Five things that prove kids attention spans are just fine.

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We’ve heard it since we were kids. “Kid’s have such short attention spans these days!” and I suppose it’s true. Kid’s do, partially because things happen faster these days and partially cause they are, you know, kids.

But lest you worry that your kids will have the span of a fruit fly I want to reassure you with 5 things that prove kids attention spans are just fine.

1. Take a hot shower. Go ahead, try it. Say you have reached that third day of no shower as moms sometimes do, and the kids have snacks and seem interested in an interminable episode of Dino Dan so you think I’ll just sneak of for a quick shower! Mere moments after the hot water hits your skin you will hear them at the door Bang! Bang! Mommy! MOMMYMOMMYMOMMYMOMMY! And they will keep at it as long as you are in there. Now, don’t make the rookie move and get right out to attend to them. No, no. As long as they are banging on the door you know right where they are and what they are up too, this means they are safe. So listen young Padawan, now is the time to practice your mom ninja skills! With concentration the constant banging and mommymommymommy can be as relaxing as an Enya CD.

2. Food Struggles. I am not a member of the clean your plate club. Personally I believe that kids should be able to know when they are hungry and eat or not and don’t. So if my little ones only have a bit at dinner or scarf the whole plate- that’s fine with me! Plus sometimes kids just live on air. However there does a come a time, after several days of your toddler living on 4 goldfish crackers and half a sippie cup of milk when you have to insist that they eat something. Anything. A cheese stick. A Go-gurt. A slice of pizza, just ANYTHING. Because no one is hangry like a hangry toddler. (except possibly my husband, but that’s another blog post) So you insist they eat, they are going to sit at the table until they eat whatever it is. And they will, with single minded dogged determination refuse to eat that cheese stick. For an hour. Maybe two. No tv, no book, no distraction. They will just sit there refusing. Until you win. Because moms always win.

3. Bedtime avoidance. Sleep is so awesome, why do kids hate it so? I love sleep. We should all sleep. But little ones just want to be awake and nothing will make a kid slow down and pay close attention to a book than knowing that there is just one more until we turn out the lights and go to sleep. Personally I love this tactic of theirs…unless it’s Thursday and Scandal is on. Or Sunday and Downton or Walking Dead is on. But other than those two evenings, I love this. Because babies grow so fast, the time they want to snuggle and read the Tawny Scrawny Lion just one more time is fleeting. So snuggle down little one. I’ve got time and I know this book by heart, which means I can stare at your beautiful lashes slow blinking as you try to fight the inevitable.

4. Toy Search. 90% percent of the mess making in our house is taking out 500 toys just to find the one that they really want. And while this does create work for me (and them as they get older and we work on them cleaning up more and more after themselves) they can focus like no one’s business on finding that exact right Lightning McQueen or guitar or whatever it is. And we have 5 million Lightning McQueens, trust me. The focus on finding said toy is intense and singular, and they will take as long as needs be to find that one specific toy.

5. Three words: Disney Toy Collector. I am not sure what magical hold this woman possesses over our children. Really is watching neatly manicured hands opening toys while a slightly cloying voice narrates every move THAT interesting? Apparently the answer is yes. I am quite certain that at some point she will speak some trigger word or phrase and activate all our young to serve in her kid army obeying her as their Supreme Overload. Plus she made like 5 million bucks opening toys on youtube so eff her. The only time her voice will not keep your children glued to the seat is in the event you do sneak off to try #1, a hot shower.

But never fear, as they bang on the door and you take your time to shave your legs, think that you really are teaching your children that patience and perseverance will eventually pay off. As in eventually you’ll get out of the shower and put Disney Toy Collector back on their iPads.

 

A crack in his innocence.

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“smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy”

Sometimes I wonder how much progress we are making with our younger kids in regards to race. So far Max hasn’t attached value to skin color and his friends are made up of difference races, religions and parentage. You like baseball and running around? Are you a cute girl? Cool. Let’s play. But we must educate them about the past of our country, about slavery, segregation, integration and the struggles we are facing right this very second. By doing that we introduce a concept that hasn’t occurred to many of them. This week was that moment for Max.

