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If you’d like more information about why Disney is evil, check out the documentary, Mickey Mouse Monopoly.

For more information on media awareness, look at the resources in the Unbranding section of this blog.

This is for all y’all who might think I’m a potential tinfoil hat society member for my thoughts on protecting my children from marketing ploys. According to this New York Times article, representatives of Disney’s new “DisneyBaby” line have been making the rounds at maternity wards. Here are some choice quotes and snippets:

“This is taking advantage of families at an extremely vulnerable time,” said Jeff McIntyre, director of national policy for the advocacy group Children Now.

“If ever there was an opportunity for a trusted brand to enter a market and provide a better product and experience, it’s this,” said Robert A. Iger, chief executive of Disney. “I’m extremely excited about it.”

How do you spell evil? I say I-G-E-R.

…the company gains access to the maternity hospitals through a company called Our365, a business that sells bedside baby pictures. Our365 pays hospitals for exclusive access, and companies like Disney pay Our365 to promote their own products. Our365 also has Fisher-Price and Procter & Gamble as clients. It is unclear whether mothers know of Our365’s financial ties to these companies.

No – they don’t – I know this for a fact because both times while I’ve been in hospital having babies, this junk has been passed off to me under the premise that it’s related to healthy baby raising.

A representative visits a new mother and offers a free Disney Cuddly Bodysuit, a variation of the classic Onesie. In bedside demonstrations, the bilingual representatives extol the product’s bells and whistles — extra soft! durable! better sizing! — and ask mothers to sign up for e-mail alerts from DisneyBaby (link removed ~ Mamá Leche).

Apparel is only a beachhead,” said Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products. Also planned are bath items, strollers, baby food and an abundance of other products — all pushed with so much marketing muscle that Disney Baby may actually dent operating margins in Mr. Mooney’s division in the near term. But this is a long-term play, and it could have its greatest value far beyond the crib.

To get that mom thinking about her family’s first park experience before her baby is even born is a home run,” Mr. Mooney said, adding that a surprisingly large number of families do not become consumers of Disney products until their children reach preschool age, when they start to watch Disney Channel programs like “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.”

Really? A surprisingly large number? We are well into preschool age with our children and have seen hide nor hair of Disney in our house. Sadly, even Winnie the Pooh has been compromised. I really like that f-ing bear.

How do you spell evil? I also spell it M-O-O-N-E-Y.

Rachel Bernstein, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., who is pregnant herself, said she was concerned about marketers using hospitals as customer hunting grounds. “But Disney is a nice company,” she said, “and I think my patients would actually be thrilled to get free Disney stuff.”

Can you say “Stockholm Syndrome?” Hello Patty Hearst! You are completely inculcated into the cult of Disney. The mass media assault works.

Elizabeth Carter gave birth to her daughter Olivia on Jan. 19 in Piedmont, Calif., and was given a Disney Cuddly Bodysuit as part of an Our365 photo package. “It surprised me that Disney was in there promoting something right as the baby was born, but we figured as new parents we weren’t in a position to turn free things down,” she said.

Mrs. Carter put the garment on her hours-old baby immediately. “And I have to say Olivia looked fabulous, much better than the rough, bulky thing the hospital had her wearing,” she said.

Piedmont, for those of you not in the know, is an extremely affluent area. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I equate affluence with education and education with awareness. Shame on the parent with no excuse to be so blind to this blight.

As for me, I’m happy to wear a tin foil hat, if that means keeping my family away from this stuff.

For more info, check out the section on Unbranding.


