Mimimalist Mom in Cluttered Kid World: Tips for Surviving & Saving During the Tacky Twos

When I started putting my daughter’s nursery together, I knew what I wanted: modern, neutral colors. Cute organic Euro-designed wood toys (all gifts or found at the second-hand store). Lots of books. And NO plastic.

I was most militant about the plastic part. There are real health reasons for avoiding plastic toys, as well as my more questionable aesthetic ones. And then there’s the environmental impact–nothing shouts ‘carbon footprint’ as loudly as a discarded Tickle Me Elmo.

Well, here we are, almost two years later. And I am drowning in a sea of plastic clutter. Noisy, tacky, environmentally questionable clutter.

Why? Kids at this particular developmental stage love it. Anything that is brightly colored, beeping, and requires batteries that are not included is instant toddler crack. Moreover, they love choice—they crave a dizzying variety of shapes, sizes, and sounds. They learn through choosing, sorting, and discarding. Toddlers are capricious; the beloved squeaky toy of yesterday is cruelly cast aside for something shinier (and probably more expensive) the next. In fact, the “Terrible Twos” should be renamed the “Tacky Twos”. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink and Green Parenting: Five Reasons for Queer Parents to Vote

When I post my next Queercents article, we’ll have a new president-elect.

Yipee! (Hopefully, that yipee isn’t premature…)

For those of us still shell-shocked from the disaster of 2004 (not to mention 2000), the excitement and anxiety are overwhelming. I’m all too aware of the problems with electoral politics, the winner-take-all system, the undue influence of PACs, those wacky ‘undecided’ voters, the use of queer issues as the poltical football du jour, and so on. As a queer parent, I see my issues get misrepresented and/or ignored by virtually all parties. I’m skeptical about mainstream candidates’ commitment to our issues. I have often had to hold my nose before pulling the lever. I think a two-party system ill-serves the diversity of the electorate.

And yet I still believe voting is one of the most important acts of citizenship we can perform. Why?

1) Your vote is your family’s voice.

I’m not a fan of those “Babies for Obama” onesies; I’ll let my kid decide for herself which candidates/parties she supports when the time comes (I’m the same way about those “I Love My Two Moms” onesies; how do I know how she really feels about this, given that she’s too small to express an opinion about carrots vs peas?) I do fantasize about voting for her one day…which probably ensures that she’ll turn out wildly apolitical. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink and Green Parenting: DIY Toddler Toys for the Craft-Impaired

Toddlers love toys. They crave novelty, and are rather fickle: yesterday’s favorite plushy is quickly abandoned for the allure of a new board book. And they love noise—making it, hearing it, and pressing buttons that elicit it. Too often, this all adds up to pricey, environmentally unsound trips to plasticland, a.k.a. your local megatoystore.

Instead of littering our planet and your child’s world with nonbiodegradable, not too mention aesthetically revolting, plastic toys, why not make your own? I am a working mom, short on time, who is also rather three-thumbed—I love the idea of making stuff, but I’m a terrible sewer, can’t cut in a straight line, and am chronically low on patience for such things. So with all this in mind, here are some suggestions for homemade toys that are environmentally sound and, most importantly, highly entertaining to toddlers. Some are more involved than others, but all are easy, quick, and fun to make with your toddler.

1) The Booble-de-Bop

Okay, so if you’re intimidated by crafty stuff, this is the place to start. Place a shiny plastic object (we use a string of hot pink Mardi Gras-style plastic beads of unknown provenance) inside a plastic bottle. Close it tight. Let the great rumpus begin! The sound on your hardwood floors will make you want to jump out of a window, but your kid will be entertained for hours. For slightly older kids, attach googly eyes, bells, boas, etc. (all cheap and easily found at your local crafts shops). Read the rest of this entry »

Moneytalk: How (and Whether) to Talk to Your Kids About Your Financial Problems

How do we talk to our kids about our financial problems?

Should we?