Max has a cursory understanding of segregation and the breaking of the race barrier because of one of his idols, number 42, Jackie Robinson himself. But it didn’t seem to occur to him that segregation was EVERYWHERE. He seemed to think baseball was a one off.

Grandma bought him a wonderful book by Brad Meltzer called I am Jackie Robinson. He couldn’t wait to read it so of course we tucked right in and devoured it. We learned that Jackie Robinson slept with his mom too as a young kid…he had some childhood anxiety as well. Max loved that. Then we turned the page and in the very best way possible, the author introduced segregation. Jackie couldn’t swim in the pool, you see. Finally, after a great deal of outcry, black kids were allowed to swim one day a week. By themselves. No white kids. I saw it happen. His face clouded over and he tilted his head and though about it.

“So, {friend’s name} couldn’t swim with me?” he said. “that doesn’t make any sense, we always swim together.”

“I know honey, times were different then and it wasn’t right.”

I closed the book and did my best to explain, and tell him how people learn and grow and that it was a mistake to not allow friends to swim together. Trying to be age appropriate and kind and most of all assure him that his natural assumption that all friends should play together was the right one.  It’s tough, and I felt like I was in parental quicksand. Loathe to introduce something I wish didn’t need to be discussed, but does.

The world is a harsh place right now, but then again it always has been hasn’t it?

At 8 years old I was in Galveston, Texas, with my grandfather as he complained why “those people” got a whole day. Even as a kid (and now that I think about it at only 2 years older than Max is now) I had a strong understanding of who Martin Luther King jr. was and just how important his accomplishments were and continue to be- way to go school. It was our first argument, my grandfather and me- certainly not our last. I remember sitting on the cool tile of the family room as he sat ever present in his Lazy Boy recliner bitching about the blacks and why the whole damn day had to be about MLK. I am not exactly sure what I said in response but I made him mad, my mother chiming in to my defense and supporting the idea that Dr. King not only deserved a day but that everything should indeed STOP for us all to discuss, move forward and look at how far we have come. Progress is always too slow for those who want it and too fast for those who resist.

I suppose it is progress that our kids..well my suburban white kids, find this a bizarre and nonsensical concept, segregation, classification by skin color.

Today we honor Dr. King and the best thing I can do in his memory is talk to my kids about race, to be honest and forthright about the world- as age appropriately as I can, and hope that with each year we move forward and not back, even if right now sometimes the news looks an awful like 1960.

The times, they are a changin’ again. Slowly. But we will do our part.

Thank you Dr. King. Thank you to my mother and aunt who grew up in the South, in a racist area and did not take racism to heart. Thank you. I can only try to move my children forward, as you moved me forward.

 

My girl…

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I worry about having a daughter. When Zach and I first got married I was emphatic that we only have sons…as if I had control over that. I couldn’t handle a daughter. Not only was I myself a difficult and troubled teen and I can’t imagine how my mother survived -we still bear relationship scars from this time- but I couldn’t imagine surviving should I have a daughter who was as messed up as I was.

Adding to that was remembering how hard and sad and scary a time I had growing up, and certainly I perpetuated some of it. A cycle I didn’t realize I was in and unable to stop. Mean girls can target the weak in the herd quickly and I pretty much carried a big old sign that said “WEAK”.

And in a particularly pathetic mindset; I worried I would be jealous. I always wanted a father, and I worried that I would be jealous of any attention my husband showed my daughter (I am not proud of this thought process, thank you) and jealous of her that she grew up with what I didn’t have. Worried I would resent her.

But after two sons I grew up a bit more, realized that having a girl would not only NOT be the worst thing in the world, it might be the greatest addition our family could ask for. So we tried. Nothing happened. We decided two babies were perfect and so we let it go. The next month I was pregnant and I just knew it was a girl! Now she is six months old and I cannot remember feeling any of those ways. I can’t feel any way other than happy she breathes.

I worry of course, about my girl. I whisper in her ear all the time, sweet nothings but also words of strength. She is beautiful. She is STRONG! She is smart…and specifics…she is so good at tracking objects, so good at sitting up! Doing such a good job of figuring out this eating solids thing. I tell her every day with her is a treasure. I tell her that her smile lights the stars for me.