When I was in my twenties, I spent a stint of time as a dog walker. I loved the job, since it gave me a reasonable excuse to be outside in every type of weather and I really like the company of dogs. One day, it was storming like crazy in San Francisco, where I worked. I was concerned about the wind whipping branches out of trees and killing me or the dogs, so we went to the beach for our outing. We were at Chrissy Field, just inside the bay from the Golden Gate bridge. Almost as soon as we hit the beach, I heard this incredible rumbling out on the bay. The storm was so thick that you couldn’t see more than 30 feet out into the water – it was just a whitewash of gusting rain. At first I thought the rumbling was a distressed tanker in the bay and suddenly I realized it was a gale force wind — literally a wall of wind flying from the ocean, under the Golden Gate Bridge and slamming across the surface of the water towards us. The dogs were all standing a bit in front of me and I knew I had to protect them. I squatted down and screamed out to them over the storm while unzipping my raincoat, my back to the bridge where the wind was coming from. I opened my jacket just in time to create a pocket of still space in front of me. The dogs, lowering their heads facing the wind, inched into the pocket just as the gale rushed over us. One of the smaller dogs got picked up in the wind and tossed a few times along the sand. We, meaning the other dogs and I, moved like a phalanx in the wind, keeping the cover of the jacket spread wide like wings, until we could catch up with Charlie. We stayed like that for a good fifteen minutes until the gusts stopped and everything got quiet again. The sun broke out over a still, grey air and we looked at each other, stunned and thrilled at the same time that we’d managed through that experience together.

I recount that story because it makes me think of the way in which I want to spread my wings over my children, creating a sheltering pocket for them from all the speed and racing, media and technology that waits with bated breath just outside the door. I don’t think all technology and media are evil, but that there’s a time and place for them. In the same way that it takes an adult to appreciate a wine, so too does it take a fully mature mind to be able to handle the speed of common life today. I’d rather under-expose my children to technology and media than over-expose them. They way I see it, I have always figured that if they want to be media savvy and live a fast-paced life, they can always catch up as young adults. It’s not like you can’t pick up technology and adaptively use it in your life — that’s the very nature of technology — it’s meant to make your life faster and easier.

Parenting for a Slow Childhood

I recently read a fantastic guest post by Esa Helttula at the “Moms with Apps” blog. It’s entitled “Let the Children Play.” It’s ironic that a techno-focused blog would post something this profound in justification of unplugging your life and your children.

Esa illuminates some of the outcomes that result from a deficiency in play, especially unstructured, outdoor play, in our children. Apparently it’s a global phenomenon. I instinctively strive to give my children what I call a “Slow Childhood.” This means minimizing obligations to a hyper-scheduled life and providing lots of unstructured play time, focusing on toys that require imagination and interaction to make them function (ie, generally not things that light up and go “whiz-bang!”). One of Esa’s points that struck home with me was the need for children to create games that are based on their rules. This isn’t about being in power, but in play-acting the structures that they encounter every day which are rarely explicitly declared, but upon which we base most of our society. It must be very confusing for children to comprehend the norms of introduction between adults, or the art of navigating the rules of traffic! By being able to play-act and create games that fluidly shift rules and dynamics, children can experiment with the social structures they encounter and come to master them through play.

Another aspect that jumped out was that which relates to elaboration:

The most striking decline was in Elaboration (ability to develop and elaborate upon ideas and detailed and reflective thinking and motivation to be creative). Scores in Elaboration decreased by over 36 % from 1984 to 2008.

I started wondering who else is thinking about the idea of a Slow Childhood and came across this beautiful post on “A Wild and Precious Life.” This homeschooling mom commends Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv. I think I’ll add it to the list and start looking for more ways to build on this idea of spreading my wings to create the space, protecting my children from the gale force winds of technology and the pace of modern life so I may give them the gift of a Slow Childhood.

The Butterfly Song

Or, How to Stay Sane with a Super-talker

My daughter is a super-talker. By that I mean that she is a non-stop, incessant babble machine who enjoys little more than an in-depth interview of nearly limitless questions, only 4 of which she’ll listen to the answers of. My daughter is approaching 4 and, yes, I know this is the age of inquiry, but you know you’ve got a super-talker on your hands when your child’s preschool teacher pulls you aside and says, “I have never taught a child who asks so many questions. How do you handle it?”

So, here’s how I handle it (so far).

A) Full attention

I mentioned my daughter has a nigh-limitless set of questions. I have found that it’s tremendously effective to actually get down on her level, give her 100% attention and answer each question thoroughly. I have to remind her to not interrupt while I’m answering her question, but in giving full answers I am able to slow the rapid rate of inquiry. This, in turn, slows her mind and gets her to focus on qualitative questions and insights rather than blather. When I really hunker down and give full attention, the dynamic shifts from a non-stop pinball machine of verbal spewing to an actual conversation… a conversation that, after between 5 & 10 full questions… ends!!!!!!!!

