Team Pink

In the final weeks of my pregnancy, Don and I went out shopping together and ran into an acquaintance who had just had a baby girl a few weeks earlier.  She confirmed that we still didn’t know whether we were having a boy or a girl, then commented, “If you end up on Team Pink, we’ll have to set up some play dates.”

This comment has bugged me ever since (as evidenced by the fact that I’m writing a blog post about it over four months later).  It’s not just the implication that our kids should only play together if they are the same sex, though I’m not too sure about that.  It’s the “Team Pink.”

When I was an elementary school teacher, I had a habit of observing the girls in the primary-grade classes and counting how many were not wearing something pink.  There might be one or two girls in a classroom who weren’t, and they were almost certainly wearing the runner-up “girl” color, purple.  It was a rare day that I saw a single young girl who wasn’t wearing at least one thing that was pink or purple.

Why do we do this to girls in our culture?  Why do we brand them with such a specific marker of their femininity?  We consider gender such an important part of a person’s identity that from babyhood, we feel a need to make sure people can clearly tell whether our children are male or female (since babies are basically unisex-looking if you can’t see their private parts).  My baby girl wears both “girl” clothes and hand-me-down “boy” clothes.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my daughter wearing a pale blue outfit or a brightly colored striped shirt with a frog on it, and I’m not offended if someone assumes that she’s a boy, but when I politely correct them, they seem quite embarrassed.  I’m going against the social norm.  She even looked out-of-place wearing a white onesie in her newborn picture on the hospital website; scrolling through the site, I noticed that the other babies were all clearly dressed in gender-specific going-home outfits.

In our culture, girls wear girl clothes and boys wear boy clothes.  Woe unto those who transgress–particularly boys who wear feminine-appearing clothing (girls have a little more leeway in wearing boyish clothing).  It seems to me that the girl clothing stereotype is more limited (pink, purple, hearts, flowers, butterflies, princesses) than the boy clothing stereotype (blue, green, brown, black, gray, sports, trucks, airplanes, trains, dinosaurs, wild animals, bugs, rock music, pirates/skulls, superheroes).  Why can’t girl clothing reflect a wider range of interests?  Or why can’t we have gender-neutral children’s clothing?  Not for all kids, all the time, but just some.  Just as an option.  I couldn’t even find gender-neutral baby clothes past the 3 month size.

This bugs me, but I don’t have an answer to it.  When I dress my daughter in pink, I feel like I’m pigeonholing her in this cultural stereotype.  When I dress her in navy blue or brown, I feel like I’m making her stick out.  At her age, she doesn’t know the difference.  How will I navigate this as she gets older and more aware?  I don’t want to limit her or have her limit herself to narrow “girly” tastes, but I also know that being a non-conformist can be a burden.  I suppose we’ll have to wait and see.


Easy, no-fuss Advent wreath

Do you want to celebrate Advent in your home but not spend money on a fancy Advent wreath or expend time and effort trying to be crafty and make your own?  I was in that position six years ago and I came up with something that has worked well for my family.  I’ll share with you how to make a super easy Advent wreath.

Materials:  a plain artificial wreath, 4 glass candle holders, 3 purple candles, 1 pink candle

Set the wreath on a table or countertop and arrange the artificial branches to look nice.  Put the candleholders on the table inside the wreath, evenly spaced, touching the wreath.  Put a candle in each candleholder.  Voilà!  You’re done!

So technically, the candleholders aren’t attached to the wreath, but they’re close enough, and they kind of blend in because they’re glass.

Here are a couple pictures:


Advent wreath side view


Advent wreath top view

I got all the materials at a craft store.  I can’t recall how much I spent, but I was going for cheap and I didn’t feel that it broke the bank.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to make a beautiful wreath to aid your celebration of Advent.


Four months

So I guess I’m blogging about once a month now.

