which I can't find the exact picture of- darn it) looked like the poster girl for eating disorders.

The Winx dolls were nestled right next to the Monster High dolls.

Which resemble anorexic girls dressed up in "monster/tart" costumes.

And finally, I came across the "La Dee Da" line.  The picture speaks for itself.

These are not human proportions. They aren't even exaggerated human proportions. At this rate, I'm pretty sure the next doll line will look something like this:

I try to be open-minded and give toy companies the benefit of the doubt. I'm sure they do a lot of market research and spend a substantial amount of time and money trying to create something that will sell. I just wish they would take a page from the Hippocratic oath and make "do no harm" a part of their design plan.

Here are just a few sobering statistics from The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD):

• Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents.
• 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25.8
• 25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.
• The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old
• Up to 24 million people of all ages and genders suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorder) in the U.S.
• Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
• 47% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported wanting to lose weight because of magazine pictures.
• 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
• 42% of 1st-3rd grade girls want to be thinner.
• 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat.

You see, my daughter's cheeks are full with baby fat and she is just beginning to understand her body for all that it can do. She gallops across the house and jumps on the furniture. She is in a ballet class and breaks out her sweet ballet moves whenever we turn on the radio.

She loves herself.

Here she is modeling a pig hat with a red shirt and tutu. She is also in the process of finding her own unique sense of style. It's pretty awesome.

Cocooned in her innocence, she has yet to feel self-conscious about her appearance. She is keenly aware of which color dress each Disney princess wears. "Not the blue Cinderella dress, but the purple Rapunzel one," she'll declare as we pick out her outfit. Thankfully, the movies and dolls she plays with have only seemed to influence her clothing color. But, she's constantly changing. She's paying attention to the way she fits into this world. No matter how many times I tell her how strong and intelligent and kind she is, she keeps asking me if she is "cute" and "bootyful". "Of course!" I answer. But oh, how I worry.

While I was in the doll aisle, the only dolls I found that I would get for my little girl were Barbie dolls. One was an astronaut costume for Barbie. The other was a Barbie doll dressed as a teacher.

Thank you, Barbie. You're not perfect, but in a sea of boxes filled with sickly-thin bobble-headed tarts, you are a breath of fresh air.

Parents- please don't give this crap a market. Just don't buy it. Toy companies- please, please, please stop making this crap.

For the sake of my chubby cheeked, crooked pigtailed, gap-toothed little girl who is completely aware of just how awesome and "bootyful" she is- let's not let her, or any other little girl, lose sight of that.