Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Kick-Starting the Beauty Distortion Ban

I'm always a little shocked when ads like this pop up in my Instagram feed. I know they're sponsored so they're chosen at random, but I'm a body positive lifestyle blogger, for crying out loud. I'm also a teacher who takes great pride in complimenting her students every day. It's important to me that they know I appreciate them as they are, and that they can learn to love and be confident in themselves for all their appearances, talents, passions, interests, and especially their differences.

Each person is the only one like themselves in the whole world; the only one with the same mind, the same heart, and the same soul. No one else can compare to you because you are unreachable, and no one should feel as though they need to compare themselves to others when every single person was designed differently.

I never want a young child to feel as though they must dumb down their passion and essence to be the way everyone else tells them to be.

Beauty distortion is everywhere, and I don't just mean on billboards and magazines. Even my beloved Disney princess role models have been altered from their original kind, strong, intelligent, and brave selves.


Whether or not you think they're good role models is irrelevant. The point is, these animated characters who looked unrealistic to begin with now look even more unrealistic. Aurora's hair was never curly, for some reason Jasmine is sparkling, Belle's looking awfully seductive for a princess who believes beauty comes from within, and what in God's good name happened to Mulan?! 

Take a look at the Perfect365 advertisement again. Personally, I think the original picture looked better, but body altering apps are everywhere now. Photoshop and other similar programs have been altering realistic bodies and scenarios for years. But now, there's even pressure to change your natural face. And if you'll notice, the woman still has on makeup in the original picture. There are multiple apps designed to cover blackheads, even out skin tones, or even apply a few touch ups to bare faces, but this one literally puts more makeup on previously makeup-ed women to make them even less themselves.

Ladies, how many times have you walked into the bathroom at a restaurant to see a woman touching up her hair or makeup? How many times have you felt the need to do the same? I've even seen girls pull compacts out of their purse after a meal! If they're on a date, I'll let it slide. That first impression determines whether or not you'll get a second, but even then it's important to use a tasteful amount. The poor fella still needs to know what you look like under all that enhancement. I'd much rather my boyfriend be shocked when I put makeup on rather than be shocked when I take it off. So go back to your table and spend time with your date, ladies. On dates, bathrooms are to be used for two reasons only: dire-need pit stops and necessary escape plans.

Now let's get one thing straight: I'm a firm believer in makeup. I've worn show makeup for multiple theatre productions and guard shows, and I generally wear a little natural makeup on a daily basis. But I don't wear it to cover my imperfections. I do it to enhance what is already there, what is already beautiful, what is already naturally mine. There is a definite time and place where it helps me feel even more beautiful and empowered, but I never feel as though I need it. If I've been lounging around all day and I need to go to the grocery store, not wearing any makeup won't stop me from going. But I certainly never feel as though I need more makeup after I've already applied it. And I certainly never feel as though I need technology to help me out with what I literally can't fix in reality.

Perfect365 is advertised as the "best one-touch makeover app." And better yet, it's free! Because no woman, or man for that matter, should have to pay money to be technologically modified into being beautiful. How generous of them.

So I chose a selfie and paired up with Perfect365 myself. I have on a little makeup, but my hair is not fixed (thus the presence of the beanie), and I am not wearing anything special (just a t-shirt and a leather jacket). This is close to what I look like on a regular weekend. Then, I downloaded the app for a full forty-five seconds, editing myself the same way any Perfect365 user could have done. Here is the result.


This is the Natural filtering capability. Imagine what I would've looked like had I chosen Glamour or Rock Star. You are given the opportunity to change your makeup, eye color, face shape, skin tone...you name it. You are even asked if you would like a face lift around your nose and cheeks.

I had chosen this original photo because I actually felt pretty in it, enough to even save it to my camera roll from Snapchat. I had also gained a decent amount of attention from it, specifically being complimented on my blue/green eyes and white teeth. But when compared to the Perfect365 edit, I suddenly looked tired. I noticed uneven skin tones I hadn't noticed before. I suddenly had circles under my eyes. My eyebrows weren't filled out enough. My smile wasn't big enough. My complexion wasn't pale enough. My cheeks weren't rosy enough. My eyes weren't bright enough. My lashes weren't long enough. My lips weren't dark enough. My hair wasn't brown enough. And apparently my beanie wasn't even dark enough.

I didn't even look like myself, anymore.

I'm kick starting the Beauty Distortion Ban like never before. I'm pledging to post every time I feel inadequate or attacked by societal beauty. Every time I see a blatant advertisement or PSA encouraging people to alter the beautiful and intricate way they were designed for whatever reason, I'll write another post. After all, I never run out of things to say, and this cause is very near and dear to my heart. I encourage you not to download apps like FaceTune and Perfect365. The more we can speak up and release real photos of ourselves, the less likely women will feel pressured to make themselves someone they aren't. Every woman deserves to feel strong, confident, and beautiful in her own body. To help me out, start your own pledge or join in on posts and discussions with #beautydistortionban.

Let's do this thing together, beautiful.



Sunday, March 27, 2016

Playing Easter Bunny

I have to admit I didn't get very crafty for Easter this year, but that didn't stop my amazing cousin Kayley from making it a wonderful Easter for her lovely daughter! Not only did Cora have her own personal Easter egg hunt and a super cute outfit (as always...), she woke up to one crafty basket from the Easter bunny!


Complete with sidewalk chalk, flip flops, swimsuits, and an abundance of chocolate, this crafty mom made her own basket out of an umbrella. And is that Princess Sofia rain boots we see? Probably so. It's such a great theme for spring, and such a functional idea for thrifty, crafty mommas.

And, just as Kayley said, "This holiday is by far my favorite. Though it's easy to get caught up in the egg hunts and being crafty with your child's basket, let us remember the true meaning of this day. He is RISEN. And because of this, we can rejoice in the fact that we can go to heaven someday." 

Good job, Kayley; not just for your supermom efforts on little Cora's Easter basket, but also on raising a beautiful daughter in Christ.


Thanks to you, this little bunny's hopped right off with our hearts!

Got your own Easter crafts and traditions? Email me to have it featured!
For more crafty ideas, visit my Pinterest Board for inspiration.


Get The Look: Happy Easter 2016

Today, my family and I are celebrating the resurrection of our Savior, and I always dress to the nines when I am happy and hopeful. There aren't enough words to express the love God has for us; the love we remember (if we choose to do so) on this day.

I've been on my soap box about beauty distortion lately for multiple reasons, mainly because I struggle a lot with it myself. But today, I am reminded that I was created by Him, and have never been more beautiful, loved, and perfectly imperfect than I am right now. It is because of Him that I am living, because of Him that I have faith in myself, and because of Him that I have hope for the future, both on Earth and for all of eternity. All glory and honor goes to Him alone!

