They’ve commandeered your radio. Drivetime used to be your own. But now, even your Sirius/Spotify/actual CDs have given in to the tidal wave of kid. Yes, you’ve got to feed the beast. But there’s ways to keep the kids content without losing your mind. If the Frozen soundtrack has you thinking about an ice pick to the brain, here’s a playlist both you and the kids can love.
“Godzilla,” Blue Oyster Cult
Giant mutant dinosaur, destruction, driving bass and a simple chorus. Your little kaiju will love this one. You can scream the lyrics pretty tunelessly, and when your kid shouts the “oooooooh” part, you’ll have to hold back the giggles. So cute you’ll make them sing it at parties for your half-drunk relatives.
“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” The Flaming Lips
Small girl fights robots: gender equality and robot warfare. You can get away with the rest of the album, too, and have a decent conversation about music theory during the instrumentals. But you don’t want to think. You just want to listen to the Flaming Lips.
“Little Ghost,” The White Stripes
Awww, just like Casper. This song has an easy chorus, a catchy beat, and quick wordplay. Your kids will, however, sing it unendingly, and tunelessly, and probably make you long for Let It Go. That is, until you give in and sing along with them. Just like Frozen.
“The Hardest Button to Button,” The White Stripes
You really can’t top Meg White for super-simple catchy drums. This song starts with getting a baby. Try to make the kids clap along! And forget that you, too, have opinions that don’t matter, and a brain that feels like pancake batter. In fact, if you’re really at a loss, just pop in a White Stripes album and pretend you’re in college again. Those people shrieking behind you? They’re just drunk and sucking helium.
“Bohemian Rhapsody,” Queen
Big, outsized emotions: kids get that. See if you can get them to do the voices. Succeed, and you automatically become the coolest mom of all time. Then make them sing it at parties.
“Sink to the Bottom,” Fountains of Wayne
It’s simple. There’s an ocean, cars, and planes. My kids really, really love to scream this one. Which is sort of disturbing.
“Psychokiller,” The Talking Heads
Yes, it has the word “psychokiller” in it. But once you get past that, it’s got … a great beat and some easy lyrics. It’s also an essential part of any budding hipster’s musical education. Make them clap along, and bonus points if you teach them what “q’est-ce que c’est?” means. See? Your kids learned French!
“Space Oddity,” David Bowie
It’s about an astronaut! Your kids will remember this part, and not the sense of crushing isolation and suicidal elation. Your kids need David Bowie, mostly because everyone needs David Bowie, and again: hipsters.
“Beat on the Brat,” The Ramones
My sons sing this gleefully and loudly: it’s just transgressive enough to be fun. They’ll also sort of adopt the Ramones’ weird version of staccato British accent. If the suggested violence offends you, go for “Sheena is a Punk Rocker.”
“Boss of Me,” They Might Be Giants
You know this as the theme song to Malcolm in the Middle. You didn’t know it was performed by musical titans They Might Be Giants, better known for such tunes as “Istanbul (Not Constantinople).” “Boss of Me” is a good, kid-friendly intro to the must-hear band, but only if your kids already know the phrase “You’re not the boss of me.” Otherwise, this song will teach it to them.
“Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” The Beatles
You can play the song. Or just channel high school and play the whole damn album. Somehow, the LSD weirdness meshes well with childhood. Later in life, they’ll think about you playing this and ask if you inhaled.
In an earlier Firespiral review, I mentioned that the company may have the coolest name in the babywearing world. It sets a high bar. And their new Elements line lives up to it, I found, when FiSpi sent me a prototype Graphite Tentacular Spectacular.
Say it out loud. No, really. Do it. I’ll wait.
Don’t you feel like a circus ringmaster? So cool.
Even cooler: Graphite Tentacular Spectacular comes from Elements, Firespiral’s new budget line. You didn’t know FiSpi had a budget line? Neither did I, until I did some sleuthing on their website. Elements aims to “distill the essential elements of a great wrap down to their purest forms and make something that combines simplicity and affordability with fantastic function.” The wraps still use the same local weavers and the same combed cotton. But they’ll be simpler: limited to core designs and a white warp; easy to care for; less likely to pull; and best of all: cheaper. Like 100 pounds cheap (remember, they’re British, people, so you’ve got to do some math).
It’s a testament to the wraps’ quality that I didn’t know Graphite Tentacular Spectacular was a budget-line wrap until owners Jen and Tamsin told me. That’s a rarity. Many budget wraps feel great – C&C, Tekhni’s Arche and Aplos, Cwtch, Keppeke Cubes – but they don’t feel like they should cost two hundred bucks. Graphite Tentacular Spactacular does.
Yes, I intend to spell the entire name out. It’s too good to shorten.