Clara is four months old.  I’m still waiting for a predictable nap schedule.  :(  I have been cutting back on out-of-the-house activities so she can nap when she needs to and to reduce my stress level, particularly as it’s more challenging to go out with two kids now that the cold and snow have arrived.  After two years of Simon doing gymnastics on Friday mornings, we’re taking a break, at least until the spring.  In September, I was asked to take a fairly time-intensive church-related role, and I agreed to give it a try.  I found that it was causing me a lot of stress, and decided to step down.  That commitment ended a week and a half ago and I feel much better not to have that hanging over my head all the time.  Simon’s speech therapy conveniently takes place at our house.  I appreciate that I don’t have to pack up two kids, drive somewhere for it, and try to keep Clara happy while he’s doing it.  I’ve had Don pick up and drop off library books for me, and this week he went grocery shopping for me so Clara and I could stay home and recover (Don was out of town for three and a half days, so I singlehandedly ran the show with three kids, and Sunday was one thing after another–church, spaghetti fundraiser lunch, hockey practice, Peter Boy Scout merit badge conference and having friends over to play).  We have speech therapy at home on Monday afternoons, we go grocery shopping weekly (usually on Tuesdays), and it seems like every week there’s some kind of one-time event: parent-teacher conference, dentist/doctor/optometrist appointment, etc.  Then there’s Simon’s hockey two or three times a week, which has been a source of stress.  He fights going, although he is happy and smiling when he’s actually on the ice.  A couple weekend practices when Don has been in town, he’s held Clara and I’ve gone out on the ice to help out, and Simon loved that, but now he complains that he only likes to do hockey when I can go out with him and I can’t most of the time.  Some of the practices are weekday afternoons, when Don’s at work, and the weekend practices I’m either taking him alone or I’m going out on the ice with him, so I feel like I have to bear the brunt of the burden of making hockey happen.  There have been days when I decided to just skip hockey because it’s not worth the effort to get him to go, and other days when we’ve gotten there only in time for the last half or less of the practice time (whether intentionally on my part or because he threw a tantrum).  I wasn’t feeling all that excited about him starting hockey this year, and now I wish we hadn’t signed him up.

When Clara was born, I didn’t have a good nickname for her.  I called both of the boys “buddy,” but that didn’t seem right for a girl.  Now, the most common nicknames I have for her are “baby girl” and “sweet pea.”  I don’t know if they’ll last as she gets older, but they’re what I’ve got for now.  I also have a variety of less-flattering nicknames for her, like “baldy” and “slime face” (she’s a drool factory).


Three months

Clara is three months old today.  So much for my intentions to blog more often; I haven’t written anything since the two-month-old post.  I write a lot of blog posts in my head, but sitting down and typing them out is another story.  Life is busy and blogging is a lower-priority activity.

Simon and Clara have been sick, so that hasn’t been fun.  Peter doesn’t like getting up early for school and Don is very busy with work.  I am looking forward to getting regular uninterrupted sleep someday, and to Clara settling into a predictable napping pattern so that I can better plan outings around her naps.  (My metaphor is that she has a short battery life and a long recharge time.  On days that we leave the house, it inevitably interferes with her napping, and then she usually has trouble at bedtime too.)  Life could be a lot worse, though.

Overall, things are going well.  Other than his complaints about getting up too early, Peter seems to be having a good school year so far.  Simon’s homeschool junior kindergarten year is going well; it hasn’t been as hard as I thought it might be to keep up with homeschooling with a baby (it helps that Clara usually takes good naps and it’s not like it takes all day to do junior kindergarten work).  We are busier with extra-curricular activities this year, and that is somewhat challenging.  Peter is still doing Boy Scouts and he’s started doing fencing as well.  In addition to gymnastics (which he’s done for the past two years), Simon has started hockey and will be starting speech therapy next week.  With extra-curriculars and Don’s work, it seems that having everyone home for dinner and/or for the evening is the exception rather than the norm.

I feel like I had better things to write, but it’s late and I had an exceptionally poor night’s sleep last night (I was up from 12:30 until after 5 am with Clara), so I’m just going to end here.




