Friday, August 31, 2012

Fighting the Preschool Gender Police

Good Heavens, the gender policing starts early! What kills me is the extent to which it is done by the kids themselves - and I'm talking about preschoolers here. SchmoopyBoy was once told by one of the little girls in his class that he could play with her and another girl later but now they were doing "girl stuff". Another time a little boy told my husband, as he applied sunscreen to SchmoopyBoy's face, that he shouldn't use that sunscreen, that it was for girls, because there was a picture of a sun on the container that looked feminine to him. The last straw came one day when I was picking up SchmoopyBoy from school, and he wanted a story before we left. I started to read an I Spy book from the class collection. One of the little girls joined us. On one page the book read "I spy ballet slippers" and as we scanned the page for the ballet slippers the little girl said "That is for girls."

I could not let that go. I had to correct her. "Actually, boys dance ballet too. They wear different shoes than girls, but ballet is for both girls and boys."

The next time I came to pick SchmoopyBoy up, I made a point of bringing in a picture of myself and a male dancer from back in my younger ballet dancing days. I searched out the girl and showed her that there was both a girl and a boy ballet dancer, but they were wearing different ballet slippers. Needless to say, once it got out that I had a picture of ballet dancers, everybody in the class wanted to see it - both the girls and the boys. So all the kids in the class got a lesson that day.

The teacher was thrilled. I had spoken with her before about my concerns about how gender was or was not presented and enforced in the class. I do believe we are on the same page, but the children bring the ideas to class that they have learned at home. When she hears something like what I described above, she addresses it, but she can't always hear everything. She mentioned she would love to have pictures of girls and boys doing things associated primarily with one or the other gender, similar to the photo I brought in, so I volunteered to provide her with some. I sent her:

pictures of male and female ballet dancers,

pictures of a princess and a prince,

pictures of male and female doctors,

pictures of male and female astronauts,

pictures of male and female teachers, and

pictures of male and female police officers.

She sent me a note of appreciation:
I appreciate your taking time to find the pictures for me. As teachers, we have many ideas we would like to do but don't have the time. We can use the pictures in many different ways. Thank you for also finding not just male/female pictures but also pictures that had people of different ethnicities and ages.

Yes, the different ethnicities, that too was no accident. All children, be they male or female, regardless of their heritage, should be able to see representations of themselves. I think it is important for children to be told "You can be anything you want when you grown up" and also see examples of people who look like them who have accomplished their goals - to perhaps see a future version of themselves in these representations.

I would like to think that I have helped plant a seed of thought in that little girl, and possibly other kids in the class. They responded so positively to the one ballet picture I brought in. I don't know how the teacher is using the other pictures I sent her. Hopefully the children will respond positively when they see those pictures as well.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How Not to avoid talking water policy with a preschooler

As you know, SchmoopyBoy is fascinated with poop. Recently, his interest has taken a scientific turn. He now knows that food goes into our stomachs when we swallow, and comes out as poop. Even more recently, he asked what happens to the poop after it goes into the toilet.

Keeping in mind he is four years old, I tried to keep the explanation at his level. I should also note that he is at the stage of “Why?” Virtually every statement that comes out of my mouth is followed by SchmoopyBoy asking Why? So, with that in mind, here is approximately how the explanation went.

Me: The poop and the water go down the drain when you flush. Then it goes to pipes underground, to the water treatment plant.

SchmoopyBoy: Why does it go down the drain?

Me: To get to the pipes.

SchmoopyBoy: Why are the pipes underground?

Me: Because if they were above ground it would be really stinky.

SchmoopyBoy: Where is the water treatment plant?

Me: On the other side of town.

SchmoopyBoy: Why?

Me: Because that is where the clean water gets put back into the wash, and back to the lake.

SchmoopyBoy: Why is it clean water?

Me: The water gets cleaned at the water treatment plant.

SchmoopyBoy: Why?

Me: The water is dirty. It has poop and pee in it. It needs to be cleaned. Then the clean water goes back to the lake.

SchmoopyBoy: Why?

You can see how these conversations go. So the other day we were at Target and SchmoopyBoy needs to use the bathroom. I took him into the bathroom and he wants more information on how poop and pee are processed at the Target bathroom. He asks if his pee and the water in the toilet are going into pipes. I confirm that indeed they are. He asks if the pipes are underground. I confirm that indeed they are. He again asks why, and I again explain that if poop and pee water went across town over ground it would stink and it would be dangerous because there is bacteria in poop and pee that could make people sick. He continues his line of questioning, but then really wants to know about the treatment plant and the clean water coming out of the treatment plant. He really wants to know why the clean water is returned to the lake.

At this point people in the restroom are beginning to snicker at us – this preschooler barraging his mother with questions about poop and water treatment plants and why is the treatment plant on the other side of town and why does the water go to the lake, and on and on and on… why? why? why?

