When the sun doesn’t shine and it’s too wet to play, and you’re stuck in the house on a cold, wet day, it’s time to get creative with paint, glue and clay! Here’s how three local families and artists make the most of Seattle’s rainy season.
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While expecting her first baby, Redmond mom Sarah Fong assumed that she would one day post precious photos of her child on Facebook and Instagram just like everyone else in her social network. But after her daughter arrived, Fong reconsidered. A number of family members were randomly sharing photos of other relatives’ children on social media without permission. She realized that once you post a photo online, you lose control over it. “I didn’t want some weird creeper using her picture for lewd and salacious acts,” says Fong.
Her concerns may sound paranoid to some, but they aren’t unfounded. On any given day, over 17,000 devices in Washington state are being used by predators to trade images of children. The Child Rescue Coalition (CRC), a nonprofit organization that tracks over one million unique pre-pubescent abuse image and video files traded on the Internet every day, reports that child predators actively seek out popular hashtags such as #bathtime, #pottytraining, #nakedkids and #toddlerbikini to find photos of children in states of undress. Unfortunately, with the rise of the internet, pedophiles are now able to easily trade photos, tips and techniques on how to seduce and lure children into sexual encounters. A secondary consequence of this horrifying anonymous social sharing is that it gives the offenders the mistaken impression that this behavior is normal and therefore acceptable.
“The demographic of the child predator has shifted from the creepy old man in the basement to young men between the ages of 17 and 36 years old,” says SPD Internet Crime Against Children Task Force Commander Mike Edwards. “Often these men are married or in a relationship and have professional careers.”
Raven Juarez first developed an interest in art while drawing on a yellow legal pad under her mother’s desk. The child of two busy lawyers, Juarez had to find creative ways to entertain herself while her parents finished up work at the office.
“I used to make up stories and characters and draw them doing different things,” says Juarez. “I always felt that I had a closer relationship to myself through drawing than through spoken or written words.”
Today, Juarez is a professional artist and shares her love of creating with her early-education students at an infant-toddler program in North Seattle. Her teaching philosophy is grounded in the Reggio approach; cultivating a space for curiosity and development through play and art-making.
“Just like kids babble before they learn to talk, they also scribble before they develop their own pictorial language,” says Juarez. “Art is a language that can be used for something deeper and more important than just something that looks nice on a wall.”
Last Christmas, Anthony Battiste and his four sons — Chris 9, Anthony, 5, Abraham, 4, and Alvin, 2 — spent the holiday in a homeless shelter. After he and his wife separated and she moved to California, Battiste was left with one income and too many expenses. Though he tried to make ends meet with his earnings as a roofer, after a couple of months the family was evicted from their rental in Tacoma.
There were many times when Battiste had to choose between providing food for the children and paying for a hotel room. Despite his best efforts, the family sometimes had no choice but to sleep in their vehicle.
“It was trying, but at the same time it was binding,” says Battiste. “It presented an opportunity for me and the boys to become a strong cadre, leaning and depending on each other to get through the hard times.”
When Tripat Singh and Jasmine Marwaha were growing up together in North Seattle in the early 1980s, there were only about 20 other Sikh families in the area and a single gurdwara (place of worship). They fell in love while Jasmine was studying law at Harvard and married soon after. The Central District couple are now raising their 4-year-old son, Kabir Singh, and 4-month-old daughter, Sahiba Kaur, in a large, dynamic Sikh community.
Sikhism was born in the Punjab region of northern India during an era of extreme class inequality. “The turban used to be worn only by kings and royalty,” says Singh, a clinical practitioner of Eastern medicine. “Sikhs started wearing it as a way of giving the finger to the government. The circumstances you are born into aren’t what you have to be relegated to for the rest of your life.”
A day in the life of Seward Park children’s musician Eli Rosenblatt sounds downright idyllic. After a morning spent in his garden with a famous florist (his wife, Kelly Sullivan) and lively 3-year-old (his son, Elian), Rosenblatt takes a stroll through his neighborhood to teach music and movement at three local preschools. Though some might find engaging a room full of 4-year-olds exhausting, for Rosenblatt it’s nirvana.
“There are moments when you can feel so much love in the room,” he says. “Just seeing the parents seeing their children and the children seeing their parents. It’s really special. It feels really joyful.”
Whether baking family recipes, crafting decorations, or dressing up as dinosaurs, these local families know how to put the happy into the holidays. From an “A-Team”-inspired celebration to a Sikh musical tradition to a recently homeless family making merry in a new home, the holiday season in Seattle is as multifarious as it is memorable.
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Once upon a time at the Seattle Children’s Festival, drag queen Aleksa Manila read books to children. Perched regally atop a cozy nest of blankets and wrapped in a glamorous fuchsia kimono, Manila inspired awe in each child who toddled into the room. Coco, age 4, was moonstruck by Manila’s hot-pink hair adorned with magenta flowers.
“Are those flowers real?” said Coco skeptically.
“Fake,” whispered Manila, with a heavy-lashed wink and a smile. “Now who wants to pick our first story?” A field of tiny hands sprouted up and story time began with a reading of Manila’s favorite children’s book, “My Princess Boy.”
Written by Seattle author Cheryl Kilodavis to help explain her son Dyson’s fondness for “pretty things” to teachers and classmates, the book inspired a movement of acceptance for children who feel misunderstood. “I love my Princess Boy. When we go shopping, he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes. But when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him,” Kilodavis writes.
“The Princess Boy’s story is very close to my own story,” says Manila, who began to question her gender identity while attending Catholic elementary school in the Philippines. “I remember being in the boys section and staring at the girls section, wondering, ‘Should I be there?’”
For the past five years, Manila has hosted Drag Queen Story Hour for families all over Seattle. Check the website for upcoming events and appearances.