Graphite Tentacular Spectacular feels like a quality wrap. FiSpi didn’t compromise on their Elements line. This wrap is super soft – like I’ve come to expect from FiSpi – and super smooshy, medium thick. Combed cotton does some sort of magic to the fibers, I swear. Either that, or FiSpi’s washing wraps in unicorn blood.
In fact, everyone liked Graphite Tentacular Spectacular so much we passed it around like a joint at a frat party. Some mamas used it with their new babies, and they loved the soft smoosh for newborn cuddles. Other mamas used it with bigger kids and liked its cush. No one wanted to give it back. I had to make them. It took a fair bit of insistence.
Here’s why: in addition to being soft and cushy, Graphite Tentacular Spectacular delivers. It wraps easily, with plenty of stretch and glide (ideal for new wrappers and adventurous carries; the cush also makes it forgiving). Once in place, it stays without sag, offering plenty of bounce and a lovely memory-foam cush on the shoulders. It wraps thinner than it feels in hand. This wrap can take you anywhere, and the pattern dresses up or or down with ease.
I liked it in a kangaroo with my one-year-old, and appreciated that the off side feels as good as the right one. My oldest went up in a double hammock several times, and with a 30+ pound kid, Graphite Tentacular Spectacular performed as well as any other wrap I’ve loved. Does it feel like thick handwoven twill? Nope. But it’s not a blanket.
Rumor has it there may be a chance those of us in the colonies could have a vendor for the Elements line, rather than having to fork out shipping from the UK. No word yet, so keep your fingers crossed. I sure am.
Did that make you want to buy the wrap? You’re in luck. Check out Manic Pixie Dream Mama for a chance to win Graphite Tentacular Spectacular!
Firespiral Slings definitely wins the award for best named wrap company. They also have the coolest named designs: Curves of Pursuit! Fractal Spirals! Amber Starmap! Not that this is an industry with particularly stiff competition (ha!); one of the major players has named carriers “pinus” and “blowballs.” Still, I’m hippie enough to adore the company on name alone.
Like the name, these wraps are very English (yeah, I’m biased: my last name comes straight from the moors). They’re sourced, spun, woven, and finished all in England, other than the hemp and linen, which comes from elsewhere in Europe. The owners use a local mill, and carry on the rich textile tradition of the North of England (without the Dickensian orphan-labor part. The Victorian era was messed up, yo.).
Cool name. Ethical, local sourcing, with attention to carrying on local traditions and history. Designs inspired by the prehistorical and mythic general vibe in the area – think stone circles and rock drawings. You are automatically forced to adore this company. In fact, Portlandia will be ridiculing them shortly.
FiSpi sent me two wraps, and Enchanted Cyano Birches caught my eye. For some reason, every wrap company has felt it necessary to come out with a birches pattern (is this a thing now? also where’s Nati’s?), but I’ve always liked FiSpi’s best. I wanted to cuddle up and live inside EC Birches forever, because it’s one of the softest wraps I’ve ever ever ever felt BNIB. In fact, so was the other FiSpi. Very impressive. Super seriously cuddly. I had never felt a FiSpi, I was smitten.
Except EC Birches is 50% Italian linen, and I hate linen.
Basically, linen always feels ropey on my shoulders. I think it sags eventually, though other wrappers swear by it. And it always wrinkles and gets permacreases and therefore I have to worry about the dreaded Resale Value. I’ve only ever really liked Diva Milano linen, for reasons unknown.
So imagine my surprise when, after heavy use, EC Birches never got creases. What is this unicorn magic? Did Jen and Tamsin perform a secret druidic ritual in those aforementioned stone circles? It seriously never creased, y’all. Nada.
I spent my time with EC Birches doing mostly rebozos and rucks (plus a pirate carry or two. You know, RRRR. Never say wrappers aren’t punny). I used it a lot for rebozos, because it’s so damn pretty and fancy looking. I’ve no idea how it’s still sitting when other FiSpis have sold out. And in a rebozo, the linen content is also irrelevant; I discovered linen only bothers me in ruck straps. Win! Confession: I wore EC Birches to Mass a bunch. It’s so pretty. I want a scarf.
And yes, I rucked with it. And with a candycane chest belt or TAS, the linen didn’t irk me the way it usually does. EC Birches is solid like linen, with no bounce and very little stretch. It doesn’t, however, tend to crease or sag as badly as other linen I’ve used – and I’ve used a lot. This may be because of the magic qualities of Italian linen, since I loved the old Diva Milano Gold collection a few years ago.
After about half an hour, I did start to get that linen-ey feel on my shoulders, which is partly pressure point and partly sag. But this only happens to mamas who don’t like linen, apparently. I think I would really love this wrap in a long size, where I would be able to avoid ruck straps at all costs.
