My Annual Rant About What America is Doing to Our Girls

Oh mercy.

I try to stay off my soap box, I mean that really preachy soap box, but about once a year I just can’t take it anymore.

Last year, you may remember my rant from little bit’s completely inappropriate ballet recital outfit.

Most of you probably missed the previous year’s rant about the Family Circle “advice” column that set me off (because I had about 10 readers at the time!).

But this Sunday I lost it.  I was simply trying to outfit little bit with a new pair of shoes.  Becoming frustrated at the Stride Rite prices, I decided to visit a few children’s clothing stores that also offered a limited selection of shoes.  Among my stops were the not-particularly-reputationally-racy Gymboree and Carter’s.  GYMBOREE and CARTER’S!  Wanted to make sure you didn’t miss that these are stores that don’t carry teen clothing.  Or adult clothing.  Or stripper clothing.  Supposedly.

Ahem, I’ll rein it in a little.

Since it is April in Houston (or is supposed to be anyways, tell that to the 50s we’ve had this week), I thought I ought to pick up a pair of shorts.  Little bit picked up an adorable pair of purpled striped knit shorts at Gymboree which I said she could have because they looked about right from a length perspective.  Then I looked at the tag.  They were a SIZE 12!  The shorts that would probably been about the right length for a 4 year old wearing a 5T were a SIZE 12!

I can see you nodding your head because that is exactly what happened when I posted this information to Facebook.

I got an unreal amount of comments to this post: “Is there anywhere that sells preschool shorts that are not micro mini?!?! If not, she may never know what it’s like to wear shorts!”

Here were some of the comments in response:

* We just try to find capri pants – no recommendations here.

* Yes, capris and cut offs.  Not sure who designs shorts that short, but we won’t be buying them.

* I started sewing again for just this problem.  My girls mostly wear skirts with attached shorts because they are longer.

* We shop second hand for older styles but it’s getting harder every year.

* Just wait, mine is 9, I break into hives when we go clothes shopping.

* The shorts for tweens and teens are so short that there is literally no inseam and if they girls do anything other than stand up they show everything.  It’s indecent what’s marketed to young girls.

* We have the same experience.  In a restaurant the other day I was embarrassed and appalled to see a 14 year old wearing shorts with her butt cheeks hanging out.

* We put leggings with sundresses because the dresses are too short on their own too.

* We buy boys shorts.

* Prosti-tot wear.  I cut and hem winter jeans.

EVERY SINGLE MOM HAD THE SAME REACTION!

HOW ARE THESE PLACES STILL IN BUSINESS?

I am stabbing my keyboard viciously as I even type this.  What the hell?  I am sorry, but what the hell?

This is not an issue for one category of people.  This is an issue for you.

Are you a Feminist?  This continued degradation and sexualization of young girls should outrage you!  It defies any progress that has been made and reduces young women to objects.

Are you a Christian?  The slippery slope is ever more steep and dangerous.  When four year olds can’t find clothes to cover up more than their rear then we are in trouble.  Pray all you want, but we also need to be taking some action and finding alternatives.

Are you a father, grandfather, or brother?  You know how men look at women.  You know what it does to see every shred of skin pranced in front of you.  Do you want everyone who passes your daughter, granddaughter, or sister to be thinking those things?

What on Earth?  So here is a very simple recommendation, short of taking up sewing which I know I’m not going to do so I’m not going to recommend it to you:  STOP SHOPPING AT THESE STORES.  Any store that believes micro mini is the appropriate length of short for a four year old or a fourteen year old doesn’t deserve our business.  And maybe if enough places see an impact, and hear an outcry, we can affect change.

Everyone laughs at this idea.  Like one person can’t affect change.  But you know what?  Even if no one else follows this recommendation, I will not personally be supporting them with my hard earned money.

Shop somewhere you see encouraging appropriate attire.  Some of the recommendations by commenters I personally went and checked out and agree that several of them have solid options:

1.  The Children’s Place - they are incredibly reasonable, and the girl on their cover page as I was typing this was in shorts that nearly hit her knees!  (They do have shorter shorts, but they have a lot of “skimmer” shorts.)

2.  Land’s End - again, they have shorter shorts available, but they also have Bermuda shorts and cute skorts that are longer.  (Y’all they also have some really cute, but modest, swimsuits and shorts for women!)

3. Hanna Andersson – pricier, but a pretty broad selection of longer shorts and summer skirts that are age appropriate.

And one last thing.  I said age appropriate in that last little blurb, but y’all, the length I am seeing is inappropriate at any age.  Women have got to set an example for our girls by dressing with some dignity and self-confidence and realize we have more to offer the world than our chest or rear.  It’s gone too far.

Got Manners?

Y’all, I’m talking a lot about kids this week.  But there have been several situations crop up that made me want to spend much of this week tackling the issues.

