and she's chosen to believe in the hymns her mother sings; sunday pulls its children from their piles of fallen leaves

One of Ethan's favorite things to do is get a temporary tattoo at our local Sanrio store. If you've never been in a Sanrio store, let me set the scene for you: flashy chandeliers that twinkle up high on an iridescent ceiling, shelves and displays filled with bright colored art supplies, accessories and an abundance of beyond adorable stuffed critters with big-eyes and sweet sewn-on smiles. There is glitter and sparkle and, of course, Hello Kitty. "Kee-tee," as Ethan joyfully declares upon spotting one of the many (...many) stuffed Hello Kitty dolls sitting atop a shelf or embellished onto a sequined tank-top. To a child, I imagine a set-up like this can only be described as magical, a sensory overload of things that glitter and shine and basically scream out "snuggle me! Cuddle me! Keep me for always!" Yet it seems each time we step foot in the store, there is some onlooker who, with well intentions, finds something awry with the situation. This past time, it was a grandmother whispering to her next-in-line granddaughter that the little boy isn't going to be getting a glitter tattoo because he was a boy, meant in assurance that she was next and we were merely on line to ask a question. I didn't say a word when Ethan's turn came, when he stuck out his arm and chose blue and black glitter to make up his Hello Kitty tattoo.

Perhaps it's just me, but I fail to see the correlation between strangeness and a child who enjoys glitz and glitter and fuzzy stuffed animals. After all, this gender stereotyping is all learned behavior taught by adults with their own flawed ideals of normalcy. And, really, as the mother of a boy, this hurts me. It hurts, overwhelms and frustrates me that my boy is supposed to be numb to the magic of flashing lights and stuffed animals, that he's supposed to only take an interest in dogs -- but not cats, the very animals who he spends his days with at his home -- or that he must be told no to something he truly does enjoy because it's for girls. Because certain animals are for boys and others are for girls. Because brushing glitter onto a child's arm in the shape of their favorite character is somehow only meant for girls, a sentence that confuses me as much to type because I just can't bring myself to understand the lack of logic behind it's formation. Really, it doesn't make sense. Boy things and girl things are ideas that adults have come up with in their heads and, really, are oppressive to the imagination and innocence that exists in the heart of a child. Of my child.

When I found out I was pregnant with a boy, I was hammered with questions about my readiness to immerse myself in sports and skinned knees and sweat and dirt and pick-up trucks. I couldn't understand the logic then, but my innocent enough retorts were shot down with a blanket "you'll see when he gets here" or "that's what you think, just wait." If we're being honest, regardless of if Ethan was a boy or a girl, I was nervous about having a child who was interested in playing sports. After all, there's nothing that says girls can't be athletes or spend their days in gym shorts and rolling in mud, right? This fear of athleticism was frightening to me because I am not an athlete, because I am a poetic, old soul who would have no idea how to align my heart in it's entirely with someone who was so immersed in athletics. My mother and my sister have this bond that I will never share with my mother, as much as she loves me and as much as I love her, because they are so very alike in a place deep inside their souls that I have never been close to aligning with. I have feared that I would feel lost and unsure of how to understand my child should we be wired so very differently. It wasn't a selfish fear that they would like something that I wouldn't, but a helpless fear of not wanting to isolate them and bring them to loneliness when I just couldn't push my heart to understand them in the way they deserved to be understood, in the way I'd only hoped as a teenager that my mother could understand me (and sometimes even now, as an adult). This wasn't a fear limited to having a boy, I'd explain, but this was no use against a just wait and see.

So I waited. And I saw. I waited and saw my sweet, sensitive boy with a heart for music and a love for art deeper than I could have ever understood a toddler having. He doesn't play rough with the other boys, he doesn't toss balls or run and fall in the dirt, but he cautiously sits and plays quietly, sweetly, gently. And while I am not writing off his personality as it is at almost two years to his permanent adult state, I can say that as of right now, my son is not an athlete. He is not a contender for toddler soccer or t-ball or a competitive sport setting. And that's okay.

But what amazes, confuses and horrifies me most is how to most people, it seems to not be okay. There seems to be some unspoken cultural rule where having a boy means he must play sports and love it, dirt on his face and blood on his knees, roughhousing with the other boys after a rigorous game of play. The general public, they refuse to accept otherwise. It's a stigma in American culture that I cannot stand more than, well, I've ever not been able to stand something. "Music lessons? What's wrong with sports?" People will ask me this and I will silently wonder if they have never heard a male musician before or seen the work of a male artist or watched a film with a male actor in the lead role. I will wonder if they've never hurt or cried or heard a song that touched them to the very core of their soul. And maybe they haven't -- and for that, it's them that I pity.

