Friday, January 27, 2012

“Mama, the theme for my new bedroom will be fairytales, dinosaurs, and broccoli . . . or carrots.”

ready for SCIENCE
There is no denying my older daughter has eclectic tastes.  And there is no trying to tie her down to one description.  She knows what she likes and she sticks to it.  She loves pink, and she loves dinosaurs.  Always has.  She refuses to cut her hair because she wants to look like Rapunzel, and she is most comfortable in a pair of jeans and a science shirt (dinosaurs, microscopes, Stemgent, etc).  She is boy crazy already (even though she is only 7) and has plans for dating a lot when she gets older, but she doesn’t really want to be a mom.  She wants to have dogs instead of kids and wants to focus on her career as a hockey playing paleontologist.  She can sing most of the Disney princess songs, and can name most of the dinosaurs and paleontologists she sees, and can skate and take checks like a grown man.  I am constantly amazed by how strongly and passionately she embraces three worlds – the girly princess and the science geek and the tomboy.  What a wonderful, interesting, full world lies ahead for her!

cheering on her favorite team
Then I think about the little (and full grown) girls out there who don’t get a chance to be lots of things at once, who don’t know what they are passionate about.  Or the girls and women who know what they love, but don’t feel they can openly live out their dreams.  How sad is that?  And not just in far removed countries with laws created to shut women out.  There the burkas, curfews, regulations, limitations blatantly, opaquely define what a woman can and cannot do.  Here in Midwestern America, things are more subtle.  The eyebrows that go up when Sofi starts talking about science.  The people who laugh at her and then say, “Oh, well, she’ll grow out of it.”  When she talks about hockey they say, “That’s a nice way for her to meet a boyfriend, but I don’t think that is an appropriate activity for a girl.” (Even though girls have been playing hockey since the beginning of the sport.)  When she wears her Stemgent shirt and proudly tells people she wants to be a scientist and work with Lia Kent at Stemgent, it is not uncommon to hear actual gasps.  Why is this so shocking?  It is 2012, and women have been studying science, making incredible discoveries for hundreds of years.  At this point, her stubborn side (well, stubborn WHOLE) prevents her from being deterred by other people’s views of her hobbies.  But what about the girls who DO care what people think?  How is society blocking them in, shutting them off from other areas?  Telling them that "like a girl" means weak or vane or less intelligent.

So what can we do?  Give our kids options and lead by example.  For little boys as well as little girls.  Will it really kill them if we let the boy play in the kitchen and the girl play with Star Wars Legos?  Will they really be teased that much if the girl wears blue and the boy wears pink?  And who will tease them most: kids or adults?  The adults, in my experience, are the most judgmental and limiting.  They are the ones who set up these gender roles and teach them to their children.  Kids don’t care until the adult tells them, “That is wrong and I am right.”  When my younger daughter wanted to cut all her hair off, I was nervous because of what the adults in our community might think.  Then I came to my senses, adopted her courage, and realized I have to set the example and not force her against her will to adhere to illogical gender norms.  Does hair length really matter in the end?  Nope.  Is she thrilled with her short hair?  Yup.  Have some people questioned the decision? Of course.  Does she care? Not yet.

And in case you were wondering, my younger daughter is planning a Star Trek themed bedroom.  She likes other things, too, but dreams of living on the Enterprise (she already has a shuttlecraft bed).  Here she is with her favorite things (doll dress from here, Alice in Wonderland tutu dress from here, Cpt Kirk and Darth Vader from here).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

“Hey, Mom, did you buy this on Etsy?”

Not an uncommon question.  That and the request to window shop Etsy.  Of course my girls like my shop, but they really love other people’s shops more.  They have become just as addicted to the online marketplace as I have!

At first I was skeptical.  I am not a naturally trusting person.  My husband has had bad luck with buying things from Amazon and Ebay, so I wasn’t sure Etsy would be any different.  But I like selling things there, so why not buy things there, too?  I mean, I am an honest person, so why not assume that other sellers are as well?  I have had a few bad experiences (cranky sellers, really late delivery, and two items have turned out the wrong color).  But I learned from those bad choices and from the blog Etsy itself puts out for sellers to learn how to identify low risk, reliable shops.  Here are a few of my favorite shops and tips for what to look for.

Unisex hand embroidered - Halloween skeleton shorts - Dancing calaca
get it here

Friendly Sales People

Read profiles.  Really.  It is a good clue as to whether or not a seller takes pride in his/her craft.  And it lets you know how serious they are about being a good seller.  When I read Chez Marmota’s profile, I loved that she was dedicated to reusing, creating, and supporting the preschool she was working at.  The fact that she was selling a sweatshirt with a walrus was just the final straw and I had to shop.  The back and forth pleasant chatting that happened after the sale made me feel confident I had made the right choice.  I wasn’t just shopping a big box store, giving my money to some far away man who had nothing to do with his products.  I was giving my money to someone like me.  I now have a long list of things to buy from her shop in the future.

Jupiter Seen Through A Porthole Vinyl Wall Decal
get it here

Shop Policies

There is nothing like getting a junky product and then realizing you can’t return it.  While Etsy encourages sellers to fill in their shop policies, not everyone does.  That’s a red flag that they are going to handle issues in a professional manner.  Yes, people shop Etsy like a craft show or flea market, but the sellers still need to be serious, professional business people with plans for how to handle any problems which may arise and plans for how to keep customers informed.  WilsonGraphics, another of my favorite shops (my older daughter has a large chalkboard decal, and my younger daughter has two portholes with views of outer space), did a great job filling in their shop policies.  You can tell this family is doing this as a serious and legit business.  I was 100% happy with the level of communication, service, and product I received.  No question was left unanswered.  And I knew exactly what to expect.