I whisper these things as if they are a prayer. Somehow they will safeguard her against mean girls, against body image issues, against eating disorders and choosing the wrong boys. That she will not cut her beautiful skin. I say them wishing they will protect her from self-hatred. I say them as if they will make her strong, with a healthy ego and self esteem, as if they will protect her from being, well, being like me. I say these prayers while kissing her and listening to the joyous giggle and squawk of babyhood. I breathe in her soft scent and nuzzle her belly and tell her she is perfect exactly as she is. Hoping that somehow she will know this is true. That she won’t be torn down.

That she will make it through unscathed. Somehow.

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Please.

 

Men We Reaped, a book review.

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(AMAZON)

It’s only the second week of January, I have read three books so far in 2015 and I can safely say that this book,  Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward will be on my top books of the year.  Released in 2013 it’s an especially compelling read this year with everything that is going on in our world.

This is the story of Jesmyn’s childhood, her young adulthood and the young men who didn’t get to grow old. It is a heartwrenching and beautiful tale of growing up in systemic poverty in rural Mississippi, it’s the tale of children who create families of their own and care for one another. It’s the story of trying to do the right thing against a system that’s simply not working. It’s sad, sweet, charming, and it will leave you changed.

I didn’t grow up black, poor, and in Mississippi. So as you read this perhaps you’ll think “what a middle class white review” and to that I say yes, because that’s me. That’s my upbringing, that’s what I bring to the table…What Jesmyn Ward brings to the table is a life different from mine, one that is harder in many ways, more complex in many ways and more filled with love and family in many ways.

I learned a great deal about what life is like in an area such as this. I learned about the socio-economic realities of this world she and her family and friends inhabited. But don’t think this is a preachy book, one that beats into the collective mind how hard it is. This is a book of lyrical beauty.

Ward shares with us the too-short lives of her brother and many friends. Lest we take the too comfortable narrative of black on black crime, we get to know- and love- these young men as they live, make mistakes, grow, and eventually die. Murder, anxiety and depression, suicide, and illness all play a part in reaping these men from life.

I find myself thinking of these young men, they creep back into my consciousness, a good writer makes you feel like you know them and Ward does this fully. She never trivializes or saints these men and their lives, I would guess those who knew these men would say she portrayed them well.

It’s a gorgeous book, I cannot say enough about it, and yet I feel guilty discussing it’s beauty because at heart it is the story of real men who really suffered and died far too young. I loved them, I loved her and her mother and her brother and I learned so much about the way life works there. Much of it was so inspiring- and isn’t that a privileged thing to say? I was so inspired by their resilience, the joy and the friendships and mostly the community.

I’m not sure I can adequately put into words how I loved this book and how it affected me.

It’s a beautiful eulogy to these young men and an incredible experience to read. Trust me, read it.

 

 

And then they were gone…

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I miss my sister so much. It remains the hardest thing about having left LA. Well, that and that I have to have snow here. We grew up in Colorado and I hated snow and moved to California as fast as I could, so although I now truly love Maryland…Winter makes me grumpy. Plus I ordered Duck Boots in APRIL and they still haven’t arrived. Stupid college students wanting in on LL Bean. File under first world problems.

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I hadn’t seen my Heather in over a year, she hadn’t even met Piper!  Max, Huck, and Isaiah hadn’t played together in ages. It took a few hours but before you knew it those three were storming the proverbial castle and Heather and I were gabbing away. I wish we lived closer. We took the kids to DC, we took them to Port Discovery and they had a blast. Then we kinda laid low, roasting marshmallows, and watching movies. Finally we escaped for a maternity shoot…oh, did I forget to mention my sister is pregnant? Yes, yes I did. I am SO thrilled and I can’t wait to see Piper and little one so close in age playing together.
It’s like every childhood dream we dreamed.

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We made a resolution to make family vacations together happen. We need to get all these kids to a beach for some fun in the sun!

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I can’t wait to see them again, and meet the new baby. I love her already!