Today I am so excited to host Virginia Johnson, a long time family friend, and manners EXPERT!  Seriously, it’s her business.  She’s guest posting on manners for our kids.  I love her tips and she has an excellent e-book called Mimi Rules, A Kindness Guide for Young Ladies, you must download.  While it’s geared for 9 to 13 year olds, I’m taking many of the tips and applying them in our home now.  Without further adieu, here’s Virginia.

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It saddens me to watch our young people barrel through their days without so much as a “hello, how are you?”

Their ears are glued to cell phones; unable to hear instruction (aka ‘tools for life’) from mom or dad.

Rarely is the door held open for an adult.  Food is shoveled from plate to mouth in a matter of seconds.

Manners are not medieval, a thing of the past – they are here to stay and make everyone look better.  And when they look better, they feel better and eventually have confidence to handle most any situation.

When I tell high school boys, “manners help you on the court, the field AND out to dinner with a young lady,” the room gets quiet.  I tell girls that the first tip on my list of ten must-know manners is first impressions count!  You have approximately 15 seconds to make a good or poor impression.  (And that goes for everyone, really.)

If one does not have ‘social savvy’ during an interview, your GPA won’t get you the job!  With social skills dwindling for all ages and experience levels, top notch manners and social ability will not only set you apart but can get you the job!  Manners allow you to gain confidence and authority in social and business arenas.

The good news is our young ones are sponges and can learn the ropes long before they reach high school.  They model what they see.  Why not have a ‘fancy’ sit-down dinner once a week?  Calendar the time each week to set a nice table (teach them how to do it), make dinner, and eat together as a family.  While you are seated around the table, discuss and practice these table-time tips with your children:

1. When you set the table, the bread plate is on the left, dinner plate in the middle, water on the right (B-M-W).

2. Have the kids wait behind their chair until you come to the table.

3. Pass the bread, rolls, or muffins to the right.

4. Cut one piece of meat at time.

5. Eat slowly, with mouths closed (food or drink is not to be heard).

6. ….and there is much more!

This is about more than just table manners.  It’s the start of a conversation about respect and social grace.  The time you invest in developing your children’s social skills builds their self-esteem, self-respect, and respect for others.

vjohnsonVirginia is the married mother of two grown boys and the owner of Manners Plus which offers a variety of etiquette programs that teach leadership skills and the social graces to all ages, from eight to eighty!  The workshops are fun, informative and often involve food.  For more information, contact Virginia Johnson at www.mannersplus.com
Photo by Elizabeth Messina, Words by Virginia Johnson.

Into the Great Wide Open

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I’ll admit it.

I’m a crazy Tom Petty fan.  So much a fan that he’s the only musician I mention in my About page.

I sat down to write today’s leadership post and all I could hear running through my head was Into the Great Wide Open….

I wondered what it had to do with leadership.

Everyone I’ve talked to says leading is hard.  But they quickly follow that statement with leading is worth it.

Sometimes, after fighting your way uphill, through the forest, you reach a clearing.

You look around and think, oh, this is why I was fighting so hard.  This was worth getting lost and scratched and rained on and frustrated.

You step into the great wide open.  A whole new level of possibilities and opportunities and a brand new view.  Your breath catches in your chest because you had started to doubt whether it was really worth it.

Unfortunately, staying out in the wide open spaces can also make you an easy target.

So take a deep breath, enjoy the view, but don’t stand still too long.  Say a prayer, set your sights for the next mountain, and keep moving.  This isn’t a rat race.  This isn’t keeping up with the Joneses.  This is striving for the best on a daily basis.  Enjoying each victory, savoring it, taking it in, but never becoming complacent that you’ve reached the pinnacle.  I hope I’m setting out for the next set of stunning vistas when I’m 90.

In the words of the great Tom Petty, The sky was the limit…

Time for (Tiny) Tea

I love to take tea.

God gave me a little girl so we could have tea parties.  I am certain of that.

Early in the year, we had our cousins over for a little tea party.  The impromptu fun was such a hit, little bit kept asking to have one for her friends at school.  So in February we settled on the weekend the boys were going turkey hunting.  We decided TWO MONTHS in advance to host the tea party for this weekend.  That may have been a little too far in advance since she has talked of nothing but the tea party since then.

Friday night we braved Central Market and cookie pick ups and assorted errands, and then we stayed up setting up the house.  Even at 8:30 she refused to go to bed if I was going to do one more thing for the party because she wanted to be a part of everything.  She set every place card in a well thought out seat, selected the tea “cups” and tea pot lollipops for each girl, and set their place setting including making the napkin ring fans.  We worked to wrap the art table in wrapping paper (this is solid gold friends – tablecloths get pulled with little kids, so cover the table for art projects with wrapping paper; it stays put and adds to your décor).

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We got the yummy cupcakes from Central Market and the adorable tea pot and tea cup cookies from Curlicue Bakery.  As soon as we woke up Saturday, we went to work on the food – fresh fruit, tiny finger sandwiches in peanut butter, cucumber, and chicken salad, mini quiches and yummy sweets.  I did make her take a nap so she’d be rested for the party, but I didn’t count on the fact that she would wake up in a terrible, awful, no good mood and flip out about wardrobe.  She lay nearly naked in bed crying for over a half hour before the party because I wouldn’t agree to the only outfit she found acceptable.  Luckily, at just after 3 (not even a half hour before the party!) she agreed to a lovely sundress we found tucked in the back of her closet.

