Geek. Pirate. Mom

The Life and Times of Whitney Drake

Posts tagged 'Mom'

Introducing Star Wars to the Kidlets

Oh dear. Everything seems to be happening on St Patrick’s Day. I’ll be at Wondercon that day, and already I’ve been invited to a baby shower and a birthday party. Not to mention that I’m missing Sportive Tricks in Long Beach. (Go, Southern California people, go!)

But I’m going to Wondercon. I’m going to make myself a Sith costume and I’m debating whether to go with a classic cloak or something a little less traditional.

Though that reminds me- I need to make a Vader costume for someone. Because this (as my friends pointed out) screams Casual Day on the Death Star.

Little Kidlet's version of Darth Vader

It is official. The Little Kidlet has seen all of the original Star Wars trilogy. I’m still not entirely sure that he heard that Vader is Luke’s father… he might have been too busy lightsaber dueling with an invisible opponent.

He really did enjoy Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, though. He cheered when Palpatine was thrown into the reactor shaft. He had no real reaction to the Ewoks, but he did grab just about any toy and pretend they were speeder bikes.

His big brother was more interested in getting some computer time, since he knew he wouldn’t have much of an opportunity to play his roller coaster building program this week. Though he did manage to come into the end of Return of the Jedi (after missing all of ESB) and still miss that Vader was Luke’s father. He did know that Vader turned good at the end, but missed the rest. We’ll try again this week, I think.

I don’t think I ever really explained why I’ve been so eager to make sure both boys saw the original trilogy. Aside from the fact that I’m a big Star Wars fan, I had a feeling that they’d enjoy the movies as well as Episode One (TheBoy and I agreed that Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith are just too dark for the boys). And come on- lightsabers are just fun.

But really, I wanted my boys to have the chance to experience one of the great surprise twists of the movie world. They’re still young enough that they didn’t actually know who Darth Vader is, especially since they mostly played with each other and I’ve sworn my family and the in-laws not to spoil them.

Why? It was something that I didn’t get to have. Empire Strikes Back was released the year I was born. I literally grew up with kids who had older siblings who just told them that Vader was Luke’s father. I hadn’t even seen the movie yet and exactly how James Earl Jones said it.

I know lots of people who started their kids watching the Star Wars movies with The Phantom Menace, since it’s now the starting point of the Star Wars trilogy. But I would argue that the prequels are only effective if you’ve already seen the original trilogy. You get the added dimension of knowing that this is a tragic tale from the start. You know that Anakin is going to turn to the Dark Side and that Obi-Wan didn’t see it coming. You know that the Republic will fail. And you get to see the hints of what’s to come.

I did go see The Phantom Menace in 3D with TheBoy weekend before last. I know, many people will say that I’m simply enabling George Lucas- but really, the Star Wars movies are meant to be seen on the big screen. And Phantom Menace was a lovely 3D conversion. It was done to be immersive (more so than say Alice in Wonderland, which was also a nicely done 3D conversion… but pretty pointless in the end), and the podrace and lightsaber duel/triad was pretty dang spectacular.

No, Jar Jar doesn’t improve with age. There were a lot of twenty-somethings in the theater with us, and I was practically appalled by how much they laughed at Jar Jar. But then, I see people my age and how fond they are of Ewoks… and it’s basically the same thing. When you see it as a kid, it grows on you. (Unless you’re me. I never liked Ewoks. They had these terrifyingly large soulless eyes. I was more a droid girl from the start)

For goodness sake, they wanted to EAT Luke & Han.

I’ve gotten a little off track, but I’m looking forward to when the original trilogy is back in theaters, so I can take the kidlets to see Star Wars as it was meant to be seen. On a giant screen.

Everyone Else is a Better Parent

If you’ve been lurking around the internet this week, odds are you’ve seen the article “French Parents are Superior” in which Pamela Druckerman claims to have found the secret to raising obedient children.

It’s the latest in a long line of books and posts that try to say you’re doing it wrong. They don’t necessarily give you any useful tips. Mostly it’s just anecdote after anecdote of children who behave wonderfully as some sort of proof that those parents magically have all the answers.

Josette from Halushki made an impressive list of other groups of parents who are better than you, too. (#99 is the group that frustrates me the most, I admit)

I admit, while the French ideal shown in the article sounds attractive- it also sounds a little lonely. I adore adult time, but nothing quite compares with playtime with my kids. Most of the time, I’d rather be out on the playground with them than chatting with the parents who sit on the sidelines watching their children hog the slide and steal toys from other kids. I admit that my parenting technique isn’t perfect, but nobody’s is- even those seemingly “perfect parents.”