So today, I am dressed in an outfit that makes me feel as empowered and stunning as I am through Him. Sure, I could find plenty of things wrong with the body inside of it, but He reminds me not to. He worked so hard on me, and I have every reason in the world to fall more and more in love with myself every day.

If you love my Easter look, check out where to find the pieces!

Happy Easter 2016

Get the Outfit
*Similar* Pink Collared Shirt 
Polka Dot Skirt
*Similar* Pointed Toe Nude Heels

Get the Accessories
*Similar* Pink Headband
*Similar* Hoop Earrings

Stores Represented
Express
New York & Company
Nordstrom
Talbots
Target
Tiffany & Co.

If something is out of stock or no longer available, shoot me an email at taxistotsandpolkadots@gmail.com and I'll find you something similar! 

Happy Easter... He is risen indeed! 

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Importance Of Integrating The Arts In Academic Classrooms

March is National Music In Our Schools month, and I haven't seen a single teacher celebrate it. So I will, and by the end of this post, I hope to see you celebrating it too. We've all heard the rumors about how music and other aspects of the performing arts make young children more intelligent, more talented, more social, and more well rounded. And those rumors are true, but no one seems to understand why. 



Raised in quite the artistic family, the importance of arts integration in the classroom has always been of personal importance to me. My dad was a band director and percussionist, so I began piano lessons at an early age. Then came the dance classes, acting instruction, color guard camps, and a genuine love for theatre. These activities didn't just keep me occupied, they engaged me in math concepts, scientific kinesthetics, and historical stories I would've never otherwise been interested in.

The effects of performing arts in the educational classroom are no different.

Yes, visual art is important. But it isn't something that's often neglected, especially in early childhood and elementary classrooms. It adds an extensive visual component to the curriculum, making it easier for students to grasp. For some reason, educators are quick to understand this for painting, coloring, gluing, and creating, but the performing arts (like visual arts), are a key ingredient to successful learning in the early stages of life. They should not be excluded from the lessons in our classroom.

There are eight learning styles recognized among students today; eight different "intelligences." These intelligences are used to help students understand and make sense of the world around them, influencing the way they approach and solve a problem. Most students use a combination of these eight learning styles, but one of the main problems in our education system is that these learning styles are not catered to equally. This means that a student whose learning style matches the teacher's lesson will be more successful than a student who learns a different way, and there is no quicker way to short a student of his/her own potential than refusing to teach the way that student learns.

8 Intelligences / Learning Styles 
Linguistic
Aka: Language. This student can utilize language and words effectively to express their thoughts, ideas, and feelings. These students usually love reading and class discussions. They will likely grow up to be writers, bloggers, journalists, or authors.

Logical
Aka: Mathematical and scientific. These students rely on sound reasoning, structure, proof, and inductive thinking to understand. These students require formulas and fool-proof instructions. They love lists, planning, and organized activities.

Spatial
Aka: Visual. They have to see it to believe it. Spatial learners are generally very abstract. They learn fractions with pizza instead of with numbers. They probably still count on their fingers, even if they know the numerical value. A common misconception is that spatial learners are very good at visual art because it is visual and abstract. The truth is that spatial learners are successful in any subject, as long as they are able to visualize the concept in a physical and realistic scenario.

Naturalistic
Aka: Experiential. Naturalistic learners have an overwhelming awareness and sensitivity towards the world around them, and all the people in it. The more real-life application you can give these students, the more likely they are to understand. If you want to teach percentages, teach them how to leave a tip. If you want to teach persuasive writing, have them construct a letter. They like to know that what they are learning is real, applicable, and valuable to their life outside the classroom.

Interpersonal
Aka: Social. These students have the ability to interact effectively and successfully with others. Interpersonal learners thoroughly enjoy working in groups or with a partner.

Intrapersonal
Aka: Individualistic. Intrapersonal students have a firm grasp of their own interests, personality, and skill level. They are generally self-motivated, and prefer to work alone at their desk rather than with another student.

Kinesthetic
Aka: The I-Need-Movement squad. This one of the two majorly neglected learning styles. Kinesthetic learners like to move around the classroom, work with their hands, and involve all five senses. They like to be thoroughly involved. From the moment students enter academic schooling, they are told to sit down, be quiet, and listen to the teacher. Nothing frustrates these students faster because they physically can't. These are the students now labeled with ADHD. Some have been emotionally, medically, and realistically diagnosed, and teachers are prepared to help these students out. But many students who are told they are ADHD don't actually have it at all. They are simply denied their primary learning style in the classroom, fueling all kinds of behavior issues that students, parents, and doctors are left cleaning up after. And it's not their fault.

Auditory
Aka: Music. This is the other majorly neglected learning style. The main misconception of this learning style is that these students are able to remember what the teacher said strictly because they heard it. Part of this is true. Auditory learners pick up cues to help them recognize and remember patterns in a lesson or lecture, but you have to meet them halfway. They won't remember every word unless you give them a reason to. Songs, poems, rhythmic rhymes, and acronyms will be this student's best friend. Ever wondered why you can't remember a single thing for your biology final but you can remember the words to every song on the radio? Music aids memory.

We tend to teach toward linguistic, logical, and spatial learners. We involve naturalistic learners by explaining how they might use the lesson in real life, and we differentiate activities for interpersonal and interpersonal learners. But auditory and kinesthetic learners are left out, labeled and misdiagnosed with behavioral problems and mental issues, while being inaccurately placed in remedial programs. They are not stupid. They are not a basket case. They are creative. 

We cannot deny these students of what they need to learn. And who knows? By integrating arts into the curriculum, the classroom will inevitably become more lively and fun for students and teachers alike. This is especially seen in early childhood classrooms.

Integrating Music
Music is the learning strategy that develops the earliest: in the womb. Before an infant is even born, they have moved and developed accustomed to the steady beat of their mother's heart. As they grow, music knowledge expands into larger creative realms, as they learn to move, listen, sing, and create. By denying music early on, we also deny creative students the opportunity to use their skills. By my own personal experience, nothing will make them feel more inadequate than being treated as though they are stupid when they are simply more complex than their teacher.

Music is so effective in early childhood education because it is directly related to primal instincts. Human bodies automatically react physically to musical stimuli (foot-tapping, swaying, head nodding, etc.), proving that young children respond more quickly and effectively to musical practices. Singing, clapping, and rhythmic imitation keeps children engaged and supplies a natural and comfortable transition to learning basic concepts.

