Happy 8th Birthday Twinkle

Dear Twinkle,

You have spent 2919 days on this earth, and tomorrow will be the eight-year anniversary of the most important day of my life, the day I became a mother. This year, this transition from 7 to 8, has been all about transitioning the power of your life into your own hands, simultaneously invigorating and terrifying.

What a learning curve we faced! Last year’s birthday ushered in new hope surrounding your health, tightly packaged in superstitious silence, rubbing of rabbits’ feet and wishing on stars. Now it amazes me that you will spend the year of being eight with (hopefully) health and only monthly treks to Children’s. If the stars align as they should, and our bodies behave as we bid them, you will have 365 days this year where normal kid drama is the most and only drama we face.

Not to say normal kid drama isn’t without its drawbacks. When we moved to our (hopefully) forever home you were thrown into a new chapter of childhood with the turning of the key. Living on a block inhabited by over 15 kids in elementary school, your new life consisted of riding bikes, skinning knees, dancing in yards and never, I mean never, voluntarily coming into the house when evening came. You have navigated the social politics of multi-age friendship groups with an amazing amount of charisma. It is quite charming when our doorbell rings 6 times in one evening, all from different friends begging to play with you.

Your year hasn’t been without struggle, though. We found a program meant for brilliant little stars like you, but in order to increase your likelihood of acceptance we had to change your school in January for the second year in a row. We moved you to public school, had you tested, and now have you placed in a magnet program for gifted children. This will require yet one additional school change, this time within a single district. You are probably the only second grader at your school who has seen the inside of four elementary school classrooms, learning from three completely different pedagogic leanings. I hope this change is the last one, though, and that you flourish in an environment where your peers think like you do.

Milestones were plentiful as well little bug. You lost most of your front teeth, demanded and chose your own haircut and style, stopped mismatching your outfits on purpose (this one brought me to tears, little bug, although you are so fierce in your style now), and learned to read at a 10th grade level. You and your cousin by choice W found ways to be connected even though you are both alpha, you maturely ended a friendship that wasn’t working for you, you left a house when you felt unsafe and went home even though there was peer pressure to stay and you stayed true blue to yourself in every way. I wish I had the understanding of myself and my boundaries that you do, Twinkle, it would make all parts of life so much easier.

It has been a real learning year for me as a mom. I had to learn how to let you fail, let you fall, let you try, and let you succeed on your own. I have kept you in a bubble of protection and love just waiting for a sign from the universe that you were ready to break free. The sign came from you, actually, looking me in the eyes and telling me you loved me but would prefer it if you could do your own thing for a while. There were weeks where we only had family game night, days would go by without a family crafting project. I would ask you to play, you would hug me, tuck my hair behind my ear  and tell me sweetly that you were going to choose a different activity this time.

Sometimes you would get home from a friend’s house, or delicately dance back into this reality from some place deep in your imagine, and cry that there was no longer enough time to also play a game with me. I would cry, too, but more out of relief that there was still that desire to have those moments with me.

Watching you grow up would be a lot harder if you weren’t so amazing. We sometimes joke that you are a seven-year-old Daria (watch it on Netflix, you will not be disappointed). You are honest, wickedly smart and unnerving in your forwardness. You write stories with palpable fear and excitement, you write, star in and direct plays that make me laugh so hard I snort milk out of my nose. You do your chores without being asked, you always remember to take your medicine and you never forget to brush your teeth. At seven you have the grace and humility I wish more adults would embrace. You move me with your uninhibited level of awesomeness.

On this day, the day before you turn eight, this is my promise. I promise to let you continue to grow up, even if that means growing independent from your family as you find your own voice. I promise to always do everything I can to be the mother you deserve, and to always apologize when I bungle it up terribly. I swear I will honor you and your choices and teach you through example that your word is strong and you own your own existence. I will fall in front of a train for you, take a bullet for you, or tell you that you didn’t want to be friends with that snot-nosed booger-face anyway. I will be the mother you need, sometimes not the mother you want, but that’s ok, we can talk about the difference when you have a child of your own.

I love you so much my heart explodes thinking about how amazing you are.

To the moon, till forever, you are always my little bug.

XOXO

Momma

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America’s Pastime

Yesterday afternoon my daughter transformed. I always thought it would happen like me, with a speech at a public event or a blue medal science fair project. For my girl, it was America’s favorite pastime, during the championship game.