And I’d love it, because this is pretty. Seriously: this is a dress-up wrap, and the blue and green seems to shimmer. As I said before, between the kitten-belly softness, the shimmer, and the high quality, I don’t know why the hell these things are still available from FiSpi.
Honestly, despite my linen-phobia, I would totally keep this in a size 2 or 3 and use it all the damn time for rebozos and shepherd’s carries. I reached for it much more than I do many of the testers that come through here. That says a lot. It just feels yummy, and it looks yummy, too.
Like all FiSpi wraps, they’re midrange in price – the equivalent of about $220 for a size 6, which puts them at around Diva Milano prices: higher on average than Didy, about the same as Tekhni’s boutique line for retail. The high quality makes the price worth it, too. This wrap feels like it should cost that much.
Overall, I’m super impressed by this first FiSpi I’ve played with. I can’t wait to write about the other one they sent me. You probably should stay tuned, too, if you want a chance to have a FiSpi of your own. Just saying …
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Your elf spends his time getting into adorable mischief. He throws powder around! He rides dinosaurs! He sneaks into the Barbie Dream House! He gets into cereal boxes and generally makes a giant freaking mess you have to both arrange and clean up (I blame Pinterest).
I don’t have time for that crap, partly because I’d have to clean it up, and partly because I’m lazy.
But aside from the cutesy elf antics (the stuff Pinterest boards are made of), the Elf has one purpose: it’s Santa’s little spy. A creepy little informant, with a creepy little smile that looks like he just peed in someone’s solo cup. This elf’s sole job, his raison d’etre, is to report your kids’ behavior to Santa. He’s like a one-man magical surveillance team.
Replace “elf on the shelf” with “dude in a white van across the street.” Creeped out yet?
You go to the trouble of pretending the behatted fink reports back to The Jolly Old Elf every single night. Joey said the f-word today. Susie stole the last Ding-Dong. Molly refused dinner and threw spaghetti at the ceiling. Behind all that twee Pinterest posing, you spend the run-up to Christmas convincing the kids you’ve installed a supernatural surveillance camera.
Joey and Susie and Molly think the elf is watching them all the time, so they behave. Intermittant surveillance forcing compliance. Kind of like Wal-Mart and shoplifters. Your elf is recreating the hellish Brave New World postulated by French philosophers, except with jingle bells.
I find this deeply unsettling.
But no, you say! I don’t use [insert weird elf name here] to force good behavior! He’s cute! He’s fun! He writes Merry Christmas on the bathroom mirror while we sleep! He just happens to look sort of like a cross between Chuckie and one of those cymbal-clapping monkeys that always turn out to be demon-possessed! That’s pure coincidence.
Uh-huh. No way, Jose. Throw some holy water on that Elf and watch it sizzle. You can keep your Christmas creeper. My kids can find their holiday magic somewhere else.
Do you also find the Elf on the Shelf an unsettling means of forcing compliant behavior? Or a beloved holiday tradition? Fight it out in the comments, people. First to accuse someone of hating Christmas, fun, or God Himself wins the Internet.
A few years ago, woven wraps were prohibitively expensive for many families. Yes, you could pick up a Storch or a Dolcino for $100, plus shipping, but there were few other choices – other than buying used – for babywearers on a tight budget. This was unbearably lame.
But lately, we’ve seen an explosion of budget options of all colors and patterns, from Inda Jani to Heartiness to Tekhni’s Arche and Aplos lines. Win! Babywearing is becoming far more accessible, and woven wraps keep increasingly in popularity. And one of my all-time favorite carriers for wrapping quality? The Keppeke I tested for 5 Minute Recess.
A Dutch company, Keppeke has come out with several different patterns, including bollekes, which I reviewed earlier this year and found comfortable, if somewhat solid and harder to break in. So 5 Minute Recess, being awesome in all possible ways, from cute notes on their packages to stellar deals on wraps, sent me another Keppeke to try: a coral cubes.
Even BNIB, no washing, coral cubes felt far softer than bollekes. So with high hopes, I washed and dried, then put up Sunny. And I couldn’t believe I was wearing something that retails for $120 (including shipping and a Starbucks gift card!).
Cubes has all the qualities I really like in a wrap. The diagonal pattern lends it a good amount of stretch and bounce, and the thickness (240 g^m) provides plenty of cush for a lovely shoulder feel. I expected maximal grip from the raised pattern, but cubes suprisingly seemed only medium grippy. I didn’t feel like I was entering a WWF round while wrapping, and that’s a problem with lots of tightly patterns wraps, especially new.