Music is, in its rawest form, an artistic version of math. Keeping a steady beat, rhythm, melody, and tempo teach patterns, sequencing, counting, one-to-one correspondence, and even fractions. Music also aids in literacy development by teaching rhyme, syllabic structure, and comprehensive strategies through memory, concentration, and abstract concepts. It can also be found in word recognition, sentence structure, context clues, and phonemic awareness activities. Music is an exceptional vehicle of learning, allowing teachers to meet the needs of students with various interests, learning styles, and skill levels, if they would simply choose to do so.

Music brings order to disorder. It allows an instructor to teach so many concept with little/no materials. Just as an infant is often calmed by the musical voice of their caregiver, music is instinctively familiar to young children, proving it effective as a primary learning tool. Of course, music should not be used exclusively, but when incorporated with symbolic play and instructional input, music can enhance lessons in unexpected ways. Music instruction should not be left solely to the music teacher.

Integrating Creative Dramatics
Children process the world differently than adults do, and need academic material to be presented in familiar ways. Creative dramatics is another useful (and neglected) strategy for teaching pedagogical concepts. Young children rely on play, emotion, and imagination to explore and understand their world. Dramatic play allows exactly that. Not only does it allow students to grasp concepts in a way they can understand, but also provides them a kinesthetic and emotional outlet to literally interact with a concept, character, or idea. It can enhance students' comprehension of a text, promote language development and vocabulary growth, stimulate critical thinking, and foster high level cognitive processes. By utilizing multiple forms of intelligence, creative dramatics enables students to think out loud through movement, organize information, interpret ideas, create new thoughts/opinions, and interact cooperatively with others. It gives them a sense of ownership over their learning. This is especially useful for language arts and literacy lessons, though public speaking skills and creative brainstorming are also used frequently.

This doesn't just have to be a dramatic play center. This can be readers theatre, acting out mathematical word problems, or presenting a story to the class using mime or a short script. Drama can be incorporated into almost any lesson, providing structure, open-mindedness, conceptual and social feed back, and an environment where students feel free and safe to construct their own ideas (no matter how basic or irrational they might be). It also allows students a medium to express themselves and their lives outside of the classroom when they might not have another way to do so. Students will learn the importance and power of their own voice, body, imagination, and the ability to work with others, generating self-confidence and classroom community. Creative dramatics in the academic classroom fully engages students of all interests, learning styles, and skill levels by supplying logical, visual, kinesthetic, and creative components to foster learning.

Integrating Movement
No, I don't mean for you to assign an interpretive dance project after reading a story aloud. I don't even mean dance, specifically. Creative movement is a very broad, very general category, and it's hardly even mentioned in classrooms anymore. In daycare classes, you see kids marching, stomping, hopping, skipping, and galloping. You see nothing of the sort in academic classrooms unless you're on duty for their 15-minute recess they get once a day.

Kinesthetic learners need a lot more than 15 minutes per day of maximum learning.

I'd like to think that kinesthetic students learn more in the classroom than they do at recess, but I'm not really sure that's the case. After all, in class we just tell them to sit down and be quiet when movement can be an incredibly useful tool in classroom education.

Perhaps the most obvious skill developed through movement is self-control, as students learn the boundaries of their own bodies and actions. They are able to experiment with energy, time, space, and flexibility. There are obstacles to teaching with movement, of course: like finding adequate space in the classroom, accommodating students with special needs, etc., but once the obstacles have been hurdled, it proves to be worth the struggle. Nothing will involve young students like letting them work freely and constructively.

Creative movement gives children the opportunity to expend that extra energy while helping them learn that there can be more than one solution to a problem or task. I can't count the number of studies that have proven kinesthetically involved students were more likely to remember information than those who were idle. And yet, we still refuse to acknowledge the statistics. Movement isn't simply to promote exercise and healthy lifestyles. It is crucial in developing social, emotional, physical, and creative components necessary to further learning.

Music should not be left to the music teacher. Drama should not be left to the drama teacher. Movement should not be left to the P.E. teacher, especially when it is all so valuable for complete and conclusive learning. It is up to every teacher in the building to provide these crucial components. It is up to us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MYTHBUSTERS: Early Childhood Education Is Easy


Every education major has heard it at some point: the education-is-the-easiest-degree-on-campus slogan. The its-the-easy-way-out-of-a-career-and-get-summers-off accusation. Every education major also knows these statements to be false, but startled by recent events, it has come to my attention that even some other education majors make fun of early childhood majors, claiming that our degree is too easy.

I was enraged. 

I'm sorry that we have more fun than students in other majors. I'm sorry that we don't believe in tests (because they don't prove much, if anything), and that we get to color and craft and act like four year olds while others are presenting a lesson. I'm also sorry that we train children in academics while they're learning to hold a spoon. I'm sorry that elementary educators teach reading and writing while early childhood educators teach children to walk, speak, resolve conflicts, read, write, and count all at the same time. I'm sorry that we dodge flying toys and change messy diapers amidst it all. 

I'm sorry that I'm about to prove your misconceptions wrong. 

I'm not saying other programs are easy, because I know they aren't. But I'm not going to say they're any more difficult than early childhood, because I firmly believe it could be the other way around. 

There are thousands of misconceptions about early childhood educators from education majors and non-education majors alike, but there are five that have begun to stand out before I've even completed my degree. Here are my thoughts on all of them. 

Your degree program is too easy.
Ha!! False. Yes, we color. Yes, we sing. We also evaluate for fine motor skills, gross motor development, social skills, conflict resolution, cognitive processing, and speech development. Oh, and then we teach them how to read and write. 

Say we're teaching our students how to count. After all, that's an easy lesson for our easy degree. Our kids are young. When we design lesson plans, our goal is to keep our wild kiddos focused, engaged, and willing to learn. Before we even design a lesson, we have informally assessed everything each student already knows, needs to know, and still struggles with from the last lesson. We look into each child's home life, determining how their family is meeting the basic needs of child development, and examining how it affects their life in the classroom. We research and learn about each student's culture so that we can understand why they might say, do, or react the way they do in the classroom. Then we differentiate the counting lesson accordingly to cater every student's need. 

If the student still isn't succeeding, we examine further. Do they need a reading specialist? What about a speech therapist? Are they acting out because of a traumatic situation at home, or are they actually gifted and just bored out of their mind? Do they really belong in that remedial group or do they need medication to help them focus so they can learn? Or do you need to fill out the paperwork and attend the meetings for a Special Education referral? Call it a diagnosis, if you will. We are way more than mere Crayola Queens. If I turned you loose in a classroom tomorrow and told you to teach my kids their sight words, would you know enough about them to succeed? Do you know enough about classroom management to keep them all engaged? Do you even know what a sight word is? 