I gently nudged Twinkle to play a team sport this summer. After all she has been through in her little life, she was finally healthy and strong and ready. Baseball, the sport for athletic thinkers, was our choice.

Over the season the girls came alive, learning to depend on each other and to trust in each other. They fostered bonds that crossed school districts, ages and family backgrounds. Through the love of the game, and the honor of being part of a team, they grew into champions. Yesterday, in a nail-biter game that was neck and neck until the very last out of the very last inning, our babies turned into ball players.

My girl, my little lady who has fought tooth and nail for health and normalcy, was gifted the opportunity to play second base.   I was a mom divided, half of me begging for three strike outs so she didn’t have a chance to fail, half of me knowing that she really was good enough to be there, to play hard and try her best. First out was a strike out. Next batter makes it to first. The next hit is a hard line drive straight at Twinkle. She scoops it up like a human vacuum cleaner, sees that no one is covering the bag, outruns the base runner, falls while touching the bag, gets toppled on and HOLDS THE BALL. My girl, the one I feared would never be strong enough to play sports, clung to the ball as she was run over for an out.

Next ball is hit in the same place, same play but this time she gets to the bag on her feet. The runner steps off the bag and my daughter tags her out. Tags her out. She remembered how this game worked, stuck with it, and got her team out of the inning. I have never seen her try that hard at anything in her life. In that moment of triumph, all I could see was a young lady, full of pride and surrounded by friends, leaving the field in a bubble of excitement. She shed years of loneliness and sadness, leaving it on the field in favor of friendships and pride.

I wish I could say those outs ended the game. I wish I could recount her being carried off the field to a cheering crowd and songs of victory. Perhaps in another 20 years when I tell this story at her wedding shower the ending will have transformed to include a victory cup. In reality the game ended the next inning, the other team scoring the deciding run. I can’t say they left the field in defeat, though, because they didn’t. They left the field as a team, surrounded in love and full of pride in how far they came.

My girl isn’t the only one with a history of illness, or bullying, or feeling like a square peg in a round hole. This is America’s Pastime, there were thousands of games yesterday across our country, thousands of kids playing their hearts out in the name of teamwork and winning and pride, many of them reclaiming their descriptors through heart-felt plays and determination. Twinkle will never be known as the kid who missed practices for trips to Children’s, instead she will be the girl who came alive at the championships when her team really needed her.  In that moment, on our field, our girls transformed into ball players – ball players who knew in their gut they played their best game.

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Happy 6th Birthday

Dear Ninja Boy,

To say I loved you before you were born would be an understatement. I’ve loved you since I was born, really – whenever I played house I always pretended to have a little boy, a son, with perfect freckles and floppy hair. Whenever I dreamed about being a mom there was a deep desire for a little boy who was perfect parts caring and class clown. You meet every dream I ever had about what raising a little boy should be like.

You turn 6 on Sunday. Six years and two weeks ago the doctors urged me to do everything in my power to stay pregnant until June, that was the goal and would bring me to the 8th month of pregnancy. You have always had your own schedule, though, and May 31 was the day you chose to join us in this world. It’s fitting, as we use your birthday as the benchmark of summer, the day we celebrate the start of all things sunny and bright. It matches you, little one, the ushering in of hot weather, freckles, popsicles and bugs.

This year has been an amazing one for you. You read your first book on February 8th. You earned the right to play outside without a parent in October, you orchestrated the inaugural thank you chain in November and you were a champion of scootering and bike riding in the yard.

Your Lego creations are astounding. You make the sets without help, then take your own turns and create amazingness from your brain. You want to be a scientific builder when you grow up, but don’t let anyone call it structural engineering because you need the word builder in your title. You made the most amazing haunted house with trap doors, moving parts and hidden ghosts. I wish you could see your creative brilliance from the outside, because it amazes me every day.

Science is your jam and it is a huge part of who you are and what you love. You complete experiments with the tip of your tongue sticking out delicately from the side of your mouth, your eyes narrowed in concentration. You love to say sentences that begin, “did you even know that (this amazing science fact) happens? Its easy to know when you are smart in science like me.” You usually say this with your hands in your pockets, your knees apart and slightly bent, the lobe of your left ear nearly gracing your shoulder. You smirk, too, when you are done speaking, and raise your eyebrows really tall as you shake your head in amazement at your own recall knowledge.

