Monday, May 13, 2013

Four reasons I can wait a few more days for spring

I don't want to be the first one to complain that spring may actually, finally, be here.

The sun is out. And stays out past 4:30pm.

My girls are reunited with their playmates on the block, as bikes and scooters emerge from basements and garages.

There is music in the neighborhood and a sparkle in the air (and that's not just my allergies talking).

There's not much I like about winter, even as a born-and-raised Wisconsinite. As much as I'm not ready to revert back to temperatures below 50, there will be a few things I'll miss about winter. And there are just a few things I'm hanging on to while Mother Nature makes up her mind about the day-to-day weather.

1. Winter wardrobe. Is it just me or does it take everyone months to figure out their seasonal wardrobe, only to have to box it away and re-figure it out the next season?

2. Grocery shopping. Picking up something from the store before work and not having it spoil or melt in the car after a day at the office.

3. Coffee preservation. I often stop for coffee on the way to work, and I often leave it in the car. (That's a sign I need more coffee. right?) But cold coffee is just awesome.

Most importantly....

4. One serious car issue.

The first warm day of the year is the day I learn what foods the kids have dropped on the car floor over the last few months. Foods that were once fresh, then frozen are now thawed, rotten and smelly. Yep, the first warm weather day brought about not only a rise in our spirits, but also a smell in my car that I could not identify.

I do try to keep an eye on the food coming and going in the car, but sometimes I’m sad to admit it’s just not possible. I’m even sadder to say I haven’t made the time to clean out the car, although I’ve taken in the winter blankets, hats and mismatched gloves. I’ve been slowly getting rid of the papers that have accumulated on the car interior and bought some upholstery cleaner. 

I’m ready to fit in the annual cleaning of the car (AKA finding the food). I am determined, this weekend, to find the source of the offensive smell in the car — before it warms up again.In the past, I've found bananas and their peels under the car seat and unidentifiable remains in the nooks and crannies of the car seats. Squeezable applesauce packets, bagged baked goods... the list over the years is endless. And it appears obvious upon closer look that the girls have, at least on one occasion, used the "secret" way into the trunk as a garbage chute.

But as I'm inspired by a little warmth, I'm ready for this annual task... complete with my first homemade fabric refresher and upholstery cleaner.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Princess Power

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

It's a loaded question and I'm still not sure I know the answer. But if you would have asked me that question at age 5, I would have answered: an archaeologist.

At age 7, a veterinarian.  At 12, A novelist.

At 15 ... nothing.  At 16, an artist.

At 21, a journalist.  At 30, an editor.

At 32, a mother.

But I've always been on a career path, a path that has taken many twists and turns throughout my life. On that journey, my two daughters have tagged along to become well-versed in the pro and cons, ins and outs, ups and downs of having a working, single mother.

When my older daughter was 4 years old, a class project prompted her: What do you want to be when you grow up?

 I asked her. "Anika, the world is yours. You can do anything you can dream of! Don't answer right away, just think about it: What do you want to be when you grow up?

"Ehh... I don't know. A princess?"
A princess?? The world is at your feet and you want to be a princess?

 A princess.

Princess pop culture wasn’t appealing to me in my formative years. I never owned a Barbie doll and was more concerned with trying to play on the baseball team with the neighborhood boys. My own Disney exposure was limited in my youth. By limited, I really mean none. My parents never took me to a Disney flick and I can't tell you anything about the princess films - current or past. While this may seem like I missed out on a childhood rite of passage, in all honesty, even my adult self finds those movies pretty frightening – on more than one level

 I tried to be involved with her interests, our attempt at watching Sleeping Beauty, Disney-style, for the first time together. was a failure After the dramatic close-up of the shiny, sharpened knife that is intended to kill Princess Aurora, Anika matter-of-factly announced, "Mom, this is scary. It's not an Anika movie." And she wandered off to play dress-up in a poufy princess dress.

 And yet, with her own minimal pop culture exposure, Anika still manages to be a princess fanatic with a closet of the frilliest, pinkest dresses ever sewn.

 I made a conscious decision to skip over those classic and current fairy tales in our nightly reading ritual mostly because, as a single mom, there may be a day when my children have a step parent and I don't really want to start out an already complex step-relationship with the common storybook adjective, "evil."

 And let's face it... There are a few varieties of princesses Anika could be talking about. There is the sophisticated, college-educated Kate Middleton-type princess... or there is the codependent Cinderella-type princess, who needs a man to help her find a pair of matching shoes.

Is the Princess Message that a young woman needs a prince to ride into the sunset on horseback to find happiness? or worse, that beauty is life most important attribute? Or maybe, and hopefully, it is much, much simpler than that. But I didn’t read years of feminist theory to sit back and allow my children, my daughters, to think it’s acceptable to grow up to become a stereotype. It was time for this professional mom to investigate her daughter's professional aspirations.

 I asked her if princesses went to college. She slowly nodded a wide-eyed yes as if to imply (and rightly so) that she would never suggest a future without college. Whether a princess by birth or a princess by marriage, I assume most modern-day princesses are expected to attend college. So I guess  it's a starting point.

 "So really," I pried, "what does it mean to be a princess?"

 My daughter answered, "Well... A real dress."

 "Your dress is real. You can touch it, so it's real, right?"

 "Hmmm... Shoes. It's definitely shoes."

 After a lifetime of exposure to the negative connotations of "princess," maybe I was the one who had the wrong idea. Maybe this independent feminist mother could encourage - even accept- a sliver of princess culture. Eventually I started to come around. I slowly found her professional goals easier to get behind, even if it means we tweak her royal dreams of being a fancy dress-wearing princess into a goal of being the fashion designer who creates those dresses.

Through that conversation, I learned I will always support my daughter, even if I don’t necessarily understand her choice. Although it is easier now, when her fantasies don’t involve any mention of princes, horses or sunsets.

 But as I've never been the princess type, I was still hoping for some more definitive answers. Anika quickly tired of this line of questioning. Overloaded with conversation, she took a deep breath and said, "Mom, all I really want is to be taller. AND a princess ...  Like YOU."