You don't have extensive training in reading, math, or curriculum development. 
False. We have more. 

At Missouri State, we take two years of general education courses to be followed by a total of four reading classes (three of which have field experience), two full math methods courses, social students courses related to teaching content and necessary social skills, and numerous science courses focusing on experiential learning and experimentation. We also take child development courses, nutrition, arts integration, multi-cultural diversity, family involvement, and an intro course in speech pathology so we are prepared with the tools to help all our students when they are unable to pinpoint why they are struggling with reading, writing, or math. 

You're just babysitters. 
Um...false. We're teachers. Please reread the categories above. 

There are too many of you.
Again, false. It is overwhelming how false that is. Are you aware that there are over 200 elementary education students each year at Missouri State (and even more in the complete education program), when only a handful of students are admitted (yes, admitted, meaning we took a test, filled out an application, wrote an essay, etc.) to the early childhood education program? Missouri State University's early childhood undergraduate program is highly selective, and significantly smaller than any other education program at the university. I did a little research and also found that there are way more elementary graduates than there are jobs available in the immediate area, whereas the early childhood education program has a 90% placement rate after graduation. 

Most early childhood programs aren't even offered as an undergraduate degree because the plan is so involved. Early childhood majors are half a child development major and half an elementary education major; just a little less than a double major, which is why our degree program doesn't require a minor or an emphasis. Most universities don't even offer an early childhood program until graduate school. 

You don't take care of behavior issues quickly. 
True! One that I agree with! We don't take care of behavior issues quickly, but we take care of them permanently. When behavior issues arise, many educators are trained to examine the behavior itself, but early childhood educators value development over education. Therefore, we look at what's causing the behavior rather than the behavior itself. If we can fix the cause of the behavior, the behavior will fix itself. For example, if a child bites or hits another child, most teachers would instruct them to say sorry, write a note to the parent, and move on with the day. An early childhood educator would lead the young student in the whole cognitive process, starting with "look at the tears on his face," and "how much do you think that hurt him?" This would be followed by "what are your ideas to fix this problem?" It sounds stupid and ineffective, but it is so much more than telling the student to "use their words." It is the most basic form of educating students to take care of their own problems and disputes without requesting the interference of authority. After the conflict resolution process has been completed, an early childhood educator would then consider the child's situation individually, socially, and economically, gathering information and resources to target and resolve the root of the issue. 

Suddenly, our job has become rather complicated, has it not? 

This post was somewhat therapeutic, as I am sick and tired of being told my degree is stupid and easy. But this post is more than that. It's not a complaint about being under-appreciated. It's alerting those who care enough to listen about how absolutely offensive and ridiculous it is to diminish the intelligence and worth of a person who will be teaching your future children everything they need to know. You might think our job is easy now, but someday, we'll be loving and educating your little prince or princess, and suddenly, it will become one of the most important jobs in the world. 

So teach on, Crayola Queens. You are molding our future generation. 
Got your own myth about educators? I'd love to prove it wrong! Drop it in the comments or shoot me an email to have it featured. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Five Stars: Zootopia

It isn't often that I skip out on a night to lounge around and watch Once Upon A Time. It's even less likely to see me get dressed presentably and go to the movies when I could be at home under a blanket with a book. But last night, my friends and I ventured to see Zootopia, and everyone was pleasantly surprised.

I see children's movies for two reasons. One, I'm a kid at heart, and Disney has never released something that hasn't spoken to my soul. But mainly, I'm a teacher of very young children, and I want to know what's going on in their lives. And let me tell you, seeing the TV shows and movies they're interested in helps cater lessons and classroom conversations to their interests. It stimulates their motivation to learn like no other. I had to see Frozen twice in theaters when I worked at a daycare; it was all the rage among my students and I was quickly realizing I'd missed some key parts that were crucial to the storyline. My preschoolers had no problem alerting me of this issue. 

Trailers for Zootopia had been out for months, and Disney's facebook pages and Instagram accounts had been over-advertising it. Stuffed sloths and police rabbits were available in the Disney store before the movie was even released. And when my third grade practicum students started expressing interest in the release of the movie, I knew I was going to have to see it. Unfortunately, a Sunday evening was the first time my life slowed down enough to allow the time. 

I might not be a well-renowned movie critic, but I know what I look for in children's movies. I call it the three L's: a little love, a lot of laughter, and a life lesson. 

A Little Love 
Not merely romantic love, though I do love a good classic fairytale. But the movie must be filled with love. The characters must be lovable. The storyline must speak to the heart. And while I'm not looking for the next Oscar-nominated animated film, it must be clear that the directors, actors, and producers were in love with their movie. All of this was evident in Zootopia, causing all ages to fall in love with it as well. 

A Lot of Laughter
I was rolling from start to finish. Granted, I do have quite a juvenile sense of humor sometimes, but Disney has been known to throw in a few jokes for the parents, and Zootopia was no different. References to other Disney movies were thrown around subtly but wittily. The personality of each animal was determined by what animal they were: a clever and sly fox, a dedicated and hyper bunny, and painfully slow sloths (ironically working at the DMV). It was a cute movie from a child's standpoint, but it was quite educational from an adult standpoint. It wasn't just a story about some animals in a city. It discussed the habitats and mannerisms of certain animals, prey vs. predators, and biological drives within animals that lead them to become "savage." Talented voice actors and savvy scriptwriters had me laughing and engaged the whole time! 

A Life Lesson
There were so many, I don't even know where to begin. Through the rabbit, we learn that you must work hard and never give up on your dreams, even when no one else believes in you. Through the fox, we learn that the way people perceive us does not control our identity, and it is up to us to prove them wrong. And overall, we learn that there is no such thing as a perfect place. Life is inevitably messy, but we can take steps to improve the world to the best of our ability if we simply choose to do so. Who knew a story about a fox and a bunny could be so inspirational? 

I might not be a movie critic, but I'm a spectator with high expectations for young children and a soft spot for Disney. And by that authority... Zootopia easily gets five stars, and is a top recommendation from Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots! I'll definitely be going again soon to catch those plot holes my students will tell me I missed out on, so I hope to see you there! 

Friday, March 18, 2016

My Fraction Sundae


It's time for fractions in my 3rd grade practicum class, and there's no better way to teach fractions than with food! Of course my initial lesson was done with pizza (what fraction of the pizza is pepperoni?), but I wanted my activity to be something a little different. So I recruited my awesome roommates, turned on a Disney movie, handed them some markers and scissors, and we got started on designing My Fraction Sundae! 