You are the quintessential image of summer when you pull on your bright yellow T-Ball jersey. You like to dive for every ball, even if it lands in front of you, to show you really mean it. You bat with the same determined look you use when being scientific, every time you make it to first you lick your sleeve to get the dust off your tongue. My boy, you have such concentration. I love being your T-Ball coach, I love spending two nights a week in special  Mom and son time. When your hat falls off your head and your smile widens my breath catches in my throat. How can someone this amazing, this beautiful and this kind have come from me?

I’ve loved you from the moment I was born because I always knew you would find your way to me.

Love you to the moon and back,

Momma

His Eyes and Freckles Hold the Key to my Heart

His Eyes and Freckles Hold the Key to my Heart

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Happy Birthday Tina

It started at a pool party, progressed into pot luck dinners and transformed during a jewelery party. What started as my usual attempt to befriend like-minded parents to create an atmosphere of love surrounding my children has transformed into the most remarkable friendship of my life. Happy Birthday Tina, I love you.

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I’ve had friends before, but somewhere during the seven years between a nasty breakup with my college besty and meeting Tina I decided I wasn’t really a likeable character in my own storyline. A great mother, yes, a fantastic spouse, for sure. Friend that allows the confines of my brain to be unsealed to another without fear of the friendship souring over honesty? No. Protecting myself from vulnerability feels like a full-time job.

Having a real friend requires shared vulnerability I wasn’t prepared to offer for a long time. Being a real friend means losing the fear of being honest, knowing that your relationship can thrive only with honesty. It took years of practice and many missteps to get it right in my marriage, and for a long time I was too afraid to do it again. But then I would see girlfriends, in real life and in movies like Bridesmaids, and would be overcome with sadness that my own self doubt regarding my worth, my own fears of intimacy, prevented me from opening up in friendship.

Around three years ago I met Tina, my BFF and the only person who I feel I could break out teenage acronyms for without a hint of irony. I met her and realized that I wanted to have a friendship that went beyond conversations of diaper changes and bedtime schedules. She really gets me, the me that I am now, the one that I thought no one would really like because my need for control and my fear of being vulnerable.

I once offered her advice on how to drive to my house, the house we had left from together a few hours before. I caught my foot on the way to my mouth and apologized, only to hear her say, “It’s ok. I know you know I actually know how to get to your house.” That is love. Once she asked me to plan a rare evening without children for us and our spouses. I sent an itinerary including timelines, maps, arrivals etc. It takes love not to call me out on my over-the-top planningness. It was in her acceptance of me that I realized I am totally the Marney of our 4-some, and that me as I am was still good enough.

Oh, Marney, I understand you

Allowing anyone else to be in the driver’s seat, both literally and figuratively, causes me serious nerves. My life is a product of my choices, my control issues a central tenet of my personality. Opening myself up in friendships past wasn’t hard because I kept an exit option at hand. Learning to close the exit option, dig in, and find true companionship is a skill I never wanted to possess, not until now. Now that I do I feel grateful, grateful that I still have some decades left on this planet to practice vulnerability.

To you, Tina, on your birthday, please know that your friendship is the rock that grounds me into a new reality, full of honest and uncontrolled connection and companionship. You are an amazing mom, wife, business analyst, karaoke crooner and card partner. You accept even the worst parts of me as part of a package deal that you want to keep around. You make me laugh at myself instead of crawling into a hole of self-doubt. Spending the last few years as friends has transformed the fabric of my life, making it so much richer than I thought possible.

I love you, I value you and I promise to be your rock.

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The Glass Unicorn in the Room

When my husband was three he decided he wanted to entertain the world. When he was five he directed and starred in his own rendition of Indiana Jones in his back yard. At age 10 he started running professional haunted houses, by his third year they were good enough to charge money to enter. He was lucky, he knew from the first moments of life that he was meant to be an entertainer.

When he was a young teen he decided he wanted to play Tom in The Glass Menagerie. Twenty years later, with the aid of a brilliant director and surrounded by strong talent, he’s dream is happening. There is nothing more poignant than watching your love walk into their dream and execute it candor and clarity of purpose so strong that an entire audience is enraptured.