B) The Quiet Game

This is an oldie and goodie and is very effective in the car. We usually play it during the last mile or two driving home and it gives my daughter a focal point – to see if she can make it all the way home without talking. Of course, even during the “Quiet Game” she is compelled to be the commentator. So, every 30-40 seconds she’ll peep out a “Mommy, I’m being so quiet, I’m going to win!” At least there’s a little gap between updates!

C) The Butterfly Song

I invented this one night while we were visiting my parents. Everyone was sitting around the table after dinner and, despite the rather loud hum of our general conversation, my daughter was still capable of dominating the room with her incessant chatter. She was overtired and the “second wind” switch had been flipped. Her prattling was not about conversation or real interaction with others, but just a way of burning off energy. The children had just gone to a butterfly museum with their grandparents the day before so, in a moment of desperation and divine inspiration, I proposed we all sing a rondo of “The Butterfly Song.”

This is how it’s done: Everyone gets quiet and one person starts the “song” by bobbing their head like they’re belting out a huge melody, but keeping their lips pursed tight. After a few bobs, they point to another person and that person picks up where the unheard tune left off. Round and round the rondo goes until it makes its way back to the starter…. Voila!!! At least a minute of blissful silence achieved AND the tenor of the moment has shifted to a more sedate energy.

My daughter now loves the Butterfly Song and will often propose we “sing” it in the car 🙂

Hope you enjoy!

This is the counterpart to the original “Axiom on Leaving the House with Small Children.”

If you have nowhere to go and no particular time to be there, you will successfully have everyone out of the house in ten minutes.

If you have somewhere to be, even if it’s somewhere that the children would like to be, such as gym class, accomplishing the aforementioned feat will take twenty minutes. Add another ten minutes if you are feeling particularly stressed for time.

Nota Bene: When you get where you’re going, you may notice that you were able to get out of the house in comparative lightning speed because you negelected to pack diapers, wipes, snacks, sunscreen, sun hats and water bottles. You may not notice this, however, because any speedbump that presents itself during your outing with the littles can easily be resolved by the dad-household-budget-busting-“I’ll-just-pick-it-up-along-the-way-if-I-need-it,” salvo approach. Also, in a pinch, a dad has no problem getting “MacGyver” in his approach, using a flannel shirt as a back up diaper.

I recently started using StumbleUpon and it’s just added a whole new level of time-suck to my Internets experience. I came across this lovely piece, “Preparation for Parenthood,” which is painfully accurate in some respects, especially #8 on leaving the house. There really are some smahties down there at Stanford. It makes me think of my bit about “Leaving the House with Small Children.” Here’s a snippet from the Stanford one:

# 8 Get Ready to Go Out. Wait outside the bathroom for half an hour. Go out the front door. Come in again. Go out. Come back in. Go out again. Walk down the front path. Walk back up it. Walk down it again. Walk very slowly down the road for 5 minutes. Stop to inspect minutely every cigarette butt, piece of used chewing gum, dirty tissue, and dead insect along the way. Retrace your steps. Scream that you’ve had as much as you can stand until the neighbors come out and stare at you. Give up and go back into the house. You are now just about ready to try taking a small child for a walk.