 

The best laid plans…

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I had grand plans of Piper’s first Christmas. Yes, they all had matching PJ’s and I was going to bust out the big camera and do it RIGHT! The tree was packed full of presents. With both Huck and Max fully into Santa and the magic of Christmas we all got a little carried away… but…but…the flu, you guys.

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And it was vicious. First victim was my sweet Max. Max rarely gets sick. But they called me to come get him from school before the break and dude went downhill quick. Three days of 103 fever and he was slowly on the mend. Just in time for me to get it. With my sister and nephew arriving for a long anticipated visit I basically handed the baby to my husband and said I AM GOING TO BED. Then slept for 48 hours. I was still icky but feeling okay. We wiped the entire house will all manner of lysol and toxic flu killing chemicals and welcomed my sister hoping we had stopped it in it’s tracks.

Not so much. We had a few good days and then it hit Huck like a Mac truck. He is the one we worry about, everything ends up in his lungs, just like mama. So we are still crawling out from under this bug. I hate it and wish it would die already!!

But Christmas was lovely nonetheless. I truly am one of those people don’t understand. I’d love to have my kids home allllllllllll the time. I am so selfish and want them and their awesomeness all to myself.

Except when I want to get away.

So now, the tree is down. My sister is gone and I am cuddled up with a not feverish but still coughing Huckleberry…

Back to life.

I thought a minivan was the nail in the coffin of cool. I was wrong.

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When I first got my minivan I was conflicted. I mean who drives these things? Certainly not ME, who despite two kids and another one on the way (at the time) still felt twenty-five. Still felt that 10 p.m. was an acceptable time to begin getting ready to go out for the evening. In my head anyway. Clearly delusional as in reality I don’t go out past 10 p.m. Unless it’s a special occasion like someone’s birthday and then dudes, the next day mama is tired!

I thought as I crawled into my minivan “This is it. The end of cool”. But at the same time I love that Goddamn thing so much. I named her Ethel (to my Lucy, naturally) and I don’t know how I ever lived without her. She makes life ever so much easier. She keeps children from flinging open doors into parked cars. She has room  for baseball gear and thrifted dressers and multiple strollers. She has a remarkably good sound system for blaring Boys To Men while carting my drunk friends around on one of the aforementioned out past ten p.m. birthday outings. She is the bread to my butter and I love her.

Even if that makes me uncool.

That was the pinnacle I felt. I have fallen as far the fallen can fall. But I was wrong. I was oh, so wrong.

It started earlier this week when I was at Stay at Home Mom Mecca (Starbucks) and Huckleberry laid eyes on a minivan much like ours except in one respect.

It had reindeer antlers and a nose.

To say Huck lost his sugar honey ice tea would be an understatement. “Is a reindeer car, mommy! Is RUDOLPH!”  It was awesome! I mean it’s awesome if you’re three. If you’re ME? Not so much!

“We need that for our car!” He gleefully cried.

Crap.

Next thing I knew I had hit two Party City stores and three Five Belows in an effort to acquire such accoutrements for my minivan.

So there’s cool. Then there’s minivan level not cool but still holding on by your fingernails cool. Then there’s a 100 foot drop to rock bottom of cool and it’s there that they hand you the antlers. And it’s worth it.

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See ya “cool”. Catch ya on the flip side.  For now, cool is putting antlers on vans happily being willing to be looked at askance by other drivers. The looks they give me doesn’t matter. The light in his -and as it turns out his too-cool-for-school- big brother’s eyes? That matters.

And in their eyes. It’s the coolest ride in town.

Santa from Target.

Santa! I know him!

Santa! I know him!

 

Sometimes after I drop Max off at school I take my little ones out for a little Mommy date. At Target, I know, I just pull my Uggs over my leggings and head on out to the Target with the Starbucks. Basically I am the most basic b in full basic heaven.

As Huck had a 9:30 am snack of milk and a snowman cookie and I nursed Piper (don’t worry, she was gently tucked under my basic blanket scarf) I noticed that Huck was slowly losing his mind with excitement; he was almost jumping out of his skin. I turned and saw the cause. Santa. This Target employee was  male, of a certain age and physical build. He wearing the requisite Target red shirt, had long white hair and a white beard and he did indeed look like Santa. I personally always suspected Santa worked at Target, admit it you did too. Or at least had a crazy Target hook up.