The month before a play opens is torture. I am alone 20 hours a day, responsible for all the childcare, household chores, cooking, cleaning and chauffeur duties a modern family requires, with the saving grace being my amazing parents jumping in to ease the stress.  The four hours Dave is home daily are spent sleeping. We see each other long enough to high-five in the hallway, to give group hugs to the kids, perhaps to remind each other to breath. Sometimes it feels like the five minutes we see each other were used to throw our angst against the wall, as if we had returned to toddler-hood, the only stage of life where repelling those we love to prove they always come back is actually appropriate. Preserving those moments for peace and happiness would be far more beneficial to our relationship, but yelling felt cathartic, too, for both of us.

But then opening night happens, as it always does, just four days after I have lost my mind and one day before I say or do anything regrettable because of it. And then, as I watch the man I love share his talent with the world, the talent that he recognized and cultivated since the earliest moments of his cognitive development, I realize that it would be selfish to live any other way. Not everyone can transform the world through live performance, but he can. As Dave’s character struggles to juggle the dichotomy of requirement vs. passion, I feel honored that my husband is one less brilliant sole trapped writing poetry in a warehouse.

If you have never seen a Puzzle Piece show and would like to, leave a comment on this post and I will give you a $5 discount on each ticket you purchase.

I'd Rather Smoke

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Face Off

I have simple goals this year. I want to transform our house into a home, write more, and remember myself as a human being. The last one sounds silly, but somewhere between seeing a second blue line and now I have completely forgotten that I am an equally important being to the other members of my family.

I want to learn how to focus on myself, carve out moments where the only person I see is me, the only needs I meet are my own. I want to stop copping out. I want to stop saying that when my children are blessed my needs are met. that statement is partially true, part of my needs are met, but half-truths aren’t enough anymore.

Confession time. I haven’t had my hair cut by someone other than me estimating length using the bathroom mirror in over three years. I have gift cards to pay for it, just not the guilt free time to skip off and care about me. I sometimes shave only one leg because one of my kids comes into the bathroom to tell me a story, I become enraptured with them and I exit the shower without remembering to finish. I once finished getting my children ready for school, made dinner in the crock pot, packed everyone’s lunches and got myself to work before I realized that I still had a leave in treatment in my hair that was supposed to be washed out in the shower that morning, a shower that I was too busy to get into.  I recently decided to let my bangs grow longer because it covers the fact I haven’t had enough time to fully pluck my eye brows in over a year.

I am going to avoid clichés. 2015  isn’t the year of me, it was never going to be the year of re-energizing, or even the year of redefinition. That year can’t happen until 2027, starting in September when my youngest moves to college and I suddenly feel the urge to sing born free while hula-hooping in my yard barefoot and eating cookies (sorry neighbors).  Even if it can’t be a re-birthing year, 2015 can stop being the year of everything except me, but I am the only one who can control that destiny.

It feels like I am running full speed at a barrier, a familiar one that I have tried to tackle for ages, but when I get to the obstruction I realize I am in a face-off between a well rested, well-groomed young career woman and a good mom. Except both sides are me and I can’t figure out how to combine the two into one person. I wanted to wait to write this until I found a solution, a neat little bow with which to wrap up my thoughts. But the struggle is real and I continue to struggle more as my children get older and their needs get progressively more complicated.

So far I have incorporated yoga into my evenings, meditation into my mornings and child-led dance parties to pop music into my afternoons. There is joy there, radiating peace and finding my center. I signed on to do a few sponsored blog posts this year on beauty products for tired moms. I am going to count that as taking care of me, too. And if any of you figure out how to magically find your center and leaving the guilt behind let me know, I could use some tips.

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Planning the Passion… and the Breaks

Last week I had scheduled myself to write a post about work life balance, but work was insane so I pushed it off. I am trying not to see it as irony, and instead see it as a strategic choice of which parts of my home-life I chose to honor by utilizing my passion planner to the max. I am heavily invested in following a passion planner this year.