The girls came, four year olds from her Pre-K 3 class along with a few sisters, and took over.  They played dollies and princesses in her bedroom until it was time for tea, and then they promptly came to the table and acted like little ladies.  There’s something about sitting at the big table, with glass plates and cloth napkins, that just has girls sitting straighter and using their best manners.  It’s one of my favorite reasons for a tea party.  We so often cave to the easy route of paper plates and rushed meals that manners are becoming harder to find.  Not to mention, the kids, mine most certainly included, don’t treat things with respect because they’ve been living in a disposable culture.  So toys break, pages get ripped from books, and everything can be replaced.  But if we teach them that things are precious, that we must take care, and that we must show respect and gratitude for even having lovely things, then maybe they’ll more mindful and careful with those things with which they are entrusted.

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I digress.  Our little ladies went from the tea party in the dining room to the art table in the kitchenette and made bracelets (teeny tiny beads, bad idea) and teapot fans and teapot picture frames.  They closed the party down by listening to classical music and performing a very free form ballet in the play room.  The party was a hit and I’ve found an avenue for entertaining until I can host grown ups again!  I did learn I should note on the invitation that it’s just a fun party, not a birthday party, because when moms see party invitations they think birthday!

Little bit is already asking for another one (I’ve warned her it will be another year).   It also reminded me that we need to use our dining room and nice linens and dishes more often.  In fact, on Wednesday, I’ve invited a family friend to join us to discuss manners and how to incorporate it in our daily lives with kids.  I hope you’ll come back for her wisdom!

Fashion Fridays: What Up With The Ankle Strap?

It. Is. Everywhere.

Y’all, what up with the ankle strap?

Theoretically, they are cute.  I even look at those rows of ankle-strap pumps, SOME of them, and think, “ooooh, super cute.”  I thought this when I took a turn down the DSW aisles this past week.  They are everywhere.  Not just at shoe stores.  EVERYWHERE.

Go look at Ann Taylor’s suit section (oh, they’re running a sale on their suits, FYI).  Go on, I’ll wait – http://www.anntaylor.com/suits/cata000013?trail=&pageSize=14&gridSize=md&catid=cata000013&goToPage=2&fRequest=true

Every single skirt suit is featured with big thick ankle straps.

The cover photo for “white hot” on DSW’s home page this week showed four kinds of shoes, and guess what?  They ALL had ankle straps.  There are 136 options for ankle strap pumps on their website right now.

So today is just going to be my public service announcement for the return of the ankle strap, and it’s not good news:

Virtually no one looks good in these shoes!  Well, let me rephrase.  Virtually no one looks good in these while wearing skirts or dresses.  If you want to wear them with pants, go knock yourself out.  (And I assume everyone has the sense not to pair them with a short.)

Because folks, a lot of these are thick ankle straps.  But once you have an ankle strap, of any size, cutting your leg where you are supposed to be slim, well, it’s no good.

Here are women that struggle pulling off an ankle strap of nearly any size:

1.  Me;

2.  Several of my friends who wholeheartedly concur;

3.  Anyone that is short to middle height;

4.  Anyone who has thick calves or ankles;

5.  Anyone who is carrying more weight than they are comfortable with.

Here is who looks good in an ankle strap:

Women over 5’10 who wear smaller than a size 8.  Yep.  I don’t know about the girls you hang with, but in my circle, that’s a pretty small subset of folks.

So who is buying all of these ANKLE STRAPPED SHOES?  Surely we all have full length mirrors.  (If you do not own a full length mirror, buy one this weekend.  You can pick one up for about $10 at Wal-Mart.)

Here is a potpourri with commentary just for you on the shapes and sizes of ankle strapped pumps circling the shoe markets this spring.  Hopefully, this will be on a loop in your head as you venture out shoe shopping:

ankle4 I may be in love with this shoe.  You remember my obsession with gray shoes?  And paired with camel, sigh.  But there is no possible way this shoe is going to work for me.  Unless I promise, in writing, to never ever wear these with anything but trousers.

ankle1Y’all, this is an adorable striped summer wedge.  But you pair that thick strap with that thick base and you’re going to look like a platypus.  Cut the strap off I beg you and let the wedge (and your leg) shine.

ankleBecause the big thick strap wasn’t going to do enough favors for you, let’s shorten the heel and color it salmon.  Nope.

ankle2This peep toe stiletto ankle-strapped bootie is lace.  Lace.  None of the words in that sentence should ever be written again.

ankle5One strap was not enough.  Two straps were not enough.  Three straps?!?!  Someone, stop the madness!

ankle3This shoe should never be worn out of the bedroom.  Period.

Okay, I’m done.  You can have your Friday back.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.