As I read the umpteenth story about the difficulties people are having in this crazy market, I can’t help thinking about these downsized, 401k-drained, foreclosured, bankrupt workers’ children. What sense are they making of all this? Are kids scared of losing their toys, their dreams, their homes? Their families?

When I searched for articles about how to talk to kids about financial difficulties, I found that most articles suggested parents talk directly and openly to their kids about the money problems their families might be facing, while making sure to offer reassurance that everything will be okay. On first thought, that seems like the right approach; honesty and transparency are usually best when talking to kids about difficult issues. I certainly don’t believe a parent should just avoid the issue; obviously, kids will know if the parents are stressed out about money or job security. And I’m a big fan of openness and honesty in all aspects of parent-child relationships.

But I also feel that part of our job as parents is to protect our children from adult worries, so that they can feel safe and secure. I want our kids to get to be kids! Read the rest of this entry »

Clicking Without Consuming: Five Parenting Sites That Hawk Information Instead of Junk

One of the best things about the Internet is that it’s free, at least for the user. Yet so many of the sites directed towards parents–not to mention kids– are little more than virtual shopping malls. Especially when my daughter was an infant, I spent an ungodly amount of time searching the Internet for useful information. Here are the fruits of my insomniac’s search: five sites whose content will enrich your mind without depleting your wallet.

1) Mombian: There are lots of parenting websites, and even a sprinkling of lgbtq ones, but Dana Rudolph’s Mombian is consistently the most informative, best organized, and most frequently updated. Her weekly news roundup will keep you informed about issues pertinent to LGBTQ parents, and her commentary on a range of issues is always well-researched and thought-provoking. Though Rudolph identifies as a lesbian, she is pro-active about including news and information relevant to all queer parents. And while most of the cite has meaty, substantive content, she’s not above a little queer celebrity parenting gossip!

2) Babble: Babble might seem like an odd choice for my list; it often gets knocked as the avatar of yuppie, over-indulgent, consumeristic parenting. Though it does seem geared to wealthy, youngish, style-obsessed parents, it also features diverse, thoughtful blogs. Meet the Fosters, which is written by two gay foster parents of color, is my favorite; check out Jane Roper’s blog if you’re parenting twins. And avoid all those pop-up ads for $40 onesies! Read the rest of this entry »

Only Children: Stealth Costs and How to Prepare for Them

CheaperByTheDozenIt doesn’t take a genius to figure out that two children cost more than one to raise. And it doesn’t take a genius to understand that for queer parents, like straight parents, cost is only one factor in deciding on family size.

However, I’ve recently discovered some hidden costs of having an only child. Of course, in the wash, it’s still cheaper to have only one—and cost is still not the main factor for anyone I’ve ever met in determining family size. But here are some costs to think about, prepare for, and maybe even save for if you’re going to have a single-child family.

1) Lessons, Play Groups, and Underwater French

I always planned to enroll my child in a few fun, enriching activities. I didn’t want to be one of those pushy type-A parents forcing my infant into underwater French lessons at six months to ensure she got into Harvard down the road. But I did plan to put her in a few classes in various art forms, sports, etc. when the time came. Well, with a single child, the time comes sooner rather than later, and with greater frequency, for a couple of reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Pink & Green Parenting: Greening Your Back-to-School Preparations (and Saving Some Greenbacks, Too)

Back to School savingsIt’s only early August, and yet you’re already probably inundated with back-to-school advertising! My advice is to enjoy the ever-shrinking summer while it lasts, but here are some tips for going green while saving the greenbacks once you do start getting ready to send your kids back to school.

One caveat: my daughter, despite her ability to ‘go get the y’ from the alphabet magnets on the fridge, is only a year old and hence not in school yet, so these are ideas gleaned from others. Do you have some tips that have worked for your kids? Add them in the comments. And enjoy the fleeting sweetness of summer, while it lasts. (In that spirit, there’s an ice cream recipe in a link at the end of this article, proving that pink and green parenting can be fun!)