This is so true it hurts. I have no idea when I’m going to master the “let’s go outside for a stroll” mom move, much less the “get in the car so we can go to the grocery store and get milk and diapers already!” maneuver, but for the time being I’m trapped in my house and I can’t figure a way out that doesn’t involve some sort of meltdown. I can’t even bribe my children with the idea of a tricycle ride to make the home exiting go smoothly. “But wait!,” you  exclaim, “Your children love their tricycles! Why can’t you get them outside to ride them?” Because I inevitably make a very bad decision just before leaving – like getting the divine inspiration to bring snacks (which means that the second we are three feet away from the front gate onto the sidewalk, the two of them will pounce like starving piranhas onto the snack bag, as though they’ve never seen Cheez It’s or bananas before. The following 15 minutes will be met with me becoming increasing frustrated as they swap off fighting over who gets which tricycle and battling over who gets to stop and eat a Cheez It after getting themselves on and off their tricycles 15 times and not moving farther than 4 inches from the starting line — this always ends in someone screaming. It might even be me, but I’m not telling), or divinely forgetting snacks (after remembering the previous disaster with snacks this seems a smart move, but A-ha!!! There’s the little kid turn-around – if you genuinely forget the food, your children will be unduly starving for their 7 minute outing and will be excessively cranky), or forgetting something else equally basic, such as reminding the 3 year old to pee before leaving (luckily, urine washes off of tricycle seats lickety-split). No matter how you cut it, the only method I’ve found to get out of the house without popping an important temple vein in my head is to just pick up each child and insert them into their car seats or strap them onto their tricycles and push like crazy – that’s why God made ’em with push handles.

What are your top tips for getting out of the house? Or are you like me and just stuck melting into the couch because the battle doesn’t seem worth it?

This is just a heads up, in case you have an as yet un-housebroken child meandering the halls of your house and didn’t know about this fascinating bit of child development already.

Your small child is not a freak if they finger paint with their poop. At least, they’re not necessarily a freak. They could still be seriously disturbed in the long run, but if you catch your kid schmearing poop on the side of their crib or their bedroom walls during the pre-or-mid-potty training phase, that’s not (necessarily) an indication you’ve got a future serial killer, Enron executive or parking space stealer on your hands. It just means your child is, well, interested in their poop. And that’s A-O.K.. Don’t just take my word for it – read some of the responses that show up from a Google search on the subject.


Some children… not all children, but some children (“some” as in “many”) get a little visit from the poop fairy when they’re starting to figure out their body functions. What this means is that the child, usually when left alone during nap time, pinches a loaf into their diapers and gets interested in seeing what’s stinking up their drawers. Since little children aren’t too good at thinking things through, they end up with poop on their hands which inevitably gets on everything else they touch.

Some children are absolutely mortified by this experience. That won’t necessarily stop them from repeating it in the future (again with that thinking things through bit), but at least they’re mighty contrite when you open the door to discover a freshly painted boudoir. Other children absolutely revel in playing with their poop and go out of their way to make a massive mess. Either way, this goes with the territory of toddler stripping that usually precedes and joins potty training.

I was at a friend’s house the other day whose eldest is younger than my daughter. This is a woman who will give full-fledged 3D descriptions of every moment of her labor to perfect strangers on an airplane, but it took over an hour of us chit chatting before she mentioned (sheepishly) why all the drapes were removed from her son’s room. The reason? He was a poop reveler and had just had his first experience with poop smearing the day before. My friend was so mortified and concerned, she could barely talk about it. I readily appeased her with stories of how totally normal it was for kids to play with poop (though 100% disgusting, I concur). I regaled her with the story of a friend for whom the idea of poop smearing was so normal that she’d posted an (unrelated) videotape of her two year old being goofy on Facebook… without ever explaining why he had duct tape wrapped around his diapers. I was lucky to get my Poop Fairy cherry broken when a mom friend’s son (three weeks older than my daughter) busted out his big move a month or so before my daughter gave it a try. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted had I not already known that this is a normal phase when I walked in on my daughter a few weeks later.


What To Do If the Poop Fairy Visits Your House

Calm Your Shit Down


That’s right, you heard me. Calm your shit down. The worst thing you can do is freak out over a poop painting fiesta. All that will do is make your child even more fascinated by the power of their poop. Even if, initially, the little one was a bashful poop partier, all he or she will need is a whopping reaction from Mom or Dad and – presto!- you’ve got an instant committed poop painting enthusiast on your hands.

So, when you enter the room and see little Susie’s gotten turdy during time out, force yourself to keep a deadpan look on your face. Calmly back out of the room, close the door, take a deep, deep breath, assess your clean-up plan and wordlessly re-enter the room. It’s probably best to just proceed with the whole clean-up attack without uttering a word. Your child will be awed by your level reaction and quickly bored into thinking poop fingerpainting is so much of a non-event it’s not worth the hassle.

