Saturday, December 17, 2016

Yes, I'm raising little activists. Here's why.

The word activist sounds like a load of laughs, doesn't it? Yeah, not so much. It has a connotation of something dry and wonky at best (and, at worst, something irrational, far-fetched, and unrelatable). Nevertheless, I am raising my kids to be activists-- but in the best possible way. Here's why.

What's the most delightful thing about having toddlers? I'll give you a hint. The TANTRUMS. Oh my god, the tantrums. If the olympics gave out medals in tantrums, toddlers would win them. Our tiny overlords are such a source of frustration and bemusement. But they are a good indication of a child who is learning how to use their voice. Not necessarily appropriately, but that will come.

There are so many things in life that aren't fair, and myriad ways that kids can have their voices taken away before they even know they have them. Whether it's sexual abuse, bullying, or whether they are simply born into our culture where they soak up our norms from day one, I want my kiddos to know they have a voice, and how to use it.

All kids have to a greater or lesser extent this will inside of them. We just have to learn how to use it for good! Good ways to use willfulness: Standing up for yourself. Having good boundaries. Not simply accepting others' wishes or behavior blindly. Being good citizens. Sticking up for others.

-Giving kids meaningful choices to make, and allowing them to make them.
-Asking what a kid feels or thinks about the situation-- OFTEN.
-As soon as they can, teaching them how to use the telephone to call friends and relatives, or even stores or offices if they want something or need a piece of information.
-When they have problems at school, asking them what they think THEY can do to get help and identify helpers

Like everyone else, kids need to feel confident in themselves in order to make their voices heard, especially because kids' voices are not valued as much as adult voices in so many ways. Let kids practice using their voices in safe situations. Know full well that they may turn these weapons against you as they approach teen-hood. Do it anyway. We need kids to have all the skills they need to become strong adults.


Kids learn by watching and mimicking. If you're lucky enough to live in a state capitol like we do,
there are plenty of ways to let them watch and/or participate in parades, non-violent demonstrations, or to visit Museum exhibitions about important issues. A part that we should not forget, however, is modeling to them what it means to care about something and then decide to do something about it. ACTION is what we want to inspire, but action with thought behind it

-Talk to kids about their feelings. Something happens. How does it make them feel? Can they imagine how another person feels as well?
-Encourage empathy. Example: Someone you know is sick. You tell your child, and ask them what they would like to do to help that person feel better. Draw them pictures? Send them a funny email? Deliver soup?
-Take the next step. Example: There are people who are sick all of the time, and they aren't getting the health care they need. What do you think about that? Who do you think we should talk to? Help your child to write a letter to a legislator, or to make a bunch of encouraging pictures to deliver to a nursing home. Help them connect their empathy with action towards a larger group.
-Follow your kiddo's lead. Some kids are passionate about animals. Others are worried about racism, economic inequality, or wars. Pick up on what's important to them and connect them with information about how they can help.
-Attend parades. Let them hand out candy. Let them make their own protest signs.

Activism can be a meaningful, fun way for kids to connect with the world around them. It can give them a sense of being powerful (in a positive way) and learning that when they are sad, they don't have to feel stuck. There are things they can do. Even if those things simply make them feel better about themselves, or one other person!

Nobody likes an entitled person. A person who expects things done for them, given to them. A person who is greedy. On the other hand, you don't want to be that bummer of a parent who is giving out apples on Halloween because candy isn't good for you. There's a fine line to walk between wanting to teach your kid generosity and thereby denying them something.

Let's be clear, however-- if you want your kid to not be entitled, you CANNOT give them everything. You cannot let them treat people however they want without incurring the natural consequences (and yes, to some extent that means in the way they treat you).

On the other hand, you can give them a framework in which they understand that they are making a sacrifice, but they will get good feelings in return.

-During the Christmas season, talk to your kid about what matters most to them. Tell them that you will give them a certain amount of money to give to that charity. Then allow your child to write the letter, to send the check, or to buy the items and donate them. Physically involving the child is important for their learning. Same can be done on birthdays.
-Look for opportunities to help out kids their own age. Have them look through their own drawers for things that don't fit anymore and take them with you to the donation center. Make them lift the bags.
-Volunteer at a soup kitchen or some other project and have them interact with people. Last summer, my synagogue volunteered to feed homeless people one Saturday downtown, and my kids gave out clean socks to the people in line. We talked about treating others with respect, and the kids were great at making eye contact and asking people politely, "Would you like socks?" They immediately asked to go again.
-Give your child some small amount of money to loan through Kiva. Let THEM choose the recipient of the loan. Then, when the loan is paid back, let them re-invest it.


Kids are eager to love, and feel love in return. They are eager to assert themselves and make decisions for themselves. Shielding children from all conflict is actually not healthy. It's important for kids to understand situations in ways that are age-appropriate, and which are also appropriate to the child's disposition. Of course your number one job as a parent is to keep your child safe. But there are many safe opportunities for kids to engage in meaningful ways that they will enjoy, and will help form their memories and habits as they grow.

So, go ask your kid to bake cookies with you for your elderly neighbor. Talk about kids who might need coats, and go through your closets together. Encourage your goofy teen who plays trombone to google music they can play at the next protest or parade. Harness your kid's playfulness, empathy, and creativity.

Get ready to be amazed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

A Gift Guide for the Current State of the World

I'm having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit given the current state of the world. Last weekend I was in my finished basement aka the toy graveyard and I kept muttering under my breath... GARBAGE! Ugh, these kids do NOT NEED ANY MORE TOYS! 