That is why I’m involved with Imagination Situation- aiming to add imagination to your arsenal of parenting tools. One more thing to help you weather all sorts of situations. (I’m not sure if I mentioned it, but this is one of the big things I’m working on this year) My childhood was filled with hours of playtime. Adventures in the backyard either hunting for fairies or pretending I was a naturalist cataloging an undiscovered land. I’d pretend my bicycle was my trusty palomino and we were out riding through the desert. Yes, my sister and I even used to pretend that our room came to life when we were cleaning, just like in Mary Poppins. Yet somehow I forgot about all of that imagination as soon as I became a parent. Seems pretty silly, doesn’t it?

Nobody’s a perfect parent. We all have our faults. So why not accept that we’re not perfect, and try to make life a bit more fun?

Have something to add? Please comment on this post, and join in on the Imagination Situation fun on Twitter and Facebook, and of course the website. (I really believe in this project, can you tell?)

Who are you and what did you do with my sons?

I admit, I’m not the strictest of parents. While I don’t put up with a lot of whining, I have not made a firm stance against messes. I was a kid once, I know that messes are part of playtime. Of course, I’m a bit of a slob myself, and admit that I don’t necessarily have the urges to clean constantly.

As a result, neither of my boys likes to clean up much and I usually have to fight with them to clean up after themselves. We’ll have a couple of good days where they’ll pick up as they play, and then forget the rules and things get messy again.

However, I’ve been trying to get the boys to help more. They’re four and six, and when I was finally able to get the Little Kidlet to join in when I was cleaning I knew that I needed to make them pull their weight a little bit.

So I made a chart. Where I could draw stars on it, and when they got up to 10 stars they could pick a prize from our treasure box. It has Hot Wheels, pencils, stickers. Nothing expensive, but definitely fun.

We weren’t making much headway… but then I got to take Sunday off for my birthday. TheBoy and I went out (more on that another day), but when I came home, I was told that the boys both earned stars for cleaning. Not just their toys, but their bedroom as well.

The next morning, the Oldest Kidlet made his bed. Today, both of them made their bed! Weirdly, they didn’t insist that I immediately give them a star for doing this… I know I make a lot of references to the looking glass, but today I definitely feel like I’ve gone through the Looking Glass.

Julie Bowen, I get you.

Julie Bowen of Modern Family is coming under fire for her very candid comments on being a mother.

At the Governor’s Ball last night, Bowen had this to say to US Magazine:

“If I wasn’t a mom, I think it’d be harder to understand what it is to live with a child and hate and love them all at once. Claire does that with her kids, and I do that with mine.

I love them so much. There’s always this undercurrent of love, but there are moments when I really wouldn’t mind if a giant hook just pulled them off the stage of my life! I think that’s how Claire feels. But if I wasn’t a parent, I think that dichotomy would confuse me.”

At lot of people think it’s ridiculous that she said she hates her children… but they’re missing the point. Julie, I get you.

She even says in the quote that she doesn’t actually hate them, but it’s the easiest way to articulate that no matter how much you love your children, there are plenty of times that they get under your skin and you wish you had a Delorean or TARDIS to go back and start a childless life. Or that there were in fact groups of nomads* or traveling circuses roaming through suburban America that you could sell your children to.

For some reason, society doesn’t like for moms to admit that sometimes they wish they had childfree lives again. But it’s unreal to think that all children are perfect angels, and that parents aren’t going to be overwhelmed at some moment in time.

I get it. When the boys have been fighting all day long, and nobody wants to listen to me, I’ve uttered this phrase to my husband… and he gets it too. “WTB TARDIS” (For the non gamers, when you’re looking to buy an item in a MMORPG you usually say WTB [item], short for “want to buy”) I also use “Calgon, take me away,” but surprisingly, even fewer people get that one.

Regardless, nobody should be coming down on Julie Bowen for actually being candid about the difficulties of being a parent. It’s refreshing compared to the people who make it seem like their children have no faults and that they have no issues juggling a career and parenthood (or for that matter, stay at home moms who pretend that they have no issues either). Maybe we should all be a little more honest with each other and ourselves.

*Yes, groups of nomads. Someone pointed out that I was being awfully PC in not just using gypsies, but in all fairness- I’d sell my kids to the Roma or Bedouins. Any nomadic group will do, fantasy-wise, so long as I get a monetary return.

What I Did For Love (and for a few hours alone)

Today was the Little Kidlet’s second day of school. I dropped him off, and while he was shy in the new class, he wanted me to leave.