And it’s soft. Oh, cubes is a soft, fluffy wrap, a wrap with some memory-foam squish to it. I wouldn’t hesitate to use this with a newborn, even without breaking in. And it stood up to big toddler (Baby Bear, age 3) and a friend’s bowling-ball-fatty (20 lbs at 4 months). That friend, in fact, was really impressed with cubes. Like me, she couldn’t believe it was a budget wrap, and agreed with my verdict: for a new wrapper who wants one carrier, this is it.
The stretch and bounce reminded me somewhat of a Storch Leo, but without the beastly breaking-in period. Educators have long recommended Storchs as one-and-onlies, partially because their stretch and bounce makes them stand up to bigger kids. Keppeke Cubes wraps something like it, but rocks a newborn carry as well.
The weave is no fuss, and won’t pull easily; the cotton easily machine washes and dries. It’s also ethically sourced and made in Flanders. A new wrapper can’t go wrong with this, unless you’re super prone to staining things (me), and even then, it won’t show much on the off-side (trust me).
This wrap is wide enough to carry your toddler, comfy enough to snuggle your newborn, and with a nice shoulder cush. I see this particular wrap becoming a lending library staple, and a top choice for new wrappers who want one thing to wear from birth to preschool. Well done, Keppeke, and thanks to 5 Minute Recess for another great budget option! We are one step closer to #wearallthebabies.
I have ADHD – the inattentive kind. That means I didn’t spend elementary school leaping desks and yelling out answers; instead, I sat dreamily in the corner, concocting elaborate stories with my unicorn erasers and making what everyone called “careless mistakes” in pretty much everything.
“You’re so smart, but you have no common sense,” everyone said.
My husband Bear also has ADHD. He spent school acing classes he liked, failing classes he didn’t. He also has dyscalculia, so it’s hard to identify where the inability to do math stops and the ADHD begins.
Bear and I got married in grad school. Two ADHD parents, one ADHD kid (4), two as-yet-undetermined kids (3 and 1), two giant dogs, two fish tanks, a full time job (him), an artist (me), bills and volunteering and dishes and everything that makes up a normal American life. We’ve learned to let go of some things.
Home improvement can take years.
Our house’s previous owners looked at the gorgeous wood paneling and thought, Some stripes would add a lovely je ne sais quoi. So they painted the panels in alternating white and eye-gouging yellow. Little known fact: “je ne sais quoi” is French for “a freaking circus tent.” We swore we had to repaint immediately. Two years later, we’d done the kitchen. The den, where we spend all of our time, still looks we’re waiting for the clowns to come [and eat us, because clowns are scary]. We bought the house seven years ago.
Without regular maintenance, yard becomes jungle.
Did you know that pokeweed can grow higher than the average adult male? Me either! So do thistles, apparently. Also, you can forget about compost bins for three years and they will still carry on composting without you.
You need a mail-opening plan.
Because otherwise both of us will throw mail on the table and ignore it. Who are these people, who dare write letters? Now I toss the junk mail and pile the bills up for Bear. This system was years in the making.
You will forget trash day.
You must try hard not to do this two weeks in a row. You will also forget recycling for upwards of a month, because you’re running for the garbage truck and don’t have time to do both. When you do manage to put out the bin, the sheer number of beer cans and wine bottles will make you look like a household of seriously committed alcoholics.
If it breaks, toss it.
I’ll quote the bad part of Brave New World: ending is better than mending. Because it will take you years to get to the mending part, and in the meantime, the dead toaster is taking up valuable space atop the refrigerator. You could be filling that space with wine.
No matter how pro-vaccine you are, your kids will be behind in their shots.
Because you forget those pesky well visits. I make them write the appointment on a card, and then I lose the card, or I set a phone reminder for the day before and remember, then erase the reminder and forget. Oops. I really believe in modern meds, I swear. One day, technology will let us temporarily tattoo appointment times on my arm, or project them directly into my brain. I will welcome this brave new world and
I believe in coffee – coffee for everyone.
Well, maybe not coffee. But caffeine. Lots and lots of caffeine. When other parents side-eye me for ordering my three-year-old sweet tea, I want to grab them and say, look. He has homeschool co-op this afternoon, and unless he chugs this tea, he’ll try to dance on the table.
Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating. He’ll lay on the table and kick his legs and refuse to move instead (sorry, fellow homeschool mamas).
You’ll double-book yourself at least once a week and probably more.
Even if it’s a Facebook event and the best analogies for my Facebook use involves schedule 1 narcotics abuse, I will forget. I will plan a playdate when I have lunch plans. Or I’ll schedule a meeting when I have a doctor’s appointment. I am not standing you up for something better, I swear.
This forgetfulness extends to regularly scheduled events, like weekly gymnastics class and co-ops. Not even the obvious is immune.
The dogs will learn to tell you they haven’t been fed.