Huck was nearly squeaking with excitement. Wiggling in his chair, his eyes lit up like lights on the tree. He was hyped up on vanilla milk, Christmas spirit and the ultimate celebrity sighting. Santa either hadn’t noticed  or was uninterested in being Santa. The woman in line behind him offered to buy him his drink, she had noticed Huck and said pointedly to the man “Santa should never have to pay for his own drink!” She smiled and looked at Huck sharing the joy of catching Santa in the wild. I smiled at her, thankful. I was arguing with myself in head…how could he not play the part? One doesn’t just walk about looking like Santa and not BE Santa at Christmas time, I thought and then immediately I felt for him. It must be exhausting everyone thinking you look like Santa. Then again, he was a grown man who obviously cultivated and liked his look (as he should) and thus had a responsibility to play the part when called upon by a small child.  I’m certain the angsty teens of the world had wearied him, as teens are want to do, but the tiny ones? Come on, Santa! Reindeer up!

I was beginning to despair, Huck was starting to be sad that Santa hadn’t seen him or worse, had seen him and didn’t care. I looked at the woman in line and she nodded encouragingly. I whispered to Huck that Santa must be undercover. He must be doing recon, checking out all the goodies that Target had, or maybe he was sneaking a peek at Huckleberry himself to make sure he was on the nice list, and reassured Huck that he was. I was trying everything to make it okay that Santa was less than 4 feet away from my little believer and Santa didn’t seem to care.

Which was his right…except he looks like Santa…oh the inner argument began again.

Santa collected his drink and began to make his way out of Starbucks, passing right past Huck. My heart fell in on itself. My poor kid. Then suddenly, Santa turned around, gave Huck the most conspiratorial wink that Santa ever winked and shhhhh’d a tiny shhhhh. It’s our secret was the message. And it was received loud and clear.

Like the Grinch, Huck’s heart grew three sizes right that second, threatening to burst out of his chest and showering us all with sparkly snowflakes.

Santa made his way back to work with a nice gingerbread latte and my undying gratitude.

I should have had faith in Santa. His little wink was better than if he had come over and boomed a Merry Christmas. It was perfect. Thank you #SantaFromTarget.

Yours was the best gift we have ever gotten from Target, and that is saying a lot.

Merry Christmas.

Three is

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Three is a whiplash whirlwind. Three is fitting perfectly against my side and resting his small head in the crook of my neck. Three is hair quickly changing from angel fluff to real boy. Three is little arms losing their baby chub wrapping tightly around my leg. Three is I love you mommy don’t sing, NO MOMMY NO SINGING! Three is tiptoeing through a minefield tensely waiting for the next explosion, knowing it will come when you least expect it.

Three is frustration. Three screams for no reason. Three slaps and kicks and pulls hair. Three sometimes thinks that slapping, kicking and pulling hair are hilarious. Three spontaneously holds hands, climbs into laps and offers kisses. Three manipulates, controls, rewards and punishes. Three is possibly an abusive relationship that I cant, and don’t want to, escape.

Three is wild. Three is creative and independant and three needs his mommy right this instant and don’t you dare even go to the bathroom with out him again! Three needs stability and four books at night. Three needs Grer Bear tucked in bed next to him to cuddle at night.

Three makes grand declarations in half baby-half adult language. Three notices everything. Three can hear a candy wrapper being sneakily opened two rooms away.

Three is inspiring. Three is wonderful and terrible. Three is the sweetest words I love you mommy in an even sweeter voice. Three is exhausting.

And as of today, THREE is half over.

Thank God.

And also, can I slow down time? Because three is going too fast.

Princesses can be feminists, feminists can be princesses.

And they lived Happily Ever After…happily ever after

When I was four years old I wanted to be a fashion buyer for a department store and drive a tractor to work. I still think that would be a rad job, even if a tractor would make for a slow commute. I like the juxtaposition of the two. It also speaks to the child I was, that I not only wanted to dictate what I wore but also control the options that were available to everyone. I still do.