My husband played football in high school until he quit the team to play bass guitar in a band. "But he's so big," people would say then, as if his size overruled what was in his heart, as if he was more valuable miserable on a football field than in his element on stage with his band. Having dated my husband since we were fifteen, I hold no memories of him as a football player. My teenage memories in their entirety are wrapped around his years as a musician, the years that made me fall in love with his sensitivity and soul. When people ask me what my husband thinks, not enlisting Ethan into any sports activities or "letting him" sit and create beautiful art for hours on end, I laugh. What does my husband think? That our son is a beautiful, sweet, smart boy who deserves every last bit of happiness that this world has to offer and that he will feel whole and he will feel complete because it is our job as his parents to make him feel that way. My husband thinks what I do: that no adult has the right to steal the magic of youth and innocence away from a child over something so silly as a cat painted in glitter that washes away after five days, that our son has a beautiful heart capable of so much good and so much beauty. That our son is who he is and we will love him, every bit of him, for who he is and who he becomes. Regardless of if he plays sports or wins a Grammy. Regardless of if he joins the baseball team or directs his first independent film in high school.

These are the same wishes we share for any future children, regardless of if they're boys or girls. Regardless of if they love athletics or art or the novel concept that they could be capable of liking both. It is the same wish and want that I can't imagine any parent not wanting for their own children: a wish for happiness, for complacency, for understanding that they have no limits in this vast world. Perhaps it's idealistic for me to believe that as adults, we should encourage our children to explore the deepest depths of their hearts rather than to limit themselves to fit absolutely irrational, insane societal norms, but I've never been afraid of idealism. Something about having hope that maybe, just maybe, children can be children without a struggle.


proof eyewear review

(Isn't it too early for the "mom, you're embarrassing me!" phase?) Anyway, I'm ridiculously excited to be posting this review of my sweet new sunglasses from Proof Eyewear today. My husband and I first heard of Proof on an episode of Shark Tank and before the episode had a chance to finish airing in it's entirety, I was already on the internet browsing through Proof's amazing, eco-friendly line of eyewear in absolute awe. If you've been reading this blog for a while, it's no secret that I like to keep things as eco-friendly and natural as possible around here. Ethan's plastic cups have been replaced with stainless steel and a great deal of our plastic usage followed suit. Part of the reason Proof glasses first appealed to me, other than the fact they're absolutely gorgeous, would be that the bulk of the styles are made of wood. The few that aren't wood are made from a plant-based acetate frame -- completely renewable and 100% biodegradable. That alone is just awesome, right?

I also love the story behind Proof, a family founded company comprised of three brothers who devote their success to their grandfather, who owned and operated a sawmill. Having grown up working with wood in the family sawmill, they saw to it to create a line of eyewear that isn't just stylish, but ecofriendly and unique. Each pair of Proof glasses are handcrafted from completely sustainable materials. In case I'm not fully conveying my point about how amazing Proof, as a company, is, I should point out that a percentage from each sale goes to non-profit organizations that provide sight giving surgeries to people with cataracts.

I was completely captivated by my Proof glasses from the moment I pulled this wooden box from the packaging. Because the case is made up of wood, each one is custom and unique. I love the laser-etched details within each pair of Proof glasses and the case, such as the wind-up bird logo or the quote on each inside arm.

I had selected the Gato Bamboo Polarized wood frames and they totally took my breath away from the first time I saw them. If I'm being honest here, I've never actually owned a pair of sunglasses that are equal parts stylish and functionality. I'm guilty of picking up pair after pair of dollar bin sunglasses that wind up snapped in half in the backseat of my car somewhere after a run in with a cranky toddler. The fate of those dollar bin glasses never phase me as it's not like they completely do their job anyway. My mother has told me ever since I was a teenager that she refuses to drive with me when it's sunny out -- and in Florida, that's always -- because it makes her crazy how I'm always squinting into the sun. Some of the cheap, plastic frames that I've picked up over the years to remedy that problem -- well, they don't fix much. I'm typically still squinting into the sun, albeit with sunglasses on. From the moment I put these Proof frames on for the first time, I was amazed by how well they worked. (I might have even called my husband at work to gush about well they worked. You know, if we're being honest.) The sun was completely blocked from my eyes.

The lenses on these glasses provide 100% UVA/UVB protection. I wore them every time I drove over the past couple of weeks and was amazed that the squinting and glare was completely gone. They did an absolutely flawless job at blocking the sun from my eyes. It's a whole new world to be driving or be outdoors and be able to see without the brutal rays of the sun in your eyes, and I say this as a born-and-raised Florida girl.

Over the past few days, we got our 90+ degree weather back and so yesterday afternoon was spent poolside. I gave my Proof glasses the ultimate chance to prove themselves against a scorching South Florida afternoon outdoors and they held up their end of the bargain.

The quality of these frames and the attention to detail is absolutely obvious with the first look. Each frame is polished with and coated with a water and sweat protective layer, and even the hinges are a quality stainless steel. My favorite part about these glasses would be the unique details that happen naturally because they're crafted from wood. No two pairs of glasses are the same for that reason, and that just makes them so special and beautiful.