My two dogs discovered that if they prance and bark at the back door, we’ll say, “Oh , we need to feed the dogs.” Now they pretend they haven’t been fed so I give them second breakfast. My dogs have learned to lie.
You will never be able to find: your shoes, a pen, scissors, a needle, a checkbook, or a pacifier.
Never. I remember being five and swearing I left my shoes in one place, and then finding one in the kitchen and one under the bed. My kids so the same thing and it’s infuriating.
“Oh, I can’t have you over,” other moms say. “My house is a mess.” As soon as I arrive for a playdate, before hello, they say: “Don’t judge me, the house is a wreck. No, seriously, it’s destroyed. Please don’t look. I’m so embarrassed.”
Lies. Lies, lies, lies.
Because when I go into that house, the house of the mom who is so apologetic about the condition of her kitchen, or the toys in her living room, or the invisible dirt in her bathroom, I can’t decide if I want to laugh in her face or deck her.
Girl. Please. Not only is your house not messy, your house is immaculate. You have guest towels laid out. Your children’s spilled toys remain confined to a rug – which, by the way, is not sprinkled with crumbs. Sippy cups stay in the kitchen. Playdough dare not enter here, and the dog doesn’t shed. Insisting your house is dirty speaks to clinical delusion, your misunderstanding of small children, your secret desire to make me feel guilty, or maybe your desperate need for reassurance. Probably all of the above. Seriously, stop it.
So for all of you mamas insisting your immaculate house is messy, and all of you normal mamas therefore afraid to have anyone come into your house ever, because that level of clean is just not achievable due to kids/time/dogs/life/constant art projects, let’s set some guidelines. You can either have a sense of shame or small children, and I’ve got three boys under five.
Normal: There is a room in your house that always stays cluttered and messy, and much like Lady MacBeth’s hands, will never be clean. In my house, it’s the dining room, furnished with my great-grandmother’s cherry dining suite, including buffet and china cabinet. I sew on the table, store art supplies in and around and between the hunt board and the wine rack – remember when the AC Moore went out of business? Yeah, it relocated to my dining room – stash file cabinets in available floor space, dry glitter art next to the sewing machine, and sometimes train tracks under the table. None of that gorgeous cherry is currently visible. I neaten this room for birthdays and holidays requiring fine china. Otherwise, you aren’t allowed to see it, Judgy McJudgerson.
As long as they’re clean, you’re home free.
Normal: Your laundry is everywhere. Current house tally: five clean baskets in the laundry room (blocking the auxiliary fridge and probably creating a certifiable fire hazard). One clean basket in the master bedroom. A clean load in the dryer and one in the washer. There is no basket of dirty clothes anywhere. We’re this week’s laundry heroes! Will those clean baskets make it to folding, or even more daunting, into drawers? Maybe. I’m feeling it lately. But a relative of mine, who shall not be named, once had to hide her kids’ Christmas present – a pet snake – from all the kids and her husband for two weeks. She stashed it under the laundry baskets in her bedroom. The secret kept. She’s the all-time laundry hero, ladies.
Normal: Your sink is full of dishes, your dishwasher is full of dishes, your table and counter are full of dishes, and you can’t find a clean spoon. So you use a teaspoon for your cereal. When you get to the giant soup spoon or worse, start to contemplate that spikey grapefruit spoon at the bottom of the silverware drawer, then you need to do a load. Only so the kids have plates for lunch.
Normal: Your kids’ bath toys are right where they left them after the bathwater drained. Don’t pull that shower curtain shut. We know what’s behind it.
Normal: Some type or types of toys are scattered all over the house and no matter how hard you try, or what bribes you offer, or what god you pray to, you never get every piece picked up. True story: I have found those stupid ball-pit balls in my washer, my front yard, and stuffed between carseats. We have the same problem with duplos, which I confiscated on seriously tenuous grounds, and Star Wars figures. If I come over to your house and notice plastic army men in the space behind your toilet, I’m not judging.
There are spoons in there … somewhere.
Normal: Cups and cups and cups. Everywhere. All the time. Somehow we didn’t perish of dehydration in the 80’s when my mother wouldn’t let us out of the kitchen with a Tupperware sippy of Kool-Aid. But it’s 2014, and my kids will shrivel into complaining oblivion without a cup of juice at all times. Except they leave them everywhere, and then get a new one. They now hold up drinks and ask, “Is this good, Mama?” before taking a swig. So do yours. Don’t lie.
Normal: Art Damage. My bath tub has some hopefully/maybe/eventually will fade tie-dye stains. I need to repaint part of the kitchen wall, because who let her toddlers use her acrylics? This mama! At the very least, your toddler took a pen to the wall and you haven’t had time to magic erase it yet.