Have you heard of the Passion Planner? It is an amazing tool to get people like me, the dreamers  of the world who wish they had a few extra hours a day to accomplish their life visions to focus and get sh*t done. I love it, recommend it fully and feel like my first month with it has changed my life completely. ‘m not paid to say this, by the way, or paid for that link up there, I just really love this product with all my heart. I use it to keep track of my goals for the year, break them into bite size chunks, monitor my progress, answer reflective questions on my progress and learn about myself as I go – and it is amazing.

Last week, as I was trying not to struggle against the quagmire of my life, because we all know that to struggle against the quick sand makes you sink that much faster, I realized that I was still in charge of my life. I could move around some of my items and still hit my goals, I could take my planner to a whole ‘notha level with a new friend called eraser. It was magical.

The truth of my family’s lives this calendar year has been a bit of upheaval, matched by new peace, surrounded by love, sprinkled with relief and dabbed with seriously, more drama again? Twinkle is down to only needing to spend two afternoons a month at Children’s hospital, compared to eight afternoons a month in November (blessing). Through a mix of needs that are too private to discuss here we also found ourselves in need of a new school for the kids in January. It was Kismet, really, because Twinkle was feeling amazing and well and social and strong, so strong that when she walked into her new classroom last week she took to it like a fish returning to open waters after a lovely and important sabbatical in a beautifully protected and secure estuary.

Ninja’s first moments at his new school were like coming home again. In a neighborhood school for the first time in his life, his personality shines through. The high fives in the hallway, the people calling his name, the neighbors all wanting to grab a hug before he gets away, it was a peaceful moment of belonging. He is thrilled we can redirect the tuition funds to get him enrolled in baseball this summer and return him to gymnastics in the fall. The boy needs team sports, and we have the means again (blessing) to get him involved.

But even with all this goodness, all this positive energy circling their transition, it was still a transition full of loss and change.  And it was a transition happening in the same moments I could barely keep my head above water at work, during a two-week interval where my morning meditation ritual was shortened to 10 minutes for times sake when I should have been lengthening my sessions for the sake of sanity.

Every story has a hero, though, and this story’s hero was the Passion Planner. I lovingly looked at it and realized that I could still reach my three goals, and each of their five sub-goals, and even each of the sub-goals monthly success markers, even when I give myself the grace to back off and rearrange. So I did it in writing. I scratched off my plan to write a blog post about work life balance in January and I moved it to June. I will still write 24 blog posts this year, my goal for the year, and life will still move on as planned. I continued my goal to exercise daily, but I gave myself the grace of blocking off an hour on my schedule, but not writing a specific number of minutes. I erased the numbers, friends, and decided that if my goal is to never be a sloth then I can just do that, I don’t have to be the overachiever that over-achieves even the goals I set for myself.

My goals for the year are to engage my family in clean living (with charts! and graphs! and rewards!), to give myself 30 minutes a day, be it in exercise, meditation, stretching or silence, that the only sound I listen to is my own breathing, and to reignite my passion for writing. Months like January happen, where carefully laid plans meet erasers, penciled for later dates with promises of closure. I am confident this year will be better, though, because I am not counting the eraser as a failure, but as a tool and a friend to make my goals possible.

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The Universe Told Me To, I Just Never Realized It

He knew the kids were feeling down this morning, so he left the three of us snuggling in our bed, went out into the living room and starting singing silly songs on the top of his lungs just because.

Every morning he goes into the basement and gets my work clothes off our indoor clothes line. He knows I hate when my feet get cold in the morning, and the basement floor is so very chilly. His get cold as well, of course, but he always goes anyway.

Last weekend I had to work overtime. He took the kids all day, gave them the best day ever, and it ended with them both telling me they need more Dad days, because not everyone gets to be as lucky as they are and have a Dad like him.

Sometimes I weigh what I weigh now. Sometimes I weigh 60 pounds more. When we got married I weighed 20 pounds less. There has never been a day where he forgot to tell me how stunning he finds me, or how lucky he is that he gets to be the one to sleep next to me.

Ten years ago today I arrived at a restaurant 40 minutes early for a blind date, I hopped off the Belmont stop trying to get there first to make sure it wasn’t awkward. He was already there, sitting with his coat off. By the time they cleared our plates I knew I was in love, and by the end of the next day he had already said, “you know I’m gonna marry you, right?”

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When he told me he loved They Might be Giants I had no idea that could translate into reading our kids Bed, Bed, Bed in fantastic voices until they fell asleep in his arms with smiles on their faces.