How to Prevent Future Visits from the Poop Fairy

Lock Your Shit Down


Now that everything is nicely cleaned and cloroxed, it’s time to implement Phase Two of the Poop Harm Reduction plan. Namely, figure out how to keep your child from doing this again! When our daughter discovered poop surprises, we immediately started putting her footie jammies on her inside out (zipper on the inside). This really takes some technique! We took a huge sigh of relief after the first night passed incident free. We honestly thought the whole thing was licked… until three weeks later when she figured out how to undo her jammies, even with the zipper inside. Some folks will tell you the best technique is duct taping the diapers on, but that’s arduous to remove later and still not foolproof. Our 100% effective method was putting the footie pajamas on backwards (zipper in back). By the time my daughter houdini’d herself out of this tactic, she’d outgrown her fascination and was well on her way to productive potty usage.

Best Technique for Preventing Poop Parties: Backwards Footie Pajamas

Finally…

Remember this is a phase your child will outgrow… in fact, they’ll certainly move through it faster the more you help them to become independent with toileting. Try to view this as an opportunity – by the sheer virtue of the fact that your child has figured out there’s poop in his or her soggy bottoms, she’s telling you she’s ready to start figuring out potty training. If anything, a Poop Fairy visit could be regarded as a thing of joy. Behold! Your days of non-stop diapering are soon to be over! Help your child with potty training ASAP. You’ll soon discover that as they master the fine art of pooping in a potty or toilet, their previous fascination with holding their poop will be replaced with producing a poop in the right spot — one that can quickly be whisked or flushed away!

Check out the resource guide on princesses and fairy tales.

It gives some options for directing “princess passion” away from Disney misogyny and includes great information about media awareness for girls.

Image used under Creative Commons Licensing, attributed to iboy_daniel

There’s an interesting post that made the WordPress.com home page today about some young girls in Beirut. The post is about the “whitening effect” related to race and how some cultures are pretty upfront about preferring lighter skin – so much so that they openly advertise skin lightening products. At one point, the blogger conveys how much “white” is preferred and how it’s exemplified by her young pupils who have taken to playing a Disney Princess game where they can create their own version of a princess. Though they hem and haw over details like clothes and hair, they reflexively choose the “white” skin color on the princesses.

Since I already have an axe to grind about Disney Princesses, this post practically leapt off the screen for me. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that media influences self-image and that there’s considerable cause for alarm, especially as it relates to children. Boys and girls are limited by media influence, but I’m more concerned about my daughter than my son because the majority of roles portrayed for girls and women in media are that of supporters and objects, not leaders and protagonists. Some day, when I have more time I’ll get into the boy part, but the girl part has me for now. Part of it is that, when it comes to girl physiques, all types come with their risks — stereotypically attractive girls will be objectified and sexualized as they mature, more physically challenged girls will hold themselves in comparison.

As a mom, I’m driven to creating a sense of inner character and beauty in both of my children, male and female. In order to do this, I think it’s important to keep them from the dominant media culture as much as possible, as long as possible (they’re both <4 yrs old right now).This especially applies to the cabalesque influence of the Disney Princess regime and the Barbie empire. Both of the aforementioned perpetuate unrealistic physiques for girls and shuttle them into cattle shoots the feed the girls into cookie cutter versions of who they should become. This may sound extreme, but if you doubt my mentality, take a few days to breeze through Packaging Girlhood. It makes a pretty good case for the fact that there genuine intent in the crafting of marketing schemes to produce ultimate consumers. Or read this wonderful letter petitioning Pixar to create an un-Disney movie with a female protagonist to get a sense of the need for more.

When I try to discuss this subject with other adults, I’m surprised at how often my concerns are met with an attitude of “what’s the big deal? You’re taking things way to seriously.” or “You’re overthinking things.” Really? Am I? Take a moment to look at these short videos produced by Dove. Sure, it’s just another take on a media campaign, a fresh spin, but at least they’re pointing out something that’s deadly serious.

Watch the videos and then ask yourself if you still think the influence of media on girls’ body images is benign. Tell me there’s not something to be worked up about.

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