Normal: You can’t see the floor of your car. Where else are you supposed to toss all those Chick-fil-A cups? Or the spare diapers? Or the dirty sippy cups? Seriously. Your husband probably complains about it.
Normal: You forgot trash day again. So your supercan’s overflowing and your recycling bin looks like a seriously committed alcoholic lives at your address, but really you just forgot garbage day two weeks in a row. It’s cool. As long as you got the trash out of the house, you’re a garbage day winner! High-five!
Normal: You have not dusted. Perhaps ever, or at least since your parents last visited. I think I maybe own Pledge? Somewhere? Don’t look at the upper bookshelves, especially if you suffer from allergies.
Normal: Some part of your house is in do-not-use disrepair, and has been for longer than you would publicly admit. My oldest son has never seen us use the shower in our master bath. He’s four. We need to replace the tile and just haven’t managed somehow. I thought this was a horrible, abnormal, horrific shame until, in flagrant disregard for social mores, I mentioned this to other mothers. Two of them copped to unusable bathrooms. One mentioned a deck with holes. Another has to warn visitors not to attempt the front stairs. I salute you, my sisters in disorder.
So there you have it. Either your house is really, really clean, and you should stop apologizing, or at the very least you can stop your shame and host playdates for once. We’re all in the same boat. I won’t look in your dining room if you don’t look in mine.
Americans know November as the month we celebrate Thanksgiving: a turkey-fueled feast first held by the Pilgrims and their American Indian buddies, where they thanked God for a good harvest and the bountiful blessings of goodwill to each other. Right? Right?
The real story of Thanksgiving is considerably darker. To summarize: English smallpox wiped out the Patuxet; Pilgrims arrived to find abandoned villages and fields, plus a lone English-speaking, formerly enslaved Patuxet, Squanto, whose know-how assured the colonists didn’t degenerate into cannibalism (à la Jamestown). But the arriving boatloads of Puritans couldn’t leave well enough alone, because God and manifest destiny*, and their theft/slaughter/abuse sparked wars with the locals. Bloodshed ensued. After every joyous, God-ordained victory, the English held a feast thanking the Lord. Because, you know, God likes when you kill people and take their land.
Genocide ensued. Rape, death, pillaging, slaughter, English burning Native American women and children alive, decapitated heads kicked down main streets, death, slavery, rape, trails of tears, ghost dances, broken promises, incarceration, reservations, alcoholism, residential schools, cultural genocide, disappearing languages, eradicated culture, and a colonialism that continues into the present day, in which Native Americans/American Indians/First Nations people are reduced to feathered, war-whooping mascots of major sports teams. (note: these are all terms preferred by the people they signify, including “American Indian).
In light of this, let’s consider Artipoppe’s decision to (briefly) name their new wrap line the “Indian Collection.” The first wrap, 62% cashmere and 38% Egyptian cotton, featured feathers. They named it “Crow Cheyenne.”
Artipoppe must have anticipated some backlash – having gotten some for the “Made in China” wrap; the “Pearl Harbor” wrap released on the 4th of July; and the conveniently-named Mandela stars released a day or so after the peace activist’s death. So pictures of “Crow Cheyenne” came with a disclaimer:
Honoring the imaginative existence of Native Americans through a series of feathers. We create fiction, our art is not merely based on facts. We exist for your pleasure, please enjoy and let the symbolism work as it fits you and yours.
Rightly, people freaked out: at the names, at the audacity, and at the disclaimer that would give any rhetorician a field day.
Imaginary Native Americans and others alike – from both sides of the pond – immediately called out the collection’s implicit racism, reductivism, and cultural appropriation. Others leapt to Artipoppe’s defense, because, as one poster said, “People will get offended by anything these days.”
Note for companies who get into this trouble in the future: at this point, shut the f^&* up, sit the f^&* down, and apologize profusely. This could have ended quickly with some education, some South-Park-style “I learned something today”, and warm fuzzies all around.
Instead, some Artipoppe group members doubled-down**, claimed ignorance as Europeans, and chided critics for their vocal response:
“Okay, let a company name a wrap ‘Auschwitz.’ I would be offended but I would write a letter to that company, would unlike the page, and would never ever buy a wrap from them again.”
Another well-known European poster claimed that the word “Native American” was too long: “I don’t intend to use a long impractical word just because some think we should.”
Eventually, Artipoppe announced they would rename the collection – a statement made without apology or acknowledgement of the cultural appropriation. Don’t look for the non-apology, though: it poofed soon after, as did the description of imaginative Native Americans, the wrap name, and the announcement of the new collection.
Hot damn, mistakes were made.