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When he held my arm to prevent me from slipping in the snow I never translated it into the awesome way he would navigate sledding season with our young ones. Ten years in I see all the signs I missed, the signs that spelled out in perfectly garbled first date bravado and fears, that a partnership with a magnitude beyond our grasp had finally, finally been activated.

Happy double digits, bug, I thank the universe we followed the invisible signs pointing straight to our future happiness and jumped in head over feet. Who needs to date when you figure out instantaneously that forever already started, anyway?

We still love to dance close, even if it means a few twirls in the kitchen

We still love to dance close, even if it means a few twirls in the kitchen

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You are like the working class Martha Stewart!

We hosted an intimate holiday gathering at our new home over the holidays. As is our custom, our famous thankfulness chain adorned one wall. This year the chain had a mate, a handsome new chain festooned with a turkey family made from hand-shaped cut-outs.

turkey banner

In December we added to the atmosphere, spending afternoons painstakingly slicing small shapes from folded construction paper, turning our cozy cottage home into an indoor snow rainbow.

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Once our hypoallergenic plastic tree entered the picture the physical embodiment of our mentalities through holiday decor truly took shape. We covered her branches in homemade ornaments saved from 10 years of building our life together, which in turn transformed our home into a masterpiece.

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Our home became a visual walk-through our life’s stages. Our childless years were represented by painstakingly created 3-D ornaments representing inside jokes, visual representation of limber-bodied days, adventurous couplings represented with pipe cleaners and glue. The early child years, where we were determined to keep tradition alive, could be seen through paint splotches on cardboard, cut into shapes with years and names written in my hurried mother’s scrawl.

There were paper plate ornaments of early childhood classrooms, hand prints with poems about tiny fingers and growth. We had branches of gingerbread men, all overly eager to share a smile, with lopsided buttons that made me long to reach into the past and tousled the hair of my babies. What is it about the smell of cinnamon and pine that reminds me more strongly of baby soap mixed with play dough than the actual scent? Every wall and branch was a visceral reminder that we created a gorgeous life out of twigs and glue.

When we had our little get together in December, sharing our new home with new and old friends, it was jarring to share this portrait of my interior. We are a messy family, one constructed with hopes on thin paper, not necessary with plans laid on firm concrete. I made a slightly self-deprecating comment in the beginning of the evening to ease my discomfort. One of our guests looked around and loudly proclaimed, “You are like a working class Martha Stewart! Look at your decorations, so much paper, how lovely!”  A Martha Stewart for the real world. It feels good to be understood.

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Bad Guy Music has Better Beats

Twinkle asked me to play Tacky’s Christmas Playlist during a recent car trip, a Christmas CD that came with a book about penguins (good guys) and foxes (bad guys). After listening to the whole thing through, she piped up,  “Mom, why do the bad guys sing hip hop and the good guys sing opera?”

Pause, rewind, what? We took the CD back to the first track and listened through again. All of the characters with high moral standing sang in operatic tones. All of the bad guys? They expressed themselves in rap and hip hop.

Twinkle told me she liked the bad guy beats more, they had more flavor, and she decided to keep their song about Sandy Claws (Santa Clause pronounced with an edge) on repeat. We didn’t really talk about it, because I didn’t really know how, but this dichotomy of music style, and its racist implications, bothered me.  When she asked me if it was okay to like bad guy music instead of good guy music I felt the pulse of the issue – why are we subliminally telling children that music performed by black people must be associated with the bad guys?

Davey is producing a play, opening this week, called White People. It expounds on micro aggression, privilege and power. We have done a lot of research, combing through every resource we could find, requesting support from an expert in race relations to help us ensure our play is produced with care – is this why the inherent unfairness has played on repeat in my head for the last two days?

When I think of Twinkle struggling to give herself permission to like “bad guy” music, when I think of all the reasons the good intentioned creators of the music would have for differentiating good from bad with style of music, it reminds me that the innocent moments instilled with quietly racial statements that shape attitudes and behaviors. We may be talking about penguins and foxes from a storybook, but its in the stories we tell our children that they recognize their world and their role in shaping it.

http://www.broadwayworld.com/detroit/article/Puzzle-Piece-Theatre-to-Present-WHITE-PEOPLE-1024-119-20141020

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