Truth be told, we're pretty fortunate. We are able to buy and afford all the things we NEED and then some. But now does not seem like a time to be wasteful. Every single thing that I buy this year needs to have a purpose. I'm not going to buy things just to fill stockings (or in the case of Hanukkah, fill DAYS). I'm going to look to filling hearts.

Without further ado, here are my gift suggestions. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions. If I like them, I'll revise and add yours as well!

...Because we deserve taco trucks! Seriously. Is this not the cutest thing ever? Kids love pretend play, they love hiding and small spaces, and lots of them love transportation.

Bonus could be buying the play food for the kiddo to "make" the tacos, or even having them help you "make" tacos out of felt scraps.

Taco Truck, by FamousOTO, $69 plus free shipping
Felt Library by Hand Made Modern for Target, $12.99
11-piece play taco set from Wicked Cute Crafts on etsy, $14


Graphic Designer Adam Thompson sells his hero-inspired images on his etsy shop, SingleProp Artworks.

From Superman to Wonder Woman to Batman to the Green Lantern and Flash, Adam's designs and quotes will help any kid (or, who are we kidding here, geeky adult) feel empowered.

The Wonder Woman image reads:

If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you and valuing each other simply because we exist are such daunting, impossible tasks, then what sort of a world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?

Buy as an instant PDF download in Adam's Etsy store for $10


Anyone who thinks kittens are just cute balls of fluff underestimates the damage that their tiny, needle-like teeth can do.

Help your kiddo channel their inner strength with these altered vintage design shirts by WinkinBitsyClothing.

The designer, Helen Temperley, has lots of other cool images to meet almost any strange interest-- those who like snark, vegetarians, steampunk aficionados, to vintage vixens.

Buy "I Roar Inside" kids shirt $24.72


Winter is not messing around, yo. And we all need these super cute merino leg warmers. Then you can fulfill your lifelong goal of never having to stop wearing leggings in the winter!

SERRV, which plies handmade and fair-trade items, gets these leg warmers, knit from remnants (no two are alike), from the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu.

Toss in some fair-trade, women-grown coffee from a cooperative in Nicaragua and get ready to be cozy as fuck.

Merino Stripe Legwarmers from Serrv, $40
"Matching" Infinity Remnants Cowl, $42
Sisterhood Solidarity Organic Coffee, $11

Every time I see a Little Free Library, it makes me happy. Think about buying one of these puppies pre-made (expensive), or download the plans to make one (inexpensive).

If you go the fancy/expensive route, I can't blame you. I'm all thumbs.

But, if you want to download the directions to make one yourself, you can print those out and bundle them with a gift card to your local mom & pop hardware store and/or a gift card to the local used book store.

Little Free Library, $325 as shown
Download plans FREE here!


This awesome image was made by some friends of mine and I to inspire those who are attending the Women's March on Washington on January 21st. It's available on all sorts of fun merch (including this adorable baseball t) and as a poster. Your one-stop protest needs!

Best of all, proceeds benefit the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health, which works to advance comprehensive women's health in Wisconsin.

All Women Tee $19.99 on Cafe Press


Want to protest every single damn day, and without putting on pants? (Well, you'll have to put on pants at least once to put it outside). Reaffirm your values to anyone who drives by your home, business, wherever, and send the message that hate is not an American value. The first printing of these signs raised over $7k for the ACLU, and now are being offered nationally through the Wisconsin Alliance for Women's Health store.

"Kindness is Everything" yard sign, $16.99
Donate directly to the ACLU in honor of someone!


This Alpaca sweater from Peru does double-duty. Not only is it dapper as hell (and classic), it also is sold by UNICEF.

That means that not only do you get this snuggly, cozy, soft AF sweater (Alpaca is sooooo soft and warm), the purchase of this sweater can also provide 39 packets of lifesaving nourishment to children suffering from acute malnutrition.

As we all know, Aleppo is in the headlines, and the remaining children there need all the help they can get. So please, go buy from the UNICEF store, or just give a donation in someone's name, with a card that tells them what a good heart they have. Either way, you'll be spreading warmth that is desperately needed.

Men's Alpaca Sweater from UNICEF, $71.99
Donation of an amount of your choice


Yup-- your dirty secret is out. But that's ok, because science says that watching animal videos helps us to decompress, and that's good, no? 

How about watching more cat videos, and helping rehabilitate feral cats at the same time? It's a win/win! I dare you to watch this video from about my favorite rescue, Cassidy, and not be moved. 

"Adopt" an animal from the World Wildlife Fund, and you can specify if you want the adoption to come with an adoption kit, which includes a stuffed animal and more information about the animal

(Price varies depending on species)

Narwhal Teatime T by Artist
Christy Grace on Society 6, $20.40

Down in the Aspens throw pillow by
Hiraeth Art on Society6, $17
Seriously. I have some crazy talented friends. But maybe so do you? Why don't you bop over to their Etsy shop, or swing by their Facebook pace to see what awesomeness they've been up to?

Then, it's a gift to them AND to the recipient!


Because it's easier to sort socks when they aren't all just variations of black that has faded. BlueQ socks are my secret weapon to feeling badass. Since I live in a climate where I wear boots six months a year, I can let my freak flag fly even at business meetings with these beauties.

(Of course, that shouldn't stop you from wearing them any damn day). With snarky sayings like "I hate everybody too," or simply images of peaceful otters holding hands, there's something for everyone, man or woman. 

Happy Holidays, and have fun storming the castle!