Then I came to pick him up. He was in tears (he’d just had a fight with a kid over a toy) and I was asked to pick up his backpack from the preschool office.

Now, the Little Kidlet has food allergies and carries an epi-pen with him. Not knowing what was in store for me, I thought that filling out all those forms authorizing the school to care for my child was enough to bring them. I was informed that they’d need something from his allergist for the epi-pen to even be there. Worried that they’d tell me he couldn’t attend preschool (which meant no 3 hours of peace and quiet while he’s in school, and while his big brother’s in kindergarten), I left, on a mission.

I admit, I was mad. Not because there was another form to fill out, but because the preschool’s health paperwork (a good 10 double-sided pages) asked multiple times if my child had food allergies and what medications he takes because of them. Each time, I made sure to note that he carries an epi-pen, even though we haven’t had to use it yet. Not once did they mention that I needed the letter, back when I’d have time to work out when I was going to visit the allergist’s office.

Instead, I was calling the allergist’s office to find out about this mysterious letter. Which I was told that the school should have given me (the school told me the doctor’s office would have it) and that they would gladly fill out and fax back for $15.

So I went online. It’s California law to have dosage instructions laid out for the school and signed by a doctor, so I’d have to do this. The sooner, the better. So I drafted my own letter and called the allergist to confirm their hours. Only to discover that they aren’t at their office that’s near the LA/OC border (closer to me), but down in Orange. What’s usually a 30 minute drive on streets if I hit every single light, turned into 45 minutes on the freeway in traffic. Which feels like an hour and a half on the road.

I found the building, parked my car and handed over my letter. I explained that it’s a private school that had no letter, and she took it to the back to see if they could sign it. Immediately she came back, informing me that it had been over a year (one year and a month, to be exact) since the Little Kidlet had been seen by the allergist. I asked them why I’d only just received a reminder to make an appointment if it had already been a year, and explained the situation again. He needed it for school, he hadn’t had any major outbreaks… and I was willing to make his appointment right then and there.

They brought me the paperwork.

I got home, and realized that somewhere in the narrow passageways at the building’s garage, I had to have scraped up against a yellow pole. A neon yellow pole. Which left transfer all down my car. Thankfully, I didn’t lose any paint from mine, and it came off with a little elbow grease and some wax. Thanks Father-in-law!

Honestly, before my kids came along, I would have never gone to that much trouble. I don’t even know that I’d put that sort of a rush on anything for myself (evidence: I managed to put off going to the grocery store for a week because I didn’t feel like going out in the heat).

I did it mostly because I love my son and I know how much fun he’s having at preschool. But there’s a part of me that did it because I’m really looking forward to those 3 hours of alone time- something I haven’t had regularly since the Little Kidlet was born.

Children shouldn’t live in a bubble.

Every day I look at the BlogHer ad bar in the sidebar of my site to see if any of my blog posts are linked. And then I click on the post titles I find interesting. So when I saw “Why do we freak out about Bratz, but not violent video games?” I was intrigued. Because this is a topic I have discussed as a gamer, feminist and a mother.

The actual post is titled “Blood, Guts and Rock & Roll: We’re Up in Arms About Bratz, But We Ignore Killstreaks in Black Ops.” It’s about how the California Supreme Court is hearing arguments about a law seeking to ban the sale of violent video games to children.

I’m against the law. When you start trying to legislate what people can and can’t buy, it becomes a slippery slope. We aren’t talking about alcohol or cigarettes, which can physically harm a body- we’re talking about bits and bytes. The answer isn’t to ban anything, it’s for parents to actively become involved in what their children and teenagers are doing. Odds are that you shouldn’t be buying your wee one a game that’s rated M and simply let them play it.

My parents let me see every Disney movie there was. Bambi and Fox & the Hound included. Both movies led us to conversations about hunting and death. And I’m glad that my parents simply didn’t keep me from them, but were prepared to talk about them. With my two boys, I let them watch Finding Nemo- which has a similarly traumatizing moment, right up at the beginning of the movie. When they weren’t quite old enough to have the conversation, I started the movie at the title screen. But when I thought that the Oldest Kidlet was ready to talk, we started to watch it from the beginning.

We talked about animals, and the fact that some animals eat other animals to survive. We talked about how fish don’t really talk in real life (at least not in ways that we can hear) and that for the most part, they don’t live in families the way that people do. We talked about death. Not in a very deep manner, but we touched on the fact that people are born, and at some point in time they die. And I thought it was important- because I want my children to understand that not all kids have two parents, and that they should be respectful if they find out that one of their friends lost their parent or sibling.