Two months

Clara is two months old today.  Things are still going well.  It’s the third week of school and we’ve settled into a routine.  A couple adaptations to make life easier are that I am making a point to plan meals that are easy to prepare (since I am sometimes interrupted by a fussy baby), and Don has been getting up to see that Peter makes it outside to catch the school bus in the morning so that I can sleep in when Clara does.  I don’t have a lot of time to get things done other than taking care of kids and what I call my “core areas”: dinner (which includes meal planning and shopping in addition to preparing food), dishes, laundry, lessons (Simon is doing homeschool junior kindergarten this year).  I recite that list of four things often during the day to help me focus on what I need to get done; as long as I keep up with my core areas reasonably well, other tasks can slide a bit.  I’m working hard and putting in long days, but I feel like I’m back to full strength and keeping up as well as I used to.

Clara reliably sleeps for a good 5-6 hour stretch at night, which starts anywhere from 7 to 10 pm.  When she wakes up, it takes about an hour to change her, feed her, and settle her back to sleep; some nights it’s closer to an hour and a half.  Then she sleeps again until morning, waking up anywhere from about 6 until 9 am (usually between 7 and 8).  A few days ago, she went to sleep quite late (around 10:15 pm) and didn’t wake up until 6:10 am.  Although it was earlier than I would prefer to get up in the morning, it was the first night of uninterrupted sleep that I’ve had since she was born, so it was a nice treat.

Clara started smiling a couple weeks ago.  Her smiles are fleeting, but I caught one on camera today.  She has been making eye contact and smiling more lately, which warms my heart.  Babies are more rewarding when they pass the newborn stage and become more social.



More wardrobe woes

I previously complained about maternity clothes while I was pregnant.  Now I think clothing in the postpartum period is worse.  Most of my regular clothes don’t fit yet, but I don’t want to wear a lot of my maternity clothes either.  It’s fine to wear form-fitting clothes when you’re pregnant, but in the postpartum period, you don’t want to draw attention to your bulging belly.  Plus, if you’re breastfeeding, you need clothes that will accommodate that (so no dresses).  For the moment, for clothes that I will leave the house in, I’m basically operating with one pair of shorts, one pair of pants, four t-shirts, one long-sleeve t-shirt, one slightly dressier shirt, and a couple sweatshirts.  Fortunately, I don’t have a very high-falutin’ life, so I’m getting by with this limited wardrobe.  I just have to keep up with the laundry because Clara spits up on me regularly.  This too shall pass.

One month

Clara is just over a month old now.  She’s doing well, and I’m doing remarkably well, considering that I generally don’t deal well with sleep deprivation.  I’m getting two or three blocks of sleep a night, totalling about five to six hours, and some days I get a nap.  Considering that I usually need eight to nine hours of sleep, and remembering how desperately tired I was when Simon was a baby, I’m amazed at how well I’m functioning.  I do get headaches, but I’ve learned that they’re worse when I haven’t eaten.  I’m trying to treat them with a healthy snack before reaching for the ibuprofen, and that’s working pretty well.

I can think of a few possible explanations for why I’m doing as well as I am.  One is that I’ve been eating lots of healthy food and minimizing my consumption of unhealthy food.  In general, I find that how well I eat and sleep have a great influence on how I feel.  Since I can’t control the sleeping right now, I’m working hard to eat well.

Another possible explanation is that it’s summertime.  The sunshine, longer hours of daylight, and temperatures more conducive to spending time outdoors are almost certainly helping my mood.  Both boys were born in February, when it was dark and cold, and I mostly stayed holed up in the house when they were newborns.

My final explanation is the perspective that I have as a more experienced parent.  I am not being very ambitious in my day-to-day plans, because I know that it’s hard to get things done with a baby, and planning to do too much will just lead to disappointment and frustration.  I also know that this phase will pass.  It’s easier to handle the challenges, knowing that they are only temporary.