I'm definitely hooked on Proof eyewear -- and because they do have prescription ready frames, I'm sure it'll only be a matter of time before my husband winds up with a pair, too. You can't help but fall in love with these glasses from the first look, but you'll also never want to take them off when you realize how absolutely well they work.

TO BUY: Start your shopping now at Proof's website. (Check them out on Facebook and Twitter, too!)


tot school - 21 months

We completed our first week of our letters curriculum this past week and it was a blast! It was, of course, A week and while I didn't have too many overly exciting ideas for this week, Ethan was still so excited to be back into the swing of things with our regular tot school activities.

We live in Florida which means that alligators are pretty typical. My parents have a lake house up in Central Florida that sits on a huge lake that is filled with alligators. I wanted to incorporate alligators and their habitats into this week's lesson on the letter A somehow but was having some trouble finding a toy alligator. By pure luck, we found one for a dollar at Deals in the pet toy aisle and so Ethan's alligator habitat was born!

Since alligators nest in the muddy waters, I mixed some baking cocoa powder in with some water until it got thick and goopy. I made some "pollution" with beads and cardboard and paired this activity with a little fish net. The point was for Ethan to clear all of the garbage and pollution out of the alligator's habitat using the fishing net and place the garbage into a "garbage jar." He loved the idea of cleaning up the alligator's home, even if I had to keep singing the clean-up song from our My Gym classes, and he loved getting his fingers messy in the chocolatey mud. He kept the cardboard pieces in the habitat and treated them as little docks for the alligator to climb on and lay on. He really loved this toy alligator, too -- I think he took it everywhere with him this week once it was all cleaned off. It's been really amazing watching his imagination kick in to the point where he loves to play with the alligator and make it do things or say things.

While at Deals (I wonder if they're hiring spokespeople -- I fit the bill, apparently), I found a little antelope that you stick in a container of water and over a few days it grows six-hundred times it's size. There was really no fitting activity for why we were seemingly drowning the little antelope in a vat of water, but Ethan was sure it was just going "night night" so it really didn't need much explaining. Instead, I just wrote out a card about the antelope living in Africa to familiarize him more with the look of the capital and lowercase A. Actually, this antelope got huge after a few days, but reeked of pretty nasty chemicals when it was done growing so I kept it more or less out of Ethan's reach. It was still cool to watch it grow!

Ethan also used a Do-A-Dot marker to make a capital and lowercase A. Since the paper was white and the dots were red, I put out a blue marker for this activity to use the colors of the American flag. (See what I did there? American flag!) He didn't really like this activity very much. For each dot he'd put in the correct place, he'd put another dot elsewhere, or on the table, or on the floor. Toddlers.

One tot tray that was a huge hit this week was the airplane tray. I printed out a dotted capital A and found a little airplane figurine at Deals. Ethan's job was to drive the airplane over the shape of the A which he happily did over and over and over again. This was one of his favorite activities this week, even if it provoked a huge meltdown each time we had to leave the tot school room without the airplane.

Another one of Ethan's favorite trays would be a letter A matching game. I printed out some pictures of things that begin with the letter A, and wrote what each one was. Ethan had a second set of corresponding pictures to match to the first ones. He wanted to this one repeatedly each day until the end of the week when he got bored of the same basic pictures to keep matching.

I also found this huge styrofoam airplane for a dollar at Deals and knew it would be perfect for A week. Ethan decorated the airplane himself using EZPaint and then we brought it out back to do some airplane flying.

As a fun "A week" project this week, we made applesauce! Before his Kindermusik class, Ethan and I stopped at the grocery store to pick up some organic apples. Ethan really liked making applesauce -- we made it in the crockpot and the house smelled so good all day! -- because there was so much he could do. Aside from slicing the apples, which I did for him, he basically did it all: placed the apples into the crockpot (not without sneaking some bites here and there), poured in the applejuice and shook the cinnamon onto the apples.

We made a lot of A week art this week. Ethan's still crazily obsessed with making art. We did a spur of the moment beading activity using pipecleaners: Ethan put beads onto the pipe cleaners and I helped twist them into an A shape for him.

Once of Ethan's favorite art projects was the "magic A." We did this with a capital and lowercase A. I cut out an A shape and placed it into a blank piece of paper. Ethan painted on it and around it and was so excited when I pulled the A off to display the letter written in the paint.

I also gave Ethan a piece of laminating paper which he got to paint. When he was finished painting the sticky paper, we chose a piece of construction paper to stick the laminating paper to. As a result, the painting he did on the sticky side of the laminating sheet spread and smushed and ended up looking pretty cool. He asked to do the "sticky art" again.

I also found a set of alphabet stampers in the closet for some reason and so we had some fun using the letter A stamp:


This past week, Ethan checked out the following titles from the library:

Monster Mash by David Catrow
No More, Por Favor by Susan Middleton Elya
Go Away, Big Green Monster! by Ed Emberley
Color Farm by Lois Ehlert
Jesse Bear, What Will You Wear? by Nancy White Carlstrom
The Three Bears by Byron Barton
Baby In A Car by Monica Wellington


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