We used five different flavors (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, blueberry, and mint) to create custom made sundaes, and identify the fractions found within. The students had a blast, and I loved seeing their own personal touches on each sundae. Some put whipped cream, sprinkles, and cherries; and one even made a breakfast sundae and put pancakes and bananas with hers!


Special thanks to two of my roommates, Cassie and Jocelyn, for helping me out with the design and layout of this activity! (I may have bribed them with actual ice cream...)

This lesson is perfect for classroom and homeschool use. Get the full lesson (includes teacher guide, My Fraction Sundae sheet, fraction guide, and templates) at my store on Teachers Pay Teachers!

Happy Fractioning!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This lucky lady's turning 21!


While everyone else is out partying in green, we're out celebrating Shannon's birthday! Who else is lucky enough to turn 21 on St. Patrick's Day? Beer doesn't do much for her (and apparently fruity drinks don't either) so we wound up at a Mexican restaurant for a specialty drink. She tried a Hawaiian Sunset, drank about five sips and called it good. But she likes the wine coolers we picked up on the way home, so it wasn't a total waste! We will celebrate with those tomorrow after her midterm tomorrow morning. Best of luck to her tomorrow, and happy 21st to my sweet and crazy friend who's always down for a laugh and adventure!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Dolls with Disabilities

We have more exciting news in toy land today! At the beginning of the month I was pleased to report in Limiting the Impossible that the new barbie is expanding its horizons and presenting dolls of multiple shapes, sizes, styles, and ethnicities. There is nothing more near and dear to my heart than the promotion of healthy, diverse toys for young children to play with. There aren't words to explain how important it is for children to have dolls they relate to, and the recent Toy Like Me campaign did just that. The viral movement began as deaf moms challenged designers to make more inclusive toys for their children. Soon, millions of parents and teachers worldwide were sharing stories and photos of their homemade dolls to create their own customizable, realistic, and relatable toys for their children and students.

British toymaker Makies loved the idea, and jumped on the trend to release their own line of similar dolls. Originally, Makies was known for customizable options much like American Girl dolls, though Makies tend to take on more of a Barbie design. You could choose facial features, hair color, outfits, etc., but the new line of Makies dolls added another area of customization.


Now with glasses, hearing aids, walking canes, and more, dolls can be customized to also match the disability of the toy owner. Using their famous 3-D printers, they can even mimic a child's facial birthmarks so the doll will match. Talk about having a doll that looks like you! The line will soon expand to include wheelchairs, and Makies designers are already looking into what features they will include next.

The dolls are as expensive as any other doll designed to look just like your child, but the disability featured dolls are no more expensive than dolls without the disability features. Makies has also challenged other toy companies via twitter to follow in their footsteps, helping young children feel a lot more special and a lot less different.

Makies are currently moving to America. But once they complete this transition, their services will be available again with even more options! To make your own Makie doll for you or your child, visit their website at mymakie.com. For more information, you can contact them through their Facebook Page: Official Makies.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Conquering the Denim Deficiency

I had two goals over spring break: sleep late, and find a pair of jeans that fit. Sleeping late was no problem. Finding jeans, however, has always been a challenge. You see, I had jeans that fit me like a glove. But one day I woke up and looked in the mirror and noticed they had faded lines at the hips and embellishments on the back pockets, and it bothered me. I wasn't sixteen anymore. And I needed to dress accordingly.

Last week I wrote a post entitled An Open Letter To The Poor Woman Who Tried To Sell Me Jeans. It was prompted by a single shopping experience gone wrong, though I've had multiple similar experiences. My first problem was shopping in the same stores as my friends with different shapes. My second problem was letting myself believe I was a fat, repulsive outsider because I didn't look like they did, or fit into the same things they could fit in.

As dramatic as that sounds, I am not alone.

I am among thousands of curvy women who genuinely believe they are fat because they don't fit into the tight skinny jeans sold in stores and boutiques. And it couldn't be further from the truth.
After my meltdown in the jeans store, I had completely given up. It wasn't until I returned home, stripped down, and looked in the mirror that I saw the truth: I was beautiful. No, not like those girls in magazines, but I was so raw. I was real. I had a sweet, feminine waist with sassy hips to go with it. And for the first time in a long time, I felt like I had a chance.

Since given the glimmer of hope in an otherwise blackened perspective, I've been on a relentless quest to dress myself the way my body deserved to be presented. I deserved to be dressed in clothes that would compliment the shape I'd been given, rather than constrict it and distort it into something it's not. My thighs might look like sausages in skinny jeans, but they aren't fat. My underwear lines might show in straight-legged pants, but my hips aren't fat either. I'm not fat.

I'm just a woman.

So to all the women out there like me: the women who hate the girl looking back at them in the mirror, who spend way too long in the dressing room to cry, who can't find a single pair of pants to save their life; worry not. I have found a hopeful solution, because today... I found...

JEANS!
Notice all the jeans in the bottom of the picture that didn't work prior to the SINGLE PAIR that worked on my body. But aren't they simply gorgeous?! Look at those curves! And they're not pulling or tugging or almost ripping. 

I hate that it sounds arrogant to compliment my own body. But I will not apologize. It's not bad to be confident, and it's not bad to do a happy dance right in the middle of the dressing room (like I did prior to snapping this photo) because something looks amazing on your body. I finally found something that looked amazing. You can, too; you probably just don't know where to look. 

Bethany's Fool-Proof Suggestions for Slim, Short, Curvy Girls

Vanity
This was the first store I ever shopped in that I felt like I truly belonged. Vanity is a juniors store so you'll find a lot of jeans with rhinestones and bright stitching, but they will fit you perfectly. I'll admit it isn't ideal for women trying to achieve a mature and professional look, but if you've got a curvy teenager who's beginning to feel uncomfortable in her own body... Take her to Vanity!

Levi's 
Back when I was transitioning from kid to teen, Levi's were loose, faded, and ulgy. I'm not sure if they got better or if I grew up. Probably a little bit of both. But now, they are stylish and preferred by every curvy woman I know. Available at various department stores (JCPenny, Kohls, etc.), Levi jeans are available in multiple colors, styles, rises, sizes, shapes, and collections. You can shop by U.S. sizes (00, 6, 12, etc.) or European sizes (first number = waist, second number = inseam). I prefer European. What the heck is a 7 "Regular" pair of jeans anyway?? 