Before we discuss them, let’s remember the rules: this is not about you, personally (and seriously, please read the disclaimer in that post before continuing). This is not about the owner of Artipoppe, who made some mistakes but who is surely not intending to minimize genocide. This is not about the Artipoppe admins, who remain intentionally unnamed, because they are probably also nice ladies who don’t think it’s okay to steal the land of Native Americans and herd them onto reservations. It’s not about wrap collectors, or high-end wraps, or Artipoppe fans in general (who are invested in their identity as Artipoppe fans and feel that identity is under attack). This is about systemic racism, about language, and about white privilege.
So let’s start with why it’s not okay to name your wrap collection “Indian.” Every schoolkid knows that we call Those Who Migrated Across the Land Bridge and Settled the Americas “Indians” because Columbus mistook the Caribbean for India, and the Arawaks for Indians. Therefore, the name “Indian” itself is imposed from without, a misnaming by the people who began their genocide. Most people prefer Native American, American Indian, or First Nations (in Canada, where the other names are supremely offensive). So the name in itself is offensive.
(Names matter. You wouldn’t like it if everyone suddenly decided to call you Patty McIrish. Not Irish? Too bad! See how that works?)
It gets worse when you associate the name “Indian” with feathers. Basically, you collapse all NA/AI/FN culture into a monolithic entity. Then you reduce it to a single cultural marker: wearing feathers. Divorced from their actual cultural meaning, that is, which varies according to the, you know, individual culture. Feathers are an offensive shorthand for NA/AI/FN: to differentiate between East and West “Indians”, Americans often say “dot-not-feather”, which is about as offensive and reductive as you can get.
Also, the Crow and Cheyenne fought each other. A lot. You don’t really put the two of them together.
So what does it matter?So both names are offensive. Artipoppe used the offensive names, slapped on a feather motif, and … sold it. Stereotypes are bad. Making money off those stereotypes? Even worse. This profits from cultural appropriation. NA/AI/FN people tend to be rightly sensitive about this, especially coming from Europeans, because, you know, they’ve had pretty much everything else stolen from them. White people took their land, destroyed their culture, and now appropriate it to make a quick buck. Urban Outfitters did it. Anthropologie did it. Dumbass chicks at Coachella did it, the girl in the Eurovision song contest did it, and so does every non-NA/AI/FN person who slaps some beadwork on leather and calls it Cherokee.
Well, as one self-identified NDN (say it aloud) man says, “It’s convenient … making a wrap for profit when families who are indigenous cannot even wrap their own kids because they are being taken away from their families at unprecedented rates compared to the state population.” This appropriation directly tied to the suffering NA/AI/FN people undergo today. It’s not in the past.
Moreover, many self-identified First Nations mamas, and family members of First Nations people, bristled at the word “imaginative.” It plays into the wise-old-Indian trope, the idea of wise old peace-pipe smoking sages who are one step closer to nature because they’re one step closer to savage. The same man asked, “Are we imagination? Do we solely exist for your imagination somehow because we don’t exist?” Another mama said on Artipoppe’s Facebook page, “My First Nations children and husband are not imaginative.”
Yes, this matters. It matters to real, actual people who live and breathe behind the Internet. Because, you know, there are real people back there: real people whose lives are affected by stereotypes. Real people who hear the rants about lazy Indians, the jokes about firewater, the vitriol about Indian casinos.
Their children will grow up hearing these things. They will see their heritage used and mocked.
Maybe you’re not offended. You don’t have to be. But you have to acknowledge that it is your privilege not to be offended. You don’t have to think about these stereotypes, because you don’t live them. Congratulations for the luck of your birth. No one’s blaming you for it. They’re just asking for some compassion and understanding: That you can try to see what they live through. That you can listen to their stories. And maybe, you can try to see their point of view.
Maybe you could use some of that imagination.
Artipoppe could use some of it, too: to craft a real apology. To think of a better rename than “Crow 1.1″. To use their so-called avant-guard status to speak out against oppression, instead of creating it.
Yes, the term “manifest destiny” is an anachronism here.
** Yes, I can provide screenshots if need be, but I’d rather not, because I’m too lazy to black out names and there’s no reason to publicly embarrass people.
update: an earlier title of this post referred to the wrap as the wrong name. It is/was “Crow Cheyenne.”
And as usual, massive thanks to mamas and daddies in Babywearers of Color, who continue to work hard to educate allies. Thank you to all of you who took time to talk.
In 2008, America released the redesign of the $1 coin: a gold dollar depicting Shoshone woman Sacagawea, the famous Native American who guided Lewis and Clark on their journey east of the Mississippi. On her back, Sacagawea wears her son Jean-Baptiste, born midway through the expedition. This is probably the most recognizable babywearing image in the United States. Ask Americans to describe it, and they’re likely to use the word “papoose.”