I think it’s important for kids to experience things, but only when you’re ready to talk about them. My parents decreed that we weren’t allowed to watch movies that were rated PG-13. I went to a sleepover at age 10 and watched Steel Magnolias, and when my parents found out? I was grounded, especially when they found out there was a girl who’d gone to another room because she said her parents wouldn’t let her watch, so it wouldn’t have been just me.

But I don’t want you to think that my parents shielded me. They were always ready to talk about things. I watched reruns of “Head of the Class” and “M*A*S*H” and my mom was always there to explain things to me- about someone being blind, about why doing a performance of Hair on Head of the Class was a big deal. I saw West Side Story (both on screen and later on stage), and while I hadn’t realized that there was rape in the movie… we had a long talk about it on the way home from the theater.

My parents used to let my sister and I watch snippets of Animal House because they knew we thought it was funny. We got to watch them dancing to Shout (mostly to explain why people danced to Shout at weddings, I think) and at the end, watch the marching band march into the wall. Then we were told that the rest of the movie was funny, but that there was a lot of stuff in it that just wasn’t appropriate for someone our age- but that they’d let us watch it when they thought we were ready. And you know what? They did.

My kids are 5 and 3. Right now, our entertainment is mostly provided by Disney, Pixar and Nickelodeon- but they do occasionally watch movies that aren’t rated for their age. Both have seen The Mummy several times. We haven’t really started playing video games, but we’re only going to let them play games that TheBoy and I have already played. Not just to screen for content but for playability. And as they get older, trust me, I’ll still be keeping up on what games are out so that I know what games I’d prefer them play.

So what is my point? The answer isn’t banning sales or keeping your child in a bubble away from anything that might lead to a difficult discussion. The answer is opening discussions so that your kids understand why you don’t think something is appropriate, or tackling those difficult subjects so that they know they can talk to you about things that bothered them.

(On a side note that’s somewhat related, we were watching a show this weekend that had a museum where there was a nude statue in the background. My oldest walked in and said “that statue is naked!” So we discussed art and that there’s a lot of artwork of people without their clothes on because the human body is beautiful. Turns out he didn’t think it was weird, he was worried that the statue was cold.)

Confessions of the Parental kind

This post is for parents and those who plan to have kids. For my childless friends, or those who come for the food and pictures.. don’t bother reading.

I’m going to be talking about potty training.

I should say upfront that I am a lazy mother. I do not schedule our days, in and out. We play at home, they watch some TV or movies while I write, and run errands together. I make their lunches, TheBoy does the laundry- and it all works out. I dub this lazy because know women who do all that, schedule days, make their children’s clothes and… well, probably clean the house.

My oldest is well, my oldest. I had no experience with potty training, and didn’t remember how my mom did it with my sister and I. I read the books, and when D started to say enough that he could tell me he needed to use the potty, we pulled out the potty chair and started him on it. Then I had our youngest. Then we moved.

Read More…

Crib Recalls

Once upon a time, I wanted to start a blog called The Wired Mom. Both because I’m constantly wired on caffeine and well, plugged in to gadgets. Since this blog has been more or less successful for me, I think I’ll add it as a regular feature here.

Today is a very serious post for those with kids- Crib Recalls. There have been a rash of crib recalls, focusing mostly on drop-side cribs. They started with some of the low end manufacturers, where the tracks and mechanisms failed- allowing the bottom of the side to pop out, which caused some children to become trapped and die.

The recalls have continued to spread up through the manufacturing world and right now, a voluntary recall (meaning none of their cribs have been linked to deaths yet) has been issued for models made by C & T International/Sorelle/Golden Baby Inc. To see if your crib is included, just click on this link where they have a full list of the models (as well as a link to C & T International’s site, which at the moment consists entirely of recall information).

They’re offering a kit to convert the drop-side crib (which they urge parents to stop using until the kit has been installed) to a fixed side crib. No dropping? No deaths. You can order the kit through their website or buy making a call- it’s free.

As a reminder, routinely inspect your crib to make sure that slats haven’t come loose, that the metal frame underneath is still sturdy and that the drop side (especially if yours hasn’t been recalled yet) doesn’t seem to be loose at all. If it is, find a safe sleeping replacement for your kidlet until you can get a replacement crib.

(The picture? That’s the Oldest Kidlet in his Sorelle crib which is on the recall list! We’re still using it for the Little Kidlet, and have already ordered our replacement kit.)

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