Joe's Jeans 
They're found at Nordstrom. They're nice. They're expensive. But they fit. 'nough said. (Make sure you search Curvy fit rather than Slim Fit. **Note: That doesn't mean you're not slim. Just means you're a woman.) 

anntaylor.com 
Even online, Ann Taylor jeans start from scratch. You find your fit, find your style, and then shop accordingly! You can filter your options in stores and online based on size, style, fit, and color. Your options are (almost) unlimited. 

Old Navy
Can I get a hallelujah?! I got those gorgeous knockouts pictured above right at our local Old Navy! Shop by style, color, size, and fit. They have three fits: original (thankfully not labeled slim or skinny...can I get an amen?!), curvy, and "rockstar" (supposedly good for all body shapes...we shall see). 


Got your own tips or suggestions for slim, short, curvy shoppers? Help a sister out! Drop it in the comments or shoot me an email at info@taxistotsandpolkadots.com to have it featured. 

Happy shopping to my slim, short, curvy beauties! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

R.I.P. Bruiser Woods

Tonight was supposed to be a night of celebratory movie watching, hair brushing, and cookie eating because my sister at heart, Caroline Clark, made it into nursing school at the University of Arkansas. I am so proud of her!


We were prepared with our traditional sleepover; movie in hand, Pride and Prejudice of course, when we were saddened by the recent news of a dear friend's passing. Bruiser Woods, beloved inspiration and sidekick to the one-and-only Elle Woods, passed away yesterday, though Reese Witherspoon has assured us via Instagram that his tail is wagging in the sky. With a heavy heart, we celebrate his brilliant legacy. Thank you for assuring all young women that they have what it takes to pursue all their dreams and academic uncertainties with the help of dear friends and canines.


Rest in peace, dear Bruiser Woods. You are already immensely missed. 

An Open Letter To The Poor Woman Who Tried To Sell Me Jeans

Retail therapy used to be the quick fix for anything. I would try on formal dresses with no occasion to wear them. I would tote handbags around the store with the price tag folded inside just to feel like I had a new purse. And the shoes! Oh, don't even get me started on the shoes. If you're like me, you know that nothing makes you feel more captivating and powerful than a beautiful shoe. I loved retail therapy. I loved shopping.

I hate it now.


I went into your store to buy jeans. And 104 pairs later I emerged from the dressing room to return them to you, and after inquiring what was wrong with them in front of a male customer, you proceeded to bring me more. More jeans that made my hips look wider. More denim that made my thighs look fatter. More materialistic items that made me feel inferior. Inadequate. Downright repulsive. 

I went into your store to buy jeans. But I left your store in tears.

I went into your store to buy jeans. But I didn't tell you I was there to buy jeans because I didn't want you to know. Because when salesladies know I'm in a store to buy jeans, they don't shut up. They don't stop bringing me things. They don't listen to what I'm saying because they've already moved on to the next pair of pants they're going to bring me. So here's the deal.

Jeans don't fit me.

By society's definition, I am the perfect woman. I have a full feminine figure with an itty-bitty waist. But I can't feel perfect because by society's standards, I'm the ugliest woman alive. I have a 29 inch inseam, and even your short jeans (or petite jeans, if you're trying not to offend) fit me like footie pajamas. If I try on a pair of jeans that fit my hips, the waistband is so huge I have to pay an extra fifteen dollars to have it taken in. If the jeans fit my waist, one of two things is wrong with the seat: it's either so tight you can see every line and crease in my underwear, or the zipper doesn't plunge low enough to even get the unforgiving denim over my butt.

You then proceeded to tell me that those were your "curvy" jeans, and offered to order me the "ultra-curvy" pair because you didn't carry that style in the store. Because nothing says "you're fat," and "you don't belong here," like "I don't even carry your size/style in the store."

Then I checked the price tag. You kept handing me 120 dollar jeans. But I'd never pay that because I have to pay an extra 50 to have them altered. Shoot, I could buy some denim and make my own stupid jeans for less than $120. That's an awful lot of money to charge someone who isn't in love with your jeans, and I don't even like them. They really aren't that special. If you can make me a pair of jeans that fit me with no required alterations, I'd drop $120 in a heartbeat. But I haven't found a store to do it yet.

You see, you label jeans that fit models "slim," when you label jeans for me "curvy." I used to think curvy was an inaccurate label; that it was the modest way to say "fat." But it isn't. Curvy is a good thing. Men like curvy. Women should, too. It's the "slim" label that's the problem, because it implies that curvy women cannot also be slim. And we believe it.

Curvy women can be slim. We are slim. And you can label us with whatever word you want, but we are stunning. 

Curvy women are true art forms. The craftsmanship of our frame and the architecture of our physique shouldn't make sense. Our weight is not distributed evenly. And you don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that scales only balance out when weight is even on both sides. Curvy women shouldn't even be able to balance. But here we are...walking, thinking, reading, dancing, running, cooking, working, and loving. We are mysterious creatures. We are extraordinary. But instead, we feel like a freak of nature. Everyone talks about how beautiful and exquisite we are, but how can we feel that way when not a single piece of fabric fits our "magnificent" body?

My waist is a size 2. And I know it is, because all my skirts are a size 2. But my jeans are a size 6-8, because that's what my hips need. I buy jeans in a size 8, take in the waist several inches, and then hem the pant legs to a 29 inch inseam. I also take in the fabric at the knee, because all my weight is carried in my hips and upper thighs, so my bootcut jeans look like straight-leg pants after the initial alteration. I need an extra alteration to give me my shape back.

I could've answered what was wrong with those jeans so you wouldn't bring me more, but I didn't have the time. You didn't either. I could've told you that my waist is too small, that my hips are too wide, that my thighs are too fat. But that would imply that there's something wrong with me. And there isn't. There isn't anything wrong with your jeans either. It's just that we aren't a good fit.

So stop bringing me more jeans. Let me find them. Let me try them on. Let me pinch them in certain areas and determine if the price tag is worth it prior to the 4 alterations I'll have to make that I don't want you to know about. Because no one knows my body better than me, and no one knows how to make me feel worse about it than everyone else.

And that's not fair to me. Because I am beautiful. 

Sincerely,

The "Perfect" Girl In Desperate Need Of A Pair Of Pants

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Carolyn's Journey to Miss Missouri

If I'm being completely honest, no one was more surprised than me when one of my best friends in college turned out to be a pageant girl. Everything I knew about pageants made me hate them. I thought they degraded women; made them stand up straight, cake their face in makeup, and speak thoughts that weren't theirs. But after watching my friend compete for the crown of Miss Missouri State our freshman year, I realized I couldn't be more wrong.


Meet Carolyn (middle), a 21-year-old sweatpant wearing, Walmart cake eating, Elementary Education major at Missouri State University. Originally from Enid, Oklahoma, Carolyn came to Missouri State to pursue her undergraduate degree 
and twirl with the Pride Marching Band. Pageantry was the furthest thing from her mind. 

Since winning the Miss Missouri State pageant her freshman year and Miss Midland Empire last January, she now holds the title of Miss Pony Express since September. She has competed in countless other pageants, and is advancing to compete for the Miss Missouri crown in June. We are so excited for her, and are so thankful she was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule as a full-time student, feature twirler, and pageant girl to let us get to know her a little better.



Carolyn 101
Name: Carolyn Nicole Koepping
Age: 21
College: Missouri State University
Major: Elementary Education
Extra Curricular's/Hobbies: Baton Twirling, Baking, and Bowling
Volunteer Projects: hosting fundraisers for the Children's Miracle Network and the "Dream to Achieve" event in support of her platform
Charities She Supports: Children's Miracle Network, Boys and Girls Club of America



Our Interview with Carolyn



What inspired you to participate in pageantry? 
"Well, twirling is actually my main passion, and twirling leads itself into pageantry. So many twirlers who take private lessons are often involved in the pageant world, but ultimately, the Miss America organization is unique in that it allows women to showcase their talents. Originally, pageants were another outlet for me to twirl, but since then has allowed me to grow in so many other ways that I decided to continue."

How long have you done pageantry, and when did you decide to pursue it seriously? 
"I participated in my first pageant when I was 15. That was the Miss Oklahoma Outstanding Teen pageant, but I really started pursuing it seriously after I won the Miss Missouri State pageant my freshman year of college."

What types of lessons and training do you go through to prepare for pageants? 
"Oh goodness. Obviously talent practice is a huge part of it and I take twirling lessons outside of my individual practice. I also spend countless hours at the gym and working with nutritionists on how to live a healthy lifestyle when preparing for the infamous swimsuit competitions. But what you see as a pageant audience member is not what goes on in a pageant. The most important training for me personally is the private interview, which is where you go into a room with no other competitors, and you get ten minutes of questions. The judges can ask you whatever they want, so a lot of pageant prep time is mock interviews, working on speaking better, and creating answers where I can truly get my passions and beliefs across effectively."

When you win a beauty pageant, what do you gain aside from the crown and title? 
"The Miss America organization is one of the strongest scholarship providers in the nation, so I get thousands of dollars off my college tuition for each pageant I win. I am so thankful to have a hobby that gives back to me and to the community."

What is your platform, and why are you so passionate about it? 
"My platform is entitled Dream It, Work It, Do It, and I am so excited to promote it because it's my life. When I was five years old, it was my dream to become a feature twirler. I suppose you could say I was a quite aspirational five year old! I never gave up on it. It's hard for me to see this generation who is so entitled and thinks they don't have to work for anything. The reason I want the Miss Missouri crown so passionately is so that I can visit more schools and share my passion with young children so that they learn to put forth the work and effort required to follow their dreams."

What is the relevance of beauty pageants in today's society?
"This is actually a big debate right now. So many people say it isn't relevant at all, but so many aspects are. Interviews prepare me for job interviews, talent is crucial because everyone has something unique to show, and the health aspect is so important to anyone in pursuit of living a healthy life. And the evening gown portion? What girl doesn't want to wear a pretty dress and walk around in it? Pageantry can instill a confidence in so many women that is crucial to their beauty, and that's why it's so important."

Some people firmly believe that pageantry negatively impacts young women in many ways. What is your general response to these common opinions? 
"There isn't a lot I can say to change opinions, but I would just tell them my personal experience. Pageantry has helped me grow so much in my confidence. I never saw myself modeling a swimsuit on stage! And twirling on stage requires so much more than it does on a field or in a gym. I feel like I can talk to anyone. In pageantry, you are there to be a role model and spokesperson for whatever state or organization you represent, and that's why I'm pursuing the crown for Miss Missouri."

Outside of the pageant world, what is your life like? 
"I'm a normal college kid! I go to class, I'm the feature twirler for the Pride Marching Band at Missouri State, and on my favorite days (known as "cheat days"), I am a serious Chili's enthusiast with an obsession for Walmart cake. Spending time out with friends and family is always great, but getting to be at home without my makeup on is my favorite."

What advice do you have for other girls who are interested in / currently competing in pageantry? 
"Perseverance is key. So many girls get so discouraged after not winning a few pageants, but it's so important to remember that it's five people's opinions in one day. I have to remind myself that all the time. You have to do it because you have a passion for the mission and community service, not because you want the crown and title." 

Carolyn has expressed multiple thanks to the Miss America organization for the preparation it provides her for her future career as an educator. She loves having the opportunity to enter schools, speak, and gain the resources and connections necessary to provide a stepping stone to her life as a teacher. We would also like to thank Meadows Images for allowing us to use and redistribute their publicity photos.

Want to learn more about Carolyn's journey as she competes for the Miss Missouri Crown? 
Visit her facebook page at Miss Pony Express 2016 - Carolyn Koepping. Best of luck to her and the others! 


Sunday, March 6, 2016

OUAT Season 6 Watch Party

Who else is excited for the Season 6 premier of Once Upon a Time tonight?? The Harper girls certainly are... Welcome to our watch party! Meet Kayley Harper (my beautiful cousin) and her daughter Cora, the other half of my "Charming" family.

We are so happy we were able to reunite for the premier since we value our family as much as the Charmings. Kayley's one confident mother, ready to do anything for her child. Of course, her love for Killian Jones makes her a regular Emma Swan, placing her on #TeamHook. Cora, the truest believer of our family, is the Henry to her Emma, placing her on #TeamHenry, and then there's me: the preppy teacher who never gives up. I guess that makes me Mary Margaret, since David Nolan is my personal hunk of choice! After all, "believing in even the possibility of a happy ending can be a very powerful thing."

After 654 tries, we finally got our truest believer to stand still for a photo, and we'd like to give a major shout-out to Rush Order Tees for our custom t-shirts! Make your own this season!

Happy Season 6! Will Emma find Hook? Can the darkness really be banished for good, and is it even possible for the gang to persevere in the underworld?? We're dying to find out, too! Stay tuned to ABC tonight at 8/7 central to watch with us. Hopefully the savior won't disappoint!


Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Backstage Pass to a WGI Regional

Ever wondered what it's like on the other side of winterguard; the performer's side? Probably not, because chances are high that if you even know what winterguard is, you spun at some point in your life. (If you don't have any idea what I'm talking about, check out So What's The Big Deal About Winterguard Anyway?) But if you're one of the few who know about winterguard and haven't spun yourself, have you ever thought about the prep that goes into a winterguard show just on show day? We don't just crawl off a bus and perform, there is an elaborate plan in place to get us calm, focused, warmed up, and ready to perform.

Today is day four of the 30 Day Polyvore Challenge: Bullet Your Whole Day; so you'll get a step-by-step itinerary of the busy bees winterguard performers are here with the Pride of Missouri State.

  • Wake Up! (at 6 a.m...) 
  • Ensure your "show day" bag is packed (Uniform? Check. Hairspray? Check. Elastic bands, hairbrush, teasing comb, body tights, show makeup, flip flops, equipment...? Check!)
  • Throw on rehearsal clothes, brush teeth and hair, get breakfast, and get out the door! 
  • 7 a.m. Rehearsal! 
  • Fix Hair (while you still have a mirror!)
  • Change into Pride Attire (we don't ever wear denim)
  • Equipment Check-In
  • Load buses and Depart for St. Louis! 
  • ....really long bus ride (I took a nap) 
  • Do Your Makeup (yes on the bus!) 
  • Stop for Lunch (It's just now noon...)
  • Reload and ride the bus again
  • Arrive at the Performance Venue 
  • Unload buses (equipment and floor) 
  • Visit Storage Area
  • Watch a Few Guards
  • Change into Uniform
  • Help with National Avenue's floor 
  • Hallway Stretch 
  • Hallway Movement Warm-Up
  • Hallway Mental Run Through
  • Equipment Warm-Up 
  • Pep-Talk/Power Pose/Pre-Show Fight Song! 
  • SHOWTIME
  • Retrieve floor 
  • Change back to Pride Attire for dinner (It's just 5p.m.) 
  • Time to eat! 
  • Return to Performance Venue
  • Watch guards 
  • Woohoo!! We made finals!! (Rinse and Repeat...) 
  • Change into Uniform
  • Help with National Avenue's floor 
  • Hallway Stretch 
  • Hallway Movement Warm-Up
  • Hallway Mental Run Through
  • Equipment Warm-Up 
  • Pep-Talk/Power Pose/Pre-Show Fight Song! 
  • SHOWTIME
  • Retrieve floor 
  • Time for Scores @ Retreat! 
  • Reload Buses
  • Head Back to Springfield 
  • Return to Apartment (at 2:30 a.m.!!) 
  • Quick shower, quick change and...
  • Bedtime. 

Now that's one full day of winterguard, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Welcome to day three of the 30 Day Polyvore Challenge! Today's quest is to post about a book you love, and I'm so happy it was worded that way. Why? Because I'm a total bookworm and can't choose a favorite book. That's like asking me to pick a favorite emotion or favorite feeling...and it's simply impossible!

I first read this book a few years back over the summer. I worked at a daycare, and once the kids were down for a nap I needed something to keep me occupied so I wouldn't fall asleep as well. Once I picked up this book, I couldn't put it down. Don't get me wrong: it doesn't move very fast. But it is so impactful if you have the time.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn tells the coming-of-age story of young Francie Nolan growing up in 20th century Williamsburg. She lives in great poverty for most of her life, but it certainly doesn't affect her flair for all things creative. Throughout the novel, readers are presented with themes of youth, loss of innocence, man vs. environment, love, work, family, and (perhaps the most prominent) education. I've read it a few times since that first summer. Now, the cover is fraying, the corners are crinkled with love, and the pages have absorbed my thoughts and tears.

My favorite quote of the novel though, comes at a time of desperate prayer for Francie; when she is overwhelmingly fearful of living a boring life. I was going to say it was my favorite quote because it's just as beautifully written as the rest of the novel, but I know better. It's my favorite quote because I've prayed that prayer a time or two myself.


So if you're looking for a book recommendation; one to make you laugh and one to make you cry, one to make you think and one to make you dream, one to give you faith in hope and hope in love, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is undoubtedly your best option.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Limiting the Impossible

Today I am challenged with a prompt: Something You Feel Strongly About.


Allow me to begin with a video.


No wonder our definition of beauty is so distorted. That poor woman will see that advertisement knowing that the world is seeing a woman who isn't even her. Because her hair wasn't long enough, her eyes weren't big enough, her waist wasn't thin enough, and her legs weren't long enough. So the good news is: even the models in our advertisements don't look the way we think they do. The bad news is: we believe it anyway.

I love fashion, but I hate the fashion industry. In the same way, I'm a strong supporter of beauty promotion, but despise how it is distorted in our society. More and more women are living unhealthy lifestyles to obtain the impossible image, living with eating disorders, excessive workout plans, and insecurity beyond all measure. And it starts early. It starts with the compliments we give little girls (don't we tell them they're cute before we tell them they're smart?). It starts with the unintentional support of the society we live in. It starts with us leaving our Cosmo magazines on the coffee table and the barbie dolls we give them to play with.

I can honestly say I was not bothered by the designs of barbies as a little girl. I didn't notice the dolls were unrealistically skinny until I grew a little older. But I can vouch for diversity. I always chose dolls with brown hair and olive skin tones because they looked like me. I did the same thing with the disney princesses I watched and the polly pockets I chose to play with because I related to them. And I know I'm not alone. I see it every day in my classroom with the books my students read. I see it at the daycare with the toys children choose to play with, and I see it when I babysit and watch the kiddos pick characters to be. Whether you think the dolls are mentally unhealthy for little girls is irrelevant. The reality is: diversity is important, and we need to stop society's ruthless force of the one-size-fits-all woman.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not opting for the "Fat Movement" that's really in right now, where a 500 pound woman shouldn't lose her weight because "every woman is beautiful." I think girls should be healthy. Every woman has a different talent, intelligence, and heart to offer the word, and beautiful souls need sturdy vessels. But no woman should be denied of her inner strength because she simply does not look like the girl on the cover of her favorite magazine. All throughout childhood, we were told that it was good to be smart, and kind, and strong, and unique. Why is the way we look any different?

For the first time ever, young girls will have more options in the toys they play with thanks to the Barbie company, not just in size and figure but also in race and ethnicity. The company is no longer in support of their original stick-figure design, and is channeling its efforts to promoting healthy diversity through a new line of dolls. Beginning with their 2016 Fashionistas line, the dolls will be offered in various heights, shapes, and skin tones (not to mention occupations, as barbies have previously been known for), celebrating all the differences between women today. I could not be more proud to support this movement, and look forward to watching the dolls evolve even more over time.


To learn more about the Evolution of Barbie, visit www.barbie.com, and join in on the discussion with #TheDollEvolves.