American Girl Sized Tangled  Rapunzel Costume
get it here

Read Feedback

On Etsy, it really is rare to find negative feedback.  If a shop has a low percentage of positive feedback, be forewarned.  Read through what the complaints are.  Are they related to the product you want to purchase?  Do they seem like legitimate complaints or just people being unreasonable?  I shop on Etsy a lot and have only not left positive feedback twice.  It is so worth it to check first.  Want an example of positive feedback?  Check out Enchanted Designer.  She earned that 100% happy customer rating.  Her products are well made, shipping is fast, descriptions are accurate, and her customers appreciate it.

Finally, Live and Learn

Find a shop you like?  Stick with them.  Here are a few shops I have multiple products from:

Catnip Eyeballs (Pair)


Handmade Barbie clothes - bright pink satin gown with boa

Have you ever seen a smack of jellyfish: an alphabet book

and of course, my shop  ;)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Христос рождається!

One of the perks of having a Ukrainian dad and American mom is that my girls get two of almost every holiday.  American Independence Day, Ukrainian Independence Day.  New New Year’s Eve, Old New Year’s Eve.  Western Easter, Orthodox Easter.  Same is true for Christmas.  They celebrate American Christmas with my family – Santa Claus, Jingle Bells, etc. in December.  Then in January, they get Ukrainian Christmas – kutya, baby Jesus, etc.  They love it. 

We try to keep the two holidays separate, not putting the traditions of one in with the other.  So Santa comes only once in December.  We spend that holiday with my family eating our traditional foods (ham, clam chowder, lots of brownies and candy canes).  In January, we focus on baby Jesus, the girls get gifts from my husband and me and my husband’s family, and we eat traditional Ukrainian foods.  Because we live in America now, obviously the December Christmas gets a lot more hype.  The challenge for us is to find ways to make the Ukrainian traditions seem just as special.  We found that the easiest way to show the girls how cool their Ukrainian heritage can be is to invite non-Ukrainians to celebrate with us.  When the girls are teaching others about their traditions and seeing how excited people get about the cool, unusual foods, the girls get more excited and realize how special those traditions can be.

This year we invited a new group of friends to celebrate with us.  Two of my friends brought their teenage sons to our Ukrainian Christmas Eve dinner.  The presence of those two boys was invaluable!  First, they are boys my daughters know from church and who my daughters look up to.  Second, both young men came with open minds and no negativity.  Even though some of the food we served was a little strange to them, neither made “ewww” faces (at least not in front of us) or showed any attitude about trying new ethnic food.  They politely said, “No, thank you,” to some of the dishes and then took seconds and thirds of the things they did like.  I loved watching my older daughter watch the boys eating and trying “her” food.  When one of them raved about the varenyky, she beamed with pride.  She is a huge fan of borsht, so she took great joy in watching him try it.  She had fun showing her old USSR cartoons and explaining a Ukrainian story to them.  She proudly dressed up in her Ukrainian style clothes to show them as well.  The affirmations she received from those two young men built up a pride in her which I hope she hangs onto.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tri-Lingual Tea Party

"Mama, I gonna make all my dolls talk. Addy speaks Ukrainian. Josefina speaks Russian, and that other one speaks English."

I love having multilingual kids.  Comes in very handy when we travel overseas, for example.  I am a dunce with languages – to the great annoyance of my in-laws – but my older daughter has no trouble understanding English, Ukrainian, and basic Russian.  She is quite a useful translator. 

My younger daughter (pictured above with her multilingual tea party . . . not sure what language the beluga whale was speaking) is in speech therapy now, something most people predicted and “warned” us would be needed.  We’re not concerned, though.  With a little bit of extra attention, her English is catching right up with her classmates.  While she may have trouble pronouncing some English words, we still feel the benefits of being able to pronounce any Ukrainian words outweigh the negatives.

One really funny myth we hear a lot about multilingual kids is that they can automatically switch 100% from one language to another and never get them mixed up.  Maybe that is true for some kids, but we loved our daughters’ mixed speech.  When our older daughter was learning to talk, we were living in Ukraine and she was exposed to all three languages on a consistent daily basis.  As a result, she would often speak all three languages in one sentence, sometimes in one word.  She combined the English “hi” with the Ukrainian “preeveet” and said “Hi-veet!”  She mixed Ukrainian “papa” (bye-bye) with the Rusian “paka” and would say, “papa-paka!”  

Our younger daughter picked up Ukrainian words first because at the time she was starting to talk, my husband was home full-time and I was working full-time.  Once she started to add the English, we often found her opting for the easier to say word.  Some words she just couldn’t be bothered to learn in English because the Ukrainian was just better.  Like “soska” instead of “pacifier”.  “De Mama?” instead of “Where’s Mama?”  She still makes animal noises the Ukrainian way.

Sadly, we still overhear people making snarky anti-immigrant comments when we are out in public and my husband speaks Ukrainian to the girls.  Things like, “Learn English or leave!” “Damn, you can’t go anywhere and hear OUR language any more.” Or the person who complained about hearing Spanish everywhere (Ukrainian and Spanish don’t sound alike at all, by the way).  For now, my husband’s selective hearing shields him, and the girls don’t understand why anyone would hate their Tato or his language, so they just shrug off the comments assuming they were about someone else.  Some day they will have to deal with the anti-immigrant crowd, but hopefully by then they will have a strong enough sense of self worth and love for their father, their country, and their heritage as children of an immigrant to not let it bug them or deter them from having future tri-lingual tea parties.

Psst . . . I have an Etsy shop, too . . .