The other day Huck and I went to his very favorite place- Target- (I’ll take my parenting award now, thank you) and as a reward for some very good behavior he was allowed to pick one toy from the “partment”. It was a painstaking process. Would Legos win? Oh, look Power Rangers! No. No…new TMNT toys are in! Finally after about ten minutes of rumination he picked a real treasure. Pinky Pie, from My Little Pony. Or as he calls them La la pony. I smiled at him and handed over the $5.99 as he beamed at his treat. He is all boy, cars, wrestling and pink ponies. He defines who he is minute by minute, just as Max does. Max is all baseball and Beatles…and all about babies.

I like those juxtapositions too.

I hope my daughter will find her own as well. She will be free to define herself minute by minute too. Whatever she is into.

From the moment she was born people started telling me “No princesses!” “No matter what you do, just don’t do princesses!” and I have to admit that that hurt my heart a little because, well, I LOVE the Princesses! I can’t wait to share them with her!

I know, I know everyone hates the 1950’s the wedding is the ultimate goal of them all, and perhaps I was really dim as a girl- but I never took that away from those stories. I took many ideologies from them; you can travail over extreme obstacles, you can find beauty and friends in odd places. That there is evil in the world and that knowing who to trust is important. That optimism and perseverance can pay off. But scoring the man was not the main holdover for me. Perhaps it came from having a strong single mother. Toilet needs fixing? She did it. Want to rearrange heavy furniture? She’s doing it. I adopted that. It’s hard for me to wait even 10 minutes for help, I will just move that damn couch myself! Teach myself to use power tools so I can do what I want.  My daughter will learn that, alongside me just as I learned it alongside my mother.

By typical definition I am a “girly girl” and I love that. I love pretty clothes, jewelry, bedding…love it. BRING IT ON! I love looking and feeling like, let’s be honest, an aging Princess. And yes, my wedding was as Princess-y as I could get it. My gown was huge, my tiara glittered. I had one veil for the wedding and one for the reception. The location was as Castle like as I could find in all of Southern California. But so what? Does that make me less of a feminist?

No. Princess Stephanie rocks the feminism and true feminism is the opportunity for all women to have equal rights and opportunities to do with as THEY choose. Stay at home mom who wants to do nothing but be a quiverfull member? I might think you are crazy…but GO YOU! No kids, two doctorates in physics and kicking ass at work? That’s way beyond me ..but GO YOU! Or like most of us, we fall somewhere in the middle. We are stay at home moms who miss work and long for adult conversations and activities that don’t involve Caillou. We are stay at home moms who feel completely fulfilled just as we are. We are working women who want kids but not yet. We are working women who have kids. We are single moms, we are married and child free by choice. We are ALL women with all choices. That’s feminism. My personal brand of feminism involves creativity, pretty clothes, tiaras, power tools, fighting for reproductive rights and marriage equality and yes, I hate to break it to you; Princesses.

As a special bedtime treat my mother would sometimes put my read along Cinderella record on my turntable and we would act out the story. She being Prince Charming and of course I was Cinderella. I remember this vividly, one of those childhood memories that are snapshots of happiness. Several decades later I stood in a recording studio with a contract from Disney and narrated that very book for a new read-along. It was a dream come true for me. Cinderella. My favorite. I nailed it. It was beautiful. But my voice choked on one sentence so that we had to do several takes. Emotion bubbling to the surface as I spoke “and they lived happily ever after”

That moment was a happily ever after for me. Perhaps to some that phrase was the end of the story but to me it always seemed the beginning of infinite possibilities. My possibility involved a full circle from listening to the book to being a part of perhaps some other little girl acting out her story. Perhaps MY little girl acting out her story. I hope she will know Happily Ever After isn’t the end, it’s just the start, or perhaps it’s the middle. Our real lives aren’t over when we get married why would the Princess’s be? It might be the start of the Princess taking her throne, and a new phase of her using her power to effect change in the world. In her world whatever she defines that to be.

I am a feminist wrapped up in Princesses and that’s okay.

So don’t come down on my kid if she likes princesses. Don’t tell her no. Because if she is anything like me, she will kick your ass while wearing that glass slipper.