1) Brown bag it. And reuse the brown bag. A homemade, brown-bagged lunch is a yummy, healthy, and green alternative to the junk in the school cafeteria. And it’s cheaper, too. Avoid prepared foods, especially those that claim to be something known as ‘lunchable’, and use as little packaging as possible. Get your kids on board with this by letting them help choose what’s in their lunches. Read the rest of this entry »

WAHMs, WAHDs, and the Costs and Benefits of Working at Home with Kids: Making the Most of Your Work Time

My name is Jennifer, and I’m a WAHM.

WAHM WAHDNo, that’s not some new addition to the ever-expanding LGBTQ alphabet soup of queer identities; it stands for work-at-home mom or dad. I’m part of a growing trend; an increasing number of folks are WAHMs or WAHDs. Between the lame-ola economy and the wonders of wireless technology, more and more parents are combining work with child-minding. When the kids are little, this requires some paid assistance, unless you are lucky enough to have family who will watch your kids for free. I’m in the unlucky group who has to pay for someone to watch my daughter while I work at home.

I’ve already written some tips about how to find the ideal (or at least competent and LGBTQ friendly) nanny. But once you’ve found her, how do you best utilize your time while she’s minding your kid? It’s a bit trickier than it may seem; it takes a while to adjust to working while your kid and another person are around. Here are some tips that I hope will help WAHMs and WAHDS best utilize their at-home work time:

1) Expect to lose some work time at the beginning. When you first start having your nanny come, expect that you, your child, and the nanny will all need some time to adjust. Lower your expectations for how much work you will get done the first few times the nanny comes. Instead, work on establishing a routine for the day. Make it clear what you want the nanny to do with your child, when and how you’d like to be interrupted in non-emergency situations, and so on. Articulate to the nanny that you understand that she or he can’t instantly fill your shoes. It took us about four days before we all really transitioned. Read the rest of this entry »

What We Talk About When We Talk About Money: Explaining Wealth and Poverty to Kids

Doctor bills “We don’t take that insurance anymore.”

“You don’t? But my daughter was supposed to get her shots today.How much will it cost if I just pay out-of-pocket?”

“I don’t know. It depends on what else the doctor does today.”

(pause)

“Come on, Cindy; we’re going to the park. We’ll go to the doctor another day.”

“But I thought I was going to get my pokes and a lollipop!”

“We’ll do it another day.”

And so the embarrassed, flustered mother and daughter left my pediatrician’s office.

Even though I was only a witness to, and not a participant in this exchange, I felt my face turning red. I wanted to help the mother, and shield her daughter from it all. My own daughter was much too young to absorb what was going on, but it made me wonder how I would explain this and all the other economic injustices that we confront every day. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the State of Maryland: How to Lose the LGBTQ Dollar

State of MarylandDear State of Maryland:

You lost. You lost our confidence, our sense of citizenship, and yes, our money. How much? About $3,000, all told. And Maryland’s loss will be California’s gain.

To quote many a parent: I’m so disappointed in you.

Let me back up. Maryland was one of those states that was considering gay marriage this year, but basically, the state legislators caved to the usual right-wing special interests. Meanwhile, as everyone and their gay uncle knows, California’s Supreme Court did the right thing. There has been lots of coverage about the economic benefits of same-sex marriage for California. But what I want to highlight is how states (such as Maryland) that are dragging their feet on the issue are losing out financially.

I was hoping we’d be able to get married in Maryland. I love my partner, and while I don’t think love needs state sanctioning to legitimize it, there are good economic reasons to get married if you’re in a long-term, property-sharing sort of romantic partnership. There are even better reasons if you’re co-parenting. Kids like stability and clarity; marriage provides that. And as a Maryland tax payer, I feel entitled to all the rights and responsibilities of marriage in my home state. I’m not a Californian, Spaniard, Canadian, Brit, or so on, so why should I have to get married elsewhere? I’d rather put my marriage dollars into the local economy. Read the rest of this entry »

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