All this time I’m thinking to myself, He’s four. Keep it age appropriate. Do not start talking about water policy. Do not utter the words “consumptive use” or “return flow credits”. But alas, at this point I’m getting flustered and I'm so accustomed to talking about water related issues with adults in a professional setting that I can't think of how to answer his questions in terms a preschooler can understand, so what comes out of my mouth? The words “consumptive use” of course. I’m mumbling something incoherent about how we divert water from the lake, use what we need, and then return the rest to the lake after it gets cleaned at the treatment plant. And of course he keeps asking why? because I’m so incoherent and I’m using words like “divert” and “consumptive use” and for crying out loud the child is only four so what the heck does all this mean, and finally a woman who was trying so hard not to laugh just said to him “Because otherwise we would run out of water” and at last the conversation was over (for the time being) and we could return to our shopping in peace.  Thank you, kind woman, for summing everything up so succinctly.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

You Are My Sunshine

I was inspired by this sunshine sandwich, so I offered SchmoopyBoy a sun for dinner. He took me up on the offer but said he wanted toast, banana, and peas. So, I had to abandon, to some extent, my original intention and create an edible sun from the requested materials.

I used a large glass as my circle template to cut the toast and a slice of muenster cheese. The face is made of freehand cutouts (obviously) from a slice of American cheese. (I think the face looks like a Halloween jack-o-lantern, which makes me hang my head.) For the sun rays I sliced the banana length-wise and in about 1-inch sections. Then I cut the corners off one side of each section to make them a little more pointy and surrounded the toast. I couldn't think of anything to do with the peas so I just split them in half and arranged them in a circle for a decorative border. So sad.

Simple. I can do simple. A professional I most certainly am not, but it turned out cute enough to make my kid happy and get him fed, so Yay for trying!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My family. I love them, but they're an odd bunch.

I just got back a couple of days ago from visiting my mother and sister in California. One night, as I was bathing Lil' Schmoo in preparation for bedtime, I overheard the following exchange.

SchmoopyBoy: Auntie, I want you to brush my teeth.

Auntie: (something about showing her what a big boy he is and brushing his own teeth…blah blah...)

SchmoopyBoy: You have really big boobies.

Auntie: Yes, I do. Thank you for noticing.

Husband: (turning red, muttering) I think I'll leave the room now.

Auntie: (to SchmoopyBoy) When you get older if I'm still single you can tell your friends that.

So the other night after dinner I bring it up and start to explain how that sort of interaction isn't polite. The husband tried to help make the point, and then things just got weird.

Me: You can get away with that now because you are four, but as you get older it will be considered 'bad form' to make  comments about the size of a woman's boobies.

Husband: Really, you shouldn't make comments about any part of a woman's body. You can't just walk up to someone and say 'You have a nose like a casaba melon!' or you'll be in a world of hurt.

Seriously, where do I find these people?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Operation Increase Recipe Repertoire

I've started a new initiative at home. I've been getting a bit bored and stale with my current repertoire of go-to dinner meals. I've got a ridiculous number of cook books that hadn't been getting much use. So, I decided that I was going to try at east one new recipe a week from one of my many cook books. I was planning on turning each trial into a blog post, complete with pictures and reviews. You can see where that went. Nowhere, fast.

Nonetheless I am pleased to say that after almost a month, I do have a couple new recipes that I will be happy to turn to again and again.

The Chickpea Cutlets in Veganomicon are yummy and fun to make with SchmoopyBoy's assistance. As fantastic as the food in this cookbook is, I haven't been using it much recently only because many of the recipes are very labor and time intensive. The chickpea cutlets recipe is really quite easy and fast. I've made them twice. On a related note, there are two recipes for vegan ricotta in Veganomicon. They are both fabulous. I used the almond based ricotta recipe in a lasagna a couple weeks ago, which turned out delicious! The next time I make it I'll try to remember to take pictures and post the recipe.

Also, the Seitan and Mushroom Stroganoff in Vegan Vittles is fantastic. I understand this cookbook is out of print, but you can get a copy used from Amazon. I got my copy as a gift from a co-worker just before Lil' Schmoo was born.  nom nom nom, so good.

Last weekend the husband broke down and bought a Vitamix. We got it for 20% off (which equates to a discount of $100, these things aren't cheap). It is actual great purchase, we use that thing every day. Seriously. Every day. But then again we used our old blender virtually every day too. What can I say, we like smoothies in our household. Anyway, the Vitamix came with its own recipe book and I've tried a few recipes, including Blueberry Soy Sherbet. What fun to make our own sorbet and sherbet! The recipe in the book was actually for peach soy sherbet, but we didn't have any frozen peaches, just frozen blueberries and frozen strawberries. The recipe said you can substitute any kind of frozen fruit, and SchmoopyBoy chose blueberry, so there you go.

I'll try to update our recipe expanding adventures again soon. Until then, happy eating!