Because that is a papoose, right? A baby, especially a Native American baby, worn on the back. That’s what most of (white) America calls it. That’s what lots of old people call my sons when they see them snuggled up on me in Target. “Look at that sweet little papoose,” they say. And that’s what we see all over babywearing boards: post of fat-cheeked squishes with the words “my little papoose,” or “papoose in unicorn hair and elfskin wrap,” or “DH calls her our papoose.”
This is not okay.
Before we discuss why, let’s set some ground rules.
No one reading this, unless they rock a white hood and burn crosses on the weekends, means to be a racist.
It’s possible to call systems racist. This is not the same as calling the people who make up those systems hate-spewing bigots. Being part of a racist system does not mean that you, personally, hate minorities.
It’s possible to call a word racist. This is not the same as calling the person who uses it a racist – if that person is ignorant of the word’s racist implications. (If someone knows a word is racist [think the n-word], and continues to use it anyway, it’s fair to say that person is a racist, and probably an insensitive asshole).
There are lots of types of privilege. You can enjoy white privilege, or male privilege, or Western privilege, or class privilege. Enjoying one does not mean you don’t experience others – i.e. you may be white, and hence benefit from a system that rewards whiteness at the expense of people of color, while simultaneously laboring under a system that benefits the rich at the expense of the poor. This is not the suffering Olympics, people.
People have a stake in the ways they are named and identified. Denying that is a form of oppression. Appropriating that identification can also be a form of oppression.
In America, the politically correct term for the people Europeans stole land from and then systematically slaughtered in “Native American. In Canada, “native” is grossly offensive, and they use “First Nations” instead. I use NA here when talking about the US and NA/FN people when talking about both.
If you believe you are right all the time, and everyone else is wrong, and you are not interested in listening with an open mind, stop reading and go watch Fox News.
So back to the word “papoose.”
According to some sources, “papoose” comes from the Narragansett word for “child.” The word came to mean any Native American/First Nations child, regardless of tribal affiliation. This is not acceptable. As activist and Canadian Babywearing School educator Arie Brentnall-Compton says,
Papoose (as meaning a carried baby) is very shorthanded term. Each group has a current carrying practice (or lack of) as well as traditional practices. Referring to something as “papoose” essentially shorthands that wide variety of individual cultures to mean a FN [First Nations] baby, which is obviously supremely offensive.
Basically, when you use the word “papoose” to mean “carried baby,” you collapse all NA/FN culture into a monolithic entity. You deny individual identity and elide cultural difference. It’s akin to saying all NA/FN people wear feathers and smoke peace pipes in their teepees, or all Southerners burn crosses and lynch black people.
But what about using the word “papoose” to mean a carried white baby? That’s okay, right?
Why? Well, first, because NA/FN people say so, and since they’re the ones who were brutally murdered, incarcerated on reservations, ripped from their families and forced into residential schools, and continue to live in a state of cultural genocide, they get to tell us not say “papoose.” Respecting that belief shows a respect for their culture and identity. Do you care about Native Americans/ First Nation people? Do you feel that European colonization (which continues to this day) was a bad thing? Then don’t say “papoose.” As one NA mother says,
The “I don’t think it’s offensive, you’re too sensitive, you’re looking for a fight, etc” comments are truly hurtful. By making those comments, my voice as an indigenous woman is being silenced. I feel like they believe that their right to use the word is more important than the genocide (that still continues to this day) against Natives and the appalling history behind the word. Regardless if some use it as a term of endearment or to refer to a baby carrier, it’s truly hurtful to the majority of Natives
Of course, some NA/FN people don’t find the word offensive. Some have informed me that their grandparents used it as a term of endearment. Unfortunately, they don’t speak for every single NA/FN person in the whole world for all of time. Nor, last I checked, has your half-Cherokee grandmother been elected King of All The Native Americans and First Nations People.
A White Mountain Apache mama says that, in her culture, papoose means “a dead baby in a cradle board hanging in a tree or other structure.”
So let’s defer to her, ‘kay?
It’s the right of NA/FN people to find the word acceptable. But many feel the word minimalizes their feelings, disrespects their culture, and denigrates their own experiences. Out of respect for those people, we should avoid using the word “papoose.” Period. There are lots of other words out there. Pick one.
Maybe you disagree with this. Maybe you feel that words evolve, that it’s your right to say whatever you want, that this is all overly politically correct. You can think that. But out of respect for the feelings of others, please do not use the p-word. Think of it like the r-word, or calling someone “gay” instead of “stupid.”
If you still think you have the right to use the p-word, because it doesn’t matter what you call things, that’s okay too, honky motherfucker.
What? You find the term honky motherfucker offensive? I find that irrelevant to this discussion, honky.
See how that works? Unpleasant, isn’t it?
Just don’t say it.
In case you think I’m writing out of liberal guilt, here are some other voices to speak on the subject: