Monday, August 10, 2009

Beauty Queen Madness

This weekend, I sat through an hour of Toddlers and Tiaras. Boy, do I regret it. Not only is the sight of spray-on tan, stage makeup, curly hair-pieces, and glittery dresses shocking...the stories behind each kid made me ill.

The 4-year-old girl whose mother referred to tantrums as "diva moments" - and shrugged them off, along with the $70,000 in pageant-related expenses.

The 7-year-old twins competing against each other - and mom had her favorite, as everyone in the family and audience could tell. (I suspect the therapy bills for the 'lesser' twin will be legendary)

The cute 8-year-old boy, and his 2-week-old brother - both dressed in tuxedos, and proud mom comparing their on-stage 'performances'.

An hour of self-involved parents, wrapped up in their own dreams of winning children. An hour of tired, unhappy children. Why did I subject myself to this? Why would anyone think this is ok?

Let me just children are beautiful. They have freckles, missing teeth, and silly grins. Their hair is windblown and messy, their clothes occasionally torn or muddy. They laugh and smile and dance around out of shear joy, not to please someone with a "Judge" sticker on their shirt. They will never enter a beauty pageant, but they will win praise - for hard work, for good grades, for being friends with the new kid, for trying their best in soccer. They are learning to value themselves and others for qualities inside each person...and not for the exterior appearance.

If there were an inner-beauty pageant, my children would be winners. No crowns necessary.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

My foray into scrapbooking

I'm trying to scrapbook - really I am.

Many years ago (like, 20, but who's counting), my stepmother did a little scrapbooking with me. Of course, back then it didn't have an official name, let alone a whole section at Joann's. Nope, back then we bought plain photo albums - the "old fashioned" kind with paper sheets instead of plastic holders. We used whatever paper souvenirs from the trip we could find - maps, brochures, tickets, postcards - and decorated the blank spaces around our photos. It was rather simple, yet fun to do...and made for a great way to capture a trip.

Those old scrapbooking days lasted just a few short years - as I grew older, and busier, I found little time for it. Slapping pictures together was all I could manage...and once I bought a digital camera, it was even easier to just save everything to disk.

However, as I watch my kids grow older, I find myself wanting to capture their childhood for them - in something other than flash memory, in a way that makes them really recall the summer vacations and weekends away. I'm attempting to scrapbook again.

What a difference...simply walking into the "paper" section of my craft store makes me want to turn and flee. Still, the wide selection of colorful papers does draw the eye; the rows of decorative stickers and ribbons are tempting. My first stop - Disneyana - is overwhelming. So many choices of paper, so many stickers.

Once I try to move on, however, I quickly realize how very slanted this whole scrapbooking thing has become. Princesses? Check. Babies? Check. Sisters, Love, Reflection, Girls Weekend? Check and check. Legoland? Not a chance. I can find all sorts of cute words, cursive titles, and adorable cartoon images. What I can't find are stickers and text that the average 9 year old boy would find neat, that a tom-boy tween won't gag over.

So as I finish the first of my new scrapbooks - and gather the materials for a second - I find that my "new" way is looking much like the old. A little easier, of course...I can create labels on the computer in fun fonts, and the range of archival tapes and glue is great. But still, the decorative details are still mostly ticket stubs, crumpled park maps, and lots of smiling faces.

With puffy Mickey stickers, of course.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

How will online retail change?

I've been thinking a lot lately.

With the major recession, people cutting back and making do with less - how will this change our retail landscape?

Certainly we've seen plenty of large brick-and-morter stores fold (Linen's N Things, Circuit City). The stores still standing are clearly retrenching - Macy's is aiming for a "Kohls with nicer stuff" level, Best Buy is scrambling to match Walmart's prices, etc. What we don't hear about are the smaller online businesses, many of which are struggling too I'm sure.

Which leads me to my major concern - can sites like Etsy survive? Will they have to change - adapt - to make it?

I love Etsy myself, both to sell my jewelry on, and to find neat and unique items. But I'll be honest, I've not purchased from anyone there in a while...and my sales have been few and far between lately.

When times were good, and money was flowing, the idea of buying a felted wool bowl, a plush monster robot, or some cute dangle earrings "just because" seemed fine. Neat and cool made for great gifts, until the recipients started to struggle to buy groceries or lost their jobs outright.

Will Etsy change? Will it move to more utilitarian items (DIY supplies, shirts, books) - and lose the whimsy? Will ACEOs and plush monsters disappear? Will the seller community shrink more and more as profit margins are eaten away by bargain hunters?

I hope not - we all need fun, whimsical stuff, especially at a time like this.

(Blueberry hat courtesy of WoolKnitsNBits, monkey pendant from PiecesOfMePendants, and Sparky the Chichilla plush from IckyDogCreations)

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nope, still won't

Twitter, I mean.

Come on now, how useful is Twitter, really? Text messages are limited to 160, and I've never had a useful text 'conversation' that didn't require several back-and-forth message. And yet somehow we're supposed to get profound information in just 140 characters or less.

I don't think so.

If I want quick news, I'll check the mobile sites for MSNBC or CNN.

If I want gossip, E! works, or a swing through the grocery store check-out lane.

Frankly, I can't see that anything I would Twitter would be worth someone following...especially since you can get the same updates through Facebook, or text, or email...

So thanks, but no thanks. I'm not going to join this flash in the pan.

Next fad please!